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Which Fork Do I Use with My Bourbon?Setting the Table for Tastings, Food Pairings, Dinners, and Cocktail Parties$

Peggy Noe Stevens and Susan Reigler

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781949669091

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9781949669091.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM KENTUCKY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.kentucky.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The University Press of Kentucky, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in KSO for personal use.date: 30 June 2022

A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

(p.101) Six A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée
Which Fork Do I Use with My Bourbon?

Peggy Noe Stevens

Susan Reigler

Fred Minnick

University Press of Kentucky

Abstract and Keywords

There are many possible variations on the theme of “cocktail party.” You may want to compare Manhattan recipes. Or perhaps explore some pre-Prohibition punches. Recipes for classic and contemporary cocktails will be included, along with easy appetizers and delicious “mocktails” for designated drivers.

Keywords:   Cocktail, Mocktail, Punches, Appetizers

(p.102) I always wake up at the crack of ice.

—Joe E. Lewis

THE WORDS cocktail party conjure images of sophisticated, elegantly dressed people circulating through a room while exchanging witticisms and interesting conversation. The rattle of ice and spirits in a shaker or mixing beaker, plus the clink of glasses raised in a toast, provides the perfect soundscape for conviviality. Happily, you and your guests need not don dinner jackets or little black dresses to enjoy a cocktail party. But of course, you certainly can if you like.

Whatever the dress code, the great advantage to hosting a cocktail party is that it’s not a dinner party. You can offer drinks, good conversation, and a bounty of small bites, and then, after an hour or two (with luck), everyone will head off to have dinner elsewhere. And you can relax and bask in the glow of knowing that they had a lovely time before you sent them on their merry way.

But before we launch into the nuts and bolts of the cocktail party, let’s address the cocktail’s creation. Like the beginnings of bourbon itself, that history is, shall we say, somewhat muddled.

What Exactly Is a Cocktail?

Essentially, a cocktail is a drink made with an alcoholic beverage combined with other ingredients. These can be other alcohols (such as the gin and vermouth in a martini), fruit juice, cream, or herbal infusions such as bitters. The main idea is the mixing and mingling of ingredients.

There are several stories about the origin of the word cocktail. Some are more plausible than others, but all are entertaining and can make for a lively topic of conversation at your party. Two are particularly colorful.

According to the first, the term originated in colonial America, the country most closely associated with cocktails. On one occasion, an eighteenth-century upstate New York tavern owner couldn’t find a clean spoon and used the shaft of a rooster’s (cock’s) tail feather to stir drinks. The obvious question: why did he have a better supply of feathers than spoons? As we said, it’s a colorful explanation.

The other is a bit more convoluted and is put forth pretty convincingly by award-winning drinks writer and scholar David Wondrich. The short (p.103)


A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

Preparing an old-fashioned station


A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

Garnish and presentation

(p.106) version is that a London newspaper from 1798 mentioned a mixed drink of “a cocktail, vulgarly called ginger.” The vulgarity apparently referred to a practice among horse dealers in Britain. According to Wondrich, when trying to sell an older, less than energetic steed, they would put “a clove of ginger up the poor tired creature’s ‘fundament’ before showing it. This was done ‘to make him lively and carry his tail [up].’” In other words, the horse’s tail was cocked. Thus, the mixing of spirits with ginger (and other ingredients) became a “cocked tail” or “cocktail.”

As Kentuckians, we share our state with a large population of equines, so we rather favor the second story. And for the record, as horse lovers, we disavow the ginger technique. But if you serve a Kentucky mule at your party (a variation of a Moscow mule made with bourbon and ginger beer), that would be a great time to tell the story.

Cocktail Party Food

The possibilities for cocktail party finger food are almost endless—emphasis on finger. If we had three hands instead of two, we would have no problem milling around a room with a plate in one hand, a drink in the second hand, and hand number three to transfer bites from plate to mouth. But we don’t.

Of course, if there are clusters of seats where small groups can sit and talk and rest their drinks and plates on tables, that’s great. You can also place bowls on those tables containing tidbits that can be eaten by hand (nuts, popcorn) or speared with a toothpick. Provide a little dish next to the tray of skewered hors d’oeuvres where people can discard their used toothpicks.

