It is an honor to host Mixology Monday a second time this year and for this theme, I went with the idea of “Perfect Symmetry”. As I described it in the announcement post:
Perfect symmetry is your theme this month! A “perfect” drink splits the liquor evenly between two related ingredients. The most common “perfect” drink is a Perfect Manhattan where the vermouth is split between sweet and dry to create an altogether different experience. A perfect Old Fashioned splits the bourbon and rye are both used to create a singularly distinct experience. When done well, splitting the liquor lets each of the unique flavors and components of the shine through. Because they share a background, they don’t war with each other but instead you get both the mellow sweetness of the bourbon with the spicy backbone of the rye in that Old Fashioned. The dry vermouth can accentuate flavors in the Manhattan you might have missed. Why make a choice when you can have it all?!
Your challenge is to create a new cocktail or explore an existing cocktail that splits the liquor evenly in a “perfect” manner. Perhaps you want to work with the bourbon-rye split in a drink other than an Old Fashioned. Can you challenge yourself with gin and vodka in a light summer appropriate beverage? Perhaps you’ll delve deep into splitting Sambuca and ouzo in an anise flavored digestive? Getting bored with tequila, maybe a perfect margarita with the backbone of mezcal will reawaken your appreciation? Campari too assertive for you? Maybe make a Perfect Negroni with Aperol lightening the weight. Let you imagination run wild!
I didn’t have a particular drink in mind when I thought this one through. I already did a Perfect Manhattan and I probably rely on Manhattans as a template too often. As I was pondering over the past few weeks, I flipped open a birthday gift to this page:
Something struck me. The idea of using this split spirits to play with normally discordant spirits in fashioning a cocktail stuck with me. The New York Martini was a neat idea, but using vodka to give a more assertive liquor room to breathe was too easy. Instead, I started pondering what sort of aged spirits could be combined to a new cocktail. I settled on the spicy rye whiskey combined with the spicy reposada tequila. I thought that we could find a way to blend these into a great cocktail. To harmonize these, I decided to work with my citrus component relying first on Cointreau but then decided that a longer drink would be pleasing. The San Pellegrino limonata is bracingly tart with 17% lemon juice so I softened that with a little bit of maple syrup and tried to add a little more interest by using a cardamom pod. Because I was working with multiple barrel aged spirits, I choose to use the maple syrup because it has a richer more caramel based flavor that would also act to soften the differences between the spirits. Finally, a dash of bitters to help it all come together.
The Spice Road
- 1oz Rye Whiskey
- 1oz Reposada Tequila
- .5oz Cointreau
- .25oz Maple Syrup – If you are using a sweeter orange liqueur, you can dial back the syrup here.
- 1 Cardamom Pod
- Orange Bitters
- Lemon Soda
- Combine the first 5 ingredients in a shaker ⅔ full of ice.
- Shake well
- Strain into a glass
- Top with lemon soda
- Garnish with lemon twist
I know that usually, lemon and tequila don’t mix, so this was a risk in making the drink. The plan was for the rye, which matches well with lemon, to give that flavor a home while using the rest of the components to make a spicy and flavorful beverage.
The first run through came out a bit too sweet so I dialed back the maple syrup. I also cut the size of the serving glass to limit the limonata component. Using a higher proof rye, like the BUlleit here, helped. On the second run through, the sweetness was still present but I realized how much of it was coming from the tequila and cointreau. There is a bright “tingle” across my taste buds as I finish each sip bringing the spice to the forefront of my flavor. The limonata certainly helped bring things together especially when served in a smaller glass so it didn’t become too much lime a PImm’s Cup. The front end of the drink starts with a warmth unexpected from the look and lemony profile with the nose giving off the faintest whiff of the cardamom (I’d probably double up the cardamom if I made a third try). Right as the oak and spice are beginning, the lemon and sweetness take over until the orange emerges towards the finish. When that orange flavor comes out, I start to get the spicy again giving the drink a more intense start and finish with a mellow middle. The real challenge is trying again … with soda water.
Names are always fun. I sat here, sipping the flavorful beverage full of spice from all over the world, and thought the best way to describe the cocktail was The Spice Road. Thanks for checking out this Mixology Monday attempt to split the spirits in a new and unusual way.
Bonus – A failed attempt at a drink. This was a truly complex margarita where there was an equal part of blanco tequila, reposada tequila, and mezcal with the cointreau evenly split with Campari. It was quite tasty but I didn’t think it pushed me enough. Instead a made a gallon of them for company last weekend.