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Bourbon: 50 Rousing Recipes for a Classic American Spirit (50 Series) Hardcover – March 13, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Fred Thompson is a writer and food stylist who divides his time between Raleigh, North Carolina, and New York City. His career has taken him to the North, but Thompson remains true to his Southern roots, holding fast to his accent and love of all things Southern—especially food. Thompson trained at the Culinary Institute of America and became involved in print and television advertising before starting his own catering business in Raleigh, which he ran from 1988 to 1994. Today, Thompson works as a freelance food stylist, cooking instructor, and food, wine, and travel writer, and runs his own product- and recipe-development business. Thompson has written several cookbooks, including Iced Tea, Lemonade, Crazy for Crab, Barbecue Nation, and Hot Chocolate. Thompson publishes Edible Piedmont magazine, which focuses on food in the Piedmont area of North Carolina, with his wife, Belinda Ellis, who serves as the magazine’s editor. He has been featured on NPR, and is a spokesperson for Lipton Cold Brew. Thompson writes “The Weekend Gourmet,” a bi-weekly column in The Raleigh News & Observer. His work has appeared in Family Circle, Wine & Spirits, Fine Cooking, and Every Day with Rachael Ray. Thompson is also a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and the Southern Foodways Alliance.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


"Sip it and dream—it is a dream itself.
Sip it and say there is no solace for the soul, no tonic for the body like old Bourbon whiskey."

—J. Soule Smith’s "Ode to the Mint Julep," written in the 1890s

[VR did you query this by any chance?]

Bourbon is truly an American spirit. Only in the limestone rock formations of central Kentucky and north-central Tennessee can the water be thus flavored: As it filters through the stone, it grabs just the right chemical balance to make the distillers’ yeast robust and vibrant, which produces the dark-honey-golden fluid. Nirvana. Bourbon, named for Kentucky’s old Bourbon County, and its close cousin Tennessee whiskey are related to the whiskey-making business in Ireland and Scotland only by generalities. Corn is the grain of choice for American whiskey, from which either a mash or a sour mash is made to kick off fermentation. But that color and smoky-sweet nose with hints of vanilla, caramel, and clove come from freshly charred white oak barrels and the length of time they are allowed to hold the liquor. In Tennessee, the whiskey takes one more step with a charcoal filtration, which some lovers[AU word choice? Admirers?] of a man named Jack Daniel or George Dickel believe smoothes out the flavor.

Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey have strolled out of their Southern heritage and left their spiritual homes of Louisville, Bardstown, and Lynchburg to be enjoyed throughout the country. Like another Southern export, NASCAR, bourbon is exploding in consumption and demand. From New York City’s hottest bars and restaurants to the hip Mission District of San Francisco is heard the lament ìWe can’t keep bourbon in stock.î Also heard: ìOur bourbon cocktail sales are up 30 percent.î With the reserve, small-batch, and single-barrel bourbons now becoming ìtop-shelf,î there is even more interest in bourbon.

Other factors have also created this demand, according to bartenders around the country—the trend back to classic cocktails and bourbon’s appeal with American foods. Barbecue (the noun), one of America’s biggest food fascinations, is hard to pair with wine, but the smoky sweetness of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey play on the palate in an enriching way that blends with rather than disturbs the food’s essence. A little bourbon and ginger ale sit communally with fried chicken, too. America’s newfound interest in Southern foods makes bourbon and Tennessee whiskey the perfect before, during, and after mealtime beverage. America’s ìnative whiskeyî seems to prepare your taste buds for big flavors. It is an outstanding pre-dinner quaff, even when followed by wine.

And can you even imagine listening to the blues with Scotch or vodka? America’s signature music certainly deserves America’s signature spirit.

Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey have even transcended the borders of our country. In 2007 America’s spirits exports topped one billion dollars, almost all of that bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. You can easily find Jack Daniel’s and Maker’s Mark in the grocery stores of Italy. They covet Jack Daniel’s in Japan, and it is a welcome gift when doing business there, as I discovered a few years ago while on a consulting job in Tokyo. More than 100 countries import American whiskey, including Great Britain, Canada, Germany, Australia, and Japan. China, Vietnam, Brazil, and the old Eastern Bloc countries are new, fast-growing markets for our whiskey.

With small-batch and single-barrel varieties and the almost cult status of some bourbons, the legend continues to grow. Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey are American stories and spirits that deserve their place on the top shelf of our drinking repertoire.

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Product Details

  • Series: 50 Series
  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Common Press (January 17, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558324003
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558324008
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joe MacBu on February 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The writing style of this book is rather casual, which is okay with me. Unfortunately, many of the cocktails seem to have been treated casually as well.

The first part of the book includes recipes called the classics. The recipes are almost generic, and made for a wide audience, rather than for someone actually interested in making a great drink. I think you could find classic recipes online and make a better bourbon cocktail. Many of the recipes are actually for rye whiskey, and simply replace it with bourbon.

The middle section, "Updated, newfangled, and full of fruit," gets a bit better. The recipes get more complex (e.g. they require macerated peaches, basil, blueberry compote, vanilla simple syrup, etc.), and recommend the bourbon brand that should be used. Many of these recipes seem to be collated from bartenders in the south.

