Category Archives: RYE WHISKEY

Any Reason For A Sazerac Is Reason Enough For Me

Today is Katharine Hepburn’s birthday.

She was born May 12, 1907.

In celebration of her birthday, I say we should all have a Sazerac.

It’s the second time in a week that I’ve recommended this cocktail. And I’m sure I’ll find a dozen more reasons to do so again as time goes on, but today is about Katharine Hepburn.

I don’t know if she has a cocktail named after her at all, but she did drink a Sazerac or two in the film State of the Union, which was made in 1948.


The film stars Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn as political campaigners, and at one point, a Southern guest of Hepburn’s character introduces her to the Sazerac cocktail.

The website The Hooch Life drscribes the scenario as follows:

In the classic political comedy, State of the Union, Katharine Hepburn’s character passes out after two of these cocktails while her drinking companion shouts, “Honey, make me another Sazerac!”

This official cocktail of New Orleans is as boozy as you’d expect, and, if it’s cool enough for Katharine, it’s more than cool enough for me.

Read the full list of 10 classic cocktails and who drank them in this 2011 piece on The Hooch Life.


  • Sugar (or simple syrup)
  • 2 oz rye whiskey
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Absinthe rinse


Chill a rocks glass. Give it an absinthe rinse, using only a small amount of absinthe (or Herbsaint)band then discard the excess liquid.

Stir all the ingredients except the absinthe over ice and strain into the absinthe-rinsed glass.

Rub a lemon peel around the rim of the glass and discard. The drink does not get a garnish.


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The Birth Of New Orleans

I love New Orleans.

I first went to the city as a freshman in college and I’ve since been back twice, but all those trips were before I was a bartender — and long before I had an interest in classic cocktails and modern mixology.

Today marks the founding of the city of New Orleans.

New Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville.

Many of the cocktails we associate with the city came some time later, but any reason to celebrate is reason enough!


The Sazerac is sometimes referred to as the oldest known American cocktail, with origins in pre–Civil War New Orleans, though there are much earlier published instances of the word cocktail.


Before rye whiskey, the drink was made with cognac. When absinthe wasn’t allowed, a liquid called Herbsaint was used for the absinthe rinse.

Some recipes call for equal parts cognac and rye whiskey with whatever rinse is available, a blending of the original recipe and how it’s now come to be made.


  • Sugar (or simple syrup)
  • 2 oz rye whiskey
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Absinthe rinse


Chill a rocks glass. Give it an absinthe rinse, using only a few drops of absinthe!

Stir the following and strain into the absinthe-rinsed glass: 2 oz rye whiskey, .25 oz of simple syrup and 2 or more dashes of Peychaud’s bitters.

Rub a lemon peel around the rim of the glass and discard. The drink does not get a garnish.

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Antique Shopping In Salamanca

Another weekend come-and-gone, and another Sunday out at antique shops.

Today my wife and I were at the Antiques Mall in Salamanca, N.Y.

I always find something to buy at this location, like this bitters bottle from a few years back.

And while I did score a couple of cocktail books today, this photo post is more about what I didn’t buy:

Pictured above is a nice-looking “traveling bartender” set I saw today in Salamanca. It’s a neat set, but I’ve got a really good one that’s a little older than this — which I’ll have to feature in a post some day.


This rye whiskey jug was selling for $79 at the Antiques Mall.

And lastly, a zodiac-themed ice bowl with a strainer and bar spoon:


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Five & 20 Spirits

Today my wife and I were back out at antique shops and wineries.

Seeing a pattern in these posts?

While our day trip didn’t net me another vintage cocktail book, I did get a tour of Mazza Winery’s Five & 20 Spirits:


Five & 20 Spirits is located at Mazza’s Chautauqua Cellars location on Route 20 in Westfield. The site houses the company’s Christian Carl brand still (and will soon be the site of a new, larger still, we learned).

My wife’s parents met us in the tasting room where there was not only wine and liquor to sample, but also Five & 20’s brand-new beer offerings.

I’ve tasted the company’s bourbon before, so today I headed straight for their rye whiskey — followed by their bier schnapps and two of their new beers.

One of the Five & 20 guys was working in the tasting room and offered to take my father-in-law and I on a tour of their still room and storage warehouse.

Notes From The Tour:

The Christian Carl still was impressive, and is capable of both pot still distillation and column distillation. The still wasn’t in use and was being prepared for a cleaning, so our guide disassembled a “porthole” for us and let us take a look inside.

