Serious Eats: Drinks

Cocktail 101: Bourbon and Rye Drinks from a Low-Stocked Bar

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[Photograph: Michael Dietsch]

In this week's installment of my low-stocked-bar series, I'm turning my eyes to bourbon and rye, and I'll discuss easy cocktails you can make with those spirits and a few other ingredients you might happen to have on hand.

But First ...

Make sure you've got the basics: a bottle of bourbon or rye (or both) plus lemons and Angostura bitters. You'll be glad to have orange bitters, too, but life goes on if you're lacking.

Bourbon or Rye Cocktails

Last week, when talking about simple gin drinks, I started with Chartreuse, so I'll start there again. Unfortunately, I don't have much to report. Not many cocktails pair whiskey with Chartreuse. It's such a natural with gin, as I mentioned last week, especially given the way the herbs and citrusy notes of gin and Chartreuse pair off. But Chartreuse does work with whiskey, if you give it a chance. I know of one excellent cocktail that uses it, but unfortunately, it breaks a main rule of this post, which is to suggest recipes that don't require you to do a lot of shopping. If, however, you're up for an extra trip to the liquor store, or you have some apple brandy on hand, try the Diamondback; it's delicious.

Okay, so Chartreuse is a bit of a dud, so now what? Campari. Last week, I mentioned the Negroni, and now it's time to discuss its cousin, the Boulevardier, a drink as perfect as its more famous relative. Try it as a drink of equal parts whiskey, vermouth, and Campari, or play around with the proportions. You can also swap out your Campari for whatever other bitter potables you have on hand: Cynar and Gran Classico are delicious places to start.

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[Photograph: Jennifer Hess]

Onward to Benedictine: I mentioned it last week but blew it off, saying it doesn't work well with gin. But it's delicious with brown spirits. You can, of course, just buy a bottle of B&B (Benedictine and Brandy) and just be done with it. But I find that the ratio of Benedictine to brandy in the premixed version is too high, resulting in a drink that's far too sweet. Better to mix it to your own tastes.

Nice thing about Benedictine is that you don't need to complicate things. Take a couple of ounces of rye. Add a quarter ounce of Benedictine and a dash or two of bitters. You have a variation on the Old Fashioned in which the Benedictine both replaces the simple syrup and enlivens the cocktail with a splash of herbal complexity. Hint: This trick works well with maraschino and orange liqueurs, too, as well as with Cherry Heering and other fruit brandies.

Looking for something just a tad more complex? Squeeze up a lemon, and drop the juice into a shaker with Benedictine and rye to make a Frisco Sour.

Get the Recipe

Frisco Sour »

About the author: Michael Dietsch approaches life with a hefty dash of bitters. He lives with wife, son, and cats in Brooklyn. You can touch him on twitter at @dietsch.

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