You got the kids back to school. You survived the 105 degree late-August heat. And now — it's time for a drink. This cocktail, with red plums, sage, and rye whiskey, is like a grown-up whiskey sour. Rye whiskey, a cousin to Tennessee whiskey (aka Jack Daniels) and bourbon, is a sort of forgotten American classic. Whiskey made from a rye mash has been around for hundreds of years — George Washington used to distill it at Mount Vernon. Many early cocktails, like the old-fashioned and the sazerac, called for rye whiskey, but it fell out of favor after prohibition.
With the cocktail renaissance of the past decade, rye whiskey has come back in a big way. It's now quite easy to find it at your local liquor store. (A good, reasonably priced brand is Old Overholt.) So what's all the fuss about? Rye whiskey, when compared to a Tennessee whiskey like Jack Daniels, is less sweet, with more pronounced spice flavors. Paired with red plums and sage, it makes for a lovely little cocktail that looks like pink lemonade but packs a real punch.
The key, I've learned, to making any drink with fresh fruit is to make sure the fruit is especially ripe and juicy. How do you find the perfect plum? A ripe red plum will be dark (not bright red) all over, slightly soft to the touch, and very fragrant.
6 slices red plum, as ripe and juicy as possible
4 to 5 sage leaves, stems removed
1/4 to 1/2 ounce simple syrup (more for a sweeter drink, less for a more pronounced whiskey taste.)
Splash (about 1/8 ounce) fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 ounces rye whiskey
Add the plums, sage, and simple syrup to the bottom of a shaker, and muddle (or smoosh vigorously with the back of a spoon) until the plums form a nice mush. Fill the shaker with ice and add the lemon juice and whiskey. Shake and then double strain into a cocktail glass.
Nancy Mitchell loves whiskey, growing her own herbs, and whiskey...with herbs. You can find more of her recipes on her blog, The Backyard Bartender.
(Images: Nancy Mitchell)