Or Why I’m In Love…With Bourbon
By LeNell Smothers

Photo by Demián Camacho Santa Ana

I, honestly, have never had a bad bourbon. Some, like a few lovers I’ve had, have been a a bit quick in the finish or perhaps a bit too green, but I’ve never had a bourbon that didn’t please me in some way. I drink all categories of spirits. I’ve had gin, vodka, rum, tequila, and brandy that didn’t delight. However, there’s not a bourbon on the market that I would refuse to drink.

I could drone on about the American heritage of bourbon and how it’s patriotic to drink the only spirit Congress has declared a distinctly identifiable American product. Sure, other countries make whiskey, but only the US can produce a bourbon. George Washington may have made rye at Mount Vernon, but there’s something kinda romantically roguish about pioneering, rebellious folks avoiding taxes and bringing their whiskey makin’ skills further south, using a locally available grain like maize, and developing what we know now as bourbon.

When you think of bourbon, you may picture southern gentlemen in stately plantation homes sipping mint juleps and acting all civilized, but bourbon lends a little mischief to even the most genteel manners. Milwaukee madame and bar owner Dirty Helen loved her bourbon and her boys about as much as she loved wearing flashy, fancy hats. Legend has it that Elijah Craig was the first distiller to age corn whiskey in charred oak barrels, and whether that was true or not, it is fact that he was a Baptist minister. I love that bourbon can be at home in a variety of company, whether preachers or prostitutes.

Many people associate brown spirits with brisk fall breezes and holiday hoe downs. For me, however, bourbon is like leopard print—always fashionable no matter what season. If someone says they don’t like bourbon, I don’t blame bourbon. Something tells me they just ain’t had it in enough ways to discover the best way for them to enjoy it. The versatility of bourbon is one of the many things I love about it, whether adding it to my libations or my comestibles.

Bourbon’s a great addition to your marinade mix for a hunk of steak, a meatloaf, or even a hamburger. Bourbon’s natural sweetness adds depth to your bbq sauce. It’s my not-so-secret ingredient in my crowd-pleasing cakes, brownies, and banana breads. I use it as the base for my grapefruit bitters as well as my homemade vanilla extract.

Bourbon’s flexibility in mixed drinks is hard to beat. Mix it up with mint in a frosty summer drink or heat it up with honey, cinnamon and clove for a winter warmer. Bourbon makes a great pair with a variety of common fruits such as banana, peach, orange, grapefruit, and lemon. I like to infuse it with dried goji berries for a rich, exotic flavor that’s perfect in my Mae West Royal Diamond Fizz www.casacoctel.com/index.php?option=com_rapidrecipe&page=viewrecipe&recipe_id=63, an after dinner treat meant to add a little devilish twinkle to your eyes and a little mischief to your holiday season.

Mae West Royal Diamond Fizz
Serves Two
2 ounces goji infused bourbon*
½ ounce Pama pomegranate liqueur
1 ounce fresh pink grapefruit juice
whole egg
Brut Champagne
hot sugar**

Shake all except Champagne to emulsify, then add ice.
Shake hard, at least 30 seconds.
Pour into chilled coupette half-rimmed with hot sugar.
To properly rim the glass, take a slice of the grapefruit and moisten the outside of the glass rim. Dip the rim in hot sugar.
Top with Champagne.
Garnish with two bourbon soaked goji berries on a toothpick to the side.

*Macerate 4 ounces of dried goji berries in a 750ml 100 proof bourbon (I prefer to use Four Roses Single Barrel). Let sit overnight at least. Squeeze out all the juice from the berries or put the berries through a juicer to liquify.

**4 tablespoons granulated sugar, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, pinch of unsweetened cocoa