Tagged: bourbon

The Face of an Angel

Remember last year when I was visiting a number of small brewing companies and getting a photo of myself enjoying a flight of their products?

One of the places I visited around that time was Angel City Brewing near downtown Los Angeles, and my mother, of all people, got a photo of me anticipating a flight of their beers.

Angel City Brewing

Late last week, I learned from my brother that LA Thrillist used that photo to illustrate their write-up on a click-baity, listicle about “43 Los Angeles Bars You Need To Drink In Before You Die.”

I hold a flight of five beers at Angel City Brewing

As some of you know, this is not the first time that someone has used one of my photos to illustrate a web article. Earlier this year, I learned that Curbed used one of “my” photos of the Four Seasons restaurant in the Phillip Johnson–designed Seagram Building. Similarly, DNA Info used one of my photos of Manhattanhenge from Long Island City after LIC became a hotspot for seeing the sun set in line with the Manhattan grid. And these are the ones I know about.

A quick web search revealed a few other uses of my photos, including:

Keep in mind, there’s nothing specifically improper about these uses. I made all of those photos available under a specific Creative Commons license allowing anyone to use my work as long as it is attributed and not used for a commercial purpose. Nonetheless, it would have been nice to receive an email or a comment on the Flickr page alerting me to the appropriating of my work: something like, “Hey dude, we used for your photo for an article on a ‘bucket list’ of awesome bars in Los Angeles. Hope you check it out.”

But at least it’s nice knowing that my photos might bring people to some interesting places in downtown Los Angeles and midtown Manhattan, as well as Queens and Kentucky.

Maker’s Mark Reverses its Down-Proof

As I wrote last week, Makers Mark announced that they will be reducing the alcohol level of their bourbon whiskey due to supply shortages. Today, they announced that they have reversed that decision and will keep selling 90-proof bourbon whiskey.

Here’s the news release:

Since we announced our decision last week to reduce the alcohol content (ABV) of Maker’s Mark in response to supply constraints, we have heard many concerns and questions from our ambassadors and brand fans. We’re humbled by your overwhelming response and passion for Maker’s Mark. While we thought we were doing what’s right, this is your brand – and you told us in large numbers to change our decision.

You spoke. We listened. And we’re sincerely sorry we let you down.

So effective immediately, we are reversing our decision to lower the ABV of Maker’s Mark, and resuming production at 45% alcohol by volume (90 proof). Just like we’ve made it since the very beginning.

The unanticipated dramatic growth rate of Maker’s Mark is a good problem to have, and we appreciate some of you telling us you’d even put up with occasional shortages. We promise we’ll deal with them as best we can, as we work to expand capacity at the distillery.

Your trust, loyalty and passion are what’s most important. We realize we can’t lose sight of that. Thanks for your honesty and for reminding us what makes Maker’s Mark, and its fans, so special.

We’ll set about getting back to bottling the handcrafted bourbon that our father/grandfather, Bill Samuels, Sr. created. Same recipe. Same production process. Same product.

As always, we will continue to let you know first about developments at the distillery. In the meantime please keep telling us what’s on your mind and come down and visit us at the distillery. It means a lot to us.

While they say that they will maintain the alcohol level, they make no mention about how they will “deal with” anticipated shortages. The release also does not mention anything with regard to price, which I think will be higher.

There has been a great deal of noise since Maker’s Mark announced that they were going to reduce the alcohol-by-volume (ABV). It was enough that the company had to publicly respond and even reverse its decision. However, the irony is that very few people drink bourbon whiskey neat. Almost everyone “waters” it down with something. The only way that Maker’s Mark would taste much different would be if it they were changing the ratios of corn, wheat, barley, and rye. But unless you’re drinking barrel-proof whiskey, it’s already watered down, and it’s still whiskey.

Makers Mark Less Spirited

Maker's Mark Homecoming

Last week, the distillers of Maker’s Mark announced that they will begin bringing down the alcohol in (watering down) their very popular whiskey as a way to meet demand. Premium whiskies, such as most bourbon, Scotch, and Irish varieties, take a long time to reach the market because they have to age. (That’s how whiskies get their color and acquire a less fiery flavor.) By definition, bourbon has to age at least two years, but most premium bourbon ages much longer than that. Maker’s Mark, for example, ages their whiskey seven years, if I remember correctly. Knob Creek famously ages theirs for nine years, and it’s not uncommon for Pappy van Winkle’s to age their whiskey long enough that their bottles can apply for learners’ permits. The longer a whiskey ages, the more expensive it is, not because it is inherently better, but because it is inherently rarer.

