WASHINGTON — It’s time to put away the frozen beach drinks and embrace the flavors of fall. And nothing takes the chill out of autumn’s cool air quite like a nip of bourbon.
Benny Hurwitz, head bartender at Jack Rose Dining Saloon in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, says the spirit’s warming quality comes from having a higher proof.
“A lot of bourbons are bottled above that 80-proof, which is where you see some vodkas and rums and things, so [that higher proof] is going to add a little bit of heat. It’s going to warm your chest up as soon as you take that sip,” he explained.
The oak cask used to age bourbon imparts notes of vanilla, caramel and baking spice on the spirit.
“All of those things are super warming, so when you drink bourbon neat, you definitely think about the fall,” Hurwitz added.
If you’re not a fan of swigging spirits neat, Hurwitz has a cocktail that’s perfect for the season. It calls for very few ingredients and doesn’t require any fancy equipment, making it an easy drink to tackle at home. It even pairs nicely with a big turkey dinner if you’re already thinking ahead to Thanksgiving.
Hurwitz’s sage-maple smash is a riff on a traditional smash — a bright and summery drink that is made using mint, lemon, simple syrup and bourbon. His version is built around two fall flavors: sage and maple.
“[They are] going to go great with those vanillas and caramels and spice that you get from bourbon, and then some lemon for acidity to balance the whole cocktail, bring it home and make it a smash,” Hurwitz said.
Before you break open your bar cart, Hurwitz has a word of advice: When you’re building a drink, always start with the smallest and cheapest ingredients.
“You don’t want to throw your bourbon in first and go, ‘Oops. I just put too much of something else or the wrong juice,’” he said.
First in the cocktail shaker, add one sage leaf, followed by one dash of bitters. Then, add ½ an ounce of Grade A maple syrup, followed by ¾ an ounce of fresh lemon juice (this is about the equivalent of ½ a lemon). Finally, add in 1 ½ ounces of Kentucky bourbon and top the shaker off with ice.
Then, it’s time for your arm workout: get shaking. Once the ingredients are combined and cooled, strain the cocktail over a glass of ice and garnish with a mint sprig.
For those new to bourbon, trying it in a cocktail is a great starting point. Hurwitz also recommends pouring a small amount in a glass and adding in a few drops of water. This helps to bring out the flavors of the spirit and lower the alcohol content.
“Take a sip — you coat your palate, it kind of wakes you up to what you’re getting into. And with that second sip you’re going to really taste the whiskey,” he said.
“You can be very pleasantly surprised even if you’re very new to whiskey.”
Can’t get enough? Jack Rose — which carries roughly 2,700 spirits, many of which are whiskeys — is out with its new fall drink menu. On there you’ll find a number of whiskey cocktails, including “How Ya Like Dem Apples,” which is made with an Alabama whiskey, tea, cinnamon syrup and lemon, and “Bananas Forester,” made using Old Forester Signature Bourbon, a banana liqueur, allspice dram, simple syrup and walnut bitters.
There are also featured cocktails made with gin, rum, vodka, tequila and cognac.
Jack Rose, 2007 18th St. NW, is open Sunday through Thursday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Friday through Saturday 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Recipe: The Maple-Sage Smash
- 1 ½ ounces of bourbon
- ¾ ounce of fresh lemon juice
- ½ ounce of maple syrup
- 1 dash of aromatic bitters
- 1 sage leaf
- 1 mint sprig for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, add one sage leaf, followed by one dash of aromatic bitters and ½ ounce of Grade A maple syrup. Then add ¾ ounce of fresh lemon juice and 1 ½ ounces of Kentucky straight bourbon. Top the shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Pour over ice and serve with a mint sprig.