Friday is National Bourbon Day, which folks in Kentucky celebrate most everyday. Visit Louisville, my old home town, and you’ll find bourbon bars with encyclopedic lists of brands and bottlings from around the state — and enough cocktails to keep you happy for a good long while.
I was back home last month and had the chance to visit the Jim Beam Distillery, just outside the city. On my self-guided tour, I walked up to one of the barn-like storage centers, which aren’t open to the public, a fact I didn’t know until I reached for the knob. The air I breathed in at that moment made me stop as much as the lock on the door. I found myself overcome with the amazing, dense aroma of bourbon aging in the barrel. All kinds of fruits, from wild cherry to peach, mingled with oaky caramel to create the feeling that I was deep inside an old-fashioned. I was in no rush at that point, so I lingered for a few minutes longer just to drink it all in.
One of Beam’s small batch bourbons is Basil Hayden’s, which is used in the following kicky cocktail, the Spicy Brown Blinker. It calls for grapefruit soda, and my top choice would be a Mexican Fresca made with cane sugar. Do not use the American version, which is made with some ghastly artificial sweetener that leaves a horrible finish. Your bourbon — not to mention your belly — deserves better than that.
Basil Hayden’s Spicy Brown Blinker
2 parts Basil Hayden’s Bourbon
1 teaspoon honey syrup (recipe follows)
1 teaspoon raspberry vinegar
Grapefruit soda, such as Fresca
1 cup honey
1 cup water
For the syrup: In a small saucepan, heat the honey and water. Stir until fully incorporated, then let cool and refrigerate
For the cocktail: Add Basil Hayden’s Bourbon, honey syrup and raspberry vinegar over ice in a Collins glass and stir.
Top with grapefruit soda.
Garnish with a grapefruit peel or fresh raspberries.
Makes 1 cocktail.
From Marie Zahn, Louisville/Basil Hayden’s