Tag Archives: bourbon

Bar Stool Fridays – Soothing Toddy

With fall officially here, it is time to indulge in one of my cool weather favorites…the hot toddy.  It is a much needed balm when it is damp and cold and I’m recovering from a sinus infection.  The warm alcoholic drink soothes my sore throat and warms me all over.

You can use any type of spirit for your hot toddy.  The traditional recipe is a mix of whiskey, hot water, sugar, and lemon or orange.  I recommend you avoid the cheapest bottles, though.  I think the heat can make the alcohol taste even sharper, so I go with one of my favorite (and affordable) standbys – Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon.

Bourbon Hot Toddy
Makes 1 drink

lemon slice studded with cloves
1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
pinch of grated nutmeg
1 1/2 ounce bourbon
4 to 6 ounces boiling water
1 cinnamon stick

Drop the clove-studded lemon slice into the bottom of your heat-resistant mug.  Add sugar, nutmeg, and bourbon.  Pour in hot water and stir with cinnamon stick.


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Bar Stool Fridays – Bacon and Bourbon

Yay…more food gifts for the Cook in a Bar household!  Our friends Dave and Laura gifted us with some bacon flavored syrup and the suggestion we use it in a cocktail.

We thought that was an excellent idea and what better combination for bacon than bourbon?  And what better time to have both bacon and bourbon than at breakfast?

Bacon and Bourbon Milk Punch
Makes 1 drink

2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce creme de cacao
4 ounces whole milk
1/2 ounce bacon flavored syrup
dash of ground cinnamon
dash of ground nutmeg

Shake the liquid ingredients and cinnamon vigorously in an ice-filled shaker.  Strain into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass.  Sprinkle the top with nutmeg.

Kick off your weekend right and serve these up for brunch.  You won’t be sorry.

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Bar Stool Fridays – Bourbon Obsession

Should I be worried?

In honor of National Bourbon Heritage Month, I thought I’d share part of our collection of bourbon bottles.

My husband and I have long enjoyed bourbon, but since we returned from Kentucky, my husband has really ramped up his purchases.  Don’t misunderstand.  I certainly reap the benefits of his buying habits, but….I wonder if we should be plotting our roadtrips around shops that stock hard-to-find bottles of bourbon?  Or should a trip to the farmers’ market have to paired with a trip to a liquor store?  Is it bad that we cannot drive or walk by a sign that reads “spirits” without stopping to search for dusty bottles?

Hmmm…let me think about that while I sip this Manhattan.

Makes 1 drink

2 ounces premium bourbon
1 ounce sweet vermouth
2 or 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
splash of Maraschino liqueur or juice from jar of Maraschino cherries
Maraschino cherry for garnish

Combine bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters in an ice-filled shaker.  Strain into glass.  I prefer to drink it with ice.  Garnish with cherry and add a splash of liquid from jar.

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I Cannot Tell A Lie. I Like Cherries in My Booze

As regular readers of this blog know, my husband and I really enjoy bourbon.  And, while it is certainly pleasurable served neat, we also imbibe a cocktail or two.  Or so.

Our drink of choice the past few months has been the Manhattan.  Simply, it is the melding of bourbon, sweet vermouth, bitters, and a lovely Maraschino cherry.  My brother makes an excellent version – shaken, not stirred – just the way I like it.  Recent visits to a couple of upscale cocktails bars, though, gave us a sample of some small batch Maraschino cherries.  They tasted dramatically different than they bright red versions we’ve always had.  And, with that another mission was conceived…

First, to get the fruit.  Luckily, tart cherries grow locally, and I harvest some myself every year.

My husband calls this shot, “A cook walks into a tree…”

Yeah, that is me in there…I’m crawling towards the inside of the tree to grab the ripest cherries.  What’s a few scratches and hair tangles when it comes to good food, right?

We took our haul home and now, for the preservation part…the cherries are steeped in alcohol.  Maraschino liqueur is traditional, but folks use brandy, rum, bourbon, and other good-tasting stuff, too.  I found a decently priced bottle of Maraschino liqueur from Croatia, and decided that was the way to go.

Finally, for the technique.  My husband and I did a bit of research and weren’t entirely convinced on a specific method or process.  Stemmed and pitted or no?  Hot or cold?  Additions of sugar or lemon?  We elected to experiment and create two jars.

