For National Bourbon Day, Expert Jennifer Cole Dishes on the Drink

June 14, 2014 | By | Comments (4)
Bacon-Infused Bourbon Recipe

Photo by Jennifer Davick

In honor of National Bourbon Day, we sat down with our resident bourbon expert Jennifer V. Cole to discuss the South’s favorite spirit.  

How do you take your bourbon?
I used to be a purist, drinking bourbon neat or maybe with a single rock. But with the advent of the cocktail revolution, I’ve chilled out. Some of today’s smartest bartenders—the Greg Bests, Neal Bodenheimers, Todd Thrashers, and Paul Calverts of the world—show how far you can push the brown water envelope. That said, if you give me a glass of A. H. Hirsch 16 Year Reserve (well, first, thank you, because that’s an awfully nice gift), please don’t do anything to it. That’s become the unicorn of the bourbon world, and I want to taste only it.

What is your favorite bourbon cocktail?
Right now, I’m all about the Boulevardier, which is basically a bourbon negroni (bourbon + Campari + sweet vermouth). I think of it as an Italian with a Southern accent. Sexy, but unassuming. 

You’re a bourbon expert and a bourbon lover. Why bourbon?  What sets it apart from other spirits?
Aside from the obvious (um, I’m Southern and it’s our native spirit), one reason I love bourbon is because it’s so accessible. Other than a handful of rare birds that cost above $100, you can find really amazing bourbon in the $30 to $60 range. So, unlike Scotch or even great wines, it’s easy to sample around and find flavors you like without spending like a Vanderbilt. A “collection” can be just a c-note away.

You’re splurging, price is no object. What bourbon do you buy?
Everyone says Pappy to this question. And don’t get me wrong, I love the Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year Family Reserve. But the cult craze had made it damn near impossible to find. I’ll go with George T. Stagg or Black Maple Hill.

You’re back in college, on a collegiate budget, but you still want to drink well. What bourbon do you pick up and how do you drink it?
Bulleit. At roughly $25, it’s great value. It drinks well with an ice cube or two, and thanks to the rye in the mash, it’s got enough spice and heft to hold its own with mixers. In summer, I especially love it with a wedge of lemon and tonic, a drink Tom Bulleit himself introduced me to in New Orleans several years ago. He calls it the BLT.

Do you ever cook w/ bourbon? If so, what’s your favorite dish to make with it?I’ve tried. But I usually just end up drinking the bourbon. For the sake of argument, let’s say bourbon pecan pie. 

People are strange, and they put bacon in their bourbon now. How does this make you feel?
I’ve tried it. Heck, I even geeked out and made it myself (fat washing). But personally, I want to taste the bourbon itself. And if you’re at my house and I’ve paid for the bottle, I’m probably not going to let you mess with it. But as Fred Noe (son of Booker Noe, of Booker’s bourbon; great grandson of Jim Beam) once told me, “My mama always drank her bourbon with ginger ale. And if Booker Noe’s wife can mix her bourbon, I guess anyone can.”

Does it anger you that Bourbon Street is not, in fact, a street dedicated to bourbon?
Is there even a single bourbon bar on the strip? Such a wasted opportunity.


  1. Lamar

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    September 12, 2014 at 1:14 pm
  2. Where to Catch a Show in the South (Our Favorite Venues) | Your Hub for Southern Culture

    […] parties to stadiums, rock ‘n’ roll is as embedded in the South as hot summers and the kick of bourbon. Later today, as part of our #SouthernRock takeover, we’ll look at ten of our favorite […]

    July 5, 2014 at 10:00 am
  3. Shee

    Where did all the comments go? I posted a comment and now there seems to be no way for me to get to see the comments again. Where did they go? How can I get back to them?

    June 15, 2014 at 5:30 am
  4. Shee

    Someone mentioned Jack Daniels as a bourbon. Jack Daniels is not a bourbon, it’s a Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey. You may have been thinking about Jim Beam Black Label which is a true Kentucky Bourbon. For whatever reason, people get the two mixed up frequently. They do have similarities, however, Jack Daniels is marketed as 80 proof while Jim Beam is marketed as 86 proof. JB is also kept in an oak barrel much longer then Jack Daniels is fermented. But, as I said before, there are similarities with the two as well as differences. JD is believed to have charcoal filtering which gives it a bit of maple flavoring. It seems to be more smooth and mellower and less Alcoholic in taste. JB has a Brandy flavor, a more alcoholic as well as fruity taste not to mention a more woody taste from the oak barrels. JB is classed as a Bourbon while JD is classed as a Whiskey. While Bourbons can be whiskeys not all are.

    June 15, 2014 at 5:15 am

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