Not all whiskies are suitable for the cocktail shaker. In addition to matters such as price, age and rarity, some whiskies simply have too bold a flavor or too idiosyncratic a character to work well with other ingredients.
Scotch whisky is the classic example. Single malts are justifiably praised for their rich angularities and subtle, ponderous nuances, but these are the very characteristics that make single malt scotch too surly of a spirit to mix in any but a handful of cocktails. Blended scotch whisky, on the other hand, is a bit of a different story. As I wrote on Wednesday, blended scotch is made by mixing several single malts together to create a particular kind of profile, then adding aged neutral grain whisky to smooth out the mix and to produce a lighter, less thunderous flavor.
The Modern Cocktail No. 2 shows how wonderfully blended scotch can work in a cocktail. As written in the Savoy Cocktail Book from 1930, the Modern #2 matches the smooth richness of blended scotch with the sharp tang of sloe gin, with dashes of absinthe, grenadine and bitters lending additional complexity.
A couple of quick notes on this drink: first, it's essential to use a decent sloe gin. Such a thing used to be impossible to find, but now there are two exceptional brands available: Plymouth Sloe Gin from England, and The Bitter Truth Sloe Gin from Germany. Each has a natural tartness from using real sloe berries rather than artificial flavorings. They also have a bright potency of flavor, so it's a good idea to use a blended scotch with a little gumption to it. I typically recommend Famous Grouse for mixing, but this fall the brand introduced a new extension, The Black Grouse, which is the original blend goosed up with the addition of smoky peated malts, which give the blend an additional dose of flavorful gusto. For the Modern #2, I'd say go for it.
- 1 ounce blended Scotch whisky
- 2 ounces sloe gin
- 1 dash orange bitters
- 1 dash absinthe
- 1 dash pomegranate grenadine
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir until well chilled, about 20 to 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.