Happy National Bourbon Day, y’all!
For me, it all started on a fateful night in New Orleans. I was young, impressionable, and had no idea how to order a real grown up drink in a bar. I found myself sitting at the lobby bar in a fine old New Orleans hotel chatting with a genteel bartender named Cecil. Cecil was in his sixties (I’m guessing) and he wore a white jacket and black bow tie like he meant it. When he asked me what I’d like to drink, I went for my just-out-of-college default, a Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic with a lime. He gave me a knowing smile and informed me that I really ought to have a proper “southern drink.” I told him I didn’t drink “brown liquor,” and he smartly ignored me, sensing an easy convert in his midst.
My attention was rapt with the deft flicks of his wrist, the ice rattling in the shaker, and his matter-of-fact history lesson revealing that New Orleans was the true birthplace of the cocktail. Suddenly there was a cocktail in front of me full of a suspiciously deep amber colored liquid with just a few chips of ice floating at the top. The magic elixir inside that sweating up glass was a Sazerac, and it was my first introduction to bourbon. An ah-ha moment indeed!
Caramely, oaky, slightly sweet, strong, invigorating. It’s the only liquor I know of that is 100% American. As in invented by and made in America. And I love it so. Never mind the mid-shelf stuff, get yourself some Pappy Van Winkel, pour it over a gigantic ice cube (the kind “mixologists” make) and go find yourself a rocking chair. It will be time well spent, I assure you. Especially on this, National Bourbon Day!
Since I’m not much of a cocktail maker myself, I am offering you my favorite recipe for bourbon caramel sauce recipe. It’s great poured over ice cream, as a dip for homemade graham crackers, or on your finger. Happy bourboning, y’all!
Easy Bourbon Caramel Sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel
1 tablespoon good Bourbon
Combine the brown sugar, cream, butter, corn syrup, and salt in a small saucepan. Cook over medium high heat, stirring once or twice, until the mixture comes to a boil. As soon as it starts to boil, reduce the heat to maintain a healthy simmer, and cook without stirring for 1 minute. Remove from heat and carefully add the bourbon, swirling the pan to mix it into the caramel. After the bubbles subside, whisk to combine, and keep warm over very low heat or store in a small thermos until ready to use.