The See-Thru Old Fashioned

Clearly, creating an Old Fashioned that looks like a Martini has its challenges

I was trying yet another spin-off of the Old Fashioned, this time using the lovely and potent Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and Angostura orange bitters to complement the rye. Not bad, as these riffs go, with some nice lathework by the maraschino and bitters smoothing the rye’s rough edges.

Sipping, I was moved to contemplation.

Say, [I mused], hadn’t I bought a bottle of unaged rye not long ago? And wouldn’t it be odd and [maybe] wonderful to use that clear liquor with the translucent Luxardo and the colorless orange bitters to make … a perfectly transparent Old Fashioned?

I had turned yet another suspect idea into a fool’s errand.

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The See-Through Old Fashioned, made with unaged rye, drinks hot.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear

I was working with a bottle of High West Silver Whiskey OMG Pure Rye. It is not aged. Hell, it’s not even barrelled. In the bottle it is as clear as Fiji water.

I was encouraged by the prose on the label, which promised I could coax a range of aromas and flavors from the stuff: plum, Meyer lemon, clove, rosemary, and berries to name a few.

Easy to write on a label, not so easy for a middle-aged, hard working palate to sense. If there even was much to sense, as anyone who’s read a few yards of labelese should doubt.

Citrus? Easy, if slight. Cloves? Actually, maybe. Rosemary? Vanilla? Um, maybe a tiny bit? Geez, now I was talking myself into tasting this stuff.

Anyhow, the most distinctive thing about this silver whiskey was its rye bite, as strong as a Doberman’s. [The “OMG” in the product’s name supposedly refers to “Old Monongahela,” a wayback type of rye dating from the Whiskey Rebellion. It could easily apply to the rye’s teeth.]

Which would make sense. The mash is 80% rye, the High West label avers. And, as an overproof bottling, OMG drinks hot with ethyl.

So anyway I now had the bite and some of the flavor details of a decent rye.

I added a half ounce of Luxardo and some orange bitters, stirred, and expressed some lemon oil from a lip of garnish, which I promptly tossed out.

Regarding the bitters: Angostura orange bitters are completely clear. Those who think I’m cheating with the see-thru thing should toss a few dashes onto a crisp white shirt. No stain!

Full transparency: Tasting notes

So did I have a new-to-the-world Old Fashioned?

OMG, NFW.

I did have something, however: A cocktail with the edginess of rye, the fragrant cherry of the Luxardo, the cheerful touch of orange.

This took a while to perfect. No, scratch that. It took a while to make it enjoyable.

The beauty of a traditional Old Fashioned is that backbone of mellow wood, strong enough to stand up to nearly anying a cocktaileur might throw at it.

The silver stuff is tougher to negotiate, more dependent on its modifiers to make it drinkable.

What the drinks needs is some wood. I suppose I could barrel it in one of those football-sized casks, but that would I think defeat the purpose here.

Fact is [repeat after me: “duh”] anything that’s unaged has no solid brown flavors, nothing nailing it to the floor.

The clear winner

Here was the best I could do. I consider it a work-in-progress.

  • 2 oz High West Silver Whiskey OMG Rye
  • 1/8 to 1/4 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • 3 dashes Angostura orange bitters
    • Other brands of orange bitters are orange-brown and, strictly speaking, cheating.

Put it all in a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice.

Stir 50 times. I’m serious. Dilution was the only way with this limited ingredient list to de-burr the high-proof rye without risking a gooey Luxardo overload.

Express the oil from an inch of lemon peel, run it around the rim, and toss it.

Savor the delicate pomelo, the sage, the green apple notes, the graham…OMG WTF, just drink the thing. It’s not bad and kind of interesting. It looks cool.

