Remembering Fathers

I fondly remember my father and grandfather.   Anyone who ever met them said they were both, “such gentlemen.” They were wonderful parents and grandparents. My grandparent’s home was on the Ohio River across from downtown Louisville, Kentucky. They had a deck that overlooked the river and on any given Saturday or Sunday a backyard full of friends. The back porch had a refrigerator full of long neck PBR’s or Falls City Beer. If you wanted something else there was a bar where my grandfather would make you a highball. Esquire Magazine says, “The potency of the drink is the result of the bartender’s kindness.” My grandfather Bill was kind and there was always plenty of Old Granddad or Early Times on the bar.

Granpa behind the Bar

People would always gather at their house for a barbecue, fireworks show, “The Great Steamboat Race” between the Delta Queen and Belle of Louisville, speedboat races, air shows, or to just watch the barges go up and down the river. If you were there for dinner Daddy Bill would offer to “sweeten” your coffee with a little Canadian Club Whiskey.

Granpa Bill & Corrine

Those really were the good old days where everyone sat around and discussed sports, politics, and the weather without phones, TV, or interruptions.

They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and in the case of my dad, Bill, that is very true. My parents always had people over for some occasion. He had built a beautiful bar in our basement. The drink of choice in my latter years at home was a Manhattan. But Dad could make any drink you wanted. Bartending for that generation was a skill many had learned. Mom and Dad threw a lot of parties. I remember most their New Year’s Eve parties where everyone was still there when mom would make breakfast at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning. They would dance, talk, and play cards all night. The “Greatest Generation” were great hosts and threw epic parties.

Bill & Sue Derby Day

Mom and Dad would come to California for our Derby Party and Dad would be our bartender. He said, “he could meet everyone that way.” But he also just enjoyed being behind the bar and talking with people.

My Grandfather Burrel was a mule skinner from Kentucky who brought his family to Indiana after the depression. He would have a bottle of Four Roses tucked away for a little shot neat, followed by a Coca Cola chaser. The drinks I remember from gatherings in those years were drinking whiskey neat, or on the rocks with a “splash” of water. The ladies especially would enjoy their whiskey in a highball with coke. You always started a party or dinner with a cocktail, not a glass of wine or champagne.

As you spend Father’s Day with your family ask about the traditions of your parents, and grandparents. We have recently held discussions with our kids about what we did for entertainment when we were their age and how drinks and drinking has changed. I get a grin on my face even saying “Wine Coolers.” What was that old commercial… “We’ve come a long way baby.”

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s and expectant fathers that read my blog!

Drink Recipe: The Southside

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I am a huge fan of Garden & Gun Magazine. Our daughter introduced me to it when she moved to Richmond. They called themselves, “The Soul of the South” and have wonderful articles about all things southern. I got an email from them yesterday and one of the articles was about a drink called a “Southside.”

As anyone who reads this blog or watches the Kentucky Derby knows, the Mint Julep is the official Kentucky Derby drink. Other racing and sporting events have their own individual drinks. In Maryland, steeplechase fans have their mint garnished sipper made from rum – the Southside. I tested the drink last night!

According to the article by CJ Lotz, the Southside was popularized by Baltimore’s Elkridge Club. She interviewed Doug Artwell, the bartender at Blue Pit BBQ & Whiskey in Baltimore, who said, “I discovered that the local variation is predominantly rum in place of gin in most Maryland circles, and then sometimes lemon and lime juice.”

I made our drinks with rum and shared with Lynn and our friend Bob. We found the drink very refreshing. With 2 ounces of white rum in it, if you don’t sip it the rum will sneak up on you. It is very refreshing, very light, and citrusy. Try one on a hot Saturday afternoon. In fact, try one this Saturday afternoon as you watch the Preakness!

Recipe

2 oz. white Rum
1 oz. fresh lemon juice (I used a Meyer lemon from our tree)
¾ oz. simple syrup
1 mint sprig

To make a Southside mix the liquid ingredients together with a few mint leaves.   Shake with ice in a cocktail shaker. Double strain the liquid into a chilled cocktail glass. I used antique champagne glasses which looked very festive. To finish, garnish with a mint sprig.

 

 

Kentucky Derby California Style

The first Saturday in May is a special day to me. Having grown across the Ohio River from Louisville, we always watched the Kentucky Derby. My parents hosted many parties for the race. I attended the Derby with friends when I was in high school and college, among the crush of humanity in the infield. Back then you could buy an infield ticket for $5. I still have the infield ticket from 1973 when Secretariat won the Derby on his way to win the Triple Crown. We would get to Churchill Downs very early in the morning to be in line when the gates opened. We then raced with our stools and milk crates to stake out our spots along the inside fence by the finish line. We would camp there all day for “The most exciting 2 minutes in sports.”

