Bourbon & Birch
by Darcy O'Neil on January 2012
Another Mixology Monday is upon us, with the topic being Bourbon and our host being Scofflaw's Den. When I think of bourbon, I sometimes reminisce about the perception it has compared to Canadian whiskies. Bourbon is bold, fiery and strong; Canadian whiskies are light, easy going and smooth. Obviously this isn't going to apply to all whiskies from either category, but a lot of people on both sides of the border, have this idea stuck in their heads. Obviously these people have never tried one of the finer bourbons or the wonderfully smooth Maker's Mark. What can we do to change this perception on Mixology Monday?
First, let’s just say that bourbon is good, very good if you stick with the reputable brands. Sure there is some corn fuel, fire water” out there but you can find that in any country and any type of spirit.
Like all high proof spirits, bourbon is best made into a cocktail. Sure, drinking bourbon straight is fine but this is Mixology Monday. By the way, distillation of grains was a way of using up leftover grains. If you didn’t, your grain would rot. So distillation solved this problem and you ended up with a mighty fine end product, best suited for mixing, even if that means a dash of water.
Since I’ve been playing around with Birch Syrup I figured we could do an Old Fashioned and use the birch syrup as a substitute for the sugar. This would be similar to the maple Old Fashioned or the Bacon Infused Bourbon Old Fashioned served at PDT (New York) that uses maple syrup as the sweetener.
The nice thing about Birch Syrup is that it tastes like sweet wood. Imagine, if you will, a fifteen year old barrel of bourbon being distilled down to a cup and then sweetening it, just enough. That is kind of what this syrup tastes like, with the tannins kept in check.
Bourbon & Birch
1.5 oz Bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
2 tsp Birch Syrup
1 Orange Slice
Dash Angostura Bitters
Instructions: Place orange slice in glass, add bitters and birch syrup. Muddle gently, expressing the juices only, not making pulp. Then add ice and bourbon. Stir gently until combined and garnish with an additional orange slice and cherry.
The nice thing about any Old Fashioned style drink is that it allows the primary spirit to shine through. When you take a sip you can really taste the bourbon, Buffalo Trace in this case. The birch syrup seems to amplify the wood notes from the singe use bourbon barrel and provides just enough sweetness. Surprisingly the orange works really well with the birch syrup, I even tried it just muddled with some orange. Very tasty stuff.
For the birch syrup deficient you can try using maple syrup, but use a lower grade syrup such as Grade A Dark Amber or Grade B if you can find it. Avoid at all costs the artificial Aunt Jemima. She may be a nice enough lady to save you a few pennies for your pancakes, but she's a crotchety old lady in a cocktail.