Home' Bars and Clubs : BAC Jul-Aug 2017 Contents american whiskey
BARS&clubs caught up with Lance Essihos, the new
Assistant Bar Manager at Sydney's Grain Bar, to hear
his thoughts on the American whiskey category.
WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT AMERICAN WHISKEY?
Lance Essihos: Well, the history of American whiskey and how it has become such a
success around the globe is pretty exciting. I love it because it’s very versatile in mixing
cocktails and very easy to sip on its own.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE AMERICAN WHISKIES AND WHY?
LE: Knob Creek Rye: I enjoy the spiciness of Knob Creek drank neat. And it holds up well in
an Old Fashioned, and even better in a stronger drink like a Manhattan – it has some strong
legs to stand on. My personal favourite American whiskey is Rittenhouse Rye, it’s my go-to
in a Manhattan. It is a fruitier rye with banana, peaches and white pepper flavour, which
makes for the perfect combo of fruit and spice. It’s a great rye for people who are used
to drinking bourbon but want to make the step to rye. Lastly, Buffalo Trace is my favourite
bourbon – I feel it’s an underrated product to be honest. It’s on the sweeter side yet has a
bit of spice and some nice flavours of brown sugar, toffee and vanilla, and makes for an
amazing Old Fashioned or Whiskey Smash!
A CUSTOMER HAS NEVER TRIED AMERICAN WHISKEY BEFORE – WHAT DO YOU
SUGGEST THEY START WITH?
LE: If you’ve never tried American whiskey before, you can’t go wrong with Makers Mark. I
was taught to make the Old Fashioned more than a decade ago with this bourbon. It’s very
sweet and smooth with a strong vanilla flavour, so it’s a good start for someone who wants
to try American whiskey or any other whisk(e)y for that matter.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE AMERICAN WHISKEY CLASSIC COCKTAIL, HOW WOULD
YOU MAKE IT AND WHAT FOOD WOULD YOU PAIR IT WITH?
LE: My favourite American whisky cocktail is a Manhattan, stirred down with Rittenhouse
Rye, Antica Formula sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters, served neat or on the rocks.
It pairs nicely with rich foods like a charcuterie board with loads of cured meats, and helps
bring out the flavours of both.
WHAT ABOUT A MODERN AMERICAN WHISKEY COCKTAIL CREATION – WHAT’S IN
IT AND HOW DO YOU MAKE IT?
LE: My modern American whisky cocktail creation is called the Southern Belle. It’s made
like a traditional sour, with Bulleit Rye, fresh pear juice, Demerara sugar, whisky bitters, egg
white and lemon, served in a coupette. Then I spray a Laphroaig Scotch mist on top to add
a smoky scent to the nose. It’s very fresh and flavourful yet simple, and is new to the menu
here at Grain Bar.
HAVE YOU NOTICED ANY TRENDS, EITHER IN CONSUMPTION OR PRODUCTION,
WITH AMERICAN WHISKEY OVER THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS?
LE: The comeback of the Old Fashioned over the past three or four years has been
remarkable. I’ve seen so many different methods and styles, from fat washes to infusions
and barrel aging... it’s really become a staple to the modern drinker. We’ve also seen
different classics surface again over the last few years like the Manhattan, the Sazerac,
Juleps and even the Whiskey Smash. There’s so many twists to these amazing drinks that
it’s created a very fun environment for people to explore. It also provides a fun history
lesson and a unique story to how American whiskey has helped shape and create the
cocktail scene that we know today.
whiskey into charred barrels it would
appeal to New Orleans’ French
population, as it would taste more
like cognac or ‘French brandy’.
The Tarascon brothers started
selling this whiskey on New Orleans’
famous strip, Bourbon Street, and
as people started to ask for ‘that
whiskey they sell on Bourbon
Street’ it gradually evolved into ‘that
MINT JULEPS AND HORSE RACING
While bourbon can be made
anywhere in the United States, the
majority comes from the state of
Kentucky where there are famously
more barrels of bourbon than there
Kentucky is also the home of
American horse racing and one of
the world’s greatest horse races – the
Kentucky Derby, where the official
drink is the Mint Julep making it the
quintessential bourbon cocktail.
For the past 19 years, Woodford
Reserve have sponsored the Derby
and every year make thousands of
mint juleps for the event, including
a $1,000 Julep made with exotic
and expensive ingredients that
SCOTCH’S DEBT TO BOURBON
One last thing to add: many people
turn their noses up at bourbon and
go straight to the Scotch single malt
whiskies, but if it wasn’t for bourbon
that product just wouldn’t be what it
Scotch whisky producers used ex-
sherry barrels to age their whiskies.
During Prohibition, the demand for
Scotch went through the roof as
it was being smuggled across the
ocean to satisfy those Americans
who couldn’t get hold of their
The demand for barrels increased
exponentially and there just wasn’t
enough sherry casks to go around.
After prohibition and when the laws
for single use barrels came in there
suddenly became an abundance
of barrels. Enter just about every
product that uses barrels for aging:
rum, tequila, even olive oil. So, even if
Scotch is your favourite, you should
be at least a little grateful for its
cousin on the other side of the pond.
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