By Liz Gastiger and Kevin
Bourbon developed in Kentucky as naturally as bluegrass and horse racing. We celebrate with it, cook with it and, of course, we sit back with feet up, sipping it with good conversation.
Several years ago, my Mother and I made the trek out to the Maker’s Mark Distillery on request from a former co-worker of Kevin’s living in San Diego. He asked us if we would pick up his bourbon bottles from his private barrel as a member of Maker’s Mark Ambassador’s program. We gratefully accepted the drive to the distillery for what he described as an “Ambassador’s experience.” Naturally, we stopped along the way to shop in Bardstown, KY to stretch our legs and had a decadent Hot Brown at Talbot’s Tavern to revive us from shopping.
When we arrived at the distillery, we went to the desk to pick up the bottles and were given detailed instructions on how the custom labels would be made. We were asked if we would dip them in the barrel of the signature red wax ourselves, and then were fitted with aprons, arm coverings and goggles. We were shown the correct dipping procedure by ladies with flawless technique and attempted to match the dipping motion with gusto. There was very little stress in the making of the perfect dipped look of a Maker’s Mark bottle. The beautiful red wax does most of the work of making each bottle a work of art. It was a wonderfully fun experience for my Mom and me to share. Afterward, I felt like my Mom, who annually visits for a month from Arizona, saw some of what living in Kentucky is all about. The drive included seeing the rolling hills, a stop in a small town where visitors are truly welcomed with open arms and a visit to one of the most famous distilleries in the area.
Bourbon based products are numerous in the Louisville area. One company, Bourbon Barrel Foods, uses reclaimed barrels straight from Kentucky’s finest bourbon distilleries as both a smoking and aging agent. The process imparts an added dimension of flavor that cannot be replicated using any other method. Their signature product, Bluegrass Soy Sauce, is the only micro-brewed soy sauce made in the United States and the only soy sauce in the world fermented and aged in bourbon barrels. Here is a recipe that uses some of this company’s fine products.
Asian Dressing and Marinade
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1-1/2 tbs. Bourbon Barrel Soy Sauce
1 tbs. sweet Asian chili sauce
2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped (2 tsp.)
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. hot Asian chile sauce
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup peanut oil (I love using a roasted peanut oil that they sell at Whole Foods)*
1 tbs. Sesame oil
2 tbs. Bourbon Barrel Sorghum
In a blender combine the vinegar, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, garlic, ginger, salt, hot chili sauce, sorghum and pepper and blend. Add peanut and sesame oils and blend until emulsified. Store in a jar with a lid and shake to re-emulsify if necessary. Keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
I use this as a dressing for Asian salads. I toss it with shredded chicken for an Asian chicken salad. I also use it as a quick marinade for meat, poultry and fish before grilling.
*Be wary of dietary concerns regarding peanut oil allergies if preparing for people that you do not know. If you do not enjoy the flavor, use canola oil.