Happy Christmas, ya bastards. I may as well be honest; I have a reputation as a bit of a scrooge. That’s an under exaggeration, I’m an atheistic anti-capitalist with a tendency towards Seasonal Affective Disorder and a cynical heart. There is, however, one thing I embrace about this season: gift packs. Tis the season where buying a bottle of booze means getting a little bit more than a solid buzz and an excuse to hate mornings. Glasses and shakers, muddlers and nips—this is the glory of the season. This year I feel I have found an extraordinary gift pack, and a gift that keeps on giving—the Wild Turkey cocktail aging set. This year’s Wild Turkey gift pack, 101 mind you, includes a Wild Turkey embossed mason jar and a piece of charred spiral oak. At the same price as a bottle of Wild Turkey. Which also happened to be on sale for $20. Ho, ho, ho-ly hell yes.
The oak aging concept is something that has been pretty hip for a while now—with mini-barrels on sale for aging white whiskey and bars serving barrel aged cocktail off the barrel, the movement has more legs than a Czech supermodel or a good scotch. Though there is a chunk of hype involved, yes, but there is also a lot of benefit to aging a cocktail all wrapped in one lovely package, to mix and meld and smooth over the edges with a consistent dusting of smoky oaky goodness. With this in mind, Wild Turkey have done isn’t anything new. There are plenty of brands out there selling you decanters or plain old bottles with a spiral or honeycombed stick of charred oak. The primary word there? Sellinggggg. You can buy a bottle with a charred oak stick as a “cocktail aging kit,” that’s $35. You can buy a bottle of Wild Turkey for $20 and they give you that shit. Merry Christma-hanna-let’s-get-ripped-akah.
Given my complete absence of holiday spirit it should come as no surprise that my interest in gift sets is purely selfish, and therefore it should be clear by now that I bought this set for myself. I may be more for myself, because I’m not giving anybody gifts. Ba-humbug. Anyways, in the world of infinite opportunities, known as mixology, I decided to use this lovely little perk of mine to make a twist on an old favorite—based on the materials I already had at hand. I went with a twist on one of the oldest, some argue oldest, American cocktails: Le Sazerac. The twist here is that instead of Rye I used the materials God and the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission gave me, Wild Turkey. Now it is worth noting that this lil’ kit hold 500ml of fluid fire, which means scaling up your standard Sazerac Recipe significantly. To make mine I briefly looked over a few interpretations of the standard recipe, thought about doing some math, then rapidly ignored it all and drank some of the other 250ml of Turkey. I then put something together that may or may not resemble the following recipe.
Ye Big ol’ Sazerac
- 2 oz Absinthe (La Muse Verte is what I had on hand)
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- 10 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters (the traditional)
- 10-15 dashes Embitterment Aromatic Bitters (the one upper)
- 10-15 dashes Embitterment Orange Bitter (at this point, what the hell)
- 1 Lemon’s rind, careful to avoid the pith
- 1 oak spiral
- About 400+ ml Wild Turkey to the top
Let settle 2 weeks or so.
There probably should have been more science to it, but I like to go by feel and I’m definitely feeling what I made there…I decided to serve this little monster over a single ice cube. The result? Hail Santa (Satan?)! There is indeed a wonderful alchemy that occurs when all of these ingredients merge into one, spending weeks together in the bar top equivalent of Stalag Luft III with a little bit of oak to mellow it all together. Perhaps I went a bit above and beyond the call of absinthe wash, as exemplified by the louche this concoction takes on when chilled, but the ingredients played off oh so well together, with the star of the show being the garnish. That’s right, the garnish—the tinsel on the tree—the lovely lemon shined after 2 weeks giving off the beauty of her essential oils and soaking in the wonder of the Wild Turkey. The bitters come through wonderfully as well, warm, sweet and mellow. A damned good cocktail…though perhaps not perfect—but therein lies the beauty.
The genius that is the 2014 Wild Turkey gift pack is that it is the gift pack that keeps on giving. Yes, perhaps you could make a cocktail to share—give, if you will—but that’s not where the pleasure stops. This kit is reusable. This time around I made a Sazerac. Next time I could make a Manhattan, age it a bit longer, and maybe even impart a bit of that Sazerac. I could then make an Old Fashioned that winds up with a hint of sweet vermouth note. Even when that charred oak has exhausted all it has to give, you have a free mason jar emblazoned with the Wild Turkey emblem—the latest in whiskey chic. So, though I have not gone on an all-out gift pack spree (yet,) I do declare the coolest (thus far) gift pack of the year is Wild Turkey 101’s do it yourself, drink it yourself, gift that keeps on giving, aging kit.