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drinking bourbon

I'm just of legal drinking age and will now be able to order drinks out. I grew up being allowed to drink, so I'm accustomed to the taste and one of my favorite spirits is bourbon. I really enjoy knob creek, although it's expensive, so I settle for either a jim beam or jack daniels. Any reccomendations for good drinks to order while out at a restaurant or bar? I don't like anything fancy...just something classy.

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  1. I always go for Jack and Ginger Ale. Not as sweet as coke and no caffeine, which can lead to headaches the next day. (And Jack Daniels is not bourbon. It's a Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey.)

    1. oh...thanks for the tip.

      1. I always like me a good Manhattan.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jzerocsk

          Second that :) Especially with Makers Mark.

        2. I readily admit to *not* being an avid Bourbon fan, so my "regular" Boubon of choice is Maker's Mark with just one or two ice cubes in it. More "serious" (read, older and more expensive) Bourbons, I sip neat.

          1. I like Jim Beam, club soda, and lime.

            1. If by "classy" you mean it comes in a cocktail glass, then a Manhattan really is the answer (unless you feel like teaching the bartender to make a Ward 8). More "manly" (and just good sense if you are drinking a top-shelf bourbon) is neat/rocks. And, while there's nothing wrong with a good highball, mixing your bourbon with more than an equal volume of anything fizzy or fruity is strictly middle-class (there--I said it).

              2 Replies
              1. re: olfashiond

                By classy I mean no fruity/mixed typed drinks. By manly...I don't really care b/c i'm a girl. Just something easy and nothing frou frou.

                1. re: izzizzi

                  Well, once you eliminate fruity/mixed drinks, you aren't left with much--which is good, because it makes your decision easy. Start with Knob Creek, neat or rocks, however you like it; if you're making a night of it, switch to Jim Beam/Jack Daniels after you've realized you can't feel your nose anymore.

              2. Any bourbon - that is not 'rail', ordered on the 'rocks' would be deemed 'classy'. Any 21 year old drinking his bourbon 'neat' is going to be on a train to lushville in no time.

                1 Reply
                1. re: eatlotsfood

                  lol! Is that how I got to "lushville"?

                  A good Manhattan is a wonderful thing.

                  Maker's Mark on the rocks is good too.

                  Welcome to legal drinking age. . .it all goes downhill from here ; )

                2. One more thing, when you do decide to drink the good stuff - you can't beat Pappy Van Winkle. If it is really a special occasion go with the 20 year old.

                  1. By classy I mean no fruity/mixed typed drinks. By manly...I don't really care b/c i'm a girl. Just something easy and nothing frou frou.

                    1. Try an "Old Fashioned" which is typically bourbon, bitters, a natural sugar cube, soda water, and an orange wedge on the rocks. Made right, they are not too sweet, and quite delicious.

                      1. my so loves bourbon and his absolute favorite is bookers. it's expensive - but they have it at trader joes from time to time. and buying one drink from time to time won't kill you - they usually don't charge any more than other drinks from experience.

                        as noted manhattans, old fashioned, and "on the rocks" are all classics.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: dtud

                          Bookers is great! But a tad dangerous...it's about 120 proof, so be careful.

                          But, damn, is it smooth.

                          1. re: therealbigtasty

                            That's funny- I don't taste any smoothness at all in bookers- I taste all burn and very little flavor.

                            1. re: jpschust

                              Really? I think it tastes pretty damned good. But I usually drink it on rocks...swirl it around a bit, then start drinking. It's pretty easy. But yeah, drinking it proper, in a glass with a nose in...nah, too heavy in alcohol.

                            2. re: therealbigtasty

                              Bookers has a great flavor that only comes from a straight from the barrel product. You definitely would want to cut it with some water to cut the strength of the alcohol. Booker himself said that his ratio was 1 part Bookers to 2 parts water.

                          2. When it comes to cocktails, classy usually means classic. If I have paid attention to your other posts, you're in the Charlottesville area...if that's the case, the bartenders at Zocalo make an excellent Knob Creek Manhattan and that would seem to me to be a fine place to start exploring bourbon drinks.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ccbweb

                              Unfortunately, I no longer live there but I spent my highschool years there and know Zocalo's a great place. Hopefully I can get up there soon and I'll be sure to try the Manhatten there.

                            2. my wife and i have been drinking manhattans for a couple years. we initially did it to just do something different than the rest of the crowd and it wasnt long after that we were hooked. if you like the taste of JD then sample whiskeys from around the world. we went to ireland for xmas and every evening had three different irish whiskeys just to sample the different tastes. we always had them neat (in a small glass with no ice). we happened to wrap up our trip in ireland with a tour of the jameson irish wiskey facility. it was there we were introduced to a bunch of irish wiskeys but some scotch and american wiskeys as well. they are generally the same except for different ways in preparing the mash or toasting the grains or distilling or the wood used in the barrels. when we moved to portland we found some incredible irish bars that feature hundreds of different wiskeys. fun fun.