When deciding on the menu, keep in mind this very important suggestion: no gooey, flaky, or drippy foods. No one wants to mix and mingle with sticky fingers. Also, make sure that each finger food can be finished in no more than two or three bites.

Party Trick

—Who doesn’t love Goldfish crackers? When Peggy was president of the Kentucky chapter of the American Institute of Wine & Food, she had the honor of taking Julia Child on a distillery tour and discovered that the cooking legend’s favorite cocktail snack was Goldfish. These little crackers, which come in a variety of flavors, are great cocktail party snacks. Pretzel Goldfish offer a salty contrast to bourbon cocktails and can clear the palate. (p.107)

Party Trick

—Use small plates. People tend to fill their plates at buffets, so keep the plates small. After all, this is not a dinner party, and small plates are easier to carry and perch on tables. You can choose festive paper plates that fit the theme of your party, bone china bread and butter plates, or something in between. The actual size should be six to seven inches in diameter.

A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

Collection of serving-size plates for a cocktail party


A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

Small bites

(p.109) Another great finger food is the small sandwich. The bread helps absorb alcohol, and the options are almost endless. Three-inch dolly buns, available at bakeries and groceries, can hold a variety of fillings from sliced meats (roast beef, ham, and turkey are standards) and cheeses to savory spreads. Make sure you have enough variety so that everyone can find an appealing nibble, even guests who are vegetarians or who have dietary restrictions or food allergies. You can certainly save a great deal of time and energy by purchasing sandwich spreads from your favorite deli, but if you want to make your own, here are three recipes. Each makes enough for about 12 sandwiches using small buns.

A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée


A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

Decorative bar carts are ideal for serving appetizers

(p.111) Pimento Cheese Spread

Makes about 1 cup

Known as the “caviar of the South,” this spread can also be served on crackers of your choice.

  • 5 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese

  • ¼ cup finely chopped green olives

  • ⅛ cup minced pimentos

  • ¼ cup mayonnaise

  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Combine all the ingredients in a food processer and chop briefly to blend. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Adapted from Charles Patterson’s Kentucky Cooking.)

Susan’s Tuna Spread

Makes about 1 cup

Susan came across this recipe forty years ago in a small spiral-bound book of recipes by James Beard that was included with her purchase of a Cuisinart food processor. She always gets raves when she serves it. Spicy and tangy, this is not your bachelor uncle’s bland tuna fish salad.

  • 2 5-ounce cans albacore tuna packed in water, drained

  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise

  • ¼ cup tightly packed fresh parsley sprigs

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • 1½ tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend briefly. Be careful not to let the spread get soupy. Chill before using.

(p.112) Benedictine

Makes about 1 cup

Benedictine (not to be confused with the famous French liqueur) was the creation of early-twentieth-century Louisville caterer Jennie Benedict, author of The Blue Ribbon Cookbook. We can almost guarantee that you will not encounter Benedictine outside of Kentucky (and it is seldom found outside of Louisville). This particular recipe comes from award-winning cookbook writer and native Kentuckian Ronnie Lundy.

  • 3 tablespoons cucumber juice

  • 1 tablespoon onion juice

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • A few grains cayenne pepper

  • 2 drops green food coloring

To obtain the juice, peel and grate a cucumber, wrap it in a clean dish towel, and squeeze the juice into a bowl. Discard the pulp. Do the same with the onion. Mix all the ingredients with a fork until well blended. Do not use a blender; it will make the spread too runny.

The Classic Drinks

The two classic bourbon cocktails are the old-fashioned and the Manhattan. But even though they are classic, there is no consensus on how to make them. The question of whether to muddle the fruit (and even which fruit to use) is the central debate surrounding the old-fashioned. And do you add water or soda to the drink? Preferences regarding the proportion of bourbon to vermouth in the Manhattan vary from one drinker to the next. And the amount of bitters can easily be overdone.


  • ½ ounce simple syrup (or 1 sugar cube)

  • 1 orange slice

  • 1 cherry

  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters

  • 1 ounce water

  • 2 ounces bourbon


A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

Old-fashioned flare with a decorative tray and gold-rimmed vintage glassware

Put the syrup, orange, cherry, and bitters in an old-fashioned glass (also called a rocks glass). Gently press the fruit with a muddler to release some of the juices, but don’t pulverize it. You don’t want any unsightly clumps of fruit floating around in your drink.

