I have my bourbon drinking friends, and the rest of my friends. So, recently, I hosted a happy hour for mostly the “rest of my friends” and served nothing but bourbon. Neat. Luckily, they were an adventurous group, but many vehemently disclaimed upon entering the soiree, “I don’t drink bourbon.” What got everyone tasting and many converting to bourbon lovers was the structure of the event as a blind tasting competition with prizes. The over achievers bit like carp on a dough ball.
I selected 3 bourbons, each of which represented one of the common types of bourbon, and all in about the $25-30 range: (1) rye heavy mash bill (Bulleit); (2) wheat heavy mash bill (Larceny); and (3) traditional mash bill (Knob Creek). The mash bill is the combination of grains used to produce bourbon. To be bourbon, there must be at least 51% corn, but what makes up the remaining 49% of the grains is up to the distiller. Typically, there is a combination of rye, wheat and barley. And of course, corn can be in the remaining part, too.
For the tasting, I covered the bottles in paper bags and numbered them. Then I passed out tasting cards which allowed guests to note their impressions of the bourbons. I gave some hints as to what each type of bourbon would taste like. Wheated bourbons are typically smoother and sweeter. Rye heavy bourbons are all about the bite and the spice. And traditional are somewhere in between. That is a gross generalization that will make the experts on bourbon jump up and down and scream, but I was dealing with novices, okay? I also gave everyone a taste of a straight rye to compare.
Out of 20 tasters, 3 accurately guessed the mash bills and 3 got none of them right. And I don’t recall anyone hating the experience. In fact, several people commented that it was their first time they enjoyed bourbon. The best part of the night was that people made new friends, talked about bourbon and more, and did it in a safe non-judgey environment.
Host your own tasting party. You can try different mash bills, or maybe the same bourbon, but different ages. Or try rums from different islands. Or different types of gin. Or compare bourbon to scotch to Irish whisky. But the bottom line is have fun.
I’m all about DIY, especially on busy days like holidays when you’re slaving in the kitchen getting the massive buffet ready. Make cocktailing easy on yourself and your guests by setting up a booze and juice bar this Easter. The combinations are endless, but I recommend picking two of the clear spirits, like vodka, gin, tequila, or rum, all of which mix nicely with juices. Then, spend a little extra time squeezing fresh juices, like grapefruit and orange. Unfortunately pomegranante is out of season and I have no idea how to squeeze cranberries, so pick up nice versions of those. Then cut up a few garnishes and let your guests channel their inner bartender. Some common combinations are:
Screwdriver: vodka + orange juice
Greyhound: vodka (or gin) + grapefruit juice
Salty Chihuahua: tequila + grapefruit juice
Cape Codder: vodka + cranberry juice
The bottom line is, have fun and empower your guests to experiment.
So, who’s making a lamb cake? I am!
Summer is still here which means simple and refreshing drinks headline cocktail hour. One of the most versatile summer coolers is any variation of the “Buck.” Most people are familiar with the vodka version, a Moscow Mule.
And this is exactly where I was last week. Experiencing the Northwest’s unusually hot summer, I longed for a refreshing break from unpacking after an arduous move. Box cutter in hand, I slashed through cardboard to locate the booze and my Moscow Mule mugs. But they looked so dingy. And depressing. So, instead of unpacking my office, I scurried down the block to the grocery store and picked up some ginger beer, limes and lemons.
My procrastination had a purpose. I halved a lemon, then dipped it liberally in margarita salt (because I didn’t have my box of Kosher salt handy — it was hiding in some other random moving carton). The salted lemon magically transformed into a copper polisher. There’s some chemistry involved, and maybe if I cared, I’d research it, but I don’t. I prefer to think of it as magic.
With very little effort, I spiffed up my mugs and with even less effort I crafted my favorite version of the Buck, the Burro which is made with tequila, ginger beer and lime. For idea and recipes, check out my blog from last summer.
Cheers! Keep the drinks flowing and the serving vessels sparkling this summer.