Derby Day is one of my favorite secular holidays. The opportunity to wear seersucker head-to-toe, put on my father’s strawboater with some snazzy white shoes, and drink mint juleps all day? It’s hard to imagine a sane person passing up such a hedonistic opportunity; though, sadly, many of us here in Boston spend the first Saturday of May shuffling about in the rainy cold as we almost always do. I take a different tack, throwing on all of my douche finery and putting $20 (to win) on the horse with the most-amusing name. Sadly, Suddenbreakingnews didn’t take the 2016 cup.
Without knowing where I’d be going this year, I gave a pass on my usual tradition of cooking my own mint-infused simple syrup and adding it to a handle of cheap bourbon to ‘age’ – I’ve been burned before, with jugs of Jim Beam sitting in the fridge, their withered mint leaves and saccharine shimmer mocking me. Saving myself the usual hour of syrup-cooking, I instead picked up a fifth of a serviceable bourbon that could be drunk neat without gagging.
Buffalo Trace fits that heady qualification: the strong vanilla and maple-ish taste, along with a noticeable alcoholic bite, make it a fine sipping whiskey. It’s nice to have something around that’s meant to be savored neat, as opposed to the usual bottle of Smirnoff in the freezer that’s doled out into cowboy-boot-shaped shot glasses.
This workaday bourbon isn’t going to wow anyone but it’s a good addition for a home bar, for something to parcel out when guests come over without breaking the bank or their taste buds. It’s also an excellent choice for higher-end versions of mint juleps and Old Fashioneds (I like the softer touch of bourbon vs. rye). Why not, throw some cash their way.
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Buffalo Trace Distillery
mid-to-low $30s for 750mL