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Bourbon & Branch

Cocktail Recipes, Drinks

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

December 5, 2011
bourbon_cocktail_maple
 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.

© 2011 Maria Hunt aka The Bubbly Girl.

Cool Bars

Cocktails & Mystery: A Visit to Wilson and Wilson Detective Agency

April 1, 2011
The website for the new bar Wilson and Wilson Detective Agency draws visitors in with a mystery of Lorraine Adeline Wilson, a redhead who went missing back in 1932.

The website for the new bar Wilson and Wilson Detective Agency draws visitors in with a mystery of Lorraine Adeline Wilson, a redhead who went missing back in 1932.

Cocktails and mystery just seem to go together. Or at least they do in detective stories of the 1930s and 40s, my favorite era for mystery books and classic movies. Whether it’s the fabulous Nick & Nora Charles and their love of martinis, rye and champagne; a hard-boiled private dick out of Raymond Chandler; or a curious tale of a Notorious villain under Suspicion, spirits and suspense go together.

Last night I visited the new Wilson and Wilson Detective Agency, the bar-within-a-bar at San Francisco institution Bourbon & Branch in the Tenderloin. The new bar’s theme was inspired by a true mystery that can be summed up as The Lady Vanishes.

During renovations for the new space, owners discovered a handbag with a 1932 driver’s license, lipstick, a nail file, and a torn up pair of stockings hidden between two walls. The license belonged to Lorraine Adeline Wilson, a slender redhead with blue eyes who had lived in the Mission. She was 29 at the time.

With this curious set of facts in mind, I rang the buzzer near the slightly seedy corner of Jones and O’Farrell streets. It was just after 6 p.m. A brunette opened the door, filling the entrance with her body. I gave her the password and she moved aside, allowing me into the dark room. Waiting for my eyes to adjust, I carefully walked about 39 Steps. We paused as she stopped to unlatch another door.

I stepped into a small, dim room with a long bar full of bottles, flocked velvet wallpaper and a pressed tin ceiling. The room was back-lit by a frosted window at one end; a mirror image of the words Wilson and Wilson Detective Agency filled the center of the pane. It was quiet except for a grainy voice warbling a song from another era. A Platinum Blonde showed me to a metal tractor seat at the bar. Before she left, she handed me a small manila envelope.

I was just about to look inside, when I noticed the bartender peering at me expectantly. He was a Thin Man.

Tune in this weekend for the thrilling conclusion…