A Limerick for Laurel

Cocktail hour with Warren Bobrow – A Limerick for Laurel cocktail

There was a fine gal named Laurel.

Who never put up with any Quarrel

She married fair Bill

Whose true voice that she willed

So there would never be bitters to spoil!

 

The clouds are rushing in this morning. Rain is pouring heavily from the sky in buckets. Someone said something about heavy thunderstorms and sixty- degree weather. This is not winter- I’m confused. Certain types of confusion- such as the weather do strange things to my sense of normal. But what is normal these days? Is it finally Winter?

I hope so. This may be just an anomaly.

It’s a mere blip on the radar screen.

While down in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail- I had the pleasure of meeting and enjoying a cocktail at the historic carousel bar at the Monteleone Hotel with my friend Bill York of Bitter End Bitters and his lovely wife Laurel. As the carousel made the slow go-round and all those around me became more and more sloshed, (present company excluded) my cocktail driven sense of self detached from the reality of the situation. Now, many months later, I’m reminded of the restoratives served at the Carousel Bar and the friends I made while circling the room as the seconds ticked away.

Cheers!

A Limerick for Laurel Cocktail

( A VERY twisted takeoff on the classic cocktail named Bees Knees)

Makes one very dangerous drink. Stay off the roads!

  1. 2 Shots of a very smoky Bourbon Whiskey like Devil’s Cut from Jim Beam
  2. 1 Shot fresh lemon juice
  3. 1 Shot freshly squeezed orange juice
  4. 2 tablespoons Lavender/Lemon Simple Syrup from Royal Rose
  5. 2 tablespoons of wildflower honey
  6. Bitters (your choice) I prefer the Thai Bitters from Bitter End

 

Preparation: To a cocktail shaker- add ½ with ice. Add Scotch, honey, juices and bitters, shake and pour into a short glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a grilled orange slice and sip to the mournful sound of that strange, yet familiar song from Chet Baker- My Funny Valentine- all sung in minor notes. Very appropriate for a 60 plus degree winter day.

 

 Cheers! Wb the Cocktailwhisperer.com

Work done for OKRA, the online magazine of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

 

WARREN BOBROW grew up on a biodynamic farm in Morristown, New Jersey. He is a reluctant cocktail/wine writer who just completed an entry for the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America Ed., 2 on the topic of biodynamic and organic wine/spirits/food. He’s also a former trained chef/saucier.

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Photo Credit: travelingmcmahans; creative commons

My grandfather, a Yankee like myself, truly enjoyed Bottled in Bond, 100 Proof Bourbon Whiskey.  I didn’t know about his passion for Bourbon because he never drank it around me and he never ordered it in a restaurant. Usually he ordered an extra dry Dewers Rob Roy.  For many years I only thought he drank Scotch whisky. What I didn’t know at the time was that his true passion was Bourbon.

My grandfather owned his own company and one of the things that people would give him at Christmas time were some very special bottles of Bourbon.  These bottles remained hidden from me for many years.  After he died I learned from my grandmother that there were several nice looking (from a design perspective anyway) bottles of pre-1960 Bourbon in a hidden compartment of the bar.

She went on to tell me that she was going to pour out the contents (the historic Bourbon) and turn them into flower vases, because the bottles were so pretty.  I got over to her home as quickly as I could.  She showed me the hidden compartment in the bar.   Inside there were several bottles of Bourbon from the 1940’s to the late 1950s. These bottles of Bourbon had rested, in the dark, away from my youthful fingers since he placed them there and forgot about them.

These remaining bottles are a liquid history of the last of my grandfather’s Bourbon collection.

Photo: Warren Bobrow

Truth be told, as a “damned” Yankee, I know the true value of these ancient spirits.  Not as an investment in dollars, but as a flavor-driven window into my family’s past.  The bottles that I hold in my hand are a history of flavor.  This is a specific type of history that could never be duplicated today, primarily because the people who crafted the contents of these historic Bourbon bottles are now long gone.  The ingredients used today are similar, but the Whisky is different because each sip holds liquid ghosts belonging to the past.

