Rye Blossom

I admit it, when it comes to whiskey, I tend to gravitate to bourbon. The sweet smoothness just blends so well in just about anything I can think to whip up. Every now and then, however, smoothness isn't the goal at hand. Rather, I'm looking for a cocktail with depth, spice and complexity. Rye whiskey is the natural choice in this case. I got inspired to try out a particular bottle when a waiter at The Aviary suggested I seek out Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond Rye.

Seeing as how I trust the opinion of anyone working at The Aviary, I hurried over to Binny's to seek out said rye and a few other new ingredients for inspired experimentation. Surprisingly, the bottle was under $30 for 100 proof strength and a delectably described flavor profile. Some quick research helped me to understand that the concept of Bottled-in-Bond dates back to an effort to regulate the quality production of whiskey in the late 1800s.

Bottled-in-Bond whiskeys must be:

  • created in one distillation season,
  • made by one distiller and at one distillery,
  • aged for a minimum of four years under government supervision, and
  • bottled at 100 proof.

While small craft whiskeys have been taking over the market, Bottled-in-Bond options are dependably sourced, quality alternatives with a punch. Rittenhouse Rye is considered one of the best of this winning category and I'm so glad to have it in my arsenal. 

This cocktail was my second Rittenhouse Rye adventure. How, you ask, did the idea materialize? Will was in the mood for cherry flavor and a boozy composition, and a vibrant rye seemed like the perfect complement. I have quite a few jars of cherries hanging out in my fridge for cocktail purposes, but Morello cherries are one of my favorites. I love the tart, authentic cherry flavor that I can get from both the syrup and the cherry, and this version from TJs is both affordable and not overly sweet. As a finishing touch, I added a bit of lemon juice to highlight the tartness of the cherry and Quince and Apple Rhubarb Hops for a bit of lingering, almost pie-like sweetness.

Lastly, if you're like me and enjoy getting fancy with your garnishes, investing in these cocktail spears is the best idea for winning presentation

Rye Blossom

  • 2 oz rye whiskey
  • 1 oz Morello cherry syrup
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp rhubarb hops
  • 3 Morello cherries

Shake the first four ingredients with ice until shaker is frosted. Strain into a coupe glass. For an extra special touch, garnish by threading 3 Morello cherries on a cocktail spear and setting on the rim of the glass. Enjoy while celebrating National Cocktail Day and the coming of spring.

Madame Mirabelle

A surefire way to make a cocktail more exciting is to use an ingredient that, in it's raw form, is banned from being imported into the US. To clarify, this particular ingredient is not banned due to being dangerous or lacking in quality but because its a "protected-origin fruit." Intriguing. This means that the smaller, golden and flavorful Mirabelle plums can be found primarily in the Lorraine region of France. Clearly, this means that I need to pack my bags and go back to France, one of my all-time favorite travel destinations.

Assuming you don't have the means to set off to France on a whim, you're still in luck. You can find Mirabelle plums imported in processed form - such as syrups and jams. I stumbled upon one such syrup at my go-to grocery store for adventurous cocktail ingredients. Hidden away in the Chicago suburbs and masquerading as your typical discount store, this particular Shop&Save carries a multitude of goods from around the world, particularly from Eastern Europe. The products are both cheaper and purer than their American counterparts as European producers tend to use more natural ingredients. High quality fruit purees, syrups and teas are just a few of my Shop&Save cocktail treasures.

Ever since I picked up a Polish rhubarb and Mirabelle plum syrup (for under $5), I've been looking for the perfect cocktail combination to let it shine through. That perfect combination came to me this week when hosting friends who were all in the mood for whiskey sours: rhubarb, Mirabelle plum, Meyer lemons, bourbon and aromatic bitters. Yes, it was as amazing as it sounds. I loved this drink so much that I made it two nights in a row and the only thing stopping me tonight is that I ran out of Meyer lemons. This concoction is boozy and tart yet wonderfully smooth, lightly herbal from the Meyer lemons and with a touch of sweetness from the plum.

As with a fine wine, every sip uncovers a new flavor.

If you're as excited as I am about this cocktail, drop everything and find your nearest Polish/Eastern European grocery store to see if they have this syrup in stock. Believe me, you won't regret it. I'd also encourage you to use a larger ice cube, either cubic or spherical, as it will melt slower, thereby preserving the drink's flavor intensity. I've been quite satisfied with my recent large cube ice tray purchase - check it out here if you're interested. 

Madame Mirabelle

  • 2 oz bourbon (I used Basil Hayden's)
  • 1 Meyer lemon
  • 1 tbsp rhubarb Mirabelle plum syrup
  • Dash of aromatic bitters
  • 1 large ice cube

Cut a slice of Meyer lemon from the center and set aside for garnish. Juice the rest of the lemon into a cocktail shaker and add a few regular ice cubes, bourbon, syrup and bitters. Shake until frosted, then strain into a rocks glass over a large ice cube. Cut a notch in the Meyer lemon slice and place on the glass rim for garnish (and refreshing lemon scent to lift your spirits). Enjoy while discussing plans for your next travel adventure.