If you used a sugar cube rather than syrup, add the water now, and use the muddler to crush it. (Sugar doesn’t dissolve in alcohol.) Add the bourbon and the water if you used simple syrup. Fill the glass with ice and give it a good stir.

Some people leave out the cherry and use an orange peel instead of a slice. If you like the orange note, substitute orange bitters for the Angostura. If you like the cherry flavor, add a dash of cherry bitters. If you’re feeling adventurous, add a dash of each. Feel free to experiment.

(p.114) Party Trick

—Stock your do-it-yourself old-fashioned bar with fruits that are presliced and ready to drop in the glass. Perhaps gently muddle a blackberry, a strawberry, or a chunk of fresh pineapple or peach.

Party Trick

—If you have set up the bar so that guests can make their own old-fashioneds, provide sugar cubes soaked in bitters. In effect, you have already measured the bitters for them, saving a step. For a colorful presentation, use a variety of flavored bitters.

Party Trick

—To make old-fashioneds for ten guests, do it the easy way: before the party, combine 2½ cups of bourbon with 5 ounces of simple syrup, 10 ounces of water, and 2 tablespoons of bitters in a pitcher. Line up the glasses and add fruit to each. When you’re ready to serve, give the fruit a quick press with the muddler (or not, for those of you in the anti-muddle camp), fill the glasses with ice, and pour in the premixed cocktail.

A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

Interactive fruit-flavored old-fashioned station with labeled samples

(p.115) If you’re having a fairly large gathering, you may want to hire a bartender or a mixologist. What’s the difference between the two? Generally, a bartender simply assembles drinks. A mixologist creates drinks, often his or her original creations or variations on the classics. As part of the entertainment, the bartender or mixologist can demonstrate how to make a cocktail or even lead your guests in mixing their own.

According to Kentucky legend, the old-fashioned was invented at Louisville’s private Pendennis Club. Unfortunately, there is ample documentation that the drink appeared elsewhere before its supposed origin at the club. Nevertheless, the old-fashioned has been designated Louisville’s official cocktail. Don’t you wish you lived in a city with an official cocktail?

Of course, the Manhattan is identified with New York City. Interestingly, before Prohibition, each of New York’s other boroughs had an eponymous cocktail too. The Brooklyn was made with whiskey, dry vermouth, and cherry liqueur. Gin was the spirit in both the Bronx and the Queens, while rum was used in the Staten Island.

The reasons the Manhattan survived should be pretty obvious. First, it’s a great drink. Second, try to imagine a sophisticated cocktail enthusiast saying out loud in a bar, “Give me a Bronx, please.” (No disrespect to the good people of the Bronx.)

(p.116) Party Trick

—Chill cocktail glasses before adding the beverage. Either store them in the refrigerator (if you have space) or put ice in the glasses for a few minutes and then discard that ice before pouring the drink.

Party Trick

—Prepare all fruit garnish prior to the party and store in ziplock bags at room temperature to hold the juice.


  • 3 ounces bourbon

  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

  • 1 stemmed cherry for garnish

Combine the bourbon, vermouth, and bitters in a mixing beaker with ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled, stemmed cocktail glass or coupe glass. Garnish with the cherry.

The proportions of each ingredient can be altered based on individual taste. Some recipes call for 2½ ounces of bourbon to 1½ ounces of vermouth. Some call for more bitters. (But beware: bitters are called bitters for good reason, and they can overwhelm a drink.) This is the recipe Susan uses for Manhattans, and Peggy loves Susan’s Manhattans, so we are standing by this one. Obviously, you can experiment with the ingredients until you achieve the perfect Manhattan for you.

A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

Upscale display for a manhattan station


Party Trick

—Elevate cocktails on stands to free up table space.

A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

Incorporate decorative items between chocolate tasting cups with Luxardo cherries

A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

Elevate glassware on tiered stands

(p.118) Whatever recipe you settle on, it’s very easy to batch Manhattans ahead of time. Just multiply the ingredients by the number of drinks you want to serve and mix them in a pitcher with ice. Remove the ice and pop the pitcher in the refrigerator until party time.

Party Trick

—When passing cocktails on trays, cover the tray with a cloth napkin to prevent the glasses from sliding around.

