Today The Jew and the Carrot brings you a special beverage series for Sukkot. This morning’s installment discussed wines to try out in your sukkah. In the second installment here, we suggest experimenting with infused spirits, perfect for a harvest celebration.
Along with Purim and Simchat Torah, the current holiday of Sukkot is a joyful time when imbibing more than usual is encouraged. Surely the time for a strong, celebratory and delicious drink!
With inspiration from both the harvest festival and spirit-ual trends, we present infused rye and rye cocktails, perfect for sipping in the sukkah.
Why rye? Well, everyone else is infusing vodka. More importantly, autumn is a time for amber spirits. And although Sukkot’s food traditions aren’t terribly specific (what a relief!), it’s generally a good thing to eat bountifully of the fruit and vegetable harvest – and to consume the biblical five grains: wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye.
Something of whiskey’s redheaded stepchild, rye is slowly but surely gaining ground. This drinker must concede that rye will never have the gravitas of scotch, the tang of bourbon, or the seductiveness of Irish whiskey. But rye has a bit of mystery and even friendliness. The addition of ginger lights it up, cardamom spikes it and cantaloupe mellows it.
Infusing doesn’t have to be intimidating. Think fun, not chemistry lab. First you need the rye – which not every liquor store stocks. When you find it, it’ll probably be Jim Beam or Old Overholt; I used Beam. Sazerac and Rittenhouse are also on the affordable side and well thought-of. Then there are plenty of pricy boutique ryes, if you want to go looking (and spending).
Then just take an airtight glass container (a glass with plastic wrap pulled real tight will do for a shorter infusion) pour in the amount of rye you and yours plan to drink, then add the amount of cubed cantaloupe, peeled and sliced ginger or cardamom pods – which you’ve lightly rolled between your hands to help release the flavor – that seems right. A generous handful or two. (My Great Aunt Ida didn’t even provide exact amounts for baking her mandel bread. You want I should now?) Add them separately, that is; mixing flavors within an infusion is a subject for another day, or drink.
The cardamom flavor comes out quick and strong. You could take the pods out after one day. It was after two days, though, of letting the ingredients sit – with a stir once a day – that I poured each version through cheesecloth into a different glass. (I also tried blackberry and peach; no good.) The cardamom elixir came out darkest, a clear deep caramel, with a piquant smell. The taste is sharp and spicy, with the alcohol enhanced. A party starter, for sure, but not for the faint of heart.
Gingered rye came out a little cloudy and tangerine-amber, with a full nose and a kick on the tongue. Ginger fans are in love.
Cantaloupe provided the real surprise. Those peachy chunks smoothed rye’s edges right away, lending a gorgeous floral bouquet after 48 hours. A sprinkling of fruit dust in the liquid adds to the allure.
Any of these ryes can be drunk neat, on the rocks or with club soda. Here are simple cocktails too – easy enough to make while eating, singing and dreaming under the waning moon.
Sparkling cantaloupe rye
Chill infused, strained cantaloupe rye.
Fill coupe champagne glass halfway.
Add generous splash of good champagne.
This also can be made with ginger rye instead of cantaloupe.
Cardamom milk punch
Chill infused, strained cardamom rye.
Pour two parts rye into a coupe champagne glass.
Add one to two parts cold milk.
Add one maraschino cherry.
Chill infused, strained ginger rye.
Pour two parts rye into a highball glass over small ice cubes.
Add one to two parts club soda.
Add lime peel twist.