The tour was nice because we got to hear a lot about both the kinks in starting up a distillery as well as the successes. From making mash to distillation to storage and bottling, there are a ton of elements involved with producing the several spirits that Five & 20 is making — and they’re coming out ahead it seems, doing good work and building on their accomplishments.

Back to the still…. The thing’s powered by steam, and we got to see the engine room, so to speak. The temperature that thing has to reach in order to fire the still is just insane.

The secondary structure next to Chautauqua Cellars is more than just a warehouse, it’s Five & 20’s rick house — or rick room, I guess. The filled barrels are stacked in the corner of the warehouse next to the window facing the road, and our guide said the room will soon be filling up with more stacks of barrels, which is an exciting prospect.

More notes about the spirits I tasted are below, but first another photo:  

What I Sampled Today:

  • Rye Whiskey (SB)2RW:

Batch #2 was crafted to be smoother and more approachable than many rye whiskeys. The spirit was pot-distilled and was aged for 18 months in smaller barrels, all of which were new charred American Oak.

Five & 20’s website describes it as having “the spicy grain character of rye and the sweet caramel & vanilla flavors of high quality oak barrels.”

The mash bill is 80% New York-grown rye and 20% distiller’s malt.

On a side note, it’s nice to see that their tech sheet for the spirit not only has a recommended cocktail recipe, but that it’s more than just something basic — specifically, the Westfield Wallop requires both Galliano and strawberry purée. 

45% ABV

  • Afterburner Bierschnapps AB2S:

Five & 20’s Afterburner Bierschnapps are a grain-based spirit created by distilling a finished barley wine. 

On their website, FIve & 20 suggest using the bierschnapps as a stand-in for gin — and now I wish I would’ve had a flask of genever  for side-by-side sipping and comparison, because that spirit is so malty and intersting as well.

50.5% ABV

  • Pale Ale:

Medium-bodied pale ale  with hops for light, fruity, citrus flavors. —  5.4% ABV

  • Rye Pale Ale:

Light-bodied pale ale with spicy grain flavor from its rye malt. — 6.2% ABV

As of this visit, Five & 20’s three beers were only available from the tap. The good news though is that they refill growlers and are selling blank growlers right now, with branded growlers expected to arrive soon. Our guide told us that there isn’t any immediate plan to do 12 oz bottles, but plans for cans and 22 oz bottles are in the works.

What I Didn’t Taste Today:

There’s always next time:

  • Bourbon (SB)2BW — Even though I’ve tasted their bourbon before, that bottle wasn’t mine and so I don’t know whether it’s the same stuff they’re sampling there in the tasting room now.

  • Unaged Corn Whiskey
  • Unaged White Rye Whiskey
  • Limoncello
  • Manhattan Moonshine
  • Sugarwash Moonshine
  • Three Hunters Vodka
  • Apple Eau de Vie
  • Plum Eau de Vie
  • Cherry Eau de Vie
  • Pear Eau de Vie
  • Pear in the Bottle (sale only)
  • Grappa of Steuben

Much of the info in this post came straight from the Five & 20 website, which is online at Five &

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Fat-Wash Duck Whiskey

My chef at the restaurant where I work is pretty damn awesome.

She’s a constant supporter of us bartenders furthering our craft, and is always quick to help out in any way she can.

Her encouragement fuels my excitement for stepping up our cocktail game and vice-versa. The two of us can geek out pretty hard over obscure drink recipes, new techniques and vintage barware… So when I started telling her about how some bartenders have fat-washed whiskey with flavors like bacon and duck fat, it was only a matter of time before we had to try it ourselves.

From all that I’ve read about it so far, fat-washing just seems like a fancy name for infusing liquor in a certain way — a process where we add the fat and then later put the booze in the freezer to solidify the fat for removal.

This recipe for a Duck Sazerac was what we followed when making our own bottle of fat-washed rye whiskey, which is pictured below:


So, first and foremost I should say that this was an experiment for ourselves — and not anything we’re serving.

But in terms of the end result, I think we were both pretty impressed with the way the duck fat softened the rye whiskey — sweetening it and smoothing it out.

I’ve seen recipes online using bourbon, but I’m glad we went with rye. So much of the heat and pepper was softened, but the spirit still comes through. 

The rye recipes I’ve seen online for this fat-washed duck rye were basic drinks like the Sazerac and the Manhattan. My intent is to do a Smoked Duck Julep (and just in time for the Kentucky Derby no less). I’ve still got to test out making a smoked simple syrup and weigh it against a scotch rinse and other smoke options.

