Archive for the ‘bourbon’Category

Bourbon cocktails: mysterious … and easy

Seth Kinder prepares a Blue Heron 46Among the bourbon craft cocktails we tasted in Lexington, one of the most intriguing was the Blue Heron 46, a house specialty at the Blue Heron Steakhouse (185 Jefferson St, Lexington, Kentucky; 859-254-2491; The menu describes the drink as Maker’s 46 (a smoother, woodier version of Maker’s Mark with more pronounced caramel notes) with handmade apricot ginger syrup served on the rocks. How do you make that syrup? Bartender Seth Kinder—the “Hell on Wheels” character mixing a drink here—was downright coy.

He did suggest that the syrup was made by cooking down a pound of apricots with sugar and water, and an equal amount of fresh ginger also boiled in syrup. We’d make it like this. Combine 1 pound of dried apricots and two cups of coarsely chopped fresh ginger and process in a food processor. In a large saucepan, combine two cups of sugar and one cup of water. Heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Add the apricot-ginger mixture and cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes and strain, reserving the liquid.

Here’s the recipe as we observed Kinder making it. Experiment a little. It’s basically an especially sweet apricot whiskey sour.


Blue Heron 46 1 1/2 oz. Maker’s Mark 46
1 1/2 oz. sour mix (equal parts lemon and lime juice with simple syrup)
juice of a half lemon
1 1/2 oz. apricot ginger syrup
raw ginger
dried apricot

Combine ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake until well blended and chilled. Strain into a rocks glass half filled with ice cubes. Garnish with thin slice of raw ginger and rehydrated dried apricot.

With the Breeder’s Cup coming up at Keeneland ( in Lexington, Kentucky, at the end of October, we bet a lot of folks will be drinking the racetrack’s signature bourbon cocktail. The Keeneland Breeze drinks sweet, citrusy, and deceptively light. (A few of these could have you staggering down the back stretch of the evening.) It’s a genuine breeze to make. Since Maker’s Mark is one of the sponsors of Keeneland, that’s the bourbon that track bartenders use. To make it light, prepare in a highball glass. For a stronger breeze, use a rocks glass.


1 1/2 oz. Maker’s Mark
1 oz. Triple Sec
splash orange juice
ginger ale
orange round

Fill glass about two-thirds full with ice and add bourbon and Triple Sec. Pour in a splash of orange juice and fill glass with ginger ale. Attach orange round as a garnish.


09 2015

Coles keeps faith by reinventing the classics

Bourbon ball cake at Coles in Lexington Lexingtonians have been heading to the brick building at the corner of East Main Street and South Ashland to dine for decades. The spot opened in 1938 as The Stirrup Cup, adding the iconic murals of English hunt scenes—complete with a blessing of the hounds—in 1949. A succession of restaurants have occupied the space, but none more felicitously than current occupant, Coles 735 Main (735 East Main St., Lexington; 859-266-9000;

More than six decades after they were painted, those murals still lend a sense of occasion to the pretty dining room. And, as you might expect, executive chef Cole Arimes concocts a sophisticated mix of local and global tastes just right for a big night out. He might add truffle-infused lobster cream to a bowl of shrimp and grits (made, of course, with grits from Weisenberger Mill) or coat Scottish salmon with a bourbon-maple glaze and slowly smoke it to perfection.

Bourbon also features in the dessert that’s perfect for a candle in the middle and a round of “Happy Birthday.” In a witty play on the local popular bourbon ball candies, Arimes elevates the now-familiar flourless chocolate torte with bourbon-soaked pecans and then serves each slice with Woodford Reserve gelato and housemade caramel. Here is his recipe for the torte—as he reeled it off the top of his head. (We tested and tweaked it a little.)


Makes one 9-inch torte


1 cup bourbon
2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped
12 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 eggs


Pour bourbon over pecans and let soak at least 1 hour. Place in a small saucepan, and cook off bourbon from pecans until dry. Transfer to mixing bowl.

Chop chocolate in 10-cup or larger food processor.

In a second saucepan, combine sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, count to 90 and then drizzle into chocolate as food processor is running. Add butter, small portions at a time, until fully incorporated. Add all 6 eggs at once. Once incorporated, scrape sides and run for another 20 seconds.

Combine chocolate mixture with pecans in mixing bowl. Scrape into a 9-inch buttered springform baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, rotating every 15 minutes or so. (Cake should spring back when touched in the center and not stick to a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the middle.)

