New Bourbon Release: Old Ripy

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I always enjoy getting The Bourbon Review because I always learn more about bourbon.   They discuss new bourbons being released by the distilleries with good background on the releases. The spring issue that just arrived announced that Campari Group, the parent company of Wild Turkey, is bringing back brands that were popular before Prohibition. The project is called the Whiskey Barons collection. They will release 2 brands in 2017, Bond and Lillard, and Old Ripy. Campari says they are not only bringing back the names but they are attempting to replicate the bourbons by using historical documents, recipes, and methods used to make these great whiskies from the late 19th and early 20th century.

Old Ripy was founded in 1868 by Irish immigrant James Ripy in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. The original home is still there on the site of the Wild Turkey Distillery. Part of the profits from this project will be used to restore the Ripy home. Campari used old brochures, bottling, and family stories to help create what they believe is the closest they could get to the original brand. The release says, “it’s a blend of 8 and 12-year-old whiskies, along with some younger whiskies and is non-chill filtered. It will be bottled at 104 proof in 375ml bottles.”

While out running errands last weekend I stopped in our local Total Wine and they had Old Ripy. Score! That was the one I wanted to try first based on the article. Suggested retail is $50 for a 375ml bottle. Total Wine was selling it for $45.99.

As I have shared in past blog posts, I am a sucker for great packaging (comes with the job). The historic look of this bottle and label are a knock out. But great packaging only takes you so far. The product definitely lives up to its heritage. At 104 proof it’s not for the casual 80 proof drinker. This is a bold whiskey with great flavor. When you first taste it, drink it neat. Do the “Kentucky Chew” and work it over your taste buds. It grabs you from the beginning with hints of caramel, and spice, lots and lots of spice.

After you have done your first tasting drop a very small ice cube in it and swirl it around. Dropping that temperature and adding just a hint of water really opens it up. I just love it! I highly recommend you try a bottle. At the price point it also makes a wonderful gift for that serious whiskey drinking friend. It’s very good, unusual, and not something easy to find on drink menus.

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.

Kentucky Derby Bourbon Bar Cart

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It’s only a few days until the 2017 Kentucky Derby. We’ve sent out the invitations, planned the centerpieces, and started cooking (well – I can’t really take any credit – it all goes to Lynn). I have my Woodford Reserve “Official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby” special edition bottle for mint juleps. I’m about ready to go. What’s left? Stocking the bar for those who want to do a little Derby Day bourbon tasting or drink their bourbon neat!

I would suggest you have some horse racing themed bottles for those guests to try. There are some incredible bourbons with equestrian themed names, and graphics. In past blogs I have shown you the Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby bottles, the Maker’s Mark American Pharoah bottle, and the Calumet bottle.

You must have a bottle of Blanton’s, the originals single barrel bourbon. It is a beautiful bottle with a horse and jockey stopper. These iconic stoppers are the different strides gate of the horse from standing to a full run. Each horse & stopper has a letter that spells out the name Blanton’s so there are 8 different stoppers.

I just got a bottle of Pinhook bourbon. Anyone familiar with racing knows the term pinhooking. It is an old Southern term for the purchase of very young thoroughbreds to be resold at a profit.   The best Pinhookers are speculators, with horse racing experience, and a deep knowledge of lineage. Each release is dedicated to a specific racehorse from Bourbon Lane Stable in Versailles, Kentucky. Great story, and impressive graphics. A friend gave me a bottle from Long Meadow Wine & Liquors in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Calumet Farm is one of the great old storied Kentucky Horse Farms. In 1924 William Monroe Wright, entrepreneur and owner of Calumet Baking Powder Company established a beautiful horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky in the heart of the Bluegrass. He went on to become one the most successful breeders and owners of thoroughbreds in the world. Calumet has eight Kentucky Derby Winners and 2 Triple Crown winners.  The Calumet bourbon bottle is an eye pleasing shape with a graphic of the steeple from their barns on the front of it.

Last but not least, pictured is the 2016 and 2017 Kentucky Derby Woodford Reserve bottles with art by Thomas Allen Pauly. Pauly is the first artist to do 2 Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby bottles and he got them back to back. It is an outstanding bourbon with a history as rich as the Kentucky Derby. These bottles look good on the bar, on as the centerpiece on your table.

One bottle I don’t have is the Orphan Barrel “Gifted Horse.” This is another good tasting and good looking bottle from Orphan Barrel. Gifted Horse is the result of some 17-year-old Stitzel-Weller Distillery bourbon accidentally mixed with some younger bourbon. One their website they say, “Our gaffe is your gift.” They have it in stock at Hi-Time Wine in Costa Mesa, CA – I may be taking a trip there this week!

There are more equestrian themed bourbons. Black Saddle is another interesting choice for your bar. It was recommended to me at our local BevMo store and I have enjoyed it. Chestnut Farms Bourbon is another good choice. It hails from Barton 1792 Distillery with a product inside as impressive as the horse on the outside.