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Lynn and I dressed up for this year’s Derby Party

When I moved to California, I wanted to introduce my love of the Derby and the traditions of Kentucky to my new friends and the young lady I met who I have been married to since 1979. Lynn and I began hosting Derby Parties in 1978 when we watched our first Triple Crown winner together. I was rooting for Alydar, Calumet’s Horse to win, and Lynn was rooting for Affirmed, the California horse.

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Setting up for the party

We have continued these parties with a few breaks for our kid’s grade school years. Our goal has always been to spread the traditions of Kentucky, and our love of the excitement, beauty, and power of horse racing. This year carried on those traditions. We did add a new twist this year with some rain. We just don’t do rain in California in May. Only twice in over 30 years of parties have we had rain.

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Ray wearing his admission badge

This year Lynn designed an invitation that looked like some of the old Admission Badges in my collection from the turn of the century. We asked people to wear their badges along with a bow tie for the men and a hat for the ladies.

With the post time being just after 3:30pm in California, we start the party around 1:00pm so it’s a great time for an afternoon of seeing old friends, dining, and horse racing. We have TV’s all over so people can watch the other races and all the build up to the Derby.

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This year’s centerpiece

We have the Mint Juleps flowing in the official Kentucky Derby glasses I have collected over the years. We offer other beverages but the Mint Juleps are a big hit. This year’s food was fantastic with Burgoo, ham, and pulled pork as the main dishes. There were too many appetizers, salads, vegetables, and desserts to list. It’s always good. Our friends enjoy bringing a dish to add to the day.

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Betting the winner

Our guests have an opportunity to pick a horse or horses in a win pool. Over the years they have started to study up prior to the party and all come prepared with their list. The winner was also the betting favorite at Thornley Downs. Everyone loves cheering the horses down the stretch.

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Joann’s winnings

We have been to the Derby several times. In 2015, we attended the Belmont to see American Pharoah the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed. We really enjoy attending the races but there is no bigger thrill than introducing friends and family in California to the traditions and excitement of the Kentucky Derby.

What’s Cooking for the Kentucky Derby

The 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby is less than 2 weeks away. We’re already planning the menu for our annual Derby party. So, we’ve pulled out the cookbooks, Garden & Gun and Southern Living Magazine, looked online, and called friends who live in Kentucky. Only a few days left to get cooking for those guests!

Lynn has a large selection of cookbooks from Kentucky she always pulls out weeks before the Derby. She likes to add a little something new to the party each year. We have tried and true dishes and recipes everyone loves, but she loves to cook and likes to add something new.

Derby Cookbooks

You can tell by the picture she has about worn the cover off of Bluegrass Winners, a cookbook by the Garden Club of Lexington. She has had it forever, and it has some great pictures and complete menus and recipes for any occasion. Another favorite is The Kentucky Derby Museum Cook Book. It has an introduction with ideas to help plan your party and a ton of recipes and food suggestions. Another fun cook book is Cordon Blue Grass, Blue Ribbon Recipes from Kentucky, published by the Junior League of Louisville. The Southerners Cookbook from the Editors Garden & Gun is chocked full of great southern food, recipes, and delicious pictures.  Lastly, How to Throw a Great Derby Party by Sue Wylie is a fun little book with everything you need to know to throw a Derby Party.

Bourbon Books

Mint Juleps are a MUST for the bar. You can check out my Mint Julep recipe here.

Lynn has made Burgoo for years. Every region of the country has their own native stew or soup. Kentucky has “Burgoo.” No one can agree on the how, what, when, or why of Burgoo. There are many stories about its origin and the derivation of its name. After the Civil War Buffalo Trace hired Gustave Jaubert, the father of burgoo, to cook for its employees. When you tour the distillery you can see his burgoo kettles in the distillery’s Burgoo House.

In addition to Burgoo, ham is another staple at our party served with small rolls to make sandwiches. The last few years we have alternated between ham sandwiches and pulled pork. Either way you are getting the business end of the pig and a real southern treat. That pretty much covers the main dish, now what do you serve with that that burgoo and pork?

We have lots of salads we have served over the years. You can make it as simple as coleslaw or as elaborate a salad as time allows. We have many guests who ask to being something so we suggest a salad. Salads are easy and travel well.

Keeping that Southern theme other good additions are pimento cheese, cheese straws, and spiced nuts sitting around. We also love to have Virginia peanuts around. They are crunchy, and very different for our Southern California guests. Kentucky was part of Virginia at one point in time! All are very good, very southern, and easy to serve.

I know what you are thinking, what’s for dessert? Well, you will have to keep an eye on the blog to find out. Make sure to order your Derby glasses, napkins and supplies from Becky Biesel at Party Kits & Equestrian Gifts in Louisville – the store has been around forever and you can now order online.

