If this blog betters your drinking in but one, minute way, I hope it provides you with a plethora of ideas for mixing easy, whiskey-based cocktails. Sometimes I picture you — yes, you — lumbering through the door of your recession-era, DIY-chic digs, on the edge of weary after a long day slogging through your paper-pushing profession of choice (or, in keeping with the recession theme, necessity), and of course nine times out of ten you’re going to reach for the bourbon. Neat or straight-on-the-rocks will always do, but don’t you deserve a bit more of a to-do? Just something uncomplicated that can add a little brightness, a little aroma, a soupcon of civility to your drink and your day? That’s what I’m here for.

Le Chien Fumant was recommended to me by guest blogger Dan Saltzstein, who had visited our new hometown of Montreal this summer. It’s a short walk from our own DIY-chic digs, so before dining there we’d already cased the joint out on dog walks. It’s very British-inn cozy, and since the bar is just a counter separating the open kitchen from the dining area, without room for storage, the liquor bottles are suspended from the ceiling by bungee cords. Dangling booze!!

Our bartender was James Bond cocky/cool and assured us that, should we not fancy any of the specialty cocktails on the printed menu, he could fashion us “any of the standard, classic cocktails…” [saunters away towards a drink ticket, then suddenly remembers something important and leans back towards us to say] “… except Cosmopolitans.” But the cocktail menu was quite intriguing, lined with a number of just the kind of bourbon cocktails I’m always looking  for: those with a short list of easily accessible, often-on-hand ingredients, but ingredients I never would’ve thought to put together myself.

The Derby I ordered contained bourbon, sweet vermouth, Cointreau and lime juice. It was pleasant and way too easy for a drunk pro like me to finish. They used more lime juice than I would; in fact, tasting it prompted me to utter the term “juice-forward” for the first time in my life.

I recreated it at home using much less lime, and added some Luxardo to provide a sour/bitter note at the end. I suppose I could’ve just used bitters, but you guys deserve something a little bit more, n’est-ce pas?

The Derby

(Adapted from Le Chien Fumant)

1 1/4 ounces Jim Beam Black bourbon

1/2 ounce Cinzano sweet vermouth

1/2 ounce triple sec

1/2 ounce Luxardo

1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for half a minute and strain into a cocktail glass.

Tasting Notes

I used Jim Beam Black and no-name triple sec (instead of Cointreau) simply because booze in Quebec is expensive and hard to come by. I like Jim Beam Black and it works quite nicely here, but I suppose if I had my druthers I’d opt for a higher-end, also-non-wheated bourbon like a Michter’s small-batch.

Didn’t bother with a garnish this time around; maybe an orange peel to pick up on the triple sec? Other suggestions?

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