For the people who know me, it’s no surprise that I love to entertain! Cooking for my friends and family is something that I enjoy doing. It must be the little old Italian woman that lives inside of me, but it makes me happy to see people enjoy the food that I have prepared.
Over the last few years, I have branched out when it comes to entertaining. In other words, I’ve expanded my horizons. In 8 years I have lived in 5 different cities, in 3 different regions, each time starting over with jobs & friends, but my two constants have been food and bourbon. Now, not everyone enjoys bourbon, but I know that everyone loves food. I like to help bring understanding between the two for those who are interested in drinking and eating bourbon.
When it comes to entertaining, you have your standard drink choices- beer, wine, prosecco, vodka, etc., but none of those appeal to me. Why? Because I happen to be a woman who loves her bourbon. I have never acquired a taste for beer. In my mid-twenties, I burnt myself out on wine during my quarter-life crisis, and we won’t even discuss the short-lived tequila phase. Bourbon/ Whiskey happens to be one of those things that I like. Wait, no. It’s one of those things that I happen to LOVE. Within each region I have lived, I have noticed something different about people and bourbon. In the Southeast, a woman drinking bourbon/whiskey is widely accepted, yet other regions have mixed reactions. Some men will ask “why are you drinking a man’s drink?” Some women have asked, “how can you even drink that stuff?”
Now with the bourbon/whiskey boom you would not think gender would be an issue, but approximately only 37% of the bourbon market happens to be women drinkers.
I always seem to encounter women who have been curious about bourbon/ whiskey, but afraid to try it. I’ve noticed that when it comes to alcohol, we tend to stick to what we know & remain in our comfort zones. We are more conservative when it comes to spending our hard earned money on alcohol. $8-10 bucks on a six pack of microbrew doesn’t seem like much, but buying a $40 bottle of bourbon might be perceived as a commitment. Conversely, I find that people are much more than willing to drop $40 on a bottle of “good wine” vs. a bottle of “good” bourbon, so I am here to change that perception. The way that I look at it is, you are going to get a lot more from a bottle of bourbon than you would a bottle of wine, so it’s by far a better investment. (Bourbon girl math)
The past few years I have committed to bringing women over to my side, “the bourbon side”. Recently I met a group of local women who were very interested in bourbon but were afraid to try it. Over the past few months, I’ve helped to change that; we’ve met a few times to drink and eat with bourbon. One of my passions has been incorporating bourbon into my meals. I like to show how great bourbon is not only for drinking but for how well it can enhance a meal. For this last tasting party, I wanted to showcase my favorite bourbons (right now) as a drink, a meal and dessert. Now let’s get to the tasting!
I selected five bourbons- Blanton’s, Hudson Baby Bourbon, Russell’s Reserve 10 year, and Bulliet Rye. As a bonus, I added a chocolate-flavored whiskey from King’s Distillery. I created a place setting for each of the girls, four glasses with the selected bourbons, along with a plate of dark chocolate, walnuts, cranberries, orange wedges, aged parmesan. One thing for sure is you can not have a tasting without cheese, so I made sure to have some aged parmesan for its saltiness. Cranberries provide a nice tartness, so they balance the natural bitterness of the bourbon. Dark chocolate & walnuts offer a mellow flavor; they help to deepen the taste of the bourbon. Orange, citrus notes bring out the complex flavors of bourbon.
Now even though this wasn’t our first tasting together, each of my guests received a copy of the “Bourbon & Banter” flavor wheel & a paper for them to write down tasting notes. We evaluated the bourbons on four different qualities – its appearance, aroma, taste and finish. We experienced how each of the bourbon’s flavor changed with the addition of our tasting plates; the nuts, berries, fruit, chocolate and cheese.
I have to say, tasting and discussing bourbon works up quite an appetite! So it’s time for dinner. My goal was to create something a bit spicy yet savory, so I prepared a Mole-rubbed KC strip steak with a chocolate whiskey beurre blanc sauce & a side of grilled asparagus. Dessert, which I made earlier, was a crust-less bourbon infused pumpkin pie- light yet packed with flavor! Throughout the meal, our discussions began to evolve from general curiosity to deeper conversations on how certain foods enhance the flavors of the bourbon. These women seemed surprised that the pairings didn’t overpower their taste buds and did enhance their beverage. I’d say this event was a hit!
Hosting your bourbon/whiskey tasting doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t need to live on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail or embody a lil’ ol’ Italian lady, but if you provide your guests with a little bourbon background and stick with the basics, you will be surprised at the results. Whether you choose to have a simple bourbon tasting or add a little bourbon to your meal, I hope that this article helps you to bring your friends over to the “bourbon side.”
Remember to #EatResponsibly.