Asking me to name my favourite Bourbon cocktail is a bit like asking me to name my favourite child – I know what the answer is straight away but fear you will judge me if I don’t pretend it’s a difficult task.
So ahead of one of the happiest days of the year – World Bourbon Day, this Thursday 14 June – I’d like you to spend a few moments reflecting on the merits (many that they are) of the Manhattan, the Old Fashioned, the Mint Julep and the Whiskey Sour before ordering up a Boulevardier.
The Boulevardier is like the bourbon whiskey cousin of the Negroni (which celebrated its own week last week and we wish it well and thank it again and again for its service to cocktailia).
Although we can abbreviate the recipe by just saying “substitute the gin in a Negroni for Bourbon, everything else stays the same,” actually nothing stays the same*. The Bourbon changes the complexion of this delightful cocktail to another, equally delightful offering.
Outrageously, the Boulevardier isn’t on the IBA List of Official Cocktail. Another nail in the coffin of relevance for those clowns as far as I’m concerned.
Anyway, sip this and thank me later.
But do spare a thought thought for those people for whom June 14, 2018 isn’t such a happy day. No, not the non-drinkers, the soccer fans.
Some soccer fans.
You may have picked up already that if I were on a game show, those topics I’d name as my areas of expertise would not include soccer. Or football, whatever you want to call it. I don’t care.
But I have travelled, and do know that others do care. Very much.
There are countries around the world where qualifying for the soccer World Cup is very important.
Countries like Italy, which has won the whole shebang almost as many times as any country (4 times – same as Germany, but one fewer time than Brazil), and the Netherlands which has never won but has come 2nd on three occasions.
Yes, it’s important there.
And in Wales and Scotland and Austria and Chile and Greece and South Africa. And even though it’s not the main sport, it’s important in the USA and New Zealand and a whole bunch of other places where the national team didn’t qualify and where there will be some genuine sad sacks over the next couple of weeks.
209 countries tried to gain one of the 32 positions in the World Cup that starts later this week in the beating heart of the American democratic process.
That’s a lot of disappointed people.
Many of these countries do have a strong cocktail pedigree that they can look to for solace, so if you’re entertaining during the World Cup, consider pouring up a couple of the following cocktails and try to seem sympathetic.
For your Italian friends: try not to get into a discussion about the Negroni, it was actually invented by a Frenchman (albeit a Corsican). Instead, maybe steer them towards a Cardinale – it’s like a Negroni but switch out the sweet red vermouth for a dry white vermouth and tell them that this was invented in the 1930s in Rome or Venice and is guaranteed to soothe the broken heart (that last bit is made up, but you’re trying to help, right?).
Pour your Dutch friend a genever based cocktail and let them know that you KNOW that without genever, there would be no gin, so to hell with England and what fun are they without David Beckham anyway? The flare of orange juice in the glass in front of them when you mix up a creatively-named Genever Cocktail will be enough to produce tears.
For your sad Welsh friend, reminding them that England came second-last in the Six Nations and didn’t make it through to the qualifiers of their own Rugby World Cup will cheer them up immensely. Then mix them up a Red Dragon (gin, Grand Marnier, blood Orange Juice, lemon juice and grenadine) and encourage them to sing.
They’ll be the life of your party within minutes.
Again with the Scots, find your favourite “Scotland is superior to England” fact and your problems evaporate. Then whip up a Rob Roy (a Manhattan with Scotch whisky) and enjoy a few moments of conversation because after their second, you won’t be able to understand a word they’re saying, but it’ll be cheerful.
And look, your friends from the USA won’t really care THAT much that their team didn’t qualify (they would if their women’s team didn’t qualify though – they are the most successful team in international women’s soccer), but they are having a rough time, so I’d say whip up a Manhattan, a Mint Julep and a Martinez to cover the whole country and reassure them that we all know HE isn’t THEM.
Or ignore the whole shooting match, surround yourself with like-mindeds and enjoy your Boulevardier this World Bourbon Day (and gird your loins for World Martini Day coming fast at us on June 19).
*Mix equal parts Bourbon Whiskey, Campari, sweet red Vermouth in a glass over ice, garnish with an orange twist.