We left the cherries intact – stems, pits, the whole shebang.  We simmered the alcohol for one jar, and left the other cool.  We didn’t add sugar or lemon – just cherries and alcohol.  Finally, one jar was just Maraschino liqueur and the other was an even mix of Knob Creek bourbon and the liqueur.

Homemade Maraschino Cherries
Makes 1 pint

1 pint tart or sour cherries (I recommend fresh, but the season is short and limited, so in a pinch go with frozen, jarred get too mushy)
1 cup alcohol (Maraschino liqueur or other lovely spirit)
pint-sized jar with sealable lid

I recommend preparing your jar and its lid by submerging in boiling water for about 10 minutes before using.  Fill your prepared jars with washed cherries.  You decide if you want stems and/or pits.

My pickling experiences have taught me that using cold materials will leave your end product crisper.  If you want a crisper biting cherry, leave your alcohol and fruit cold or room temperature.  Just put the cherries in the jar and pour the spirits over them.  Seal and refrigerate.

If you want to rush the maceration, bring liqueur to a simmer in a saucepan on stovetop.  Pour over cherries, let mixture cool,  and seal jar.

Store jar in refrigerator.  Wait at least two days before using.

Makes 1 drink

2 oz bourbon
just shy 1 oz sweet vermouth
couple dashes bitters (I like Angostura, Mr. Cook in a Bar likes Fee’s Orange)
Maraschino cherry

Add all liquid to ice-filled shaker.  Strain or serve on the rocks.  Garnish with cherry.

Here’s a comparison between the homemade (bookends) and store-bought versions of Maraschino cherries…

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Black Eyed Susans for the Preakness

Well, we made it.  We are all still here.  Congratulations!

Let’s celebrate by watching the Preakness and drinking Black Eyed Susans.

The Black Eyed Susan is the official drink of the Preakness Stakes, or the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.  It takes place in Baltimore at the Pimlico Race Course, which is the second oldest race track in the U.S.  The black eyed susan is not just a cocktail, though, it is also the state flower of Maryland.

I lived within walking distance of the Pimlico race track for a couple of years and attended the Preakness.  I was a poor graduate student at the time and could only afford tickets to the infield.  This is the grassy area inside the dirt race track.  There are no seats, so folks carry in lawn chairs, blankets, and old couches.  I’m not exaggerating.  During the Preakness it becomes packed with drunk young people who have forgotten that they are there to watch a horse race.  It has made for some interesting story-telling in my life.

I knew I could afford to buy one Black Eyed Susan while I was at the race (and therefore have a commemorative glass), but I made a pitcher-full of the drink for my friends to enjoy while we watched naked women mud-wrestle and caught glimpses of running thoroughbred 2 year-olds.

Black Eyed Susan
Makes 1 drink

3/4 oz vodka
1 1/4 oz whiskey (I used bourbon)
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
2 oz orange juice
orange slice and cherry, garnish

Combine alcohol, juices, and simple syrup in an ice-filled shaker.  Mix well.  Strain into a crushed ice-filled glass and garnish with an orange slice and cherry.  Enjoy in the cheap seats, or with the civilized bunch.

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Bar Stool Fridays – Derby Drinks

The mint julep is the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby and more than 100,000 are served at Churchill Downs over the course of the race weekend.  As part of a contract with Brown-Forman Distillers, the drinks at the Derby are made with either Early Times or Woodford Reserve.  (NOTE: Early Times is not officially a bourbon, but a Kentucky whiskey.)  You don’t have a contract with Brown-Forman, though, so in making your julep you should use the bourbon that you enjoy drinking.

