Cocktail Hour: Crafting the Bourbon Meyer

hodge's picture
November 22, 2012 at 1:34 am

CAUTION: "TL:DR" Alert!  If you wish to see the recipe (and bypass the Ohio ties and inherent history of the ingredients) scroll to the bottom.
First off; Happy Thanksgiving, my fellow Eleven-Dubbers.
Urban Meyer.  The name conjures images of football dominance, BCS titles, and one awful night in the Arizona desert (obligatory 2006 reference fulfilled).  But aside from our favorite sporting pastime, what other thoughts does the man stir in the deepest, darkest recesses of our soul?  For me, it’s something primal; an emotion of intense desire that makes my heart leap and my mouth water.  Oh, I think we all know what I’m talking about: cocktails.  That’s right, folks; it’s time for the Bourbon Meyer.
Now, I know that Floridians (see definition #2) have their own version of this cocktail: some unholy mix of sweet tea, bourbon, lemon, and lime.  There’s a few different versions floating around out there, but most seem to follow the aforementioned theme; which isn’t a bad thing, per se, but it isn’t truly representative of our coach’s current employer—or the state from whence he came.  So, through the dusty recesses of my mind I scoured, searching for a perfect blend of ingredients that not only tastes great, but one that also reps our state whilst doing so.  But enough of this flowery prose, let’s get drinking.

The Booze: Bacon-Infused Bourbon
Seriously.  Trust me on this.
Look, I know what you’re thinking, “Ol’ Hodge here’s obviously a bacon fanboy, and is merely trying to insert his obsession into this strictly Ohio-rooted cocktail.”  I can’t blame you for thinking this, because I really do love bacon (as my LDL score can attest); but this is about so much more than my love of fatty pork-belly-based products, this is about the State of Football, damn it!  Truth is, both bacon and bourbon have deep ties to this state, going back almost two centuries.
Upon the completion of the Erie Canal and the introduction of the steamboat navigation to the Ohio River, Cincinnati became one of the most bustling port cities in the country.  Being nestled almost perfectly ‘twixt the Eastern Seaboard and the Mississippi River allowed for the city to become a key trading post as America began to fulfill its myopic desire of Manifest Destiny.  It would be during this time that Cincinnati would adopt its infamous “Porkopolis” moniker, due to the herds of pigs roaming its streets to serve the city’s massive meat packing industry.   Vestiges of this legacy can still be seen today through the Kahn’s and Queen City Sausage companies.
Much less known, but equally important, was Cincinnati’s involvement in the bourbon trade.  Though typically pigeonholed as a German beer Mecca, the city was well-known before prohibition as the Bourbon capital of the country.  In fact, through the sheer amount of low-quality rotgut that came out of the Queen City, “Cincinnati Bourbon” became known throughout the nation as the brand of sub-quality swill.  As the drumbeat of progress marched on—and Prohibition came and went—Cincinnati bourbon production would eventually cease altogether, lying dormant for almost eighty years.

The Fortifier: Bourbon
Panty melter.  You're welcome.  Need I say more?

The Sweet: Cream Soda
IB C You...See what I did there?
Ah, rivalry.  Like it or not, we are intrinsically tied to the fate of our neighbors to the North:  celebrating their every defeat whilst bemoaning their every victory.  Like Harry Potter’s famed nemesis, we mustn’t even utter their name.   Throughout the history of our two famed programs, events such as the Ten Year War, the Snow Bowl, and the Game of the Century spring to the fore; while the same holds true with timeless traditions like Golden Pants, Script Ohio, and the creation of our famed alma mater.  None of these things would have been possible without the team that we despise so damn much, and for that we must accept their place in our history.  And with that justification, we must accept Michigan’s place in this Ohio cocktail.
The first known recipe for this famed vanilla elixir was published by a gent named of E.M. Sheldon in 1852 in a book titled "Michigan Farmer".  It was a far cry from the high-fructose-corn-syrup-laden fizzy drinks of today—requiring a mixture of water, egg, Epsom salts, sodium bicarbonate, cream of tartar, milk, and tartaric acid—but it was the start of something big.  One thing is obvious, though; Sheldon was not an ex-pat Ohioan.  If he were, he’d have patented the recipe, gotten rich, and would be forever remembered as a hero to their “great” state—all to the chagrin of his home state.

The Hint: Maple Syrup
Though the thought of maple syrup may conjure up images of pastoral scenes in northern New England, Ohio’s played quite the role in the development of that sacred maple sweetener.  Long thought to be first discovered by Native Americans, our best guess is that maple syrup’s origins are either from the Iroquois Tribe of New York, or the Shawnee of—you guessed it—Ohio.

The Final Flourish: Apple Brandy
If our first (and best) president knew how to get down, shouldn't you?
Trivia time!  What was the first American spirit?  Bourbon?  Nope.   Rye?  Try again.  Vodka?  Not a bloody chance.  Truth is, if you want to drink our nation’s history—and specifically, Ohio’s, for that matter—you’re best served pouring yourself a glass of Apple Brandy, the direct descendant of the colonial beverage Applejack. 
Back in the early days of the colonies, filtered water was scarce, so booze reigned supreme.  Spirits, specifically those made from easily replenished resources, were the choice drink of the day.  Though the modern American tipple could easily be identified as beer, back then hard cider was the preferred beverage of yore, being easily grown from the local fruit of apples.  The great thing about cider though, aside from being relatively boozy, is that it was also easily distilled into the colonial spirit Applejack.  No, this ain’t your father’s Laird’s; it was a relatively easy-made spirit, accomplished by burying a barrel of hard cider in the frozen ground during the midst of the New England winter.  The diurnal freezing would allow for fractional (aka “freeze”) distillation of the cider, resulting in a 60-70 proof apple spirit.
But how’s it relate to Ohio, you ask?  Well, by no one other than Johnny Appleseed.  Though oft labeled as a conservationist and mere apple enthusiast, Mr. Appleseed was a noted Applejacker.   Truth was, the fruit was far more valuable as a fermentable than as a mere fruit to colonists, and Mr. Appleseed himself was dedicated to spreading the fruit’s utility.  Across Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana he traveled, spreading the gospel of booze along t the way.  What better way to celebrate Ohio’s cocktail than in his name?

The Damn Drink:

  • 5 oz Cream Soda
  • 2 jiggers (3 oz) bacon-infused bourbon1
  • ½ jigger (3/4 oz) bourbon
  • ¼ tablespoon Maple Syrup
  • ½ Tablespoon Apple Brandy (preferably Laird’s 7 Year, not their Applejack—it’s diluted with grain alcohol)

Pour cream soda into old-fashioned glass.  Add syrup and bourbons to shaker with ice, shake, and strain into cream soda.  Float 1/2 Tablespoon of Apple Brandy over top of cocktail.  Serve with a slice of bacon and Buckeye victory.
1 Bacon Infused Bourbon:

  • Render 2-3 oz bacon fat in pan (1-1.5 pounds smoky bacon--try Wright Brand Hickory Smoked or Benton's), and add to open container (mason jar or non-reactive bowl) containing 375 ml Bourbon (I prefer Bulleit).  Let set one to two days in cool, dark place (a kitchen cupboard is fine), tasting until desired flavor is achieved (solid, smoky bacon-influenced flavor).  After desired flavor is achieved, place container in freezer until fat is solidified.  Strain out solidified fat and enjoy!

Just a fair warning: I've had two of these--and a bottle of cider--and I'm already feeling the effects.  Proceed with caution, and GO BUCKS!

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