The problem with most whiskeys that come out the bottle pre-flavored, on the other hand, is that their tastes are artificial, their sweetness cloying. I’d no sooner pour one of these for guests than I would spit in their drink.
Yet at 9am Sunday morning, I stood in line at a local drug store with two bottles of Red Stag, a new(ish) cherry-flavored whiskey from Jim Beam. I blame The Tractor Room for this…uncharacteristic move.
The Tractor Room’s snowballs are coupes of shaved ice, blessed with alcohol, that change as the menu switches out. That day, the offering was a cherry snowball made with Red Stag, housemade cherries, simple syrup, and lemon zest. What the hell, I thought. Let’s get one. I’d been seeing Red Stag around for the better part of a year, but my prejudice against flavored whiskeys stopped me from buying any.
It turned out to be surprisingly tasty. Red Stag is by no means a sophisticated sipping whiskey — it’s just not in the same league as Booker’s, Old Fitzgerald 12 year, George T. Stagg, or any of the van Winkle offerings. But as a mixing whiskey, I’m beginning to like the way it enlivens some drinks with dark cherry notes. From now until New Year’s, liquor will be on sale at heavy discounts. Red Stag retails for around $20/750ml. I’m not particularly interested at that price — for that, I can get 1.75L of regular Beam at Costco — but when it’s on sale at $13 and some change? I’ll lay in a small supply on a Sunday morning.
The Tractor Room staff make enhooched cherries in house for their cocktail menu. Sometimes the drink comes with lemon zest, sometimes not. It's better with. The fire engine red maraschino cherries so readily available aren't the same. If you don't have any, here’s my recipe for making them over at Tuthilltown Spirits.
Tractor Room’s Cherry Snowball
2.5 oz Red Stag cherry flavored whiskey
.75 oz boozy cherry juice from house made cherries
.25 oz simple syrup
2-3 house made boozy cherries
Fill a shaker with ice cubes and shake the whiskey, cherry juice, and simple syrup in it. Mound crushed ice in a coup, then slowly pour the iced mixture over it. Garnish with house made cherries and a few strands of lemon zested right over the stop. Serve with a short straw.
Cherry Eastern Sour
2.5 oz fresh orange juice
.75 oz fresh lemon juice
.25 oz orgeat
.25 simple syrup
2 oz Red Stag (original calls for bourbon or rye)
Shake with plenty of crushed ice. Pour unstrained into a double old-fashioned glass or short-stemmed goblet. Sink spent orange and lemon shells into the drink.
The Tractor Room
3687 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92103-4218
Jeff Berry (2009)
Beachbum Berry Remixed: A Gallery of Tiki Drinks
248 pages, paperback