With the 4th of July around the corner, what better way to celebrate our nation's birthday than to enjoy two of our most honored American spirits, namely Rye Whiskey and Bourbon. Both spirits evoke a sense of nostalgia for our history and patriotism. Did you know that bourbon was designated the official spirit of the United States by an act of Congress in 1964? President Truman was known to have a shot of bourbon every morning with his breakfast. George Washington used to distill his own rye whiskey. In 1797 he wrote to his plantation manager "Distillery. Is a business I am entirely unacquainted with; but from your knowledge of it and from the confidence you have in the profit to be derived from the establishment, I am disposed to enter upon one..."
Whether you like them straight up or enjoy your bourbon in an Old Fashioned or Mint Julep or your rye in a Sazerac or Manhattan, you can't go wrong with their distinctive flavors that will bring some extra fireworks to your palate.
Capital Cooking was invited to a bourbon and rye tasting hosted by Ewan Morgan of Bulleit distillers where he featured Bulleit Bourbon and their recently released Small-Batch Bulleit Rye at Old Glory Restaurant in Georgetown. He explained that in order to be designated as such, bourbons must be made with at least 51% corn and rye whiskey with 51% (you guessed it) rye.
Beginning with the Bulleit Bourbon, which is made in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, its color consists of a dark, golden hue. Its aroma blooms with sweetness carrying hints of cherry and oak. Its texture is velvety with notes of orange, vanilla, and oak with a smooth finish. This bourbon screams to be used in an Old Fashioned.
Using the Bulleit Bourbon Ewan introduced me to a cocktail I hadn't yet tried called the "Scofflaw," created originally at Harry's New York Bar in Paris in the 1920s. It consist of:
1.5 oz Bulleit Bourbon
1.5 oz. Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz. Freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 oz. Pomegranate (grenadine) syrup
1 dash of Fee Brothers Orange Bitters
The Scofflaw has a bright flavor from the grenadine and lemon juice. The Bulleit Bourbon fits in perfectly with the ingredients adding both a sweetness and earthiness to the cocktail and is further accentuated with the orange bitters. Given that the French did help us out in the revolution the vermouth adds not only a historical context of friendship but added a friendly balance to the sweet and earthy flavors.The Bulleit small-batch rye is made in Lawrenceburg, Indiana (coincidentally the same city name as the Kentucky bourbon). It is lighter in color than the bourbon with a golden straw hue. It has a sweet aroma of rye bread, almond and honey. The whiskey is quite smooth in texture with flavors of vanilla, caramel and oak with further whispers of rye. It leaves a spicy zing on your tongue but is not too overwhelming on the palate. This is not only a great sipping rye but one that could be used as a building block for cocktails, which is precisely what Ewan did by introducing me to a "Kentucky Buck:"
In a tumbler muddle 2 fresh strawberries adding:
1/2 oz. sugar syrup
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
2 oz. Bulleit Rye
Shake over ice, strain into a tall glass with ice and top with ginger beer (not ale).
Though the cocktail may not have been a true bearer of its name with the Indiana rye, the Kentucky Buck is a light summertime cocktail perfect for a steamy day. Pink in color, the fresh strawberries added a seasonal flare to the aroma and flavor. It is not overly sweet and the ginger beer (more flavorful and robust than ale) compliments the spiciness of the rye. It went down quick.
The bourbon and rye whiskey were a perfect match to the rustic American interior of Old Glory and its inviting hospitality. With a menu that is representative of some of the best barbeque America has to offer, Bulleit bourbon and their small-batch rye will fit in quite well to Old Glory's selection of great American spirits, including 80 varieties of bourbon. Join the Old Glory Bourbon Club and attempt to make your way through all of them (not all in one sitting of course). If you can accomplish that feat they will put a plaque with your name on their hallowed walls.
Cheers to Old Glory, cheers to you and cheers to celebrating our great American spirits!