America’s Great Bourbon Boom

As the weather cools down, it’s the perfect time for a classic bourbon cocktail.

By Hal Brock September 1, 2014 Published in the September 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine

A tumbler of bourbon is one of America’s true pleasures. In fact, the spirit can only be made here, having been recognized, under a 1964 US law, as a distilled product that by definition cannot be replicated beyond our borders. And while some still insist that bourbon can only come from Kentucky—Kentuckians and old-school Jim Beam devotees, mostly—the truth is, it can be made anywhere in the US, even right here in Texas, where we drink homegrown Yellow Rose and Red River.

When the bourbon boom first began 25 years ago, Jim Beam was almost the only brand a bar would stock, which is why it’s also the first bourbon many connoisseurs ever tasted. “Jim Beam and Coke was my first taste…and it was magical at the time,” says Brasserie 19 bar manager Joseph Stark. “I don’t drink it that way anymore, but Beam still makes a helluva whiskey. Booker’s and Jim Beam Black Label are a couple of favorites now.” Stark enjoys these, he says, “with a couple of ice cubes and maybe a splash of water.”

For today’s cocktail crowd, the bar team at Brasserie 19 is putting together some more approachable bourbon drinks for the fall, perfect for sipping on the restaurant’s River Oaks patio. “Think figs with honey and thyme, or spiced pears with walnuts,” Stark says. And if you’re a bit more traditional, an Old Fashioned (recipe below) is a great way to soften a bourbon. We suggest Elijah Craig 12-Year or W.L. Weller 12-Year: at $30 each for a bottle, both are budget-friendly without sacrificing flavor. 

Old Fashioned 

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • 2 dashes angostura bitters
  • Quarter-sized lemon peel 

Muddle lemon peel with syrup and bitters. Pour bourbon over muddler to rinse. Fill with ice and stir briefly to blend. Garnish with an orange moon and a cherry.

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