There are times when you want the original. The real original. Not the new thing, not the bottled thing, not the artificial thing.
We’ve had two days of sunshine with scattered clouds and snow showers. It’s beautiful to have golden sunlight dash each flake as it drifts down. It’s also a sign from God to stay indoors. Two months from now, a day like today at 30°F will seem warm. Today it seems cold.
So we had a football day: nachos and pig-in-a-blanket. Fire in the fireplace. And I wanted a classic drink: a good, honest whiskey sour. That drink needs three things: great whiskey, great sour, and great ice cubes. Yes, ice cubes. As it melts, any flavor in the ice is transferred to the drink. Our water comes from a deep well, and the watershed here is drained into a reservoir that eventually feeds New York City. The water is famous for being pure.
That leaves the whisky and sour. Our whiskey is from Tennessee and, like the ice, is no problem.
The sour part is the challenge. Yes, you can buy those lovely plastic bottles of sour mix. I’m sure that there’s no contamination from the plastic. And even if they are made in China, Indonesia, or somewhere in Illinois, I know there is no issue with the quality or anything at all harmful with those chemicals in there. The chemicals that let the bottle sit on the shelf for years with no change in content flavor. That’s right whether you drink the stuff on day one or year four, it’ll taste the same.
That’s just why I make my own sour mix. I’ve posted some recipes here before, but I have a new, very quick one. Kim Haasarud in 101 Champagne Cocktails suggests this wonderful recipe:
Fresh Sour Mix
Yield: 1 cup
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- ½ cup simple syrup
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix to stir, place in a covered container, refrigerate between usage. The lifespan is 2-3 weeks.
With that sour mix, here’s how to have a bright, intense and honest whisky sour:
Honest Whisky Sour
Yield: 1 drink
- 2 ounces premium whisky or bourbon
- 3 ounces fresh sour mix
- Cherry or orange or lemon slice for garnish
Place ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice. Shake vigorously. Pour into an Old Fashioned glass. Add 2-3 large ice cubes. Do not add shaved ice, since it will melt quicker and dilute the drink.
If you prefer you can garnish with a cherry or slice of citrus. Personally, I don’t like things rubbing against my nose when I drink.
Source: Brian O’Rourke with Inspiration from Kim Haasarud
This cocktail, from Difford’s Guide, is call a Ray Gun, and comes with a side note that is a warning: “not for the faint-hearted.”
Oh, there’s a kick, from the Chartreuse, one of those mystical European creations. Made in France by monks, the liqueur is alcohol with 130 herbs. I did not know there were 130 herbs. The color is, naturally, chartreuse, and the liqueur is said to actually continue to age and mature in the bottle. The flavor is intensely herby with no single note that you can recognize. I would not drink this straight and that’s one reason we have this bottle lying around. For a long time.
Several years ago, Cooking by the Book was the test kitchen for the Joy of Cooking — actually for the last two editions. As part of the testing, there was a need one day for a very little Chartreuse. That test came and has gone. The bottle of Chartreuse, a nearly full bottle, has rested untouched on our shelves ever since.
Now I guess in a normal household, after a while, you would toss out a bottle that never gets used. But when I was growing up and started to do that, my mom would say something like: “You silly child. Think of all the poor little bartenders in China with nothing to pour. Your father and I will finish the bottle.” And by God they finished that bottle and every other.
Looking back, maybe Mom and Dad had a little problem.
Anyway, I don’t throw away bottles, but it can be difficult to find uses for the liqueurs. Things are easier now. I went to diffordsguide.com, searched based on my Chartreuse dilemma, and presto came up with this solution: Chartreuse, Blue Curacao, and Champagne.
Is there anything that doesn’t taste better with Champagne?
In the recipe below, there are calls for “partial” shots. How big is a shot? Three tablespoons, so you can round off accordingly. The Blue Curacao, mixed with Champagne and the chartreuse of the Chartreuse, produces a color that Jacque Cousteau would have loved.
Yield: 1 Champagne flute
- ½ shot Chartreuse Green Liqueur
- ¾ shot Blue Curacao Liqueur
Pour the two liqueurs into a chilled flute and top with Champagne.