It looks like any of those other cheap bottles of whisky commonly lurking within your uncle/dad/grandpa’s liquor cabinet.
Until very recently I completely overlooked Alberta Premium, assuming it was no different from Canadian Club, Gibson’s, Seagram’s, Royal Reserve, Crown Royal and the legion of other ryes that are the ubiquitous and uninspiring backbone of highballs across the Canadian prairies. Happily, I was so wrong: Alberta Premium is a serious cut above all of those.
While researching my recent spirits column for Vue I delved into the territory of Canadian whisky. It’s recognizably different from whiskies made elsewhere in the world; we often call it simply “rye” because a lot of our whiskies are made from that grain: a cold-hardy crop that grows well in our frigid corner of the world. But while that held true in the past, rye grain now plays a small – sometimes almost negligible – role in most Canadian whiskies; we still call it rye out of habit, but most of it is predominantly made of corn – which explains that frequent raw edge I often detect/sputter on.
Jim Murray consistently gives Alberta Premium 95 points in his annual Whisky Bible; he’s also granted it the title of Best Canadian Whisky quite a few times. I give it a hearty endorsement as a solid, inexpensive staple of your cocktail cabinet. I tried a shot neat: totally drinkable. Over ice it’s even smoother. Then I made a whisky smash with it, and hot damn that shit is good.
Cocktail Recipe: Rye Smash
2 oz Alberta Premium rye whisky
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp to 1 tbsp simple syrup, to taste
Muddle 2-3 mint leaves in a highball glass. Pour the rye, lemon juice and simple syrup into a glass filled with ice and stir for about a minute. Add a couple ice cubes to the highball glass with the muddled mint and pour in the rye mixture. Garnish with a sprig of mint.