Archives for category: Rye


We’ve been known to have large parties a few times a year.  The sound of dozens of liquor bottles hitting the recycling is our way of letting the neighbors know what they missed.  In other words, we go through a lot of booze when we entertain, and yep, it does get expensive.

We know that buying liquor for our house can be a bit intimidating, so if you’d like to bring a bottle next time you visit, here’s a quick guide to stuff we’ll always appreciate a bunch.  It’s also a pretty good cheat sheet for reliably good booze to bring anywhere.  Most of these should be too difficult to find locally.

Around $20:

In the $20-40 Range:

In the $40-60 Range:

Impractically Expensive Shit:

We’re grateful for anything you want to bring, of course!  If you want to be creative and pick up something not on this list, here are some types of liquor we generally avoid – they just don’t get used, and we don’t mix with them:

  • Vodka
  • Flavored vodka
  • Flavored anything, really
  • Canadian whiskey
  • Irish whiskey

Now back to your regularly scheduled booze news.


Now that you’ve got the hardware to mix, time to get into spendin’ money proper.  There is no one right answer to the question of what liquor you should buy to start.  The best way to decide is to ask yourself what kind of drinks you’re likely to be making.  Suggestion:  start by making what you like.

One from Column A…

Cocktails tend to be a mixture of base spirit (gin, bourbon, rum, etc.), sweetness (sugar, syrups, liqueurs, etc.), bitters (like Angostura or Peychaud’s), and sometimes sour / citrus.  Vermouth also adds to the character of a drink.  If you want to get really technical about it, bitters define a cocktail, but we’re all friends, right?  So trust me on this.  It’s a good way of thinking about classes of ingredients you’ll need to stock your bar.

Let’s look at groups of ingredients you’ll want to have based upon the drinks you’d like to make for yourself.  I’m using for price references.  It’s a great place to get your booze if you don’t have an easy way to buy locally.  Your state allows delivery of alcoholic beverages to your home, right?  RIGHT?  (The correct answer is YES THEY DO.  Now go order.)

#1:  I Like Bourbon.  And Rye.  And Rusty Nails.  No, Not the Drink.  Nails.

I like you already.  Here’s your shopping list.  Everything’s in order of priority, and you can see what drinks you can make with everything below the list.

  • Base Spirits
  • Vermouth (don’t forget to refrigerate after opening)
  • Bitters
  • Liqueurs
    • Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao – $26.99  (cheaper than, and better than Cointreau)
    • Campari – $26.99 (if you’re not scared of bitter.  You’re not scared of bitter, are you, little girl?)
    • Amaretto – $22.99 for Luxardo, but get Lazzaroni if possible
    • Fernet Branca – $29.99 (optional, but great for street cred and manly drinks)
  • Citrus (look for fruit with a firm peel)
    • Lemon
    • Orange
  • Other
    • Cherries in Kirsch brandy – $29.99
    • Simple syrup – 2/3 sugar to 1/3 water, shake
    • Sugar (baker’s sugar is best)
    • Fresh mint (if you roll in the Julep direction)
    • Bottle of dry sparkling wine (Cava or Prosecco is fine – don’t spend more than $12)
    • Eggs
    • Club soda

What Can I Make with This Crap?

