Bourbon is a little angry at the cocktail world . For such a long time, it was a cherished standby of the refined palate, a refuge from the candy cocktail plague. Bourbon was a more respected American take on nobility, if such a thing exists. Yes, Elijah Craig would have been very proud. Unfortunately, the nostalgia of bourbon seems to be dwindling in some circles. Enter the throwback cocktails of purist cocktail bars and blogs. Sure, super-premium bourbons are selling better than ever, but the mixological potential of bourbon seems to be ignored at times. Rye, the new old favorite, is in, and while it makes a better cocktail in certain situations, this new puppy can’t do all of bourbon’s old tricks.

I have to admit I fall into this same problem at times. Whenever someone asks me for a bourbon cocktail, I always seem to find myself recommending a rye staple. I like showing someone rye cocktails because it inevitably leads to a conversation about the importance of rye in drinks like manhattans. These conversations are always good starting points for introducing someone to cocktails, but the loser in this situation is the unused bottle of Weller’s. This is unfortunate because some of the most important classics are made from bourbon, most notably, the mint julep. Sure, everybody knows this one because of the connection between the derby and the mint julep, but what about some others? The reno split? The jockey? The whiskey daisy?

It’s for this reason that I really like this week’s Mixology Monday topic. There really does need to be more use of bourbon in quality cocktail bars and on blogs. Bourbon certainly isn’t the lightest among our repertoire of spirits, but it is a more relaxed class of whiskey when compared to some of its scotch and rye relatives. I think this helps to create a cocktail that has a more summer, southern, sitting on a porch mellow feel than say a Sazerac. And, one of my favorite bourbon cocktails, the Maple Leaf is no exception.

The Maple Leaf

2 oz Bourbon
3/4 oz Maple Syrup
3/4 oz Lemon Juice

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass filled with crush ice. Drink on a porch with an old dog.

I am sure that not everyone shares my outlook on bourbon, but my distillery tours in Kentucky last spring left this firm impression on me of bourbon. For me, it’s not just a spirit anymore; it’s a setting and I like the more casual, easy-going nature of bourbon, just like the people of Kentucky. I’ve visited There’s just something about that place.

This cocktail may not be as refreshing as say a mint julep, but when shaken hard and served over crushed ice, the bourbon, maple syrup, and lemon blend together slowly to create a unique twist on the whiskey sour. I would highly recommend this cocktail as well as playing with bourbon more in the future. A great place to get started would be to check up the collection of post on this week’s Mixology Monday over at the Scofflaw’s Den. I know that I am certainly going to be adding to my bourbon cocktail arsenal, so that next time someone asks me for a bourbon cocktail I can accomplish the same goal of showing them something classic they’ve likely never had without switching to rye.


  1. Stevi Deter says:

    To celebrate having finished my post, I made a round of these. A really nice cocktail. The maple syrup and lemon juice balance nicely and let the bourbon shine through, albeit more mellowly than drinking it straight.

  2. Courtney says:

    I’m so thrilled to have found your blog! I moved to Houston from NYC and I incessantly miss my options for proper cocktail bars in this city. Little Branch was my second home! We visit Beaver’s often and it’s certainly our go-to bar of choice…even when we aren’t hungry for BBQ.

    Just wanted to say thank you for introducing people to cocktails that go beyond bottled flavors and sticky sweet syrups. Last night we ate at a steak restaurant where I asked the waiter what their best cocktail was…he looked at me and said, “well, I wouldn’t know what to recommend because we probably have different tastes. I do Gin and I’m sure you’re looking for sweet and fruity.”

    I can’t wait for you all to open your bar and show Houstonians nightlife past wine bars. Cheers!!

  3. Courtney – Thanks for your support. I am glad that there are people here who appreciate a good cocktail, though they are in no way as numerous as those who do in NYC. Please make sure to say hello the next time that you are in, and I too am looking forward to showing Houston an alternative sophisticated bar scene. Thanks again.

  4. Anthony says:

    Anyone know the origin of this here beverage? Scavenging the innerweb, with no luck…

    – A

  5. Robert Heugel says:

    Anthony – To be honest, I’ve been somewhat irresponsible in my making of this cocktail. I don’t actually remember the origins of where I discovered it. I tried relocating it myself with no luck. Maybe someone else out there knows; maybe I’ve overlooked it in an obvious book. I’m really not sure.

  6. I made this drink last night after seeing your blog post. Its a delcious, well-balanced drink and should really be made the official drink of Canada. We’ll be posting our version to the blog soon. Cheers!

  7. Just wish to say what a fantastic blog you got here! I’ve been around for quite lots of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!


  8. eileen says:

    this was fantastic. i saw this drink on another website, but they didn’t have a recipe so i googled it and that’s how i found yours.

  9. StarFlyer says:

    Tried this drink tonight and I must say it was GREAT! A bit sweet for more than one, but a single glass has a lot of class.

    PS I used my dear old dad’s ’40’s cocktail shaker. It’s been sitting on my shelf for about 20 years and I doubt it’s been used since the 60’s. Hope my dad was watching from where ever he is while I was “shaking”.

  10. Anna says:

    thanks for saying kind words about the ol KY. I’m from there and it almost always has a bad rep! can’t wait to try this cocktail

  11. [...] syrup was more than I could pass up.  I did a bit of searching around and found the recipe on Bobby Heugel’s site.  No coincidence really, Bobby is one of the owners and bartenders at Anvil.  First, let’s [...]

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