Sweet Bourbon '71
It wasn't that long ago that I earned a living as a mixologist. Taking your classic cocktails and putting my twist on them. I started incorporating fresh herbs in cocktails and spinning an old favourite into a new favourite. I wasn't doing my job if I wasn't trying out new ideas and using fresh, seasonal products widely available to me.
I used to study the bartender's book like it was the bible. It was my book to survival behind the wood. I'd memorize drinks and cocktail combinations and, before long, I knew almost everything that gets ordered on a daily basis and then some. It wasn't long though until I became a bit complacent with the standard fare and usual cocktail classics. I started to mix things up.
I remember the first time I took the Classic Bloody Caesar and substituted Rye Whiskey for the old standard Vodka. I liked the smokey flavour of an aged whiskey and thought it blended with clamato juice without hiding behind it. It was like unlocking a secret that worked so well together that I now see it being ordered time and time again. I even mixed drinks with bacon, hot peppers, herbs and hand-squeezed juices. Yes, bacon. Much like in the kitchen, I was limited only by my own imagination.
Now I'm not claiming I was the first person to ever make that variation of the drink but I can say nobody had ever told me about it. That's the great thing with cocktails. Just like behind the stove, you can experiment with different liquors and mixes and fresh herbs. It may take quite a while to hit the right tone, but when you do you'll instantly know it. Your cocktail will be smooth, fragrant and have an infusion of flavour not normally tasted before. Try it out and you may stumble upon the next big cocktail trend.
I hapen to love the taste of bourbon. It's been years in the making and it's definitely an acquired taste but it's the bouquet and flavour that draws me in. A good bourbon has a delicate but full bouquet with a caramel aroma and a hint of vanilla. It's rich in flavour and soft on your palette and should be refreshing and distinctive. Personally, I prefer Maker's Mark and Woodford Reserve when picking out my bourbon for drinking and making cocktails.
Recently I made a signature cocktail called the Sweet Bourbon '71 and it has a great aroma and a sweet and savoury flavour. The recipe follows:
Sweet Bourbon '71
2 oz. Maker's Mark Bourbon
2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
4 oz. Orange Juice
1 oz. Gingerale
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. maple syrup
2 thyme sprigs
1. Add fresh thyme to maple syrup and honey in a shaker and muddle vigorously. Add in the remainder of the ingredients to the shaker and fill with ice and stir until well combined.
2. Strain into a low ball glass with 3 ice cubes and float a sprig of fresh thyme over top.