With the 4th of July come and gone, it seems only apt for this libation-centric column to discuss the spirit that is perhaps the quintessential American contribution to the world. Even though California produces some spectacular wines and local craft beers have taken the nation by storm, no other country on the planet makes bourbon.
Yes, it is comparable to scotch, Irish whisky or Canadian ryes in all but the primary ingredient – maize instead of malted barley or wheat – but no other country has even a remotely sophisticated corn whiskey culture or variety of world-class distilleries up and running. It is uniquely American, and like its counterparts stemming from the British Isles, bourbon can help boost your F&B revenues.
For the record, bourbon can be made anywhere within the United States so long as maize comprising a minimum of 51% of the raw constituents. Despite this broad stipulation, bourbon is traditionally only made in Kentucky. As for the name itself, bourbon harks back to before the Louisiana Purchase when the French were fur trapping and trading up and down the Mississippi. The Bourbon Dynasty was the ruling monarchial house of France for centuries, and while this family was all but snuffed out during the French Revolution, the title is nonetheless fitting for how popular this liquor has become.
In fact, according to DISCUS (Distilled Spirits Council of the United States), bourbon is the fastest growing segment in the spirits market, especially among millennials. Yes, the sweet-and-sour mash bite requires a bit of an adjustment from the peaty, smoky tongue of scotch, but the demand is there, so you might as well meet it. On the supply side, the bourbon market is far more colorful than ten or even five years ago. While the staples like Jim Beam and Wild Turkey are always good to have on shelf, many previously small batch providers are now scaling up to make their bottles more readily available to a liquor supplier near you. The awareness of these lesser-known brands is also on the rise, making your job in finding tableside buyers all the easier.
I’ve gravitated towards New World whiskeys of late because good scotch is becoming far too expensive for everyday consumption. No doubt many other people feel the same way, especially when a single shot at a restaurant can run you upwards of $20. Bourbon is thus a relatively inexpensive drop accompanied by a wealth of premier distillers who each add their own unique touches to the formula. With each new bottle under my belt comes exposure to a great array of rich caramel, almond or even banana aromas and equally complex notes for the tongue. Some new favorites include Eagle Rare, Old Forrester, Corner Creek and Double Oaked Woodford Reserve.
Before we delve any further, a few questions are in order. What bourbons have you tried? How do the flavors differ from other whiskeys or distilled spirits? Can you recall any cocktails, sauces or food recipes where bourbon is a key component?
This third question is remarkable because, unlike scotch which is chiefly enjoyed straight or with a few rocks, bourbon is palatable both neat or as a cooking complement. Indeed, parallel to the uptick in bourbon availability on the drink list is the appearance maple bourbon or other sour mash-infused barbecue sauces. Corn whiskeys are also making their way onto other sections of the food menu including some very appetizing desserts. It would appear as though bourbon is definitely in vogue.
And when something is trending, you should at the very least consider ways to hop on the bandwagon. That, or challenge your F&B team to come up with some creative suggestions for cocktail mixology and tasty new cuisine.
To give you some inspiration, Marriott recently launched its Bourbon Program to educate bartenders on proper usage of the spirit with over 250 participating hotels alongside its Bourbon Battles competitive series held across the continent and culminating in a final showdown on National Bourbon Day (June 14th). Collaborating with Maker’s Mark and Knob Creek, I have the privilege of sharing with you the signature drink recipe from Shelby Goodwin of The Derrick Gin Mill & Kitchen who won the third competition at the Calgary Marriott Downtown Hotel.
Bob and Barb’s Backyard Pie:
- 3/4 oz Maker’s Mark
- 3/4 oz Maker’s 46
- 3/4 oz Knob Creek
- 2 dashes of Fee Brothers chocolate bitters
- 3 dashes of Angostura orange bitters
- 3 muddled gooseberries
- 1/2 oz homemade brandy cherry juice
- 1 oz of Beeland amber honey
- garnish with a gooseberry and a cherry
(Photo courtesy of Marriott Hotels & Resorts and Shelby Goodwin)
(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published by Hotels Magazine on July 8, 2016).