Looavul, Luhvul, Lewisville, Louaville, Loueyville. However you say it, the locals recommend sipping on a little bourbon first to facilitate proper pronunciation. It comes out in a smoother, unhurried way when your motor skills are slightly impaired. While there’s always been some contention about how to pronounce the name of my adopted city, there’s never been a question that bourbon is king in My Old Kentucky Home.
When I was preparing for my move from Washington, D.C., I knew almost nothing about Louisville, except that in my mind, Kentucky was the epitome of the South and bourbon was kind of a thing there. Turns out Louisville’s got a little Midwestern charm in her, and lifelong devotees of the city take their bourbon reeeaaal serious.
I felt like it was my duty to adopt bourbon as my spirit of choice when I moved to Kentucky. Which was tough as I don’t really drink hard liquor, tequila being the exception, and only on girls’ nights. I threw myself, however, into developing a taste for bourbon wholeheartedly; I was gonna white-knuckle a love for the smoky, rich, sometimes honeyed, whisky if it killed me, or more likely, burned my taste buds to smithereens.
Fast forward to over a year later and I still hadn’t developed a love for bourbon. After all, I hadn’t been sneaking nips of whiskey from my parent’s liquor cabinet since the age of 11, like many of my fellow Louisvillians. And so I wrote bourbon off. I might milk a cow at the State Fair. Or use the contraction y’all twice in one sentence. I may even develop a love for Kentucky cured ham. But never, ever, was I going to swallow a mouth full of bourbon excitedly.
I’ll always remember the day I became a real Kentuckian. My friends and I went to a local neighborhood street fair and the signature cocktail was something called a ‘Gold Rush.’ I ordered a beer at the concession stand, while my other bourbon loving friends ordered their favorite bourbon drinks. With a little cajoling I took a little sip of a friend’s Gold Rush, a vigorously shaken concoction with bourbon, honey, and lemon juice. Somehow the lemon counteracted the smoky bite characteristic of bourbon and the honey added a slight sweetness that made this cocktail as drinkable as a smooth glass of red wine.
I walked away at the end of the day, two Gold Rushes in and feeling supremely proud of myself for kind of liking a bourbon drink. In an effort to keep the momentum rolling, I went back to my own kitchen to re-create the cocktail that broke down the bourbon door for me. Instead of honey I threw in a little maple syrup, thinking the smokiness of the maple would be perfect with the charred taste of the bourbon.
Every gal needs a signature cocktail and the ‘Gold Rush’ has quickly become mine. I make it at parties, in cabins in the woods, before heading out to the grill; it’s everywhere in my circle. The guys ask me to make them one in a hurried whisper, fearing not drinking their bourbon neat or on the rocks will undermine their masculinity in this bourbon-centric city. Women, on the other hand, who aren’t yet bourbon converts love this drink because it’s a little sweet, a tiny bit sour, and completely accessible to less hard core whiskey drinkers.
These days I’m still drinking Gold Rushes, but I’ve also boldly branched out and ordered a couple bourbons on the rocks. I know, who would’ve thunk?! Now that I’m down with bourbon I’m thinking about other ways to incorporate it into my life and cooking. Bourbon infused cherries in cocktails. Bourbon caramel. Bourbon and maple grilled pork loin. The opportunities are endless, stay tuned.
1/4 – 1/3 cup of your favorite bourbon (Give Larceny a try. It’s affordable and delich!)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon real maple syrup or honey
1 cup ice
Squeeze the lemon juice (about a half of juicy lemon) into your mixing glass of choice (something with a tight fitting lid; I love my coffee roadie). Remove the seeds and then add the maple syrup. Stir. Add the bourbon and then the ice. Securely tighten the lid to your mixing cup. Shake vigorously; I mean reeeaalllly vigorously.
Pour the mixture, including ice, into your favorite rocks glass. Drink and become a bourbon fan. Bam, you’re welcome!