Tag Archives: bourbon

Mixology Monday: Bourbon

Bitter Bourbon
2 oz bourbon (drier varieties preferred)
.5 oz Campari
.5 oz green Chartreuse
dash orange bitters
Combine in a shaker with ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Serve with orange rind garnish.

It’s Mixology Monday again, and our hosts this month are the Scofflaw’s Den, lovable ruffians and scoundrels that they are. The theme they’ve chosen is: bourbon.

I’m a great fan of bourbon, but I found myself overwhelmed by this month’s theme. So many options! Also, I’ve written a fair bit about bourbon in the past, as has every other cocktail blogger. What new thing could I highlight?

Fortunately, external forces came to my rescue, in the form of weather. It’s now Summer (with a capital S) here in Pennsylvania, temperatures in the 90s and up and humidity arcing skyward. I saw my first firefly tonight; they’ve probably been out for a while, but I’ve been sequestering myself in air-conditioned environments, the better to survive.

(Dear Readers who live in truly hot and humid areas: Yes, I know. This is nothing. I’m a wimp. Think how I’d whine in a really steamy climate!)

Anyway, when the weather grows sticky like this, I’m drawn to one particular bottle: Campari. It’s brisk and bitter and syrupy-sweet all in unison. It comes from Milan, Italy, where things are hot and humid on a regular basis, and it’s based on bitter orange. Technically, it’s a bitter, but one you can mix in larger proportions. It clears the palate and contrasts with the sweltering air, cutting through everything. I adore it in hot weather.

(Side note: Here’s the Campari website. Please be warned that they have concocted a rather stretched fiction about a "world of passion" that needs to be restored, somehow incorporating their ads that involve Salma Hayek but also a bunch of other stuff, and that the whole thing is built in Flash. Enter at your own risk.)

So, this month’s MxMo gave me the opportunity to explore ways to combine two of my favorite liquors, Bourbon and Campari. The trick is what to put with them. Many bourbons come across as sweet, but not sweet enough to balance the tart/bitter one-two punch of Campari. I needed something that brought sugar to the party along with a bonus to unify and blend — herbiness, if possible.

The first thing I tried, which worked delightfully, was Benedictine. Most unfortunately, I used up my last bit of Benedictine in that preliminary experiment, and when I went to the local retail arm of the PLCB to get another bottle I was informed that the commonwealth of Pennsylvania no longer carries that item. I won’t waste the rest of this post with my curses on that particular arm of government.

It seems that a few other states face related Benedictine shortages, so I searched for an alternative. Maraschino liqueur was too sweet by far, Amari too thick. What to do?

I tried green Chartreuse, and my problems were solved. Chartreuse brings in the sweetness to balance Campari’s bitter elements, but not so much as to overwhelm. And it carries a few bits of herby flavor to boot.

For my bourbon, I used Wild Turkey (80 proof), which I find combines well with many things without losing its character, and which is quite reasonably priced. 

I suspect that the resulting cocktail will please me and few others. It’s a warm variant on a Negroni; the Negroni has been memorably described as "the reverse of a mullet — party in the front (sweet), and business in the back (mild bitter aftertaste)." The addition of bourbon warms the combination, while adding green Chartreuse makes it more complicated than related vermouth variations. If you do try it and like it, I’d love to know. If you’ve already invented it and have been drinking it for years, I’d definitely love to know — you can probably save me some experimentation in the future.

But in the meantime, everyone needs to swing over to Scofflaw’s Den, to see what they’ve been shaking up. It’s sure to be a delight.


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Mixology Monday: Boilermaker

Mixology Monday 19: FizzIt’s Mixology Monday, hosted by the intriguingly introverted Gabriel of Cocktail Nerd.

The theme is Fizz, so I thought this would be a good time to try out a Sloe Gin Fizz. Or maybe a Tom Collins, a classic drink I was surprised to realize I’d never had. So last week I started sampling my options.

Unfortunately, nothing seemed quite right. I am beginning to see that I’m not a huge fan of tall drinks — except for a classic Highball with lovely ginger ale and good bourbon, or maybe a Moscow Mule with homemade ginger beer. I do like things with soda — say, Campari and soda, which is ideal for a sweltering summer evening. But I’ve discussed my favorite tall drinks already, and for this I wanted to try something that was new, at least for me.

Then I remembered that beer is fizzy. I’ve written previously about my experiments with Iron City beer and Pimm’s No. 1. That was good, so I felt I was on the right track.

What I’d not written before — what I’d not even tried — was a Boilermaker.


shot of liquor

Two options for serving:

Option 1: Pour beer into pint glass. Pour liquor into shot glass. Serve both glasses side by side.

Option 2: Pour beer into pint glass. (Leave room at top of glass.) Pour liquor into shot glass. Gently lower shot glass into beer until it’s nearly submerged. Release shot glass so it drops to bottom of pint glass. Watch foam start to rise, and tell someone to start drinking.

Given our fizzy goals for Mixology Monday, I selected option 2.

A whole range of combinations present themselves for this. Father Spoon of Should I Drink That suggested Rebel Yell and Cold Hop, which they’d officially approved during the afterparty of one of their podcasts. John Carman thought a Flaming Dr. Pepper would be a worthy subject. Both options were interesting, but not quite right for this situation.

I decided I would look for a fairly hoppy beer with warm caramel notes. The bourbon in my cabinet right now is Woodford Reserve, my favorite, and I suspected that strong hops would compliment the Woodford’s sweetness. I didn’t want anything too hoppy, though, or it would clash with the bourbon. A little caramel would help blend with the bourbon and make everything friendly.

So at the new-ish Butler Hot Dog Shoppe (not the old, classic one that closed a few years ago; the newer one in the converted gas station on Monroe Street, with the long lines at lunch time and the option to make a mixed six-pack from the cooler), I found a likely candidate beer: Hot Shot ESB from the Great Divide Brewing Company of Boulder. I was delighted to find an ESB (extra special bitter) of any label in my small town; and in my experience, Colorado has the best small batch breweries in this country.

I am not always right, but in this case I was spot on. The beer was perhaps a little over-fizzy, due mostly to having been bought and schlepped home right before I opened it. A sip I took before adding the bourbon confirmed that it was a yummy, tangy ESB, worthy enough on its own, and just the kind of thing I wanted for this application.

And once I dropped the shotglass in:

Boilermaker -- hey, someone better drink that!

A big fizzy mess.

But a massively tasty mess. The sweet bourbon made a lovely counterpart to the hoppy beer, and the fizziness caused everything to mix and blend in happy ways. No stirring or shaking required.

Given that it’s really two drinks in one, you may choose to limit your consumption of these. But I guarantee you’ll enjoy them.

UPDATE: Gabriel of Cocktail Nerd has posted a charming summary of the many, many Mixology Monday XIX posts. Cheers!