Bourbon. The name immediately evokes images of Tom Waits, smokey bars and amber liquor. The smell is sharp like scotch, but has an underlying sweetness to it that warms you from the inside as you sip it. It’s that good, and more. Which is why Ottawa now has a whole week of it.
Bourbon Week is on now until November 27th with local bars and haunts participating in the week long celebration of all things Bourbon. The city’s best Bourbon houses are taking part during the seven days, including Hooch, the Black Tomato and Union 613. Ottawa’s interest in Bourbon has exploded in a ‘cocktail revival’ over the last five years, as Stephen Flood puts it. Flood is the head bartender at Black Tomato, and was kind enough to give me a bourbon education while I was writing about the event.
Flood starts me off with one of Black Tomato’s signature cocktails called a ‘Manhattan Bridge’. This drink is made of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Carpano Antica Vermouth, Coster’s coffee smoked bitters, cherry bark vanilla bitters, with a flamed orange garnish and sour cherries. I sip at the delicious concoction and get a bit of background on Bourbon.
Lets start from the ground up: Bourbon is made of corn and distilled in barrels for no less than 2 years minimum. ‘True’ Bourbon is only made in one place too: Kentucky. Just like Tennessee’s stronghold on whiskey, true Bourbon is manufactured in Kentucky largely due to the environment and rock that impacts the water used in production. For novices, a Manhattan is a good go-to Bourbon drink that will bring out the sweeter notes often describing Bourbon, or an ‘Old Fashioned’ will net you similar effects but with a sharper delivery.
Even though the south has a monopoly on Bourbon, November is the perfect time for this cold weather drink. Flood is especially excited for enthusiasts to be born from the experience. “It’s all independent restaurants, so there’s the freedom to tinker a bit on the recipe,” Flood says of the the restaurants participating in Bourbon Week. He also mentions that in preparation, Black Tomato had to stock up their supply. But how popular is Bourbon, really? “We have eleven kinds of bourbon in house,” Flood says, “The cheapest is Wild Turkey, and the most expensive is Jefferson Preserve.” Flood also points out that their most expensive bottle is $95, putting it much cheaper than the price that Scotch ranges.
Those who miss Bourbon Week can still come out to the Black Tomato on December 11th for Tom Waits Night; a Bourbon and Waits themed evening of gritty blues and fantastic drinks. Anyone wanting to check out the other participating restaurants can find the schedule of events here.