September is National Bourbon Heritage Month and Four Roses Bourbon contacted me to see if I’d create a cocktail with their Single-Barrel Kentucky Bourbon. Of course I would!
Now, back when I was doing the AlcoHOLidays series, we talked a lot about how many of these so-called “National” days of what have you were trumped up by special interest groups or a marketing ploy by companies. Not so with National Bourbon Heritage Month, I’m happy to report, as the US Senate designated September for the celebration of “America’s Native Spirit” back in 2007, the title Congress bestowed upon Bourbon back in 1964.
Fact is, Bourbon really is our own little claim to spirits fame as far as the base spirits go. While it’s similar to whisk(e)y in production, Bourbon’s majority-corn mash and oak cask-aging set it apart from the wheat, rye, or barley-heavy mashes of other countries. It began in the 1700s in Kentucky and is still going strong throughout the region.
Now, I admit, Bourbon has never been my go-to beverage; I’m more a clear-spirit girl. But I’ve come quite a long way in appreciating it since my first, burning experience with it back in the early aughts at a wine tasting. The more I learn about it and the more I taste different brands, I’m happy to discover those slow sipping bourbons that I read about in dusty old books and can appreciate the flow of warmth that a smooth bourbon can bring.
When sampled neat, Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon left my lips and the tip of my tongue tingling but offered no burn around the edges of my palate the way harsher spirits would. You can feel the warmth travelling down your throat, it’s flavor not overly woody, but the aftertaste is pleasantly earthy–like the umami of mushrooms or Brie. Since I happened to really like those foods, I consider that a good thing! Having been laid low by a recent head/chest cold, a friend reminded me of the soothing power of the toddy, so one night I added a splash of Four Roses to my evening cuppa and let me assure you that this bourbon mingles nicely with chamomile-based herbal teas, making its presence known without overpowering.
Nose: Fruity, spicy, floral, cocoa, maple syrup, moderately woody.
Palate: Hints of ripe plum & cherries, robust, full body, mellow.
Finish: Smooth & delicately long.
But a cocktail is what was requested and a cocktail is what I shall deliver!
You can pair a hundred flavors with a good spirit but I like traditions and I like to keep things simple while playing off familiar stories. What could be a more classic treatment for bourbon than the deceptively simple julep?
When a drink has so few ingredients, it’s vital we choose them with care. The classic mint julep uses spring of fresh mint and sugar or simple syrup along with the bourbon and ice. In deference to Four Roses and my current relocation to Georgia’s Rose City, I opted for a peach liqueur in place of the simple syrup, and my favorite, fragrant savory herb–rosemary–for muddling and garnish. The combination is both contradictory and complementary and I find it delightful!
2 3-inch sprigs of fresh Rosemary
1 oz Peach Schnapps
2 oz Four Roses Single Barrel Kentucky Bourbon
Into a lowball or julep cup, strip the leaves off one rosemary sprig and muddle with a splash of the schnapps. You don’t need to pulverize it, just release some of the fragrant oils. Add the rest of the schnapps and the bourbon, fill the glass with crushed ice and stir with the straw until the outside of the glass or cup is nice and frosty. Garnish with the remaining sprig of rosemary.
Details are almost as important as ingredients for a julep. The ice must absolutely be crushed–cubed ice just won’t do. The increased surface area of the crushed ice both chills the beverage and mixes down into the beverage more quickly than larger pieces of ice. Creating crushed ice is no more work than gathering ice cubes in a (clean, obviously) bar towel and beating it with your muddler until sufficiently broken up. The short straw is also crucial for two reasons: this is a drink to be savored over a period of time, not chased down in a hurry; the short straw also brings your nose in the range of the fresh herb garnish, adding to the overall flavor of the beverage (flavor being comprised of both taste and aroma, after all).
And remember, experiences are only as good as the memories they leave behind. Enjoy responsibly so you’re around to remember!
***I received a sample of Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon for the purpose of review and cocktail creation. This was a sponsored post, but all opinions expressed are my own.***