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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9 replies on “Mixology Monday: Bourbon”

  1. Andrea: I’m surprised at how difficult I find your question to answer. Bourbon is basically whiskey (or whisky, depending on the country of origin) that comes from Bourbon County, Kentucky. If you’re familiar with the basic whiskey flavor, then you’ve got it. Of course, each whiskey and bourbon has different flavor characteristics, depending on the barrels it’s aged in and the grains that went into making it, the length of time it’s aged, and such like that. Flavor-wise, it has more warm, grainy aspects than vodka, and like run it’s kind of sweet despite not having sugar added.

    Christy: Hooray! You’re now about the fourth person I know who loves Campari. I hope you like the cocktail. You’ll find that Chartreuse is expensive but key to some grand drinks (including the Bijou, which is my favorite gin cocktail at the moment). And you only need a little to go a long way.

  2. So now we can’t get Benedictine???

    At this point the PLCB should just put a sign on all their stores that says, “We proudly carry Jack Daniels and Smirnoff. If you would like something else, Ohio is to your left.”

  3. Dr. Bamboo: Can you believe that they’ve recently stopped carrying Old Overholt too? That’s one less rye we can enjoy. So disappointing, especially considering how nice it is to have a traditional Sazerac and how inexpensive Old Overholt is.

  4. It is particularly ugly to note that Old Overholt is missing from PA’s shelves when the bicentennial of this Pennsylvania whiskey is coming up. Shameful. Oh, and for Gods’ sake, don’t try to buy Maraschino liqueur in the State Store: you’ll get that “What the hell is that?” routine so damned fast… Argh. I swear, I go to a State Store, and New Jersey never looked so good!

  5. MBM – please help spread the word to any eastern PA mixology fans and help support small wineries! Thanks!


    ( Eastern Pennsylvania ) Berks County Wine Trail gives a whole new meaning to “cool” during its upcoming annual summertime wine tasting event: “COOL WINE TREAT WEEKEND.” Member wineries will be showing off how cool they are with clever cooling concoctions made with Berks County produced wines.

    During COOL WINE TREAT WEEKEND, wine lovers are encouraged to “be cool” or “cool off” by visiting each of the trail wineries during Saturday August 9th (noon to 5 PM) or Sunday August 10th (noon to 5 PM). Admission is free and no reservations are required.

    For wine lovers old and new, serious and capricious – this will be a fun chance to celebrate summer and sample award-winning locally produced wines at the same time! And while you’re visiting your area winery – be sure to grab a brand-new BERKS COUNTY WINE TRAIL map too! The trail’s new maps include all the current wineries on the trail plus more detailed location and contact information for each.

    Some of the “Eau de COOL” wine drinks to sample during COOL WINE TREAT WEEKEND will be:

    “Pink Pussycat” drinks made with Manatawny Creek’s Rufus’ Rose wine instead of gin traditionally used for this cool-cat cocktail.

    “White Wine Sangria” laced with local fruits will be polished off with Blair Vineyard’s blizzardy-cool Chardonnay.

    What’s better than an ice slushie on a hot August day? An ice slushie made with ice wine! J.Maki Vineyards/French Creek Ridge will be chillin’ with their “Vidal Blanc Ice Wine Slushies.”

    Wicked cool will be the “Wine Mojito” that will cool down anyone coming to Pinnacle Ridge with Vidal Blanc.

    And no cool factor is complete without the party-fun of “Jello Wine Shots” which Calvaresi is icily creating with their rich Port wine.

    Visit the events page of http://www.berkscountywinetrail.com soon for more information and further additions to the “cool wine treat” tasting list!

    A complete list of the participating wineries is:


    BLAIR VINEYARDS (610-682-0075)
    CALVARESI WINERY (610-488-7966)

    KOG HILL WINERY (610-913-6609)

    LONG TROUT WINERY (570-366-6443)

    MANATAWNY CREEK WINERY (610-689-9804).

    PINNACLE RIDGE WINERY (610-756-4481)

    Combined, the Berks County wineries have won hundreds of state and international awards. The winemakers, their families and employees are proud to be able to preserve beautiful countryside landscapes and the agricultural heritage of Pennsylvania farming through the growing and processing of Pennsylvania grown grapes and fruits.

    The Berks County Wine Trail’s membership are proud to be associated with Pennsylvania Wine Association, Pennsylvania Wine Society, The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s ‘PA Preferred’ Program, the Greater Reading Convention & Visitors Bureau, Sckuylkill Valley Visitors Bureau, and nine-plus regional Chambers of Commerce.

    For more information about the Berks County Wine Trail, its member wineries, lists of wines, maps and directions, please visit: http://www.berkscountywinetrail.com or email berks_county_wine_trail@yahoo.com

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