What do you have planned for your Derby party menu?

 

 

 

Interview: Thomas Allen Pauly, Woodford Reserve Artist

Each year, Woodford Reserve puts out a special edition Kentucky Derby bottle. The official bottle for 2017 has been released and is available in specialty liquor stores across the county. I had the opportunity to interview Thomas Allen Pauly, the artist who created the art for this year’s label.

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The 2017 Woodford Reserve bottled, art by Thomas Allen Pauly

Woodford Reserve has been releasing a special Kentucky Derby bottle for 19 years (it’s also the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby). They are always a work of art – colorful, and exciting. Each one is different. This year’s art was inspired by the view Tom saw when he got his first glimpse from the roof of Churchill Downs. He has photographed there for years but never from the roof.

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Tom was born and raised in Chicago not far from Wrigley Field. He got his introduction to horse racing at Sportsman’s Park in 1978, going with a friend who had a horse in one of the races. The horse, Rusty, won, and Tom got his picture with the group in the winner’s circle. He was hooked on horse racing. Tom decided to use the picture as inspiration for a painting. Once he had finished the painting he showed it to his friend who wanted to purchase it. This led Tom back to the track to watch more racing, shoot pictures, and do more painting.

His first Kentucky Derby was in 1999 when Charismatic won. He did a painting of Charismatic from images he had taken that day. He now makes it an annual event. Most recently he has been there taking pictures for Illinois Racing Magazine. This year he will be covering the race from a different perspective for Chicago Style Magazine.

In 2010 and 2011, Churchill Downs and The Game invited Tom to have a solo exhibit at the track for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. It was here he met Don Berg, the CFO of Brown Foreman. Berg liked Tom’s work and bought a piece. It was this friendship that brought him the opportunity to pitch them on doing the bottle art. In 2016 he did his first Kentucky Derby bottle for Woodford Reserve. With this year’s bottle he is now the first artist to be awarded the honor of doing a second bottle. What an honor for him to do the art for one of the best bourbons in the world depicting the “greatest two minutes in sports.”

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Last year’s Woodford Reserve bottle, art by Thomas Allen Pauly

Tom’s art has taken him around the world to see, photograph and paint horses from the Arc de Triomphe, to the Dubai World Cup, the Hong Kong Cup, and numerous Preakness, Belmont’s, and Breeders Cup Races. He has also been to painted steeplechase races in the U.S. and abroad. And, he was the official artist for American Pharoah when he won the Triple Crown.

Thomas Allen Pauly & American Pharoah copy

Back to the bourbon. Woodford Reserve is an amazing, balanced bourbon. It has hints of spice, fruit, nuts and of course the grain. Everyone’s palate is different and you will pick up different overtones of flavor. It is good neat, on ice, in a Mint Julep, or mixed if you must.

It was delightful talking with Tom. We are both fans of horse racing and bourbon. And how does Tom like his Woodford Reserve? In an Old Fashioned made with a mix he calls “The Elixir” from the Pair O’ Lakes Lodge in Spooner, Wisconsin.

I got my bottle of Woodford Reserve from Hi-Times Wine Cellars. The bottles will start to appear in most good liquor stores. They make a great addition to any bourbon collection. Enjoy the bourbon and the bottle with a good friend any day, but especially on Derby Day (Saturday, May 6th this year).

Some exciting news!

I’m really excited to share some news about Bourbon Bill. A couple months ago, Whisky Chicks reached out to see if I would be interested in guest blogging for them (I’m not a chick – but they wanted my perspective!). Today, my first post is up on their blog! I’ll still be creating unique content for Bourbon Bill, and also be writing occasionally for Whisky Chicks. Check them out and read my first blog post below!


Meet Bourbon Bill

I was born in Louisville, Kentucky and grew up right across the river in Jeffersonville, Indiana. My childhood revolved around three things – basketball, horse racing and bourbon. Two of the three became passions of mine (As a ’76 graduate, I do still follow Purdue basketball and, begrudgingly the last few years, Purdue football).

Bourbon and whiskey were part of growing up in the area. My grandfather always had a bar stocked with whiskey of all kinds. He even “sweetened” his coffee some evenings with a shot of whiskey. Many Sunday afternoons were spent on the deck in their backyard that overlooked the Ohio River, where friends would stop by for a drink and good conversation. My dad, an avid woodworker, built a beautiful bar and my parents were always hosting a Derby party, New Year’s Eve party or a group for another occasion. My parents were wonderful hosts, as were my in-laws. I think my wife, Lynn, and I learned that from our parents, and have passed that on to our kids as well.

