Episode 050 - Bourbon (Part I)

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What’s shakin, cocktail fans?

Welcome back to another episode of the Modern Bar Cart Podcast!

This week’s episode is part one of a two-part interview with friend of the pod Jordan Wicker (of the Speaking Easy Podcast). Jordan knows a great deal about Bourbon, and during this episode, we cover a lot of Bourbon history and label claims, In the part II, which will air on May 31, 2018, we'll conduct an in-depth tasting of five different selections with different proofs and mash bills.

In this episode, some of the specific topics we discuss include:

  • How he began his love affair with Bourbon, and how a twist of fate put him in regular contact with an expert distiller.
  • The origin story of Bourbon, including how it got its name, how it overtook Rye whiskey as America’s sweetheart spirit, and why it’s so popular today.
  • How to use label claims like “Straight Bourbon Whiskey” and “Bottled in Bond” to determine if you’re looking at a quality product at the liquor store.
  • A few notes on Bourbon distilling trends over the years.
  • A little tangent about Chartreuse
  • And much, much more.

Featured Cocktail - The Old Fashioned (Again)

It's time to re-visit the Old Fashioned. As most of you know, the Old Fashioned is sort of the quintessential Bourbon cocktail, and to make one, you need:

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  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • 1 sugar cube (or ½ oz simple syrup)
  • Several Dashes of Aromatic Bitters (we like to use our very own Embitterment Aromatic Bitters)

We all know how to make this drink at this point, but here are a few reminders that will help you to take your Old Fashioned to the next level:

  • Pick Your Sweetness Wisely - If you use a sugar cube, remember that you want to add just a splash of filtered water when you muddle that sugar with the bitters in the bottom of the mixing pint. This is important because you want to get that sugar dissolving before you add the ice and the booze, both of which will actively inhibit the dissolving of the sugar. This is why simple syrup is great to have on-hand. It’s pre-dissolved, so there’s no worries about uneven mixing.
  • Be Mindful of Temperature - If you want to sip your old fashioned slowly and really savor it, I’d recommend two things: go for larger, smoother ice cubes or spheres to optimize temperature against melting rate, and consider pre-chilling your rocks glass beforehand. One thing you don’t want to chill for any reason is your mixing glass, especially if you plan on using a real sugar cube.
  • The Bitters Really Matter - I know this probably sounds a bit biased coming from a guy who makes bitters, but think about it. In an Old Fashioned, you’ve only got one ingredient besides the spirit that’s going to do a lot of work on the flavor front, so if there’s one golden opportunity to explore and experiment with the relatively blank slate that is the Old Fashioned, it’s by swapping out and playing around with your bitters. We’ve got 8 different flavors and even a bitters variety pack available , so head on over to our products page and check out those offerings from Embitterment if you want some inspiration.

Show Notes

The Speaking Easy Podcast has a number of great resources for you to check out. Here are the episode relating specifically to bourbon:

Why is It Called Bourbon?

Well, the truth is, we don't really know. However, when Cognac came into short supply in the mid-1800s, the people of the notoriously wet city of New Orleans needed something to fill the void. So, the smooth, brown corn liquor from America's heartland headed down the Mississippi river, destined for the bars of "Bourbon Street." So, the spirit may very well be named after its original popular destination.

Important Label Claims

  • Bottled in Bond - This means that the Bourbon in the bottle is at least 50% ABV (100 proof) and aged for at least 4 years in a "bonded" warehouse with government oversight. The government doesn't oversee the aging of the whiskey, per se, but they do certify that the whiskey doesn't leave the barrel or have anything fishy added to it.
  • Straight - When you see something like "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey," it means that the spirit has spent at least 2 years in new charred oak barrels. This is not an unusually high bar for distillers to meet, but you can use it as a sort of "floor" on what you buy. It's a minimum quality indicator.
  • Bottler/Producer Specifications - This is a great way to find out if a producer is going from grain to glass and doing the whole process themselves, or simply buying and bottling generic, industrially produced bourbon.
  • Wheated - Bourbon that contains a high percentage of wheat in the mash bill (usually 25-40%).
  • High Rye - Bourbon that contains a high percentage of rye in the mash bill (usually 25-40%)

CC Attributions

Featured Cocktail Background Music

Backbay Lounge Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/