Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | May 8, 2009


It’s been a long, long time since I took part in a Thursday Drink Night. The subject this week was rye whiskey and I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to make a return to the Mixoloseum. I had two general concepts that I wanted to pursue in my recipe creation and unfortunately I’m not sure that either one came across as well as I’d hoped.

First, while I know of many cocktails with rye as a base or as a paired base spirit, I really haven’t seen cocktails where rye is used as a secondary ingredient to add depth and accents, but not dominate, the drink. I wanted to try something the inverted the relationship we see between whiskey and vermouth in a Manhattan. That was one concept.

The other concept was I wanted to have sake be the base ingredient. I’ve always had an affection for sake, but again, have never really made cocktails with it. Most of the sake cocktails I’ve seen tend towards light and fruity, while eschewing playing with stronger ingredients. I wanted to experiment with treating it almost like vermouth and take the savory/sweet flavors and build elements underneath it to add greater depth.

I’ll admit, there isn’t much about what I came up with that either in advance or in hindsight made the most sense to me. I just thought it might work and for me, to some extent, it did. Without further ado…


2 oz sake
1.5 oz 80 proof rye
.5 oz Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
1 drop Peychaud’s bitters

Chill a rocks glass. In a mixing glass stir sake, rye, Domaine de Canton, and bitters over ice. Dump ice from rocks glass and rinse with absinthe. Strain contents of mixing glass into the absinthe-rinsed glass. Garnish with a zested lemon peel.

It turns out there’s a reason sake isn’t common as a base or paired with stronger flavors. It just didn’t hold up that well to the other ingredients and ended up leaving a slightly watered-down taste that undercut the body of the cocktail. It wasn’t a big hit in the TDN chat, which is fine, though I had fun playing with different combinations coming up with this.

All that said, I do still think that a cocktail with sake as a base up against some big-bodied ingredients is doable. This just wasn’t it. I also think there’s a real opening to play with rye as a second-tier ingredient used for depth and complexity. This was probably closer to that mark than the sake, but I will keep working to see if I can do better.



  1. […] using other sake as a base spirit in a cocktail with rye and Domaine de Canton (I called the drink Matanuska), but that experiment scared me off from working with sake and such potent ingredients. […]

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