2018 Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby Bottle

IMG_3673

We are gearing up for the Kentucky Derby, and our annual Derby Party, on Saturday! And, to get ready, I’ve purchased the annual commemorative Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby bottle. I always get mine from Hi-Time Wine Cellars, and when we were in Richmond, Virginia last weekend visiting our daughter I also picked one up from a local ABC store.

Each year features different artwork, which I’ve written about before (and read my interview with the 2017 artist Thomas Allen Pauly). This year’s bottle does not disappoint and will be displayed prominently on our bar at the party. The artwork is by Keith Anderson, an artist and employee of Brown-Forman (the company that owns Woodford Reserve). From the tag on the bottle:

… Anderson colorfully portrays the sprint out of the gate in the most iconic horse race in the world. Anderson works mainly in colors and acrylics and has a love of bleeding colors with a focus on equine portraits.

You can also read my previous post about special bourbon releases around the Kentucky Derby.

Bourbon, horse racing, and the Kentucky Derby intermingle often. That’s because the heart of Bourbon country, Louisville and Lexington, is near Churchill Downs, Keeneland and many of the country’s horse farms. A lot of bourbons have horse and horse racing themes to them, which might be why I like bourbon so much!

We are looking forward to Saturday! What are you plans for watching the fastest two minutes in sports?

 

Thanksgiving Cocktails

While we traditionally serve wine during the Thanksgiving meal (I recommend a nice pinot noir – a light red pairs well with turkey), bourbon cocktails are a great way to start your Thanksgiving gathering. I was asked by my sister-in-law Cheryl to come up with a couple fun cocktails for Thanksgiving Day at their house. Challenge accepted!

I have been pouring over internet sites to find some fun drinks. A common theme among the cocktails I’ve found is What I have found is  cranberries, cinnamon, and apple cider. I asked the guys at Hi-Time Wine Cellars what bourbon they would use in a fall cocktail. They suggested Buffalo Trace and Elijah Craig. They said the spice in both bourbons will play well with the Thanksgiving flavors. The Elijah Craig at 94 proof is just a little higher proof than the Buffalo Trace at 90.

Obviously Bourbon Bill is planning on serving bourbon cocktails but there are also plenty of cocktail recipes out there using rum, vodka or another liquor. Your menu should definitely drive the cocktails.  As I mentioned above, also think also about what you will serve to drink with the big meal. We usually get some of the newly released Beaujolais Nouveau from France, or a California Pinot Noir to serve with our turkey (usually cook one on the Weber grill and deep fry one).

The three cocktails I recommend are below. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families!

1

The first drink I would suggest is a Bourbon Cranberry Cocktail. This drink I found on the Food Network from Nancy Fuller. The recipe makes a lot so you may want to cut it in half unless you have a lot of Bourbon drinkers.

Bourbon Cranberry Cocktail
2 Cups Fresh Cranberries
1 Cup Orange Juice
1/3 Cup Sugar
3 Cinnamon Sticks
1L (about 4 Cups) Bourbon
Orange Peels for Garnish

Combine the cranberries, orange juice, sugar and cinnamon sticks in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and cranberries start to pop, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely, then combine with the bourbon in a pitcher. To serve, pour into glasses over ice and garnish with an orange peel.

2

The next drink is for the going the fall apple route. We went apple picking with the kids in Virginia a little over a week ago. When I saw this drink I thought it was the perfect sophisticated fall bourbon drink. I got this one from the Woodford Reserve website. They have a lot of creative cocktails on there.

Woodford Reserve Apple Cider
4 ounces hot fresh apple cider
2 ounces Woodford Reserve
1 ounces brown sugar syrup (recipe below)

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well until chilled and pour into your favorite stemmed glass.

For the syrup: Combine equal parts water and brown sugar. Bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

3

For my last Holiday cocktail, I would suggest a “Fall Fashion Issue.” It’s an Old Fashioned from Bourbon & Banter.  “In autumn, I like to add the seasonal flavor of apples. Cider is delicious, but there’s no place for juice in an old fashioned. No, you have to keep things boozy with applejack. Applejack was first made by William Laird in New Jersey in 1698. George Washington liked it so much he asked Robert Laird for the recipe in 1760. Laird & Company received distillery License No. 1 from the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 1780.” For this old fashioned we split the spirit duties between bourbon and applejack. The bitters will be aromatic, the sugar is honey, and the water is always ice.

Fall Fashion Issue
1 oz bourbon
1 oz applejack
1/4 oz honey syrup
3 dashes aromatic bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice in a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.

To make honey syrup mix equal parts of honey and hot water. 

 

Triple Crown Mixology: The Belmont Jewel

Belmont Jewel 1

For those who don’t follow horse racing as closely as I do, the Belmont Stakes is this weekend! Continuing my series on drinks specific to the three Triple Crown races, today I’m sharing with you the “Belmont Jewel” –  the official drink of the Belmont Stakes (recipe below). The name is a reference to Belmont being the 3rd jewel in the Triple crown.

The Belmont Jewel is made with Woodford Reserve, the official bourbon of Belmont Park. Belmont has changed their drink over the years. In 1975 it was “The Big Apple” which was made with rum, apple liquor, and some sort of fruit juice. It only lasted a year or two then it was changed to “The White Carnation” which was a combination of vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, soda water, and cream. It was created with the thought of the blanket of white carnations put on the winner. It was not well received by the patrons. How long it lasted seems to be lost in history. In 1997, then head bartender of the Rainbow Room, Dale DeGroff invented the “Belmont Breeze.” Believing that a track drink should be whiskey-based, he made what he called “an old-fashioned whiskey punch, which has mint as a garnish.” It was made from Bourbon or Rye, sherry, orange juice, pimento bitters, fresh mint, and orange zest.

