3 Courses, 3 Whiskeys: An Evening of Woodford Reserve Pairings

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This dinner was the first in a series building up to the Woodford Reserve bartender symposium at Culinary Institute of America.

partner tipA small cadre of New York’s top-shelf bartenders and beverage directors came together for an exclusive Woodford Reserve tasting event at Sons of Essex on October 27. Cocktails at the intimate event utilized some of Woodford’s signature products—bourbon, rye and the coveted double-oaked whiskey.

The cocktails were whipped up in honor of the event by Topher Mikels, who heads up Sons of Essex’s cocktail program. His Woodford-forward drinks were riffs on classic cocktails most of us know and love.

For instance, the first one—Peach in the Woods—was a playful take on the bourbon smash, using bourbon, peach puree, honey syrup, lemon juice and liquid smoke. And the Swing Rye Over was an elevated rye Manhattan, with mole bitters, Strega and tawny port standing in for vermouth. The final cocktail, dubbed the Kentucky State Fair, paired double-oaked whiskey with apple cider, caramel syrup, lemon juice and cloves—just the thing to ward off those autumnal chills.

Each cocktail was served with a select menu item from the Sons of Essex kitchen, with a twist: every dish incorporated a bit of Woodford Reserve. Appetizers were sweet, whiskey-glazed chicken wings (paired with Peach in the Woods); the entree was elegantly presented short ribs over mashed potatoes (paired with Swing Rye Over); and dessert was honey-whiskey popcorn (paired with Kentucky State Fair).

Before the meal, Woodford Reserve brand ambassador Scott Attea held forth on his company’s centuries-old—founded in 1812—traditions of producing quality Kentucky whiskey. He referred to Woodford as a “small craft whiskey,” because of the owner’s care and attention to small details (e.g., they still use pot stills for all production). Still, the company produces over 400,000 cases a year, a response to ever-growing consumer demand.

All the lucky attendees were given a small portion of Woodford Reserve’s double oaked whiskey, to pair with a plated arrangement of singular flavors. It was almost an intellectual exercise, as each beverage professional sussed out how the spirit complemented parmesan cheese, hazelnuts, dried cranberries, dark chocolate, an orange wedge and sweet sorghum syrup. (If you’d like to mimic the experience, download Woodford Reserve’s tasting app.)

This dinner was the first in a series building up to the Woodford Reserve bartender symposium on Nov. 29 at Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY. If you’re a bartender or drink professional, join the Edible Guild for a chance to be a part of it.

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