Summer is typically when bartenders pull the brown liquors off the speed rack to make way for the clear stuff, vodka and gin, which is considered lighter and a better match for warm weather. But for those who prefer to swim against the tide — or who simply prefer the full-bodied taste of whiskey — there's the New Biddy ($9) at the Iberian Pig. Self-described "bar chef" Thomas Jhun adapted a recipe passed on by another bartender. Although the Biddy uses rye, a traditionally rough-edged spirit, the flavor is smoothed out by the addition of a generous amount of muddled cucumber and mint, and sweetened with sugar cane syrup. Lime is used to keep the sweetness in check. The result is a refreshing cocktail without sacrificing flavor.
Why rye? Rye whiskey gets a dry, spicy, somewhat sour taste from rye grain, as distinct from the sweeter, more mellow flavor of bourbon, which is made mostly from corn. Well into the early 20th century, rye was once the whiskey of choice in such drinks as the Manhattan and the Sazerac. Long out of favor, it was effectively rediscovered in the early aughts by mixologists trying to recapture the original taste of classic American cocktails.
For my drink, Jhun used (rī)1, a premium rye from the Beam stable of Kentucky whiskeys that's more refined and fruitier than most. The syrup used was Petite Canne, made from Martinique sugar cane. Strained of cucumber, lime and mint pulp, the resulting cocktail was poured over a fist-sized chunk of hand-carved ice and garnished with a mint sprig and thin slices of cucumber and lime.