Bourbon Feed

Warm Weather Drinking -- The Cool Summer Breeze #1 and #2

Warm weather calls for refreshing drinks.  This original creation incorporates fresh peaches, a classic summer fruit, with strong liquor and sweet honey to cool you down and take the edge off.  The difference between the Cool Summer Breezes lies only in the base spirit -- the #1 uses vodka, and the #2 uses bourbon.

Cool Summer Breeze2 ounces vodka or bourbon
3 teaspoons peach puree (roughly 1/2 peach)
1 ounce honey syrup

Combine in a shaker, shake with the force of a very stiff breeze, and strain into a chilled glass.

Peach puree sounds fancy, but it really isn't. To make it, remove the skin and pit from the peach, and then run the fruit through the blender. Blend the hell out of it.  The honey syrup is the same stuff that you use in A Thief In The Night.  Heat equal parts honey and water in a saucepan over medium heat, stir until the honey dissolves, and cool to room temperature. 

A Cool Summer Breeze goes with all sorts of music.  It depends on your mood.  Classical?  Vivaldi or pretty much anything from the Baroque period.  Classic rock?  Allman Brothers.  Hard rock that goes with the theme?  "Summer Nights" by Sammy Hagar era Van Halen.  Hard rock that uses the word peach (not in the context of the fruit)?  "Pour Some Sugar On Me" by Def Leppard or "Walk On Water" by Aerosmith.  Regardless of your musical tastes, a Cool Summer Breeze is just what you want on a warm day. So sit back and enjoy the Breeze!

Stealthy And Unexpected -- A Thief In The Night

Steal some fun! Commit larceny on your liver!  A Thief In The Night does both.  It has nothing to do with the Bible passage from which the phrase "a thief in the night" comes.  Instead, the A Thief In The Night is a creation from the people at Larceny Bourbon, who also created the Inside Job. Thanks to my bourbon aficionado friend Chuck for mentioning it to me.  I slightly adapted the recipe.

A Thief In The Night2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Averna
Juice from 1/4 lemon
.5 ounces honey syrup (see below)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the intensity of a burglar's pounding heartbeat, and strain into a chilled glass.

Averna is an excellent Sicilian amaro.  It is becoming easier to get in the United States.  I think it's quite good on its own, and it's a key component of cocktails such as the Lupara, the Amaro Amore, and the Lupo Voodoo.  As a practical matter, the A Thief In The Night essentially is a Midnight Train with honey syrup instead of super simple syrup.

So how do you make the honey syrup?  It's so easy even I can do it.  Heat equal parts water and honey in a saucepan over medium heat, stir until the honey dissolves (the mixture will retain the color), remove from the heat source, and then let the syrup cool to room temperature (wait at least one hour).

After you have A Thief In The Night, some of your liver cells and brain cells will be missing.  Better put their pictures on a milk carton.

Hats And Horse Races -- The Derby

Want a well balanced drink that pretty much goes with everything?  Meet the Derby.  It has nothing to do with the hat (also known as a bowler), the city in England, or the type of horse race, the most famous of which is in Kentucky.  Like the Mint Julep, the cocktail associated with the Kentucky Derby, the Derby has bourbon as its base spirit. 

Derby1.5 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces Cointreau or Grand Marnier
.75 ounces sweet vermouth
Juice from 1/4 lime

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're off to the races, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lime garnish optional.

There are a number of versions of the Derby.  I like this one because it's simultaneously a little strong, a little sweet, and a little tart.  It is deceptively powerful.  The Derby won't smack you in the face when you taste it, but a couple of them might smack your liver.

Show your appreciation of a fine cocktail, and tip your hat to the Derby.

Southpaws and Mobsters -- The Left Hand

The Left Hand honors Lefty Ruggiero, a key character in the underrated crime movie Donnie Brasco.  Johnny Depp stars as an undercover FBI agent who, known as the movie's titular character, infiltrates a New York City mob family.  Al Pacino plays Ruggiero, a mobster who unwittingly acts as a conduit for Brasco.  I discovered this drink in Scott Deitche's book Cocktail Noir.

Left Hand2 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces sweet vermouth (I recommend Carpano Antica)
.75 ounces Campari
2 dashes chocolate or molé bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the coolness of being among made men without being made as a rat, and strain into a chilled glass.

The Left Hand is a Boulevardier with chocolate or molé bitters.  The original uses mole bitters.  I know chocolate and mole are not exactly the same thing, but you're not going to go wrong with either one.

Donnie Brasco is very good at the depicting the tension and strain of operating as an undercover agent.  This scene is an example.   For movies with a similar theme, I highly recommend The Departed and Infernal Affairs, the Hong Kong movie upon which The Departed is based.

So what does the word "southpaw" have to do with this cocktail?  Southpaw is slang for a left hand.  The etymological origin of the word is hazy.  A prevailing theory is that the term originated in the 19th century.  At the time some baseball diamonds were laid out so home plate was on the west side (this kept the sun out of the batter's eyes), so a left handed pitcher's arm would hang south.  This means a left handed pitcher would use his "south paw."  For an entertaining cinematic soliloquy, watch Rocky Balboa explain it to Adrian (click here).

Even if you don't care about southpaws or mobsters, the Left Hand is a fine cocktail.  Capisce?


Drink More Whiskey? The Answer Is Yes.

There have been many elegant odes to whiskey.  This video from BuzzFeed isn't one of them.  But it is funny as hell.  One of my personal favorite lines -- "Whiskey is nobody's bitch."


Thanks to my wife, aka Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den, for seeing this on YouTube.  If (when) the video inspires you to have a whiskey based cocktail, click on the Bourbon, Rye, and Scotch links on the right.  You'll have plenty of options from which to choose.

