Last week, one of my readers asked the question, “Is there a preferred bourbon cocktail for March Madness?” Because I’m from Louisville, I couldn’t help replying, “Well, it isn’t the Manhattan!”
But that wasn’t the answer that the question deserved. And so I gave it some more thought over the weekend and came up with the following cocktail recipes. As we head into the Sweet 16, choose the one that best represents your current state of mind.
2 ounces Maker’s Mark
1 ounce dry vermouth
3 dashes of orange bitters
Combine 3 ingredients in a shaker filled with crushed ice. Shake well and strain over ice into a highball glass. Float a big round orange slice on top. Swish.
1 ½ ounces of Early Times (because your team left too soon)
1 ½ ounces of lemon juice
¾ ounce simple syrup
Combine ingredients in shaker filled with crushed ice. Shake well, strain over ice into a highball glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon (or of the knife).
FINAL FOUR (ROSES)
Celebrate your team’s victory with this variation on the Seelbach, created at Louisville’s historic hotel in 1917.
1 ounce Four Roses Yellow Label
½ ounce Cointreau
4 dashes Angostura bitters
4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Briefly stir all ingredients but Champagne in a mixing glass filled with ice. Strain into a chilled flute, top with Champagne and garnish with a twist of orange.
DOUBLE BONUS: COMMONWEALTH CLASH
Proving that the selection committee has a sense of drama, the Louisville Cardinals take on the Kentucky Wildcats in the Sweet 16 on Friday night. The last time the teams met in the tournament was in 2012, when the Cats beat the Cards in the semifinal on their way to the national title. This year, the Cardinals are defending their 2013 national championship.
This is a serious rivalry, folks, and no place for fancy cocktails. I suggest Cats fans pour shots of Town Branch bourbon, which is made in Lexington, Cardinal fans reach for Old Forester, which is made in Louisville. And all of y’all, please: Resist the temptation to set furniture on fire.