As Bourbon Heritage Month comes to a close, this will be my final post on the subject. I'm sure many of you are ready to move on to other exciting things. Today, I am giving you my top 5 favorite bourbon cocktails (in no particular order) with tasting notes along with my favorite brands with pricing and category classification (call (very good) vs. premium (high-end/expensive) vs. ultra/super-premium (top of the line/very expensive)). Pricing as of September 26, 2014. Some of these you may not be able to get your hands in PA.
Top 5 Bourbon Cocktails
1. Gold Rush
Call bourbon, honey liqueur, fresh lemon juice, fresh honey syrup (diluted with water), (optional add a splash of pulp-free o.j.) with lemon peel garnish served in an old-fashioned glass. Citrusy and refreshing. Easy to make at home.
2. Mint Julep
Muddled mint sprigs, lime slice, simple syrup, and call bourbon, top with lime soda water, mint sprigs garnish in a julep glass or highball glass. Minty and bold. Sig drink of Kentucky Derby.
Call bourbon, applejack brandy, pear and ginger liqueurs, fresh lemon juice, orange bitters, apple slice garnish in a chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Fruity, complex, and sweet.
4. Lemon-Basil Manhattan
Muddled lemon zest, pure cane syrup (2:1 sugar to water), basil leaves, premium bourbon, lemon twist garnish in a chilled cocktail glass or on the rocks in an old-fashioned glass. Citrusy and strong. Re-invention of a classic.
5. Tender Knob
Muddled Fuji apple slice, call bourbon, agave nectar syrup (diluted with water), apple cider, grated cinnamon, apple slice garnish in an old-fashioned glass. Fruity, citrusy, and sweet.
Bulleit Bourbon (90-proof), 750 ml, $27.00, call, high rye
Baker's (107-proof), 750 ml, $40, premium, Jim Beam's small batch bourbon, traditional
Basil Hayden's (80-proof), 750 ml, $41.99, premium, Jim Beam's small batch bourbon, high rye
Angel's Envy (87-proof), 750 ml, $47.99, premium/super-premium, traditional
Knob Creek (100-proof), 750 ml, $34.99, call, Jim Beam's small batch bourbon, traditional
Woodford Reserve (90-proof), 750 ml, $34.99, call/premium, high rye, signature bourbon for the Kentucky Derby since 1996
Maker's Mark (90-proof), 750 ml, $28.99, call, high wheat
Rule of thumb - If you plan on drinking it 'straight up' or 'on the rocks' or in Manhattans, use a high quality bourbon (premium or super-premium, i.e. Basil Hayden's or Angel's Envy)...If mixed with juices or sodas, then less important...For common drinks, like a Highball, Presbyterian, Whiskey Sour, Whiskey & ginger ale, etc... use a 'call' bourbon, i.e. Maker's Mark or Knob Creek...I use Bulleit Bourbon (call) in one of my favorite drinks "Gold Rush", but is also under-rated 'on the rocks' with a splash of water...If drinking bourbon 'on the rocks' or straight up/neat, always add a splash of water to bring out the aromatics/smokiness and flavor of the bourbon.
Enjoy! Drink Responsibly! Cheers!