Oh, lots.  Including…

  • Manhattan:
    • 2 oz rye
    • 1 oz sweet vermouth
    • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
    • Brandied cherry garnish
  • Perfect Manhattan:
    • 2 oz rye
    • .5 oz sweet vermouth
    • .5 oz dry vermouth
    • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
    • Brandied cherry garnish
  • Old Fashioned (my variation):
    • 3 oz bourbon
    • .5 oz simple syrup
    • .25 oz dry curacao
    • 2 dashes Old Fashioned bitters
    • Brandied cherry / orange wedge garnish
  • Sazerac:
    • 3 oz rye
    • 3 sugar cubes or .5 oz simple syrup (to taste)
    • 4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
    • Lemon peel garnish
  • Mint Julep
    • 3 oz bourbon
    • 2 tsp sugar
    • Mint
  • Seelbach
    • 1 oz bourbon
    • .5 oz dry curacao
    • 7 dashes Angostura bitters (really.  man up.)
    • 7 dashes Peychaud’s bitters (again.)
    • Sparkling wine to top of champagne flute
    • Orange twist garnish
  • Toronto
    • 3 oz rye
    • 1 oz Fernet Branca
    • .5 oz simple syrup
    • Dash Angostura bitters
    • Orange peel garnish
  • Whiskey Sour
    • 2 oz bourbon
    • 1 oz simple syrup
    • .75 oz lemon juice
    • egg white
  • Amaretto Sour
    • .75 oz bourbon
    • 1.5 oz amaretto
    • 1 oz lemon juice
    • 1 tsp simple syrup
    • egg white
  • Americano
    • 1 oz Campari
    • 1 oz sweet vermouth
    • club soda to taste
    • orange twist
  • Boulevardier
    • 1.5 oz bourbon
    • 1 oz Campari
    • 1 oz sweet vermouth
    • brandied cherry

So that covers a lot of classic cocktails.  If this is your cocktailian wheelhouse, we need to drink together.  But let us not forget our rum, gin, and brandy drinking brothers and sisters.  Up next:  gin.

Do you need an excuse for putting toasted almonds into booze?  No, you do not.

Warm Fuzzy

2 oz toasted almond infused Old Overholt rye
1 oz Amaro Meletti
.25 oz cinnamon syrup

Think about how good this drink will taste in three days.  Go out and buy yourself a bottle of Old Overholt rye.  Go on.  It’ll set you back maybe $20.  Buy some raw almonds – maybe six ounces or a bit more.  Take them home, put them in a skillet on a medium heat.  Toss them every few minutes.  When they start showing the first signs of getting burnt, it’s time to take them off the fire and let them cool for a few minutes.

You toasted almonds!  I recommend celebrating with a drink.  Maybe an Old Fashioned.  Because that has a LOT of booze.  And it’s the holidays.  Sort of.

Now it’s time to put the almonds in the rye.  Didn’t some guy from the Renaissance point out that putting objects in liquid causes displacement?  Or was that just from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead?  Oh dear.  There’s no room for the almonds in this (unfortunately) full bottle of rye.  Let’s consider our options.

1.  Pour the offending excess down the drain.  Yeah.  Let’s skip to…
2.  Use the extra rye in the mashed sweet potatoes you have on the stove for Thanksgiving dinner.  What could possibly go wrong?
3.  Make another Old Fashioned.  Or three.

Pro tip:  if you’re going to throw it in the sweet potatoes, it’s polite to suggest to the parents at Thanksgiving dinner that they may want to steer their kids away from this dish.  Or steer them towards it, if they fancy a really nice, quiet after dinner experience.

Then comes the cinnamon syrup.  Grab four or five sticks of cinnamon, a cup of water, and a cup of sugar.  Put it in a small pot on low heat until it gets syrupy and delicious – maybe 30-45 minutes.  Let it cool off, then put it in a squeezy bottle, if you have one.  Refrigerate that bad boy.

You’ve got everything you need!  Now comes the waiting part, while the rye and almonds get it on.  This takes about three days.  Once it’s done, strain it back into the bottle and let the sediment settle for a while.  (You don’t want an almond-clouded drink.)  Combine everything, stir, and garnish with a swath of orange peel.

Normally, I’m too lazy to consider any of this crap.  However, if you’ve done all the above, you have supplies for quite a few delicious Warm Fuzzies.  And everyone loves a Warm Fuzzy.  Bottle that stuff up for cheap holiday gifts!  Next time, I may have to see how this stuff does in an oak barrel.

Finally, here’s the original warm and fuzzy.  He gave me more happiness than I can tell.



…goes down the drain.

A friend graciously donated some fine hooch from Sierra Leone to the cause of Baby Got Sauce, because, y’know, science demands.  You can tell that it’s quality stuff, because the plastic blister packs are scored for easy tearing.

