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Listen to Episode 35: Maker’s Mark with Rob Samuels”
I’ve written quite a bit over the years about Kentucky bourbon brand Maker’s Mark, and created many a cocktail recipe with their whisky on this very blog. I’ve even had the opportunity to visit the distillery in Loretto, Kentucky, walk the storied Maker’s Mark campus, and meet the family behind it all. It’s hard to think of a time before this historic bourbon made its mark on America and the world.
Maker’s Mark is so iconic with its squared bottle dipped in red wax and that consistently familiar flavor profile; It is recognized and beloved the world over. Apparently, not without a shaky start.
According to Rob Samuels, who currently runs the company, it took a good 30 years for the billion dollar brand to turn a profit.
He should know. His grandparents (Bill Samuels and Margie, pictured below) started Maker’s Mark in the 1950s when American whiskey was at an all time low, his father Bill Samuels Jr. helped to usher in this country’s bourbon boom, and for the last 8 years, Rob has been leading the brand into the next generation as COO.
For this week’s Bit by a Fox Podcast, I caught up with Rob (pictured below with a Bit by a Fox Podcast pin!) at the recent BevCon conference here in LA and he gave us the super insiders take to all things Maker’s Mark, the Samuels Family and Kentucky bourbon.
This week’s featured cocktail is the signature drink for Kentucky horse race institution, Keeneland.
1 1/4 oz Maker’s Mark
splash Orange liqueur
splash Ginger ale
splash Fresh squeezed orange juice
Rocks glass and ice
Fill rocks glass with ice, add the bourbon, orange liqueur and fresh orange juice, top with ginger ale, give it a stir and garnish with an orange wedge.
I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I visited the gorgeous Maker’s Mark distillery in Loretto, Kentucky. But if you’ve been following me on social media, you know that it’s been a bonkers few months of travel and imbibing across the country and continents! But it was this Kentucky visit that kicked it all off. And it definitely left its…mark. (see what I did there?)
It was a complete whirlwind but such an incredible experience. As a fan of American history and American whiskey, it was an important one. You see, this was my first time at the historic Maker’s Mark distillery!
From everything I knew prior about the brand and the Samuels family, this visit did not disappoint.
The day that we flew into Louisville, we were treated to a fantastic dinner and tasting at Proof on Main with Bill Samuels Jr, son of Maker’s Mark founders Bill and Margie Samuels.
Listening to Bill’s stories about the origin of this now legendary bourbon was not only fascinating but totally stoked all of us for our visit to the distillery the next day.
For the day of our tour, we were met by Bill’s son and the distillery’s current chief operating officer, Rob Samuels. This is not unusual, however, as Rob is usually on the premises, greeting guests, giving tours and of course, pouring some of that famous whiskey.
Master Distiller, Greg Davis, joined Rob to lead the tour and show the inner workings of the facility.
The Maker’s Mark campus is designed as Margie Samuels envisioned, as a quaint Victorian village in a black and red motif, matching the brand’s colors and spirit.
They have even incorporated the famous bottle shape into the bright red window shutters!
Speaking of Margie, she is also credited for having given Maker’s Mark its name AND coming up with the idea to seal the bottle in red wax, now an iconic (and legally patented) symbol of the brand. Margie was a true pioneer in American bourbon and marketing!
Touring the facilities at Maker’s Mark is truly a lesson in American craftsmanship, precision, and consistency.
Their level of quality control is impressive.
Every step of the way, their operation was a tight ship.
For those that have visited Maker’s Mark, you know one of the greatest thrills is when you have the opportunity to hand dip your own bottles in that signature red wax!
But if you HAVE visited Maker’s Mark in the past, you may notice something a little different the next time you’re there – the addition of Star Hill Provisions, the distillery’s new fast-casual restaurant, located in the beautifully renovated Master Distiller’s House.
Star Hill Provisions was named after the original T.W. Samuels family farm and distillery, Star Hill Farm.
Leading this exciting culinary project is Chef Newman Miller, co-owner and executive chef of acclaimed Harrison-Smith House in Bardstown, Kentucky. Newman Miller has brought with him a devotion to the community – he grew up mere miles from the distillery – and the skill and experience to back up the elevated down home cuisine and seasonal cocktails.
