*Scroll down to see both barbecue and Bourbon cocktail recipes
Bourbon and traditional American barbecue have an affiliation of historical and palatal proportions. Both originated in the South. Charred wood is intrinsic to both—Bourbon is traditionally aged in charred oak barrels. It confers the smokey, mapley flavors that flatter barbecue, and the underlying sweetness of a good Bourbon matches the sweetness in barbecue sauces.
Many barbecue-and-Bourbon-pairing purists believe that Bourbon at the table should be poured neatly and unfettered, free from fruit and frippery. But others, including a new breed of New York mixologists, see a throat-cooling, respectfully prepared Bourbon cocktail as flattering to barbecue’s natural wood-smoked essences as well as imparting elements such as citrus, honey and rhubarb.
Richard Boccato, managing partner and bartender of Dutch Kills (dutchkillsbar.com), suggests the nutty, rhubarb finish of Kerrin Egalka’s The New Order to whet the palate. He also recommends the soothing Gold Rush cocktail, created by T.J. Siegal of White Star (212.995.5464), during the feast. “If a barbecue party is successful,” says Boccato, “there will be no after-dinner drink.” For groups who seek and after-dinner sip, The Kentucky Maid, created by Sam Ross of New York’s Milk & Honey (mlkhny.com), is a fresh, minty libation to serve with dinner or after.
Boccato fancies Elijah Craig Kentucky Bourbon 12 Years Old as the ideal mid-range Bourbon to pour with each of these cocktails. “It’s a smooth, aged Kentucky bourbon that makes a fine cocktail in any regard, plus [at just under $30] it’s extremely reasonable for the quality.” In addition, Wine Enthusiast recommends Woodford Reserve, Knob Creek and Maker’s Mark.
Bourbon Cocktail Recipes
The New Order
Adapted from Kerrin Egalka of Dutch Kills, Long Island City, New York
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce Crème de Cacao
1 ounce Bourbon
1 ounce Aperol
2 dashes rhubarb bitters
Combine ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Shake well and pour into a chilled 5 ½ ounces Champagne coupe.
The Gold Rush
Adapted from T.J. Siegal of White Star, New York City
3/4 oz honey syrup*
3/4 oz lemon juice
2 oz Bourbon
Combine ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Shake well and strain over rocks in a double old fashioned glass.
The Kentucky Maid
Adapted from Sam Ross of Milk & Honey, New York City
3/4 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce lime juice
2 ounces Bourbon
5-6 mint leaves
5 thin cucumber slices
Muddle mint, cucumbers, lime juice and simple syrup in shaker. Bruise, but don’t abuse. Add bourbon. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled double old fashioned glass.
Garnish with mint sprig and a cucumber slice.
*For honey syrup, combine 3 parts honey to 1 part hot water. Stir until finely dissolved and store at room temperature. One batch should keep for two weeks.
*The following recipes were omitted from our July 2010 feature on Santa Maria-Style Barbecue
Mild Tomato Salsa
From Joanne Plemmons, of Plemmons Catering in Santa Maria, California (plemmonscatering.com)
4 fresh roma tomatoes diced 1/4″
3 scallions diced in rings
2 heaping tablespoons diced red onion
Tomato jalapeno pepper puree
Salt & pepper
Mix all of the above ingredients and taste. If served in individual bowls it makes for nice barbecued garlic bread dipping!
From Frank Ostini, owner of The Hitching Post II in Buellton, California (hitchingpost2.com)
4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne.
Mix all ingredients thoroughly and work into surface and sides of steaks. Use enough rub to thoroughly cover, yet not so much that you can no longer see the steak surface. Do this immediately prior to grilling.
Chef Rick’s “Barbequed” Sour Dough
If you thought there was no way to make a better garlic bread for your next barbecue, try this, from Chef Rick Manson of Chef Rick’s in Santa Barbara (chefricks.com). It lifts this already delicious pain grillé into the stratosphere, a food group of its own. For a local twist, dip it into a mixture of salsa and pinquito beans.
1 cup unsalted butter
2 teaspoon Chinese chili sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
16 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cups minced green onion
2 cups cilantro, roughly chopped
1 loaf sourdough, 14-16 inches
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
In a small saucepan, place the butter, chili sauce, pepper and garlic. Melt the butter over low heat until it bubbles around the edges of the pan. Remove from heat and stir in the green onion and cilantro.
Split the bread in half lengthwise. Spoon half of the butter mixture onto each half loaf. Top each half with the parmesan.
Toast the bread on a grill or in the broiler until golden. Cut into slices and serve.