Episode 051 - Bourbon (Part II)

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What’s shakin, cocktail fans?

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

Thanks for joining us for a continuation of our deep dive into America’s sweetheart spirit – Bourbon.

Since this is a two part episode, I do recommend that you listen to Episode 050 first, since we cover a lot of history, key terms, and label claims in that episode. 

In this episode, Eric and Capitol Hill resident bourbon expert Jordan Wicker dig into the flavor profiles of five different bourbons, and we offer some of our favorite bourbon cocktail recipes for you to try as you build out your collection.

You can find over a hundred podcast episodes featuring Jordan Wicker and his co-host Alex Luboff by searching for the Speaking Easy Podcast wherever you go to download podcasts. 

Featured Cocktail - The Toronto Cocktail

This week’s featured cocktail is the Toronto cocktail.

The official recipe for the Toronto cocktail involves Canadian whiskey, but there are a ton of versions of this cocktail that call for bourbon instead. So, we’ll give you both versions, and you can decide which sounds more appealing.

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The Original

The original Toronto cocktail recipe calls for:

  • 2 oz Canadian Whiskey
  • ¼ oz Fernet
  • ¼ oz simple syurup
  • Several Dashes of Aromatic bitters
  • Expressed orange peel garnish

And this is a boozy drink served on the rocks, so you’ll want to combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir for about 20 seconds or until it’s properly chilled and diluted.

The "New" Toronto Cocktail

Now, in our research, we also came across what’s being billed as the “new” Toronto cocktail recipe, and this involves:

  • 1 ½ oz Bourbon
  • ½ oz sweet vermouth
  • ¼ oz honey syrup
  • 1 bar spoon of Fernet
  • Orange peel garnish

We don’t find that the honey syrup or the sweet vermouth really add much in the new recipe, but one takeaway here is that it’s 100% okay to sub out the Canadian whiskey for bourbon, and in fact, that’s the way you’ll see it served at many of the best cocktail bars, partially because excellent Canadian whisky still isn’t as commercially available compared to the cheaper brands.

The beauty of this cocktail is that it’s a really great way to start easing your way into Fernet without blasting yourself in the face with bitterness. You’ve still got that familiar old fashioned as your constant – the only thing that’s different is you’re adding a little flair and a little bitterness. If you find that even a quarter ounce is too much, back down to a bar spoon and then work your way up from there as you get more accustomed to the bitterness.

Show Notes

In this episode, we tasted five different bourbons in order of ascending proof. We discussed some features of their mash bills, as well as the flavor profiles and cocktail applications of each.

How to Taste Bourbon

  • Before tasting, make note of the color and aroma of the bourbon.
  • Try to avoid sticking your nose right in the glass to avoid desensitizing your olfactory receptors
  • Inhale with your mouth slightly open to activate your retronasal smell receptors
  • If you're tasting a high proof bourbon, consider adding a few drops of 

Four Roses Small Batch (45% ABV / 90 Proof)

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This bourbon is a really solid purchase at around $30-$40, depending on your location.

It's great for making cocktails, but it's also an extremely solid sipping whiskey either straight or on the rocks.

Tasting Notes:

  • Vanilla throughout
  • Honey
  • Sweet oats
  • Dark Cherry
  • Apricot
  • Brown sugar on the finish

Recommended Cocktail Pairing - The slight cherry note in this bourbon points us in the direction of a nice bourbon Manhattan. Use a brighter sweet vermouth (Dolin or Carpano Antica), and opt for the orange twist garnish instead of a brandied cherry to see if those cherry notes still come through.

Larceny Bourbon (46% ABV / 92 Proof)

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Made in Bardstown, KY. This bourbon is a bit darker and more brooding than the Four Roses Small Batch. 

Tasting Notes:

  • Cinnamon and clove on the nose
  • Cereal grain backbone
  • Dried Orange Peel
  • Brown Sugar
  • A bit of astringency on the finish

Recommended Cocktail Pairing - A boulevardier. 1:1:1 ratio of Bourbon to Campari to Sweet Vermouth. This cocktail is a great option for any spirit with orange notes, since the campari is an orange-driven bitter aperitivo. 

Elijah Craig Small Batch (47% ABV / 94 Proof)

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A widely available bourbon. This particular product recently experienced a slight "scandal" when the producer decided to remove the age statement from the small batch product, suggesting that they are using slightly younger barrels in future batches.

Tasting Notes:

  • Cherry on the nose
  • Floral notes on the nose
  • Corn Sweetness
  • A bit of alcohol burn

Recommended Cocktail Pairing - Whiskey smash. Bourbon, mint, lemon, and simple syrup. Add 2 oz bourbon, half a lemon and a half oz of simple syrup to a shaker with ice, then shake and strain over crushed ice, then garnish with mint.

Four Roses Single Barrel (50% ABV / 100 Proof)

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This is an extremely giftable, really beautiful bourbon. The bottle we tasted was actually selected by our liquor store (Schneider's of Capitol Hill) out of a number of other single barrel options.

Tasting Notes:

  • Very light on the nose
  • Cedar notes on the nose
  • Toasty oak available throughout the palate
  • Incredibly balanced and nuanced - a quality sipping whiskey

Recommended Cocktail Pairing - The Louisville Cocktail. 2 oz bourbon, 1/2 oz Lillet Rough, 1/2 oz Lillet Blanc. This is basically the Perfect Manhattan's French cousin. 

Maker's Mark Cask Strength (55.8% ABV / 111.6 Proof)

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A big bruiser of a bourbon. Maker's Mark is a noteworthy of a wheated bourbon, which usually indicates the presence of between 15% and 45% wheat in the mash bill. In this product, there is no rye in the mash bill whatsoever.

Tasting Notes:

  • Hay on the nose
  • Noteworthy absence of alcohol burn on the nose
  • Caramel
  • Honey
  • Toasty oak / wheat bread toast
  • Lemon zest
  • A little butteriness

Recommended Cocktail Pairing: Don't do it. If you do, the distiller will find you and key your car.

Recommended Bourbon Books

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/