My whiskey is too young, now what?

It happens to all of us. Somehow we find ourselves with a bottle of whiskey whose age is listed in single digit months instead of years. Maybe we were given it by a friend. Maybe we were taken in by a pretty label. Or maybe we just weren't paying close enough attention. How we acquired the bottle doesn't really matter as much as what we are going to do with it now. 

Unless you are a fan of new make, you are probably not going to drink it neat. And unless you plan to use it as a door stop or to clean something, you need to find something to do with it. Well, I can't tell you what to do with yours, but since I found myself with an abundance of the stuff myself recently, I can tell you what I did with mine.

I made cocktails. 

But I didn't make whiskey cocktails, well not really. I mean I used whiskey in them. Wait...let's start at the beginning here, and I'll tell you my thought process. 

I initially thought to myself that if I looked at some colonial-era drinks, well that would be about right since they didn't age the whiskey yet at that point anyway. And while I didn't find many, I did find a couple that worked. 

The first is one one without a formal recipe. And it takes a couple of months. It's called Cherry Bounce, and I found the process I use in Michael Dietch's excellent book: Whiskey. Basically, you pierce a pound of sour cherries with a knife, toss in a bottle of whiskey, a couple of cups of sugar, some freshly grated nutmeg and a couple of cinnamon sticks. Shake it every few days at first and then let it sit for three months before straining off the liquid. It's damn good, and I think I'll be making some every summer from here on out as if you start it when the cherries are ripe, it is done just in time for the holidays.

But I'm guessing you want something you can drink right away, and I won't disappoint. The only other Colonial-era drink I found that worked well with the young whiskey I had was the Whiskey Sling, which has one thing in common with the Bounce above. Nutmeg. It turns out it really does help a young whiskey to be more palatable. A Whiskey Sling is just 2 ounces of whiskey, a half teaspoon of sugar dissolved in a teaspoon of water, a glass, some ice and some freshly grated nutmeg over the top of it all. It really is quite tasty, especially with a young rye. Just try to drink it before the ice melts too much. 

So after I decided that Colonial-Era drinks were kind of a dead-end, I decided to rethink my approach. To me, whiskey that is too young tastes less like whiskey and more like cheap tequila or rum. And so I decided to treat it that way. The first thing I go to work was a riff on a Margarita.

Whiskey Margarita

  • 1.5-ounce New-make to 12-month-old bourbon
  • 1-ounce lime juice (fresh)
  • 0.5 to 1-ounce Cointreau
  • Orange bitters

Shake with ice and pour into a glass. You may need to adjust slightly depending on the whiskey you have, but that'll get you close.

Following the lime juice and young whiskey theme, a mojito riff worked really well too. 

Whiskey Mojito

  • 2-ounce New-make to 12-month-old bourbon
  • 1-ounce lime juice (fresh)
  • 1-ounce simple syrup
  • 6 mint leaves
  • dash bitters
  • soda water

Bruise your mint and drop it into your glass, pour in the lime juice, simple syrup, whiskey and a dash of bitters. Give it a stir. Add ice and top with soda water. 

Branching out a little I also tried a Negroni/Boulevardier with the too young whiskey, and that tasted quite good. I mention Negroni because a Negroni and a Boulevardier are pretty close to the same drink. The Negroni has gin and the other bourbon. In this case, it reminded me more of the Negroni than the Boulevardier. This one is simple.

Too Young Boulevardier

  • 1-ounce New-make to 12-month-old bourbon
  • 1-ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1-ounce Campari

Give it a stir and serve it on the rocks. 

So after all that I guess my point is that when you have a bottle of whiskey that you aren't sure what to do with, sometimes you need to get creative. I made my bottle disappear by making rum, tequila and gin drinks with it. Maybe you can do the same. 


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Winter Citrus Hot Toddy

My wife has been sick as a dog the past few weeks. At first, she was sick just like any other time, tired, headache, fever, etc. But then, after healing up for a bit, she felt great aside from a sore throat and nagging cough. I tried getting her to go to the doctor for most of a week, but she insisted that she was fine. Finally, after consulting people on the internet and asking for advice on if I was crazy or not, she relented and went to Urgent Care.

Strep. (I'm holding off on the "I Told You So's" until she feels better, or at least until she isn't contagious.)

Now, my wife is the person who asked her oncologist how soon after chemo she could have a whiskey, so you better believe that right after the strep diagnosis came back, she asked the same question. The doc told her that was fine. It wouldn't affect anything if she had whiskey. 

Now while she had been refusing a doctor's care, she was more than happy to accept an old-timey sort of cure for a sore throat. A Hot Toddy. Warmth and honey for the throat and bourbon for the spirit. After a bit of trial and error while waiting for her to go to the doctor, I finally hit upon what I think was the best recipe of the week, and now I'm going to share it with you. 

Winter Citrus Hot Toddy

  • 1.5 Ounce of Bourbon (I used Wild Turkey 101)
  • 1 Ounce of Fresh Mandarin Juice (Cuties, Halos, whatever brand your local grocer carries is fine, you'll probably need the juice of 2-3 fruits)
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Grapefruit Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon of Honey
  • 6 shakes of Homemade Orange Bitters
  • 1/4 - 1/2 Cup of Boiling Water

I mix everything else together before adding the water so that it stays nice and hot. 

I originally tried this without the grapefruit juice, and it was way too sweet. Lots of honey and a sweet juice will do that sometimes. After futzing with all the variables for a bit, I decided that everything was fine, it just needed some more complexity. The addition of grapefruit was just the thing to make this something you didn't need to be sick to enjoy.