No matter what you have on your bar Derby Day your guests will have a great time. Let’s all toast to 2 great Kentucky traditions — Bourbon and the Kentucky Derby. Oh, yes, and the hats, all the incredible Kentucky Derby hats.

The Mint Julep’s Origins

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Photo from Saveur

The Mint Julep has been the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century. It is made from a mixture of bourbon, water, powdered sugar, and mint. According to Churchill Downs, they serve over 120,000 for the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby, which requires 10,000 bottles of bourbon, 1,000 pounds of mint, and 60,000 pounds of ice!

Chris Morris from Woodford Reserve Bourbon says “Centuries ago, there was an Arabic drink called julab, made with water and rose petals. The beverage had a delicate and refreshing scent that people thought would instantly enhance the quality of their lives.” When the julab was introduced to the Mediterranean region, the native population replaced the rose petals with mint, a plant indigenous to the area. The mint julep, as it was now called, grew in popularity throughout Europe.”

Why the Mint Julep? The drink’s ties to the Kentucky Derby can be traced back to a struggling bourbon industry during the 1930’s, but it did not start out as a festive drink. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the drink was originally given to prevent diseases and provide pain relief from body aches. Other stories I have read said they were served for breakfast. It was the spirited equivalent of coffee. What a way to start the day!

The Julep is said to have its origins in Virginia. Much of Kentucky’s heritage and traditions began when it was still part of Virginia. They would have been made with rum or brandy and served in a silver cup. Having sterling silver cups, ice, and the servants to make the drink, was a sign of wealth. As the drink moved to Kentucky they started using bourbon.

Henry Clay, the famous Kentucky United States Congressman, Senator, and Secretary of State in the early 1800’s introduced the drink in Washington, D.C. at the famous Willard Hotel.

In 1938, it was named the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. According to Cocktail Times, Churchill Downs served the drink in a souvenir cup and charged 75 cents per drink. The Derby glasses went through several phases of glass, aluminum, Bakelite, and back to glass in the late 40’s. A complete collection of the glasses is quite valuable.

Since the 1940’s the track has commissioned a new design for the Mint Julep Glass every year. The popularity of the Mint Julep, synonymous with the Kentucky Derby, encouraged the other Triple Crown races to create their own drinks. Today, many sporting and special events have their own special cocktail or drink. We have all heard the term “The official drink of….” To think it all started very innocently with Kentuckians enjoying their favorite beverage on the first Saturday in May in the early 1900’s.

You can check out my Mint Julep recipe here!

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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?

 

 

 

Restaurant Review: Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern (Southern California)

Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern has become a favorite of Lynn’s and mine when we are in the Brea area. Many refer to it as “JFAT” which they use on their website, napkins, and use the logo generously on all branding. The food is good, the drinks creative, and it’s a fun atmosphere. They have five locations in Southern California – I’ve tried their Brea and Dana Point locations

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The idea for Jimmy Famous Tavern, or JFAT, grew out of the idea of the English taverns that made their way to New England. These were primarily drinking establishments that had limited food options. Jimmy wanted to create this atmosphere where people would gather for great brews, cocktails, and wine. But to enhance the experience Jimmy wanted to add excellent food to his taverns. His concept was to use fresh ingredients, blending tradition with creativity. They use the best ingredients prepared fresh daily from scratch.

We had heard about JFAT from a friend who raved about their Dana Point location. We have been there 5 or 6 times now and we have always been pleased with our experience. The food and drink are always impressive.

The Brea restaurant, like the others, has a very warm feel to it. There is a lot of wood, warm colors, low lighting at night. One of the architectural features of the Brea location is it opens up onto a park like setting in the Village at La Floresta. The window and doors from the restaurant and patio open up to create an open air restaurant. On a warm southern California day or evening it is awesome. If you are there on a chilly evening they close those windows and doors and with low lighting you feel the warmth of a Pub setting.

We both started with a “Boulevardier” which I would describe as their version of an Old Fashioned. But this is not your father’s Old fashioned. It has Bulleit Rye, Aperol, and Carpano Antica in it. And they finish it off with the orange peel and a life changing dark sweet cherry.

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We skipped the starters because we had a big lunch. I would suggest you start with “Warm House Made Salt & Pepper Potato Chips.” They are drizzled with Maytag bleu cheese & scallions. Or try the Brussel Sprouts, or Whiskey Shrimp. I can’t list them all but try as many as you can.

Lynn ordered the Signature Grilled Santa Fe Salad for dinner. It is made with grilled romaine, corn, salsa fresca, avocado, topped with green chile caesar dressing and grilled flat iron steak.

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I couldn’t decide what to order and our waiter Joshua suggested the French Dip and he was spot on. It’s prepared from mouthwatering prime rib, then topped with Swiss cheese, crispy onions, with creamed horseradish on a Ciabatta roll.

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My mouth is watering writing this review. I think we need to go back for lunch or dinner in the next few days! Go for a drink, go for appetizers, or go for dinner. JFAT offers great drinks, food, and service.