So in the 90’s we had this thing called “house party,” which basically meant staying at home because we had no money. Our meager school allowance was left to the spoils of small change by the end of the week so between the half-dozen friends we could only really afford a bottle of rum and a liter (or two) of Coke. Yup, rum coke. Vodka sprite. These were the Gen X cheap cocktails of choice in a time before Andy Player and Tanduay Ice. And it’s probably the same for young millennials.
Spoiler alert: as you grow into your respective careers and earn a little bit more money, tastes change. Your affinity to sugary drinks and pre-mixed cocktails will start to wane, with preference to more sophisticated libations. Congratulations, you’re in the process of becoming a tito (or tita). But fret not! It simply means that you’re becoming more discerning with age: saying goodbye to cheap cocktails and saying hello to the world of whiskeys, single malts and gin & tonics.
Because whiskey is the most approachable in terms of availability and price, let’s start with that. For this piece, I went for a Johnnie Walker’s Blenders’ Batch, a curious dram which you can procure in S&R. I chose this for two reasons: Pinoys are already familiar with JW as a whiskey so it is held in high esteem because for some reason, JW Black’s vanilla notes appeal to the Pinoy taste. Second, this particular blend is an experimental one, in limited run and not so easy to find. So it’s basically hipster. And at P1,699 SRP, it’s still very affordable.
Here are three suggestions on how to consume this whiskey:
1. Neat (with a little water)
Taking your alcohol neat is the best way to appreciate the efforts put into creating the specific blend. For the JW Blenders’ Batch, you’re really getting something thematic – a “show off” of traditional American flavors – bourbon (which is made from corn) and rye (which is made from rye grain). The liquid is matured in bourbon casks and then transferred into former rye casks for as long as 6 months.
You will want to bring down the alcohol content from 40% to about 35% with a little dash of water – it really depends on how much you want but I’d recommend somewhere between a teaspoon to a tablespoon. Adding water opens up the flavors of the whiskey when you smell and taste it. It’s like smelling the grass after it rains – the rainfall opens up the flavors of the earth. Same goes for whiskey.
Fill a whiskey glass or a Glencairn sipping glass with about 30ml of whiskey. You can add a little water, too.
2. Old Fashioned
It’s called an ‘Old Fashioned’ because it’s one of the oldest cocktails to date that’s stupidly simple to make. The resurgence of this cocktail in recent times is due to the rise of modern day speakeasy bars that mimic the prohibition era, as well as that episode in Mad Men where Don Draper fixes himself one behind the bar.
This cocktail is best made with an American whiskey – either bourbon or rye, so it’s rather thematic that we have the Blenders’ Batch on hand which is bourbon finished in rye casks. An old fashioned is really just a whiskey base with a sweetener such as sugar or sugar syrup and a dash of bitters. I prefer to use Angostura bitters (you can find this in online liquor stores, the liquor section of Landmark and South Supermarket in Alabang) but you can really just substitute this with a squeezed orange or lemon.
Crush some sugar into a whiskey glass. I found that a tea spoon of brown sugar or muscovado works well. Add your bitters to wet the sugar and then pour 30-60ml of whiskey and stir to dilute. Add a huge ice cube. You may opt for small ice cubes but this may dilute the drink. You may substitute sugar with honey or simple syrup (simply heat a pan with 1:1 ratio of sugar and water) to make mixing easier.
If you’re trying to ease into the world of whiskey but find the taste too overpowering, you can dilute it with a can of soda water (not Coke!). You can easily find Canada Dry or Schweppes club soda in most supermarkets so fill a tall glass with ice, a shot of whiskey and top the glass with soda. Throw in a lemon or orange peel for class.
Pour whiskey into a tall glass with ice. Pour soda water to the rim. Top with an orange peel or an umbrella or a slice of bacon. Whatever, really.