We are in buffalo country!
My eyes are squinting as copious amounts of the fabulous Colorado sunshine streams through the floor-to-ceiling windows at Wynkoop/Breckenridge’s newest restaurant, Sessions Kitchen. By the way, don’t be fooled that this place doesn’t have a great selection of bourbon because it’s owned by a brewery—they actually have over 100 bourbons, ryes, and whiskeys. Besides, every good beer needs a bourbon back.
It’s May and we’re emerging from the cold and typical spring snowy weather—time to ease into our spring bourbon cocktails from the heavier winter ones. The obvious cocktail to feature this month would be a mint julep—it is Derby month, after all, but I thought it would be more interesting to feature a cocktail that’s a little different. Unless you’ve been to Sessions Kitchen lately, you probably haven’t had it.
This bourbon journey starts with an enjoyably long conversation with bar manager Michael Cerretani. This is a man who loves to learn and educate, which means I got to learn a lot—and not just about bourbon either: we tasted many different vermouths, amaros, and of course, bourbons. I’m a lucky girl!
Bourbon? Did someone say bourbon? How about a little Buffalo Trace? This bourbon is a blend of corn, rye, and barley. (Remember, one component of bourbon is it has to be at least 51 percent corn.) Put this bourbon to your nose and you’ll get toffee and of course vanilla (you’d probably smell like vanilla too if you sat in charred American oak barrels for eight years!). It does have a smooth and long finish, but it is also bourbon and it does have a pleasant kick when you first taste it. This is important because you want to make sure it can stand up and be present in a cocktail—there’s an analogy here to men but I’ll leave that to the relationship writer.
Besides, it’s cocktail time.
The great thing about bourbon cocktails is the bourbon adds such great character to a seemingly small list of supporting ingredients. After Michael educated and entertained me with many tastings, it was time to enjoy one of his tasty cocktails, a house-made gem called The New Dey, named after his wife—hence the different spelling. All I can say after tasting this drink is Mrs. Cerretani must be a sweetheart with a strong composition, a great combination in both people and cocktails.
Michael mixes the Buffalo Trace bourbon with amaro, sweet vermouth, and a touch of chartreuse. When I asked him why he chose Buffalo Trace, he said, “Because it’s really good.” Fair enough. And, as my two-day education taught me, you can’t just mix any vermouth with any bourbon—there is a lot of tasting that goes into pairing the right vermouth with the right bourbon…. Amaro too.
Case in point, The New Dey cocktail was designed with the classic Manhattan drinker in mind, something that they would enjoy. (A classic Boulevardier drinker would enjoy this cocktail as well.) I love the simple garnish: one Luxardo cherry. If you haven’t had one, stop what you are doing and go buy some, or go to a quality bar or restaurant and ask for one.
Honestly, these are gems of stone fruit with a balanced sweetness and tart flavors that develop in your mouth. These are not the Shirley Temple, red dye 40, you-could-blind-someone-with-the-fluorescent-red-cherry-color. These are grown up, luscious, silky, macerated pure maraschino cherries that…well, you can take it from here.
Alrighty then, back to the bourbon cocktail.
Remember kids, ingredients matter. It’s good to know what you’re working with when making cocktails at home, so be sure to taste the individual ingredients prior to making a cocktail. Michael likes the Cocchi vermouth and the Amaro Cio Ciaro with the Buffalo Trace bourbon (Dolin vermouth works well too) because it can stand up to it and not get lost. By the way, if you’re thinking of making this cocktail with these ingredients and rye, which is used in a classic Manhattan…probably not going to work out that well. Rye is a bit dirtier, stronger, not the same…and it will overpower the other ingredients.
Remember kids, ingredients matter.
Bourbon works well with these ingredients because bourbon is a little softer than rye.
With that being said, let’s drink!
The New Dey Cocktail
1 ½ oz of Buffalo Trace Bourbon
¼ oz Chartreuse
¼ oz Amaro Cio Ciaro
¼ oz Cocchi sweet vermouth
Mix ingredients in a glass with ice, stir, and strain into a rocks glass with one cube…and of course, one Luxardo cherry.
Your other option is to head down to Sessions Kitchen (they have great food too!) and have one of the many great bartenders make you A New Dey cocktail.
Sessions Kitchen is located at 1518 S. Pearl Street in Denver, CO 80210.