Fall is perhaps the most sensuous of the seasons — the faint smells of smoky bonfires and apple orchards, the crispness in the air inviting you to wear a sweater for the first time this season, and don’t forget the many, many flavors. Pumpkin spice everything, fresh apple cider, and all the trimmings of Thanksgiving are probably the first things that come to mind, but another seasonal favorite is the South’s own bourbon.
Sure, bourbon is a spirit for all seasons, but it is also indisputably the perfect fall beverage. Just look at the numbers — whiskey is the No. 1 beverage in the fall after a significant drop in sales in the spring and summer months, according to spirits industry data. The secret to bourbon’s seasonal success is all in the notes. If you look at any bourbon review, you’ll see that many of the most common tasting notes are all distinctly fall flavors — caramel, honey and apple all evoke a sense of the season. But the most common note across all bourbons, and the most fall-like in our opinion, is that of the charred oak barrels the whiskey is aged in. The slight bite of the spirit reminds us of the slight chill in the air, the subtle sweetness recalls the fresh apples that are in abundance, and the oak flavor calls to mind the turning of the leaves and those smoky bonfires.
This is why we’re celebrating bourbon this month as the perfect fall spirit. Summer stuck around far too long, and now that cooler temperatures are in sight, we met up with some of our favorite Memphis bartenders to bring you three delectable cocktail recipes incorporating America’s native spirit.
McEwen’s Kentucky Belle
“Bourbon is a very hot drink right now,” explains Bert Smythe of McEwen’s Memphis, located Downtown on Monroe Avenue. “The whole industry is cyclical, but bourbon has remained pretty hot and phenomenal for at least 8 to 10 years. Bourbon is also a Southern thing that has taken the world by storm, and it is also a very warming drink that warms you from the inside out — in moderation!”
McEwen’s offers more than 160 whiskeys, including rare and exclusive lines, and the restaurant’s chef likes to incorporate bourbon into sauces and desserts. Bert’s go-to is Buffalo Trace’s Eagle Rare 10-year-old. “At McEwen’s we buy Eagle Rare and W.L. Weller by the barrel,” says Bert. “They’re both affordable and drink well, but if I were to drink bourbon every day, Eagle Rare would be the one I would pick.”
- 1 1/2 oz. W.L. Weller Special Reserve
- 3/4 oz. peach purée
- 1/2 oz. ginger syrup
- 1/4 oz. lemon juice
- mint sprig for garnish
Shake all ingredients then strain over ice. Garnish with mint sprig.
The Cove’s Alchemist
The Cove, the beloved pirate-themed cocktail and oyster bar of the Broad Avenue Arts District, boasts 48 bourbons alone, not including their extensive array of other types of whiskeys. With the cold weather finally creeping in, bartender David Parks loves to whip up a concoction known as the Alchemist. Parks also let us in on a secret about vermouth — use it to flavor soups as well as cocktails!
- 1/2 oz. Aperol
- 1/2 oz. Antica vermouth
- 1 1/2 oz. bourbon (W.L. Weller is Parks’ personal favorite)
Stir, pour over fresh ice and top with an orange twist.
Dickens Bourbon Cider
James Taras of Collierville’s Jim’s Place Grille admits he isn’t much of a bourbon drinker, but when he does drink it, he enjoys Rock Hill Farms from Buffalo Trace. Jim’s Place Grille has a large selection of bourbons and rare seasonal releases. Aside from their Old Fashioned and Manhattan-style cocktails, they sometimes feature a drink known as Dickens Bourbon Cider, “named after our good buddy Blake Dickens,” says Jim.
- 2 1/2 oz. bourbon
- 1 1/2 oz. cinnamon syrup*
- 1/2 oz. lemon juice
- 5 sprigs fresh mint
- soda water to finish
*SB TIP: To make your own cinnamon syrup, boil four cinnamon sticks in 2 cups of water, reduce down and strain, add 2.5 cups of sugar to boil, stir frequently until simple syrup is made.
Mix ingredients well in a large rocks glass, top with soda and shake.
Try one of these cocktail recipes tonight, but remember — always drink responsibly!
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