I’m pretty sure Sonja from Mortal Kombat did not plan on being the spokesmodel for Sierra Leone pineapple spirit liquor.  Well, I guess she did have a really cool move involving punching guys in the nuts.   Fuck, I played the hell out of her.  That was the best way to piss off guys who thought they could beat me and take over the machine with no sweat.  Wait, does that mean I’m old?  Shit.

So what does one do with this crap?  For fuck’s sake, don’t drink it.

Unpalatable Swill

One packet Double Punch pineapple spirit
1 oz Cruzan white rum
1 oz orange juice

Survey your liquor cabinet and look for the cheapest shit you have.  Decide that the bottle of Cruzan white rum that you’ve had for ages and that ran about $18 is, although perfectly respectable, the sluttiest liquor you have that will do the job.  Look at the five pound bag of oranges you got for $5 from Cash and Carry.  Come to the conclusion that one orange is worth sacrificing for science.  Pour all this crap into a shaker.  Think about icing it.  Don’t even bother.  Sample it.  Wait.  Don’t do that.  I did it for you.  Trust me.  Don’t do it.  Pour it all into a really pretty glass and add a Luxardo cherry with some syrup, because that may fool your enemies into consuming it.  Plus, Luxardo cherries are crap.  Mmm mmm mmm.  Doesn’t that look good?  Give it to your husband, with the disclaimer of “Ew, this is foul, taste it.”  Watch him verify your conclusion.  Think about removing your nail polish with it.  Take a picture of it for posterity, toss it down the drain, and make yourself something – anything – else.

For what it’s worth, anything else was:

2 oz Sazerac rye
.25 oz amaretto
.5 oz Amaro Meletti
.5 oz Cocchi di Torino sweet vermouth

So remember, kids – go to Sierra Leone for the… well, I don’t know.  But not for the booze.  And say hi to Sonja for me.


I should be blacked out today to protest SOPA / PIPA, but no one reads this anyway, so I’m safe.

I’ve been meaning to try the Rye Brouhaha from Chuck Taggart’s site, Looka, for a long while.  But never before have ginger, club soda, and the ability to juice pineapple converged on my household simultaneously.  I’m burning out on Manhattan variations, we’ve been stuck in the house snowed in for the better part of four days, and I got the Chuck Norris of juicers for Christmas.  So it’s on.

Rye Brouhaha

2 oz rye (I used Bulleit)
.5 oz pineapple juice
.5 oz lime
.5 oz simple syrup
1 egg white
fresh grated ginger

about 3 oz club soda or sparkling water (maybe a little less)

Put it all in a shaker with the coil from your strainer and two ice cubes.  Shake it until the ice cubes are completely gone.  Gasp for air.  Pour into a Collins glass and give it a minute or two to settle.  Gently pour the club soda down the side of the glass.  Two or three ounces should fill it up.  Sprinkle the ginger on top.  Go rest.

Thanks to Brian at Canon for showing me the ‘dissolve the ice cube’ technique for fizzes.  Mine were always coming out too flat.  And flat is not usually a word people associate with me.

Lots of people know how to play Texas Hold ‘Em.  The rules are stupid simple to learn.  Lots of people know how to make a Manhattan.  It’s just rye, vermouth, bitters, and a cherry.  So why do most people suck at playing poker and making Manhattans?

One mark of great game design is ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’.  Simple yet deep is hard to design.  Games that manage it tend to last a while.  Like poker.  Or Duke Nukem Forever.  Wait.  One of those is wrong.  A great poker player knows the stats on any given hand, how they’re modified by position, and the exact cards any other player is probably holding.  And how drunk each person at the table is.

Great bartenders aren’t much different.  Liquors and proportions are just the starting point.  Rye, yes.  But what kind of rye?  And which vermouth is right for the one you choose?  Then what bitters go with both?  Who’s drinking this, and what are their tastes?  How should you adjust for that?  Maybe we should play around with proportions or throw in a couple of flavor accents?

This is why Murray (currently at Canon in Seattle) is a great bartender.  I asked him to make me his favorite variation on a Manhattan.  This is as close as I’ve come to mocking it.

