Living life between the barrel staves in Bourbon Country

Drink

Angel Wings…

Sampling the new Angel’s Envy 95% rye 100 proof whiskey, which has been finished in Caribbean run casks. Oh my word, rye with a sweet rum finish. Outstanding. Run, don’t walk, and get a bottle.

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Extraordinary Popular Libations and the Madness of Crowds

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“Men it has been well said,  think in herds; it will be seen they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly and one by one.” ~ Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1852)

In the early 19th century Charles MacKay examined how groups of people could quite spontaneously develop a communal form of self-delusion, or even madness.  If one were to sit at a bar over a period of hours and observe, from the early fluctuation of post work cocktail sippers to the rowdier crowds of late night, one might see a transformation as  fantastic as that of Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.  The later the hour grows, the more the madness sneaks into the crowd, like a contagion passed – usually in liquid form – from one person to another.  It will start out innocently enough, and the first to succumb rarely expects to as they are in the safe confines of their group of friends.  But that is how the madness works, by eluding us into believing there is strength in numbers.  The truth is we would have been safer drinking on our own.

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One Cocktail To Rule Them All

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Making every hour “happy”…

When it comes to irony, never let it be said that the gods themselves are immune.  How else then do you explain that the ubiquitous cocktail of New Orleans – and therefore of Mardi Gras – is the Hurricane?  For me it’s unfathomable that anyone nowadays can order such a drink in New Orleans and not acknowledge the very large elephant in the room.   Garden & Gun (a magazine I simply adore, by the way), appears to do just that in its current issue by offering up three variations of the classic drink by New Orleans mixologists without any mention of the devastation wrought by Katrina 7 years ago.  Maybe we’re far enough down the line now that it’s no longer necessary   Maybe New Orleans has crawled its way back to the point where such a reference would be out-of-place. I don’t know, part of me thinks that is not the case.  I suppose next week while I’m there I’ll get the chance to have my questions answered.

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On Mint Juleps and Margaritas

A true Kentucky Mint Julep, from The Bluegrass Tavern in Lexington, KY

In social settings, regardless of what city I’m in, one question comes up repeatedly as soon as I reveal that I hail from the Bluegrass State.

“Do you drink mint juleps?”

It could be the third Thursday in November, and for some reason all anyone wants to talk about from that moment forward is the Kentucky Derby and its ubiquitous cocktail.  Inevitably someone in the crowd either makes “the best mint julep” or knows someone else that does.  Sidebar conversations tend to break out at that point over whether the julep should be “strong” or “sweet”, whether the mint is incorperated as an essential element or used more as garnish.  It’s no wonder there is confusion among outsiders over how to make a proper mint julep.  Kentuckians can’t agree on the correct preparation either.  Books have been written on the subject.  It would not surprise me to discover a thesis at the University of Kentucky has been written on “The Psychological and Social Aspects of the Proper Preparation of the Mint Julep Cocktail”, such is the level of diverse opinion on the subject.

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Beer Thirty

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Beer Thirty. It’s less about a time on the clock than it is a state of mind. See my review of Lexington Beerworks coming soon!


It’s About Trust

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There are few greater expressions of trust than telling a bartender “I’m in your hands” when ordering a cocktail.

I give you “The Paper Plane” from Table Three Ten in Lexington, made with Weller 7yo bourbon.


Leaving Your Culinary Heart in San Francisco

The view from the bar at 54 Mint

Some places you just never plan to see. No matter how much you’ve heard about them, they just never seem to make it onto you “must go there someday” list. Too many other destinations beckon more loudly, more forcibly, for your attention. For me San Francisco was one of those places, and it was definitely somewhere that I would have never made a conscious effort to see. So it was only by chance and through a business trip that I ever made it to the city at all. Now, the problem with business trips is you never have enough time to do and see everything you want to. Your schedule is rarely your own, so the best you can hope to do is cram in as much as possible before, after or in the free moments between your “official” reasons for being there. That was how I came to San Francisco and those were the circumstances under which I would have to operate. I was determined to make the best of it I could.

Truthfully, I had mixed feelings going in.  If ever a city invoked strong emotions among warring factions, it was San Francisco.  Whether my biases came from the East Coast or the right-wing, I came to town – fully prepared by my own prejudices – to hate the place.  Despite that, everyone I talked to was confident my experience would be the opposite of what I expected.  So it was with some guilty sense of prejudging a destination that I set about making the best of what I was sure would be a mediocre trip.

With limited time to do and see an entire city, I had to make some decisions on what I would intentionally leave off my “to-do” list. First thing to go: The Golden Gate Bridge.  My focus was, not surprisingly, going to be on San Francisco’s culinary and whiskey scene (the latter warrants its own treatment in a separate blog post).  The downside, I had a very busy schedule while in town and thus would be held – somewhat hostage – to the area immediately around the Moscone Center.   In short, if I couldnt’ walk to it during my breaks and brief free time in the evening, I wasn’t going to see it.

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