So, You Wanna Know About Bourbon...
I feel like the second most frequently asked question I get, right after "Why on earth are you so goddamn loud?" is "What kind of bourbon should I drink?"/"What is your favorite bourbon to drink?" And, since the answer to the first question is: mostly genetics, growing up in Miami and having low impulse control, I think we can move on to the second question.
It is really unclear how my social media presence and bourbon became so intertwined, especially since I also love sparkling wine/champagne and other fermented grape products, but I feel pretty confident that my bourbon consumption while being a stay at home mom and my big mouth, made it so. For the first three years of Zachary's life, I stayed home to care for him and after a long day, I liked to sit on the couch with a Maker's Mark and ginger ale and shoot the shit on twitter.
I pretty much exclusively drank Maker's Mark because it is good with ginger ale and is a reasonably priced bourbon that I could find in my crappy, local, state-run liquor store (YAY PENNSYLVANIA!) which is only 10 minutes from my house. It really wasn't something I thought about much.
But, then, I got a job working at restaurant that had a fancy cocktail bar, a great bourbon selection and a couple of coworkers who insisted I expand my horizons. And, so, the birth of my love for great bourbon was born. I can only imagine that this made me even more obnoxious to my friends and social media followers. Whatever. It is a hobby. Some ladies buy nice shoes, I buy nice bourbon.
It was also about the same time that bourbon became the liquor of the moment. No, really. Bourbon went from being a great mixer in cocktails to something aged and respected and with complex flavors on the level of the good scotches. This also meant it was something people were interested in but were not finding too accessible. A decent bottle of bourbon is not cheap. What if it is not your thing? Friends were messaging me for guidance and so, birthed this particular blog post.
I would like to preface this list by saying that I am not a bartender, I am just a drinker. I know what I like and I know what I know which is maybe not everything. If you know more than I do, please, leave it in the comments!
The way I look at bourbon is that you can break it down into three categories. There are spiced, straight-forward and sweet bourbons. Obviously, like most things in the liquor category, the higher you slide up the price scale, the better quality you are getting, I mean this almost exclusively in terms of smoothness. If you are are in the market for bourbon, it is important to know what you are gonna use it for. You could certainly make a Manhattan with a top shelf bourbon but there really is no need for that. In fact, my friend Sarah, who I trust in all things, loves Templeton Rye in her Old Fashioneds. (I do not drink rye, so look elsewhere for suggestions on that!)
So, in terms of suggestions, I will start with where I started, Maker's and ginger ale.
This is Blue Sky Jamaican Ginger Ale, it is made with real sugar and real ginger, so it is both sweet and spicy without being syrupy. I use this with my Maker's because it balances well. Maker's is the only spiced bourbon that I have extensive experience with. I personally wouldn't drink it neat or on the rocks, but there is nothing wrong with that if it is your thing.
Next would be the more straightforward bourbons. They are not as spicy or as sweet, in fact they are a bit more dry. They are excellent in cocktails, with a mixer (Fever-Tree is a great brand of booze mixers, check them out) or even neat/rocks. Michter's is a great choice because it is complex but smooth and has a bit of sweetness. They also make a variety of bourbons and ryes that I would recommend if you want to get fancy.
Jefferson's is my house bourbon. It is straight forward, delicious and reasonably priced. I would say this is a great entry-level bourbon for someone just starting out in booze or brown liquor. They also have a range of other higher-end bourbons that are good. I have had the aged Jefferson's Reserve, which was very musky and manly. It had a very strong leather taste. It was not my favorite, but if you like smokey/musky booze, it could be your thing.
Another two straight-forward bottles that I will enjoy are Basil Hayden & Willet Still Pot, these are more expensive bottles and worth it for the smoothness in the finish.
But, here? This is my favorite. This, dear friends, is Blanton's. If you are looking for a special occasion bourbon or want to enjoy a smooth, sweet splash on the rocks or neat, this is your winner. It smells like vanilla and molasses and is so smooth. I drink this neat in the winter and with an ice cube in the summer. It is hands down, my current favorite bourbon that is not $100 or more. If you see me drinking bourbon at my house, this is what I am drinking.
And, then, there is stuff like this. This is the fancy stuff. This bottle was $180 and was purchased for the bar I worked at. I would never ever have paid that much for bourbon. Ron would have killed me. I got to have exactly one glass of it and it was heavenly. Angel's Envy's standard bourbon is amazing, but this stuff was outrageous. It had a very strong caramel flavor and GET THIS a poundcake finish. I know that sounds completely crazy, but it is true.
I hope this was somewhat helpful! This is just a summary of some of the bourbons I have sampled, there are so many more out there. The important thing is to find out what flavors you like and explore from there!
For more bourbon suggestions, click here.
I hope you all have a lovely holiday weekend! What are you drinking by the pool?