You can also offer a flight of 1-ounce Manhattans made with three different bourbons and find out which one your guests prefer. (It’s perfectly all right to use Glencairn glasses in place of cocktail glasses.) Bourbons with a higher rye content in their mash bills make a spicier Manhattan. Wheated bourbons may be smoother.

Whatever other bourbon choices you make, absolutely avoid high-proof, barrel-strength bourbon for cocktails. You want your guests to enjoy themselves and enjoy the flavors but not to overindulge.

The Mocktail

We cannot emphasize it enough: responsible drinking is important. You have probably noted that we favor quality over quantity. Some of your guests may choose not to drink or perhaps cannot drink alcohol for medical reasons. Of course, you still want them to have a good time and feel included in the fun. Enter mocktails—nonalcoholic drinks that offer a sophisticated alternative to a glass of ginger ale or sparkling water. Many bars are now adding them to their menus. There’s also an organization, the Mocktail Project, that creates recipes; visit its website at https://themocktailproject.com.

Kentucky Gent

Although this drink looks bourbony, it isn’t. It’s both alcohol free and delicious.

  • 3 ounces fresh grapefruit juice

  • 1 ounce Gent’s Original Spiced Blood Orange Cocktail Mix

  • ½ ounce fresh lemon juice

  • Ale-8-One (or ginger ale)

  • Orange peel for garnish

Shake all the cocktail ingredients except the Ale-8-One over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Top off with the Ale-8-One. Garnish with a twist of orange peel. (p.119)

A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

(p.120) Music

If you are hosting a large party and space allows, you may want to hire musicians to play some mood music. (This works particularly well outdoors.) Although this can add to the festive mood, please be conscious of volume. You don’t want your guests to have to shout at one another to be heard over the band.

The genre of music (pop, jazz, classical, bluegrass) depends on your taste, but acoustic rather than amplified music is preferable. It’s intended to add to the ambience. It’s not meant to be a performance.

Likewise, if you are using recorded music, keep the volume reasonable. The music should always be secondary to conversation.

Party Trick

—VERMOUTH. Not surprisingly, the key to making a great cocktail is using the best ingredients. There are plenty of excellent bourbons on the market, but not all vermouths are created equal. The best sweet vermouth is Carpano Antica. It’s expensive, but worth it. If you’re on a budget, we also recommend Noilly Prat, which is quite good. Feel free to try others.

Party Trick

—CHERRIES. Avoid the flavorless, sugary cherries sold as cocktail garnishes. Two brands that are outstanding, but not inexpensive, are Luxardo (from Italy) and Bada Bing (from Tillen Farms in Oregon). Add a tiny amount of the juice from either brand to your Manhattan for some extra flavor.

By the Numbers

These measurements will help you plan quantities of spirits, ice, and other items you’ll need for a party.

750 mL bottle of bourbon

= ~23 1-ounce pours

1 L bottle

= ~33 1-ounce pours

1.75 L bottle

= ~57 1-ounce pours


1½–2 pounds per person

Cocktail napkins

5 per guest


2 drinks per person for the first hour

1 drink for the second hour

Bar (if using a bartender)

1 bar for up to 50 guests

When the party is over, we always do a bit of an inventory to determine how much product we used and which cocktails were more popular than others, so we can plan even more carefully for the next party. (p.121)

A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

Party Trick

—Give sealed containers of sample-sized cocktails to departing guests as party favors.


A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

(p.123) More Cocktail Recipes

This is primarily an entertaining guide, not a cookbook, but here are a few more cocktail recipes. See the appendix for recommended cookbooks (including those from which we’ve borrowed recipes) for additional help in populating your party tables.

Kentucky Mule

Traditionally served in a copper mug, the Moscow mule is a drink made with vodka and ginger beer. In the past few years, scores of bars have started serving a bourbon version, and distillery gift shops are selling copper mugs. This recipe comes from The Bourbon Bartender by Jane Danger and Alla Lapushchik.

  • 2 ounces bourbon

  • ¾ ounce ginger beer

  • ¾ ounce lime juice

  • Club soda

  • Candied ginger or lime for garnish

  • Combine the cocktail ingredients in a mule mug, stir, add ice, and garnish.

