Bourbon is a distinctly American creation, like country music or football played by large men in tight pants. That reason alone means it’s a spirit worth celebrating, and it’s probably why we’ve devoted a whole month, rather than just one single day, to commemorate the whiskey.
September is National Bourbon Heritage Month, as serious a fake holiday as you’ll ever find — the U.S. Senate itself made this observance in 2007 after calling bourbon America’s “native spirit.” The legislature was on to something, albeit maybe a bit ahead of the times. (Wait, did I just write that the government is forward-thinking? Whoa.)
Now more than ever, people are sipping on this brown aged spirit, especially in Texas, where many producers are helping to dispel the notion that a whiskey can only be called bourbon if it’s made in Kentucky. That’s not true: Call it bourbon if it’s made in the U.S., aged in new charred oak barrels and comprised of a grain mixture that’s at least 51 percent corn. Many Texas distillers, such as the Garrison Brothers Distillery and Treaty Oak Distilling, have mastered these parameters and make stellar examples of the spirit.
In honor of National Bourbon Heritage Month, Jack Allen’s Kitchen is recognizing the talent of the Hye-based distillery and has built a veritable five-course feast around bourbon cocktail pairings using Garrison Brothers’ whiskey, including a tasting of the new, highly sought-out Cowboy Bourbon that’s probably already sold out by now.
On Sept. 28, the Oak Hill restaurant will serve up cocktails like the Hye in Texas to sip on with each delectable course. By the end, you’ll probably have forgotten bourbon ever originated from Kentucky.
But if you can’t make that dinner — the $120 price tag certainly is steep — you can try making yourself any of these bourbon cocktails or visit the places where they are made. Many bars around town, like Drink.Well in North Loop and Icenhauer’s in Rainey Street, are highlighting National Bourbon Heritage Month specials throughout the rest of September.
Hye in Texas
1 1/2 oz. Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey
1/4 oz. yellow chartreuse
1/4 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1/2 oz. Carpano Antica
Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice. Stir with bar spoon while in the glass, approximately 10 times. Strain over rocks or serve up.
— David Toby, Jack Allen’s Kitchen
2 oz. Treaty Oak’s Red Handed Bourbon
1/2 oz. wildflower honey syrup (equal parts hot water and honey)
3/4 oz. fresh lemon
Shake and fine strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. No garnish.
New York Sour
2 oz. Maker’s Mark Bourbon
1 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. honey syrup (equal parts honey and water)
1 oz. Malbec
Combine all ingredients and shake over ice. Strain into an old fashioned glass over cubed ice. Float Malbec on top. Garnish with lemon peel and speared cherry.
— Edward Morgan, Travaasa Austin