And I hope Jim Beam doesn’t mind my modification of its label in the picture above!

Further Reading:

— Here’s an article entitled The Science Of Fat-Washing.

— Another How To” post, but this one has a video.

— A recipe for a Smoked Duck Manhattan.

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Things To Drink In 2015

I’m a sucker for gimmicks and I have a tendency to get over eager about new products and flavors and quirky packaging among other things. What can I say, I’m an easy mark.

The House of Angostura Amaro di AngosturaAll that aside though, there are a number of new boozes to be released this year which I’m going to make it a point to try.

There were surely new things I tried in 2014, but there was also a whole lot I missed out on — such as Angostura’s new amaro and that Canadian Club rye which was only released in Canada.IMG_6924

There were plenty of others for sure, but those are just the first two which came to mind. But enough about the past, I’ve got my eyes set on tasting these following bottles in the near future — and by all accounts, they’re surely more attainable goals. At least, I won’t have to travel to Canada to taste any of them!

I love Woodford Reserve. And I love rye! So this news about the new Woodford Reserve Rye really set me off. Truthfully, I’d heard a little bit about it some months back when I was at a competition in Pittsburgh, but the January announcement of the new product means it should soon be on store shelves.

Woodford’s rye will be$38 for a 750-ml. and will initially launch in 15 U.S. markets. The rye will be 45.2% abv and will be the third permanent extension in the company’s Portfolio.

Jim Beam has two new boozes about to be released, a rye and a bonded bourbon.


The rye is a relaunch, reformulating the brand’s Jim Beam Rye as Jim Beam Pre-Prohibition Style Rye. The rye will be 90-proof and will offer “a bolder, spicier taste profile,”according to the company.

Jim Beam Pre-Prohibition Style Rye will cost around $23 for a 750-ml.

IMG_6925Similarly priced, Jim Beam Bonded will be a 100-proof Bourbon aged four years, and made in accordance with the “Bottled in Bond Act” of 1897.

Jim Beam Bonded will be produced in a single distillery season at a single distillery and is said to to feature spicy oak notes with a background of vanilla and caramel.

What is “Bonded” booze?

The phrase “Bottled In Bond” is something I saw on several bottles of liquor for a long time before I finally went and looked up exactly what it meant.

As with so much else in the realm of whisk(e)y, “Bonded” booze is simply a set of requirements which a producer must follow in order to earn the term.

Bonded booze must come from a single producer in single season at a single distillery. It must be aged in a Federally-bonded warehouse and it must be bottled at 100 proof. There’s more to it than that though, so give the phrase a Google and read on:

•History of the Bottled-in-Bond Act•

One purpose of the Bottled-in-Bond Act was to create a standard of quality for Bourbon whiskey. Prior to the Act’s passage, much of the whiskey sold as straight whiskey was anything but. So much of it was adulterated out of greed — flavored and colored with iodine, tobacco, and other substances — that some perceived a need for verifiable quality assurance.

The practice was also connected to tax law, which provided the primary incentive for distilleries to participate. Distilleries were allowed to delay payment of the excise tax on the stored whiskey until the aging of the whiskey was completed (and the supervision of the warehouse ensured proper accounting and the eventual collection of the tax).

This combination of advantages led a group of whiskey distillers, led by Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. (creator of Old Taylor bourbon), joined with then Secretary of the Treasury John G. Carlisle to fight for the Bottled-in-Bond Act. To ensure compliance, Treasury agents were assigned to control access to so-called bonded warehouses at the distilleries.

IMG_6930It seems like there’s barely a week that goes by without some new flavored being launched by one brand or another. That said, Svedka piqued my interest with the announcement of its new grapefruit jalapeno flavor — which will cost $12.99 for a 750 ml. The flavor is intended to capitalize on consumer interest in fusing sweet and spicy flavors.

The company is also launching a new 100-proof variant, which will cost around $15.35 a 750-ml.

Shanken Daily News and Good Spirits News are where I first saw these new boozes reported, and they’re where I took all the above info for this post. The images came from a Google images search.

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Butcher and the Rye

In Pittsburgh for the Woodford Reserve “Manhattan Experience” competition at Tender tomorrow.

Spending tonight walking around the city, but Butcher and the Rye is closed.

We’re only in town for Sunday and Monday, which is a shame. We’ll just have to check it out next trip.

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