Sazerac Cocktail (Old Potrero Ryes)

Sazerac Cocktail 27 out of 28.

I have challenged myself to post 28 Sazeracs in 28 days for the month of February.

I’ll try some different spirits, try some out at bars, and have some friends make them for me. Hopefully, if I can get my act together we’ll have some video.

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Sazerac Cocktail.
1 Lump of Sugar. (5ml Rich Simple Syrup)
1 Dash Angostura or Peychana Bitters. (a couple dashes Peychaud’s Bitters)
1 Glass Rye or Canadian Club Whisky. (2 oz Old Potrero Rye)

Stir well and strain into another glass that has been cooled and rinsed with Absinthe (Sirene Absinthe Verte). Squeeze lemon peel over glass and drop in (or discard).

I live in San Francisco and Anchor Distilling makes three Rye Whiskies. How could I not track them down and make Sazeracs with them?

‘If, as they say, God spanked the town
For being over frisky,
Why did He burn the churches down
And save Hotaling’s whiskey?’

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Actually, I already had the Hotaling’s  in the bar, so it wasn’t quite so awful on my pocket book as it might have been.

What can we glean about these different Whiskies from their labels?

Old Potrero 18th Century Century Style Spirit: Barrel Strength, 62.3% Alc/vol.  A pot-distilled spirit produced from 100% rye malt mash & aged 2 years 1 month in new uncharred oak barrels.

Old Potrero Single Malt Straight Rye Whiskey: 45% Alc/vol.  Pot distilled and aged in new charred oak barrels.

Old Potrero Single Malt Hotaling’s Whiskey:  50% Alc/vol.  Pot distilled and aged eleven years in American Oak barrels.

In case you didn’t know, the Anchor Brewery and distilling facility is located in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco.  That’s where the name, “Old Potrero” comes from.

All three whiskies are “Single Malt” whiskies.  This means they are produced from a single type of grain, in this case Rye Malt Mash, and all the spirits in the bottle are manufactured at the same facility.

You will note that even though all three Anchor Whiskies are made from 100% Rye Malt Mash, only one of them is called, “Straight Rye Whiskey”.

The basic requirements for American Straight Rye Whiskey are:

1) they be made from at least 51% Rye Mash.

2) That they are not distilled to more than 160 Proof.

3) That they be aged in new charred American oak barrels.

4) The Whiskey must not be put into the barrels at more than 125 Proof.

5) That they be aged for at least 2 years.

Anchor falls astray of the “Straight Rye Whiskey” label due mostly to their barrel choices.

The 18th Century Style Spirit cannot be called “Straight Rye Whiskey” because it is aged in “new uncharred” oak barrels.  I also kind of wonder how they can have a 2 year old barrel proof spirit at 124.6 Proof, if it went into the barrels at 125.  I think the angel’s share loss of alcohol might be more than that.  But then, cough, Buffalo Trace’s George T. Stagg “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey” is bottled at 142 Proof, so there is absolutely no way it could have been barreled at 125 proof!

The Hotaling’s Whiskey cannot be called “Straight Rye Whiskey” because it is aged in a mixture of used, charred, and uncharred barrels.

Anchor Sazerac #1: Old Potrero 18th Century Style Spirit (10-RW-ARM-3-1)

Damn, if there isn’t a familial resemblance here to the Genevieve Sazerac!  To be honest this was my favorite of the bunch.  There is tons of malt and grain character and a lot, lot of flavor.  If this is the sort of Rye Whiskey people were drinking the 18th and 19th Century, I guess I was born out of time.

Anchor Sazerac #2: Old Potrero Straight Rye Whiskey (10-SRW-ARM-G)

Lots more oak barrel flavor here, cherries and caramel, this tastes like you would expect a real straight rye Sazerac to taste.  OK, maybe a little burlier.  A similar Sazerac to the Hudson Rye Whiskey Sazerac.

Anchor Sazerac #3: Old Potrero Hotaling’s Whiskey (MCMVI-MMVI)

This was the 2006 bottling of the Hotaling’s Whiskey, released in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Great San Francisco Quake and fire.  It was also the first batch of whiskey distilled at Anchor, and aged for 11 years before its release.  Anchor releases another barrel of this whiskey every year.  I am unclear if it is truly limited, or if they are supplementing by aging other later distilled Rye.  I remain ambivalent about the 2006 Hotaling’s.  I keep hoping it will grow on me, but it doesn’t.  It’s good, but for some reason almost reminds me more of Cognac than whiskey.  It is quite light in character, yet at the same time exhibits little malt flavor or body.  Not my favorite Sazerac.  For what it is worth, I have tried other year’s releases of the Hotaling’s and enjoyed them quite a bit more.  2008, I’m remembering, was a particularly tasty year.  Must have been a sweet barrel.

So yeah, if I were to pick a winner, a Sazerac that stood out here, it would have to be the 18th Century Style Spirit.  If you’ve been staring at that bottle, wondering why you bought it when it is definitely not a sipping Whiskey, give it a try in a Sazerac.  Think of it as stretching your money!

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

4 thoughts on “Sazerac Cocktail (Old Potrero Ryes)

  1. Actually, the “angel’s share” phenomenon happens mostly in whiskey produced in the British Isles. American whiskey becomes stronger as it ages; the hot, dry conditions it is aged in encourage evaporation primarily of water. Scotch whiskey, because it is aged in cool, damp conditions, sees a loss of primarily alcohol, rather than water. So the Sazerac and Anchor folks are probably not cheating!

  2. Interesting! Thanks for the correction. I read a book about Cognac and Armagnac that went over how humidity affects the evaporation of distilled spirits during aging, but I still don’t understand how it is possible that more water can evaporate than alcohol.

    I must read more. Also not sure what our climate in SF counts as. Really wet and damp for 3 months, but dry the rest of the year. Pretty much always between 40 and 70 Fahrenheit, too, not very hot.

    • According to wikipedia it’s a function of humidity:

      “In an environment with 100% relative humidity, very little water evaporates and so most of the loss is alcohol…”

      Another site (http://www.knoxbarrels.com/) makes this statement:

      “…at 60% humidity and above, alcohol evaporates whereas at below 60% humidity water evaporates.”

      OK, then…

      So the rickhouse where BT ages the barrels destined for Stagg and Handy (for example) must be kept rather dry, encouraging the loss of water. Imagining for the moment that humidity in a modern rickhouse can be more or less regulated, they must be making a deliberate decision to bring the proof of these whiskeys up over time.

      Michael

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