Photo by Emily Schultz for the AJC
This rye whiskey cocktail is an original I debuted at Staplehouse about a year ago and has since been featured by some pretty well known publications like the AJC and Bon Appetit Magazine. I think folks have come to love it so much because it's appropriate for all occasions, all types of weather, and all ages. Wait…that's mostly accurate. I've found the Ivey League to be a real crowd pleaser, even people who claim not to like whiskey. The tart citrus, slight bitterness of the amaro, the aroma of lavender and spice of rye all come together for a very balanced and easy drinking cocktail. But the real secret is that this drink is made with a heap of love in celebration of a great friendship.
Friends like Gregg Ivey are hard to come by - one of a kind, true blue. It is hard to recall all the times we shared: exploring abandoned schools, killing a case of Pabst in Lincoln Park, getting our trucks stuck in the mud, moving away from home, moving back. The memories are fond, and now tinged with the bitter pain of loss after Gregg's passing in 2015. I feel this cocktail captures those emotions and has a likeness to Gregg. It's a crowd pleaser and you know you're gonna have some fun if you spend any time hanging out. This is a beverage for the glory days, for reminiscing, and for joy.
THE IVEY LEAGUE RECIPE
.5 oz lemon
.5 oz lavender-honey syrup
.75 oz Ciociaro
1.5 oz Rittenhouse rye
Let's start with your cocktail prep.
First, make a stop at a decent liquor store and pick up a bottle of Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey and Ciociaro. I prefer Rittenhouse for this cocktail but any decent rye whiskey will suffice (100 proof/bonded preferred). Ciociaro is an Italian amaro named for the region it comes from in central Italy. It has some cola, gentian, clove, and bitter orange flavors and is a key ingredient that gives the drink its complexity.
Next, you will need to make your lavender honey syrup. Combine ½ cup water, ½ cup honey, and 3 tablespoons of lavender in a saucepan. Bring these ingredients to a simmer and remove from the heat. Stir, cover and allow the lavender to steep for about 20 minutes. Strain the lavender out and then pop that mixture in the refrigerator. This will give you about 1 cup and will last in the fridge for at least 2 weeks. Boom.
Lastly, you'll want to use fresh squeezed lemon juice. At home, you can simply squeeze some lemons and send the juice thru a fine strainer to remove pulp and seeds and voila - you're done! You'll need ½ an ounce of juice per drink so if you want to match the amount of lavender-honey syrup, plan on juicing 8 oz of lemon (about 6-10 lemons depending on size). If you find yourself in a bind and have to use bottled lemon juice, I highly suggest Santa Cruz organic pure lemon juice.
Now, you're ready to make your cocktail.
As with all cocktails, begin with the smallest amounts and combine all ingredients in a shaker tin. Add ice. Shake hard for 15 seconds. Double strain into a glass of your choosing (something stemmed recommended but not required). Garnish with an expressed lemon tab. Consume with people you are thankful to call friends.
Fun fact: This cocktail is easily able to be batched so you don’t have to play bartender all night. Use the following ratios to make the Ivey League - party style.
6 oz lemon, 6 oz honey-lavender syrup, 9 oz Ciociaro, 18 oz Rittenhouse rye. Combine all ingredients in a container. For one cocktail, shake 3 oz of mix. Makes 12-13 cocktails. Batch will last about 48 hours refrigerated.
Have questions about cocktail making techniques or any of the ingredients mentioned? Feel free to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org - we'd love to chat!