Let cake cool to room temperature before releasing from pan. Then chill before serving.


09 2015

Exploring KY cooking with top Lex chef Phil Dunn

Phil Dunn offers min Hot Brown in cooking class When England’s horse-loving Queen Elizabeth first visited Lexington, her personal chef was Phil Dunn. We don’t know what dishes he served to the Queen, but we do know that Dunn favors gourmet meals and enjoys exploring international flavors. He’s particularly fond of making European pastries—and anything with pasta.

A gorgeous display kitchen at Architectural Kitchens & Baths (345 Lafayette Ave., is the perfect setting for Dunn’s popular half-day cooking classes. We attended a recent session and learned that Dunn is equally comfortable with down-home Kentucky cooking. He makes familiar dishes his own through refined technique and a penchant for turning larger plates into finger food—perfect for parties in this most social of cities.

Dunn makes a spicy version of Kentucky Beer Cheese (a cracker spread) that has a thick, rich texture. “You must use flat beer,” he told us. “It’s too fluffy if you use carbonated beer.” He also cautions against over-pulsing in the food processer. “It should be a little chunky.”

He also showed us how to make mini versions of Kentucky’s iconic Hot Brown open-face sandwich by layering Mornay sauce, slices of turkey, bacon, and tomato on slices of baguette. That’s Phil above handing one over to a hungry onlooker.

But we were most taken with his bite-size Bourbon Cakes, a clever use of Kentucky’s signature spirit to round out a meal. He soon had us dipping one-inch squares of firm vanilla cake into a warm bourbon mixture and then rolling them in ground vanilla wafers and chopped walnuts. It took a couple of tries to get the rhythm of wet hand for the bourbon and dry hand for the crumbs, but we were soon on a roll. The little bites are addictive, but if you have any left over, Dunn claims that they will keep for three to four months in the freezer. For information about classes, send an email to


Phil Dunn makes Kentucky Beer Cheese
1 cup beer
1 lb. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Pour beer into a mixing bowl and whisk until it loses its carbonation. Place in food processor, add remaining ingredients, and process until well-mixed but still slightly chunky. Adjust seasoning to taste and refrigerate before serving.


Makes 200 squares bourbon cakes by Phil Dunn

For the cake
6 oz. (1 1/2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
8 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine butter and sugar in mixer and blend well. Add egg yolks and blend well. Sift dry ingredients together and add mixture alternately with milk and vanilla extract. Beat until batter is very smooth. It will be thick. Spray a half sheet pan (18×13 inches) with cooking oil and spread batter evenly with a metal spatula.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes until cake is golden brown. Cool completely. Cut into one-inch squares.

For the soaking liquid and coating
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups bourbon (Dunn used Very Old Barton)
2 lb. confectioners sugar
12 oz. vanilla wafers, ground
2 cups walnuts, finely chopped

Combine melted butter with bourbon and confectioners sugar. Combine vanilla wafers with walnuts.

Dip cake squares in warm bourbon mixture. (Do not let it cool.) Quickly drain cake squares, then roll them in vanilla wafer-walnut mixture.


08 2015

Belle’s Cocktail House is bourbon ground zero

Seth Thompson at Belle's Cocktail House in Lexington, KY A leading contender for the title of Best Bourbon Bar in Lexington, Kentucky, has to be Belle’s Cocktail House (152 Market St.), which opened in late November 2013. It is the brainchild of barman, musician, and restaurateur Larry Redmon and the young gents behind The Bourbon Review (, Bob Eidson and brothers Justin and Seth Thompson (above). The magazine, by the way, calls itself “A Guide to the Bourbon lifestyle.” With coverage of bourbon bars, cocktails, horse races, and all manner of civilized drinking, the magazine’s idea of the bourbon lifestyle is whole lot classier than the version that gave George Jones so much to sing about.

Belle's Cocktail House in Lexington, KY The bar is named for Belle Brezing (1860-1940), the famous madam who ran Lexington’s “most orderly of disorderly houses” at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Her place of business was shut down along with other brothels by the U.S. Army in 1915, but Belle’s fame lived on as a Lexington folk hero. The bar, which carries more than 100 bourbons, has no games, no jukebox, and no food other than bar snacks. It is dedicated to social interaction and the art of enjoying good drink. (There are some TVs, mostly to catch the Kentucky Wildcats during basketball season.)