The seasonally changing menu will offer meats and produce straight from the farms of Maker’s Mark employees whenever possible.
One of the most important aspects of this addition of Star Hill Provisions is their offering of cocktails, however. Until recently, distilleries weren’t allowed to sell cocktails under state law. But a change in legislation in 2016 changed all that. So now you can visit this National Historic Landmark, Maker’s Mark Distillery, have a delicious lunch AND fabulous craft cocktail to boot. What more could you ask for?!
I wanted to share my favorite cocktail from Star Hill Provisions created by Chef Newman Miller, called Family Meal. It’s a lovely mix of Maker’s Mark, cold brew and Mexican Coke. So good!
1 ½ parts Maker’s Mark® Bourbon
¼ part Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate (Chef Newman uses Harden coffee, which is house roasted 15 miles from restaurant)
Mexican Coke, as needed
Lemon Peel, for garnish
Build coffee and Maker’s Mark® Bourbon in a rocks or highball glass. Add ice and stir gently. Top with Mexican cola and finish with oil from a strip of lemon peel.
Whiskey, lemon juice, honey…maybe a cinnamon stick. That’s the recipe for a classic hot toddy. Simple, straightforward, and let’s be real, a little boring. I’ve never been crazy about straight up hot toddys unless I’m sick. And even then I tend to doctor it up with ginger or a little cayenne pepper (that’ll put some hair on your chest when you’ve got the sniffles!)
So, I was excited when the fine folks from Maker’s Mark reached out to me to be part of their #MakeItTealicious Hot-Tea Toddy Blogger Challenge. Also, I’m pretty into puns and that hashtag is 100! (I’m like an old person and a tween all at the same time!)
Maker’s Mark and Harney & Sons Teas have joined forces for this challenge (today is International Tea Day, by the way guys!!) and it was so fun to experiment with all of their different sachets…with bourbon, of course! There was a lot of boozy tea toddys made this past week, all in the name of recipe testing!
I’m a huge fan of using tea in cocktails, and earl grey is one of my favorites. With its heady bergamot flavors and dark, rich characteristics, it tends to pair well with spirits. And Harney & Sons has a delightful Winter White Earl Grey that makes for an amazing hot bourbon cocktail.
The addition of maple syrup, a little cream, and freshly ground nutmeg makes this feel just like the holidays! I hope you find this as TEAlicious as much as I did! 😉 Cheers!
Grey Gardens Hot Toddy
1 oz Maker’s Mark
1 cup of Harney & Sons Winter White Earl Grey Tea
1 tsp maple syrup
1 TSP half & half
garnish: freshly ground nutmeg
After brewing the Harney & Sons Winter White Earl Grey tea sachet in a cup of hot water, stir in the maple syrup, Maker’s Mark and half & half. Garnish with freshly ground nutmeg.
Bit by a Fox received these samples without payment.
We are full-on into horse racing season, also known as Bourbon Season….or just Drinking More Bourbon Than Usual Season. And, of course the Mint Julep holds a special importance this time of year because of the Kentucky Derby. But, we’re just getting started!
The Kentucky Derby may be the first but it is just one out of the three races known as the Triple Crown, which also includes Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, that determine the best of the best three-year-old Thoroughbred horses in the game. Every race deserves their own signature cocktail, right?! I personally think a signature cocktail should be created for nearly any occasion, so I might be biased. But did you know that the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, Preakness Stakes, also has an official drink? It’s the Black-Eyed Susan, a cocktail named after Maryland’s state flower and the official Preakness flowers that are used to make a blanket that drapes over the winning horse at the end of the race.
Traditionally, the Black-Eyed Susan has orange and pineapple juice, and a combo of rum, vodka and orange liqueur. My good friends over at Maker’s Mark, however, have challenged me to create a riff off of this using their iconic bourbon. All for a chance to be crowned champion of the Preakness’ Black-Eyed Susan as part of their #TrifectaChallenge on Instagram. So, naturally I was like…where do I saddle up?!
