How to Tolerate Cheap Whisky

How to Tolerate Cheap Whisky

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  1. When it comes to most hard liquors, it’s hard to get around inferior quality. Take vodka, for instance. Sure, you can mix it into a black Russian or some other such sweet concoction that will mask the lingering turpentine-like fumes rising from the cheap swill, but how often can you drink such cocktails? For me, one every couple of months is more than enough. No, when it comes to vodka, the drink of choice is the martini, and anything less than quality vodka is simply offensive in a martini; you can’t add enough olives to cover the rancorous fumes of lousy vodka. Then there’s gin, which is somewhat objectionable even if it’s the good stuff (which explains why so many people now use vodka in their martinis). Southern Comfort is one of the more infamous liquors; most people find its ultra-sweet flavor appealing—until they have too much of the stuff and “refund”, after which even the odor induces a knee-melting nausea. Cheap rum is fairly easy to mask, but once again, you have to use it in a very sweet drink to cover the unpleasantness of the solvent-in-a-bottle aftertaste. Then comes tequila, which, like Southern Comfort, can frighten those who have overindulged in the past; it, too, can have a foul aftertaste if it’s poor quality booze.

    Which brings me to good old dependable whiskey.

    I developed a taste for good whiskey long ago, but as my financial situation declined from what it once was, I had to give up on the “good stuff” for the most part. Sure, I still splurge on occasion and will shell out the bucks for a fine 12 year-old single malt Scotch (usually Glenlivet, though I’m flexible, as long as it isn’t that God-awful Johnny Walker crap), but I’ve grown accustomed to having a few ounces of incredibly cheap whiskey for my daily nightcap. I can tolerate the stuff straight, as long as I have a water chaser (cheap whiskey is never as offensive as cheap vodka as far as I’m concerned), but my drink of choice is the simplified Manhattan.

    Back in the days of yore (which weren’t as yore as you might think; let’s call it thirty years ago), the Manhattan called for the use of Angostura bitters. If you’ve ever used bitters or even taken a whiff from a bottle, you know how objectionable the stuff is. Sure, bitters are a necessary ingredient for an old fashioned (another favorite of mine), but that recipe also includes a cube of sugar to compensate for the extreme tartness of the bitters. The Manhattan uses sweet vermouth to do the same thing; I’m sorry, but ½ ounce of sweet vermouth is not nearly sweet enough to overcome the vileness of the bitters. The solution is quite simple: don’t use bitters.

    Here’s my very simple, rather sweet and delicious recipe for a nice Manhattan made from cheap whiskey that’s good enough for daily consumption.

    Into a mixing glass filled with ice, add 3 ounces of whiskey, two ounces of sweet vermouth and a drizzle of maraschino cherry juice; stir well (do not shake; the agitation gives the cocktail an unpleasant cloudy appearance) and pour into a pre-chilled stemmed glass; drop a maraschino cherry into the glass and you’re ready to drink.

    I have also found that passing really bad whiskey through a Brita filter several times will remove most of the turpentine flavor, leaving the stuff nearly palatable when drunk straight, and perfectly serviceable in a Manhattan.

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