This ode to the mint julep by J. Soule Smith was published in the Lexington Herald in the late 1800’s.  It is a long piece of prose for a blog entry, so feel free to skim it…you will get the idea with just a few phrases.  Reading it made me thirsty…
The Mint Julep
Then comes the zenith of man’s pleasure. Then comes the julep – the mint julep. 
Who has not tasted one has lived in vain. 
The honey of Hymettus brought no such solace to the soul; the nectar of the Gods is tame beside it. It is the very dream of drinks, the vision of sweet quaffings.
The Bourbon and the mint are lovers. In the same land they live, on the same food they are fostered. 
The mint dips infant leaf into the same stream that makes The Bourbon what it is. The corn grows in the level lands through which small streams meander. 
By the brook-side the mint grows. As the little wavelets pass, they glide up to kiss the feet of the growing mint, and the mint bends to salute them. 
Gracious and kind it is, living only for the sake of others. Like a woman’s heart it gives its sweetest aroma when bruised. 
Among the first to greet the spring, it comes. Beside gurgling brooks that make music in the fields, it lives and thrives. 
When the bluegrass begins to shoot its gentle sprays towards the sun, mint comes, and its sweetest soul drinks at the crystal brook. 
It is virgin then. But soon it must be married to old Bourbon. His great heart, his warmth of temperament, and that affinity which no one understands, demands the wedding.
How shall it be? 
Take from the cold spring some water, pure as angels are; mix it with sugar till it seems like oil. 
Then take a glass and crush your mint within it with a spoon – crush it around the borders of the glass and leave no place untouched. 
Then throw the mint away – it is the sacrifice. 
Fill with cracked ice the glass; pour in the quantity of Bourbon which you want. 
It trickles slowly through the ice. Let it have time to cool, then pour your sugared water over it. 
No spoon is needed; no stirring allowed- just let it stand a moment. 
Then around the brim place sprigs of mint, so that the one who drinks may find the taste and odor at one draft.
Then when it is made, sip it slowly. 
August suns are shining, the breath of the south wind is upon you. It is fragrant cold and sweet – it is seductive. No maidens kiss is tenderer or more refreshing, no maidens touch could be more passionate. Sip it and dream-it is a dream itself. No other land can give you so much sweet solace for your cares; no other liquor soothes you in melancholy days. 
Sip it and say there is no solace for the soul, no tonic for the body like old Bourbon whiskey.
Compared to this guy, I can no longer claim to be obsessed with bourbon.

Here’s my interpretation of his recipe.  If you have a julep cup, this is the time to use it, but if not, use a rocks glass, like me.

Mint Julep
Makes 1 drink

2 – 3 tsps mint simple syrup, divided
fresh mint
2 – 3 ounces Kentucky bourbon
crushed ice

To make simple syrup:  Bring 1 cup water and 2 cups sugar to boil in a saucepan on stovetop.

As soon as it boils, remove from heat and let it cool slightly.  Drop in 4 to 6 mint sprigs and refrigerate in covered container.

To make drink:  In glass add 1 1/2 – 2 tsps of mint simple syrup and a couple of large mint leaves.

With your muddler or wooden spoon, very gently swirl the mint leaves in the simple syrup so they are coated with the sugary goodness.  Still being very gentle, use your muddler/spoon to drag the leaves around the inside of the glass and coat the inside of the glass with the mint essence.

Remove the leaves.

I add a splash of bourbon now, no more than 1 ounce.

Now, pack the glass full of crushed ice.  You want it to resemble a snow cone.

Pour the remaining bourbon and 1/2 – 1 tsp of simple syrup on top of the ice.

Garnish with a mint sprig.

And for guests who don’t imbibe…

Mock Mint Julep
Makes 1 drink

crushed ice
1 Tbsp mint simple syrup (see above)
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
ginger ale
fresh mint

In glass add 1 1/2 – 2 tsps of mint simple syrup and a couple of large mint leaves.
With your muddler or wooden spoon, very gently swirl the mint leaves in the simple syrup so they are coated with the sugary goodness.  Still being very gentle, use your muddler/spoon to drag the leaves around the inside of the glass and coat the inside of the glass with the mint essence.
Remove the leaves.
Add the fresh lemon juice and a splash of ginger ale.  Muddle it a bit more.
Now, pack the glass full of crushed ice.  You want it to resemble a snow cone.
Top with ginger ale and garnish with a mint sprig.
These are refreshing drinks that will quench your thirst as you cheer for your favorite horse in the Run for the Roses.  But, don’t limit this drink to only Derby weekend, it is delicious for any warm weather occasion.


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Helping Out the Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny is really slammed this time of year.  His to-do list goes on for pages, his calendar is jam-packed, the battery on his smartphone won’t stay charged, he’s bitten his nails down to nubs, and the poor little fellow has circles under his eyes from lack of sleep.

