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Archive for April, 2009

Ward 8 – Back on the Horse

Posted by Reese On April - 12 - 2009

My friends, I have fantastic news!  I’m back on the bourbon horse and loving it.  I started the week with a bit of trepidation, but that soon faded as I was reunited with my delicious old friend, tasty American whiskey.  The Ward 8 was a perfect reintroduction to this fine spirit although, in the future I’ll be mixing mine with rye.  The spirit of choice in recipes from my library and the vast interwebs were a mixed bag between rye and bourbon.

Ward Eight

I would guess this stems from two things.  First rye was the American whiskey of choice pre-prohibition and as such most classic recipes are going to reference this spirit.  There was, however, a sad time after prohibition all the way up to only a few years ago when rye wasn’t widely available, if you could find a bottle at all.  This led to a number of classic cocktails being rewritten to included bourbon instead.  While this is certainly not a bad change you lose the spiciness that rye brings to the cocktail.

This week I tried both rye and bourbon to get a feel for the difference and found that, for my palate, rye was a much better match for this drink.  The spiciness of the spirit played very well with the sweet and sour flavors of the citrus juices.  If you don’t have a bottle of rye on hand and want to mix this one up, give a bourbon with a higher rye content a try.  Bulleit springs to mind as one of my favorite rye heavy bourbons.  However, I’d urge you to grab a bottle of rye next time you’re shopping.  My mixing rye of choice is Rittenhouse 100 proof.  It can be found for relatively cheap and has a nice spicy flavor that works great in cocktails.

I started my week of imbibing with the Joy of Mixology recipe and was very pleased.  This cocktail is nicely citrusy with the rye shining through on the back end.  The grenadine doesn’t add a huge amount of flavor, but does add a nice color and some possibly needed sweetness.  In my case my oranges weren’t overly sweet and as such I had to go with 1/4 oz of grenadine to get the balance that I was looking for.  I would have stuck with this recipe and called it a week were I not spurred on the by the deliciousness of rye to try a recipe that placed more emphasis on the spirit.

The recipe I found on Esquire’s website was a logical next step.  It keeps the rye steady at 2 oz, but drops the orange and lemon juice to 3/4 oz rather than the full 1 oz called for in the Joy of Mixology.  The result is a drier cocktail that focuses more on the rye.  Exactly what I was looking for.  The fruit juice and grenadine flavors are still present and the sourness is dialed down a bit.  Esquire (David Wondrich) calls for 1 tsp of grenadine, but from my previous experiments I opted for 1/4 oz (1 1/2 tsp) and found that worked better in my case.

Certainly this progression could continue by next trying the cocktail with 1/2 oz each of the juices, but I think at that point you start to get away from what a Ward 8 was intended to be.  That hasn’t stopped people in the past (I’m looking at you Martini), but it wasn’t what I was after so I stopped my experimentation with a slightly modified version of the Esquire recipe.  As always I’m open to hearing suggestions on possible modifications.

Ward 8 (Cocktail Hacker)
2 oz Rye
3/4 oz Orange Juice
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Grenadine
1) Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice
2) Shake until thoroughly chilled
3) Strain into a cocktail glass

Ward 8

Posted by Reese On April - 5 - 2009

A couple of months ago I was involved in an incident involving an over-imbibing of bourbon.  I don’t think it’s really necessary to go in to all the details, but I will say that ice fishing was involved.  Since that event I’ve kinda shied away from the brown elixir.  As I’m sure you will agree, this absolutely must not continue.  So in honor of my triumphant return to the bourbon drinking ways I’ve decided to mix up Ward 8 cocktails this week.  For those of you in the know about this cocktail you may be considering protesting since the Ward 8 is traditionally made with rye.  There are, however, recipes that call for bourbon and at times it takes baby steps.

Ice Fishing Bounty

The Ward 8 cocktail originated in 1898 at the Locke-Ober bar in Boston Massachusetts.  This drink was created to honor the 8th Ward of Boston which brought Martin Lomasney the winning margin he needed to gain a seat in the state legilature.  There are mixed stories about Losmasney’s goodness, but one thing is for certain.  If a drink was created in honor of him he was certainly a memorable fellow.

Ward 8
2 oz Rye Whiskey
1 oz Orange Juice
1 oz Lemon Juice
Grenadine to Taste
1) Combine in an ice filled shaker
2) Shake until well chilled
3) Strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Psuedo-Relatives and the Like

Posted by Reese On April - 5 - 2009

I started the week with little knowledge of amaretto and I feel I’m finishing it with at least a base that I can work from going forward.  I went with a bottle of Disaronno which turned out to be a good choice.  The almond notes were present and the sweetness was at a good level.  I didn’t detect the bitter almond flavors I was expecting.  I’m curious if some companies downplay that element to appeal to a broader audience.  I am interested in hearing if anyone has another favorite amaretto, so please chime in.

