I typically don’t go for this sort of thing. Not only do I not do it, but — given the plethora of pineapple mojitos, kumquat margaritas and blueberry Sazeracs (ok, I made that one up, but somebody’s probably doing it) that you see on so many bar menus nowadays — I typically frown on and/or mock the whole practice of muddling fresh fruit in a cocktail. (And don’t even get me started on the whole Old Fashioned thing.) Sure, it tastes good — it’s fruit; fruit tastes good; it doesn’t require a masters in mixology to figure that out. And I might even be more generous to the whole muddling practice if so many Seattle bartenders didn’t consider a muddler to be best used as a tool to chase a couple of lime wedges around in a pint-glass full of ice, smashing and liquefying everything except the freaking lime in the process. But ultimately, does your typical mango Manhattan (ok, I made that one up, too, but you just know it’s out there) advance the greater cause of culinary cocktails? Huh-uh.
Then you have the rare atypical drink; the exception that proves the rule. This unnamed drink that appeared on eGullet some months ago is one of those cocktails.
As with the Prince Parker Swizzle, this drink was created by Alchemist, and is the second winner in as many days that I’ve tried from his recipes.
Unnamed Cocktail from Alchemist on eGullet
- 2 ounces rye whiskey
- 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce rich demerara syrup*
- 1/4 ounce white creme de cacao
- Peychaud’s bitters [I used 2 dashes]
- cherries [I used 3-4 fresh cherries]
Muddle cherries in your mixing glass. Add the other ingredients and shake with ice. Strain (you’ll want to pour it through a mesh strainer) into a chilled cocktail glass.
* to prepare rich demerara syrup, simply mix two parts demerara sugar with one part water in a saucepan over medium heat, and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
In contrast to a bulk of the other fruit-muddled drinks I come across, this one had a couple of points in its favor: first, it uses rye as a base, instead of the more neutral vodkas and white rums you see in so many fruity drinks; plus, it seemed like a flavorful cocktail in its own right, even without the fruit added (and, of course, it uses fresh cherries, something I’m a major sucker for at this time of year). To be fair, the author doesn’t specify fresh cherries — I suppose you could take a crack at it with the neon-red maraschino thingies if that’s your inclination — but when fresh cherry season hit here a week or so ago, and the farmer’s markets started displaying these heaping mounds of bings, chelans and rainiers, I knew I had to give this drink a whirl.
And I’m so glad I did. The drink leans to the sweet side, but not cloyingly so — if you want it drier, simply cut down on the demerara syrup a bit. But while it starts out as an engaging rye-based cocktail not too dissimilar from the Delmarva Cocktail No. 2, the cherries really freshen it up, taking the rye — a winter-friendly brown spirit if ever there was one — and dragging it into the season, sticking some Bermuda shorts on that guy on the Old Overholt label and putting a slather of sunscreen on his nose. The cherries take what could be a slightly heavy drink — between the rye, the demerara and the cacao, you’ve got some seriously ponderous flavors in there — and brighten it up (the Peychaud’s helps, too), making it an enticing, refreshing summer-appropriate cocktail.
I’ve had a few of these over the past week, and hope to get on the outside of several more before cherry season wraps up. Then? Well, I’m still holding off on the apricot daiquiris.