Warm up the Winter with Four Roses Bourbon – Plus a Fat Washing Primer

Bacon-infused bourbon, apple cider and a 4505 Meats chicharron were winning ingredients in the Autumn Rose cocktail.

Of all the brown spirits, bourbon is the one I’m warming up to the fastest. I guess it must be the warm flavors of caramel and vanilla and the hint of sweetness from the corn mash that makes it easy to appreciate. I’ve sipped it on the rocks, but love the way it works in cocktails. I’m not the only one apparently: this spring, an organization called Bourbon Women had their coming out party in Kentucky. Founded by Peggy Noe Stevens – the first female master bourbon taster – the group celebrates the heritage of bourbon and educates women about it through tasting events around the country.

I got a personal lesson in the versatility of bourbon this fall when I judged a Four Roses Bourbon cocktail contest at Bourbon & Branch.The Four Roses legend starts with Paul Jones, Jr. who was in love with a local belle. He asked her to marry him and coyly suggested that if her answer was yes, she should wear a corsage of four red roses to the next dance. She did, and the rest is history. These days, Four Roses is admired by connoisseurs for Jim Rutledge’s careful blending five yeast strains and two grain mixes to create 10 distinctive bourbon recipes. Each blend is aged in new white oak barrels, and only Rutledge’s favorite is selected as their Single Barrel bourbon.

For their annual cocktail contest, creative Bay Area mixologists made diverse cocktails with their own corn milk punch, rootbeer and combination of amari and other brown spirits. But in the end, we were most taken with the way the bourbon was enhanced by a combo of bacon, apple cider and a spicy 4505 Meats chicharron in a drink called Autumn Rose by Christina Cabrera.

Autumn Rose

2 ounces bacon-infused Four Roses Bourbon
1/4 ounce Gran Classico
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce apple cider
1/2 ounce honey
1/2 ounce maple syrup
2 dashes chocolate bitters

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well-chilled and strain into a coupe style cocktail glass. Now take a bite of the chicharron before sipping the cocktail.

Now Christina’s recipe used maple bacon infused honey. Since I didn’t have any of that around, I decided it was time to make some bacon-infused bourbon. This is a simple version of the technique called “fat-washing” that mixologists and chefs use to add the flavor of a fatty food like bacon or foie gras to a spirit.

Bacon-Infused Bourbon

4 pieces thick-cut, old-fashioned bacon, ie  applewood smoked
1 bottle bourbon

Basically, all you do is pour the fat released by cooking the bacon into the bourbon, or whatever spirit you’re infusing. Let it sit for a day or two and then freeze it before pouring the bourbon back into the bottle through a cheesecloth or strainer. The bacon fat will have transferred flavor into the spirit.

For a more involved description of fat-washing, check out this post on Blender Booze blog; I also like this profile of fat-washing pioneer Eben Freeman in Food & Wine Magazine.  I learned the lard ..er hard way that it’s important to let your bourbon sit in the refrigerator while it’s infusing with the bacon fat. I let it sit on the counter as one recipe suggested and the bacon fat took on a rancid odor, not the sort of thing one wants to drink. I also think the effect works best if you use a more smoky style of bacon.

Parmesan Toasts – A Champagne-Perfect Snack for #Let’sLunch

These Parmesan Toasts are perfect with sparklin wines of all kinds and they couldn't be easier to make.

As the hostess of The Bubbly Girl, it’s probably no surprise that I think about enjoying champagne and sparkling wine a lot. But many people are surprised to learn that these effervescent wines are perfect for pairing with all kinds of foods.

When people hear the word “champagne,” high-end fare like caviar, lobster and cracked blue crab comes to mind. Those are all delicious with champagne and it’s sparkling sisters. But so are a range of foods that aren’t so high-falutin.

Potato chips, popcorn, french fries – basically anything salty, slightly greasy or crispy is wonderful with champagne and sparkling wine.  Pizza and prosecco is fabulous.  A juicy burger can be deliciously paired with a sparkling wine, as long as it’s got some gravitas from long-aging or richness from pinot noir.

The recipe section of The Bubbly Girl.com shares recipes for seasoned popcorn, savory cheddar shortbread and all sorts of foods that play well with bubbly. When I was invited to contribute a recipe to the #Let’sLunch champagne-friendly snacks lunch, I wanted to do something new and easy.

I kept thinking of the ghetto-gourmet spread I made for grilled corn on the cob this past weekend. The mix of mayonnaise, grated parmesan, seasoned salt and chili powder was exquisite on corn – and tasted pretty good by itself.  I thought this slightly salty, slightly rich spread would taste even toasted on a baguette.

 

Parmesan Toasts

1/4 cup mayonnaise

4 tablespoons grated Parmesan (the crumbly kind)

seasoned salt, to taste

dash of paprika

1/4 French baguette, cut into thin rounds

Mix the mayonnaise, Parmesan, salt and paprika in a small bowl to make a uniform paste. Spread the mixture onto the baguette rounds, so you can’t see through to the bread.

Toast under a broiler – watching them carefully – until golden brown.

Eat while warm with your favorite bubbly.

 

How to Open a Bottle of Champagne – The Right Way!

Just last night I was having dinner with a really smart and fun foodie friend who loves, cooking, wine and cocktails. At one point the conversation turned to sparkling wine and champagne – big surprise!

But I was surprised when she admitted that when it came to opening bubbly, she usually handed the bottle off to someone else.

If you’ve been suffering from a secret fear of opening a bottle of bubbly, don’t despair! With the help of my TV reporter friend Kristi, I’ve recorded this video to teach anyone how to open that bottle of bubbly safely.

As you’ll read in the introduction of my new book “The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion” the first thing to do is to make sure to chill your sparkling wine properly for 30 minutes to an hour in the refrigerator or an ice and water bath. There’s the same amount of force behind a flying cork and a bullet leaving a gun barrel; making sure the bottle is nice and cold ensures that everything will go smoothly.

Now grab a cloth napkin, your cold bottle of bubbly and let’s get popping!