I’ve yet to mention scotch on this blog. There are a couple of reasons why. One: Bourbon exists, so what’s the point? Two: Scotch precipitates a taste-memory flashback to my first year of living in New York, specifically the hours between midnight and 5 a.m. of that year, a year I’m happy to leave fuzzy, hazy and behind.
Back then I was interning at a magazine during the day, waiting tables at the now-defunct Bottom Line at night, then spending several hours and most of the tips I’d just earned at some of Greenwich Village’s finest last-ditch saloons along with my Bottom Line co-workers, most of whom I haven’t been able to recall by name for over a decade. My go-to drink during those lost mornings was scotch and soda — a highball I settled on solely because it was the most grown-up-seeming thing I could think of to order. I was 22, recently graduated from a fancy-name college and hanging with middle-aged, stage-crew guys sporting frazzled, gray hair and incomplete sets of teeth. I wanted to fit in.
I suppose that’s all nothing to be too embarrassed about, but as far as the scotch-and-sodas were concerned, I was drinking them for all the wrong reasons. Chief among those wrong reasons: I hated the way they tasted, like dirt and unscrupulousness and sock sweat. (Mind you, these scotch-and-sodas were made with no-name, bottom-shelf scotch, natch.)
So when Sean put a Pan Am in my hand recently and told me to take a sip, you can imagine my surprise when the first thing I said was, “This actually tastes like scotch,” and that I said so with a smile across my face. What it actually tastes like is a bright, unmuddied scotch full of pep and character; in the book from which this recipe is adapted, the author calls it “Mexican firewater meets Kentucky hooch.” Either way, the Pan Am is a serviceable highball, uncomplicated but not simple, a great sipper that you can (and should! this is high-octane stuff!) take your time to enjoy.
The Pan Am
(Adapted from Mini Bar: Tequila: A Little Book of Big Drinks, by Mittie Hellmich)
1 ounce Sauza Tequila Anejo Conmemorativo
1 ounce Buffalo Trace bourbon
1/4 ounce simple syrup
3 dashes of Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients into an ice-filled highball glass, stir briskly for a few seconds and serve.
The original recipe calls for mezcal instead of tequila; we don’t have the former at home, so we subbed in the latter.