                              have fun (in moderation of course!!)

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: soilchem

                                I'll share the classiest way a bourbon drink was ever ordered, in my opinion. In 1978, John Wayne was registered as a guest at the Concord Inn in Massachusetts during foliage season. (not much later, we lost him) A friend of mine was a bartender there, setting up between lunch and dinner when there was not a single customer. He heard footsteps approaching from the wood-planked breezeway leading from the main building to the restaurant. These bootsteps were separated by an unusually long interval of time, enough to draw his attention. Next thing he knew, he was face-to-face, all alone, with The Duke. John Wayne, with his slow moving and slow talking style, pointed toward the bottles behind the bar and said "why don't you... carve me.. a slice.. of that.. Wild...Turkey". I wish I could have been there. Had to be an awesome moment.

                                  1. re: JMF

                                    My bourbon of choice is Makers with a spash of water and when i was younger Wild Turkey101 was my poison. One thing to note is that if you drink with carbonated mixes like ginger ale, you will get tipsy quicker as the sugar and the carbonation gets the alcohol into your blood stream much quicker so drink it w water and you will last a lot longer at the party! As for JD, I never got that stuff, it always tasted like someone put a lump of coal in my drink!

                                    1. re: bigbob

                                      I don't like sodas mixed with alcohol...besides a coke and rum, sometimes. Water's my choice as well.

                              2. Jim Beam on the rocks. My guess is that if you like bourbon, you'll eventually get here. Might as well skip the intermediate steps. But, MODERATION.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  I'm already there. Jim Beam on the rocks...yum.

                                  1. re: izzizzi

                                    If you like that, you should definitely look into the Jim Beam BLACK on the rocks. That's the good stuff, and great value too. Also, if you want to treat yourself, look for "Rowan's Creek" Kentucky Bourbon. It's small batch, about 6000 cases a year, and hard to find, but smooth as hell. (I bought it in Chicago at a Binny's Beverage Depot.) God bless Bourbon.

                                  2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    As Lazarus Long would say ... Moderation is for Monks, Live life, take Big Gulps!

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      If you go Jim Beam on the rocks, definitely go with the Jim Beam Black Label. It's a big step up from Jim Beam's white label.

                                      1. re: sgwood415

                                        I describe it as tasting slightly less like battery acid.

                                    2. Makers rocks or manhattan is my "ordering out" bourbon. There is, though, a bar near me with what must be the last publicly-available bottles of A.J. Hirsch 20 y.o. bourbon. I'm hoarding a few bottles of the 16, which I consider to be the best American whiskey, period. The 20 is pure unobtanium (and isn't quite as good as the 16 in my book) and is worth a try if you ever find it.

                                      I'm not telling where my stash is, though... :)

                                      1. I enjoy Makers and Tonic, with a lime wedge. I've had mixed success ordering this out - the ratio of bourbon is critical... too little and the sweetness doesn't come through, too much and... well, it's just too much :)

                                        1. I hope you will take advantage of your youth to do a lot of experimenting. Like finding a good local wine merchant, cultivating the custom of a skilled bartender who knows something about well-constructed cocktails and is schooled in the classics is a great way to jumpstart your education.

                                          Also, consider other whiskies besides bourbon. Be the first on your block to contribute to the revival of real American straight rye whiskey, for example -- most cocktails that call for bourbon were originally made with rye. Don't overlook the light and mellow Canadian whisky: it has its own subtle pleasures and makes for very smooth highballs and shaker cocktails. Once you find a bartender who takes their craft seriously, try a few of these:

                                          Manhattan. A good bartender will add a healthy dash of Angostura bitters without prompting (it is essential to this drink), and stir rather than shake to avoid turning the drink cloudy, as bitters tend to do when shaken. If all you can get is those horrific candied-clown-nose travesties of a Maraschino cherry, substitute a twist of lemon or orange instead. Make your own real Maraschino cherries at home by infusing fresh sour cherries in brandy or Maraschino liqueur. Play around with vermouth. I don't care for "perfect" Manhattans, which mix sweet and dry vermouth in equal portions, but I do think that different sweet vermouths add their own interest. Try Vya vermouth, a California product with a lot of botannical complexity, if you can find it. I'm still trying to track down some Antica Formula, an Italian sweet vermouth from Carpano. My standby is actually French (but sweet), Noilly Prat.

