(SPOT.ph) Whiskey has a way of stirring the senses, but not all whiskies are equal. Most Filipinos would likely be familiar with bourbon, the American whiskey made with corn—which generally has a sweeter, richer character that's fantastic in a classic Whisky Sour. But it's also about time you got acquainted with rye whiskey. (Note that we're spelling it as such so as to follow the American standard, for reasons you'll see below.)
As the name implies, rye whiskey is instead made of rye as its base grain (at least 51%; it can also have other grains in the mix, called a mash bill), resulting in drier, spicier sips well worth savoring in its own right. Rye whiskey also makes for great cocktails that can bring out the best of sweet and savory bites—a point we'd come to learn at a recent dinner that paired tipples using American whiskey brand Sagamore Spirit, paired with food by the team of Spritz Makati.
Sagamore Spirit rye whiskey cocktails brought out the best of these bites at Spritz:
Sagamore Spirit hails from Baltimore, Maryland in the U.S. and is best known for their rye whiskey—their version of which is proofed with limestone-filtered water from the brand's Spring House (dating all the way back to 1909!), and has earned more than 200 awards globally. The brand's roster includes four main bottles on their core collection—of which is the Signature Rye Whiskey that was the star of the night's dinner.
Sagamore Spirits' Signature Rye Whiskey is comprised of a blend of two straight rye mash bills—one that's high-rye (i.e., has more than 51% rye in its mash bill); and one that's low-rye (i.e., has less than 51% rye in its mash bill). The latter gives it the tinge of caramel, honey, and citrus most folks associate with whiskey, while the latter spices things up by lending warmth and zing (specifically notes of cinnamon and clove) to the resulting mix. The Spritz team sought to bring out these notes and take advantage of its versatility by using it in four cocktails with different personalities—and pairing these libations with light bites from their own kitchen.
The St. Germain Highball had us on a sprightly start. This vibrant, refreshing number makes the most of the whiskey's spiced character, taking the brooding spirit to bright heights. Ginger ale, elderflower, and subtly sweet rosemary illuminated the mix and made for fruity, effervescent sips—which was just the thing to breathe life onto its partner-in-crime: the similarly bright Grilled Oyster. Light as the mollusc was by itself, it came underlined by a brown-butter ponzu also infused with Sagamore rye whiskey for added depth.
We go the more honeyed, full-bodied direction in the next pairing. Playing on the whiskey's caramel-y undertones, the Spritz team brought out the Burnt Sugar Old Fashioned—a richer cocktail that starts with Sagamore's Signature Rye Whiskey, this time inflused with banana. Garnished with a crackly, caramelized-dough nugget, the resulting drink brought to mind the classic street snack of turon. With it came Spritz' Roasted Capsicum Pasta Salad, itself highlighting naturally sweet, earthy roasted red peppers—just the thing to stand up to the heft of the cocktail. (That the sauce was also infused with Sagamore whiskey, of course, was a welcome surprise.)
The next cocktail was an especially out-of-the-box one, again taking advantage of the spiced, peppery notes in the whiskey. Called the Chinatown Manhattan, this tantalizing tipple was infused with chili oil (!), by way of rinsing the glasses with the East-Asian condiment—and came garnished with olives to keep to the savory motif. With its fiery aroma, it was hard not to picture the siomai stands of our youth—yet it works. The whiskey's relative dryness evened the mouthfeel out so as to keep it drinkable (read: not too heavy or oily), and its honeylike overtones round out the chili oil's zip and zing. Keeping it company was the Steak Sando—i.e., Japanese-style sandwiches of USDA tenderloin given the katsu treatment, in between pillowy slices of Hokkaido bread. Alternating bites and sips made for a meaty, umami, deeply savory sensation as a whole, with just a hint of heat from the cocktail to keep us going back.
The four-course affair ends on a decadent note, by way of the Kyoho Whiskey Sour—a fruity take on the classic that's uplifted by Kyoho grape honey. And while some would argue a classic Whiskey Sour is best made with bourbon given its sweetness, employing rye whiskey in this case lends warmth to go with the fruit, and makes for a feistier whole. From there, things go the deep and dark route with its pairing—the deceptively simple (but potent!) 72% Malagos Chocolate + Sagamore Rye Whiskey Nama Chocolate. Essentially this is a square truffle of ganache made with its namesakes—and small size aside, every small spoonful of this treat delivers a potent, bittersweet sensation lent complexity and depth by the whiskey.
Pro tip: The cocktails technically aren't on Spritz' menu, but can be made by request—you know what to do! Otherwise, you can get your hands on bottles of Sagamore Spirit whiskeys from online retailers like Single Malt, Manila Wine, Bow Tie Duck, and Boozy.