Have you ever wanted something different from something that’s almost too familiar? As I ease into my weekend on a Friday night, I’m without a beer which is my usual beverage of choice to start the evenings festivities. Didn’t feel much like heading out to the store to grab some so I look to the shelves of scotches that sit behind me as expectant sentinels, eager to please.
I don’t want a neat dram tonight, although that may come later. No, I’m looking for something out of the ordinary to quench my pre-weekend thirst. I’ve heard tell of strange beasts concocted from the foundations of single malts and bourbons. Beverages steeped in historic tales and fashioned reverently from lore.
What makes me think for a second that I’m capable of any sort of alcoholic alchemy like this? I’m not a ‘mixologist’ or ‘drinks chef’ by any stretch of my imagination. Sure, I can throw together a mean screwdriver or Bloody Caesar on a Sunday morning afternoon but crafting a meaningful cocktail from one of the high-priced, “every ounce an event” scotches that adorn my shelves? Yeah, no.
Maybe it’s just that. Maybe I’m a little afraid of botching an ounce or two of good whisky. What if it tastes like the sweat from Satan’s armpit? “That was two ounces of Lagavulin 16 I just poured orange juice and ginger ale over. OMG what have I done?!”. But wait…that’s not half bad.
There are some drinks that are better left alone and enjoyed as they come. Are there though? Can you think of a scotch that you would never, I mean never turn into a cocktail? Let’s ignore the 30 plus year old drams for sake of this argument. No one’s that brave (read: stupid?). I mean like the 21 year old Winter Storm you’ve been pouring oh, so parsimoniously on only the rainiest of days. That Talisker 25 that you know holds the ghosts of sea-faring heroes in its amber depths. Would you willingly add bitters or the flambéed zest of some citrus fruit to that treasure? Is it akin to fastening a tail wing to an Aston Martin? Is it gratuitous embellishment or gourmet enhancement?
I suppose that in the hands of an artisan, even the rarest and most revered drams can become elevated to something unfamiliar yet enchanting. I’m no artisan but even they started somewhere. I’ve got a well-stocked bar full of potions and elixirs made especially for the elevation of various alcohols but I still can’t bring myself to sacrifice one of my prize players to the alter of experimentation. I do however remember calling in Johnnie Black for a Rob Roy once. The first round didn’t fare well on the judges cards but rounds two and three, Johnnie in his new suit was a true contender. It just took getting a feel for the components.
Perhaps that’s where it starts with all things experimental; one plies the craft on more ‘forgivable’ materials and when their comfort level increases, so does the quality of the ingredients. If you’re in the mood to break the bonds of banality, I’ll leave this recipe I found for the Rob Roy here. Go ahead and brave a good whisky in it, too. It’ll taste like freedom.
The Rob Roy
5/6 oz Sweet Vermouth
1 1/2 oz Scotch Whisky
Dash Angostura Bitters
Add ingredients to a mixing glass and stir over ice, strain into a chilled glass, garnish and serve straight up, or mix in a rocks glass, filled with ice.
Choice of "straight up" or "On the rocks"
Maraschino cherry or lemon twist
Great article, Scott! Love your wit and challenge to use the good stuff for a cocktail. Kinda like cooking with wine you’d actually drink. I’m definitely trying that recipe.
Slàinte Y’all – Lee Ann.