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Earlier this month, hungry food wine and bourbon coinsures met at “Big Reds and Bourbon” a pairing dinner hosted by Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Our evening began with a short story from master of whiskey on the origin of bourbon. I would be a remised Mid-Western turned New Yorker if I didn’t share that with you today.

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In the early 1700s, the Molasses Act was imposed on American Colonies making it finically cumbersome to produce spirits made from imported French molasses.  Farmers then turned to American hearty Maze to make whiskey. To earn extra money whiskey makers in the Mid West, an area rich in corn, lime stone and lumber ideal for whiskey making, would take their whiskey from a port in a town in Kentucky know at the time as, “Old Bourbon” in a flatbed down the Mississippi to New Orleans, where they would trade whiskey for gold. Merchants would then trade some of their gold for horses (since a flatbed couldn’t travel upstream) to carry them home. That is how Kentucky got its roots in Bourbon making and through-bred racing. And too this day, for a whiskey to be considered Bourbon it must be at least 51% corn based.

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Our first course, bacon wrapped scallops with a citrus Beurre Blanc drizzle, was paired with a Bulleit Bourbon Mint Julep. Bulleit brand Bourbon is 60% corn 30% rye and 10% barley and spends no less than 6 years maturing. Its finish is drier with more of a spice taste compared to other bourbons. For this reason I enjoyed savoring my Julep because I found it to be not overly sweet and syrupy, like traditional Mint Juleps. Instead it tasted closer to hazelnut or cardamom, which probably came from the charred American White Oak barrels it was aged in.

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The second course was a roasted pear, spiced pecans and bleu cheese salad paired with Sterling Vineyards Pinot Noir. I got the inside scoop from sommelier, Stephane Collot. Collot chose this wine from the Carneros region in California because it’s cool foggy climate near the water produces and ideal temperature for Pinot Noir, which can be tricky to grow. It was also a 2011 vintage which was an excellent long cool summer which yielded hearty Pinot Noir grapes. The musky Pinot paired well with the clue cheese and nuts and fruit in the salad.

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After that we sampled salmon with Bulleit Rye, Southern BBQ with BV Beau Rouge Red Blend and for Dessert we had S’mores Cheesecake with Bulleit small batch bourbon.  My favorites of the evening where the bacon barbecue butter Filet Mignon, the Pinot Noir from Sterling Vineyards and the Bulleit Bourbon Mint Julep, although I found the Bulleit 10 year, small batch bourbon to be wonderful when enjoyed alone.

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To enjoy a mint julep like mine at home, the people of Bulleit Bourbon were kind enough to share their recipe included bellow.


– Heather Duge

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The Bulleit Rye Mint Julep


    • 1.5 oz. Bulleit Rye
    • 2 oz. Stirrings Simple Syrup
    • Fresh mint leaves

Preparation: Muddle mint leaves, Stirrings Simple Syrup and crushed ice in rocks glass. Add Bulleit Rye and fill glass with ice. Pour into cocktail shaker, shake vigorously and serve in rocks glass with fresh mint garnish.