Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Once and Future Rye


Consider the strange fate of rye whiskey. From the earliest days of the Republic to the onset of Prohibition, it was the American tipple. From Monongahela to Sonoma, if you stopped in a roadhouse and ordered a shot of whiskey, rye was what the barkeep poured into your glass.

Yet by the 1950s, rye was perilously close to being forgotten. Where bourbon emerged gloriously from the Great Depression, self-mythologized and available from a constantly growing number of distilleries, only a handful of bottom-shelf brands of rye survived... and those, it has to be said, only at the benevolent toleration of a few bourbon distilleries.

The recent resurrection of rye whiskey is one of the few signs that the Twenty-First Century may have something to offer civilization worth the keeping. So the proprietors of The American Martini Institute and The American Martini Laboratory propose to present the history of the Whiskey That Was America here in a series of posts and tastings.

To celebrate this we opened a bottle of "Single Barrel" and "Genuine Small Batch" Dad's Hat Pennsylvania Straight Rye Whiskey. This is a pricey bottle we were saving for a special occasion. Which this is! According to the hand-printing on the label, this was bottle 100 from cask 4, barreled on 9-2-14 and bottled on 4-18-18. It's "cask strength," which in this case means an astonishing 124.6 proof.

First, we did a taste test. The color was dark and lovely. The nose was a strong caramel. The rye had flavors of brown sugar, caramel, cinnamon and--a touch of nutmeg? The alcohol could be felt. And the total impression...

Wow. This is one lovely drink. Perfect for sipping and lingering over. Rye is not often drunk straight. But this version cries out to be sipped and savored.

Nevertheless, we then used it to prepare a cocktail:

3 ounces rye
1 ounce sweet vermouth
2 dashes cherry bitters
chill and serve with a spiced cherry

Again, wow. The Manhattan is a regal cocktail to begin with. It's also one that allows the quality of the rye to shine through. As it did here. This was a distinctly delicious drink, as good a Manhattan as anyone at the American Martini Institute has ever had.

Also, it carries a punch.

(Note that the AML uses cherries spiced in-house and not those dreadful candied things they sell in a jar. It makes a tremendous difference.)

In future weeks, there will be more more posts tracking the rise of rye whiskey, its tragic downfall, and its wondrous rebirth. Telling the story of the Whiskey That Was America and might well yet be again.

Meanwhile, back on the diagram front . . .

Two small diagrams today. First:

Reading the line from left to right yields a map in parvoThe  of The Iron Dragon's Mother. The first section is Helen's story. Then the pilot (Caitlin) enters the picture. Both continue onward. There is a climactic scene with Caitlin's mother (though I forget which one. Then, after a brief coda, Helen and Caitlin part ways. Helen in one direction and Caitlin and her mother in another. There I commented: (But that is another story, and one that will never be told this side of Spiral Palace.) So I obviously had a specific end in mind. It wasn't the ending that I ended up with, though. That one caught me by surprise.

Between the diagrams, it reads: Skin Walker: Native Am. -- walks in the skins of others This was not meant to be cultural appropriation but inclusion. It was one of my ambitions to include everyone in the novel. It can't be done, of course--there are too many of us for that. But I was trying to exclude as few of us as possible.

As it turned out, I couldn't find a place to use a skin walker, so it's a moot issue.

The second diagram:

This shows the entirety of the novel in parvo again. The original plan was that most of the novel would deal with Caitlin's false mother and the resolution would deal with her true mother. Apparently, at that time she only had two.

(The green scribble is the crudely-drawn head of a giant, commenting, "You are little people in more senses than you know.)


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Ghod bless you, sir.