The rising number of small craft distilleries in the United States has produced plenty of delicious spirits, but there are few that have been around long enough to have much of a history. That is not the case, though, with Templeton, an Iowa-based producer of rye whiskey that has a pretty colorful back story.
The modern, and legal, version of Templeton Rye has its roots in Prohibition, the much-loathed national ban on alcoholic beverages that lasted from 1920 to 1933. The local folks in the tiny farm town of Templeton, Iowa, thought Prohibition was such a bad idea that they defied it, producing a bootleg rye of such high quality that it became (according to company legend) the favorite of its national distributor: a Chicago-based liquor “entrepreneur” named Al Capone.
Today’s Templeton Rye, which hit the market in 2006, is said to be based on the recipe (90 percent rye, 10 percent malted barley) that was used to make the high-class hooch during the Roaring Twenties.
And that history also plays into the name of the upscale hot toddy recipe that Michael Killmer, Templeton Rye’s brand manager, provided for a roundup of warm winter cocktails that is running in the new issue of Edible Chicago magazine. (To obtain this issue or subscribe to Edible Chicago, click here.)
This bracing drink -- which combines Templeton Rye with the Italian digestif Averna and orange herbal tea -- is called Monsignor Gretteman’s Cough Medicine. This refers to a story related by Louie Lauritsen, a senior resident of Templeton, on a video produced in 2008 for the distillery's archives.
Lauritsen said that his father told him that during Prohibition, he attended the funeral of a local priest named Father Gretteman. At the funeral, another priest told him that it was a shame, because Father Gretteman was an excellent source of the good “cough medicine.” It turned out that “cough medicine” was code for Templeton’s good rye whiskey.
Here then, is Killmer’s recipe. Make one of these on a cold winter night, and maybe watch a DVR of The Untouchables. Just this once, at least, you may end up rooting for the bad guys.
1.5 oz. Templeton Rye Whiskey
1 oz. Averna
5 oz. orange-flavored herbal tea (such as Tazo’s Wild Sweet Orange)
Prepare the hot tea, add to the whiskey and Averna, and stir.