We asked Heather Wibbels, our friend and sister member of Bourbon Women, to provide some of her original cocktails for this book. She enthusiastically responded with the following recipes, with instructions for making both individual and batched cocktails. Heather won the Bourbon Women Association’s annual Not-Your-Pink-Drink cocktail contest three years in a row. She is now the lead judge for the contest and has earned the title the Cocktail Contessa. You can find even more of her recipes on her website: https://www.cocktailcontessa.com.

(p.124) Fleur-de-Lis Manhattan

Bourbon, chocolate, and raspberry combine in this classy cocktail to show your guests that bourbon can be paired with other spirits as well as food. Using Ballotin Bourbon Ball Whiskey adds both chocolate and pecan notes to the cocktail. Putting a bourbon ball (or an Art Eatables bourbon truffle) on a skewer for garnish is just icing on the cake. This sweet cocktail makes bourbon approachable for new enthusiasts, but it still has that smooth bourbon taste underneath the sweetness.

  • 1½ ounces 100-proof bourbon

  • ¾ ounce Ballotin Bourbon Ball Whiskey

  • ¾ ounce Chambord liqueur

  • 2 drops cardamom bitters

  • 2 dashes chocolate bitters

  • Grated chocolate or bourbon ball for garnish

Combine the cocktail ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir well and strain into a chilled martini glass or coupe glass. Add garnish.

Batched Fleur-de-Lis Manhattan

Serves 8 to 10

  • 1½ cups 100-proof bourbon

  • ¾ cup Ballotin Bourbon Ball Whiskey

  • ¾ cup Chambord liqueur

  • 16 drops cardamom bitters

  • 16 dashes chocolate bitters

  • ½ to ¾ cup water

  • Grated chocolate or bourbon ball for garnish

Combine the cocktail ingredients in a large pitcher or empty 750 mL bottle and mix well. Chill for several hours in the refrigerator. Before serving, chill for at least 30 minutes in the freezer. If guests will be pouring their own cocktails, place the bottle in an ice bucket to keep it cold while the party continues. Serve in a coupe glass or martini glass, and garnish with a bourbon ball or grated chocolate.

(p.125) Dark Side

The Manhattan is a whiskey classic, but that classic can be darkened with the addition of some amaro, an Italian digestif. Amaro is bitter by nature, so a little goes a long way in a drink. Pair the amaro with some autumn bitters, such as Woodford’s sorghum and sassafras bitters and some tiki bitters, and you’ve got a lovely dark drink, perfect for the fall.

  • 2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey (95 to 110 proof)

  • ¼ ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth

  • ¾ ounce Averna Amaro

  • 8 drops Woodford’s sorghum and sassafras bitters

  • 4 drops Bittermans Elamakule Tiki bitters

  • Lemon peel and cocktail cherry for garnish

Combine all the cocktail ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir until well chilled, and strain into a chilled coupe glass or martini glass. Garnish with a high-quality cocktail cherry or two and a lemon peel that has been expressed over the cocktail.

Batched Dark Side

Serves 8 to 10

  • 2 cups bourbon

  • ¼ cup Carpano Antica sweet vermouth

  • ¾ cup Averna Amaro

  • 64 drops Woodford’s sorghum and sassafras bitters (or to taste)

  • 32 drops Bittermans Elamakule Tiki bitters (or to taste)

  • ½ to ¾ cup water

  • Lemon peel and cocktail cherries for garnish

Combine all the cocktail ingredients in a large container and stir until well mixed. Chill in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Before serving, place in the freezer until well chilled. If guests will be pouring their own drinks, keep the container in an ice bucket so that it stays chilled throughout the party. Have lemon peel and cocktail cherries available for garnish.

(p.126) Bold Old

The Bold Old is based on a traditional old-fashioned recipe, but the heat makes it a little more aggressive. It starts with a high-proof spirit and adds smoky, spicy bitters for some heat. The smoke is reminiscent of how it smells on the cooperage floor near the barrel-charring stations. It’s smoky, but not overwhelming. The bitters also bring some heat to the cocktail. In the same way that cayenne is used in Mexican hot chocolate, the bitters increase the sensation of heat and extend the finish without adding a lot of other flavors, allowing the whiskey to be the star. Charring activates the oils in the cinnamon stick and accentuates the smoke in the bitters, tying the drink together.