Distilling bourbon is like investing in whiskey futures. You distill some whiskey one day and about a decade later, you finally have some bourbon to sell. What the demand will be then is, of course, anyone’s guess. Also, factor in the usual spoilage and evaporation (the so-called “angel’s share”) to figure out that you better be patient if you’re going to sell bourbon whiskey. It’s possible that in 2005–2006, when what is being sold today was being distilled, Maker’s Mark miscalculated the demand for their whiskey, and the bourbon-loving public has nearly drunk them dry. If that’s the case, they will have to either raise the price of their whiskey, or they can add more water in the bottle to keep the yield about the same.

Maker's Mark Distillery

Maker’s Mark miscalculating its demand for bourbon in 2005–2006 does not seem plausible to me. A large corporation, such as the one that owns Maker’s Mark, usually has a team of bean counters that are pretty good at forecasting demand. And even if they’re not that good, they probably wouldn’t curry favor with their bosses if they show them a sales projection chart with a line pointing down. Moreover, Maker’s has been a consistently popular brand for as long as I can remember, and although I don’t have sales figures for their whiskey, I can’t imagine they bet against the steady or even rising popularity of their own bourbon.

If Maker’s Mark was not feeling bullish about their sales prospects, why would they be running low on the good stuff? It’s probably because around 2005–2006, corn prices were really low and in fact were at their lowest since the end of the Clinton Administration. I won’t get into the specific prices, but you can see in this chart of corn futures that the price has gone up since 2006 when they reach stratospheric highs around 2008. I think all of us in New York remember the high price of grain when we started to see more expensive pizza slices in early 2008. According to the linked chart, the price of corn plummeted around 2008–2009, when the global financial crisis hits, but then recovers back to around its decade-high price after the recovery begins.

It is unlikely that Maker’s Mark bought less corn and other grains, and was making less whiskey. Doing so would have put a huge strain on their supplies, in the face of increasing demand, and forced them to significantly raise their prices. This also would have jeopardized their place as a mass-market premium whiskey.

The other option would be to use a different “mash bill”[1] for the batches we’ll have for the foreseeable future. This would allow Maker Maker’s Mark to produce about the same amount of whiskey as before 2006, and it allows them to recover the increased cost of grains by increasing available inventory. The latter makes a lot of sense because as far as I can tell, the bourbon craze is far from fading and you don’t want to run out when the party is just getting started.

  1. a mash bill is like recipe of grains, such as corn, wheat, rye, and barley, that are first fermented into beer and then distilled into white whiskey, or “moonshine.”  ↩

Hot Kentucky


Maybe it’s because Sarah left for a ten-day trip, but I couldn’t help feel drawn to a beverage offered at a local Brooklyn art gallery. It’s called the Hot Kentucky. The contents for the beverage were listed on a chalkboard, and on a summer day, it sounded like a splendid beverage.


The lemonade–ginger–cayenne pepper was pre-made at the gallery, but if I were to reconstruct this recipe, I’d do something like this.


  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of thinly sliced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper
  • 6 cups of water

Combine, heat, and stir lemon juice, sugar, ginger, and cayenne pepper until sugar and pepper dissolve. Transfer lemon-ginger-pepper syrup to a half-gallon pitcher or mason jar and add water. Chill until lemonade is cold. Tick-tock-tick-tock…


  • 1 ½ ounces of bourbon
  • 3 ounces of spicy ginger lemonade

Combine and shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour into a glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with lemon wedge. Enjoy.

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in Louisville

From the Bourbon Blog:

The highlight of The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience will be a fully functioning, artisanal pot still distillery, viewable to visitors and capable of producing a range of American Whiskey types and styles.

Sarah and I visit Louisville on a regular basis, and I look forward to the downtown distillery enhancing our urban bourbon adventures.

Cocktail: Madame Shirley


Earlier this week Saveur published a Whiskey Cocktails microsite, which listed over a dozen whiskey recipes, primarily culled from a September 2011 story on handcrafted whiskey cocktails. One of the more approachable recipes was a Lady Shirley. It is a bourbon drink with grenadine, lemon juice, and soda water. I thought that it would be a nice Sunday project to make my own grenadine (and whiskey cocktail).

