Why Not Throw a Bourbon Cocktail Party?

Don and Pete.  Mint Juleps. That is all. via AMC.
It's Friday, and it's Bourbon Heritage Month.  Why not celebrate the gloriously crisp autumn weather with the warm, smooth notes of a bourbon cocktail? This weekend, you should throw a bourbon cocktail party!

Now, here at HerKentucky, we're always looking for a reason to throw a good party. Kentucky's very own whisky is a better reason than most.  In just four simple steps, you can put together a fun and elegant bourbon cocktail party.
Bourbon tasting bar, via Garden & Gun
Step One: Choose Your Bourbon
I'd suggest picking up three whisky labels that fit the distinct mashbill profiles -- one high rye content brand, like Basil Hayden's, one high corn content like Buffalo Trace's Old Charter, and a wheated bourbon like Maker's Mark or Pappy Van WinkleThis article from Bluegrass Threads, and this one from Epicurious, do a great job of describing the different taste profiles.  Pick up one of the small batch labels for true sipping, and remember your beer-loving guests with Bourbon Barrel Ale.

Step 2: Choose Your Blend
Most Kentuckians are pretty easy to please.  We take our bourbon neat, with a splash of water or, heaven forbid, with a little Coca-Cola.  (Bourbon and Coke tastes good, but don't ever admit it!)  It seems that bourbon is nationally trendy again, with all these speakeasies popping up in major cities.  You get things like the Bacon Old Fashioned, from Nashville's Patterson House, or the Kentucky Rose from Atlanta's Southern Art and Bourbon BarIf you want to get that fancy, your guests will love a sip.  This bourbon and ginger sounds interesting. Of course, nothing beats a Maker's Manhattan. Nothing.

Step 3: Choose Your Glass
A variety of lowball glasses, Manhattan glasses and julep cups help you enjoy in style.  I love these stemless martini glasses from Maker's Mark and these Fleur de Lis julep cups from Louisville Stoneware

Step 4: Choose Your Friends
Make a few calls, pour a few drinks, and enjoy.

Cheers, y'all!

This is the first installment in a series of posts called "The Bourbon Files", which will showcase the history, culture, and distinct taste of Kentucky's signature spirit.

In Search of the Perfect Beer Cheese Recipe

via BeerCheese.com
When I was a kid, I thought beer cheese came in a plastic tub from the grocery store.  Specifically, one that said "Hall's."  My parents are EKU alumni, and they had fond memories of trips to Hall's on the River  from their Richmond days.  It was always a huge treat when we could find containers of Hall's Beer Cheese at our local grocery store; I loved the snappy, spicy cheese spread as a snack with vegetables or crackers.
When I got to college, I first heard of making your own beer cheese.  My roommate's aunt would whip up a batch a few times a year and send us some.  And, you know, it tasted a whole lot fresher and less "chemical-y" than the pre-made stuff.  I also developed quite an affinity for the beer cheese and crudité plate at Charlie Brown's.  (I was, by this time, way too grown-up and sophisticated to just call them vegetables anymore!)

Now, beer cheese has gotten creative.  Winchester, the birthplace of beer cheese, hosts an annual festival to spotlight it.  Local restaurants have found that it sure is good as a hamburger spread.  And, many people find that the flavor of their beer cheese can be altered by the quality and type of beer added to the recipe.  Beer cheese connoisseurs use stouts or ales to provide complex flavor.  My personal favorite recipe is from Chef Jonathan Lundy's cookbook; it uses Kentucky Ale's fantastic Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. The result is a spicy, nutty cheese spread with wonderfully subtle bourbon notes.  

Whether you prefer gourmet or classic recipes, though, pretty much any beer cheese is wonderful.  Just open a beer, take a drink or so off the top, and fire up the food processor.  It's a great taste of Central Kentucky in just a few minutes' prep time.

Basic Beer Cheese:
  • 10 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 10 ounces mild cheddar cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 7 ounces beer
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
  •  Dash of hot sauce (I prefer Louisiana or Crystal)
  • 1. Open beer and bring to room temperature.
    2 Grate cheese with box grater and mince garlic. Place in food processor.
    3. Add remaining ingredients, mix in food processor until smooth.  You may need to add seasonings to taste.
    4. Refrigerate overnight.  This is best served the next day.