It is a well-established fact that I love booze. Ales? What’s better than a frosty cider on a hot summer day. Gin? I could write prose about gin. Wine? There is decently likelihood that wine gives me hives and I still love it. Got that? I am probably allergic to wine and I still drink it (almost daily). That’s commitment.
But amber spirits? I’ll pass. Scotch and whiskey turn my stomach sour. Brandy and cognac are only good for baking. Rum tastes like bad college memories. And tequila? Oh, tequila. Of tequila we do not speak.
Now, bourbon… she’s a different mistress all together. Bourbon treats me wrong every damn time, and still I love her. Bourbon surprises me and makes me wistful all at once.
If you asked me to name my single favorite cocktail of all time, there’s a good chance I’ll tell you a Milk Punch from the Bourbon House in New Orleans. It’s divine. Be forewarned. If you come with me to NOLA, you will be drinking Milk Punch.
I love bourbon so much, that, when at a wedding in Louisville, I dragged five totally disinterested girlfriends on a two-hour road trip to the Maker’s Mark estate. Guess who are all fans of bourbon now?
Like food, the taste of a certain spirit will bring you back places (and, I never want to be taken back to where tequila goes). Bourbon brings me down the bayou. With memories of sitting on the beach in Biloxi, MS, looking at palm trees still bent over from their battle with Katrina. Memories of dancing to slow moving jazz on Frenchman Street. Memories of rocking on a wide Southern porch of a volunteer house, eating strawberries and resting my weary feet.
It brings me back to the amazing group of volunteers that I’ve sweated with in that humid landscape – those that I may have known for only a day, and those who became like sisters. The end of most rigorous days, spent working tirelessly to help a community back to its feet, meant sharing a cool bourbon cocktail and sharing war stories. It’s a special spirit.
If you are now jonesing for a bourbon drink, you’re in luck. This one’s a gem:
The Big Texan Bourbon-and-Grapefruit Cocktail
. 2 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice
. 1 1/2 ounces bourbon
. 1/2 tablespoon simple syrup (see Note)
. 2 basil leaves
. 1 grapefruit slice and 1 preserved cherry, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, combine the grapefruit juice, bourbon, simple syrup and basil. Fill a chilled rocks glass with ice. Add 5 ice cubes to the shaker and shake well. Strain the drink into the ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with the grapefruit slice and cherry.