You know that feeling when you just need to be transported to a dusty, leather-filled library for a night? When the real world is just a bit too much (maybe since January 20th…) and you know the only respite you need is a reliable, beloved tome and a glass of something brown and smooth? It’s a very distinct calling, and I’ve felt it more than a few times this winter. Something about the world outside my home that makes me long for the comfort of a classic, indulgent night in. It’s what led me to come up with this cocktail, a raspberry rye concoction that lends itself to a quiet, cozy evening.
Like most millennial gals, I always dreamed of having Belle’s library moment from Beauty and the Beast. A towering library with a ladder on wheels seemed like the ultimate house goal. And, like most millennials in general, such a home and library is still a long, long way off for me. But that doesn’t stop me from trying to recreate that feeling in small corners of my current home. Who says a comfy tweed chair can’t be as luxurious as the grandest leather wingback?! If you have the right book and a cold, complex drink to sip, you can find yourself in a lavish moment all the same.
Being a bourbon girl myself, I took a little while to cotton to a good rye. Of course, I have always appreciated a well-crafted Old Fashioned, for which regular whiskey is no substitute, but I had little idea how to work with rye otherwise. We attended a number of local whiskey tastings for our local liquor store’s 12 Days of Whiskey in December, and I suddenly got rye. There were so many different varieties to taste and enjoy, and so many flavors lighting up my mouth with each one. I went from rye-intimidated to rye-curious practically overnight.
The rye that won my heart, the one I had to bring home, was Koval Rye. It’s peppery but creamy, has a delightful mouthfeel and smooth finish. It’s a conundrum in caramel and is, quite honestly, too good to play with in a cocktail. So instead, I also picked up a bottle of Bulleit Rye to work out my rye kinks with while I save the Koval for sipping neat. (That is, until the perfect cocktail emerges.)
Over a year ago (or longer!) I was shopping at Central Market and saw a curious sample station. It was un-manned (INTROVERT WIN!) and had what looked like a lemonade dispenser filled with a light pink mixture. Next to the dispenser were these sweet little bottles with the most unpretentious labels. They were pitching lemonade with a raspberry balsamic drinking vinegar, and it looked like they had enticed very few takers.
Always open to new, tart, tangy tastes, I poured myself a sample. It was pure fireworks on my tongue! Zippy, bright, acidic and sweet, all at once. The syrup in the raspberry balsamic rolled out a plush red rug for the electric, fresh-squeezed lemonade to march across. The harmony was a perfect delight and I threw two bottles of the vinegar in my basket, eager to replicate this decadence at home.
In the time since I have demolished one bottle and find myself nearing the end of the second. With only a few servings of it left, I have been saving it for a real whammy of a cocktail. I’ve used most of it in tequila-based cocktails and lemon-kissed mocktails, but I really wanted to try to stand it up next to a brown liquor. Having found my way to rye, I knew these two could be magic together if only done right.
Raspberry Rye Revelry
So far in our story, we have met both the sultry rye and the perky raspberry drinking vinegar. But what will come of uniting the two?! It’s a party that every introvert could actually get excited about putting on pants for. When balanced with some brown sugar simple syrup (boil 2 cups brown sugar with 1.5 cups water and a dash of vanilla extract, stir until dissolved), the pepperiness of the rye holds hands with the vinegar and all is well. Being partial to the earthy song of molasses, so I amp up the “brown” in the brown sugar simple syrup with a couple of dashes of molasses bitters to finish it off.
Next time you need a little escape from the world, treat your weary bones to a Raspberry Rye cocktail. And if you can find a nice leather chair or well-read book to pair it with, you definitely won’t be disappointed.
- 2 oz rye whiskey
- 1/2 oz raspberry balsamic vinegar (see Notes for alternatives)
- 1/2 oz brown sugar simple syrup
- 3 dashes molasses bitters
- Raspberries for garnish (optional)
- Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker over ice.
- Shake for 30 seconds, then let sit for another 30 seconds before straining into an old fashioned glass.
- Garnish with raspberries if desired.
- If you can't find raspberry balsamic vinegar, try using a (preferably high-quality) regular balsamic vinegar and muddling some raspberries with the other ingredients in the bottom of the cocktail shaker before adding ice.