                                          Whiskey Sour. A simple drink that utterly relies on fresh lemon juice and a little simple syrup, added to a double jigger of whiskey. It's pretty horrible with the typical bar's premixed "sour mix". Shake over ice and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass, or for an elegant alternative, into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

                                          Old-Fashioned. Properly made, this is a subtle and interesting drink, but they're not often properly made: half an orange slice muddled with simple syrup (or a lump of sugar with a dash of water) and a few dashes of Angostura bitters in a big rocks glass, fill with ice, and a couple of jiggers of whiskey, and stir. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry if you can get a proper one, otherwise just an orange slice. Don't dilute with a lot of seltzer, as is often done.

                                          Sazerac, one of the canonical cocktail classics from the 19th century: whiskey, Peychaud’s bitters and simple syrup stirred with ice, decanted into a cocktail glass that has first been rinsed with a splash of pastis like Pernod, a substitute for the traditional absinthe: I like the Henri Bardouin brand. Garnish with a lemon twist.

                                          Vieux Carre. An elegant drink that few bars will have the ingredients for. In an ice-filled rocks glass, stir together a half-jigger each of rye, brandy, and sweet (red) vermouth with a long dash of Benedictine liqueur and a short dash each of Peychaud's bitters and Angostura bitters.

                                          Green Point: whiskey, Punt e Mes (an intensely aromatized Italian sweet vermouth), and Green Chartreuse liqueur, an interesting and complex variant on the Manhattan. I prefer mine up, but you might try these and other shaker cocktails on the rocks sometime for a change.

                                          Ward Eight. Another overlooked drink in which proper construction and fresh juices make all the difference. Shake a jigger of whiskey, a half-ounce each of fresh lemon and orange juices, and a teaspoon of Grenadine (again, a homemade version will knock the socks off of most bottled ones) over ice: strain into a small chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of lemon.

                                          Whiskey Flip. You know you're in serious hands if this one is available: a raw egg cracked into an ice-filled shaker with whiskey and simple syrup, agitated long and hard, strained it into a short wine goblet, dusted with fresh nutmeg. Dessert in a glass for the whiskey lover, real egg nog.

                                          In hot weather, simple highballs are refreshing. Get yourself a real seltzer dispenser (the kind that requires a CO-2 charger), add your bourbon to a tall narrow glass with a few ice cubes in it, and spritz in soda water to taste. This makes a simple whiskey and soda feel a lot worldlier, somehow. I also occasionally like whiskey mixed over ice with a good-quality ginger ale or sinus-clearing ginger beer, plus the juice of half a lemon, but use your budget brand for this.

                                          In the fall, nothing accompanies a New England apple-picking excursion better than bourbon mixed with fresh sweet cider (unpasteurized is worth the extra trouble to find, usually at the orchard itself).

                                          Here's hoping you have a long, mostly judicious, occasionally extravagant relationship with whiskey cocktails. Cheers!

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                            MC Slim JB what is Antica Formula sweet vermouth like?

                                            1. re: JMF

                                              Antica Formula is a highly praised Italian sweet vermouth that I have not been able to find in the Boston area. It's made by Carpano, the same folks who make Punt e Mes, a product I like a lot but is too strong and bitter for use in many cocktails (it's like sweet vermouth that wants to be Campari). I generally have Punt e Mes on the rocks with a wedge of lime.

                                              That Green Point recipe is the only one I've tried that uses Punt e Mes in a whiskey cocktail. I occasionally use Punt e Mes in my Negronis: the result has a very beautiful, deep garnet color and a very fierce flavor. It also makes for a more biting and deeper-hued Americano highball.

                                            2. re: MC Slim JB

                                              "candied-clown-nose travesties of a Maraschino cherry" LOL!

                                              I have to agree that Manhattans should be stirred not shaken (same with gin martinis).

                                              BTW, if ever in Atlanta, head over to Repast on the corner of North Ave. and Glen Iris Dr. Fantastic food and the bartender knows how to make a great Manhattan.

                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                great suggestions...that green point looks esp. superb. Do you have the exact measurements? I want to try making it at home.

                                                1. re: izzizzi

                                                  I don't want to present these as canonical -- all drinks should be made to your own taste -- but they're how I like them, so use them as a starting point. I tend to use a bit more whiskey than many traditional recipes call for.

                                                  I make the Green Point in what I've heard called "Brooklyn proportions", referring to that Manhattan variant and the riffs on it that are named after other Brooklyn neighborhoods. The ratio is 4 rye to 1 sweet vermouth (Punt e Mes being an especially strong-flavored, dark-colored, bitter one) to 1 cordial, though some folks like a little less of the last (down to about 1/2) for less sweetness. Some recipes:

                                                  Brooklyn: 4 rye 1 vermouth 1/2 Maraschino liqueur 1/2 Amer Picon
                                                  Green Point: 4 rye 1 Punt e Mes 1 Chartreuse
                                                  Red Hook: 4 rye 1 sweet vermouth 1 Maraschino
                                                  Little Italy (not in Brooklyn, I know): 4 rye 1 sweet vermouth 1 Cynar, an Italian bitters based on artichokes, pretty delicious if you like amari as much as I do.

