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Sour or Sweet: The Father of Modern Bourbon

Old Crow Vintage Ad Image

The last time you found yourself at Ye Olde Liquor Store, your eyes might have wandered to the bottom shelf where labels are stuffed with text emphasizing the quality and heritage of the bourbon, proudly boasting, “SOUR MASH WHISKEY.” You might have wondered what that even meant as you settled up for your bottle of Evan Williams, and why very few other bourbon brands boast this quality of their whiskey so proudly.

The early nineteenth century was a cluster of a great variety of bourbon quality, from excellent products to worse-than-rotgut to everything in-between. Distillers, including commercial and farmer-distillers, usually utilized two processes to create mash for producing whiskey: sour mash and sweet mash. These processes are exactly the same in regards to the amount of grain in the mash, the mash bill, fermentation, and yeast, but with one essential difference: the sour mash process includes a portion of spent mash from the previous distillation, just like sourdough bread contains a portion of dough from a previous batch of bread. It was the distiller’s preference for whether they chose to distill sweet mash or sour mash that day, and distillers didn’t specify which mash produced the whiskey they sold. Continue Reading →

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Bottled In Bond: A Brief History

Gooderham & Worts Distillery Engraving Illustration

Note: This post is courtesy of Melissa Alexander a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati and a bourbon history enthusiast. Please let us know what you think of Melissa’s debut post as we’d love to have her as a regular contributor to Bourbon & Banter.

During your last visit to Ye Olde Liquor Store, you might have noticed a couple of bottom-shelf bottles sporting a fancy, old-script tag: “Bottled-in-Bond.”  The bottle might claim that the whiskey is exceptional, full of heritage, made according to an old, forgotten tradition.  Companies such as Heaven Hill, Barton, and Jim Beam have revitalized the century-old tradition of bottling in bond, but what brought this century-old practice back into the forefront?

Fly back in time to the late 19th century, when the whiskey market was more unregulated than you could even imagine.  A rivalry for the record books emerged between straight whiskey distillers and whiskey rectifiers.  Rectifiers, much like Non-Distiller Producers today, purchased distillate from other sources; they then aged it (for dubious periods of time), potentially tinkered with the finished product by adding flavoring or coloring, and bottled it at varying proofs under names such as “Fine Old Bourbon”.  While a number of rectifiers produced honest-to-goodness whiskey, producers of knockoff bourbon flooded the market with their cheap, easy-to-produce whiskey and made it extremely difficult for straight whiskey producers to gain a foothold, and even forced many into bankruptcy. Continue Reading →

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The Sazerac Cocktail

The Sazerac Cocktail image

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from our friends at D.W. Alexander in Toronto. Rumor has it they make a pretty killer Sazerac. Stop by and pay them a visit if you’re in the area.

Although the first cocktails were invented by British, they attained global popularity when they first appeared in United States. Like many other things, they are susceptible to trend. So, it happened that some of the cocktails, which enjoyed great popularity in the past, are no longer available. Similarly to that, some of the cocktails which vanished, reappeared and grew in popularity. One such drink is Sazerac.

This beverage is regarded as one of the first American cocktails. It was invented by Antoine Peychaud in 1838. As the story goes, he was selling Peychaud’s Bitters in his pharmacy. The drugstore was famous all over New Orleans because of this homemade recipe. At that time, people used different cocktails and alcohol to cure various diseases. On one occasion, Antoine presented his cocktail made from cognac and Peychaud’s bitter to his friends. It was an instant hit. From 1850 the drink was served under the name Sazerac, which was the name of cognac that was part of mixture. Since 1873, rye whiskey replaced the cognac and absinthe was added. Although Sazerac was rarely served in bars during 20th century, it is slowly becoming one of the most popular cocktails in the world. Continue Reading →

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San Antonio Cocktail Conference 2015 Recap


Bourbon & Banter was very graciously invited back by the folks at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference to attend their spectacular event that focuses on all of the great booze and food across the country and in the city of San Antonio. It is an event filled with opportunities to learn about liquor, its history, cocktail making, food pairings, and what is new and hot in the industry. Classroom sessions (always taught alongside a few choice cocktails) are complemented by blow-out bashes that feature live bands and world-class cocktails set amongst the historic backdrop of downtown San Antonio. Not only is the event perfect for any cocktail lover and foodie, it is also a philanthropic venture that raises proceeds for the Houston Street Charities. For 2015, we had a very special San Antonio local cover the conference for us. A big thank you to Mr. Antonio Gonzalez for representing the Bourbon & Banter team in Texas and for Kristian Jaime for taking some amazing photos of the conference. Below are Antonio’s highlights and favorite cocktail recipes from this year’s SACC. Cheers!

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