I figured he could use a hand…or is it paw?  Anyway…I knew I could help, at least when it came to supplying the Easter baskets of some of my friends and family.  I was also pretty sure I could do better than the bagged candy I see in the store.

Now, my husband loves peanut butter and chocolate and really scarfs up the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, so I know the Easter Bunny was planning to give him some again this year.  But, what if I made them instead…And, what if I made them more suitable for adult palates and used dark chocolate? And how could I forgot the bourbon?  Hmmm…what if?

Peanut Butter Cups for Grown-Ups
Makes about 2 dozen miniature cups

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp bourbon
3 – 4 cups dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips (premium is best)

I used a miniature muffin tin lined with paper cups as my molds.  Prepare this in advance so it is ready to go when your ingredients are.

In a bowl, combine peanut butter and powdered sugar.  When you have a smooth, uniform mixture, add the vanilla extract and bourbon.  Stir to blend well – it should be a pretty thick mixture that is firm enough to form into balls.  You may need to add just a tiny bit more powdered sugar, if it is too soft.

Take about 2 to 3 teaspoons worth of peanut butter and using your hands roll into a ball.  Then, lightly press into a patty/saucer shape.  Place the formed balls onto a wax paper surface, and repeat until you have about 24 balls.  You may need to adjust the patties so they are all about the same size.

Now to melt the chocolate.  If you don’t have a double boiler, then set a heat-proof bowl over a pot of boiling water.  Turn down the heat to low and add the chocolate to the bowl.

Stir gently as it melts.  It should only take a few minutes to completely melt.  Turn off the heat and now the chocolate is ready to turn into candy.

Take a muffin liner paper, and add a spoonful of chocolate.  Then, using back of your spoon, spread the chocolate around so that it completely coats the inside of the paper cup.  Once it is coated, set it back into the muffin tin.  Repeat until all the cups are completely lined with chocolate.  You need to move very quickly before the chocolate firms up again.

Now, drop in the peanut butter patties, and press down very gently.  You don’t want them to push through the chocolate, but just be flattened a little bit.

Still working briskly, add another spoonful or more of chocolate to each cup in order to cover the peanut butter filling.  Use the spoon again to spread the chocolate around the top and completely cover the peanut butter.

Set the finished cups back into the muffin tin and let firm up at room temperature for about four hours.

Store up to two weeks (as if they will last that long) in an airtight container.  Don’t refrigerate.

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Bar Stool Fridays – Rock Candy Cocktail

So, we’ve really enjoyed the homemade cinnamon candy around here.

Mr. Cook in a Bar and I knew we could increase our enjoyment by combining the sweet and spicy candy with alcohol.  Now, big surprise here…we went with bourbon.  Yeah, we’re a little preoccupied.

The drink came together pretty easily for us and we both slurped it up quickly, but we struggled with a name.  Luckily, our friend Kate was willing to sample the drink and after only one round she came up with a name that we found both amusing and clever…

Red Headed Goldilocks
Makes 1 drink

2 oz bourbon (we used Knob Creek)
1 oz Goldschlager
2 dashes Peychauds bitters
cinnamon rock candy

Put cinnamon rock candy in plastic bag and crush finely with rolling pin.

Moisten rim of rocks glass and coat with crushed candy.

Fill cocktail shaker with ice.  Add bourbon, Goldschlager, bitters.  Shake well.

Strain into prepared glass.  Try not to drink too many.

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Bar Stool Fridays – Water for Your Whiskey

I am very pleased to tell you that this is a guest post from my sweet husband, Mr. Cook in a Bar.  He was so inspired by our bourbon-swilling trip to Kentucky, he wanted to share his newly gained knowledge with others…

