Bourbon Feed

B Is For Bravo -- The Boulevardier

The Boulevardier was an English language literary magazine in Paris in the 1920s. Erskine Gwynne, the editor, was a loyal customer of Harry McElhone, who founded the eponymous Harry's New York Bar. Even though it's not clear if Gwynne or McElhone created the Boulevardier, McElhone mentioned it in a footnote in his 1927 book Barflies and Cocktails.

Boulevardier1 ounce bourbon
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce Campari

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with some American je ne sais quoi, and strain into a chilled glass. Lemon or orange peel garnish optional.

Fundamentally a Boulevardier is a Negroni with bourbon instead of gin. Another way of viewing it is that it's a modified Manhattan with Campari instead of Angostura bitters. Like other cocktails such as the Old Pal (which McElhone created for another one of his loyal customers), the Bijou, and the Last Word, the Boulevardier is a bartender’s dream because of its simple ratio and short ingredient list. If you want to emphasize the bourbon, a variation I like uses one and half ounces of bourbon and .75 ounces each of the sweet vermouth and Campari. The Boulevardier lends itself to tinkering. For example, add some molé bitters, and you have a Left Hand.

Looking for a simple and laudable cocktail? Have a Boulevardier and look no further.


M Is For Magnificent -- The Manhattan

For such a consistently popular cocktail, the Manhattan doesn’t have a consistent origin story.  The only consensus is that it originated in New York City’s most famous borough no later than 1882. While the Manhattan Club may have created the cocktail (or at least took credit for it), some sources identify an unknown bartender at the Hoffman House bar as the creator. Surviving Prohibition and the changing tastes of the drinking public, the Manhattan deserves its reputation as a classic cocktail.

Manhattan2 ounces bourbon or rye
1 ounce sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with energy and style worthy of New York City, and strain into a chilled glass, preferably martini or coupe. Orange peel and/or Luxardo cherry garnish optional.

The Manhattan is a remarkably flexible cocktail. The 2:1 ratio between the bourbon or rye and sweet vermouth isn't set in stone. Depending on the whiskey's strength and the drinker's preferences, you may want to adjust the ratio. As with other drinks cocktails calling for vermouth, e.g. the Martini, make sure your vermouth is fresh. With the proliferation of bitters on the market, you can use different bitters and have equally spectacular results.

Can you have a lot of fun experimenting with the Manhattan? There's one way to find out.


Celebratory and Solemn -- The Ray's 619

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865 (some Americans would write the date as 6/19). On that day enslaved people became legally free in Texas, so slavery became outlawed throughout the United States (permanently banning slavery, the 13th Amendment was ratified later). My close friend Doug asked me to create a Juneteenth cocktail in memory of his late colleague Ray, whom I did not know.

Ray's 6191.5 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces Aperol
.75 ounces glorious grenadine
Juice from 1/4 lemon (.5 ounces)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the excitement you would feel as if you learned you were finally free, and strain into a chilled glass. Strawberry or other red fruit garnish optional.

Think of the Ray's 619 as an enhanced Whiskey Sour. Bourbon is the base because it is legally an American spirit. I used Aperol, which pairs nicely with bourbon in cocktails such as the Paper Plane, for two reasons. First, it is red. So what? Like many Americans, I largely was ignorant about Juneteenth until relatively recently. Among other things, I learned red is a big color for Juneteenth related food and drinks. It symbolizes the blood spilled during slavery, as well as African crops such as hibiscus. Second, Aperol's bittersweet taste fits right in with what the day is all about. Grenadine, which is dark red, brings some sweetness to the Ray's 619, and the lemon juice adds some tartness.

Raise a Ray's 619, and honor what (and who, if you knew the man) it represents.


A High Flying Drink -- The Paper Plane

You may have made and thrown one as a kid. As an adult, you can drink one. The Paper Plane flew onto the scene in 2008 when Sam Ross, the New York City bartender who created the Penicillin, created it for the opening of The Violet Hour bar in Chicago. Named for the M.I.A. song Paper Planes, it took off in Chicago and New York and made its way onto cocktail menus around the world.

Paper Plane.75 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces Amaro Nonino
.75 ounces Aperol
Juice from 1/2 lemon (.75 ounces)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake to the theme from Rocky (the tune's title is "Gonna Fly Now"), and strain into a chilled glass, preferably a coupe. Lemon peel garnish optional.