First, I decided it needed a new name. Fun fact: because Black-Eyed Susans are NOT in season during the time of Preakness, the blanket that they create for the winning horse is actually made out of over 80 bunches of Viking Daisies. The center of the daisies are then painted with black lacquer to recreate the appearance of a Black-Eyed Susan. Voila! Because of that little historic footnote, a Daisy cocktail emerged and the Viking Daisy was born!
As I’ve noted before on this blog, a Daisy cocktail is more or less a sour, using nearly any base spirit, with a little soda water added. Often served in a julep cup with crushed ice, with orange liqueur and grenadine serving as common ingredients, I figured the Black-Eyed Susan seemed like it could easily be adapted to a Daisy. And a delicious one at that!
The Viking Daisy
2 ounces Maker’s Mark Bourbon
1 ounce mandarin juice
1/2 ounce pineapple juice
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1 tsp grenadine
1 ounce seltzer
Garnish: brandied cherry
In a cocktail shaker add everything except the seltzer and shake over ice until well chilled. Add seltzer to tin and stir well. Strain into a cracked ice filled julep cup. Garnish with brandied cherry.
This post was made possible by Maker’s Mark. As always, opinions are all my own.
VERY IMPORTANT NEWS!
The Maker’s Mark Pinterest #JulepOff board is live and voting (re-pinning) has begun! Please re-pin the Mango Ginger Mint Julep from the Maker’s Mark page, using the hashtags #MakersMark and #JulepOff. We have until this Friday, May 1 to secure as many re-pins as possible and only one vote per Pinterest handle will be counted towards the final tally!
And we’re off to the races! We’re a little over a week away until the Kentucky Derby and, as usual during this time of year, I’ve been a little obsessed with Mint Juleps. But this year is especially exciting because I’ve been tasked with the challenge by the good folks at the venerable Kentucky bourbon company Maker’s Mark, (maybe you’ve heard of it?!) to come up with the most delicious twist on the Mint Julep evah! Sweet baby bourbon, I love a challenge. As part of their #JulepOff contest, I’ve decided to submit for all y’alls approval, the Mango Ginger Mint Julep.
Place all your bets, people. The gun is about to go off and this one is a sure thing!
I’ve tried ginger syrup (in place of powdered sugar or simple syrup) in a mint julep before, with much success. But, the addition of muddled mango in this version makes this dark horse win by a nose.
If you’re throwing a Derby Party, you’ll need to have a batch of Juleps on hand, so you can attend to your guests, the race and your fabulous hat instead of making individual drinks all afternoon. So, this recipe is enough to serve 10-12 people:
1. Make the Ginger Syrup:
Ginger Syrup – makes about 1.5 cups
1 cup of chopped ginger (no need to peel for this)
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
In a large stockpot, bring the ginger, water and sugar to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover the pot and let everything steep and cool to room temperature. When the syrup has completely cooled, strain the syrup, pressing the ginger to release as much liquid as possible. After straining, you can set aside the ginger solids for other uses, or discard. Store the syrup in the fridge until you are ready to use. Should keep for about 3 weeks.
2. Marry the syrup with the bourbon:
Ginger Whisky Julep Mix – Makes about 10-12 drinks
1 750 mL bottle of Maker’s Mark
1 cup Ginger Syrup (You can use less or more depending on taste from the batch you made)
Combine together and refrigerate for 24 hours to marry flavors.
3. For the finished drink you’ll need:
- Ginger Whisky Julep Mix
- 1/2 cup chopped Mango for muddling, cubed Mango for garnish
- Bunches of mint leaves to muddle and for garnish
- Candied ginger for garnish
- Garnish skewers
- Crushed ice (If you don’t have access to crushed ice, you can use these Cubette Mini Ice Cube Trays that I’m infatuated with. They create the teensiest little cubes (cubettes!) that work well for this drink.
- Silver Julep Cups!
- Straws – When using a straw, make sure that it is cut to just an inch above the glass so your face gets a head on collision with the gobs of mint in the glass when sipping your julep!
