Today is National Bourbon Day!
Here in Louisville, it seems like every day is National Bourbon Day. The bourbon industry is booming, with tours and culinary experiences and so many amazing tributes to Kentucky’s favorite spirit. And, of course, there’s nothing like enjoying a bourbon at home with your friends and family. Today, I’ve teamed up with Stoneware & Co. to provide you some great tips for curating your home bourbon bar, featuring Stoneware’s stunning Embossed Running Horse serving pieces! (Check out the end of this post for a Bourbon Day gift to y’all from Stoneware and HerKentucky!)
Step #1: Keep a range of flavors!
Here’s the thing. You don’t need to spend a fortune stocking your bourbon bar. Yes, there are some fabulous high-end, high-priced selctions. But there are also some great entry-level bourbons that your guests would love to enjoy with you. You just need to know a little bit about your bourbon. I suggest that you start with a range of flavors by mixing up the mash bills in your collection. Federal law mandates that, to be called a bourbon, a whiskey’s mash bill, or recipe, must consist of at least 51% corn. The remaining 49% of grains in the mash bill contribute strongly to the flavor of the bourbon. As a general rule, a mash bill that contains wheat will provide a sweeter note, while the addition of rye provides some spice. The biggest trend in whiskey right now is barrel finishing — finishing a bourbon in a second barrel, whether it’s a different oak barrel, a custom-staved barrel, or a barrel that once housed a different spirit. I like to keep a couple of “finished” bourbons on hand to provide a different tasting experience. And, while it’s not an actual bourbon whiskey, I like to keep one or two rye whiskeys on board (produced at Kentucky’s distilleries, of course!) to accommodate those folks who like a truly spicy whiskey. At my house, Bob especially likes ryes for cocktails. Here is a great overview of popular mash bills.
Step #2: Select a range of proofs.
Proof is an indicator of the alcohol content by volume. In the U.S., this is indicated as a number representing double the alcohol percent. So, for example, an 86 proof bourbon is 43% alcohol. Obviously, a lower proof will result in a less intoxicating substance. Some folks prefer to sip on low proofs, while others like a higher. If you’re entertaining a group of true bourbon drinkers, you’ll want to have a couple of proof options to meet different tastes. Here’s a fun fact: In blind taste tests, it’s often found that female bourbon drinkers will prefer a higher proof.
Tip # 3: Don’t forget the finishing touches!
While many bourbon purists drink the product straight, your home bar should also include bitters and vermouth for popular cocktails like the Manhattan. You’ll also want to stock up on sugar cubes, oranges, maraschino cherries, and mint for garnishes. I’ve recently seen a lot of creative cocktails that utilize more savory herbs like basil and rosemary — the sky’s the limit! (Check out my sorority sister Heather Wibbels’ award-winning basil julep recipe here!!) I also love to have plenty of simple syrup on hand. I usually make a double batch of simple syrup — using a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water — and separate it into halves. One stays as simple syrup for drinks like an Old-Fashioned, while the other is mixed with lemon juice to make a sour mix. I love Stoneware’s 1 quart Bar Pitcher for serving syrup —it’s so easy to pour your desired amount into each cocktail!
Tip #4: Serve water and Ice in style!
Here in Louisville, we’re fortunate to have the very best tap water — it’s actually won awards! In fact, Kentucky’s water supply is pretty special. The rich limestone throughout central Kentucky provides the clear-tasting water that first made our bourbon special, and that nourishes our famous racehorses. Of course, no bourbon bar is complete without ice and a pitcher of water. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to drinking bourbon — some folks like to dilute their spirits with just a drop or two of water, and some folks prefer a few — or a lot — of ice. I love Stoneware’s Embossed Running Horse Bar Pitcher and Ice Bucket to serve up water and ice in style. The best part is that these pieces, along with the julep cups, can be stored in the freezer so they’re appropriately chilled for maximum serving efficiency!
Tip #5: Keep some snacks on hand!
Don’t forget to have some snacks on hand to both compliment the flavors of the bourbon and to keep your guests from drinking on an empty stomach! Play with flavors you like to pair with bourbon , from salty cheeses to dark chocolate! It’s amazing how well so many different tastes coax out amazing notes in your whiskey!
Stoneware has graciously provided a coupon code, valid through June 20th at midnight, to help y’all stock up your own collection of handmade Kentucky pottery. Use code BOURBONBAR at online checkout, in store, or on phone orders to take 10% off your purchase!
Cheers, y’all! Let me know how your favorite tips for entertaining with bourbon!
(Stoneware & Co provided me with products for use in this post; as always, all opinions are my own. In fact, I collected Stoneware far before I had the opportunity to collaborate with them!)