Another Manhattan Variation

2 oz Bulleit rye
1 oz Cocchi di Torino sweet vermouth
.5 oz Amaro Nardini
.25 oz Benedictine

Stir and strain into a cocktail glass.  Drop a brandied cherry.  Don’t think about that song “The Gambler”.  Really.  Try not to think about it.  It’s horrible.

The holidays are for being fat, dumb, and happy.  And I don’t like breaking tradition.  But I finally stopped eating and drinking long enough to write down one of the more successful recent efforts at mixology.  Here’s a new one that’s going on the winter menu.

Adios Maria

1 oz Bulleit Rye
1 oz Laird’s Applejack
1 oz Amaro Maria al Monte
.5 oz Cointreau
Big dash of Bittermen’s Burlesque bitters

Stir it all in a mixing glass with ice.  Strain into a fancy glass.  Brutalize a lemon for a really, really long twist, just because it’s the holidays and you have patience for this shit.  In January, it’ll be screw you, Mr Garnish, so go for it now.

Adios, Maria al Monte.  For now.  With the passage of 1183 here in Washington State last month, liquor sales are officially privatized as of June 1st, 2012.  So the state liquor stores, which had just started to understand the needs of their well-heeled cocktail nerd customers, will be shutting down.  Off-the-beaten-path stuff, like amari, has already disappeared from the shelves here.  We’re fucked for six months, at least.

Now I’m all for privatizing liquor sales.  Hey, I spent most of my life in California, and this whole weirdness about restrictions on selling booze in most states is foreign to me.  But this crappy intiative limits sales to stores of 10,000 square feet or more.  Unsurprisingly, Costco funded it to the tune of something like $20 million.  None of Washington’s state liquor stores have that kind of square footage, so they can’t even use the space anymore.  How much did the state spend on that new premier liquor store in West Seattle a few months ago?  It’s toast.

I’m trying to remain open about the whole thing.  It would be great if BevMo showed up and large wine sellers branched out into hooch.  But there’s pretty much no getting around the fact that 2012 is going to be a fucked up year for booze snobs in Washington.  And I want small, independent, specialty liquor stores to pop up.  Unfortunately, I am the 1% here.  I am sure the majority of drinkers in the state will have an uninterrupted supply of Jagerbombs.

Things that I do four times a year:  update the cocktail menu, wash the dogs, and reinstall Windows.  So goodbye light, fruity, rum-soaked summer.  Hello bourbon and rain.  Time for drinks that go well with the smell of the furnace being lit for the first time this season.

I hope someday to make it to The Varnish in LA.  Eric Alperin seems to be doing some magic there, so my ears perked up when he shared a recipe on the Dinner Party Download a while back.  I wrote it down, then forgot about it.  It popped up a few weeks ago when I was editing the recipe database.  Finally got around to making it.

Here’s my new favorite rye cocktail.


1 oz Old Overholt Rye
1 oz cognac (I used Chalfonte)
.5 oz amaretto
.5 oz dry vermouth (I used Dolin dry)
float of Islay whiskey (I used Ardbeg – about three dashes)

Combine everything but the whiskey (or whisky, if you will) in the shaker.  Ice and stir.  Strain into a rocks glass with no ice.  Turn the barspoon upside down over the drink and pour the whiskey on top.  Garnish with an orange wedge and a couple of brandied cherries on a pick.  Think about visiting LA for a conference later this month.  Remember living in LA.  Go back to drinking.

The brandied cherries seem pretty important here.  That tiny bit of boozy juicy goodness that seeps into the drink really brings everything together.

Stock up the liquor cabinet.  More fall cocktail menu selections to come.


Three years ago, I considered vermouth to be something that sat in the back of the liquor cabinet, simmering with jealousy for the base spirits, and dreaming of a martini that would never come.  Now I have five sweet vermouths, and two dry.