While still a Hoosier at heart, today I live in southern California after being transferred in the late 70’s. It was here I met the love of my life, Lynn, on a blind date during a polo match at Will Rogers State Park. We started having Derby parties each year and, naturally, the featured drink was a Mint Julep. This was the late 70’s and 80’s when our generation was drinking wine coolers and beer, not hard liquor. Meanwhile, we were drinking bourbon and making mint juleps, whiskey sours, and other bourbon drinks at our parties, which few understood but grew to like.

Years ago, when we would go back to visit my parents in Indiana and wanted to see a distillery or horse farm, we wrote a letter or made a phone call. There was no internet or email to book a tour and it took initiative to get a visit. And there were no crowds. Once, we visited Claiborne Farms and saw Secretariat, who in 1973 became the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years. The groom brought him out of his pasture for us to see, and he was covered in mud. Lynn even fed him a peppermint from my mom’s purse. That would never happen today.

An avid horse racing fan, I enjoy collecting memorabilia and following the horses – including seeing American Pharaoh win the Triple Crown at the Belmont. You will find many of my blogs around the Triple Crown racing months involve horse racing-themed releases, like the Woodford Reserve Derby bottle or the Maker’s Mark release of the American Pharaoh bottle.

As bourbon began to see a renaissance 10 years ago or so, and the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky really began to grow, so did my collection and interest. I’m a proud owner of 20 & 23 year old bottles of Pappy Van Winkle, along with a number of very fine bourbons. Our bar cart at home is full and my basement is filling up. Lynn and I also love the outdoors, going to shows and plays, and exploring both where we live as well as new areas of the country. Our two kids, Taylor and Burch, live in Virginia and Texas respectively, which leads to even more travel to visit them. With that generally comes good food and new adventures.

As a result, my friends prodded me to start writing, and from there grew my blog, Bourbon Bill. I hope you’ll enjoy sharing in the role bourbon plays in my family’s life – whether at Derby parties or for a celebratory drink when our two kids (grown and of legal drinking age) are home – or our bourbon adventures. I look forward to sharing my bourbon adventures with the Whisky Chicks!

(Read the original blog post here.)

A Touch of Glass

People enjoy whiskey at host of different ways. Some like it neat, some with a little ice, or mixed in a cocktail (check out my blog post on the different ways to drink whiskey).   No matter how you like it there is a glass for the method of choice. I am only going to explore a few of those glasses today.

The Glencairn whisky glass is a style of glass developed by Glencairn Crystal in Scotland for drinking whisky (in Scotland it is whisky without the “e”). The glass has a capacity of over 5 ounces but it was designed to hold 1.5-2 ounces of whisky or bourbon. The glass was designed to give you the maximum aroma from the spirit you are drinking. You will find these for sale at many of the distilleries with their logos engraved in the glass. They can also be found at most nicer liquor stores like Hi-Times, Bev-Mo, and Total Wine. Amazon even has a selection of them.

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I enjoy tasting bourbon neat in Glencarin glasses. They aren’t really sized for any ice in them. What I like most about Glencairn glasses is how light and smooth the glass is. It really helps to get the full aroma of the whisky I’m tasting.

The next glass I want to discuss is the traditional style whiskey glass, an Old Fashioned tumbler. This is a glass you see in every bar. They come in a variety of sizes. The first one I have pictured I bought at Old Pogue Distillery. It is a standard smaller size old fashioned glass that they had their logo engraved on. You can find similar glasses (without the engraving) at a lot of home stores with a barware selection. The real advantage of this size and style over the Glencarin glass is you can add a small amount of ice, or whiskey stones to open up your whiskey. I will sometimes start a new bourbon neat and then add a very small ice cube to open it up and change the experience.

Old Pogue Glass

The next glass is my favorite. A Rogaska mouth blown, hand cut and polished by an expert craftsman, crystal rocks glass. I like this glass because first of all its very pretty, and very heavy. It has the feel and look of quality. It will hold the large round ice cubes, or big square cubes. You can drink neat out of this glass but it has such a large opening you lose a lot of the nose. This type of glass is great for cocktails as it holds a lot of liquid. I use it to make our Old Fashioneds and Manhattans. These glasses are available at Bloomingdales for $60.00 a pair.

Old Fashioned

It would take volumes to discuss all the glasses designed to hold mixed drinks. As anyone who follows my blog knows, horse racing season and Mint Juleps are upon us. There are 2 main ways to drink a mint julep: the traditional silver julep Cup or the Libby glass mint julep tumbler. But I will go into more detail in April about Mint Juleps, specialty cocktails, and Kentucky in the spring.

Mint Julep

There are a ton of great options out there for enjoying your bourbon (or whiskey in general). You can find old fashioned glasses and other fun barware at just about any home store these days. You will find just as there are, “Different horses for different courses,” there are also “Different glasses for different bashes” (made that up – not sure I’ll use it again).