Editors Note: Today’s post is from Jeremy Mandel, one of the semi-finalists who are applying to become a regular contributor to Bourbon & Banter. We hope you’ll read all of their posts and let us know what you think of each applicant by commenting below the post, sharing online or dropping us a note via email.
In the world of bourbon today, there are unfortunately many different characters that you may rather not associate with. The world is getting smaller thanks to social media, and there are seemingly more fans of good whiskey than ever before. How is someone to know who the people are that you should associate with? The answer isn’t as tough as you might imagine. There’s really only one question that should be asked: what is the best food to pair with a good whiskey?
Chocolate? Get out.
Tortilla chips? Ok, cheapskate.
Cheese? Let me tell you about my friend Jack Daniels.
The one and only correct answer to this question is a good steak. Reasonable people can disagree about the cut, but it is the only thing to pair with your bourbon to achieve the most optimal bourbon consumption experience. But what bourbons should you be pairing with what cuts of meat? Luckily, your humble servant has done the lab work necessary by eating thousands of steaks and drinking thousands of whiskies to cut through the proverbial bull for you. For each of the three major cuts of steak, I’ll provide an option that is available at most liquor stores, and an option for something more difficult to find.
Also, and this shouldn’t have to be said, but if you’re cooking this more than medium then you’re doing it wrong. I’d prefer rare or medium rare, but I won’t argue with you if you like it medium. If you want to go more than that, then let’s not be friends.
NEW YORK STRIP
Of the cuts we’ll cover here today, the strip is the most firm from a texture standpoint, and the most classic flavor profile. You’ll really know what your butcher or steakhouse is all about when you try their strip. But what bourbon is the ideal fit to go with it?
ATTAINABLE – HENRY MCKENNA 10 YEAR BOTTLED IN BOND
This is hailed by those in the know as the best kept secret in bourbon, so keep your mouth shut about this. The Heaven Hill product is the best example of a bourbon that can usually be found on store shelves that most perfectly depicts what the brown stuff in the bottle ought to taste like. It won’t overpower you at 100 proof, but you’ll very clearly get the taste that you want.
HARDER TO FIND – FOUR ROSES SMALL BATCH LIMITED EDITION, 2015
Simply put, the best bourbon ever produced by Four Roses. The notes of caramel and hints of oak will compliment a fine New York strip perfectly. A classic, elegant bourbon would be a phenomenal companion to a classic cut of meat.
The most tender cut of meat available with the most delicate taste. This is the steak of choice for those that may not quite be aficionados, but want a tender cut of meat that won’t overpower with peak tenderness.
ATTAINABLE – WELLER SPECIAL RESERVE
A wheated bourbon must be the accompanying spirit with a properly prepared filet mignon. Like the steak, the Weller Special Reserve will present a delicate taste that won’t overpower anyone. It’s as approachable a bourbon that exists for those unfamiliar with what else is out there, just as a filet mignon is a perfect introduction to what a great steak can be.
TOUGHER TO FIND – PARKER’S HERITAGE COLLECTION 8, CASK STRENGTH WHEAT WHISKEY 13 YEAR
Just as the best filet mignon must be served at medium rare, the best wheated whiskies must be served at cask strength. This is a very crisp and distinct pour, which will never be confused with many of the other wheated offerings of other brands. Just as you won’t forget the best filet you’ve ever tasted, you’ll never forget the taste of this edition of the Parkers Heritage Collection.
We’ve arrived at the king of the steaks. From a properly prepared ribeye, you’ll get a bold meaty flavor and well marbled perfection. For a truly special experience, get yourself a cowboy cut, bone in ribeye and order it Pittsburgh rare. Thank me later. But what whiskey should be enjoyed next to the king?
ATTAINABLE – STAGG JR
You’ve got to have a bold, cask strength whiskey to consume next to a bold ribeye, and Stagg Jr is just what the doctor ordered. You’ll be hit right off the first taste with bold flavors of vanilla and oak that won’t back down. You’ll notice something slightly different with every sip, just as you’ll get a slightly different experience from each different section of ribeye.
TOUGHER TO FIND – BOOKER 25TH ANNIVERSARY
If you can get that Pittsburgh rare cowboy cut ribeye put next to a neat pour of Booker’s 25th Anniversary, you’re in for an experience you won’t soon forget. The Booker’s 25th will present one of the most bold, flavor forward bourbons that you will ever taste. This is the finest modern bourbon ever produced from Beam, and you’ll be blown away by the evolution of flavor from start to finish. Drink your Booker’s and eat the whole ribeye. Afterwards, reward yourself with a fine cigar and some bananas foster. You’ve earned it.