Last year at the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood, I met a very cool dude by the name of Jason Wilson. Those of you Washington Post readers are no doubt already huge fans of Wilson’s spirits column (his most recent in which he takes on the Williamsburg hipster contingent is classic). But wait, there’s more! Wilson just came out with an awesome new book, Boozehound, which chronicles his quest for the best cocktails and liquors the world over. Not only is the book often hilarious, but full of great insight and fantastic cocktail recipes. It’s my top pick for the cocktail lovers on my gift list these year. And so, gentle readers, I was thrilled to catch up with Jason in between drinks and ask him a few hard questions, some of which involved vodka and Miley Cyrus.
For the cocktail cognoscenti, it’s all about rye, right? At the risk of aligning myself with the buffoons who walk into Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. demanding vodka, I still dream about the Makers Mark Manhattan that PDT’s Jim Meehan served me at the now defunct Pace years ago. So break it down for us. What rye should we be drinking in our Manhattans instead of trusty old bourbon?
Wait, is it all about rye now? I thought it was all about mezcal? Or over-proof rum? Or not wearing deodorant anymore!? I think it’s totally fine that you like your Makers Mark Manhattan! Makers Mark isn’t so bad—it’s definitely one of those transitional products, like Patron, that convert new spirits drinkers. Also, I often enjoy a bourbon Manhattan (thought I usually go for Buffalo Trace at home). Or better yet, a bourbon-based-Negroni called a Boulevardier.
But, ok, getting back to rye. A rye Manhattan is divine. I like cheap ryes like Rittenhouse and Old Overholt. I like pricier ryes like High West Rendezvous Rye and Tuthilltown. And lately my go-to, mid-priced rye has been Russell’s Reserve 6 year old Kentucky Straight Rye (made by Wild Turkey). I like to use rye in the traditional Manhattan and the numerous Manhattan variations, like say the Greenpoint or the Red Hook.
What trend would you most like to see disappear?
I think the trend of proclaiming new cocktail and spirits trends…and swiftly then declaring these trends over, all before 99 percent of American drinkers ever had a chance to try whatever it is the trend was.
Do cocktails go with food?
I love your chapter on “Liquor Store Archaeology,” in which you and your brother compete to find the most arcane liquors on dusty shelves. As some of these forgotten spirits, such as Old Tom gin, return to the cocktail lexicon what are you happiest to have discovered and most relieved to leave in the past?
What bottle would we be most surprised to discover in your bar?
Is this where I admit my guilty pleasure of neon green Midori melon liqueur? It’s something that holds some nostalgic value from my wayward Jersey youth. Actually, I have a lot of questionable stuff. I have an entire Cabinet of Shame that grows every month with really bad new liqueurs and such. But the real surprise? I do actually have several bottles of vodka! And sometimes, I actually do drink from them.