For many drinkers who love a good whisky, the smokiest Scotches can still be challenging. When a distillery smokes their malt over peat moss, it can result in an intensity of flavor that’s hard to ignore. Unless, that is, you doctor it with some other intense flavors like ginger and lemon in a cocktail like the penicillin.
“We’ve talked about having a penicillin variation on the menu,” says Nicholas Pascuzzi, head bartender at Vikre Distillery in Duluth. “It seemed with Honor Brand it was a good choice, because the cocktail is usually made with a blended Scotch.”
Honor Brand is a blended whiskey (see Spirits Close-Up, Blended Whiskey) of Scotch, rye, and bourbon, that features only a touch of smoke in a more balanced body. So Pascuzzi employs a smoky Chinese tea to mimic those Islay overtones. “Lapsang Souchong imparts a really nice English tobacco pipe smoke smell,” says Pascuzzi. “We don’t serve it with a straw, so you really have to engage with the smoke.”
By steeping some whiskey with the tea, you can customize how much smoke character you want to float on your drink. Even if you overdo it, the smokiness will soon be overtaken by the zip and tang of lemon and ginger. The result is like a ray of sunshine bursting through storm clouds.
■ ■ ■
Fleming Florey & Chain
1½ ounces Honor Brand Hay & Sunshine whiskey
1½ ounces ginger mix*
1/8–¼ ounce Lapsang Souchong tea-infused whiskey
To make the infused whiskey, steep 1 cup Honor Brand Hay & Sunshine whiskey with 15 grams loose leaf Lapsang Souchong tea in a mason jar for 4 days, shaking occasionally. To make the cocktail, shake first two ingredients vigorously with ice for 12-plus seconds. Strain into a double rocks glass over one large ice cube. Using the back of a bar spoon, float a small measure of the tea-infused whiskey on top and serve.
2–3 cups fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1½ cups water
½ cup honey
1 cup lemon juice
Bring it all together
Blend ginger and ¾ cup water until thoroughly broken down. Strain the liquid and reserve. Blend pulp again with remaining water. Strain, getting as much liquid from the pulp as possible. Rinse the blender. Blend ginger juice, lemon, and honey to incorporate. (Yields about 4 cups, enough for 20 cocktails. Will settle naturally. Use within a few days for optimal freshness.)