I am a rum and tequila person. Those are the spirits that move me. Literally.
Bourbon and whiskey? I get confused. I drink them rarely and off the top of my head, I can’t tell you which is which. I know, it’s embarrassing.
But I take refuge in the fact that confusion about the two has reigned for years. So much confusion that in 1964 the United States Congress passed a law making it all clear. Well, not clear, clear because bourbon and whiskey do have that golden-honey color. But, Congress has decreed that:
- Must be produced in the United States [really Kentucky and Tennessee]
- Be made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn
- Must have the alcohol content no higher than 80% [160 proof]
- Must be 100% natural [only water can be added]
- Must be aged in new, charred casks made from American white oak
 Rye Whiskey
- Must meet the same standards except be made from at least 51% rye
 Wheat Whiskey
- Same standards but at least 51% wheat
 Corn Whiskey
- Same Standards but at least 80% corn
 Tennessee Whiskey
- Bourbon made in Tennessee and filtered through sugar maple charcoal before aging
And just for reference, the first American whiskey was made in Pennsylvania and Maryland from rye. Bourbon is the corn spirit.
Recently in Martha Stewart Magazine, there was a recipe for grilled peaches, muddled, and mixed with Bourbon. The recipe called for grilling the peaches until they begin to blacken, probably a good idea to match the Bourbon. I stopped just short of black, because my peach halves were beginning to stick to the grill. And Martha’s recipe called for bitters. I have a shelf of different bitters, including peach. That was a no brainer.
So here’s the recipe for the beverage using Bourbon. If you are a Bourbon fan, I’m sure you’ll love it. I did enjoy it. But, more importantly, the muddled mixture of peach, sugar, lime juice and bitters was something close to nirvana. I love that mix. This weekend, it goes into rum and tequila and cachaca. I’ll let you know. In the meantime, find that bottle of Bourbon and enjoy a truly American cocktail.
Peaches and Bourbon
Yield: 2 generous cocktail
- 2 peaches, peeled, halved, pits removed
- Vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 2 tablespoons of lime juice
- 4 dashes of bitters [peach if you have it]
- 6 ounces of Bourbon [or the spirit of your choice]
Heat a grill to medium.
Coat the 4 peach halves with a little vegetable oil so they will not stick to the grill, or at least stick less.
Grill the peaches until softened. Remove and place in a cocktail shaker.
Add the sugar, lime juice and bitters. Muddle seriously. You do not want any chunks of peach here, so be patient. It’s a 2-3 minutes process.
Add the spirits and ice to the cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously until chilled.
Pour into two cocktails glasses, filled with shaved ice. There will be some peach fragments or strings stuck in the cocktail shaker — no matter how well you tried to muddle. Feel free to spoon those into the cocktails.
Sources: Inspired from Martha Stewart Magazine with reference material from The Ultimate Guide to Spirits and Cocktails by André Dominé
My sweet tooth makes me shy away from bitter liqueurs. I know the world loves Campari and I’ve tried but just one sip and my mouth always puckers so tightly my tongue has to move out of the way.
Very fortunately, an Italian friend has introduced me to Aperol. This is another bitter Italian liqueur, but on so different. Created by a family spirits company — the Barbieri — in 1919, Aperol is now produced by the same company that does that Campari stuff.
Aperol has half the alcohol of Campari, only 11% [15% in Germany because of local laws that help explain why the Euro will fail!]. It is the Aperol flavorings that make it less bitter and, I believe, far more versatile. These flavorings include some things familiar and some a tad obscure:
- Bitter orange
- Gentian, an alpine flowering plant [many species are used in a variety of European liqueurs]
- Cinchona: a family of medicinal plants from the Andes forests
Of course, there are other ingredients and a secret recipe, which is all fodder for you to guess about as you sip and keep asking yourself what could be in this liquid extravaganza. And how did some Italians near Padua in 1919 get their hands on plants from the Andes?
Aperol has a rich orange-red color and is a most versatile component for making wonderful cocktails. Here is an Aperol Sour recipe from Neue Cuisine by Kurt Gutenbrunner, a marvelous new cookbook toasting the elegant tastes of Vienna. There will more posts from Neue Cuisine in the coming days, but this is the appropriate aperitif to get us started.
This recipe for an Aperol Sour is a tad different from the one at the Aperol web site [www.aperol.com/cocktails]. The web site suggests using sugar syrup, which is one of my standard ingredients, but Neue Cuisine said to try confectioners’ sugar. I was worried it might yield a cloudy cocktail, but as you can see from the picture above, it’s all a sparkling gem
You can certainly play with the relative proportions of Aperol, lemon juice and sugar to drive from the sweet to the sour. And, I’m going to be trying lime juice, too. It is this flexible versatility of Aperol that will make you smile, and not pucker at all.
Yield: 1 serving
- Ice cubes
- 2 ounces Aperol
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
- 1 thin slice of lemon
- 1 small tarragon sprig (optional0
Fill a rocks glass with ice. In a cocktail shaker, combine the Aperol with the lemon juice and sugar. Shake well and strain into the glass. Garnish with the lemon slice and tarragon sprig, if using, and serve.
Source: Neue Cuisine by Kurt Gutenbrunner