If you don’t like vermouth, it’s probably because, like me, the only stuff you’ve had was poured from an ancient opened bottle that’s been on the shelf for years.  Vermouth is a fortified wine.  If you leave opened wine on the shelf for more than a couple of days, you get a mouthful of vinegar.  Opened vermouth needs to go in the fridge and get used in a reasonable amount of time.

Vermouths can also be as different as wines can be.  The acquisition of the fifth sweet vermouth today demanded a taste comparison.

In first position:  the new kid on the block, Perruchi.  It’s a Spanish vermouth with a very light body.  Cherry on the nose, then a sip of lemon and cardamom, followed by a slightly bitter finish.  I’m going to have to think on the right cocktail for this.

In second position:  our old French favorite, Dolin Rouge.  It’s got perhaps a bit of walnut on the nose, sips with a strong cherry, and finishes with a bitter hint of anise.  This is our house vermouth and gets used in almost anything that might get clobbered by Carpano.

In third position:  Cocchi di Torino.  Oh, how fond I am of this one.  I could use it just for sipping.  It starts out with a sweet, peppery nose.  One sip and you’re in the world of ruby port, with a little bitterness thrown in.  And the finish has a bit of marzipan / anise going on.  I use it in one of the cocktails I’ve published here, the High Tea.

Lastly, the champ, Carpano Antica Formula.  Pralines on the nose, caramelly anise in the middle, and a nice burnt sugar finish.  This makes a hell of a Martinez.  It goes well with many classic cocktails, as long as you don’t mind the fact it’s going to kick your drink’s ass.  It refuses to be subtle.

The Manhattan is the classic sweet vermouth drink.  I went to Canon – Jamie Boudreaux’ new place – for the first time last week.  They had a selection on the menu that was actually three drinks:  Manhattans, each made with a different vermouth.  They had the Dolin, the Carpano, and a Barolo Cocchi.  (The Barolo is wicked expensive, and I ain’t opening it for mixing.)  Since we need to include a drink recipe here, it’s time to do a classic Manhattan.


2 oz rye (I used Templeton.  Nom nom nom.)
1 oz sweet vermouth (I used the Perruchi – it’s new and shiny)
two dashes Angostura bitters

Combine everything in the mixer, ice it, stir it, strain it into a frosty cocktail glass, and drop a brandied cherry into it.  The original Manhattan is made with rye, but if you use bourbon, no one’s going to take away your birthday.  Easy to make, but a very different drink each time, depending on the kind of rye / bourbon and vermouth you use.

I’ve been posting a lot of drinks that involve ingredients most people don’t have, or are a bi-atch to make.  So here’s the first in a series of cocktails with ingredients that are easy to find and fairly simple to make.  It’s a classic Prohibition-era cocktail, named for the distance you had to go from shore to consume hooch legally.  Hooray for boats!

12 Mile Limit

(It’s prettier than I managed to capture in this crappy picture.)

1 oz white rum (I like Cruzan, and it’s cheap!)
.5 oz brandy
.5 oz rye (I like Bulleit rye, if you can find it, and it’s also cheap!)
.5 oz lemon
Pomegranate grenadine

Combine everything except the grenadine in a mixing glass.  Ice, shake, and strain into a cocktail glass.  Drizzle a dash or two of grenadine and garnish with a lemon twist.  Toast to Will Rogers, who once said “Prohibition is better than no liquor at all.”

Now about that grenadine.  Most of that stuff you’re going to find in the store is a hot sticky mess of high-fructose corn syrup and red dye.  Leave it on the shelf with the plastic maraschino cherries.

Real grenadine is made from pomegranates.  You can make your own from scratch, but that’s a total pain in the ass.  If you want an easier alternative, get yourself some POM juice and make a syrup with half juice and half water.  Even easier, but not nearly as good, buy a semi-decent brand.

If none of this works for you, no worries.  The drink’s still good without the grenadine, although you might want to add a little simple syrup to it to make up for the sweetness.  That’s just one part sugar to one part water, dissolved.

This one is a fine way to get your home bar started, if you don’t already have all the stuff to make it on hand.  You’ll get a lot of mile-age out of the components.  (Booo.)