That brings us to 2015 and the Belmont Jewel. As part of a modernizing effort they wanted to have a drink that was bourbon based, easy to make at home, and in large quantity at the track. They needed a drink that was more “fan friendly” and this was it.

Having been to the Belmont to see American Pharoah win the Triple Crown, I can attest to the fact the crowd was lined up to buy the Belmont Jewel and everyone seemed to be enjoying it. I will only admit to having more than one.

Here’s the recipe:

1.4 oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon
2 oz. Lemonade
1 oz. Pomegranate Juice
Orange zest

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously with ice. Serve in a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with an lemon twist.

Let’s all toast the last Jewel in the Triple Crown and the start of summer with a Belmont Jewel!

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.

Thomas Allen pauly WR Derby Bottle 2017 copy
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.

C7E9hEbXgAI7hzy

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.”

Woodford-Reserve-2016-Kentucky-Derby-142-Kentucky-Straight-Bourbon-Whiskey
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).

While waiting for Santa: Woodford Reserve

Our final bourbon gift suggestion this week is a trusty standby, Woodford Reserve! A great bourbon to sip by the fire on Christmas Eve, drink on the rocks with guests, or gift to family and friends you love!

substandardfullsizerender

I’m a big fan of Woodford Reserve. It’s smooth enough to sip, but also at a price point that you can justify using it to mix a great Old Fashioned, Manhattan, or other bourbon drink. I keep it in a decanter for serving as our “house bourbon.”

You can find Woodford Reserve for about $25 from Hi-Time Wine (For $20 you can buy a nice 375mL stocking stuffer of Woodford) and is also readily available at most liquor stores.

It’s a little cold for Souther California and has been raining so I plan on drinking this by the fire on Christmas Eve!

Bourbon Drink: Bourbon Bill’s Mint Julep Recipe

Naturally, Mint Juleps are a huge hit at our annual Kentucky Derby party. With the derby just a little over a week away, I thought it was the perfect time to share my mint julep recipe with you. There are many variations on the mint julep recipe. Traditionalists generally vary between using simple syrup, powdered sugar, or even granulated sugar. And lately restaurants have been mixing it up even more adding things like peach puree. I’ve tried all sorts of variations and have found simple syrup to be the best.

To start, you need to start with a good bourbon. Because the main and essential ingredient in a mint julep is the bourbon you want to use a bourbon with a taste you really like. Last weekend we made ours with Woodford Reserve. I have to be honest, at our Derby party we use Evan Williams – when you’re serving so many people it just makes the most sense.

To get ready for the party, and the onslaught of thirsty attendees, we make a huge batch of simple syrup a couple days before. To make simple syrup you just boil equal parts sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved. [TIP: Because the bar gets busy at our party and to save time, I infuse the simple syrup with mint rather than having to muddle mind in every single mint julep made at the party. Simply add a healthy dose of mint leaves to our warm simple syrup mixture and let steep until the syrup has cooled, then discard the mint leaves.] Then let the simple syrup cool on the kitchen counter and then transfer it to a container to refrigerate until party day.

The julep glass is another important component! That could be a Kentucky Derby glass like the one pictured below  (this year’s glasses arrived a couple days ago to our house), or you could use a traditional silver Julep Cup.

Bourbon Bill’s Mint Julep Recipe

  1. Fill a glass full with crushed ice (If you haven’t infused your simple syrup with mint you need to muddle mint in your glass before putting ice in the glass)
  2. Pour in 1 ounce of simple syrup
  3. Pour in 2 ounces of bourbon
  4. Add a splash of good water & mix
  5. Garnish with a mint sprig
  6. Add 2 tall thin straws and enjoy!

IMG_2761

Make yourself a Mint Julep and remember to bet the gray!

Limited Edition Kentucky Derby Bourbons

Kentucky Derby festivities are coming up quickly, as we are just 2 weeks away from the “most exciting 2 minutes in sports.”  It’s also the time of year when the bourbon distilleries come out with special bottles and promotions around the event.  As I previously wrote about, the 2016 Woodford Reserve commemorative Kentucky Derby bottle is on the shelves.  I got mine at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, Ca.
IMG_4923
This week, I got information on 2 new special bourbon bottles.  As a Makers Mark Ambassador, I got an email from Rob Samuels about a special charity bottle they will have to commemorate American Pharaoh’s Triple Crown Victory.  It is in the silks and stable colors of American Pharaoh and the Zayat Family.  I called the distillery and I was told they will cost between $75-85 depending upon your location.  If you click on their link starting May 1 you can find a location near you to purchase one.   I called Hi-Time Wine Cellars to see if they were getting the Pharaoh bottle and they thought they would but it had not been confirmed.
MM Bottle
Another new offering is from Calumet Bourbon.  They have a boxed set with a Derby glass. The glass has Calumets’ name on it.  It is different graphics than the official Kentucky Derby Mint Julep glass.  Below is a photo Caskers sent me.  May be a real collectible.  This is available from Caskers on line.  I have not seen it anywhere else.
Caskers
If you type in Kentucky Derby Bourbon into google you will find lots of listings of bourbon related recipes, goods,  and decorations related to the Derby.   The link below ups for some additional bourbon drinks for your party.