There are so many spirits in the world, most of which bring to mind the country of origin. There's Scotch, which evokes the misty highlands of Scotland. Vodka brings to mind cold, crisp nights in Russia and Sweden, and tequila is reminiscent of sun-drenched Mexican beaches and wind-swept deserts. And then there's bourbon, reminding us of our rich American heritage.
Bourbon is so much a part of Americana that in 1964, Congress declared bourbon "America's National Spirit." Then, in 2007, the U.S. Senate declared September "National Bourbon Heritage Month," and the country rejoiced in the fact that its government can do something right at least once in a while.
This declaration sort of makes drinking bourbon your civic duty. We've come up with five places that take drinking bourbon to the next level. We'll drink to that.
Brother Jimmy's BBQ
Don't let Brother Jimmy's amiable frat-boy persona fool you. Behind that barnyard-turned-sports-bar façade lies the heart of a true bourbon lover. The restaurant carries nearly 20 bourbons, ranging from the classic Old Grand Dad and Wild Turkey to boutique bourbons like Bulleit and Knob Creek "Small Batch." "Bourbon and barbecue go hand in hand, so we made sure we had a good selection," says Brother Jimmy's manager Mikyle Kravitz. Can't decide on a bourbon? Why not start with Kravitz's favorite, Angel's Envy, which is "smooth and easy to sip."
Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
It's no secret that Michael Schwartz and Hedy Goldsmith are bourbon fans, and Michael's Genuine Food & Drink is celebrating with a series of specially curated bourbon flights. Newbies can experience a group of favorites with the "Gateway Bourbon" flight (Maker's Mark, Basil Hayden, and Knob Creek). "Wheaters" features three wheat-centric bourbons (Maker's Mark, Old Rip van Winkle, and Old Weller Antique), while "Rye Progression" gives a taste of high-rye-content spirits (Buffalo Trace, Elmer T. Lee, and Redemption High Rye). Finish off with "One in the Chamber," a collection of single-barrel bourbons (Willet Single Barrel, Four Roses Single Barrel, and Blanton's Single Barrel). For $14 per flight, trying new bourbons is affordable (and very patriotic).
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SHOW ME HOW
The Dutch and its head bartender, Robert Ferrara, are serious about bourbon. If you have trouble deciding from the restaurant's selection of more than 30 varieties and nerly a dozen ryes, allow Ferrara to help. (Not.) " I suggest trying all of our bourbons," he says. Pressed further, the elusive mixologist offers, "If I had to pick a few, they would be Eagle Rare 10 Year, Hudson Four Grain, and Four Roses Single Barrel." Also try the special Southern Peach cocktail, made from house-infused peach bourbon ($9 on the Miami Spice cocktail menu).
With a name like Bourbon Steak, how could this restaurant not celebrate? Mixologist
Peter Roca and his team are hosting daily interactive bourbon tastings throughout September. At 6 p.m., get a little history lesson while you sip on three bourbons chosen from the restaurant's collection of 50 bourbons and whiskeys, including Knob Creek, Woodford Reserve, Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 23-Year, and A.H. Hirsch Reserve 16-Year. Each bourbon tasting is $20 per person and includes Bourbon Steak's signature butter-truffle popcorn.
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
Bourbon is a natural fit for Yardbird, which features Southern sensibilities and cuisine. Choose from dozens of bourbons, ryes, and whiskeys, or start with a themed flight such as the "Comparison in Rye" ($38) or the "Wild, Wild West" ($30), which gives you a taste of bourbons and whiskeys from Utah, Texas, Oregon, and Colorado. The restaurant also barrel-ages its own bourbon infusions in flavors like salted maple, spiced apple, and pineapple ($13). Every Friday in September, gather your friends from 4 to 7 p.m. for Yardbird's Southern Social happy hour, featuring complimentary bar snacks for everyone and free bourbon cocktails for the ladies.