Bon Appétit (October 2011)
When Clay first mentioned that he wanted to try this Rye Witch cocktail, Zach thought he was saying "wry" witch. Naturally, that evoked images of a haggard old crone making witty, dry asides, which actually sounds like a pretty great costume...
We're always intrigued by the Halloween recipes in food magazines. Halloween is one of the few times during the year when the magazines go out of their way to have a little fun with their food. Martha dons crazy outfits, and we start to see recipes like "Broken Glass Cupcakes" from Martha Stewart Living, Spicy Cheddar Witch Fingers from Food & Wine, Ghastly Meringues from Food Network Magazine, and "I Scream" Graveyard Pie from Everyday Food.
Mostly, it's a whole lot of "cute" food. Which is great for Halloween, if that's what you want. Us? We thought this Rye Witch cocktail was more our speed. Rye whiskey and orange? Yes sir, bartender!
Plus, this recipe has a fantastic twist that we love.
That twist? No-cook simple syrup.
As you cocktail enthusiasts know, many drink recipes include a simple syrup, which you make by boiling equal parts sugar and water, letting it cool, and using it as the sweetener in the drink. We certainly don't keep simple syrup on hand, so if we want to make a cocktail that calls for one, we need to make it in advance and then chill the syrup. It's not hard, of course; it just takes a little time. And let's face it: Sometimes when daddy needs a cocktail, well, daddy needs a cocktail.
But this Bon Appétit recipe presents an amazing shortcut with its no-cook simple syrup. The idea? Shake equal parts water and superfine sugar in a jar or cocktail shaker until they're combined. No boiling or cooling required! It's simple syrup on demand -- a super-smart shortcut that we love.
It's like the cocktail equivalent of the Shake Weight!
In addition to the no-cook simple syrup, this Rye Witch introduced us to a couple other new ingredients: Strega, a bright yellow herbal liqueur (the yellow comes from saffron), and Amontillado Sherry, which is a darker version of sherry. (Amontillado Sherry also reminds us of Edgar Allen Poe. Halloween tie-in!)
Also, as the name suggests, this cocktail incorporates rye whiskey. We're big fans of Kentucky bourbons and of Tennessee whiskeys like Jack Daniels and George Dickel, but we don't usually keep rye in the house. Based on this cocktail, though, that's going to change.
Rye is an excellent alternative to Southern bourbons and whiskeys, which can sometimes taste awfully sweet. Rye, on the other hand, contains more rye wheat than corn, so it's closer in taste to Irish whiskey or Scotch. It's got that peaty, mossy undertone and the bite you get from Irish whiskey, but it's still smooth like bourbon.
If you want a decidedly adult treat for Halloween, this is it. Shake yourself some simple syrup, mix up this cocktail, throw on a pointy black hat and spend the whole night making catty comments. Tell everyone you're a Wry Witch.
Alternately: Mix a Rye Witch, put on a scary mask, hide in the bushes, and scare the bejesus out of the neighborhood children.
- 1 1/2 cups Kentucky rye whiskey (such as Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond or Wild Turkey)
- 3 tablespoons Strega (herbal liqueur)
- 3 tablespoons Amontillado Sherry (such as Lustau or González Byass Del Duque)
- 2 tablespoons No-Cook Simple Syrup (see below)
- 12 dashes orange bitters
- 12 orange twists
To make our No-Cook Simple Syrup, combine 2 cups each superfine sugar and water in an airtight container. Cover and shake until sugar dissolves. Makes 3 cups.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a large pitcher. Add ice; stir for 15–20 seconds. Strain the mixture into 6 chilled coupe glasses. Pinch an orange twist over each drink, then rub around rims of glasses to release oils from peel; discard peel. Garnish each with a fresh twist.