My wife and I have developed an insatiable thirst for whiskey.  Over the past year we have experimented with punch and cocktail recipes, but our thirst continues to lead us back to whiskey with plain old water or ice.  I have come to realize there is a simple complexity to enjoying a glass of bourbon and branch or bourbon the rocks…well, at least I think so.
You can stop Googling now, because I will define branch for you.  Branch is a term that many bourbon drinkers use for water.  In a bar, the term branch is typically used to order a drink with plain water instead of being confused with soda.  More literally, and less available at your local pub, branch water is from a babbling brook or stream.  Maybe the name was coined because the water was seasoned by tree branches that fell into the water source or perhaps from the fact the water comes from a branch of a naturally flowing river.
The mixing of whiskey and water or ice is more complex than pouring two ingredients together.  The amount of water or ice added to whiskey can change the flavor of the drink dramatically.  This is most easily noticed when drinking whiskey on the rocks.  Your first sip is full of flavor and may even taste harsh, in fact, the alcohol may overwhelm the more subtle flavors.  As the ice melts the flavor becomes more mellow, and frequently, spicy or sweet flavors could become more apparent.  By the time you get to the end of the drink those flavors disappear into the plainness of the water from the ice that has melted and overwhelmed the flavor of the whisky.  This is why many choose to use water instead of ice to enjoy a consistent flavor from top to bottom of the glass.
Recently Cook in a Bar and I were introduced to lump or rock ice, many times in the form of a ball.  We and other Makers Mark ambassadors across the county received a ball-shaped ice tray as a holiday gift.  The larger form of the ball allows the ice to melt slower so the flavors of the whisky develop and change at a slower rate.  This can give you more time to enjoy the flavors as opposed to the experience with small cubes of ice that rapidly melt away in your glass.
To illustrate this I poured two glasses of Bookers bourbon, one over an ice ball and one over the equivalent amount of smaller ice cubes, and sat and watched.  It was unbelievably difficult to watch the ice melt and fight my natural instinct to pick up the glass and sip away.  The cubes were substantially gone within 45 minutes while it took twice as long for the ball to melt.
Your enjoyment can also be impacted by the quality of water that is added to your drink or is used to make the ice. Iron-free water is important because the iron turns whiskey black.  Filtered or distilled water is the best choice for adding to whiskey because it  will not dramatically alter the lovely golden hue or the delicious flavor of the drink.
You might have noticed a difference in the clarity of the ice in the pictures.  The ice cubes in the pictures were made from filtered water, but the ice ball was created with distilled water that was boiled twice.  To achieve the clearest ice, I recommend you start with distilled water that has fewer minerals, then boil it at least once.  Boiling the water releases the air or oxygen bubbles giving you clearer water.  These tips should help you to enjoy the full flavor of bourbon without disrupting the color or flavor with murky or cloudy water or ice.

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And The Bourbon Trail Goes On…

We’ve continued to savor the flavors of Kentucky since returning home.  I especially enjoy the combination of booze and dessert.  Here are a couple of my favorites…

Since a barrel may be used only once to age bourbon, Kentucky has a flood of used bourbon barrels.  Many are used to age scotch, but recent years have them holding beer, as well.  We picked up two varieties of bourbon barrel beer – a stout from Bluegrass Brewing Company and an ale from Alltech.

Both are delicious and our a wonderful companion to vanilla ice cream in a beer float.

Bourbon Barrel Beer Float
Makes 2 floats

4 – 6 scoops premium vanilla ice cream
12 oz bottle bourbon barrel beer (ale or stout)

This is a super easy dessert.  Put two to three scoops each of vanilla ice cream in two pint glasses.

Slowly pour 6 ounces of beer in each glass.

Sip through a straw and try not to pour yourself another…

A popular dessert in Kentucky is a pie made with bourbon, chocolate, and nuts.  A version is sold in most restaurants, but only Kern’s Kitchen can call it “Derby Pie” after having it trademarked both in Kentucky and the Federal Government.  The family rigorously defends this trademark, so in restaurants or recipe books you will see the pie referred to as “First Saturday in May Pie,” “Pegasus Pie,” “Thoroughbred Pie,” or other such winks to the reference.

The Dessert That Cannot Be Called Derby Pie for Fear of Trademark Violation
Makes 1 9-inch deep dish pie

9-inch deep dish pie crust
1 1/4 cup pecans
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup light Karo syrup
4 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup bourbon
1 cup chocolate chips

I won’t provide pie crust instructions here, but you can follow mine, or create your own.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread pecans onto a baking sheet and place in oven for about 10 minutes or until fragrant and slightly toasted.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Line pie pan with pie crust, flute edges, and place in refrigerator while you prepare filling.

Blend melted butter, sugars, and Karo syrup in a medium bowl.  Stir in beaten eggs, vanilla, and bourbon.  Set aside.

Take out pie crust and sprinkle chocolate chips and pecans in bottom of pan.

Add egg and sugar mixture.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until filling is set, and crust is lightly browned.


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