I’ve been reliably informed that Robert Mitchum apparently has a credible fifties rockabilly hipster outlaw vibe in the real world. Who knew? I live, I’ve been informed, a sheltered life.
Anyway, Mitchum’s son has capitalized on his cult classic Thunder Road by opening a moonshine distillery of the same name in Tennessee. Coming home from Virginia last month, we stopped and got free tastings; I ended up buying a basic moonshine and their rye, which is completely raw, i.e., this stuff has not spent a second in a barrel of any kind.
As such, it has presented a challenge, a challenge that I decided to tackle yesterday.
Given the raw, even nasty, nature of the stuff, I decided to fight fire with fire. I pulled out the Montenegro Amaro, which I’ve never quite developed a taste for, and went to the herb garden. Next year perhaps I’ll have a better grip on angelica or vervain or valerian and how they might work, but for this drink I chose lovage, one of my favorite herbs, for its strong peppery flavor.
I thought about whether lemon or lime juice would help take the edge off, but my mental taste buds couldn’t see it doing much good. Maybe grapefruit might be worth a shot in the future, though.
Finally, I thought, this thing is going to need a strong undergirding of bitters to make it through the aftertaste. I used 18•21 Bitters’ Tonic and then, at first, their Havana & Hide Bitters before settling on their Saffron & Tart Cherry Bitters.
And here we are. I figure it may be an abortive attempt; if upon a second one I find that it’s still not quite delicious, I may adjust the proportions, or toss it altogether, but for the time being:
- 2–3 leaves of lovage
- 1.5 oz Thunder Road Runner’s Rye
- .5 oz Montenegro Amaro
- .25 oz 18•21 Bitters Tonic
- 10 drops 18•21 Bitters Saffron & Tart Cherry Bitters
- lemon peel for garnish
Muddle the lovage with all the ingredients. Stir with ice, strain into a coupe. Garnish with the lemon.
As I said on Facebook, this drink is not my best, but it’s not my worst either. It has the potential to become a cult favorite on its own. My first assessement — “The herbal nastiness of the Montenegro is rounded out by the unbarrelled nastiness of the rye, with nice floral notes from the bitters and a lovely overall pall created by the lovage” — may need to be adjusted.
More work is required.