Simple, historic and where the spirit in the drink is king, an Old Fashioned cocktail is the best way to drink bourbon. Here’s how to make the perfect Old Fashioned, plus a secret bourbon BBQ sauce recipe from a pitmaster legend and his mighty fists!
Bourbon is a misunderstood drink. Many people think it’s just something you put Coke with to make their soft drink alcoholic. Others think it’s just Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam. But there’s much more to it than that.
For a start, bourbon whiskey is (thankfully) not limited to JD or Beam. There are so many bourbon distilleries in Tennessee, which is the only place in the world that can legally make bourbon whiskey. From sweet to spicy, bourbon comes in many different forms and flavours.
It’s also a surprisingly versatile spirit and works works in lots of different drinks. You can even cook with it. So we’re sharing our favourite way to drink bourbon – in an Old Fashioned cocktail. We’ve also got a recipe from TV star and barbecue pitmaster Big Moe Cason for his special BBQ sauce.
Our Old Fashioned cocktail, bourbon BBQ Sauce & Big Moe’s fist
The Old Fashioned is probably one of the most traditional drinks in terms of cocktails. It’s simple and even keeps to the concept of how alcohol was medicinal as much as it was for leisure in centuries past.
The history and nuances of the Old Fashioned is nicely laid out by Martin Doudoroff in his two-page website Old Fashioned 101 if you want to read more.
But most importantly, an Old Fashioned obeys the rules of alcohol + sweet + bitter/herbaceous + water = cocktail.
A cocktail must have these elements. Just adding fruit juice or a soft drink to a spirit isn’t the same thing. Click here if you want more on the fascinating history of cocktails, which spans 500 years.
How to make an Old Fashioned
Here’s what you need
– 60ml Good quality bourbon or rye whiskey like Buffalo Trace
– a touch of sugar syrup (make this by dissolving sugar in hot water (1:1) and allowing it to cool). How much you add to the drink depends on how sweet you like it. A teaspoon should be enough though.
– a dash of herbaceous or aromatic bitters – Angostura is best
– 1 large cube/sphere of ice or several normal cubes
– a straight edged tumbler glass with a heavy base
Here’s what you do
Build the drink in the glass over the ice if you wish. Alternatively, if you don’t want ice in your glass, build in a cocktail flask and strain the drink into your glass sans ice.
Garnish with a slice of orange or lemon peel if you want, though the ice is garnish enough.
Big Moe Cason’s Buffalo Trace Bourbon BBQ Sauce
We had the pleasure of meeting Big Moe – a huge, cigar-smoking, tong-wielding, whiskey-drinking Kentuckian – at Meatstock Sydney 2019. He was cooking a whole buffalo over a fire pit on a rotisserie powered by a Holden Commodore Ute 2002 model. I’m not kidding.
In spite of his fame – he’s a regular on US barbecue shows like BBQ Pitmasters and BBQ Pit Wars, and has competed and won awards in 35 states – he’s a really lovely guy.
He even gave me a fist bump as we parted ways. His fist was the size of my head.
But Big Moe’s more than a giant barbecue genius. As a Kentucky local, he’s also a big bourbon fan. So it makes sense that his delicious BBQ sauce has a drop of the good stuff in it.
Here’s the recipe:
Here’s what you need:
– ¼ cup Buffalo Trace bourbon
– 4 tbsp tomato sauce
– ¾ cup white vinegar
– 1 tbsp Worcester sauce
– 1 tbsp course black pepper
– 1 tbsp Hickory liquid smoke (we use Culley’s and it’s incredible!)
– 2 tsp chilli powder
– 1 ½ tsp ground mustard
-½ tsp ground cumin
-½ tsp ground white pepper
-½ tsp cayenne pepper
Here’s what you do:
1. Combine all ingredients apart from the Buffalo Trace in a saucepan.
2. Simmer on medium heat for about 15 minutes.
3. Remove from heat, allow to cool and stir in the Buffalo Trace bourbon.
4. Refrigerate until ready to baste onto meat or use as a condiment.
This was the sauce Big Moe was using that day he cooked a whole buffalo. And I tell you what – it’s the business.
Why Buffalo Trace?
This bourbon house has been running for over 225 years, which is impressive. Especially considering the difficulties of the 1920s prohibition. But Buffalo Trace, currently the most awarded distillery in the world, still follows its age-old traditions of making its bourbon, from the ingredients to aging the spirit in new oak barrels for at least eight years.
I find this bourbon incredibly smooth. Its flavour profile is well-balanced – the sweetness from the corn and spiciness from the rye work together rather than over-power one another. And the barley notes give the whiskey depth.
It’s my favourite bourbon and one of the few I like neat or on the rocks. But as an Old Fashioned, it’s mind-blowing.
You can pick up a bottle of Buffalo Trace for just AU$59.99 from BWS or Dan Murphy’s.
Do you have a special recipe for barbecue sauce? How do you drink your bourbon? Have you ever had a fist the size of your own head coming towards you? Tell us in the comments!