by PINK LADY
NATIONAL BOURBON HERITAGE MONTH is upon us! Exactly ten years ago the US Senate passed a bill declaring September the month to celebrate Bourbon as our “Native Spirit”. It passed with unanimous support — oh my, how times have changed!
Early distillers preferred rye as their spirit base, however Bourbon became popular after the Revolutionary War, as distillers moved further and further west to evade excise taxes that had been imposed upon spirits (thanks, Alexander Hamilton.) They found their way to Bourbon County, Kentucky where corn was an abundant resource.
The 2OO7 bill declaring Bourbon Heritage Month is quite a bit more whimsical than the 1964 legislation it references, which declared Bourbon “a distinctive product of the United States”, giving it a denomination of origin not unlike that enjoyed by Tequila or Scotch. This legislation was no product of nostalgia or American spirit, but rather a calculated capitalistic response to a potential glut in the market. A shrewd businessman named Lewis Rosenstiel miscalculated the behavior of the market during the Korean War, when he turned his stills on a full bore anticipating a whiskey shortage. The shortage never came, the war ended, and the story of what he did with that whiskey is the how Bourbon came to be our national heritage, chronicled in Reid Mitenbueler’s BOURBON EMPIRE: THE PAST AND FUTURE OF AMERICA’S WHISKEY. Spoiler alert: Rosenstiel died rich and Bourbon is now as hot a category as can be.
The Brown Derby Cocktail is a classic that dates back to Old Hollywood, when it was sipped by glamorous stars who frequented the Vendome Club. This signature drink takes its name from the Brown Derby restaurants that dotted LA, were a fixture of the era, and were themselves shaped like — and named for — a brown derby hat.
Rooted in capitalism and quirky as a hat shaped restaurant, we could conceive of no drink more fitting to toast our country’s heritage.
THE BROWN DERBY COCKTAIL
2 ounces of Bourbon
1 ounce of fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce of honey syrup
Shake ingredients with ice.
Strain into a chilled vintage cocktail glass.