When it comes to smooth drinks that define the Prohibition Era, the sidecar is a timeless selection. The traditional mix of Cognac, triple sec, and fresh lemon juice is a recipe that bartenders constantly tinker with while tempting the next generation of drinkers, which is why the sidecar was a perfect fit for the menu at Montana’s Trail House (455 Troutman Street, Brooklyn; 917-966-1666). The restaurant names its cocktails after Comic Con culture and was looking for a way to honor Star Trek.
Beverage director Austin Hartman, who creates the drinks for the Western-inspired spot in Bushwick, settled on First Officer William Riker, the sharp-tongued bearded warrior who eventually becomes commanding officer of the USS Titan. Perhaps it was the character’s nature — strong, with a stratum of sweetness tucked away under his maroon Starfleet uniform — or just the fact that the words “sidecar” and “Riker” practically rhyme. In any event, Hartman’s creation, the “Commander Ryecar,” is a fine example of a character-driven cocktail.
“We like to use as many local spirits as possible throughout our drink menu,” Hartman tells the Voice. Hartman uses New York Distilling Company’s Rock & Rye, which gives the concoction a slight cinnamon-spice kick.
The rye is sweet by nature, made with cinnamon bark, rock candy sugar, bing cherries, and a citrus component. The use of cinnamon is important, and Hartman also coats the glass’s rim with a cinnamon-sugar blend to carry the taste of the spice throughout. Hartman experimented with using only the Rock & Rye, but he found that adding Old Overholt helped cut the sweetness and made the beverage more balanced.
The drink also has a special meaning for Hartman, as it was one of the first classic cocktails he learned to make at his first gig in New York, at the Hotel Delmano in Williamsburg. “That place, the caliber of Delmano, it’s a very particular form of operation. I definitely learned so much,” Hartman says.
The beauty of the drink is that while it’s designed for lovers of rye whiskey’s heat, it includes enough in the way of light citrus notes that it isn’t too booze-heavy on top. As for the use of Peychaud’s bitters? Hartman notes the ingredient was deployed to help give the tipple a reddish hue, to match Riker’s uni. For those Star Trek aficionados looking for a cocktail with a temporal causality time-loop, find the recipe below (wearing the appropriate Star Trek costume while drinking it is optional).
Commander Ryecar by Austin Hartman
1 ounce Rock & Rye whiskey
1 ounce Old Overholt rye whiskey
1 ounce Amara blood orange liqueur
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
Dash of Peychaud’s bitters
For the rim of the glass:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
To start, mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
Add both ryes, blood orange liqueur, lemon juice, and ice to a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Before pouring the cocktail into the glass, coat the rim with lemon juice, then dip in the bowl containing the cinnamon-sugar blend.
Strain ingredients from cocktail shaker into glass. Add a few drops of Peychaud’s bitters. Turn on Star Trek.