How to Showcase Your Spirits Through Cocktails
Written by Dan Callaway, Vice President – Hospitality & Product Development, Bardstown Bourbon Company
There’s no shame in using your favorite Bourbon to make a Manhattan, in dissolving the implied separation between top shelf and cocktail pours. In fact, some of my favorite drinks celebrate their base spirit; they enliven core flavors and build structure around an existing profile, ultimately creating something original.
At Bardstown Bourbon Company, we strive for Innovation, Collaboration, and Transparency, all of which also happen to be things I love in a cocktail! On our Product Development team, we craft unique blends and finishes, everything from traditional Kentucky Bourbon to whiskey aged in Armagnac and Amaro barrels.
A wide flavor wheel and prodigious output are a dream combination for a cocktail canvas—and one of the best entry points for consumers to your products. Here are some things we’ve learned about showcasing spirits through cocktails:
1. Make Your Spirit The Star
Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Collaborative series places Bourbon into a barrel previously used by another wine, beer, or spirit for a secondary aging process. By the end of the additional aging (anywhere from 7 to 45 months), we have created a complex profile that highlights the best qualities of both the original Bourbon and the flavors of the barrel’s first aging by our partner brand.
The best cocktails allow both the finish and the original wine, beer, or spirit in the recipe to shine through. For example, we create a New York Sour featuring our Phifer Pavitt Cabernet-finished Bourbon, with a Phifer Pavitt Cabernet wine float. The unity between the base spirit and the wine is readily apparent and beautifully brings the blend together. Our Curacao-finished Bourbon makes a wonderful Derby cocktail—a lovely combination of Bourbon, sweet vermouth, curacao, and lime.
2. Blend Your Ingredients Mindfully
Our Discovery series celebrates the art of blending, creating a product that is greater than any of its individual parts. Blending is elevated in Champagne, Tea, and Japanese Whisky; however it is only recently finding its pedestal in Bourbon.
Traditionally, Bourbon uses age statements as a mark of quality, and if there is a blend, the process and percentages are closely guarded. Our Discovery Series is a flavor explosion comprised of rich, aged, high-proof, flavorful whiskies with the breakdown of the blend and mash bills available right there on the label. The Bourbon offers a perfect foundation for bold, spirit-forward cocktails like the Old Fashioned.
With a Discovery Series Old Fashioned, I carefully select a few ingredients to create a classic version that truly showcases the spirit: a quarter ounce of cane sugar to bring out the barrel notes plus two dashes of angostura. With high-proof, premium Bourbon, I prefer a single large cube to slow the dilution, maintaining the thick flavors for as long as possible.
3. Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment
The Fusion series is our most versatile Bourbon for cocktail creativity. It provides a fusion of younger Bourbon from our stills, as well as older sourced product. More importantly, it is representative of a fusion of the unique perspectives of the folks that work together in our building, including our Executive Chef, Master Distiller, and various cocktail experts.
The bright young Bourbon is highlighted best with citrus and honey, while the oaky sourced component mellows out the bolder elements of that bright flavor. The 95- to 100-proof range makes for ease of balance.
4. Revisit The Basics For Inspiration
When creating cocktails for our Fusion series, I like to first go back to the basics—that is, by breaking down the tasting notes for each release. For example, in addition to the classic citrus, our latest Fusion features apple and spice. Riesling became a natural partner for these flavors and added acidic complexity, while apple brandy served to create a bridge between the Bourbon and the wine. Here’s what I came up with:
1.5oz Fusion #5
.5oz Kabinett Riesling
.5oz Copper & Kings Apple Brandy
.25oz Yellow Chartreuse
Stir on ice and strain into rocks glass with one large cube. Garnish with a pear slice.
5. Stay True To Your Roots
At Bardstown Bourbon Company, we do not have a lengthy history or generations of Bourbon legends. Our story is told through our team. The collaborative spirit of our brand carries into our cocktails, showcasing our team’s creative prowess and how that translates to the great whiskies we are creating.
As you explore opportunities for crafting great cocktails with your spirits, be sure to keep your story close. Let cocktails provide a new pathway for sharing that story with your consumers.
Interested in advancing your knowledge of distilling and the spirits industry? Check out Moonshine University’s upcoming courses to learn from the best in the business.
Written by Dan Callaway, Vice President – Hospitality & Product Development, Bardstown Bourbon Company.