Bourbon lovers beware. The distilled American whiskey, which has been around since the 18th century, is popping up on food and drink menus all over the country in unexpected ways. “Bourbon is the most versatile spirit,” says Bradley Wyatt, general manager of Atlanta chef Ford Fry’s newest Alpharetta restaurant, The El Felix. The cocktail creator, who also did a stint at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta, adds, “You can have a bourbon neat, or with one cube to open it up; bourbon blends well with juices, liqueurs, amaros—you name it. This is why you rarely see a seasonal drink menu without a bourbon offering.”
And food menus are savoring the spirit, too. “Distilleries are using specialized oaks to provide a more nuanced flavor profile, so depending upon the bourbon’s blend or its age, it can lend itself to an entrée or a dessert,” Wyatt says. So with bourbon on the brain, our Forbes Travel Guide editors scouted the country’s finest menus to find new ways to indulge in this classic spirit.
Drink This: The Bourbon Cider Cocktail
Where: La Cave Wine and Food Hideaway, Las Vegas
Tasting Notes: Head to Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Wynn Las Vegas to taste the newest item on mixologist José Consuegra’s drink menu. The Bourbon Cider Cocktail at La Cave Wine and Food Hideaway is the perfect wintertime beverage. “It makes me think of sitting next to a fireplace with someone during the winter,” Consuegra says. “It warms you up as much as the fire with the taste of red apple, cinnamon and spices, while the sweetness brings in a comforting feel.” We suggest cozying up to La Cave’s wood-engrained leather bar top to enjoy every drop of this delicious libation made with Evan Williams Apple Orchard, Pama liqueur and Cherry Heering.
Eat This: Baba au bourbon
Where: Sixteen, Chicago
Tasting Notes: Ride the elevator up to the 16th floor of Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago to experience the baba au bourbon dessert at Five-Star Sixteen. The bourbon-syrup-soaked chocolate cake, which takes executive pastry chef Aya Fukai three-and-a-half hours to create, makes for a boozy end to your meal at the pristine establishment. “It’s a play on the traditional rum baba, but being an American restaurant, we wanted to incorporate an American whiskey, and for us, bourbon is the most American of liquors,” Fukai says. “It still shares the complexity and warmth of the traditional rum but adds the distinctive wood and char elements that make bourbon so special.”
Eat This: Mustard-crusted pork with bourbon barbecue
Where: David Burke Kitchen, New York City
Tasting Notes: Executive chef Chris Shea of David Burke Kitchen in New York City’s Soho neighborhood prides himself on his juicy pork tenderloin. “This is a great example of true American craftsmanship,” Shea says. “The sauce adapts well to any application with fruit and nuts, which I like to pair with the Mangalitsa pork as a complement and counterpoint to the subtle richness in the dish.” But before you decide to visit David Burke Kitchen to taste this item, be sure to call ahead and check its availability—this special entrée only appears at DBK based on seasonality and demand.
Eat This: Chocolate bourbon soufflé
Where: Madison’s Restaurant and Wine Garden, Highlands, North Carolina
Tasting Notes: If you’re in the mood for a rich dessert, the chocolate bourbon soufflé at Four-Star Old Edwards Inn and Spa’s Madison’s Restaurant and Wine Garden is the way to go. And although this dish does not appear on the Forbes Travel Guide Recommended restaurant’s daily menu, it does turn up quite frequently. Executive pastry chef Vinzenz Aschbacher appreciates the sought-after bourbon-infused confection. “Bourbon has become a perennial favorite, but there is something about its warming quality that makes it especially beguiling in the winter,” Aschbacher says. “The same can be said of a soufflé. The fluffy, delicate and ephemeral composition of the soufflé commands your full attention as soon as it is placed in front of you. And then each spoonful unfolds on the palate with subtle but exquisite nuances—much like a sip of good bourbon.”
Drink This: Smoking Jacket
Where: Jack Dusty, Sarasota, Florida
Tasting Notes: You’ll want to make a special trip to The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota for Ingi Sigurdsson’s Smoking Jacket. The seasoned bartender, who has worked at Sixteen and Five-Star Alinea in Chicago, is in charge of the Four-Star hotel’s cocktail program at Jack Dusty. Sigurdsson’s primary focus includes highlighting liquors and heightening their flavors—a method he uses when preparing the Smoking Jacket (bourbon, caramelized sugar syrup and Angostura bitters). First, he soaks applewood chips in Blanton’s bourbon before setting them ablaze. Then, he places a glass over the chips to enhance the aroma of the smoldering cocktail before putting an ice cube into a glass and adding an orange twist garnish to its rim. Sigurdsson wants guests at this coastal-inspired restaurant to experience drinks in their purest form, and after you’ve tried the Smoking Jacket, we’re sure round two will be in order.