* From bitters to black cherries and the best cheeses for pairing
* The tools and tricks for a hand-crafted Old-Fashioned
Today is National Bourbon Day (NBD) and we are not shying away from this amber spirit. We have garnered the tools and tricks it takes to throw a get-together centered around the Kentucky spirit with this ultimate guide to sipping in high-style. Bourbon is surely not everyone’s go-to spirit, but if you are a whiskey drinker or just a curious booze connoisseur, we welcome you to pick up a bottle and try your hand at a craft cocktail. Bourbon is an American whiskey, typically from Kentucky, made from malted barley with sweet notes and a hint of smoke from the charred oak it is aged in. It is not for the faint of heart. So, we have mapped out the bar essentials you will need to mix up the perfect—and wildly popular—old-fashioned cocktail, which includes proper ice cubes and a steel muddler, as well as some fanciful additions, like chocolate bitters and bourbon cherries to enhance your drink.
So, grab a set of high-design rocks glasses, take a peek at the illustrious history of the famed spirit, then sit back and revel in your own glass of bourbon this holiday.
1. Start With The Proper Whiskey Sipping Glassware
Glassware is key when savoring the perfect glass of whiskey. Whether you are sipping the fan favorite, Maker’s Mark, or reaching for a bottle of Four Roses, you want to make sure you choose a glass that will bring out the rich undertones of your bourbon and offer up a quality tasting experience. When drinking a bourbon cocktail, you want to make sure you let the spirit breathe in the glass without muting its vapors (avoid shot glasses). These classic rocks glasses can also be used for enjoying your spirit straight-up or better yet for a mixed cocktail that feels good in the hand with its weighted glass base. With a diamond-etched bottom that elevates their aesthetic, you can feel classy whether you are toasting for NBD or honoring the groom on his big day.
2. Keep Bourbon Chilled With Large Ice Cubes
There is nothing worse than drinking a watered down cocktail or diluted glass of bourbon. So, don’t forget to add these large square ice cubes to your list of bar essentials. They melt far slower than a handful of chunky ice cubes, letting you savor your spirit over time without losing the aroma and tasting notes of your favorite bourbon.
3. Chocolate Bitters for Bourbon With a Twist
The artisans over at the Kentucky distillery, Woodford Reserve, have segued into the world of bitters to give consumers an accouterment to level-up their whiskey and bourbon cocktails. These barrel-aged bitters have a bite of chocolate for a dessert-style drink or paired with your bourbon served neat. Check out these craft cocktails featuring a hit of chocolate that offer an extra note of sweet and decadent flavor. Mix these ingredients together, strain and pour over a large ice cube in your rocks glass.
Cherry Chocolate Manhattan
With a twist on the standard Manhattan, this drink is a bit sweeter than the classic but with that expected earthiness.
2-4 ounces of Bourbon
2 ounces cherry liqueur
2 ounces dry vermouth
4 drops of chocolate bitters
*Garnish with one of the black cherries listed below and 1-2 orange rinds
A rich mix of chocolate and cream to take the traditional cocktail from fruit-forward to more of a luscious digestif.
2-4 ounces of bourbon
1 ounce of maraschino cherry liqueur
2 ounces of creme de cacao
6 drops of chocolate bitters
*Garnish with one of the black cherries and 1-2 orange rinds
4. Bourbon Cherries
Cherries are an essential part of crafting an Old-Fashioned cocktail and here we have these bourbon black cherries from the Kentucky bourbon brand, Evan Williams, that are meant to be added to your cocktail as a garnish. Keep in mind these are quite sweet Oregon cherries with a hint of bourbon so expect these to make a great accompaniment to a cocktail that is meant to be flavored with an accent of candied fruit. You can even add a dash of the cherry juice to your bourbon served neat.
5. Pure Cane Sugar Cubes for Cocktails
To enhance a cocktail with a bit of sweetness or take the harsh edge off of a strong bourbon, we recommend these pure cane sugar cubes to dissolve into your beverage. The naturally-derived sugar accompanies spirits well, especially when dissolved into the muddled fruit for a delectable old-fashioned. You can choose your own level of sweetness by adding as many or as little sugar cubes as you like and the genuine sugar addition is a great natural alternative to simple syrup.
6. A Muddler is a Must-Have
A bar essential for every at-home mixologist is the muddler. This stainless steel option is high-quality and meant to be used for years of craft cocktail making. It is both durable, easy-to-use and simple to clean. When muddling fruit and herbs for your drink, make sure to not over mash and instead try and twist the base of the muddler into the mixture to reveal the fruits natural aromas as opposed to crushing them down.
7. The Best Cheeses to Pair With Bourbon
To prep a handmade charcuterie plate of meats, cheeses, fruit and crackers for friends to savor while clinking glasses, you will first need to nail down a gourmet platter that can handle a smattering of delicious snacks all displayed in one easy-to-share tray. This bamboo board conveniently comes with small knives for spreading dips and cheeses and holds a handful of treats to cater to a party setting.
Our favorite pairings of cheese and crackers to enjoy with your bourbon
Because the spirit is so flavorful on its own, you don’t want to take away the sipping experience with overly flavored snacks. Water crackers and plain crackers with a hint of salt will pair nicely with your bourbon of choice.
Consider laying out a few types of soft cheeses, like brie, as well as an aged cheddar for an extra bite and a harder cheese like a Pecorino. You can also try sampling a rich blue cheese, which will accompany a smokier bourbon very well.