                                                  I'm starting to see more rye cocktails (finally!) that are essentially variants on this formula. Eastern Standard Kitchen and Drinks, which has one of Boston's more serious and skilled bartending crews, has an entire new section of their cocktail menu dedicated to these and other drinks with 19th-century roots or inspiration.

                                                2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                  MC Slim JB: Fantastic recipes I've copied and pasted into my Bar book. Thank you.
                                                  Regarding Sazeracs: Best one I've ever had was at the Sazerac Bar in the Fairmont Hotel, New Orleans made with Old Overholt Rye Whiskey (available in Boston area at Kappy's) and for the "absinthe" they use Legendre Herbsaint. The Herbsaint is much about the aroma and at home I like to use an atomizer to spritz inside the glass. Here's a link to Herbsaint info.

                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                    i appreciate this post........my next outing im going to try a couple of your recommendations. im a standard manhattan drinking but wanted to try a few more derivations on whiskey so i had a rob roy, rusty nail and an old fashioned. im still sticking with a manhattan but looking foward to trying those you mentioned above. if you have anymore ideas with whiskey that dont go off on a sweet tangent please post.

                                                  2. Since your post is about bourbon, you might be interested to know that Jack Daniels is not technically bourbon. It's made in a similar way but their process of charcoal filtering keeps it from being bourbon. That filtering give JD it's distinctive taste. Some speculate that their formula and aging are different from bourbon too, but we don't know for sure.

                                                    7 Replies
                                                    1. re: sgwood415

                                                      The fact that Jack Daniel's is made in Tennessee and not in Bourbon County, Kentucky also prevents it from being called bourbon -- or so I thought until recently. Apparently it's technically legal to call your whiskey "bourbon" as long as your grain bill is at least 51% corn, you distill it to no more than 160 proof, and you age it in charred new-oak barrels for at least two years.

                                                      I don't think the law says anything restrictive about charcoal filtering, so I think JD might get away with calling theirs bourbon if they wanted to. I think they know there's some useful marketing distinctiveness about the "Tennesee whiskey" label. Many bartenders freely substitute it when bourbon is called for, anyway. Most could not care less whether I think it's a bourbon or not.

                                                      I imagine there are some purists and local partisans who would insist, like the French with Champagne, that it ain't Bourbon unless it's made in Bourbon County. (And I'm okay with that.)

                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                        It's not true that Bourbon must come from Bourbon county. I'll do anything to get this out of people's heads. The first bourbons weren't even made in Bourbon county.

                                                        I'll repeat what has been repeated before. These are the requirements for an item to be bourbon.

                                                        1. It must be produced in the United States.
                                                        2. It must be at least 51% corn
                                                        3. It must be 160 proof or less
                                                        4. It must be aged in new, charred oak barrels (to be called straight bourbon it must get 2 years of aging in such barrels)
                                                        5. It must enter the barrel at no more than 125 proof

                                                        That's it- it has nothing to do with the AOC's of France nor is it anything like that- it just took its name from Bourbon county.

                                                        1. re: jpschust

                                                          A quote from an interview with Jimmy Bedford, master distiller at the Jack Daniel Distillery:

                                                          "It meets all the criteria for a bourbon, made with 80 percent corn, 125 proof or less, and aged in oak barrels, but we like to say that it's more than bourbon...all of our whiskey passes through ten feet of crushed sugar maple charcoal that cleans up any harshness. Instead of a bourbon, we call it Tennessee Sippin' Whiskey."

                                                          1. re: mojoeater

                                                            He's right. That said it still tastes like battery acid to me.

                                                            1. re: jpschust

                                                              I'll drink to that. As long as it isn't JD.

                                                              1. re: JMF

                                                                Makers and ginger is my go-to bar cocktail. It's risky getting a rocks or neat drink at most bars because you are likely to end up with a drink that will last you only few minutes.
                                                                At home, I like Blanton's neat or over 1 ice cube.

                                                            2. re: mojoeater

                                                              it isn't aged in charred barrels, so it isn't bourbon and can't be treated as one. a good bartender won't use jack in place of bourbon unless the customer specifies a jack daniels manhattan or some such nonsense. the bottom rung bourbon is jim beam (excluding regional preference for ol' grandad, etc). i liked wild turkey a lot when i was a young kitten, but i'd add that it's for crazy people. makers mark neat or with a couple of cubes is classic and simple without any pretention.