September is Bourbon Heritage Month, and a lot has gone on in the whiskey world: notably, Jim Beam broke ground on a new distillery, and Metallica released a new batch of their sonically enhanced spirits with Willett Distillery. So, a lot of interesting things happening.
Recently, Woodford Reserve in Kentucky paired up with high-end home retailer Williams Sonoma to craft three classic cocktail mixers: the Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour, and Mint Julep.
Additionally, Williams Sonoma and Woodford Reserve will offer online mixing classes on Sept. 15th and 29th for those who want to learn to make timeless cocktails. Participants will also hear about bourbon’s history with Woodford’s Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall, according to The Whiskey Wash.
The cocktail mixers are available now on the Williams Sonoma website and at the Versailles, Kentucky-based Woodford Distillery.
Bourbon Whiskey’s History in America
National Today calls bourbon “truly an all-American beverage,” and many people agree. Bourbon is nearly 400 years old; none other than George Washington ran the first whiskey distillery after English-born George Thorpe filtered the first corn whiskey in Virginia.
Congress declared bourbon a “unique product of the United States” in 1964. According to National Today, “federal law states that bourbon must be produced in the United States, contain at least 51% corn, and mature in freshly charred oak barrels for at least two years.”
In 2007, the U.S. Senate declared September National Bourbon Heritage Month. By 2019, more than 26 million cases of bourbon were sold.
There are many ways to celebrate Bourbon Heritage Month; share a drink with friends and family at a bar or host a tasting at home; experiment with mixing up bourbon cocktails; or attend a virtual tasting and learn more about bourbon’s rich history.
Where Did those Cocktails Come From?
Who created the first Old Fashioned? Where did the mint julep originate? Why do people love a whiskey sour? Pour yourself a cocktail and settle in to find out.
An 1862 recipe book titled Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide: How To Mix Drinks featured the first Old Fashioned recipe. However, this was a recipe for an Old Fashioned gin cocktail, not the whiskey version we know today. Historians credit bartender James E. Pepper of the Pendennis Club in Louisville for making the first Old Fashioned whiskey cocktail in 1880.
As for the mint julep, in 1784 they were considered medicinal, mostly prescribed to soothe stomach aches. Many historians agree that “the mint julep was developed within Virginia high society during the late 1700s or early 1800s” according to Cocktails For You. Wealthy Virginians sipped mint juleps over breakfast, and made them with brandy or rum at first. Cocktails For You claims the theory that poor Southerners introduced bourbon to the mint julep because “they could not afford fine liquor.”
Again, a look into Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide: How To Mix Cocktails. The book featured the first whiskey sour recipe, but, according to The Manual, British Navy sailors had been drinking something similar for some time. They added lemons and limes to strong spirits to combat scurvy, eventually adding sugar and water to improve the taste.
Toast to Bourbon Heritage Month with any of these timeless bourbon cocktails. Now, thanks to Woodford and Williams Sonoma, no shaking or stirring required.