When the weather turns cool, and to be honest in January that really should happen despite how we do winter in south Louisiana, then to me the perfect accompaniment is whiskey.
Oh sure, brandy, port and hot toddies all should be in the running as answers to the question, “What do I want to drink now?” But the spirit which typifies a body’s desire to be warmer is whiskey. It’s a good choice in other seasons too but now whiskey seems particularly fitting.
The fermentation of grains has been a part of human history since at least 2000 years before Christ. Grains mature then deteriorate. Fermentation was used by Babylonians in Mesopotamia and then passed on to the Greeks to preserve the goodness and stave away the deterioration. Skipping over a lot of history, the art of distillation moved into the British Isles in the 15th century finding a home among tribes that were both adept at the process and greatly enjoyed the result.
The terms, whiskey and whisky, are interchangeable with the distiller determining which one best suits his personal preference. Between the two words, there is no difference in the final product except those achieved with different core ingredients and some processing tweaks. Seems the Scotch prefer the shorter word while the Irish and the United States go in for the added vowel.
A good bit of reluctance on my part to fully embrace whiskey at any time of year is because some mixologists use whiskey to complicate their lives and mine. To me, the qualities of an aged whiskey are enough to carry the load, the weight, of whatever cocktail I have chosen. Any drink requiring 18 steps and as many added ingredients is of no real interest, except for the sake of prurient curiosity to see if the mixologist can faithfully duplicate the recipe a second time. Usually not.
With whiskey’s profile of nuttiness, bit of wood from the barrels, the character of the core grain, and the joys of aging, that’s enough. By the way, a whiskey cannot age in a bottle. The aging really occurs only in the time between distillation and bottling. That time is customarily spent in wood. In the United States, particularly in Kentucky, usually only new oak is used. Although today there are many aberrations to aging whiskey in previously used casks, sometimes casks used for completely different spirits than distilled.
Here are a few examples of new-to-you, I hope, recipes which are very fast and easy to make, and yield excellent cocktails for a cold season:
The Good Cork
Thanks to Phil Ward. Note please the most unlikely pairing of mezcal and whiskey. Inspired.
- 1 oz Del Maguey Vida mezcal
- 1 oz Redbreast 12-year-old Irish whiskey
- 1⁄2 oz Bénédictine
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- Garnish: Apple slice
- Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir.
- Strain into a rocks glass filled over ice.
- Garnish with an apple slice.
New York Sour
As created by Jacques Bezuidenhout. If you like Whiskey Sour, and you like red wine, this is the one you’ve been seeking.
- 2 oz Rye whiskey or bourbon
- 3⁄4 oz Simple syrup
- 1 oz Lemon juice
- 1 Egg white (optional)
- 1⁄2 oz Red wine
- Add all the ingredients except the wine to a shaker and fill with ice.
- Shake well and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.
- Carefully pour the wine over the back of a spoon so it floats on top of the drink.
As envisioned by Dushan Zoric and Jason Kosmas. One of the grandest of Classic cocktails.
- 2 oz Bourbon
- 1⁄2 tsp White sugar
- 3 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6
- 1⁄4 oz Cold water
- 1 Brown sugar cube
- Garnish: Lemon, Orange twists
- Add all ingredients into a mixing glass, muddle to break down the sugar and stir briefly.
- Fill with ice and stir again.
- Strain into a rocks glass over ice.
- Twist slices of lemon and orange peel over the drink to express the oil and drop them in
Read Happy Hour here on myneworleans.com on Thursdays, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature about cocktails every month in New Orleans Magazine.