Following the equal proportions of four ingredients format of the Last Word, the Paper Plane is easy to make (the same goes for the Naked and Famous). Bourbon and Aperol, used in cocktails such as the Venetian Kiss, are easy to acquire. Amaro Nonino, a bittersweet grappa based amaro from northern Italy, can be tougher to find, but thankfully we have the Internet. Originally the Paper Plane used Campari, but within days of unveiling it Ross changed his mind and used Aperol instead. The result is a really well balanced cocktail. In terms of balance and format, the Paper Plane more resembles the thematically similar Burnt Fuselage than the Aviation.

Looking to rack up some cocktail frequent flier miles? Then it's time to board the Paper Plane.


A Drink Of Pride -- The Lion's Tail

There are many myths about lions. For example, they don't have a king (sorry Disney fans) or live in jungles. One truth is a lion family is known as a pride. The Lion's Tail first appeared in 1937 in the Café Royal Cocktail Book. Reputable sources speculate an American expat bartender created the Lion's Tail in Britain during Prohibition, and the expression "twisting the lion's tail" originally referred to provoking Britain (a lion is on its coat of arms). 

Lion's Tail 22 ounces bourbon
.5 ounces allspice dram
.5 ounces super simple syrup
Juice from 1/2 lime
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the power of a lion's roar, and strain into a chilled glass, preferably a coupe. Lime peel garnish optional.

Mixing common and uncommon ingredients, the Lion's Tail works better than you might think. Its use of bourbon,  legally an American spirit, supports the theory the Lion's Tail had an American creator. Incorporating allspice dram, a rum based liqueur you'll see in the Donna Maria or my Les Bon Temps Roulé, gives the Lion's Tail a vague tropical vibe. Similarly, Angostura bitters originated in Venezuela and has called Trinidad & Tobago home for more than a century.

A Lion's Tail -- it's hakuna matata for your liver and spirit.


When You Had To Go Through THAT -- The Time I'll Never Get Back

It could be a meeting. A movie. A date. A year (I'm looking at you, 2020). After it's over you're just stunned, annoyed, or something else. The Time I'll Never Get Back is the antidote to that feeling. The Wulf Cocktail Den has a tradition of unveiling a new drink in the new year. Considering the general catastrophe that was 2020, at the dawn of 2021 the Time I'll Never Get Back continues this tradition.

Time I'll Never Get Back2 ounces bourbon or rye
.5 ounces sweet vermouth
.5 ounces triple sec
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with a sigh of relief, and strain into a chilled glass.

Veteran cocktail enthusiasts, and most novice ones, immediately will see the Time I'll Never Get Back is a simple variation on a Manhattan. Using Old Tom gin instead of bourbon or rye makes the drink a riff off a Martinez. To use one of my favorite drink euphemisms, the Time I'll Never Get Back is "alcohol forward." That's deliberate. If you want to try to erase or suppress the memory of wasted time, why waste your time on a watered down drink?

The Time I'll Never Get Back lends itself to experimentation. The type of whiskey will use will make a difference. So will the triple sec, a term that generally refers to orange liqueurs. For example, I'm a big fan of Cointreau, which I use in the 24601, but I figure Grand Marnier, an indispensable part of the Burnt Fuselage, also works quite well.

Spend some time with a Time I'll Never Get Back, and you won't want the experience to end.


A True Cocktail -- The Old Fashioned

Originally known as a Whiskey Cocktail, Americans started ordering the Old Fashioned in the first half of the 19th century. The history behind the name is unclear. The earliest clear reference to the Old Fashioned is in an 1880 Chicago newspaper article, and within 15 years cocktail books used the same name to describe the same drink. The name change may have occurred when many drinkers, confronted with evolving and more complex cocktails, demanded a return to the days of simpler drinks.

Old Fashioned2 ounces bourbon or rye
.25 ounces super simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with some old fashioned fun, and strain into a rocks glass over ice. Orange peel garnish optional.

Why do I describe the Old Fashioned as a true cocktail? Besides its iconic status in the cocktail world, the Old Fashioned meets the technical, modern definition of a cocktail -- it consists of a spirit, sugar, water (the ice), and bitters. For the spirit, some people insist you only can use bourbon in an Old Fashioned, while others insist you only can use rye. My suggestion? Try making two Old Fashioneds, one with each spirit, and see which one you like. I prefer using simple syrup instead of muddling a sugar cube with the bitters and a little water. I'm not a fan of adding fruit to the Old Fashioned, because in my opinion fruit detracts from the drink's elegant simplicity.