  • 2 ounces Old Forester Whiskey Row 1920 (115 proof) or any high-proof bourbon (at least 110 proof)

  • ½ ounce demerara syrup (1:1 ratio of demerara sugar to water)

  • 3 to 4 dashes Hella Bitters Smoked Chili bitters

  • Charred cinnamon stick for garnish

Combine the cocktail ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir and strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with the charred cinnamon stick.

Batched Bold Old

Serves 8 to 10

  • 2 cups Old Forester Whiskey Row 1920

  • ½ cup demerara simple syrup (1:1 ratio of demerara sugar to water)

  • 24 to 32 dashes Hella Bitters Smoked Chili bitters

  • ½ cup water

  • Charred cinnamon sticks for garnish

Combine the cocktail ingredients in an empty 750 mL bottle and mix well. It’s easiest to add the bitters (start with the lower number of dashes) to the simple syrup before adding it to the bottle. Chill the bottle well in the refrigerator. Once it is chilled, do a taste test and add more bitters as needed. Make sure the drink is completely chilled before serving in rocks glasses over ice. Garnish with a charred cinnamon stick. (p.127)

Kentucky Promise

This cocktail recipe was created as a wedding gift for friends. It’s close to an old-fashioned but a little sweeter. To balance the strong blackberry sweetness that comes from the whiskey and the syrup, the Averna Amaro acts as a bittering agent. The Kentucky Promise can be served neat or on the rocks.

  • 1½ ounces Angel’s Envy Bourbon

  • 1 ounce Starlight Blackberry Whiskey

  • ½ ounce Averna Amaro

  • ½ ounce blackberry simple syrup (see below)

  • Fresh blackberry, mint, or basil leaf for garnish

Combine the cocktail ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir until well chilled and strain into an ice-filled (or not) old-fashioned glass. Add garnish.

blackberry simple syrup

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 3 cups frozen blackberries

  • ¼ cup water

Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and cook until the blackberries are thawed, soft, and very juicy. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the blackberries out, pressing on them to extract as much juice as possible. Let the syrup cool. It can be stored in a bottle for one to two weeks.

A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

The proper way to hold a plate and cocktail: Place your napkin under the plate, supported by your fingers, and rest the glass on top of the plate, secured by your thumb. Your other hand is free to eat and shake hands!

(p.128) Batched Kentucky Promise

Serves 8 to 10

  • 1½ cups Angel’s Envy Bourbon

  • 1 cup Starlight Blackberry Whiskey

  • ½ cup Averna Amaro

  • ½ cup blackberry simple syrup (see above)

  • ½ to ¾ cup water

  • Fresh blackberry, mint, or basil leaf for garnish

Combine all the cocktail ingredients in a large container and stir until well mixed. Chill for at least several hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Place the container in the freezer for 30 minutes just before serving, and keep it in an ice bucket if guests will be serving themselves to ensure that it stays chilled throughout the party. The Kentucky Promise can be served either neat in a coupe glass or a martini glass or over ice in a rocks glass. If serving in a coupe or martini glass, use a single spanked mint or basil leaf as garnish. If serving in a rocks glass over ice, a small sprig of mint or basil dresses it up nicely. Note: To “spank” mint or other herbs, lay the leaf in the palm of one hand and slap it with the other. This releases the aromatic oils.

Apple Pie Old-Fashioned

The flavors of fall abound in this cocktail, which uses apple brandy and maple syrup to sweeten the old-fashioned. A tiny bit of cinnamon whiskey adds a hint of pie spice.

  • 1½ ounces bourbon (90 to 100 proof)

  • 1 ounce Copper & Kings Apple Brandy (or any apple brandy)

  • ¼ ounce maple syrup

  • 1 bar spoon cinnamon whiskey (Evan Williams preferred)

  • ½ dropper Bittermans Elamakule Tiki bitters

  • Dash of fresh nutmeg, apple slice, and/or cinnamon stick for garnish

Combine the cocktail ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with ice and add garnish.


A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

Batched Apple Pie Old-Fashioned

Serves 4

  • 1½ cups bourbon

  • 1 cup Copper & Kings Apple Brandy (or any apple brandy)

  • ¼ cup maple syrup

  • 1½ ounces cinnamon whiskey (Evan Williams preferred)

  • ¾ cup water

  • 20 drops Bittermans Elamakule Tiki bitters

  • Dash of nutmeg, apple slices, and/or cinnamon sticks for garnish

Combine the ingredients in a pitcher or container that holds at least 32 ounces. Stir to mix. Refrigerate until well chilled. If you’ll be serving this in the pitcher, add some cinnamon sticks and apple slices to dress it up. For individual servings, pour into a rocks glass with ice and garnish with an apple slice, cinnamon stick, or both.

