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Seltzer: Not Just for Stooges and Marx-ists

08/08/2011 12:17 pm ET | Updated Oct 08, 2011

I was reared on the sparkling stuff. Throughout my childhood, when thirst demanded to be slaked, a blue-topped bottle of Vintage brand seltzer was the natural choice as one was never too far from hand. Yes, seltzer and I go way back, and my fondness for it is wholehearted. Indeed, it might be my 'soft' beverage of choice, certainly beating out by many strides 'flat' water, or as the Spanish say (or may not say, but the phrase delights me like so many effervescent bubbles of carbonation), agua sin gas.

Nothing satisfies like seltzer, after all; the minuscule bubbles assail your parched throat, quenching while simultaneously encouraging you to guzzle down more, and quickly. The result is, inevitably, a guttural belch of profound satisfaction that disgusts one's companions even as it communicates to them, "Thirst lives here no more."

But for some reason or another, I'd never used it in a cocktail. In retrospect, my mind spins at this uncharacteristic oversight, as when I finally made myself a drink with the bristling libation, a Ward Eight out of Dave Wondrich's Imbibe*, I was tickled pink with pleasure. It's possible that this was due to the drink's actual fizz, but more likely because of the fact that the seltzer, rather than diluting the flavorful ingredients, simply lightened them, and imbued them with the delightfully revitalizing effect that bubbles have upon drinks: as the bubbles ascend to the heavens, so does your palate, borne skyward upon a raft of delectation.

I may exaggerate, but you be the judge. What follows is an approximation of the Joe Rickey, as bracing and refreshing a seltzer drink as one might hope to find and consume in the execrable, tyrannical heat of these wretched summer months.

Joe Rickey, adopted from Imbibe

Take one beer stein. Into it, squeeze at least one half of a lime, and at most one whole lime, depending on your preference for tart. Atop that, add between one and two shots (1.5 oz or 3 oz) bourbon or rye, although using a cheap, non-smoky scotch might bear a drink not so unpalatable at all. Toss in some ice cubes, or crush some cubes and toss them in. Fill the glass up to the brim with fresh (I can't stress this enough - the bubbles ought to be vivacious enough to take the paint off of a car) seltzer that may or may not be cold, but probably should be on the chillier side. Sip, and be thrilled.

Of course, as a result of the drink's simplicity, it begs for variance but please, be kind to it, and don't jack it up with syrups - if I'd wanted to describe a mixed-drink with soda, whiskey, and lime, I'd have told you to have a Jack & Coke Lime, complete with a Seaside Heights-worthy fist pump. But if you wanted to muddle some mint, fresh berries, perhaps dash in some bitters or float a small amount of sweet sherry on the drinks surface, I certainly wouldn't object, and don't think you would either.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I should inform you that I currently work for a company that purveys Wondrich's books.

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