With Thanksgiving in the rear-view and Christmas on the horizon — not to mention a stretch of cold weather finally blanketing much of the northern half of the country — tis the season for warming whiskey cocktails to stave off Old Man Winter’s chilly embrace.
For tips and recipes we traveled north to Kohler, Wis., not because the winter there can be tough (though it can), but because The Winery Bar at The American Club has one of the most impressive whiskey collections of any golf resort — it’s almost 300 bottles strong. If anyone knows how to concoct a whiskey-based elixir to keep you warm this winter, it’s Destination Kohler’s executive mixologist, Peter Kalleward.
Kalleward’s first rule of thumb when mixing drinks at home is simply to relax and enjoy the experience. “It should be fun,” he says. “It shouldn’t feel daunting at all. Drinking is a lot of fun, so making drinks should be a lot of fun.”
If you’re new to at-home mixology and the thought of creating an original — either shaken or stirred — is intimidating, consider making subtle tweaks to classic whiskey cocktails like the Manhattan or an Old Fashioned. Replacing a straightforward simple syrup with a flavored one — cinnamon, for example, or ginger — can do wonders when riffing on a traditional Old Fashioned. And replacing the sweet vermouth with a rich Oloroso or Pedro Ximénez sherry can completely reinvent a classic Manhattan.
“Sherry might feel foreign,” says Kalleward, “but it has a lot of characteristics, such as rich, dried fruit or nutty flavor profiles, that incorporate very well with whiskey — whether it’s rye or bourbon or Scotch.”
Kalleward also isn’t averse to incorporating bright citrus juices into cold-weather recipes, and when he does, he sometimes adds a small measure of Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, which he says “exaggerates the spice of rye whiskey and makes a cocktail feel bigger, richer, and spicier.” That being said, the small measure is imperative, since Kalleward acknowledges that “it’s an extreme flavor and a little goes a long way.”
Ultimately, Kalleward encourages at-home mixologists to be open-minded about what they can use to make a delicious cocktail. “Nothing is off limits,” he says, and that includes reaching for a top-shelf bottle of whiskey that many would argue is reserved only for neat pours. “Some of those whiskies have the perfect makeup to blend with other modifiers, and the end result is delicious.”
What follows are three, whiskey-centric cocktails that Kalleward has created while behind the bar at The American Club that not only will keep you feeling warm this winter, they’ll likely inspire you to create unique whiskey-based libations of your own.
Armchair Old Fashioned
2 oz. rye whiskey (or 1 oz. of rye and 1 oz. of bourbon)
1/4 oz. chai syrup (recipe below)
1/4 oz. Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur
1/2 oz. freshly brewed espresso
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake vigorously for 10 to 15 seconds. Double strain into a rocks glass over one large cube and garnish with freshly grated cinnamon.
*To make chai syrup: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine two cups of sugar with one cup of water and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat, add a handful of chai tea bags, cover, and let the tea steep up to 24 hours, depending on how strong you want the chai flavor to be. Transfer to a storage container with a lid and keep refrigerated. (Properly stored, the syrup will keep for up to six months.)
1.5 oz. rye whiskey (Pikesville or Rittenhouse work well)
3/4 oz. Bitter Truth Pimento Dram (or St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram)
1/4 oz. Ancho Reyes chile liqueur
1/4 oz. honey syrup (recipe below)
1/4 oz. passion fruit puree
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake vigorously for five to 10 seconds. Double strain into a rock glass over one large cube and garnish with two Luxardo cherries.
*To make honey syrup, combined four parts honey with one part hot water and stir until the honey has dissolved. Transfer to a storage container with a lid and keep refrigerated. (Will keep for one month, properly stored.)
1.5 oz. Rittenhouse Rye
Scant 3/4 oz. Green Chartreuse
Scant 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
1/2 oz. bourbon (Wild Turkey 101 works well)
1/2 oz. Armagnac (Delord Bas XO is suggested)
1/4 oz. Lustau East India Sherry
1/4 oz. Averna
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, and stir for at least 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe or Nick and Nora glass and garnish with a Luxardo cherry.