Tasting notes:

Old Forester “Bottled in Bond” Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky.  100 proof. This bottle has been filled and stamped under the provisions of sections 5008 and 5243 of the Internal Revenue code.

Set into wood 1954. Bottled 1959.

A gentle, almost cedar nose gives way to candied orange peel, sweet jasmine flowers and caramelized pecan. The brooding heat burns the tongue.  With a texture almost as thick as maple syrup, the freshness and liveliness of this Bourbon hasn’t changed a bit since entering the bottle over fifty years ago.  Charred notes of Anson Mills stone ground grits stuck to the bottom of an ancient cast iron pan is the next thing tasted as I rolled a few precious drops around my mouth.  The soft, mineral finish goes on and on, revealing itself with another slow burn as if the bottom of the glass was aflame.  This Bourbon, when served with a bit of Kentucky Colonel mint from the garden, awakens ghosts from one’s grand-pappy’s generation.

Ancient Age.  Date uncertain due to the loss of the tax stamp, estimated somewhere between 1945-1950.  Space Age in design, this Mid-Century modern bottle is filled to just over a pint in liquid.  Marked straight Bourbon Whiskey.  The bottle reads: carefully distilled according to the finest old traditions. 86 proof.  Marked Full Six Years old. Distilled and bottled by Ancient Age Distillery Co., Frankfort Kentucky.

Warm aromas of sweetly delineated, hand-hewn oak- remind me immediately that Bourbon Whisky is not Scotch Whiskey or Tennessee sippin’ Whisky.  One reason for certain is the lack of smoke, peat and saline in the nose.  Normally, I find these flavors to be overpowering.  I suppose I just don’t understand Scotch.  The nose of this Bourbon Whisky resembles a liquid caramel candy.  A burst of fire from the nearly 90 proof alcohol makes itself known then a finish of fleur du sel and freshly cut herbs like thyme and tarragon.  This Bourbon, although “only” 86 proof, acts on the palate like one almost double the potency. In fact it resembles in many ways the potency and grip of some un-cut corn whiskies I’ve tasted recently.  Each slurp reveals sharply aromatic Asian spices with a razor sharp finish that exposes itself on the back of the tongue; with a nearly 2 minute long finish!  This Bourbon tastes nothing like the roughness of the neither 1952 Old Forester, nor does is resemble the overly oaked  “modern-style” of the 1955 Old Grand Dad. With a crumbled leaf of Kentucky Colonel spearmint this Bourbon really opens up, revealing its wood-driven flavors as a contender for a (very rare and expensive) mint julep.  This Bourbon has all the stuffing for a drink made with its primary ingredient over a half-century old!

Old Forester 1952. Bottled in Bond in 1957. Freshly baked charred- corn “hoe” cakes are smeared with melted, sweet strawberry butter. The first flavors take a bit to get used to.  Sweet is usually a flavor more akin to Canadian Whisky or Irish Whisky.  Freshly brewed sweet iced tea reveals itself- then flavors of caramel corn and cinnamon laced red-hot candy folded into a mug of boiling hot water, Asian spices and sugar cane lurk in the background.  The backbone of alcohol is a sudden wake up call to the throat.  It BURNS!  A glass of this Bourbon has amazing heat for spirit almost sixty years old!   The 1952 taste as lively a drink in the glass as a 2002 bottle of Knob Creek Bourbon!  It’s just amazing how little the alcoholic power has diminished over the past half century!