The Saveur recipe recommends using Employees Only grenadine, which is a hand crafted mix of pomegranate and spices. I would have liked to use that because most popular grenadines, such as Rose’s, consists mostly of corn syrup. The only way to get this grenadine is to place a Fresh Direct order and wait for delivery, but I wanted to have this cocktail today. I had to make my own grenadine.

I had never made grenadine before so I searched online for a variety of recipes. The best recipe was by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, which consists of ingredients I could easily get (fresh pomegranate juice and sugar) and a couple I could not (orange blossom water and pomegranate molasses). Although I wasn’t sure how to substitute for the missing ingredients, I liked his recipe because it was didn’t require you to reduce the pomegranate juice to a thick syrup. Instead of the orange blossom water and pomegranate molasses, I thought I would use reduced black cherry juice to thicken it and give it a different level of tartness.

Here’s what I used for the grenadine:

  • 2 cups of fresh pomegranate juice, either fresh squeezed, according to Morgenthaler’s instructions, or unsweetened juice from concentrate (such as Pom or R.W. Knudsen).
  • 2 cups of sugar. I was running low so I used a mix of evaporated cane juice and Demerara brown sugar.
  • 4 ounces of black cherry juice. I again used R.W. Knudsen.

As Morgenthaler writes, you basically only need to heat the pomegranate juice enough to melt the sugar. I heated the juice for a few minutes in a saucepan. After the juice had become warm, I transferred juice and combined it with the sugar in a quart-sized Mason jar. I then heated the cherry juice in the same saucepan, reducing it by half (about ten minutes). I emptied the cherry syrup to the mason jar, shook it, and chilled it until it was “refrigerator” cold. In retrospect, I would have squeezed an orange, enough for a splash, to give it a different citrus flavor.

Once my grenadine chilled, I then made the cocktail.

  • 2 ounces of bourbon. Cheap is fine: I used Evan Williams.
  • 1 ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice. That’s about a half a lemon’s worth.
  • 1 ounce of my grenadine.

Combine the ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker and then pour into a glass full of crushed ice. Add a lemon wedge, not pictured, for garnish. This recipe is a little different from the aforementioned Lady Shirley because I used only half as much lemon juice (I hadn’t bought very many lemons today), and I did not finish the drink with soda water because I had used so much crushed ice which melts quickly and “dampens” the cocktail.

Try it out and let me know what you think.

(Via Saveur and Jeffrey Morgenthaler.)

What Happened to Jockey Silks?

Where is Jockey Silks?

With my parents joining Sarah and I in Louisville, we wanted to show them one of our favorite places in the River City. The Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar inside of the Galt House Hotel was a favorite of ours when we visited it a few years ago. Not only was it a participating member of the Urban Bourbon Trail, but it also had a magician roaming around the place entertaining guests.

Sad that Jockey Silks is closed

When we went last Friday, we found that bar was not only closed, but it was replaced by a Kaleidoscope Christmas installation. Consider it a mix of site-specific, Christmas art in a family friendly environment. Finding that this had replaced one of our favorite bourbon bars was a true bummer. I hope that this is a seasonal closure for Jockey Silks. Were it permanent, Louisville should mourn the loss of a great, classy institution.

We Did the Kentucky Bourbon Trail! Where Are Our Gifts?

Heaven Hill

It took over two years, but Sarah and I diligently visited eight distilleries that are (or were) participants of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. We started in May 2008 at Buffalo Trace, outside of Lexington, and finished last November at Four Roses in Lawrenceburg, and there were several more distilleries in between.

The eight distilleries were:

  1. Buffalo Trace (no longer a participant in the passport program)
  2. Maker’s Mark
  3. Woodford Reserve
  4. Tom Moore (no longer a participant in the passport program)
  5. Heaven Hill
  6. Jim Bean
  7. Wild Turkey
  8. Four Roses

The tours ranged from very short primers to extended tours lasting hours. For example, the tours at Jim Beam and Wild Turkey were very short, consisting of a brief explanation of how they make bourbon followed by a couple of free samples. Heaven Hill’s was even shorter. We just file into a barrel-shaped tasting room to taste a few of their offerings.

On the other hand, the tour at Tom Moore lasted nearly four hours on a very ugly functionally designed factory with no tasting. Woodford Reserve, although also a very long tour, was on a beautiful piece of land and was a much better experience. We gladly paid for the five-dollar Corn to Cork tour there, and it was a treat, especially since you get to see the whole process and sample along the way.

