Last weekend was the 140th Kentucky Derby, an event I always celebrate because its just so darn fun.
The food. The fashion. The fastest two minutes in sports…
I didn’t make by signature pecan pie this year, but the Hubs and I did make mint juleps. We bought some less-expensive bourbon for mixing juleps, and I have quite a bit left over. If we’d bought the really good stuff, I wouldn’t be thinking about cocktail recipes, I’d just be drinking it on the rocks. I’m just not feeling any more juleps–I think they are a little too sweet for me. I started thinking about what kinds of other cocktails I could make with bourbon.
Earlier this week, I was thinking about this post and what I could use the rest of my bourbon to make. I was just scrollin’ my Facebook feed, and ran across my friend, Sara’s, pic of her set-up for making an authentic Old Fashioned. Bingo!
An Old Fashioned really is kind of an old school cocktail, made from sugar, bitters and bourbon, and garnished with an orange rind and cherry. I’m so sucked into Mad Men right now, and these have always seemed so Don Draper-y to me. Especially the way Sara made them. Super fancy. Way fancier than mine would have been, in fact. So I asked her to share her process for making them, which I’m sharing with you. The cherries make all the difference in this recipe.
This recipe comes from the “Hotel Diplomat” in Stockholm Sweden:
Items needed- Bourbon (we used Buffalo Trace), soda water, sugar cube, Luxardo Cherries, Orange rind, Angostura Aromatic Bitters, Angostura Orange Bitters, pestle, beaker, Block/cube ice, Old Fashioned Glass.
1) Place sugar cube on a napkin and saturate with both Angostura Aromatic and Orange bitters. Place in Beaker.
2) Add approximately 3 tablespoons club soda to beaker and break up sugar cube with pestle. Stir until diluted.
3) Add a large cube of ice to the glass (preferably one that fits the whole glass)**
4) Pour the club soda mixture into the glass and add a teaspoon of Luxardo Cherry juice and add cherry*
5) Add a shot (or two) of bourbon.
6) Slice a small orange rind and twist into glass and rim (some people actually light it with a match and let the oils “pop” onto the glass. Add rind to drink.
*Luxardo Cherries go back to their Italian roots. Produced in Luxardo, Italy, these cherries are nothing like the bright red orbs you find in cocktails from workaday bars. Dense and chewy with a sweet-tart flavor, these maraschino cherries are made with prized sour marasca cherries preserved in the fruit’s famed liqueur. These are expensive, but they’re worth every penny. They are absolutely, positively the best cherries you will ever taste. Everyone hates maraschino cherries as they are usually sweet and taste like candy, but these have a deep, complex flavor that are unlike anything you have ever tasted.
**To get a good ice cube, boil water and freeze it in a plastic container (this will make the ice cube clear and not cloudy). Break it out and chip it until you get the desired size you need.
A lot of people seem to be turned off by bourbon. I know at one time I didn’t think I liked bourbon. But a trip to Louisville and a couple bourbon tastings later, I found “my” bourbon. And, true to form, I decided I liked one of the most expensive kinds. Maker’s Mark is pretty good, but have you ever tried Maker’s 46? I think they called it that because it is approximately $46 for a fifth. All kidding aside, this bourbon will knock your socks off. Delicious. And there was a time I didn’t think I would ever say that about bourbon.
Did you know that bourbon is a protected product? Meaning bourbon can ONLY be made in the United States (and some purists maintain, can only be made in Kentucky). It must be at least 51% corn and aged in charred oak barrels. Generally, bourbon can be aged for any length of time, and the longer, the greater depth of flavor. However, straight bourbon must be aged a minimum of two years.
On the way to Louisville, we toured a couple distilleries that are part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. It is a network of bourbon distilleries that visitors can tour and buy spirits at. I think there might even be organized tours visiting all of them, but we just stopped in at a couple of them. I find it fascinating that there is a product so universally enjoyed that is still made from the same few simple ingredients and in the same way that it was 150 years ago. I was surprised how “low tech” the operation was at Woodford Reserve, the distillery we took a tour of. Mother nature does most of the heavy lifting in their operations.
If they could make a perfume that smelled the way the rack house smells and bottle it, I swear, I’d wear it. Wow. The rack houses are purposely not climate-controlled because it’s the natural swing in temperature that causes the bourbon to expand and contract through that charred oak, which gives bourbon it’s distinctive flavor.
I’m not saying you have to tour the Bourbon trail or visit a distillery to really appreciate bourbon. Just keep an open mind if you initially scrunched up your nose at the thought of drinking bourbon. It is an acquired taste, and there are dozens of cocktails you can enjoy it in once you find a bourbon you like. Just keep tasting until you find it.
Special shout out to Sara Jones for providing her photo and text for this post!
The legal jargon: This was not a sponsored post. (Unfortunately) Neither I nor Sara received any free bourbon to write this post. Or any other consideration.