I decided to use Famous Grouse as my scotch of choice for this week and think that’s a really good option for folks who might be a little concerned about the bold flavors of some scotch.  Famous Grouse, and other blends, tend to keep the expected key points of single malt scotch (smoke, peat, etc) but the blending brings them all to very nice mellow levels.  The end result is a scotch with character that mixes well in cocktails.  For the vodka recipes I opted for Oval which I mentioned earlier this week.  I also decided to entertain Rich’s suggestion and mix up a Grandpappy.  For that one I used my favorite mixing bourbon, Eagle Rare.


Godfather (2 oz Scotch, 1 oz Amaretto) – A very tasty cocktail, not overly sweet with the notes of both the scotch and amaretto playing nicely together.  As I suggested above I don’t think a good single malt would be the right choice for this cocktail as some of the subtle flavors of both the scotch and amaretto would be lost.

Godson (2 oz Scotch, 1 oz Amaretto, 1 oz Light Cream) – Even less sweet than the Godfather and deliciously creamy.  I found that the addition of cream smoothed out the flavors of this drink and added a richness that I found tremendously pleasant.  This would definitely be a drink I’d choose for an after dinner cocktail to enjoy slowly.

Godmother (2 oz Vodka, 1 oz Amaretto) – Interestingly this recipe tasted slightly sweeter than the Godfather which really shouldn’t be the case seeing as they call for the same ratios.  One change I made was to stir this drink rather than shaking it as I did with the Godfather which certainly could have resulted in less dissolved water in the drink.  A comment in my notes sums up my take on this drink perfectly, it’s “basically diluted amaretto.”  Which is good if you’re not partial to whisk(e)y but I think this cocktail lacks the depth of flavor you get in the Godfather as a result.

Goddaughter (2 oz Vodka, 1 oz Amaretto, 1 oz Light Cream) – A very smooth and creamy drink.  Again lighter in sweetness than its godparent and less complex than its godsibling.  This drink, like the Godmother is really more about the amaretto.  Overall a tasty beverage.

Grandpappy (2 oz Bourbon, 1 oz Amaretto) – This one turned out too sweet for me, which I’m thinking is a combination of the natural sweetness of the bourbon and not stirring long enough.  The light smokiness of the bourbon comes through which is a good thing.  A good cocktail, but not my favorite of this batch.

Of this group of cocktails the Godfather and Godson were my favorites.  Were I looking for a pre or during dinner cocktail I’d go with the Godfather since it’s not as rich.  A tip on technique that I missed on my first read through the recipes.  Like all clear, spirit only cocktails the Godfather, Godmother and Grandpappy should be stirred rather than shaken.  However, make sure you stir the cocktail for a good 30 seconds.  You need the ice melt to balance the cocktail.

I got some cool pictures this go-round.  You can see them all in the Flickr pool.

Oval Vodka

Posted by Reese On April - 2 - 2009

oval200As I’ve mentioned on a couple of previous occasions I don’t drink much vodka either straight or in cocktails.  It’s not that I don’t like vodka, I just don’t find a need for it all that often.  This week however presented an excellent opportunity in the form of the Godmother and Goddaughter.  A couple weeks back I received a bottle of Oval vodka to sample and thought this would be a perfect opportunity to put it through its paces.

First off the bottle is extremely unique and very striking.  It’s a pyramidal bottle composed of a circular base and three ovular sides.  The materials included suggest that this design was chosen to reflect the fact that this vodka is structured in such a manner that water encompasses the alcohol in a similar fashion.  More on that in a bit.  Being a huge geek the next design choice that I really enjoyed is the  milled aluminum (or possibly steel, metallurgy isn’t one of my specialties) cap.  It’s quite hefty, elegant looking and got serious geek points from me.

Back to the structured vodka concept.  Oval is said to be the first vodka structured to have an exceedingly smooth palate.  The brainchild behind this vodka, Dr. Valery Sorokin, has come up with a method that surrounds the alcohol with a layer of water which “prepares the palate for a uniquely smooth taste experience.”  This process only works at 48, 84 and 112 proof.  Oval has chosen 84 for this product which makes sense as it puts the spirit on the same proof level as most other offerings.

Now, I’m not a chemist nor do I put much faith in homeopathy, but I do put faith in my own palate. My experience with Oval thus far has been quite pleasant.  The aroma is very clean, which is exactly what one would expect from a premium vodka, but the flavor is where this spirit really shined for me.  It truly is exceedingly smooth on the palate.  The flavor is very clean and there is no burn or aftertaste at all.  I also found it mixed very well.  Since it has no flavor of its own to speak of it doesn’t bring any possibly off-putting elements to your cocktail, which is exactly what I want in a vodka.

The suggested retail price of Oval is $36.99 which certainly puts it in the premium vodka range, although not as high as some others.  If you’re a vodka fan and looking for something new I would suggest you take a look at Oval.  I think you’ll enjoy what you find.