Old Grand Dad “Head of the Bourbon Family” 1955. Set into bottle 1959.  Part of a more modern and new style of Bourbon Whiskey, this is a roughly hewn, heavily oaked version of the classic drink.  It’s just amazing to me how much Bourbon has evolved during the late 1950’s.  The soft almost billowy quality of the Bourbon is ever-present, yet the finish is much sharper, but it lingers on the tongue for several minutes.  The 1959 bottling is more akin in many ways to Four Roses or Pappy Van Winkle with an almost lemon oil, citrus tinged mouth-feel.  The oils from the cask rise to the surface creating an illusion of a rainbow.  Each sip is laced with banana, vanilla bean, toasted corn bread, the char from well- seasoned cast iron pan and brook trout cooked in that pan with a handful of toasted hazelnuts thrown in at the finish.   An Amaretto-liqueur nose predominates.  The finish is like the first day of golden sunshine, streaming into the windows after a spring thunderstorm.  This is serious stuff and it deserves a drop or two of branch water to release its secrets.  The next flavors are like authentically seasoned Thai food served Thai spicy.  Flavor before heat is the mantra of this Bourbon.  A few sips signal the essential drink to take the edge off the afternoon or evening like none of your neighbors have ever imagined or enjoyed.

These bottles are a bit less than ½ full … As much as I want to share them with well- meaning friends, I know that once they’re gone, they can never be replaced.

I’ll be drinking small glasses from these bottles without any mixers from now on.  Well, maybe with a few drops of some sweet, local branch water flicked over the surface to connect these liquid history lessons with the flavor driven memories of the past.

Some recent writing for Williams-Sonoma with thanks for the re-print.

All This Rum! A New Tiki Bar Cocktail

Ever since I sat as a Rum Judge at the 2010 Ministry of Rum tasting competition in San Francisco, the whole direction of my spirits-writing career has changed. I used to only write about wine.

Then a flash went off: wine is so serious; why not write about something fun, like spirits?

I’ve always loved rum. Rum appeals to me.

Rum is a spirit woven from history. Flavors exist within rums that don’t reveal themselves in other lighter-colored liquors. I’m a fan of rums aged in used wooden casks that formerly held bourbon or cognac. The caramelized notes of smoke, butter and bittersweet chocolate reveal themselves beautifully with the white flower aromas of freshly crushed cane sugar.

What is good rum, and how does it differ from all other rums? I’m not entirely sure. But when you’re out on a yacht, somewhere between Bermuda and the Virgin Islands, nothing tastes so delicious with some coconut water ice.

 

Over the past few years, Tiki Bar cocktail lounges have revealed themselves as funky representations of times gone past. Tiki gives credence to the easier times in America.

 

Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco faithfully reproduces a dream Tiki bar located down off a decaying pier, jutting out into a world of rotting boats and handcrafted cocktails. If a stage set of liquid pleasures could be created, Smuggler’s Cove fits the West Coast genre to a T. Over on the East Coast, on the Island of Manhattan — described as the Greatest Island in the World – PKNY – formerly named Painkiller(the name is another story for another day) has a knack for Tiki as well.

 

Here’s a Tiki Bar cocktail you’ve never had before.

 

The Yachtsman’s Demise


3 oz. Kōloa Rum from Hawaii (use their Spiced Rum for this cocktail)

1 oz. fresh mango juice

1/2 tsp. freshly chopped coconut meat

1/2 tsp. freshly scraped ginger

3 drops Bitter End Thai Bitters

6 ice cubes made with coconut water and freshly grated nutmeg (just a bit, it’s strong stuff!)

1/2 oz. Lemon Hart 151 Rum

Q-Ginger Ale to finish

 

Fill a cocktail shaker with fresh ice (reserve your coconut water ice for the glass). Add the Kōloa Rum to the shaker, then the fresh mango juice, coconut meat and ginger. Add the Bitter End Thai Bitters.

 

Shake and strain into a tall Tiki (ceramic) mug filled with your coconut water and grated nutmeg ice cubes. Float the Lemon Hart 151 Rum over the top, and finish with Q-Ginger Ale. Makes 1 cocktail.

Thirst Quenching Cocktails

Friends of mine just got back from attending the Tecate 500 off road race in Mexico. They scoffed at all the attention Mexico has received, often unfairly over the last few months. Mexico is a place of many incongruities. Our newspapers shout about how dangerous it is, but here in Baja California, it’s the same as it ever was … A mixture of ex-pats from the United States and back to the future locals who live on surfing, fish tacos and fine locally produced wines. Beer is popular too, as refreshment against the relentless sun. Lime is good for food and beer to raise the flavors up to higher levels (plus it acts as a preservative) and rum, as we all know is safer to drink than the local water.