Preparation: Add a few cubes of mango and some mint to the bottom of a julep cup and lightly muddle. Fill the cup halfway with crushed ice and stir. Fill the rest of the cup with heaps of ice. When the outside of the julep cup is nice and frosty, pour the Ginger Mint Julep Mix over ice. Generously add sprigs of mint leaves for garnish. Skewer candied ginger and mango for additional garnish.
On Your Maker’s Mark…Mango Ginger Mint Julep
And, just in case you go through that batch, here’s the recipe to make an individual drink:
Mango Ginger Mint Julep
2 oz Maker’s Mark
1 oz Ginger Syrup
Fresh Mint (to muddle and for garnish)
Cubed Mango (to muddle and for garnish)
Candied Ginger (for garnish)
In a julep cup, lightly muddle a few sprigs of fresh mint and cubes of mango with the ginger syrup. Fill the cup halfway with crushed ice and bourbon, stir. Fill the rest of the cup with heaps of ice. Generously add sprigs of mint leaves for garnish. Skewer candied ginger and mango for additional garnish.
On your mark, get set….NOW GO MAKE THIS DRINK! Cheers, y’all!
Tales of the Cocktail is the largest cocktail conference in the world, so it makes sense that it takes place in the booziest town in the world, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Tales (as it’s affectionately referred to by those in-the-know) attracts the top bartenders, brands, industry leaders, media and influencers – a collection of who’s who of the cocktail world – as well as enthusiasts, from as far away as Spain, Australia and Peru. So, it’s basically 25,000 international booze nerds crammed into the French Quarter for 5 days straight, during the steamiest, sweatiest, and stinkiest time of year in the deep south – smack dab in the middle of July. I’ve been equally terrified and desperate to go to Tales ever since I got involved in this spirited industry. This past July marked the 13th year for the cocktail fest and it marked my lucky 1st! It was pretty special, you guys. Want to hear about it? Oh, good, because it’s been almost exactly a month and I’m DYING to tell you!
Did I mention that it was hot? Like, HOTTT. Think about the hottest you’ve ever been in the elements and then double that and then add a few more degrees of HOT, subtract half the oxygen in the air, and then add a permanent veneer of sweat over everything. Oh, and Nola just happened to be going through a heat wave during Tales week, so it was even more of a human crawfish boil than normal! Luckily, we were staying in a lovely ice box, high above the chaos of Bourbon Street!
Ok, now try to imagine driiinking in that atmosphere. There are bottles of water everywhere, branded fans are given out alongside marketing materials and whenever and wherever possible, the AC is cranking. A lot of effort goes into keeping the crowds hydrated and chilled. Despite all that, you’re still sweating 100% of the time. Luckily there are cocktails to distract you from all of this. Soooo many cocktails.
There are seminars starting at 9am that come equipped with generous samplings, brand luncheons with multiple cocktail pairings served by noon at the latest, and floor upon floor of tasting rooms occupying much of the official Tales headquarters at the Hotel Monteleone, home of the famed Carousel Bar, happening ALL DAY LONG.
Not to mention, there are huge, conceptual brand parties that cap off each day, stretching into the wee hours, and as you can imagine, drinking is encouraged!
Snapshots from the William Grant & Sons Yonderyear Party
Despite everyone’s enthusiasm to try errrrthang, it’s just not physically possible. Frequent attendees and Tales workers are fond of telling you to pace yourself. You’ll hear a variation of “Tales of the Cocktail is a marathon, not a sprint” multiple times before the week is out. But, it’s a great reminder because 1. you want to TRY to remember everything you’re tasting 2. you don’t want to be THAT PERSON and 3. you do not, repeat DO NOT want to be hungover in that heat. It’s probably the meanest thing you can do to yourself.
Despite the insane heat, the struggle to stay sober, and the constant FOMO because I couldn’t be everywhere at once, I had an amazing time! I brought some foxy friends along with me for the journey who also helped document the experience. Here are my highlights!
This band in Jackson Square.