Now that you've finished reading this, it's time to drink some whiskey.  Right?

A Drink For Goin' Anywhere -- The Midnight Train

Midnight TrainThe word "Midnight" or the phrase "Midnight Train" appears in a lot of great songs -- "Midnight Rider" by the Allman Brothers, "Midnight Train to Georgia" by Gladys Knight and the Pips, "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey (now the subject title should make sense), etc.  The Midnight Train cocktail has no relation to any of these tunes, but like them it is something to savor.  Many thanks to Alana Zanello at Jacoby's Restaurant and Mercantile in Austin for creating it.

1.5 ounces whiskey
.75 ounces Averna
Juice from 1/2 lemon
.75 ounces super simple syrup

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're heading down the tracks goin' anywhere, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lemon peel garnish optional.

The Midnight Train essentially is a Whiskey Sour plus Averna.  Averna, a Sicilian amaro, is great on its own, and you can use it in other drinks such as the Peligroso or the A Thief In The Night.  Zanello uses George Dickel, a fine Tennessee whiskey, as the base for the Midnight Train.  I've used bourbon and rye for the base whiskey. You're not going to go wrong with any of them.  The Midnight Train will get you to Georgia or anywhere, and they're not going to catch you because you will become the Midnight Rider.



Classically Sharp -- The Whiskey Sour

Old school done right can be a wonderful thing.  I'm not referring to the funny movie Old School (as fraternity movies go it is not nearly as good as the classic Animal House).  The Whiskey Sour appears to have originated a couple of centuries ago when British Royal Navy sailors combined whiskey and lemon in order to combat scurvy, which is due to a vitamin C deficiency.  Scurvy is not a modern problem, but a bad Whiskey Sour is.  It can go wrong quickly due to bad ingredients, bad technique, or both.  Go back to basics and use the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

Whiskey Sour2 ounces whiskey (see below)
.75 ounces lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
1 ounce super simple syrup

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're at the Delta Tau Chi toga party, or you're Gene Simmons rockin' out (this is the other KISS principle -- rock and roll all night and party every day), and strain into a chilled rocks (no pun intended) glass.  Lemon wedge garnish optional.

So what type of whiskey should you use in a Whiskey Sour?  Whichever one you like.  I prefer bourbon or rye. Not into whiskey? Use vodka and you more or less have a Lemon Drop. While the whiskey you use is important, using fresh lemon juice is critical.  None of this sour mix crap.  If someone tries to make you a Whiskey Sour without fresh lemon juice, run as if your liver depends on it. After all, life is too short to drink bad cocktails, right?

What's In Your Bourbon?

It's all about the mash bill.  This isn't the name of a rock band (although it could be).  The mash bill is the specific grain recipe for a whiskey.  If you read the Den post about bourbon being an alcoholic example of American Exceptionalism, you learned its mash bill must contain at least 51% corn.  

What happens once a bourbon distiller meets the 51% threshold?  In theory, almost anything. I recently found this article on the Bourbon Of The Day website.  The article provides an excellent overview of the four standard grains (corn,  barley, rye, and wheat) and the three general recipes (traditional, high rye, and wheat) distillers use to create their bourbons. As the article astutely notes, there can be a lot of variations not just with the proportions of the grains, but also with the grains themselves.

So, with apologies to the Capital One ad with Samuel L. Jackson, what's in your bourbon?

More Booze, Less Meth

No, the title isn't a modern adaptation of the old Miller Lite beer ad (for you younger readers, the slogan was Tastes Great, Less Filling).  It is my concise summary of a recent study from the University of Louisville. As described in a Washington Post article (click here to read it), dry counties in Kentucky had much higher rates of methamphetamine related crimes and lab seizures than moist or wet counties.  What's a moist county?  It is where the county only allows alcohol sales in certain areas.

Besides the tragic human and financial costs associated with meth, what really amazes me about this study is this -- residents of a state (ok, technically a commonwealth) that is the source of so much great bourbon can't purchase the product legally.  Talk about breaking bad.

The situation depicted in the study isn't just a Kentucky thing.  For example, the article describes a prior study showing drug related deaths decreased in Texas counties that changed from dry to wet.  I'm not calling for unregulated alcohol sales and irresponsible drinking.  Far from it.  To paraphrase a quote in the article, I'm just saying that prohibiting alcohol can lead to much worse things.  So everyone say it together -- more booze, less meth!

Fall Into Fall -- The Third Season

Today is the autumnal equinox (from the Latin for equal night), so after today the days get shorter and the nights get longer.   Earlier this month I promised to post two bourbon cocktails in honor of National Bourbon Heritage Month.  The first was the Kentucky Sunshine, and the Third Season is the second.  Celebrating fall with a Third Season, one of my original creations, is appropriate, timely, and tasty.

Third Season2.25 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces Lupo mirtillocello (blueberry liqueur)
2 dashes plum and root beer bitters from Bittered Sling
or 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with passion and grace as if you're conducting Vivaldi's Four Seasons (do I really need to tell you which one?), and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

If you don't want to bother making mirtillocello, my SWAG (sophisticated wild ass guess) is that you can substitute creme de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur, also used in cocktails such as the Bourbon Renaissance) for it.  Which bitters you use will make a difference.  While I prefer to use Bittered Sling's product for the Third Season, I recognize that it's much easier to get your hands on Angostura bitters.

Will the Third Season get you to third base with the one you love?  I make no guarantees and certainly don't want to know your answer.  Just don't have too much, as this powerful autumunal cocktail might throw off your autumnal equilibrium.