Monday, February 21, 2011

junior

2 oz Rittenhouse Rye
1/2 oz Bénédictine
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Two Sundays ago, Andrea and I went down to Green Street to pay bartender Derric Crothers a visit. For my first drink, I asked Derric for a Junior off of the A to Z menu. When I first had this drink in the pre-blog days, it resided on the small cocktail menu and I remember Tony, the rather serious and tattooed bartender who pre-dated Andy McNees at Green Street, making it for me. I recall being drawn to it for the ingredients reminded me of the Frisco Sour which I had at Eastern Standard several months before with the similar rye whiskey, Bénédictine, and citrus structure (read Frank Bruni's piece on the Frisco). However, I was taken aback at how different it was from the Frisco Sour and the reason was the lime juice pairing with the whiskey in the Junior versus the lemon juice in the Frisco Sour. Some spirits in my mind generally work better with lemon and others with lime. For example, Cognac and whiskey pair better with lemon while pisco, tequila, and rum pair better with lime; gin though works splendidly with both. This is not to say that there are not exceptions to this generalization. For example, a good rye and lime juice recipe is the Oriental. I felt that I needed to revisit the Junior especially to see if my tastes had changed over the four years since I had it last.
The Junior started with the dark herbal aroma of Bénédictine with hints of lime juice and rye whiskey. On the tongue, the sip was tart and complex with the swallow being crisp and containing the heat of the rye and the botanicals of the Bénédictine and Angostura on the swallow. The lime juice seemed to predominate the balance in this drink, and it along with the overproof whiskey functioned to dry out the sugar in the liqueur; moreover, it was notable how well the lime and Bénédictine flavors complemented each other. Perhaps a lower proof and gentler rye like Old Overholt or Sazerac might change the drink's balance toward the sweeter side. David Wondrich wrote about the Junior back in his Esquire days. Wondrich rather enjoyed this drink for the lime juice "frees the herbal notes of the Bénédictine from its heavy, sweet body, and together they buffer the tangy woodiness of the rye." Overall, the Junior did stand the test of time; it still seemed more challenging of a drink than a Frisco Sour, but I think I have come to terms with the lime juice's terpenes mingling with the whiskey better.

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