(p.130) Porch Swing

June evenings are perfect for sitting out on the deck and enjoying the weather. Take a break from your evening plans and indulge in this low-proof, easy-to-make cocktail. Or if you need a cocktail to sip while preparing dinner or presiding over the grill, this one has you covered. Adding the lavender bitters just before serving spices up the cocktail in a lovely floral way.

  • 1½ ounces bourbon

  • 2 ounces fresh orange juice

  • 4 ounces fresh lemonade

  • Sparkling water

  • 3 drops lavender bitters (optional)

  • Orange or lemon wheel for garnish

Add the bourbon, orange juice, and lemonade to a highball glass or Collins glass filled with ice. Stir once or twice with a bar spoon to incorporate the ingredients, and top with a splash of sparkling water. Just before serving, add the lavender bitters—it takes the cocktail from tasty to wow! Garnish with an orange or lemon wheel.

Batched Porch Swing

Serves 8 to 10

  • 1½ cups bourbon

  • 2 cups orange juice

  • 4 cups lemonade

  • 30 drops lavender bitters

  • 1 to 2 cups sparkling water

  • Orange and lemon slices

Add the bourbon, orange juice, lemonade, and bitters to a container and mix well. Chill overnight or for several hours. Just before serving, add the sparkling water and some orange and lemon slices to the pitcher. Serve in Collins glasses filled with ice, and spritz a bit of lavender bitters on top of each drink. Garnish each with a lemon and orange slice. (p.131)

A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

(p.132) Pretty as a Peach

Peach season is short, so take advantage of it because this drink wows everyone. It’s perfect for a smaller gathering of friends, even though it requires a little more preparation than some other cocktails. Note: You can use frozen peaches, but they need to be completely defrosted so that they muddle correctly.

  • 2 ounces 90-proof bourbon

  • ½ lemon, peeled and quartered

  • ½ peach, peeled and sliced

  • 3 dashes Fee Brothers peach bitters

  • 1 dash Fee Brothers gin-aged orange bitters

  • 3 mint leaves

  • 1 ounce simple syrup (1:1 ratio of sugar to water)

  • 1 ounce water

  • Fresh mint sprig and peach slice for garnish

Muddle everything except the bourbon and garnish. Then add the bourbon and some ice, shake, and strain into a rocks glass with ice. Class it up with a garnish of spanked mint and a peach slice. Voilà—the perfect summer drink!

Batched Pretty as a Peach

Serves 2 to 3

  • 4 ounces 90-proof bourbon

  • 1 lemon, peeled and quartered

  • 1 peach, peeled and sliced

  • 6 dashes Fee Brothers peach bitters

  • 2 dashes Fee Brothers gin-aged orange bitters

  • 6 mint leaves

  • 2 ounces simple syrup (1:1 ratio of sugar to water)

  • 2 ounces water

  • Fresh mint sprigs and peach slices for garnish

Muddle everything except the bourbon and garnish. Then add the bourbon, fill with ice, shake until well chilled (at least in the 30s), and strain into rocks glasses with ice. Garnish with spanked mint and a peach slice.

(p.133) Nonalcoholic Pretty as a Peach

Serves 8

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

  • 2 very ripe peaches, halved, pitted, and thinly sliced

  • 2 liters seltzer, chilled

  • 16 fresh mint leaves for garnish

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, bring the water, sugar, and ginger to a gentle simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove the simple syrup from the heat, cover, and steep for about 30 minutes. Over a medium bowl, pour the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing the ginger against the sieve with the back of a spoon to extract the flavor. Discard the ginger. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled. Evenly distribute the peach slices among 8 tall glasses. Lightly press the peaches with the back of a wooden spoon to release their juice. Pour about 2 tablespoons of chilled syrup over the peaches. (Store the remaining syrup in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.) Add ice cubes; then top with seltzer. Stir to distribute the syrup, peach juice, and seltzer evenly. Garnish with 2 mint leaves. (p.134)

A Bourbon Cocktail Soirée

The proper way to hold a cocktail plate and glass