Something’s happened to bourbon in the past five years. What was once the purview of connoisseurs and writers (Hunter S. Thompson was a Wild Turkey man) started to find its way back into cocktails again. Whiskey sours, The Old Fashioned and Manhattans ceased to be quaint and became cool. Blame Mad Men?
“I give all credit to the bartenders and the mixologists. They’ve really put bourbon cocktails back on the map.”
I’m having drinks with Eddie Russell, Wild Turkey’s Associate Distiller, at The County General in Toronto. He’s got a point about the mixologists; the Old Fashioned I’m drinking is distinguished by The County General’s house-made Wild Turkey Bitters.
The reason I’m here, and the reason Eddie is in Toronto, is Wild Turkey 81. Barflies are familiar with Wild Turkey 101 — a hard, sippin’ bourbon. Too hard for cocktails, it turns out. Eddie’s solution, with the blessing of his father and Wild Turkey’s master distiller, Jimmy Russell, was to develop “an everyday whiskey that can stand up to any mixer or in any cocktail with the bold, in-your-face taste that is distinctively Wild Turkey.”
I swing by my local dive bar on the way home for a double of Wild Turkey 101, because if I’m going to be making distinctions, I’d better do it with the blessing of an old friend. Wild Turkey is a spicy bourbon, due to it’s high rye content, and has a round caramel finish, due to the deep char of their barrels. The 101 will sear your tongue and warm the cockles of your heart.
Wild Turkey 81 retains the flavour of 101, without the burn. I head home and spend the next week experimenting with bourbon cocktails, though my progress is impacted by a shortage of maraschino cherries and an improper infusion of bacon into maple syrup. Later, I head to the Drake hotel, where they’ve got cedar infused Wild Turkey 81 in a drink they call “deliverance.” It also occurs to me that the high rye content of Wild Turkey makes it not unlike Canadian whisky, so I take to mixing 81 with ginger ale.
Wild Turkey 101 will remain on my liquor shelf in the area reserved for sippin’ whiskies. Sometimes, though, a man’s got to have a cocktail…
Wild Turkey Old Fashioned
2 healthy oz. Wild Turkey 81
1 brown sugar cube
1 long zest from an orange
Soak sugar cube with Angostura Bitters. Add ice and stir until the sugar dissolves. Serve in an old fashion glass and garnish with a cherry.
Bacon Maple Bourbon Sour
Egg whites from 1 egg (3/4 oz. if using pasteurized)
1 oz. of fresh squeezed lemon juice
3/4 oz. bacon infused maple syrup
2 healthy oz. Wild Turkey 81
Shake vigorously with lots of ice in a cocktail shaker (about 20 seconds). Strain into a glass (best without ice). Garnish with maple-infused bacon.
Maple Syrup-Infused Bacon/Bacon-Infused Maple Syrup
1 lb thick cut bacon
500 mL maple syrup
Evenly spread bacon on baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 min draining fat every 5 min.
After the bacon is done, wrap it in paper towel and let sit for about 10 – 15 min. Cut into bite-size chunks and add to medium pot with maple syrup.
Simmer on medium heat with a lid for about 20 min. Stir occasionally and do not let boil.
Cool at room temperature and transfer into an air tight container and keep refrigerated. Syrup will last about a week.