This Week in Food: Maker’s Mark Holiday Tour, Batali Book Signing, Conversation With Michael Twitty

Maker’s Mark Holiday Tour
Crosby between Spring & Broome; Vesey Street between West & North End Avenue; East 8th Street & Astor Place
Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Maker’s Mark will stop at three spots in New York City this week, offering complimentary brownies and biscuits from Butter & Scotch along with spiced cider. While the goodies are free, a suggested donation ($5 or more) is encouraged. Proceeds will benefit Share Our Strength, an organization which aims to end child hunger in America.

Taco and Tequila Tuesdays
El Toro Blanco (257 Sixth Avenue)
Tuesday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

El Toro Blanco is now offering a tequila and taco tasting experience on Tuesdays. Each week, guest speakers from tequila companies will stop by the restaurant guide guests through the tasting process. Get a load of poached lobster with corn avocado tacos or try pork with roasted pineapple. Wash it all down with tequila — offered as a tasting flight, specialty cocktail, or by the glass.

How Immigrant Cooks Shape American Food
Brooklyn Historical Society (128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn)
Tuesday, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Chefs Jonathan Wu (Fung Tu) and Mario Carbone (Carbone) will chat with food historian Sarah Lohman to talk about under-the-radar recipes that have shaped American cuisine. Reserve your $10 ticket.

Mario Batali Book Signing
Williams-Sonoma Columbus Circle (10 Columbus Circle)
Wednesday, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Mario Batali will be appearing live to sign copies of his most recent work, Big American Cookbook: 250 Favorite Recipes from Across the USA. A signed copy of each book is included in the price of a ticket.

Holiday Celebration
Gansevoort Market (353 West 14th Street)
Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Gansevoort Market vendors are offering complimentary bites at this mid-week holiday celebration, with events throughout the evening like a graffiti art show and Christmas carolers. Guests are encouraged to donate toys.

An Evening with Michael Twitty
MOFAD Lab (62 Bayard Street, Brooklyn)
Thursday, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Culinary historian and author Michael Twitty will lead a talk and tasting on the history of African-American food and its impact on food culture in the American south. Tickets are $32 for general admission.


What’s the Best Whiskey to Use in a Mint Julep?

The 141st racing of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday guarantees the weekend will be awash in funky hats and Mint Juleps. But we’re not here to discuss questionable wardrobe choices. The official cocktail of the world’s most famous horse race is a straightforward mashup of bourbon, mint, and simple syrup, traditionally served in a silver cup on crushed ice. It’s refreshing, easy to make, and deserves recognition beyond the one day of the year when everyone is Googling its recipe. Of course the quality of the drink is directly proportional to the horsepower of the bourbon used at its core. And there’s one whiskey in particular that packs more mustard than a thoroughbred in the home stretch: Maker’s Mark Cask Strength. If you want to add a jolt to your Julep, consider this bourbon as a base.

When whiskey comes out of the barrel after years of aging, it typically clocks in at upwards of 60 percent alcohol. Traditionally that percentage has been ‘proofed down’ to a more manageable 40 (80 proof) before the juice hits the bottle. Only in recent years has the bourbon market seen the proliferation of cask strength releases, which are kept at the very same proof at which they left the wood. Maker’s Mark unveiled its own last year to considerable fanfare. Although it hovers between 108 and 114 proof, Maker’s Cask Strength remains as endearingly drinkable as its 80 proof counterpart. There is the trademark sweetness of the brand, courtesy of its wheated mash bill, and a subtle heated spice picks up before the finish line.

Although a bourbon enthusiast will be happy to drink Maker’s Cask Strength neat, or perhaps with a drop or two of water to enhance its wheated characteristics (and proof it down to taste), it plays surprisingly well in a mint julep.

Bottles, which look deceptively like original Maker’s, retail for around $40, and they’ve recently been spotted on the shelf at Astor Wines and Winfield Flynn, as well as countless bottle shops across Brooklyn.

If you’re planning to order the classic Kentucky cocktail at a bar, head to the Flatiron Room in Manhattan or Char No. 4 in Cobble Hill; both places keep Cask Strength on heavy rotation. If you’re fixing a drink for friends and family, make sure you gently slap the mint prior to mixing to maximize its aromas.

And don’t be afraid to drink this cocktail throughout the summer months. They call the Derby the fastest two minutes in sports, but julep season ought to last far longer than that.


Here’s Why You Should Modify a Manhattan With Fresh Cherry Juice

Bourbon is in Bill Samuels Jr.’s blood — his father founded Maker’s Mark in 1954. But it took him 30 years to find his bourbon-centric drink of choice. His mother and father were decidedly fans of old-fashioneds, but Samuels ultimately settled on the manhattan, to which he adds fresh cherry juice, among other specific ingredients.

“I really didn’t like anything other than Maker’s Mark and water,” he says. “I kept exploring and, well, if Dad liked the old-fashioned, maybe I could like the manhattan. The classic manhattan recipe…I never did get to where I liked it.”

Wanting to put a personal stamp on his family’s bourbon tradition, Samuels worked with his master distiller to create Maker’s 46, which used seared French oak planks to help bring out flavors like caramel and spice that differentiate it from the original Maker’s bourbon.

Samuels started with Maker’s 46 for his manhattan, and began experimenting with vermouths. Italian vermouths just didn’t agree with his tastes due to their slight bitterness, so he opted for a sweet French vermouth, Dolin’s Rouge, which provided a much better balance. Samuels also discovered adding a bar spoon of cherry juice helped give the drink a distinct natural sweetness. The final adjustment: no bitters. “I did go through a long period of experimenting with different bitters,” he says. “None of them helped; most of them hurt. Balanced cocktails that showcase all of the ingredients equally and in harmony will win the day.”

When not craving the modified manhattan, Samuels opts for a simple Maker’s Mark and glass of water.

Though Samuels is more likely to invite over a few friends to his home for drinks these days, a few of his favorite spots in New York City to grab a Maker’s 46 manhattan are The Bailey in the financial district and midtown’s American Whiskey.

The recipe for the drink is listed below, and Samuels has a few words of wisdom to take into account: “Be precise on the measurements. Follow the recipe unless you’re a professional bartender.”

Bill Samuels Jr.’s Maker’s 46 Manhattan

1 1/2 parts Maker’s 46
1/2 part Dolin Rouge Sweet Vermouth
1 bar spoon of natural maraschino cherry juice
1 natural maraschino cherry for garnish

Combine all ingredients over ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.


America’s Best Mint Julep

On our visit to New Orleans last week, we had to stop by the Library Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton, where Chris McMillian, one of the founders of the Museum of the American Cocktail, is famous for his perfect juleps. As he muddles the mint and crushes the ice with a giant wooden mallet, he recites a 19th century ode to the drink, in perfect timing.

But his days at the bar are numbered. The Library Lounge is being revamped as a cigar lounge, and while McMillian, who has been at the Ritz for seven years, will remain at the hotel, in the main bar, we wonder whether if the shift will work. This is just “drinkie” speculation, but is there a chance he could be bringing the bourbon to a new town in the not-so-distant future? After all, cities like our own have become obsessed with mixology and the mastery of classic cocktails.