UPDATE: Because I run out of fruits, sometimes I need to experiment. I only have limes in the house right now and though bourbon and lime aren't the best of friends, rum and limes get along quite nicely. Tonight I found that if you do white rum in the measure above, use lime juice for all of the citrus juice and use 2-3 shakes angostura bitters you get a pleasant daquiri sort of hot toddy. And it is really quite tasty. The point is that this is a pretty flexible recipe and please experiment with it. Booze, citrus, honey and hot water are the necessary elements. Like a sour, just mix and match them until you get something tasty.


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Limited Release Premixed Cocktail: Orange Label Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock and Rye, 100 proof

It is my wife's birthday tonight. The one night per year where if I am going to be lazy about serving her a cocktail, I had better be serving something good. Something with a good whiskey presence. My wife knows her whiskey and I can't slip something subpar past her—not that I'd try mind you.

Luckily, I saw an email a few weeks ago from Ace Spirits that said they had this in stock. I ran up to Hopkins the next day and picked up a bottle. Immediately upon trying my first sip, I tweeted :

Hochstadter's Slow & Low Rock and Rye, Limited Orange Label, 100 proof

Purchase info: $36.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN

Details: Made with 8 year old whiskey, 50% ABV.

Nose: Orange zest with floral notes backing it. You can tell there is whiskey in here.

Mouth: Warm in the mouth with orange zest, honey and light floral notes. Once again, you can tell there is whiskey in there though it isn't the main flavor component.

Finish: Lingering orange floral notes

A heart because I love this

Thoughts: Wow! This is amazing. The regular Slow & Low made me want to try making my own. This makes me realize that I don't need to, not while I have this bottle at least. The orange label is much less sweet than the black label and has much more whiskey presence. It holds up to ice well, but is tasty enough right out of the bottle as well. 

If you find this and like orange with your whiskey, pick it up. I don't think you will be disappointed. 


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Premixed Cocktail: Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock and Rye

It should come as no surprise by now that I like cocktails. Especially if they have whiskey in them. Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Toronto, Whiskey Smash, Sazerac are among the favorites in my house and Michael Dietsch’s Whiskey cocktail book is never far from where I keep the cocktail making equipment.

It was during my research for the review of that book that I noticed the Rock and Rye batched cocktail recipe in the book. Which reminded me that there is a bottled version for sale as well. I’d never had a Rock and Rye in any form so before I committed an entire bottle of whiskey to the endeavor of making my own, I decided to pick up a bottle and make sure it was something I might want to try making for myself.

Which is how I ended up with a bottle of Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock and Rye. This is the regular release black label version. I picked up the limited release orange label as well, but that will have to wait for another post.

Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock and Rye

Purchase Info: $17.99 for a 750 mL bottle at South Lyndal Liquors, Minneapolis, MN

Details: 42% ABV

Nose: Honey and bitter orange peel

Mouth: Honey, orange zest and an alcohol bite

Finish: Some whiskey shows up in the finish along with lingering orange zest. There is a nice warmth that settles in the chest. 

a smile because I like this

Thoughts: This is very tasty. And it’s a cocktail that I don’t have to make before I enjoy it. It is very sweet so giving it a chill helps it out. It’s good over ice, but I just keep mine in the fridge so I don’t need to dilute it. After trying this, I would say that I’d be happy to donate a bottle to trying to make some for myself.


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Happy Thanksgiving! Have some mulled cider with bourbon.

As it is Thanksgiving this week in the US, I would like to take a moment to thank every one of you who read this blog on a regular basis. It's heartening to find that there are people out there who find what I have to say interesting. 

I would especially like to thank those of you who have opened your wallets and signed up to support my writing financially. I am humbled that there are people out there who find enough value in what I write that they have decided to give a little of that value back. Although freelancing is a more than full-time gig on many occasions, your generosity has made me carve out the time—sometimes late at night just before bed—to make sure I am keeping up on the writing you are paying for. Without those nudges, there would have been many times where I would have skipped a post or two in favor of a little sleep. In fact if any reader enjoys the blog appearing on a regular basis, it's the patrons you have to thank for it.

And as it is Thanksgiving and you will hopefully be spending time with your family later this week, I have a tasty recipe to share that will hopefully keep things a little tastier. This can be made non-alcoholic if you have kids around. But it is very tasty in its more grown-up condition. I make enough for my wife and I using a small crock-pot, but if you have more people sharing, just add more cider to a larger crockpot. 

Mulled Hard Cider with Bourbon

Cinnamon Stick, 1 stick or 1 tsp Cinnamon chunks
Whole Cloves, 1 tsp
White Cardamom Pods, about 15-20 cracked
Coriander, 1 tsp
Star Anise, 1 whole
Lemon Zest

2 Bottles of a sweeter hard cider (dry ciders, like the ones I make don't work as well for this. I found Angry Orchard's regular cider worked pretty well) if making a kid-friendly version use a good apple juice here.

Dump all of that in your crockpot and let cook on low for at least three hours. You don't want to let it boil. I've gone as long as six hours without any ill effects and I assume you could go longer.

After you pour your cup, add anywhere from a tablespoon to an ounce of bourbon, I used Wild Turkey 101. Obviously skip this step if you are making it for the kiddies. I've made both the hard cider and the apple juice versions and like them both. I hope you like them too. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I will be taking the day off to spend with my own family on Thursday so see you all next week.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!