If I can say that about myself on any given weeknight, I’d be proud.

nb After all this tweakery, I decided to dash the recipe above with Fee Bros. Barrel Aged Bitters instead of orange. Strictly speaking, a big cheat. But: Boom. There was my wood. The drink took on only the slightest dusky hue. And it’s way better than the orange version. You can still fool others, if not yourself, with this deceitful variation. You can still see right through it. You still look cool.

The Italian Manhattan Project: Un Cappello da Uomo Perfetto

In which I try to create an “Italian Manhattan” but wind up blindly reinventing…one of my favorite classics

I’d say I “invented” this one, but I’m fast learning that claims of beverage authorship rank among amateur drinksters’ most dangerous lies, along with “I’ve only had two” and “I picked up the check last time.”

More about this below.

But here’s the story: I began playing around with an “Italian Manhattan” over a year ago, when I discovered the lovely Italian apertif Cocchi Americano, collected a few Italian amari, and fell into mixocological rumination.

The right amaro, I reasoned, could plausibly stand in for red vermouth, the Cocchi for white, yielding a kind of Manhattan Perfetto. [A “Perfect Manhattan” is a version of the classic whose vermouth dose is equally split between dry and sweet. A more complex version, an acquired taste.]

A Measured Spirit Craig Stoltz cocktail recipe blog
Un Cappello da Uomo Perfetto, aka the Italian Manhattan. Created in Bethesda, Maryland by way of Brooklyn. Not Italy.

This turned out to be harder than I hoped — even to my palate, weakened by years of actually drinking my failed experiments instead of dumping them in a shoe like a proper gentleman.

The Cocchi comes across like a herbal, slightly citrus-y vermouth with a surprising bitter finish that to me “dries” it out.

This led me to seek balance with what turned out to be either too much amaro, the wrong amaro, or both. I tried Averna, Cynar, Ramazzotti, and the unpalatable [I don’t care what “they” say] Fernet-Branca. The vermouth stand-ins swamped, overwhelmed, or disrespected the rye, all without bringing much sweetness to the effort. The whole thing was just a lot of bickering in a glass.

So I got out of the Italian Manhattan business entirely for about six months. [Into the creative vacuum rushed among other things the Hillbilly Martini, which I’m not sure was a productive diversion.]

But then, not long ago, I made an Old Fashioned sweetened with Maraschino liqueur. I loved it. Back into my brainpan oozed the Italian Manhattan Project. Maybe if I relieved the amaro of the burden of sweetening… Continue reading “The Italian Manhattan Project: Un Cappello da Uomo Perfetto”

Of all the rum joints in the world….the Casablanca cocktail

Why would a rum drink be called the Casablanca? It doesn’t matter. Just make it

This version of a drink called the Casablanca is an outlier: No competing exotic backstories, disputed claims of authorship, layers of footnotes, etc. Nobody appears to take credit for this drink.

They should. It’s really good.

I thumbed across it in the encyclopedic but completely undistinguished The Ultimate Bar Book by Mittie Hellmich, which provides no detail about provenance. Neither does any online or print reference I could find.

One would assume this drink is somehow linked to the classic 1942 movie of the same name. This appears unlikely.

  • In the film, Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine drinks Scotch.
  • He refers to his Moroccan watering hole as a “gin joint.” [Says Rick famously to Ilsa: “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”]
  • I haven’t seen the movie enough to say for certain that no rum is served at Rick’s American Cafe, but the carfare between North Africa and the Caribbean alone, you’d think, would be a limiting factor.
The Casablanca cocktail recipe Craig Stoltz Measured Spirit cocktail blog
The Casablanca cocktail appears to have nothing to do with the classic movie. Who cares? It’s a delightful craft cocktail-ish spin on the Daiquiri .

A Measured Spirit Surmise™: In Spanish, “casa blanca” means “white house.” Spanish is spoken throughout the Caribbean, cradle of rum. Rum was originally made on sugar plantations, where presumably The Big House was white.

Don’t pause to ponder. Just make this drink: Continue reading “Of all the rum joints in the world….the Casablanca cocktail”