The grueling, off-road car and motorcycle race known as the Tecate 500 is one of those events that make you thirsty before you even get out of the air-conditioning in your hotel into the blistering heat of Baja, California.

A quenching pair of rum cocktails: Trouble in Paradise and The 500 Cocktail.

The 500 Cocktail

  • 1 Tecate Mexican Beer
  • 2 shots Denizen Rum
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • 2 splashes simple syrup
  • Fresh mint
  1. Muddle mint with lime chunks and simple syrup to a nice paste in a cocktail shaker.
  2. Add some ice and the rum.
  3. Shake, pour into a chilled glass and top with Tecate.

I grew up between New Jersey, Europe and the British Virgin Islands. My family owned a sailboat and they lolled away the winter months basking in the sun and reveling in the trade winds that wound their way up from the Brazilian coast to the Caribbean Sea.

This little cocktail, a twist on the classic punch, is reminiscent of those enjoyed in the British Virgin Islands. Great local rums sold there have a rich history of flavors. Many of these speak the stories of pirates, privateers and forced hard labor in the relentless, brutal heat. Clean water sources are rare, rum costs less than water on many of these islands, so you drink rum!

Trouble in Paradise

  • 3 shots Denizen White Rum
  • 1 ounce each freshly squeezed lime, orange, grapefruit and lemon juices (to ward off scurvy)
  • 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar or cane sugar syrup from Martinique
  • Coconut water, frozen in ice cube trays (I use Goya)
  • Several shakes Bitter End Thai Bitters
  • Splash club soda (use instead of soda water, you’ll need the addition of salt in the heat)
  • Orange and lime zest to garnish
  1. Add several cubes of coconut water ice to a cocktail shaker.
  2. Add rum, fruit juices and bitters. (The Bitter End line of cocktail bitters may well be the most assertive and flavor-driven bitters I’ve ever tasted.)
  3. Shake and finish with a splash or two of club soda.
  4. Serve in an old fashioned glass, with several cubes of coconut water ice, garnished with lime and orange zest.

Hollis Bulleit-cocktail chanteuse

August 10, 2011

The Five Questions to Bourbon/Rye Bonne Vivante- Hollis Bulleit

 

Hollis Bulleit: Photo: Warren Bobrow


I met Hollis at a table in the press room during the Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.  She is hard to miss in her “Facinator” hats that seemed to change hourly.   You can see her a mile away with these hand made- crafty pieces of fabric and metals.  They fit her personality- or so I found out after bumping into her several times- always on the arm of some incredibly well- dressed and talented mixologist who escorted her through the fray.

Being the daughter of the owner of Bulleit Bourbon (one of my favorite brands) must have many rewarding moments.  She was free-pouring her dad’s Bourbon and Rye into glasses with their family name emblazoned on them.  I knew we would have much to talk about.  A few months earlier- one of the PR agencies sent me some samples of Bulleit Bourbon for subsequent article I wrote about flavor.

I was taken by their Rye Whiskey (from Bulleit)- and made a Mint Julep with it.  The flavors carried through the crushed ice, Kentucky Mint and my favorite go/to- Sugar in the Raw all served in a sterling silver Julep Cup.

The memory of this taste hung in my mind for weeks afterwards and I was driven to write about it.

There are many personalities in the spirits world.  I’ve met some incredible people along the way.  They are inclusive, not exclusive with their friendship.

During the Tales, I met many people I only knew through my meanderings within the world of Social Media.  It was a honor to meet many of y’all in person down in New Orleans!

I asked Hollis to answer the Five Questions because I knew she would have an interesting take on the process.  Her replies would be honest and a good representation of her own personal life which is revealed in her carefully penned answers.

Without further delay, may I present- Hollis Bulleit!

WRR 1. Where are you from? Do you cook? You’re out on the road so much, do you seek out local foods? What are you passionate about food wise?