After trying a few rare bourbons straight up, we couldn’t resist one of the bar’s signature cocktails called Gatewood’s Manhattan. Like all good things in Kentucky, it comes with a story. First of all, “Gatewood” refers to the late Gatewood Galbraith, a sometimes criminal lawyer and frequent political candidate for governor. He believed fervently in outlawing mountainside-removal coal mining and in legalizing marijuana. He did not win any of those elections, and strip-mining and pot busts still take place in Kentucky. Gatewood was much beloved as a colorful character.

Gatewood was also legendarily fond of bourbon, so the Manhattan is made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, some smoky Sombra Mezcal, and a dash of Liquid Smoke as a nod to Gatewood’s penchant “for smoking all kinds of things,” as Seth Thompson explained.


Making Gatewood's Manhattan at Belle's Cocktail House in Lexington, KY Belle’s gives out the ingredients but not the recipe. Here’s how we observed it being made.

2 oz. Buffalo Trace bourbon
1/2 oz. Dolin sweet vermouth
1/2 oz. Sombra mezcal
1 dash Abbot’s Bitters
1 dash Liquid Smoke
Luxardo Maraschino cherry

In a shaker filled with ice, add bourbon, vermouth, and mezcal. Strain into cocktail glass and add dash of bitters and dash of Liquid smoke. Stir. Add maraschino cherry and serve.


08 2015

A fine homegrown single malt whiskey

Westland American Single Malt whiskey As a lover of good whiskey — whatever its Gaelic or hillbilly pedigree — I was pleasantly surprised to find a whole new category that’s just become available in the Northeast. Based on a tasting of Westland Distillery’s American Single Malt, the folks behind this Seattle distillery are visionaries. The Pacific Northwest has been, arguably, the source of some of the most exciting craft beer making in the last 15 years. Part of that is due to the great barley-growing areas of Washington State and Idaho, and the localized skill in creating specialty malts.

To my taste buds, though, it’s a big jump from craft beer to a sipping whiskey, and I’m pleased with the fruity, not-too-sweet Westland house style. I’m typically a bourbon drinker, and this single malt barley whiskey is frankly less assertive and less sweet than high-end corn-bred bourbons. But it’s a very civilized sip that picks up a lot of subtlety from the complex grain bill (Washington select pale malt, Munich malt, “extra-special” malt, pale chocolate malt, and brown malt). The mouth heat I’d normally associate with 92 proof is tamed by aggressive aging in new American oak for at least 24 months (with some mellowing in sherry casks and port pipes). The flavor starts as an assertive graham cracker sweetness, quickly mellows to caramel crystal (like crème brûlée), and gives an aftertaste full of white chocolate and toasted spice.

This is Westland’s first release in New England, and will be followed soon by a peated single malt with strong smoky phenolics. I’ll be happy to see how both styles fare with a little more time in the barrel before bottling, but to borrow from the film Casablanca, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Next time I’m in Seattle, I definitely plan to visit the distillery for a $10 tasting and tour (offered Wed.-Sat. at 11 a.m,, and 2, 4, and 6 p.m). The distillery is at 2931 First Avenue South, Suite B, Seattle (206-767-7250, Suggested retail for Westland American Single Malt is $79.


09 2014

Sipping a Seelbach Cocktail on Urban Bourbon Trail

Seelbach Michael Anderson I always think of the mint julep as the classic Kentucky drink, but there’s more than one way to imbibe the Bluegrass State’s signature spirit, Kentucky Bourbon. As I reported in the January 12 issue of the Boston Globe Travel section, I’m only two drinks away from claiming an Urban Bourbon Trail T-shirt. It’s offered to anyone who visits six of the 20 participating bourbon bars and restaurants in Louisville. (Click here to see the Globe story.)

The Seelbach Cocktail, named for the classic hotel where it was invented in 1917, is one of those great accidents that seem to happen at bars as the night wears on. The drink originated when champagne overflowed into a Manhattan, beverage supervisor Michael Anderson (above) told me. “It’s a cocktail with whiskey for people who don’t like whiskey,” he opined.

Seelbach drink 2 The recipe disappeared during Prohibition. but was rediscovered in 1995. Here’s how Anderson makes it today, using fewer bitters than the original 14 dashes, but sticking with Old Forester, America’s first bottled bourbon.


1 ounce bourbon (Old Forester)
1/2 ounce Cointreau
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

Stir the bourbon, Cointreau, and bitters briefly over ice. Strain into a flute and top with brut Champagne.


01 2013