On Wednesday, I wrote about the unaged white whiskey category and how often it can be an overpriced novelty. Aside from the flavor factor (an argument articulated by Maker’s Mark’s Kevin Smith, who said, “Why would anyone want to drink white dog Maker’s when you can drink the real full expression of Maker’s Mark?”), there’s another obvious barrier to the longevity of white whiskeys in the market: can anyone make a decent cocktail with them? Fortunately, I think the answer is yes.
As promised, I mixed up the Silver Queen Daisy cocktail that the Washington Post‘s Jason Wilson wrote about recently. (Here’s the recipe and here’s his white whiskey piece.) It’s based on a recipe by Tad Carducci of the cocktail consulting firm Tippling Brothers. Here’s the recipe again:
1 tablespoon fresh white corn kernels, just off the cob, plus 1-inch strip of fresh corn kernels just off the cob, for garnish
2oz white corn whiskey
.5 to .75oz St-Germain or Dimmi liqueur (use more if whiskey is high proof)
1oz lemon juice
1 or 2 dashes orange bitters
Muddle a tablespoon of corn kernels in a cocktail shaker, add whiskey, liqueur, lemon juice and bitters. Shake well over ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the section of fresh corn.
I skipped the fresh white corn kernels, but only because I didn’t want to hunt for fresh corn on my way home from work. I’m not sure how much muddled corn would affect the flavor of the cocktail—it could be important.
But without the muddled corn, it’s a fine cocktail. I’m surprised at how the elderflower flavor of the St. Germain fades into the background and how it manages to highlight the corn whiskey flavor. It’s pretty sour the way I made it (one dash of orange bitters and a half ounce of St. Germain), so I may increase the St. Germain to a full three-quarter ounce next time. The recipes calls for using more St. Germain if the white whiskey is high proof. I used Kings County Moonshine, which is 80 proof. This cocktail would be a great starting point for other variations.
With my newfound confidence in white whiskey cocktails, I started thinking. What if I tried making a Manhattan out of this? Could work. But the orange bitters made me think of my favorite Martini formula: one part each gin and dry vermouth with a couple of dashes of orange bitters. I mixed a half ounce each of the Kings County Moonshine and some dry vermouth and tried it. Not bad.
But then I had another idea. What about an Old Fashioned? And if I can’t age a white whiskey overnight, I can give it some of what aging imparts by adding smoke. So I put two ounces of the Kings County Moonshine in a mixing glass and added about a teaspoon of my alderwood-smoked agave syrup, followed by a dash of Angostura bitters. I stirred it with two ice cubes and strained it into a lowball glass.
It was excellent. Again, the corn flavor is prominent, but smoothed out by the agave syrup sweetener. The smoke flavor blended very nicely, adding a complexity that was unexpectedly delicious. Finally, the Angostura bitters gave it a nice depth of flavor and a hint of cinnamon. Maybe this is the way it could taste if I had aged it in a barrel. I call it the Smoked Moonshine Old Fashioned. I’ll have to work on it more, but I’ll repeat the recipe formally:
2oz Kings County Moonshine or another unaged white whiskey
1tsp smoked agave syrup (see recipe here)
1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir whiskey, bitters, and agave syrup together without ice until the syrup disolves. Add ice and stir until cold. Strain into a chilled old fashioned glass. No garnish.
With the possibility of cocktails, white whiskey starts to redeem itself as a category. I’m looking forward to more experiments with different recipes and different whiskeys. If anyone out there knows of other unaged whiskey cocktail recipes, please comment.