Joanne Ward spent the whole week staring at the bottom of a whiskey tumbler to give you this report on whiskey cocktails
“Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake.”
If ever there were an award for the most versatile, multi-faceted liquor available for consumption today, then surely the top prize has to go to the ever-endearing whiskey, with its spectrum of autumnal hues ranging from sunny yellow, through bronze, all the way to dark treacle. Whiskey’s star is on the ascendant, with a recent surge in fans who like to literally shake things up and experiment with it in cocktail context.
The sheer quantity of products available for this purpose today is a result of the numerous grain varieties employed in its making, such as rye, barley and corn, with a distinctive taste determined by its time spent in slumber within a cosy wooden barrel; Irish, Scotch, and Bourbon brands are the most popular. The deep, often smoky undertones offer something just that little bit different from the average, perhaps lighter, cocktail, eliciting feelings of sophistication and superiority. With the likes of Mad Men’s Don Draper, and politicians and mobsters alike in Boardwalk Empire, opting for whiskey as their tipple of choice, you’d be forgiven for wanting a piece of the glamour and the chance to indulge yourself.
It may have come into existence way back in the 19th century, but the Manhattan cocktail still remains a big player amongst whiskey cocktails. Marilyn Monroe famously mixed her Manhattan’s in a hot water bottle whilst travelling on a late night train in Some Like It Hot. With its origins difficult to track down – it was supposedly created at the Manhattan Club in New York in the 1870’s, but other stories since have cast doubt on this claim – the drink’s murky past makes it all the more alluring. Possibly even more so when you discover there are in fact more than 10 versions to sample, such as the Rob Roy (made with Scotch whiskey), Royal Manhattan (Canadian), and Dry Manhattan (dry instead of sweet vermouth). The standard Manhattan is usually created with bourbon, sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters; a German physician in Venezuela originally created these bitters in 1824, with the intention that they be used to aid human digestion.
Place 50ml/2fl oz bourbon, 25ml/1fl oz of sweet red vermouth, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters and 1 tsp of syrup from a jar of maraschino cherries into a mixing glass filled with ice, and stir well. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of orange and a maraschino cherry.
If you’re partial to a spot of horse racing, the Mint Julep may be the perfect accompaniment; an uplifting blend of bourbon, sugar, water and fresh mint. As the traditional drink of the annual Kentucky Derby, often served in pewter cups to retain maximum frostiness, over 80,000 juleps are gulped down during this colossal event. Just like the Manhattan, the julep’s history is steeped in mystery with regards to its origin, with some suggesting its emergence can be attributed to the East Coast of America in the 1700’s. Today, the drink is usually mixed with bourbon, but the first most likely consisted of rye, whiskey or rum. Make like Mad Men’s Don Draper and Pete Campbell, sipping slowly and coolly whilst people-watching. Essential listening while enjoying this cocktail is guitarist Chet Atkins‘ version of Rudy Toombs’ late night jazz number One Mint Julep from the Mad Men era.
Place 8 sprigs of fresh mint into a mixing glass with 1tsp of sugar and a dash of water, and slightly crush the contents. Add 2oz of bourbon and ice. Stir briskly until the glass frosts, finally garnishing with a sprig of mint.
The Horse Neck
Don’t let the odd name of this particular cocktail put you off; the Horse Neck is a kicky classic made with Irish whiskey, no doubt recently being quaffed by many to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. However, this tipple can be enjoyed all year round, thanks to the opposite but mutually complimentary flavours of warming ginger ale and fresh, zingy lemon. Dating back to the 1890’s, it originally began life as a non-alcoholic beverage of ginger ale, ice and a twisted lemon peel, draped over the glass edge to resemble the neck of a horse. This version was eventually phased out in the late fifties or early sixties. Several film references have been made to the Horse Neck, as well as a mention in Ian Fleming’s 1966 book ‘Octopussy’ – the author describes it as the ‘drunkard’s drink’, and he was quite partial to them himself.
Peel the skin of a lemon or lime into a long spiral and secure one end over the edge of a highball glass. Add ice, 2fl oz of Irish whiskey and 6fl oz of ginger ale. Stir briefly and enjoy.
Whiskey and watches
Both require good taste and connoisseurship. Both bring like-minded people together. Both get better over time. The magnificent timepiece shown here is the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Contemporaine, a new pocketwatch just released by the legendary Swiss brand to reflect what they call ‘contemporary dandyism’. Understated and sensually curved, the new Patrimony Contemporaine model is equipped with the Manufacture-made hand-wound 4440 movement and housed inside a brown leather pouch or it can also be fitted on an original chain with pink gold links.
Attached to a pocket, worn on a chain or placed on a desk like a table clock, the pocket watch is about a wish to look at time in a way other than merely glancing at one’s wrist. Whiskey and watches, a great way to pass the time.