I’m thankful that we’re finally getting rain here in California. It’s nice to see actual green foliage and plant life when I drive across this beautiful state. However, when it’s raining and cold and father winter is blowing on your door, you’ll want a tipple to get you through the night.

This original cocktail I dubbed the “Night Ranger”. Its name inspired by my mother’s favorite band and because it will help you stay safe and warm during the cold winter nights. It helps if you’re listening the some 1970’s classic rock while imbibing to keep the blood circulating as well.

I used a bonded rye which means the whiskey is bottled at 100 proof (50% alcohol by volume). This is important because the extra alcohol means the flavors of the whiskey will stay pronounced even in mixed drinks. I wanted the heat from the alcohol, along with the spicy rye notes, to be ever present all through this drink. And Rittenhouse Bonded Rye allows exactly that.

In addition to the rye is an Italian amaro liqueur called Cardamaro. Cardamaro is unique in that isn’t an amaro with a neutral alcohol base, it is wine-based. This gives it a vermouth-ish property while still presenting the characteristics you’d expect from an Italian amaro (herbs, warm spices, bracing bitterness).

Cardamaro’s name derives it’s name from the prominent ingredients used to produce it: Cardoon. Cardoon is related to artichoke. Cardamaro also uses blessed thistle, an intriguing herb that has been used medicinally as far back as the Middle Ages. Cardamaro is favorite of mine and one that I use frequently behind the bar. If you have never experienced it, I highly recommend finding a bottle or a bar that serves it. It has a rich, warm complexity that goes perfect by itself or in a spirit-forward cocktail.

Add the end of the day this cocktail is my take on a classic Manhattan. I did add a sweetener to the mix so that does separate it from a pure-and-simple Manhattan variation. But none the less it will achieve a similar effect to those who belly-up to my bar willing to try it. The overall taste is strong, rich, complex, with a subtle bright-sweetness brought forth by the cardamom grenadine.


Night Ranger

1.5 oz Rittenhouse Bonded Rye

0.5 oz Cardamaro Vino Amaro

1 tsp cardamom grenadine*

1 dash Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters

Stir with ice for roughly 30 revolutions, strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a star anise.

*Cardamom Grenadine

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup pomegranate juice

1/8 cup toasted cardamom pods

Briefly toast cardamom pods and add to sugar/water mixture. Allow to come to a boil, then reduce to medium heat to simmer. Let simmer for approximately 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add pomegranate juice. Stir to mix thoroughly. Allow to cool and store in refrigerator. Will last 2 to 4 weeks.