This view over coffee every morning:
This wise ass at The Grill who was kind enough to let me have grits past noon:
This sunset taken right before our flawless backyard dinner at Bacchanal:
And, this – the magical Beam Suntory Jul(e)p Hour House…
Imagine, it’s a 95+ degree day in Nola, and you walk into the most genteel French Colonial home, where you are greeted with a cool, damp cloth for your forehead, live ragtime music coming from a dapper gentleman at the baby grand, and all the whisk(e)ys in the world served to you in ice cold julep form. Well, all the whiskys in the Beam Suntory portfolio, that is. Which is quite impressive. It is NOT a dream. You have arrived at Jul(e)p Hour and you may never want to leave. At least I didn’t!
Alberta Rye Dark Batch Whisky made one of my favorite juleps!
The impressive Beam Suntory whisky line-up.
With Simon Brooking, Master Ambassador for Laphroaig
Every room in this French Quarter oasis was dedicated to a different whisky and their own signature juleps for the occasion. We also had the advantage of having the ambassadors and master experts on hand to answer any questions and taste the good stuff on its own. From sampling traditional juleps made with Maker’s Mark to sipping on a pineapple and peat version made with Laphroaig, and a top shelf julep with newly launched Japanese whisky, Hibiki Japanese Harmony, we were able to get our julep on, and then some!
The House of Suntory Whisky introduced a new expression from the Hibiki Range: Hibiki Japanese Harmony.
The very first tasting I attended when I arrived to Tales was actually one of my favorites. It was held at “Café Torino”, a beautiful, very Italian pop up installation from Martini & Rossi. The tasting was a kick off to a week of them hosting a (much appreciated) coffee shop during the day with vermouth cocktails at night. At the tasting, I was able to try two new expressions in their Martini Riserva Speciale line – Ambrato and Rubino (amber and ruby).
Martini’s Master Herbalist, Ivano Tonutti and Master Blender, Beppe Musso led the tasting
The Ambrato, made from Moscato d’Asti and golden in color is floral and aromatic, slightly bitter, with a touch of honey. In other words, totally my jam. The Rubino is true to its name and is a stunning ruby red color. The addition of full bodied Nebbiolo and Central African Red Sandalwood makes for a rich and complex vermouth that is really wonderful on its own but I could also see it making a spectacular Manhattan. At the end of the tasting Giuseppe Gallo, Martini’s Global Brand Ambassador asked us which expression was our favorite. And it was truly difficult to pick! All I know is vermouth is having a major moment right now. And it’s exciting that a classic brand like Martini & Rossi is continuing to be innovative, pushing superior products to the forefront. Speaking of which, I was also able to taste their limited edition Gran Lusso Vermouth, released for the company’s 150th anniversary a few years ago, but not yet sampled by me! Holy smokes, that’s a vermouth! A Barbera base that is then fortified with oak-aged Moscato must extract and a botanical blend based on a recipe from 1904, this is truly a sipping vermouth, meant to be appreciated neat or with a few cubes of ice.
Another highlight of the week was getting my very own TinType portrait taken by Legendary photographer Victoria Will for St–Germain Elderflower Liqueur’s French Embassy Cocktail Party. TinTypes, popular at fairs and festivals in the 19th century, are created by having the photographer shoot a picture and then develop it quickly by hand onto a thin sheet of lacquered metal. As you can imagine, it was also VERY popular at this festival! I felt extremely lucky to have been able to squeeze into this shoot!
My Victoria Will TinType portrait:
I was also excited to meet Camille Vidal, St–Germain Global Brand Ambassador, aka Madam St-Germain in person finally! This French beauty is such a perfect representation of the brand and I’ve admired everything she’s been doing to get this wonderful product out to the masses. She lives and breathes the French aperitif life!
What’s so wonderful about Tales of the Cocktail is that there are experts on hand at every tasting and event. Everywhere you look there is a legend in the spirits industry. From an intimate, exclusive sneak peek and tasting of Wild Turkey Master’s Keep and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye (both to be released later this year!) with Jimmy and Eddie Russell, themselves…
Three generations of Wild Turkey: Jimmy Russell, Eddie Russell and Bruce Russell
…to a personal tasting and bonding sesh over all things gin related with Beefeater Master Distiller, Desmond Payne – Tales is a booze nerd’s fantasy.
