“I love this drink,” declared Ralph as he started making this drink.
“It has four ingredients that you don’t expect to work so well together, and it also doesn’t put too much emphasis on the whisky or the spirits.”
The traditionally Scotch-based drink was named after Rudolph Valentino’s 1922 bullfighter movie Blood and Sand, and was made with equal parts Glenfiddich 12YO, Cherry Herring cherry liqueur, sweet vermouth and orange juice, shaken and double strained into a martini glass.
The result was a drink that Ralph said is a perfect combination of four very contrasting ingredients coming together to produce something that tastes completely different to any of the individual ingredients. In fact, the first impression I had of the drink was that it tasted like ciku!
One of the earliest cocktails ever created, Mint Juleps were reportedly consumed as far back as the early 1700s in the American state of Kentucky, where they were traditionally served during the Kentucky Derby.
It is a refreshing, minty drink that was originally made with bourbon, sugar syrup, mint leaves and water, and served in a silver or pewter cup.
Using Glenfiddich 12-Year-Old instead of bourbon, Ralph built his Mint Julep by first muddling mint in a cup to release essential oils and juices into the mixture, while taking care not to bruise or tear the mint, which would release bitter flavours that are not desirable.
He then built up the drink by adding 50ml of whisky, ice and finally, sugar and bitters to taste.
“The mint leaves lengthen the flavour of the whisky and make it more palatable for the drinker,” said Ralph. “The clarity and freshness of the drink also serves to accentuate the flavours of the whisky.”
According to Ralph, this is the go-to cocktail for men. In fact, it is the favoured drink of Don Draper, the lead character of acclaimed TV series Mad Men.
“It’s a very masculine drink that dates back to the 1850’s, and was created in the heartland of whisky cocktails – Louisville, Kentucky,” he said.
The drink is made by muddling a sugar cube in a rock glass, adding 50ml of whisky, ice, a dash or two of bitters and finished off with orange zest and a simple orange peel garnish.
“It’s a very simple style of drink, but the way it is made is the very definition of what a cocktail is – you have a strong ingredient (whisky), the weak ingredient (ice), a sweet ingredient (sugar) and bitters. If there was an ABC of making cocktails, it would all be there in an Old Fashioned!”
The whisky sour is the original and most well known cocktail from the family of drinks known as Sours (there are also gin sours, vodka sours and so on). It is a refreshing drink that is great as a pre-dinner aperitif or as a palate cleanser.
Traditionally made using bourbon, Ralph’s version of the drink consists of four parts Glenfiddich 12YO, two parts lemon juice, one part simple sugar syrup and an egg white, all combined in a Boston shaker. It is first dry shaken without ice, then a second time with ice.
The mixture is then strained over cubed ice and garnished with a lemon wedge and cherry.
“The key is to get your levels of lemon and sugar to a point where they don’t overpower the whisky and vice versa. The classic-style whisky sour also uses egg white to bind everything together,” said Ralph.
Invented by Antoine Peychaud (a pharmacist who created the famous Peychaud’s Bitters) in the early 1800s, the Sazerac is said to be one of the oldest American cocktails ever, and predates even the Old Fashioned.
“This is one of my favourite whisky cocktails. It is predominantly a whisky cocktail, but you can also use cognac. I use Glenfiddich 15YO in mine, so I can probably call it a Speyside Sazerac!” said Ralph.
Just like the Old Fashioned, the Sazerac stays true to the identity of a cocktail by its structure – spirit, water, sweetener and bitters.
The original recipe of a Sazerac consists of rye whiskey, a sugar cube and three or four dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters stirred over ice, and served straight up (chilled with no ice) in an absinthe-rinsed glass and garnished with a lemon peel.
Ralph’s version involves saturating the sugar cube with bitters, dissolving it with water and then stirring in 50ml of Glenfiddich 15YO on cubed ice, straining it into an absinthe-rinsed glass and finally adding lemon zest and a lemon peel for garnish.
The drink itself had predominantly whisky flavours, with a slight hint of anise from the absinthe to give it an extra herbal edge.
No list of whisky cocktails would be complete without a mention of the Manhattan, which was supposedly invented at New York’s Manhattan Club in the 1870s.
The drink achieved immortality in the Marilyn Monroe film Some Like It Hot, in which her character Sugar Cane uses a hot water bottle to make Manhattans.
The classic Manhattan recipe requires sweet vermouth, bitters and rye whiskey. Unfortunately, rye whiskies are pretty hard to come by here, so Ralph had to settle for making a variation of the Manhattan called the Rob Roy, using Glenfiddich 15YO whisky instead.
Named after Scottish folk hero Robert Roy Macgregor, the Rob Roy is relatively simple to make – just stir 50ml of whisky and 20ml of sweet vermouth with cubed ice, add two dashes of bitters, strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with orange zest and a cherry.
Like the Manhattan, the Rob Roy can be made sweet (the standard version), dry (using dry vermouth instead of sweet) or perfect (equal parts sweet and dry vermouth).