Then things go really downhill as we get into drinks which don't highlight the qualities of bourbon, but mask them with too much sweet, or fruit or dilution. Like the Bourbon Russian which has creme de cacao, hazelnut liqueur and cream - maybe you'll like how it tastes, but can you really taste the bourbon at that point? Then we have a bourbon slush, a pie, and even a bourbon brine for turkey - please don't use your $80 bottle of George T Stagg for that one.

This is all great if you're the type that likes to use some cheap bourbon to make silly cocktails that are on the sweet and fruity side. I found myself only wanting to make about 3 drinks from this book.

Some more peeves:
- Some recipes are for 2, some for 1, some for 4 - why? Then there's the section for drinks for a crowd of up to 36.
- There are drinks with names which already represent a different drink. Take "The Brooklyn" for instance. In this book, it is bourbon and Peychaud's. But there's already a drink the same name which is whiskey, vermouth, Amer Picon and maraschino liqueur. Not cool.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jared Castle VINE VOICE on September 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Harvard Common Press developed this 50-recipe series so, in fairness, Fred Thompson isn't solely to blame for serving a watered down effort. The series' artificial constraints - each 96-page mini-book measures 5 ½ x 8 ¾ and contains 50 recipes - constrains the narrative.

Thompson dedicates the book to his father: "In memory of my Dad, E.M. "Tommy" Thompson, who loved his Jack Daniel's Old No. 7. I miss you." There are subtle hints of Thompson's personality in the introduction and first chapter (Bourbon Basics) before the book follows a paint-by-numbers format.

As for the recipes, there a mishmash of classics and fruity variations that are better suited for a sorority cocktail book. Take for example the "Slap and Tickle" recipe (on page 46) that calls for drowning an ounce of bourbon in a sticky stew of brandy, Southern Comfort, vodka, ruby red grapefruit juice, pineapple juice, orange juice and grenadine.

"Think of this as a Deep South-Long Island Iced tea..." Thompson writes. So, why not save it for a book titled, "Southern Cocktails" and use a cover photo with a Slap and Tickle complete with a cocktail umbrella garnish? (BTW: The cover photo is of an Old Fashioned, with maraschino cherry, orange slice and ice cubes.)

Thompson's a Southern boy and constantly reminds us by dropping clues like "highfalutin," "ladies' luncheon," and "mint julep." The book has the makings of a great drinking game. Take a sip every time Thompson name-drops a southern state or icon.

How can I describe the eagerness and ensuing frustration this book caused? Imagine nursing bourbon on the rocks in your regular hangout, sitting at the end of the bar, close enough to trade rumors with the bartender while eyeing the door for new faces.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paul Stuart VINE VOICE on January 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Odds are quite favorable that if you're reading this review you're already - like me - a fan of that wondrous alcoholic concoction from the heart of Kentucky. While we've all partaken in the occasional bourbon chicken recipe and/or mint julep, it seems this beloved beverage type was never truly given its fair shake. Or ice cube, for that matter.

'Bourbon: 50 Rousing Recipes' opens up heaven's gates to our beloved libation, offering cold, hot, and food (entree and dessert) options for the bourbon adventurer, nearly all of which thankfully require primarily mainstream ingredients. (I've never been a particular fan of cookbooks requesting dollops of obscurity for the perfect outcome. High barriers of cooking entry and I don't play well together.)

Sure, the intro on the history of bourbon (vs. TN Whiskey) is entertaining, but the meat of this book lies in its simple yet simultaneously robust uses for the bourbon lover. Oh, the places a large bottle of Maker's Mark can go thanks to Mr. Thompson's book. (FYI: These recipes seem earmarked for middle of the road bourbon that tends to have character - yet not overwhelming - plus mixes well.) Images of bourbon parties began to dance around in my head...

If there's a bourbon lover in your inner sanctum, this is a must purchase. Just promise he/she to make enough for the rest of us. :)
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on January 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Before I even tried the first recipe, I found this book a treat. The intro includes a brief history of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey, and explains what distinguishes each. If you're old enough to remember Wilbur Mills, you'll get a kick out of how he influenced bourbon production and brought the pork home to Arkansas, not to mention benefiting Scotland and Ireland.

On to the recipes...but first a trip to the liquor store. Several of the recipes specify the brand name bourbon or Tennessee whiskey recommended for that particular concoction, making a trip to the store a piece of cake. No agonizing over what to buy. The recipes are divided into five sections:

1. The Classics - these are the classic bourbon recipes like Old Fashioned, Manhattan and the like.

2. Updated, Newfangled, and Full of Fruit - this second section of recipes includes 15 recipes to stretch your bourbon experience into a new realm, but watch out for the "Slap and Tickle" - I found the amount of liquor in the one drink a bit heavy; I modified the recipe and kept the ratio of liquors (bourbon to Southern Comfort to brandy to vodka), used a greater amount of fruit juices and got two drinks out of this recipe.

3. Piping Hot and Icy - expands into coffee, and hot chocolate drinks and adds a "hot buttered bourbon" recipe that sounds yummy. The one thing I find limiting about this section is that the majority of these recipes are for larger gatherings - for instance, the aforementioned "hot buttered" recipes serves 20. The "icy" drinks in this section rely on either frozen juice concentrates and so stipulate the amount by the can, or call for a pint of sorbet, thus, they, too, are more suitable for a crowd.

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