50 Shots of America–Kentucky


I spent a week in Louisville, Kentucky, when I was about 13. We were visiting my aunt (a professor at U of L at the time) over Thanksgiving. Many things stand out about that trip:

  • the 11 hours spent in the car (a Toyota Tercel hatchback)
  • the speedometer that lost it’s mind going through the foothills (it flip from 0 to 80 back and forth several times a second for a while)
  • the fact that it was 18 degrees when we arrived in Louisville but that it didn’t snow until the week after we left (I think I’m snow-repellent–this has happened way too often)
  • being too ill to fully enjoy Thanksgiving dinner (major bummer–but I did get better in time to enjoy the leftovers)
  • our trip to Mammoth Caves, the longest cave system in the world(and the hideous blue and yellow sweater dress thing I wore–it was the late 80s and, thankfully, no pictures survive of that thing)

Earlier this month the annual Kentucky Derby was run. Untold pounds of Kentucky Hot Browns were consumed and who knows how many gallons of Mint Juleps were made.

Even though the state beverage is milk (where have we heard that before?), Kentucky is well known for it’s local distillation of corn into Bourbon. Jim Beam Sour Mash Bourbon to be more exact. The bourbon that has a starring role in the Mint Julep as well as another classic cocktail invented in Kentucky: the Old Fashioned.

There’s a fair amount of controversy over a proper Old Fashioned. Some say with fruit (a twist garnish or sometimes muddled with the sugar and water), some without; some say with club soda, some with branch water, some say none at all. For this week’s small sipper I’m using the Old Fashioned as inspiration, adding Cointreau for the citrus note and using honey over sugar or simple syrup in honor of another local staple (the state honey festival is held in Clarkson, KY).

the Mini-Mammoth

3/4 oz Kentucky Bourbon
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz Honey
Club Soda

Combine Bourbon, Cointreau and honey in a mixing glass over ice and shake like a bat flying out of the caves. Strain into a cordial glass.

It might seem like a lot of honey but chances are most of it is going to end up stuck to the wall of your shaker, adding a bit of sweet to smooth out the sour mash bourbon, but not so much that it makes a truly sweet drink. If the first sip seems too strong, take another. In our experience, the 2nd sip is always the truest test of an alcohol’s flavor.


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