Tue 12 Dec 2006
Let’s nip this little trend in the bud right now.
Our January issue of Food & Wine magazine arrived Saturday. The main feature is “100 Tastes You Must Try in 2007,” an extension of the magazine’s annual attempt at “hip and happening” that’s so pathetic it’s almost cute. They actually write about “groovy” restaurants and “power couples” and “the next baby lettuce.”
I couldn’t help focusing, however, on Trend No. 14: “House-Infused Bourbon.” The writer says: “Bartenders have been infusing vodka for years; now they’re joyfully” — joyfully? — “infusing bourbon with everything from black cherries to bacon. Chris Beveridge from 12 Baltimore in Kansas City, Missouri, favors apples, cinnamon and vanilla.”
I guess everything’s up-to-date in Kansas City.
The recipe that follows calls for “3 cored and quartered medium Granny Smith apples, 4 cinnamon sticks and 2 whole vanilla beans.” The bourbon? A bottle of Woodford Reserve. That’s where I say, “Say what???”
There’s a reason why vodka manufacturers create and sell millions of cases of fruit or spice or herb-infused vodka. The whole point of vodka is that it possesses no distinguishing quality except pure, glacial characterlessness. You can distill vodka seven times if you want, make it from the finest mountain waters never lapped by humans or animals and filter it through an Escalade packed with diamond dust and it will reflect nothing except high alcohol and formidable neutrality. So sure, hell yeah, go ahead, stuff it with rose petals, mangos and truffles for all I care.
But Woodford Reserve is one of the finest of the hand-crafted bourbons that appeared on the market over the past 10 or 15 years. Reading this squib in Food & Wine led me to break out my bottle, pour out a couple of fingers of the golden-amber ambrosia and have a few sips of smooth, mellow, sweet liquid naturally tinged with wood, orange rind, toffee and allspice from its time spend meditating in oak barrels; it rolled over the tongue and down the throat like warm money.
O.K., infuse a bottle of Heaven Hill if you want, but the last thing my Woodford Reserve needed was a soul-destroying infusion of apples and cinnamon and vanilla. I mean, we’re not talking about a Thanksgiving pie here.
I will say, just to be nice, that we use recipes from Food & Wine constantly, often going back to favorite dishes we cooked from the magazine years ago.