Break out the big cubes; we’re celebrating bourbon this month! September is National Bourbon Heritage Month, thirty days of tribute to American-made fine distilled corn mash. My love for bourbon is a relatively new thing – I couldn’t stand the stuff in college – but I became a convert and an apologist with my first glass of neat Bulleit Bourbon 10 Year. Spicy, smooth, sweet and sumptuous, it’s no wonder that September, the last full month of summer, is the perfect month to celebrate this spirit. We spend the hot months of July and August drinking fresh margaritas, frosty vodka concoctions, boat drinks, and chilled wines because a cold, sweating glass is the best accompaniment to a sticky summer night. In September, though, we get our first taste of autumn when the evenings cool down and the sunsets turn the backyard golden. Our grilling season is still in full swing this month, and I love sitting on the deck with a glass of good bourbon and a big cube just soaking up the ebbing summer sun while the dogs play and Chris makes sure that our dinner doesn’t get too charred. To honor the distillers who craft the bourbons that help us transition from summer into fall, we wanted to share with you a few of our favorite bottles, cocktails, and infusions to try in your neck of the woods. We’ll also be serving up a bourbon cocktail that captures the last tastes of summer at this month’s Orange Door supper.
Bourbon Cocktail to Try: The (Dry) Boulevardier
This simple flapper-era cocktail mixes together two of my favorites – bitter aperitif and sweet bourbon – for a balanced pre-meal sipper. I've swapped Dry Vermouth for Sweet Vermouth and served on the rocks for a riff on tradition that’s not as sweet as the original Boulevardier.
Fill a rocks glass with a couple of ice cubes or one large cube, depending on what you have frozen. Pour the bourbon, dry vermouth and Campari into a mixing glass filled 2/3 full with ice (cubes) and stir until chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into the prepared rocks glass and garnish with an orange twist. Pro Tip: twist the orange peel over the drink to release the citrus oils, and then run the twist along the rim of the glass before dropping it into the liquid.
1 ½ ounces Woodford Reserve bourbon
¾ ounce dry vermouth
¾ ounce Campari
Twist of orange peel, for garnish
Bourbon Infusion to Try: Dried Pear, Vanilla & Ginger
We first tasted pear-infused bourbon at a friend’s wedding a few years back and wondered how in the world we had missed out on hand-crafted infused brown spirits for so long. In the Orange Door kitchen, we’ve added spice and depth to the pear flavor by combining the dried fruit with ginger and vanilla. The end result is best enjoyed on the rocks, reduced and drizzled over ice cream, or mixed up into a cocktail with additional spices and sparkling white wine (click here for some inspiration).
Add pears, ginger and vanilla bean to a squeaky clean wide-mouth mason jar. Top the solid ingredients with the bourbon, lid your jar tightly, and place in a cool, dark place. Gently shake or stir your infusion once or twice a day to encourage flavor melding. Taste a little bit every day to see how it’s coming along…your infusion is done when it tastes good to you. Dried pears and vanilla bean can sit in bourbon basically forever, but the addition of fresh ginger will hasten the development of flavor and also reduce the refrigerator life from “indefinite” to “several months.” We found that our batch was ready in about 10 days. When your infusion is done, strain it through a sieve and then filter through a coffee filter to remove all the particulate and sediment. Try a piece of now-plump pear…you might like it!
½ cup chopped dried pears
3 slices fresh peeled ginger
1 dried vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups Jim Beam (or more expensive stuff if you want to get fancy)
* For more on infusions (bourbon and other), check out this awesome post from Northwest Edible Life (link)
Bourbon Bottles to Try
If you, like me, do not get paid to serve, sell, or write about liquor, it’s hard to remember the differences between bottles. You order a glass out at a restaurant to “try something new,” find that you love it, and then completely forget what you had the next day. Such is the life of a casual consumer. That being said, we at Orange Door do have a few favorite go-to bourbons that we will always remember and hope you will try.
Stock your Bar (Neat or OTR): Four Roses Single Barrel
Stock your Bar (Infusions & Cocktails): Jim Beam
Give as a Gift (Cool Bottle, Very Drinkable): Angel's Envy
Order a Glass (Save your Wallet): Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year