Mixology Monday: Bourbon Whiskey

I very nearly skipped this month’s MxMo for a simple reason: I know absolutely nothing about Bourbon! But I figured I’d take a shot at it anyway, because, well, knowing nothing about a subject has never stopped me from expounding on about it before.
For me, Bourbon is that bottle of Maker’s Mark with the cool red wax seal that lives in the back of my liquor cabinet. The level goes down every time we have a party, but I never have anything to do with that personally. Now, I have toured the Maker’s Mark distillery, and it is a very nice experience. Pack a lunch if you go. Not because the tour is so long, but you are probably going to get lost finding the place. Even folks living back in the Holler think the Maker’s Mark distillery is kinda remote…. If you find yourself in Kentucky, it is worth the trip. You will find few more lovely industrial sites on Earth.
But the sad truth is that I just don’t like Maker’s that much. I’m not much for the brown liquors to begin with, and usually sip some nice single malt when the mood does strike. So I decided that this MxMo would be my excuse to finally spring for a bottle of Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon. Why Blanton’s? Well, over the centuries my family has been in America, we have followed the same generational M.O.: A likely young man among us joins the military, earns a few spiffy medals, then goes out and marries an heiress. Over the next couple of generations we slowly spend ourselves back to genteel poverty, and repeat the process. The only things we manage to hang onto from these escapades are great tales of ancestors and their derring do, and a host of cool, aristocratic names. Blanton is one of those family names we have appropriated, with one of my favorite cousins currently carrying it around. Thus my desire to try the hooch while I’m still more genteel than poor….
It is a really cool bottle, with a wax seal like Maker’s, but a more cool way of opening it. While it doesn’t have a cute hat on the top, it does have a little statue of a horse, which I suppose works pretty good for Kentucky. First, I tried a bit served the way I like my single malt scotch: A generous splash in a brandy snifter with a single ice cube. There is tremendous character there, and I find it more interesting than Maker’s Mark, it still tastes like Bourbon to me, which is to say there is more caramel than smoke.
So I decided I’d try it in some kind of cocktail. I don’t have any in my repertoire, so I went looking. I finally unearthed a cocktail that looked promising. Apparently it once enjoyed some level of public recognition, kinda like the Pegu. It’s called a… whatchacallit… a Manhattan.
Yes, I am that lame to do a Manhattan for Mixology Monday. Sorry. I told you don’t know a darned thing about Bourbon. I have always used pure Rye when I made them for my mother-in-law. And I thought it might be interesting for some few of you to hear the impressions of someone who has never so much as tasted one himself.
So, I’ll insult you further by repeating the recipe:


  • 4 parts good (Blanton’s) Bourbon
  • 1 part sweet Italian Vermouth
  • 3 dashes Angustora Bitters
  • 1 dash Fee Brothers Orange Bitters

Shake over ice and serve up, garnished with a cherry.

It is an attractive cocktail, with a delicious, almost savory aroma. If you have real maraschino cherries, I imagine it would benefit from one, instead of the generic store brand superball that is all I currently have. The flavor is better than I thought it would be, but still not completely to my taste. I find that I prefer the general taste of Scotch to Bourbon, because I prefer Scotch’s smokiness to the caramel undertones of Bourbon. The caramelized undertone mixes well with the sweet vermouth, making for a beautifully balanced cocktail. Well duh. This is one of the greatest cocktails ever concocted, so it darned well better be balanced. But it is sweeter than my usual taste. And while I truly love many drinks that are much sweeter, those concoctions all have a generous helping of fruit, something that the Manhattan lacks. This a serious cocktail that hits you just like a Martini, not some sneaky tiki, or gentle Cosmopolitan.
When mulling over what I was going to do with Bourbon, I mentioned my Manhattan desperation to Gwen at Intoxicated Zombie. She said she that she preferred more girly drinks to Manhattans. Having had one now, I contend that this is a girly cocktail. Maybe the girly cocktail. Or perhaps more accurately, the Manhattan is the Broad cocktail. It is not a gentle cocktail, as all ingredients (including the cherry, should you use real brandied ones) are full-on alcoholic, but it is nonetheless reasonably sweet. This is a Bette Davis cocktail. Just be sure you don’t drink them like Dorothy Parker drank Martinis:

I’d like to have a martini
Two at the very most
At three I’m under the table
At four I’m under the host

I hope you enjoyed my fumblings with Bourbon, or at least had a good laugh at my expense. Now trundle on to Scofflaw’s Den and see what people who know what they are doing have to say about the Grand American Whiskey.
Oh, and if you’d like to read something I’m writing about currently where I do know whereof I speak (besides Pegus) try my current series I’m doing on building and stocking your own Basement Bar.

About the author


I am 48 years old, married with two young daughters. My interests are tennis, reading, computers, politics, and of course cocktails. I run a murder mystery party business that caters to both corporate and private events, Killing Time, murder consultants.


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