Red Hook Rye

The post today is a tiny step to the left of all of the Tales of the Cocktail action that I’ve been posting of late. Why a tiny step to the left? Well, while this post is about a bottle that I’ve recently purchased, and drinks created with this bottle, I never would’ve even known to buy this fine bottle of booze if it wasn’t for a chance meeting in New Orleans, with the queen of whiskey herself, LeNell Smothers.

After meeting LeNell during one of the rotations of the Hotel Monteleone’s carousel bar, we quickly became friends as she dragged the group of us from one bar to another, to another, to another, until I had to sneak away, only to repeat the exercise the following night. Every time we stepped away from a bar, even for an instant, there was always her trusty little hip flask, filled with a different surprise each time. (The best “surprise” was when I brought out my version of the old Amer Picon to show to Dr. Cocktail, and out whips LeNell’s flask, with a sample of the real deal!)

On another occasion her faithful flagon produced a wonderfully hot and spicy whiskey. Taking a big swig I nearly spewed it back at her with the exclamation of “What the hell was that?!?!?!! It’s fantastic!”

LeNell replied with a rather casual, matter of the fact manner. “It’s my Red Hook rye. Haven’t you tried it yet?”

Well of course I hadn’t, as she only bottles one barrel of the stuff a year, which yields a meager 216 bottles. But it was so damn tasty, and I needed more, so throwing caution and budgets to the wind, I hastily ordered a bottle as soon as I got back from NOLA.

When the man in brown dropped off my package and I tore it open, I was both delighted and confused. Finally, my prized rye was in my hand, but how could it be only number 28 of 216? She had been selling her barrel for some time now, surely she’s sold more than 28 bottles?!?

Rolling the label around I quickly discovered that this was from barrel two, her second year of Red Hook rye. Dammit, I got on the boat a little late! I had wanted the original Red Hook, and instead I got its baby sister. (I can hear you all groaning now: poor baby, you only got the second batch of a rare, highly regarded rye: boo hoo!)

Even though it was only 11:00 in the morning, I had to taste the second coming right away. At 66.4% alcohol, I also knew that I needed to add some water to this straight out of the barrel, non-chill filtered beauty. But how much water to add?

Not only does LeNell send you the bottle of rye, beautifully wrapped in red paper, but it is also wrapped in a fact sheet, with a little story on how she picked out this particular barrel, recipes like the Brooklyn, Red Hook and Van Brunt, and more importantly, a little formula that informs you on how much water to add to your whiskey.

Directly from LeNell’s sheet to your eyes:

The formula is amount of whiskey x {(bottle proof/target proof)-1}= amount of water to add. In other words, divide the proof you have by the proof you want and subtract one. Multiply that number by the amount of whiskey you want to dilute and the result will be the amount of water to add.

For example, to reduce two ounces of 134.8 proof whiskey to 100 proof, divide 135 by 100 and subtract one. Multiply that number by 2 ounces. You add .66 ounces water to 2 ounces Red Hook Rye to make it 100 proof.

Easy enough right? (Better get a calculator)

Water added, tasting ensued. First reaction was a quiet: damn. Followed quickly by a: damn!! Finished a little while after that by a GOD DAMN!!!

This was a tasty spirit, with rye’s typical spiciness but also with a nice lush creamy mouth-feel. As LeNell herself stated: Barrel number one was a hot romp in the sack. Barrel number two is still aggressive, but one you don’t mind taking home to meet Momma.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

A quick email correspondence with LeNell also yielded one more cocktail recipe, which I’ve shared with you below.

As LeNell tells the story: “One balmy night in the Bar des Voûtes on the Isle de Bendor off the Southern coast of France, a flask of Red Hook Rye snook out of my back pocket. This elixir resulted. Damn, it got crazy after that. I never felt so alive!”

……………………………………………………………………………………
LES VOÛTES
1 ½ oz Red Hook rye
½ oz Carpano Antica
½ oz yellow Chartreuse
healthy splash of kirsch (I did a ¼ oz)
2 dashes orange bitters (Bitter Truth orange bitters used)

stir over cracked ice for at least 100 turns
strain into chilled cocktail glass
garnish with lemon peel
……………………………………………………………………………………

Other drinks that I have enjoyed in the past, with similar themes are:

……………………………………………………………………………………
GREEN POINT
1 ½ oz Rittenhouse 100 proof bonded rye (Red Hook works nicely as well)
½ oz Punt e Mes
½ oz yellow Chartreuse
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters

stir and strain into cocktail glass
……………………………………………………………………………………

I was introduced to the Green Point from the guys at my favorite watering hole here in Seattle: Zig Zag Café. While I didn’t actually get the recipe from them, I noted the bottles they used, and created my own version, with ratios that I thought were similar.

This next drink was created by me, in response to the Green Point, which I had enjoyed immensely. I wanted to create something similar, yet different. You’ll notice similarities between all three drinks, even though created by different bartenders, on different coasts. Great minds (palates?) must think alike.

……………………………………………………………………………………
FRATELLI COCKTAIL
2 oz Rittenhouse 100 proof bonded rye (Red Hook works nicely as well)
½ oz Carpano Antica
½ oz yellow Chartreuse
¼ oz Fernet Branca

stir well and strain into cocktail glass
……………………………………………………………………………………

Does anyone else out there have a favorite rye cocktail that they’d like to share?

Picture taken by:
Jamie Boudreau
www.vesselseattle.com

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~ by Jamie Boudreau on August 9, 2007.

10 Responses to “Red Hook Rye”

  1. Ironic that I’d find your site the day after a friend and I were experimenting with a Rye cocktail. We ended up doing a bit of a variation on the Manhattan.

    1 oz. Michter’s Rye
    1 oz. Applejack
    .5 oz. Sweet Vermouth
    1-2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

    Stirred over ice and strained into a martini glass.

    I’m also a huge sucker for an Old Overholt Old Fashioned.

  2. Sounds interesting, I’ll have to give it a whirl.
    Try your Old Fashioned with Rittenhouse 100 proof bonded rye one day; not only tasty, but cheaper than Old Overholt (if you can imagine that).

  3. [...] Next up, and last, was the one we had all been waiting for: The daring Blue Blazer. As David explained, the draw of this drink has less to do with the particular booze used to concoct it, but the panache required to prepare it. Essentially a mixture of a high-proof liquor and sugar (David prefers sugar in the raw), the substance is lit on fire and then poured between two cups while aflame, both aerating the drink as well as mixing it. The fire cooks off some of the alcohol content, bringing a liquor usually too strong to drink without mixing down to a more palpable form. For this demonstration, David appropriately chose to use Lenell’s famous Red Hook Rye. [...]

  4. love this stuff…great article

  5. Can you still get Rittenhouse 100?

  6. Marc:
    Not for a while now.

  7. [...] it up. The upshot is that this drink is worthy of distinction among its many rye-liqueur-vermouth brethren, including Drink’s Fort [...]

  8. my good friend Enzo that used to work at the Little Branch in NYC made a drink by the name of red hook with rittenhouse rye, punt & mess and maraschino liqueur, i made this drink while working in Sydney and is a great great drink…….
    even tough i would have love to try Red Hook rye in this drink…
    Salute

  9. [...] 18th, 2010 § 0 I made a poor man’s version of Jamie Boudreau’s Fratelli cocktail. I call [...]

  10. Jaime, love these drinks! Came across a bottle of Rittenhouse at the LCBO in Burlington, Ontario believe it or not! It made these drinks shine! It was hard to find my bottle of yellow chartreuse in Toronto, but it’s running pretty low since I found this post. Damn you! Haha!

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