Last Thursday, Woodford Reserve hosted a bourbon cocktail pairing dinner at Strip House downtown. Cocktail-pairing dinner parties are popping up everywhere you turn, demonstrating how spirits can replace wine as the go-to dinner drink. And after experiencing the brilliant pairings showcased here, I am definitely a convert.
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Though bourbon is not typically considered a summertime liquor, when combined with the appropriate mixers, it can go head to head with vodka, tequila and even rum. Take for instance the night's opening cocktail, a Peach Tea Bourbon beverage. Lightly sweetened tea was served with finely diced bits of peach that not only added flavor to the bourbon, but were also pretty and fun to pick out and eat with a spoon. I could easily imagine myself imbibing one too many of these while sitting on a porch swing chatting with friends on a hot July evening.
Woodford also shoed that bourbon can be an excellent backdrop for infusions. The second cocktail was a ginger-infused bourbon drink with lemonade and crystallized ginger. The ginger mellowed out the already smooth bourbon and melded amazingly with the tart lemonade. This drink was paired with an ornate-looking crab and summer corn salad with chopped avocado. My dining companion, who is not a fan of lemonade, was surprised at how well the citrus and ginger complemented the seafood salad.
More delicious pairings followed, such as a thick-cut bacon salad paired with a maple-infused black raspberry martini. There was the traditional lamb chop and mint julep pairing, which was predictably amazing. The main course of filet mignon, ripped potatoes, and decadent creamed spinach went exceptionally well with a cherry-infused Manhattan. It was a simple cocktail and a simple meal -- both prepared flawlessly. The decadence came to a close with a coffee-and-vanilla-infused martini served alongside a caramelized banana tart.
Though I have infused many types of alcohols and been the host of several cocktail pairing parties, I have yet to try this with bourbon. After enjoying drink after drink at Strip House, I can assure you, that will soon change.