The Brooklyn Cocktail

Ah, the Brooklyn. This cocktail was a very tricky sell for me and for a while I couldn't understand why. I love rye whisky, I love Manhattans, so why didn't I love my first ever Brooklyn?

Because I made it wrong.

Okay, not wrong, exactly, but not right. Making the Brooklyn taught me a couple of important lessons. First, all the components in a cocktail recipe are there for a reason, try the cocktail basic first, so you understand those components before you play with a recipe. Second, when a cocktail doesn't taste right to you, even a  tiny tweak in proportions  can make a huge difference. To be honest, that second one I really learned when I started making Martinis, but it wasn't until the Brooklyn that the lesson really stuck.

 I was interested in the Brooklyn because a close friend of mine (who, by-the-way, is in love with rye) had recommended it, knowing of my similar affection for rye. I looked up a handful of recipes and found that the standard was 2 oz rye whisky, 1 oz dry vermouth, 1/2 oz Amer Picon and 1/2 oz maraschino liqueur. I couldn't find Amer Picon, I was unaware at the time that Amer Picon is not distributed in the US, so I followed one recipe's suggestion of using bitters as a substitute. I was bitterly (pardon the pun) disappointed. The maraschino reminded me of cherry cough syrup, and the drink was unbalanced. Problem was, I didn't know what the drink was supposed to taste like, I only knew I liked a Manhattan better.

Then I visited my rye-lovin' friend and tried her Brooklyn. Better. I still found the maraschino a little overpowering, but the flavor profile was making much more sense. She used Ramazzotti as the substitute for Amer Picon and the result was much better, if still not ringing my bell.

I knew I was closer so when I got home it was time to experiment. First thing I did was read up on Amer Picon. As I mentioned earlier, it's one of the original ingredients, but it isn't available in the US. People raved about the orange-forward flavor of this Amaro, but many claimed there was not a good substitute to be had. Since I had liked the *Ramazzotti my friend used, I figured I would start there, upping the orange flavor with a few dashes of orange bitters. Next I needed to figure out which rye and which vermouth I liked best together, and at what proportions. So I mixed a lot of drinks, tasting combinations and ratios until I found what I liked best. Biggest surprise was that I liked 2 different combinations, George Dickel Rye with Noilly Prat Vermouth or Rittenhouse Rye with Dolin Vermouth. Even bigger surprise was that I didn't like either whisky nearly as much when combined with the opposite vermouth. And just to throw one more wrench, the amount of *Ramazzotti varied depending on what it was mixed with. Below are my two favorite recipes. Try them and tell me what you think. You can and should substitute any ingredients or combos you like.

Version 1: A little sweeter, rounder.

Version 2: A little cleaner, crisper.

For either version, pour all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir well then strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry (or two).

*There is another Amer Picon substitute that has caught my eye, Amaro Nonino. From what I've read it captures the orange flavor of the Amer Picon very well but is on the sweet side. One of the days I'll pick up a bottle and see for myself. If you've tried it or have a different sub for Amer Picon, please let me know.

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