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A Spiritual Foundation
The perfect base for a signature cocktail
The hunt for a signature cocktail starts with the alcohol. It is, after all, an essential component to a cocktail, and if I’m going to craft a signature drink, I need to pick something that represents me. Something significant. What’s the story behind the choice? Why does this fit my style (or lack thereof, I suppose).
Bourbon feels like the obvious choice. It’s kind of my go-to. It’s the one thing I always have in our liquor cabinet, but is it the right choice for an off-the-wall cocktail?
I’ve narrowed the pool down to four possible options, and I feel like I should break them down before I make any decisions. You know, weigh the pros and cons. Figure out why they fit. Maybe even how they fit together.
Option 1: Bourbon
Old faithful. If you sat me down and said I could only have one type of liquor for the rest of my life, it would be bourbon. I’d miss my margaritas and maitais, for sure, but bourbon is definitely my favorite—though I think my brother would love to sell me on scotch (and honestly, it’s growing on me).
The thing that I like about bourbon is that it’s usually sweet, and I tend to prefer a little extra sugar in my drinks, so this is kind of a no brainer. There’s a decent amount of variety here too. Depending on the mash bill, you could get something like a Maker’s Mark, or something a little more of a peppery bite like Bulleit.
Scotch definitely offers a greater variety than bourbon, and I’d probably open up my options if I just said “whiskey,” but that felt like cheating, so we’re going to stick with bourbon as option #1.
Option 2: Rum
Rum is pretty flexible in terms of cocktail opportunities. In the colder months, some apple cider, a little cinnamon/nutmeg, and you’ve got a nice apple pie cocktail to keep you warm. It also pairs well with some Bailey’s and a dash of chocolate bitters. In the summer, load it with fruit juice, and sip it pool-side. Or inside if you hate the heat as much as I do.
There’s also this drink I make called a Black Flag (yes, it’s named after a video game). Spiced rum, Diet Coke, and Mike’s Hard Black Cherry Lemonade. Nothing terribly fancy, but it was my cocktail of choice prior to discovering the wonders of bourbon.
Option 3: Tequila
I love margaritas. I really do. But that’s kind of where it ends for me. Everything I make with tequila feels like a margarita. It’s kind of a one trick pony, so as much as I love that cocktail, does it really fit in a signature drink?
Plus, I think that (for the most part), anything you combine with tequila would also work really well with rum. If I start down this road, am I limiting my options? This probably says more about me than the liquor, but I don’t think tequila stands on its own. I wouldn’t want to sip straight tequila, and shots…well, I don’t do shots.
Option 4: Vodka
My brother is mocking me for this one. Always has. For a long time, I didn’t really drink much of anything. Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and beer. That was pretty much it. No. Not together. I’m not that crazy.
Vodka is flavorless. Or at least that’s what I’m told. Assuming that’s true, it can probably partner up with just about anything. In my case, during my last year at DePaul, that meant Mountain Dew and Tropical Punch Kool-Aid. Yep. I was extra classy back then.
What it boils down to is that there’s some distinct nostalgia here, and it would be pretty easy to just slide this in without rocking the boat too much. But does it add anything?
I’m not going to settle for just one of these. That’s lame. I make cocktails with these individually all the time. I’m out here to challenge myself a little bit—to do something crazy. So I have to pick 2. At minimum.
Grabbing all four feels excessive. I don’t want to end up with a jumbled mess. I’m not looking to be crazy for the sake of crazy. I definitely want to give myself a little bit of a challenge, but this only works if you can taste all the components.
At the end of the day, I think the answer needs to be bourbon and tequila.
Look, bourbon was inevitable. It's just too damn good. I could pretend like I considered other options, but I’m not a liar.
As for the second pick, as much as I like rum, I usually have Captain Morgan on hand, and I feel like the vanilla notes on a spiced rum are a little too similar to bourbon.
No. I don't think they taste the same. I do, however, think it would be too easy to put those two together. It feels safe somehow. Vodka gets the same assessment. The alleged lack of flavor makes it too easy. It’s more likely to dilute the bourbon flavors than anything, and we can’t have that.
When it’s all said and done, tequila presents a challenge. It's just weird enough to make think twice about it, and that's exactly what I'm looking for.
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