Bourbon is, without question, magical: textured, nuanced, with over-and-undertones that range from smoke and wood to toffee and vanilla. This combination of notes and hints strikes me as… warm. A combination of tastes and smells that instantly transport the drinker to a study, next to a crackling fire, looking out onto a moonlit field of autumn leaves or midwinter snow.
But let’s say you’re a Class A Goofball that moved someplace like Southern California, and now you really don’t have much use for these so-called “seasons.” While perpetual warmth and sun is great for beachcombers and professionally not-wearing-much-clothing humans, it kinda kills some of the majesty that is bourbon.
I say “kinda kills,” because bourbon is far, FAR too clever and resilient to be undone by something like nine months of short pants and sunglasses. Indeed, one of the most popular bourbon cocktails is the mint julep. This absolutely delectable item is most commonly served during the Kentucky Derby, an event famed for its sunny skies and 15,744,295.33% humidity.
Recently, we had a gathering at our humble abode, and bourbon was the order of the evening—specifically, Bulleit, a fantastic slice of brown heaven whose sweet notes are ripe for compliment and contrast. While I enjoy nothing more than a Bulleit and Bulleit with a splash of Bulleit on the rocks, I know full well that some people taste straight bourbon and wish they could go straight to the point in time that they don’t taste anything ever again. Don’t worry folks, I’ve got your back.
Orange juice. I figured I’d lead with the punchline, because I’m an artist and flipping the script is how I roll. Orange juice meets up with Bulleit and magic happens: the heat of the bourbon is mitigated by the sweetness of the juice, while the sour backbone prevents the concoction from becoming too cloying. So far, so good; but we’re basically now no better than teenagers that were making screwdrivers and, having run out of vodka, grabbed the next thing in their stepdad’s liquor cabinet. Enter: the herbal element.
Playing off the inherent sweetness of bourbon and orange juice, we find a prime candidate: basil. Kinda sweet, kinda minty, kinda grassy, and very fresh-tasting. The grassier aspects of basil mesh well with the orange juice’s sourness, and bring new depth to the sweetness of the mix in general.
There you have it. A cool and crisp cocktail to chase away those summer… whatever the hot temperature equivalent of the blues would be. I’d say the reds, but those were Soviets, and we already chased them away! USA! USA! USA! -Andrew
The Sharknado (because topicality is great)
1.5 parts Bulleit bourbon
1 part orange juice (fresh, if possible)
2 leaves fresh basil
Basil is typically muddled in the glass along with the orange juice, with the bourbon added last; larger servings may incorporate use of a cocktail shaker. Serve over ice. Garnish with an orange slice optional and kinda pretentious if you’re drinking at home.