In my humble opinion, what this winter has lacked in snowfall it has made up for in bleakness. Unrelenting freezing cold temperatures have gone hand in hand with these insane monkey viruses that everyone has been passing around like playing cards, and at this point in February I just thank God for whiskey. And this particular season, what I’m really loving is the rye from Rittenhouse. Rye! Yarrrrr. What the hell is rye, anyway?The story goes that before Prohibition, rye whiskey was the most popular spirit consumed in the whole US of A. Good, hardworking Americans drank it straight and in cocktails by the droves, presumably while dancing to the Michigan Rag. It was even used as a salve to help teething babies! To be a baby in 1918 must have been something, friends. But sometime after that ridiculously dry 18th Amendment was repealed, it was unfairly stigmatized as the preeminent choice of your neighborhood’s red-nosed morning drunkard. Many decades later, a broad base of whiskey lovers rediscovered it and now happily there are dozens of stellar ryes to choose from at your local package shop. A final Cliff Clavin fact: rye whiskey is only designated as such when 51 percent of the headline grain is in fact actual rye (much as a bourbon whiskey must be 51 percent corn.) In layman’s terms, I think what makes rye different is that it’s less sweet and more spicy. It has some of the feisty attitude you find in scotch, but without the peat and smoke.And it’s been hard work, obviously, but I’ve spent many evenings trying different ryes. The Rittenhouse wins for me because it has all of the excellent characteristic rye flavors like pepper, cinnamon, and ginger but it also has a very pleasant orangey undertone to it. And it has a complex aroma: sort of like fresh leather, old wood, and perhaps an angry Viking. It makes a fantastic Manhattan, but I think it goes brilliantly over a few cubes as well. Best of all, at around $24 a bottle it’s a serious bargain, given most retail above $35. So next time, make it a Rittenhouse on the rocks! Bottoms up from your pals at On the Real.
Something about the holidays seems to encourage food and beverage makers to infuse so-called holiday tastes where they have no right being present. I personally don’t ever want my beer to taste like egg nog or sugar plums, but I will admit to wanting a stronger, darker beer as the weather gets colder and visits with relatives become more frequent. Enter a new beer from the tiny Oregon microbrewery Full Sail called Session Black. A “session” beer is so named because it’s deemed one a thirsty person can drink multiples of without feeling too full or saturated (as opposed to a Cranberry Spiced Pumpkin Ale.)Session Black manages to be easy drinking like a lager, but has a lot of the flavor profile you might find in a stout (roasty-toasty, chocolate and coffee notes.) So it manages to have wonderful richness and a full body without making you feel like you just ate an entire loaf of lard bread. And it comes in these sharply designed little grenade-sized brown bottles, which make it feel totally and erroneously innocuous to knock back half a dozen in a sitting. At least, uh, that’s what someone told me. Happy Holidays.
I really love a good Bloody Mary! Rumored to have been invented as a hangover helper in 1921 at the famed Harry’s New York Bar (where Papa hung out), the Bloody Mary is a cocktail with robust personality. Everyone who makes them has their own spin. I do have my own involved recipe (shortlist: crudite and cornichon, Clamato and Old Bay rims) and I think it can take on most challengers. I scorn pre-made versions as hack imposters. It’s OK, you can call me what I am: a Bloody snob.So it was with tremendous surprise that I had one of the most incredible Bloody Marys last night (they aren’t just for brunch) and it happened to come… pre-made… in a jar. It’s created locally by the folks at McClure’s, who make some of the most crisp and delicious pickles ever, so I had a hunch it might be solid, but wow. They use their own spicy house pickle juice in the mix, along with fresh dill and cucumber juice and it is stone guaranteed to blow your mind. You can get it through FreshDirect, too, so I advise you do so immediately. My only complaint is that it doesn’t come in gallon jugs. Salut!
I am a seasonal drinker. For some reason in the fall I start craving beer, almost exclusively. Especially the hoppy, bitter, amber or roasty-toasty variety. In tall steins, whenever possible. And as the weather grows colder, to my wife’s chagrin I begin to favor brown liquors. Spring is usually all about vodka, and summer usually means light ales or pilsners. Wine is an all year round thing. I tell you this not to illustrate the fact that I have a Problem, but that sometimes the right beverage is capable of enhancing the native festivity of a given season. Do you buy the premise? I recently had the Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale from Petaluma’s own microbrewery, Lagunitas. We’re running out of time to drink this one because I think it’s more fitting for warmer weather, but WOW! This is by far the best smelling-est beer I’ve EVER had. It smells bizarrely good: pungently floral, crisp, ambrosial. If I’m totally on the real, it even oddly smells a little like Humboldt County. Tastes pretty great, too. This is one for your rotation. You can pick it up at Good Beer, Thrifty, or even here. It’s New York City, you can probably find it anywhere.
Tune in soon for some Octoberfest favorites!
I’m usually looking out for a delicious, well priced wine to buy and consume in quantities. I bet you are, too. Here’s a super solid tip for you: get Red Hook Winery‘s light and summery rose.
I was skeptical (a winery based in Brooklyn?) but it’s backed by the dudes behind the Scholium Project and Robert Foley, and those guys seriously know their grapes. We’ve been slugging this delicious and easy-drinking rose since May (they sell it at Smith & Vine) and at only $12 a bottle, you can make an every day (I mean, uh, night) treat.