Every bar in the country seems to be serving a new round of bourbon cocktails. From tours on the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky to tumblers at your local watering hole, bourbon whiskey is enjoying a renaissance. An American spirit distilled since the 18th century, this Southern libation is aged in charred oak barrels and made from a mash of corn and other grains.
Along with the resurgence in speakeasies and the popularity of "Mad Men," this classic American whiskey is once again at the top of the trend list. True bourbon connoisseurs would never call it whiskey - bourbon is distinct from its parent liquor because it has a corn-heavy mash (at least 51 percent), is aged in charred barrels, and is made from Kentucky’s limestone-rich native water.
You can take your bourbon however you would like: neat, with water or soda, over ice cubes, or mixed into a powerful cocktail. Bourbon is used in many traditional cocktails, including Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, Mint Juleps and Whiskey Sours – but it tastes even better in these innovative new recipes. Grab some organic fresh fruit at the farmers market, make these bourbon cocktails at home, and treat your guests to a spirited drink with a punch.
1. Peach Cilantro Julep (Serves 1) – In a cocktail shaker, combine half a peach – the ripest you can find (if it’s a huge peach, just use one quarter). Add a sprig of fresh cilantro, one teaspoon of simple syrup, and ½ ounce of ginger liqueur (such as Domaine de Canton). Muddle gently, and then add two ounces of bourbon and fill with ice. Shake well, and strain the mix into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro and slice of fresh peach.
2. Bourbon Pear Punch (Serves 1) – Cut a quarter of a ripe pear (Bartlett, D'Anjou or Bosc) into paper-thin slices, and muddle at the bottom of a rocks glass with a splash of simple syrup. Add ice to fill the glass, plus 1-½ ounces of bourbon and 1-½ ounces of pear liquor (such as Belle de Brillet). Stir gently until mixed, and then top with a dash of Angostura bitters. Garnish with a slice of lime and Luxardo cherry.
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3. The New Fashioned (Serves 1) – In a rocks glass, add a large cube of brown sugar, three blackberries, a thick slice of lemon, a fresh sprig of thyme and two dashes of orange bitters. Muddle until the mix is combined, then add 2 ounces of bourbon and fill with ice. Stir well, and top with a splash of club soda. Garnish with a slice of lemon, blackberry and sprig of thyme.
4. Bourbon Pineapple Sangria (Serves 1) – Combine in a large glass pitcher: ½ cup pomegranate juice, ½ cup pineapple juice, and three tablespoons of white or brown sugar; stir until dissolved. Add two sliced oranges, one cup of thinly sliced fresh pineapple, ¼ cup of bourbon and the juice from half a lemon. Stir again, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. To serve, fill glasses with ice. Pour sangria halfway to the top, and then finish with sparkling wine or Champagne. Garnish with a slice of fresh pineapple.
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Image: kyle may