Local Libations: Downtown Volare – A Whiskey Cocktail
By Andrew StatesI’m at the whim of the weather. My days are demarcated by the look of the sky and the feel of the air. The sidewalk is a great predictor of how things are going to progress. The blinding brightness of a snow slicked avenue guarded at its verges by brittle ice-laden trees sets my mind to the struggle to find warmth, to search out some comfortable corner in which to revive my inner machinery. Conversely, the fat, heated air rising in waves from the black pavement, still but for an occasional cough of a breeze, flattens me to near uselessness. There are days when shade just doesn’t cut it. Sometimes motivation has to be harvested. After reading Chad’s post on the Triple “S”, I was inspired to take up arms against the swampy New York summer air. Instead of using gin, a spirit endlessly easy to combine in refreshing ways, I took a cue from Chad and tried my luck with whiskey.
CLICK HERE for he full post and recipe.
But which whiskey? Having already filed several reports on New York’s local distilling boom, I thought I’d exhausted the available. I wanted to bring in something new. So, it was with faint hope that I stopped by my local specialty liquor store. The predicament facing a would-be whiskey distiller is the importance of aging in the production process. It follows that a new distiller can’t go from start-up to product as quickly as someone trying to make gin or vodka. It takes time to create something you can be proud of and, when you’re paying for New York real estate, time is a commodity in short supply. That being the case, many distillers start out selling gin and vodka to create capital and give themselves enough breathing room to let their whiskey age.
I walked through the door at Juice Box Wine & Spirits and it was as though Bacchus himself heard me. Prominently displayed on an old barrel before the entrance was a bottle from the Breuckelen Distilling Company, of which much has already been written. The difference between this bottle and all the others I’d seen was the color of what was inside. A clear honey-brown. 131 Days old was written across the hand-printed label. I smiled as I scanned the word repeated in my prayers: Whiskey. I chatted with the retailer who told me they’d released the bottles to a select few stores. Is it good? He nodded. I tasted it as soon as I got home. The words the clerk at the store had used came back to me. It was bright and sweet as he’d said, young but not astringent. I’d anticipated something on par with an unaged corn whiskey, something that burned. Admittedly, I was surprised, pleasantly so.
Turning my attention to the recipe, I decided to try something that seemed appropriate for this heat. I opted to riff on the classic whiskey cocktail, Sazerac, a staple libation enjoyed in the balmy air of New Orleans. It’s more of a cover really, Tom Waits doing Dean Martin, using variations of the standard and adding a last minute twist to make it unique. Sazeracs are made with rye whiskey. The Breukelen Whiskey I’m using is made with wheat. Sazeracs also employ an Absinthe rinse. As I have no conception of what absinthe was like before it was banned, I’ve chosen St. George Absinthe Verte based, first of all, on it’s flavor and secondly on the quality and care with which it’s made. For my bitters I’ve gone with The Bitter Truth Creole Bitters. Finding myself out of the Peychuad’s called for in traditional Sazeracs (and finding the store out of them too) the clerk recommended a tiny bottle of The Bitter Truth’s concoction. It isn’t quite as sweet as Peychaud’s and not nearly as anise heavy, but this is a variation after all. The final ingredient I picked straight from the sizzling brain of Han Shan, a man I remain unashamed to rip off, with his permission of course. Giving him the lowdown on my plans, I asked if he had any thoughts on that final bit of flair that I could employ to make my cocktail unique, after a few “yeah”s and a slight furrowing of the brow, he suggested I try infusing some vermouth with black tea. Falling back on my reliable bottle of Dolin Vermouth Blanc, I took his advice. The resulting infusion became a mixture of sweetness and bitterness that I would happily drink by itself.
Because I’m determined to follow my music metaphor to the end, I’ve combined the name of a Tom Waits song and a Dean Martin song. I call this drink a Downtown Volare. I think it’s appropriate. Enjoy ye sweaty masses!
Prep time: 3 Minutes
Tools: 2 Old Fashioned glasses, Knife, Muddler, Ounce measurement, Spoon or other stirring implement, Strainer.
- 2 1/2 oz Breukelen Whiskey
- 1 Sugar Cube (or 1 tsp sugar).
- 1/2 oz Black Tea Infused Dolin Vermouth Blanc.
- Three dashes The Bitter Truth Creole Bitters.
- St. George Absinthe Verte rinse.
Fill one of your glasses with ice and water to chill the glass. In the second glass:
- Drop in the sugar cube with a few drops of water.
- Muddle water and sugar together.
- Add 2 1/2 oz of Breuckelen Whiskey.
- Add 1/2 oz Black Tea Infused Dolin Vermouth Blanc.
- Add 3 dashes The Bitter Truth Creole Bitters.
- Empty second glass of chilled ice water.
- Coat inside of chilled glass with Absinthe Verte.
- Add ice to first glass with all other ingredients.
- Strain into second chilled glass.
- Add lemon peel.
- Drink up.