Sometimes the term “old fashioned” can be derogatory and refer to something that should be consigned to the dustbins of history. The Old Fashioned is the glorious opposite.


Stealing A Stylish Drink -- The Larceny And Old Lace

Not to be confused with the dark comedy movie Arsenic and Old Lace starring Cary Grant, the Larceny and Old Lace is a variation on the Manhattan. It was consumed in the movie The Great Gatsby (the remake with Leonardo DiCaprio, not the original with Robert Redford).  My fellow cocktailian Michael Bounds, who created the Ides of March, introduced me to the Larceny and Old Lace.

Larceny and Old Lace1.5 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces sweet vermouth
.75 ounces Cynar

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with a suave and possibly criminal demeanor, and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange peel or amarena cherry garnish optional.

Considering the name of this drink, you can use Larceny bourbon, featured in the A Thief In The Night and the Inside Job, but you don't have to. Use whatever bourbon you prefer. As always, the sweet vermouth should be reasonably fresh.  So what's Cynar?  It's an Italian artichoke flavored amaro.  If you're thinking "artichoke, that's disgusting," then you and Ms. Cocktail Den agree. But here's the thing -- she enjoyed Cynar.  If you like artichokes as I do, you'll definitely enjoy Cynar. The Cynar gives the Larceny and Old Lace a subtle vegetable undertone, which tastes much better than it sounds.

The Larceny and Old Lace can go on your Most Wanted list of criminal themed cocktails such as the Scofflaw, the Racketeer, and the Jack Rose. To paraphrase an old line, if you can make the time, do the Larceny and Old Lace as a cocktail crime.


A Drink For Rogues And Scoundrels -- The Suffering Bastard

These days the Suffering Bastard is known as a tiki drink like the Mai Tai, but its roots date back to the North African front during World War II.  Joe Scialom, head bartender at the Hotel Shepheard (not a misspelling) in Cairo, created the Suffering Bastard as a hangover cure. Facing a devastating defeat, British troops requested mass quantities of the libation. Scialom delivered, the British held the line at the Battle of El Alamein, and the Allies ultimately prevailed. Like Frank Meier, the creator of the Bee's Knees, Scialom was part Jewish and played a role in defeating the Nazis.

Suffering Bastard1 ounce bourbon
1 ounce gin
Juice from ¼ lime
1 dash Angostura bitters
.5 ounces ginger liqueur (optional)
Ginger beer

Combine everything except the ginger beer in a shaker with ice, shake with the fury of a fighting bastard, strain into a chilled glass (preferably rocks or highball), and top with ginger beer.  Lemon or lime peel garnish optional.

Bourbon and gin looks like an odd combination for the base of a cocktail.  It is.  But it works.  If you like ginger like I do, ginger liqueur is a great addition to the Suffering Bastard. I’m a big fan of Barrow’s Intense (full disclosure – I'm a very small investor), and if you use it you'll have an Intense Suffering Bastard. Most ginger beers on the market are non-alcoholic, and I suggest using one here. Just like its creator, the Suffering Bastard is intriguing.  Scialom led a storied and itinerant life, as after the war he plied his craft at some of the top hotels in San Juan, Havana, and New York.

Are you a suffering bastard?  Do you want to make a bastard suffer? Then raise a glass to Joe Scialom and have a Suffering Bastard.


A Cocktail "Cure" For COVID-19 -- The Flattening Curve

The COVID-19 causing coronavirus affects all of us. When there's a dangerous pandemic, it's natural to want a cocktail or two. "Flattening the curve" refers to the epidemiological model of trying to have infections over a longer period of time. This is a good thing. A flatter curve means less sickness and death because there's less stress on health care systems. Inspired by my Cancer Killer #1 and Cancer Killer #2, I give you another original creation, the Flattening Curve.

Flattening Curve1.5 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Aperol or Campari
.25 ounces super simple syrup
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with resolute determination, and strain into a chilled glass.  Serve straight (get it?) up if you can.

The Flattening Curve will not cure COVID-19 or destroy the coronavirus. I wish it could. The amaro in the Flattening Curve is the variable. Aperol, used in drinks such as my Venetian Kiss and the Naked and Famous, is lighter than Campari, used in drinks such as my Scandinavian Suntan and the traditional Negroni. Which one you use depends on your personal preference and/or what you have in your home. Designed to have ingredients many people stuck at home might have, the Flattening Curve is sort of an amaro enhanced Old Fashioned.

We're all in this together, so have a Flattening Curve at home and flatten the curve together.