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I always think of Maker's Mark as the bourbon of Christmas. Sure, there may be bourbons you drink at Derby time, and bourbons you drink on, say, your birthday. But, Maker's is the bourbon you buy for Christmas.
It may have something to do with the fabulous way that the folks at Maker's market the holiday, from nostalgic print ads to witty Ambassador gifts. It may be that Maker's Mark is the bourbon my family has always used in the bourbon balls that we make at Christmastime. Whatever it is, Maker's slays the Christmas game.
Since Maker's is the flavor of Christmas, it's a great idea to set up a Maker's Mark bourbon bar over the next few days. Only a few simple ingredients will allow you to offer your guests a variety of popular cocktails.
What you'll need:
- A couple of bottles of Maker's Mark
- A bottle of vermouth
- A bottle of Angostura bitters
- Simple Syrup
- Sour Mix (3 cups simple syrup to one cup lemon and lime juice)
- Maker's Mark cherries
- Lemons, limes, and oranges for garnish
If you have these items, you can mix up a whisky sour, an old-fashioned, or a Manhattan, in addition to serving your bourbon neat or on the rocks. Add a couple of sizes of glasses to allow your guests some choice.
Set everything out in an accessible place, keep fresh ice handy, and your guests will be refreshed and full of holiday cheer!
What's your favorite holiday cocktail?
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Bourbon balls are one of my very favorite Kentucky traditions. They remind me of holidays with my family; my great-aunt Marie always made bourbon balls using the exact same recipe that I use to this day. I always think of bourbon balls as a Christmas treat, or something to savor at the end of a bourbon distillery tour. I only recently learned that a lot of people make bourbon balls as a Derby treat as well. This morning, I picked up a bourbon ball donut from Thorntons' new #ThorntonsBourbonKitchen line, and it was fabulous!
If you're in the mood for a bourbon ball, my recipe is below, or you can just pick up one of those donuts at Thortons for 99 cents. It's the same flavor with a lot less effort! And let me know -- do y'all think of bourbon balls as a Derby time treat?
- 1 to 2 cups good bourbon whiskey
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 to 1 cup whole pecan halves (optional)
- 1 two-pound bag of powdered sugar
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 2 bags Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate chips
- paraffin wax
- Place 1/2 to 1 cup of chopped pecans in shallow bowl. Pour bourbon over nuts, immersing completely. Cover and let soak 12 hours to overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pecan halves in shallow pan and toast lightly for about ten minutes.
- Cream butter in stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Combine bourbon-pecan mixture with powdered sugar to form a stiff ball. Refrigerate to let stiffen slightly.
- Roll dough into small balls.
- In double-boiler (or a sauce pan placed over a cooker full of boiling water), add a third to a half a bag of semisweet chocolate chips and a small shaving of paraffin wax (no more than 1/4 cup). Heat until just smooth. Dip dough balls into the chocolate mixture. The key is to coat them quickly and make small, frequent batches of melted chocolate.
- Place bourbon balls on wax paper to cool. Top each with a toasted pecan half, if desired. Results are better if you leave them to cool at room temperature rather than in the refrigerator.
Yields between six and seven dozen bourbon balls.
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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit a press event at Maker's Mark distillery, where Maker's COO Rob Samuels unveiled the new WhiskeyCellar, a 14,000 square foot limestone structure developed to age the Maker's 46 expression.
My visit to Loretto was made even better because my friends Jon Carloftis and Dale Fisher, of Jon Carloftis Fine Gardens, were in attendance as well. Walking through the Distillery with Jon and Dale was such a treat, as they told me so many little facts about the changes and upgrades they'd made to the distillery campus in recent years. They told me about the plants they'd selected for the cellar roof, which will eventually cascade down the facade of the structure. And they described how the old visitors' parking lot had been taken up in favor of a lot that allowed for better drainage and soil preservation. They even told me that the Maker's Mark structure shown in the photo at the top of this post was created by a Lexington artist, Kiptoo Tarus, out of one of the oak trees that was removed to make the new parking area. It made for a fascinating "eco-tour" within the press event!
The tasting room is such an exciting addition to the Maker's Mark Distillery experience, but there are so many other great new changes coming to the distillery this year! We also had the opportunity to sample Star Hill Provisions, the Chef Newman Miller-led restaurant which will soon open at the old Distiller's House. The lunch we were served combined traditional Kentucky fare with gourmet flourishes, and I can't wait to try dinner on-site!
We also had the opportunity to see the Private Tasting Room, which features a stunning glass display by Brook White of Flame Run glassworks. This was just one of those moments that reminded me why Kentucky truly is the best place on earth -- where else can you find art devoted to bourbon whisky??
Now, telling y'all about this tour also gives me the opportunity to tell HerKentucky readers about a big project that I'm working on in 2017. I'm writing a book! Even better: it's a book about Kentucky bourbon and the women who shape its culture!
I say that the Maker's Mark tour is the perfect introduction to my forthcoming work, because, in a lot of ways, my 2015 tour of the Maker's Distillery is where the first seeds for the book were planted. Maker's Mark has always taken care to give appropriate credit to Mrs. Margie Samuels, the wife of label founder Bill Samuels Sr., and the creative force behind the whisky's name and packaging. The Maker's Mark distillery tour includes a replica of Mrs. Samuels' original list of potential names for her husband's new bourbon and discusses her ideas to dip the bottle in wax and pay homage to her beloved collection of English pewter, the best pieces of which bore the mark of the artisan -- a maker's mark.
When I toured Maker's in 2015, I was really struck by how much Mrs. Samuels impacted the entire future of whisky marketing and tourism. It was, after all, her idea to fashion the family's distillery in a decorative, Victorian style. A lot of thinking, a book proposal, and more research than I care to replicate later, and I'm writing The Women of Kentucky Bourbon.
Please excuse the less frequent posting you may see on HerKentucky over the next few months. The site isn't going anywhere, but the bourbon manuscript is top priority right now. I'll be posting as my writing schedule allows, and will check in on Instagram and Facebook several times a week. And I hope that y'all get down to Loretto soon to see all the exciting changes at Maker's!