I grew up in Lexington Kentucky, but I’ve got gypsy blood in me so since I turned 18 I’ve moved around quite a bit. I’ve spent time in Boston, East Village in New York, Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, Aix-en-Provence France (with stints in London, Spain, and Italy), and now I’m on the west coast. So I’ve certainly earned my street cred to have the World Ambassador of Bulleit Bourbon title. The one thing that I learned from my Mama was to always cook with love. No fighting in the kitchen lest it get into the food. So when I cook, I only cook when I’m happy. When I’m on the road I seek out happy chefs and mixologists. My passion with food as with cocktails is to have new experiences and unique experiences that I cannot duplicate at home. As my Father says, “Our chemistry stops in front of the bar and the mixologist’s art starts behind it”. I included a photo of my father and I with David Nelson at Spur Gastropub of Seattle in 2009 who helped run a six course private dinner for us with food pairings based on the notes in the whiskey (cherry, smoke, etc). It was like cocktail theatre. Truly, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

 

Hotel Monteleone Carousel Bar- Photo: Warren Bobrow

WRR 2. If you could be anywhere in the world where would that be? What would you be doing while there? Eating? Drinking? What do you like to do when you’re on vacation somewhere?

I’d be in the right here, right now. You know, I’m old enough to know that the best experiences out there are ones that I do not plan. I love meeting new people and being in new places just as much as I love my old haunts and old friends. One of my favorite old haunts that always offers new experiences is the Tales of the Cocktail week in New Orleans where we met. The week- long event is a great place to talk about my whole family, including my bourbon and rye, in an atmosphere of passion about the spirits. I’ve attached a photo of me and Toby Maloney (of Alquemy Consulting… he serves a wicked “Vincent’s Ruin” with the Bulleit Rye) at the Diageo Cocktail Hour at TOTC 2011.

WRR 3. You’re the brand ambassador of a fantastic product. How do you like your Bourbon mixed?

In good company. I’ve attached Warren’s photo of me… in good company.

In Good Company- Photo: Warren Bobrow

WRR 4. Do you use Social Media? If so, what do you use?

I use my personal website, www.hollisbulleit.com as a gateway to my Facebook Fanpage where I post recipes, toasts, and my personal artwork (performance installations, paintings, prints, jewelry, and hats). FB is a great way to multitask because I have fanpage for people I’ve briefly met or haven’t met, and I use my personal Facebook page as a Rolodex of colleagues. I have dozens of FB friend folders and I like having a photo that goes along with a name because I’m constantly meeting people in one city and then seeing them in another… it can get confusing. I like the FB places “check in” option, which is especially helpful when I’m on the road corralling my friends and such. I am only Facebook all of the time with my San Fran BFF’s Michael and John – this is us at the Bulleit Rye Launch in SF Spring 2011)

 

Hollis Bulleit and her friends


WRR 5. Is there anything that when you eat or drink- it brings a tear to your eye? Why? What reason?

The last time I cried over food was during a 10 fast and my next-door neighbor was baking chocolate cookies! Yet, every year when we have a Bulleit dinner at Antoine’s I get a little verklempt watching my father’s excitement over their baked Alaska made just for him. Whenever someone names a drink after me, it is always very special. These are particularly close to my heart; Lu Brow (at the Café Adelaide & The Swizzle Stick Bar of New Orleans) “The Mad Hatter” to me, Marvin Allen (the Bar Manager of the Hotel Monteleone made a drink called “The Happy Hollis”, and Josh Durr (co-founder of Hawthorn Beverage) created a “From Augustus to Hollis” cocktail.

 

Hollis and her dad in New Orleans

Thank you Hollis not only for your friendship, but for sitting down and sharing your thoughts with my readers of the Five Questions!  Cheers! wb

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Wild River Review/Wild Table editor, Warren Bobrow grew up on a Biodynamic farm in Morristown, NJ. A graduate of Emerson College in Boston- with a degree in Film, he spent his senior year of college as a research assistant in visual thinking. (Center for Advanced Visual Studies @ MIT)

To learn more about Warren, click here:  Wild River Review.

Please follow me on Twitter @WarrenBobrow1

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