In either case, part of the appeal of going to all of these distilleries is the passport program. Once you get your passport stamped from all of the participating distilleries, you get a free gift (a t-shirt, if I recall). After finishing our last tour at Four Roses in November 2010, we dispatched our passports to the processing office for our free gifts. We thought it would take a month or two, but it is now August, and there’s still no sign of our gifts.

I just thought about this today, so I’m going to write them a letter and ask them nicely to send our gifts.

In the meantime, I’d like everyone to see that we did indeed go to all of the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail, even ones that have left the program.

Summer Cocktail: Bourbon Limeade Cooler

Okay, so I need a better name for this, but I had a bag of limes that were going bad so I thought I’d create a new cocktail for these hot summer days. (Thankfully, summer is here!)

The Bourbon Limeade is basically, as the name implies, a bit of bourbon, limeade, and a splash of soda to make it more refreshing. (I use one of those SodaStream machines to make the soda water.)

First, you need to make the limeade, which is really easy. The recipe below will yield 8 cups (64 oz.) enough to fill one of those huge Mason jars. To do so, mix…

  • 1 cup of lime juice (about 6 juicy limes)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 6 cups of water

Actually, as far as summer beverages go, this is a pretty solid drink. It’s safe for all ages.

But you want something with a bit of a kick, so let’s make it more adult, shall we?

In a pint glass (or pint-sized Mason jar, pictured here), gather the following ingredients:

  • Four ice cubes Crushed ice
  • 2 oz. moderately priced bourbon (I used Jim Beam and it was fine.)
  • 6 oz. homemade limeade
  • 2 oz. soda water, seltzer, club soda, etc.

Add crushed ice cubes to glass, pour bourbon and limeade over ice. Mix together ingredients. (Since I had a Mason jar, I merely shook the ingredients together with the cap on.) Add soda water. Stir gently to finish the mix.


p>Did you like it? Any suggestions for a variation?

The above link to Amazon is an affiliate link. If you buy something that link, I will earn a commission fee.

Bourbon Trailblazing

Sarah and I took another extended trip to Bourbon country as part of the annual “fake Thanksgiving” trip. On this trip, we hit up three different distilleries: Tom Moore, Heaven Hill, and Jim Bean. Each of these distilleries seem to make more than half of the bourbon in Kentucky, but they also represent a significant consolidation among all the distilleries in the area.

Tom Moore

Tom Moore Distillery

The Tom Moore distillery was enormous, and it just recently started letting tour groups come visit the area. This tour was my least favorite of the three distilleries we saw. First, the tour was extraordinarily long: it was three hours in length. Second, the facilities were pretty ugly. Yes, I understand that this is a booze factory, but there really was no attempt to make it look nice. Maybe I should be giving them credit for keeping it authentic, but as you can tell by the photos I took, there wasn’t a whole lot worth snapping a photo. Perhaps the best representation of the state of the distillery is the hybrid school bus and military truck that had been made on the premises. Finally, there was no tastings at the conclusion of the tour. It’s one thing to see an ugly place for three hours where bourbon (and a lot of other spirits, including brandy) is made, but please let me taste some of the stuff. Anyway, the spirits giant Sazerac took over the plant over the summer so any attempt at the folksy tradition of bourbon making seems to be gone.

Heaven Hill

Heaven Hill

This was a much different tour to visit despite the proximity. Heaven Hill produces a lot of brands of bourbon, including Evan Williams, and the tour was very different. We made it there just before closing time, and our tour consisted of wandering around the gift shop and being summoned to enter this barrell-shaped room. Unlike the Tom Moore tour, there was no long-winded tour… just two half-ounce tastings of bourbon. The Evan Williams Single Barrel but the Elijah Craig Single Barrel had aged 18 years, which took too much flavor from the barrel. Anyway, it was still a treat after touring distilleries for nearly four full hours.

Jim Beam

Jim Beam

In the category of short and sweet, this tour consisted of a seven-minute video, detailing the long tradition of bourbon making under the Beam name, and a short tour through a restored guest house. Then we went on to the bourbon tasting. At this tasting, we had some Booker’s Single Barrel (can you detect a pattern here?) and a curiously strange berry flavored bourbon, Red Stagg. I definitely preferred the former to the latter, especially since it has that oaky flavor you really drink bourbon for. But the flavored stuff wasn’t too offensive. In fact, I kind of liked it, but I fear what will happen to bourbon if they go the way of the vodkas.