If you haven’t yet had a chance to try Burrough’s Reserve Barrel Finished Gin, do yourself a favor and treat yourself. Distilled in small batches and rested in French oak Lillet aperitif wine barrels, the result is less gin-like and more…like an aperitif, actually! It’s on the slightly sweeter side, with floral hints, is incredibly smooth and the botanicals are subtle. One of my favorite products I tried at Tales.
Another fantastic thing about Tales is that you have the opportunity to connect with so many of the other writers, bloggers, influencers and cocktail geeks out there that you only really know from their work online. I’ve developed a lot of amazing virtual relationships these last couple of years and it was amazing to finally be able to put real life faces to names and websites. I had the great pleasure of meeting Greg Mays and his wife Lisa Mays, the dynamic duo behind Simple Cocktails out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Not only do they run a really solid website, but they do a fun boozy podcast as well! On my fourth day into Tales, we sat next to each other at a fantastic Jägermeister luncheon and then, afterwards shared a car back to the Hotel Monteleone. In between that, I participated in one of their podcasts! I was so honored that they asked me to be a part of it and psyched to be among such top cocktail talent. Check out this special Tales Podcast that also features Camper English, Tanya Cohn, Ivy Mix (this year’s American Bartender of the Year!), Dale Degroff (King Cocktail!), and Philip Dobard.
So, these are just SOME of the highlights of Tales of the Cocktail 2015 for me. While this is an epic post, I could go even more in depth on almost ALL of these experiences, New Orleans and the incredible people I was able to meet and spend time with last month. But I will save your scrolling finger for now and wrap it up right here!
However, you will hear more from me on Tales. Some posts in particular will detail two Spirited Dinners I was lucky enough to participate in – one with Maker’s Mark at the legendary Commander’s Palace with some truly spectacular company, and the other with the founder of Tres Agave Tequila at Nola hot spot Johnny Sanchez. Look out for more Tales recaps to come!
Special thanks to my foxy friend entourage who accompanied me on this sweaty, boozy journey and helped document the amazingness along the way! In particular, the very talented Shannon Carpenter from This Aperture.
Ah, eggnog…one of the most divisive holiday treats. It’s up there with candy corn and fruitcake and sweet Manischewitz wine. It’s traditional and has to be included in holiday roundups, but do people really like it??
I, for one, am a fan of the homemade stuff and I’ve made it for years to rave reviews. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s basically a flip cocktail with dairy. Some of the biggest complaints about eggnog is the viscous texture and the high fat content, which tends to be much worse with the store-bought versions. The homemade version is definitely less thick and smoother, but there’s no question it is a heavy drink, especially when full fat heavy cream is involved. This Almond Milk Bourbon Eggnog recipe takes care of those concerns. It’s lighter and, if you have a sensitivity to dairy, is easier on the tummy. It’s also always nice to have options! I’m really big into almond milk even though I also consume dairy. You know what I’m also really big into? Bourbon, duh.
Maker’s 46 is so great in this because it’s an especially robust bourbon. The dried orange peel and holiday spices manage to come through. And the rich oak, caramel and vanilla is only slightly tempered, and is crucial to the overall finish of the nog.
Best of all, this eggnog recipe is EASY. There is no cooking of egg yolks to create a custard, or whisking of egg whites to craft a frothy top. This is all done in a blender. And can be consumed soon after it is whipped up. Perfect for that holiday party you’ve been stressing over. Make a batch of this, pour into a pitcher or punch bowl and you are a holiday hero to all of your guests whether they are dairy free or not!
Almond Milk Bourbon Eggnog – Yields about 8 drinks
1 1/2 cups raw sugar
4 cups Almond Milk
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg (make sure there’s also some to grate over the finished drink)
1 cup Maker’s 46
1 teaspoon salt
Place the eggs in a blender by themselves and beat for just under a minute. Add the sugar for another 40 seconds, until blended and then add the rest of the ingredients. Blend until it looks like everything is well combined. After the mixture has a chance to chill for at least an hour, you are ready to get your nog on! You can serve this drink up in a coupe or a teacup or you can add a few cubes of ice to lighten it up. But remember the freshly grated nutmeg for the topper.
Samples were received for this blog post without payment. As usual, all opinions are my own.