|Rye fizzle fo' shizzle - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
It's kind of fitting, the comparison with Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie and rye/blood oranges. Rye whiskey, made with a high percent of rye versus bourbon's corn, has all-American charm, but still a little rough n' tumble -- totally Brad Pitt, right? I'm talking Brad Pitt-now, not the prettyboy days of him being shirtless and goofy in Thelma and Louise. This distinction is as important, lest you'll get the impression that Cool World was a good idea. Rye whiskey retains the richness of a spirit aged in oak barrels, but a little more of a sharp, dry profile than the fuller-bodied, sweet bourbon whiskey. As for the yin to this whiskey yang, blood oranges are like Angelina Jolie in that they're exotic and kinda freaky. What was with wearing of blood in a vial around her neck in those Billy Bob years of yore? Regret, that's what that is. Blood oranges are the same citrus you have with your morning toast, they just have super intense red-colored fruit, which apparently (according to Wikipedia, anyways) occurs as a result of low temperatures at night. Maybe the blood orange is just half vampire, sucking the blood of other fruits or woodland creatures at night. Certainly won't see that in Wikipedia.
|Get this one, then the bottle with the green label to make it a complete set - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
I was lucky to get my cocktail mitts on some samples of rye whiskey from Bulleit, same makers of Bulleit Bourbon, one of my favorites. This was before the bottles were hitting the shelves, but by now I'm sure it's easy enough to find them at your local liquor store -- it's in the same packaging as their bourbon, just a green label versus an orange one, but if you're at the store, what the heck, get both. I was just glad to get apothecary-looking sample bottles to play mad mixologist with. I was also glad to play around with blood oranges, which are pretty versatile ingredients -- more sugar-sweet than other citrus, which can have a little tart bite to it. Despite the fact that it'll stain your cutting board and make it look like bloody murder, when you mix it in a cocktail, the deep red turns more berry or pink, depending on how much you use.
I actually made a couple of different cocktails, using both rye and gin, just to see how the blood orange juice would work with different spirit flavor profiles. For the gin, I used more of the blood orange juice, mixing it with a lavender simple syrup and a little bit of Luxardo maraschino liqueur. The herbal quality of gin balanced out the floral sweetness of the fruit and sugar-sweetness. The jezebel-hued cocktail was a strong little vixen that still needs fine-tuning, but still good. If I had more blood oranges handy, I'd have thinly sliced and candied them for a pretty garnish, but we'll save that for another time.
|Views from the Wasabi Mixologist Lab, aka, our kitchen - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
The warmer season made me want to take rye on a summer vacation, so I used similar ingredients to put a colorful twist on a traditional Rye Fizz. This version, along with rye, simple syrup and seltzer, uses some blood orange juice, a little dash of the Luxardo, and either fresh lemon balm or lemon juice. I used the lemon balm because we have a plant that is poised to take over the garden, and if untended, the rest of the free world. The resulting drink is what I whimsically like to call a Fizzywinkle. Sort of periwinkle-pink in color, fizzy from the seltzer, and a name devoid of "blood" because something this pastel-colored shouldn't sound so rough and scary. It's summery, happy, and despite the girly color, the rye packs enough of a punch --depending on how much seltzer you add -- to land you on your rump-shaker. Let the happy hour begin!
(makes one cocktail, but double it, as you'll want another)
1.5 oz Bulleit Rye
.25 oz blood orange juice, strained of pulp
.25 simple syrup
.25 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
.5 cup muddled fresh lemon balm or 1 oz fresh lemon juice
3 oz seltzer -- can add more or less, depending on taste
Muddle lemon balm in shaker full of ice, then add all ingredients except seltzer into shaker to mix, then strain into a separate glass filled with ice and top with seltzer before serving. Best served on a sunny, warm day. Repeat as necessary.