I’m not the type of person to take a whiff from a snifter and proclaim, “Pungent aroma of gin botanicals with a touch of pine needle, lemon zest, honey, vanilla and mint!” (Though I am apparently the type to make awful puns at the expense of a perfectly good cocktail.)
It’s not that I’m modest or shy; au contraire, had I the gift, I’d be up in everybody’s boozy business describing in great detail the notes of honeysuckle and dill in their Chardonnay.
The fact is, I’m just bad at it.
I once decided to try cultivating this ability by writing down tasting notes in a small journal that I took with me to bars and restaurants. This tactic may not have developed my nose, but it did unwittingly earn me excellent service and discounts when I was mistaken for an unsubtle restaurant critic.
(Hm, perhaps I should take that up again..)
But this guy on the other hand can, and does, say exactly that about Bulleit’s Rye Whiskey. I can’t vouch for the gin botanicals, but I’ve certainly been appreciating this rye’s clean, dry flavor and hint of spice. (Cinnamon, apparently.)
In addition to enjoying it on the rocks with a little sparkling water, I’ve been shaking up this tawny cocktail with fresh apple cider, ginger and lemon juice, and a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg.
Apple cider on its own can be cloying and in need of some pep. It pairs brilliantly with rye, which has the spice of a bourbon, but with a clean dryness that tames the cider’s sweetness. A hit of grated ginger root and lemon juice add a pleasant acidity, and the cinnamon and nutmeg bring out the peppery notes (so I’m told) in the rye.
This drink is tastiest with freshly pressed apple cider. If I had a juicer, I’d make it myself; instead I get organic, unpasteurized juice from my co-op. Look for freshly pressed apple cider at farmer’s markets, farm stands, or in the refrigerated section of healthy food stores. All ounce measurements are by volume (not weight).
Makes 2 serious beverages
6 ounces (3/4 cup) fresh apple juice or cider (see headnote)
4 ounces (1/2 cup) rye whiskey (such as Bulleit)
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger root (I use a microplane to grate it very fine)
a big pinch freshly grated nutmeg
a big pinch ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
In a measuring cup, combine the apple cider, rye, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and lemon juice. Strain through a small, fine mesh sieve into a cocktail shaker (or quart mason jar) filled halfway with ice, pressing on the ginger to extract all the good stuff. Put the lid on and shake vigorously. Strain into 2 chilled glasses and sip immediately.