*LUPEC Boston’s latest ruminations, in case you missed ‘em in this week’s Dig
by Pink Lady
Earlier this summer, we broached rye and bourbon in our ongoing discussion of whisk(e)y. This week, we look north to Canada, inspired in part by a new season of Mad Men. If you watch it as avidly as this LUPEC lady, you’ll notice leading man Don Draper takes his Canadian Club neat.
Though commonly perceived as a rye-based spirit, Canadian whisky (spelled with no “e”) in its modern incarnation is usually based on corn, with rye and barley added to the mix (not terribly unlike American bourbon.) By definition, Canadian whisky is a blend, with neutral grain spirit accounting for half of its contents. Canadian whisky ages a minimum of three years by law, most commonly in used bourbon barrels made from charred American white oak.
Though eschewed by single-malt Scotch fans and small-batch bourbon connoisseurs, there was a time when Canadian whisky was the style of choice for American drinkers, thanks largely to Prohibition. We needed something to drink when the Noble Experiment shuttered our native distilleries, and turned to our neighbors to the north to quench our thirst. The second year of Prohibition saw a 400-percent increase in Canadian whisky sales, and the Canucks weren’t the ones drinking it. Smugglers sold the stuff on a robust black market, transporting it across the Great Lakes and the Detroit River, which measures less than a mile across in some places. An underground pipeline built for this purpose was recently discovered.
Prohibition was repealed in 1933, but before the American whiskey industry could bounce back, the second World War mandated that US alcohol be allocated for munitions. By the 1960s, when the Mad Men set were drinking Canadian Club neat for breakfast, Americans had developed a taste for Canadian whisky’s smooth character.
The days of the three-martini lunch may be gone (unless you’re in LUPEC), but that doesn’t mean you can’t invoke the era by tucking in with one of these as you watch season three unfold.
“OLD PAL” COCKTAIL
from THE SAVOY COCKTAIL BOOK by Harry Craddock
1/3 Canadian Club Whisky (we suggest the 10-Year Reserve, which uses a higher percentage of rye)
1/3 French vermouth
Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.