Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Whittemore Sipper

After some midlife upheaval, I now live in a strange oasis called the Whittemore Estates. This is a hidden secret of Boston, a rambling property of flagstone and apple trees, vegetable gardens and a rich abundance of flowers. There is also a quite remarkable swimming pool, certainly an anomaly in Boston, that brings to mind the south of France, or at the very least, a summer vacation spot in Maine or Cape Cod.

It is now October and the pool is forlorn and covered. We are heading toward Halloween. Days have become cooler, the nights downright chilly, and the apples are falling off the trees en masse. The air is redolent of their broken flesh, of woodfire and damp leaves. 

In homage of this magical place, I have a cocktail to share. Based loosely on a cocktail by Jay Zimmerman of Brooklyn's ba'sik, the Whittemore Sipper is, as is my wont, a twist on the Manhattan using rye whiskey, Orchard Apricot Liqueur, and Byrrh Grand Quinquina (an aperitif flavored with quinine—which comes from chinchona bark—and has flavors reminiscent of finer vermouths, but with a gentle bitterness). To this I add a combination of bitters, and a flamed orange peel. 

I have played around with this cocktail quite a bit, veering away from my first choice of Punt y Mes vermouth, which is a bit too heavily bittersweet (in my opinion) for this drink, and opting eventually for the gentler Byrrh, which has tones (such as chocolate) that complement the apricot and rye nicely. You could substitute the very fine Bonal Gentiane Qiuna, another quinine-derived aperitif (and a key ingredient in the Bonal & Rye cocktail). 

Go easy on the apricot liqueur—at least if you are using the Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot—as it can be a bit medicinal if overused. And find a rye that has punch. I have been using 100-proof Hochstadter's Vatted Straight Rye Whiskey, but the 100-proof Rittenhouse Rye works well too. I'm sure even Old Overholt would work, in a pinch, but the rye flavors—all the flavors, in fact—are more muted.

Also, I have played around with bitters, starting with Regan's Orange Bitters and moving to Dutch's Colonial Cocktail Bitters and a few others. I settled on a combination of the unshakeable Angostura Bitters and Bittermen's Xocalatl Mole Bitters, which adds suitable depth and complementary flavors to the drink. However, part of the fun is experimenting, so perhaps there are other types of bitters that would bring out different flavor profiles in this drink.

Experiments are underway employing a rinse of smoky scotch, and the verdict is out. But, again, this is why drinking is fun. Without further ado, the recipe.

The Whittemore Sipper
  • 3 oz rye whiskey
  • 3/4 oz Byrrh Grand Quinquina
  • 1/2 oz apricot liqueur
  • 2 dashes Bittermen's Xocalatl Mole Bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • Flamed orange peel
In a mixing glass with ice, combine all the ingredients except the flamed orange peel. Stir until very cold and strain in to a cocktail glass. Flame the peel (see how to flame a peel) over the drink and discard the peel. Drink the drink. Bottoms up.

And, please don't hesitate to provide your feedback on this recipe.

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