With elderflower, Fuji apple, rye whiskey and Champagne, the Summer Rye is an appropriately named cocktail. However, this drink from bartender and brand educator Willy Shine is just as good in fall, winter, and spring as it is in the summer months.
Shine opts for Sazerac rye whiskey as the base of the Summer Rye; this historic rye brand from New Orleans is made at Buffalo Trace distillery, and has its own unique rye profile with bold, spicy rye notes and a somewhat subdued alcohol level. Generally retailing around $30 for a 750-milliliter bottle, it’s a great whiskey for the price point, enjoyable in cocktails like the Summer Rye as well as on its own; given its name and heritage, it’s no surprise that it makes an excellent Sazerac. However, if you’ve got another rye at home, or have a personal favorite like Bulleit, George Dickel or Old Overholt, feel free to substitute.
Rather than relying only on simple syrup for sweetness, Shine uses St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur. This floral and fruity liqueur was so ubiquitous in the early days of the so-called Cocktail Renaissance of the mid-to-late 2000s that it was branded with the moniker “Bartender’s Ketchup.” However, it’s no after-thought in the Summer Rye, with its notes of white flowers evoking the breeze of a summer’s day, especially when paired with apple. While a commonplace liqueur on bar shelves, it now has a few marketplace competitors, including Drillaurd and St Elder.
More specific is the apple juice used: rather than any store-bought apple cider, the Summer Rye calls for fresh-pressed Fuji apple juice. Though its origins are in Japan, its popularity sees it in markets across the world, including the U.S. Despite the drink’s name, finding fresh apple juice is easiest in fall, especially at farmers markets and apple orchards. Otherwise, substituting another kind of fresh apple juice is acceptable in a pinch.
Finally, the drink is topped with Champagne. The recipe calls for only 3/4 an ounce of Champagne, which means opening a full bottle of expensive French bubbly for just a few drinks leaves you with a lot of extra wine. While that’s certainly not the worst problem to have, it can be a bit pricey; feel free to replace the wine with something more affordable. Cava, for instance, often has notes of citrus and apple that would pair well with the rest of the drink.
- 1 1/2 ounce Sazerac rye whiskey
- 3/4 ounce St-Germain elderflower liqueur
- 1/4 ounce simple syrup
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 ounce Fuji apple juice
- Champagne, chilled, to top (approximately 3/4 ounce)
- Garnish: apple cubes
Add all ingredients except the Champagne to a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.
Top with the Champagne.
Garnish with diced apple cubes.