Even though we tend to think of whiskey as a sort of winter, warm-me-up-from-the-inside kind of spirit, there's actually a nice tradition of drinking it in the summer, as well. After all, what else are you going to sip as you while away a sultry summer's eve sitting on your porch watching the world slowly drift by? Then there's also the mint julep to consider along those lines. The fact is that whiskey can make as refreshing and satisfying a summer cocktail as any light spirit like vodka or gin. This quality is only heightened by exloiting the bounty of fresh summer produce available to us.
To wit, the strawberry. Strawberries have been good this year. Preferably you're eating some of the luscious harvest that's making its way into our farmer's markets right now. But even the berries from Safeway in the indestructible plastic cartons have been exceptionally flavorful. I discovered bourbon's affinity for strawberries some time ago, but only recently have I been putting it into play in the cocktail world with a drink I've been mixing to positive reviews lately at Cantina. It draws elements from the julep, the manhattan and the sour, fusing them into a package that's pretty bourbolicious. A friend named the drink the Blackbird, which has for some reason stuck. It's simple to make and versatile enough to drink while the sun is still shining or deep into the purple night.
A note: I think Bulleit works best in this cocktail. I love this bourbon for the spiciness that comes with its high percentage of rye and for its overall balance of savory and sweet notes. It gives depth and structure to anything its mixed with. As delicious as it is to sip, Bulleit might be even better when used in cocktails. It's also reasonably priced at $25.
- 1 large strawberry
- 1 ripe blackberry
- 3-4 leaves of mint
- 2 oz Bulleit Bourbon
- .5 oz Averna
- 1 lemon
- .25 - .5 oz simple syrup
In a mixing glass muddle strawberry and blackberry thoroughly. Squeeze in the lemon, add Bulleit, Averna, simple syrup and mint leaves. Fill with cracked ice and shake for 15 seconds. Taste the cocktail before pouring and decide if you like the level of sweetness. Add more simple if you want it sweeter. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice and garnish with a mint sprig.
Also, I had another great strawberry-bourbon drink not long ago at Rickhouse. Invented by Rickhouse bartender Erick Castro, it's called the Kentucky Buck and was discussed in detail by Camper English in a fine SF Chronicle article a couple of weeks ago.