bourbon, baby!


When my cousin married his Kentucky bride, theirs were not the only lives changed. Traveling to Kentucky opened my eyes to the world of bourbon. On that trip, I learned that bourbon is bourbon when it’s produced in the United States; made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn; and aged in new, charred oak barrels stacked in really cool-looking rick houses.

photo from Heaven Hill Distillery

photo from Heaven Hill Distillery

The blend of art and science in determining the level of char used on the barrels (#1 through #4 with lighter chars showing more fruit and spice, darker chars extracting more vanilla flavors and color) fascinated me as did the rotation of the barrels from one floor of the rick house to another depending on season and temperature. Bourbon distillation seems the ultimate alchemy, with master distillers possessing science smarts as well as a well-honed intuitive sense.

While I still can’t drink it straight, bourbon’s slightly fermented sweet and boozy flavors make it a perfect partner for soda water. It’s amazing in cocktails, too, which I’ve happily researched here and here and here. And let’s not forget the bourbon balls, bourbon chocolate cake, bourbon Brussels sprouts, and bourbon marshmallows. Clearly I have a thing for bourbon.

My enthusiasm for Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail matches that of a wine lover’s enjoyment of Napa Valley. Husband and I hit only a few distilleries while there and promised ourselves that one year we would return in September for Bardstown’s Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

our tickets to ride!

our tickets to ride!

Having just celebrated two decades of marriage, we decided this would be the September to follow through on our promise. Workshop tickets arrived yesterday and we’ll be packing bags soon. It’s time for a food for fun road trip!

wpid-20140909_174154.jpgEagerly anticipating all things bourbon, I pulled out the bourbon cookbooks–all purchased on that last trip to Kentucky–and found recipes for chili and cornbread that seemed perfect for an almost-fall evening.

This chili had a fair number of ingredients, though no more than any other chili recipe. The inclusion of chocolate made me happy as did the 2/3 cup bourbon. (In the interest of keeping this recipe kid-friendly, I added the bourbon at the beginning instead of following the original instructions to add it near the end.)

bourbon chili--so good

bourbon chili–so good

Kentucky Bourbon Chili

loosely based on recipe from The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook by Albert W. A. Scmid

  • 1 pound ground lean beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped bell peppers (any color)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cooked kidney beans or 1 (15-ounce) can
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2/3 cup bourbon
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder or to taste
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • Salt and freshly grated pepper, to taste

In large pot, brown beef, onion, and bell peppers over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook, stirring, 2 minutes or until fragrant. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat; uncover. Simmer 30 minutes or until flavors are blended and vegetables are tender. Adjust seasonings as desired. Makes 6 generous servings.

bourbon corn muffins--golden!

bourbon corn muffins–golden!

The corn muffins were gloriously easy and tasty as can be. A corn-based spirit, bourbon seemed a natural fit here and it was. The original recipe called for a teaspoon of lemon zest, but I didn’t dare go there as I suspected that extra flavor wouldn’t work with my kids.

wpid-bourbon-corn-muffins_01.jpg.jpegKentucky Bourbon Corn Muffins

adapted from The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook by Albert W. A. Scmid

  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Heat oven to 425ΒΊF. Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray or line with paper liners.

In large bowl, mix dry ingredients. In separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Gently stir wet ingredients into dry just until mixed. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake 10 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.

Finally, it wouldn’t be a food for fun post without marshmallows. With a kitchen full of bourbon, I couldn’t help but whip up a batch of boozy ‘mallows. Stirring in a handful of dark chocolate at the end made for pretty swirls and a richer flavor.

waiting to set

waiting to set

Someone didn't wait long enough for the marshmallows to set, though the cragginess has its charms.

Someone didn’t wait long enough for the marshmallows to set, though the cragginess has its charms.

Food for fun is off again next week, then, while husband and I hit that Bourbon Fest. While I won’t be posting here until we return, I’ll be keeping deLizous facebook apprised of any and all food and drink discoveries. If you’re not already on board, please do hop on. As always, many thanks to you all for letting me share with you πŸ™‚

78 thoughts on “bourbon, baby!

  1. It’s very cool in the mountains today and I started to think about my crockpot for the first time since last winter…and you come along with an absolutely perfect recipe – bourbon at the beginning or the end!! HAve fun on your trip!!

    • Yes, you should make bourbon chili. The cornbread, too, as that was even better than the chili. It was like corn squared πŸ™‚ Appreciate your good wishes, Mimi. Hope all goes well on your end.

    • Thanks, Liz! Alas, I will be missing a week of the doctor 😦 Agree with you on liking PC very much. So much angst with those younger guys. (not that I minded “those younger guys”–it was just hard to watch when I cared so much)

  2. What fun Liz, I also find the process fascinating and would love to that tour also. Like you I cannot drink it straight but do enjoy cooking with it and having it in cocktails. Can’t wait to hear about your trip sounds exciting.

    • Thanks, Suzanne. I get the feeling we would be good travel partners πŸ™‚

      On a different topic: LOVE the caponata. Saw comments that other folks had tried recipes that were bland and that had been my experience as well. But the larger amount of vinegar you added makes it POP. Love very much. And even better with goat cheese to make it a full meal deal. Have even had it for breakfast!! And the beans were tasty, too. Again, fun to do something not-Asian with them.

      • Yes the vinegar really adds zip, my mom always used it. I sometimes put peppadew peppers in and that really adds extra flavor. Layering with flavor is important.

        Wouldn’t it be fun to visit one of those great places together I think we would have fun

  3. My dear wife Karen and I took part in a bus tour of the Cayuga Lake wine trail this spring, and being shown the oak vs. metal barrel process fascinated me, too, Liz, so I can relate to your bourbon-making fandom.

    Have a great trip back to the Bluegrass state and all things bourbon.

    I think you picked a wonderful ready-for-fall recipe for your Minnesota send-off. Cornbread and chili gets an A+ in my book, always.

    • Thanks, Mark! Speaking of bluegrass: We have tickets to an Evolution of Bourbon and Bluegrass (music) workshop πŸ˜€ (Is it sad that I’m more excited about the workshops than I am about drinking lots of bourbon?) Do you like bluegrass music?

      My college degree is food science, and distilling spirits (or brewing beer or making wine) seems food science at its very best. In another life, I’d like to work at a distillery/brewery/winery. Maybe someday?

      Appreciate your visit and comment always. And thanks again for the fb Like.

      • I indeed like bluegrass music, Liz. I like just about every kind of music, actually, and my 21 years as pop music critic for the big daily here made me more appreciative of all sorts of styles instead of vice versa. (I did not review the symphony orchestra, but I sure as heck loved going to experience the beauty of classical music, too!) All other genres were mine to write and review. So, yes, bluegrass. Syracuse can claim one of the top two bluegrass banjo players in the world right now as a native. Tony Trischka, in fact, taught the other top gun, Bela Fleck. Now I’m just bragging though, aren’t I, and that’s not my intention. That Evolution of Bourbon and Bluegrass Music workshop sure sounds like fun for you and your hubby. Oh, yeah, Vince Gill is absolutely my favorite bluegrass string player and singer, though he’s better known for his country.

        So there, my friend. I hope you do get to work at a distillery/brewery/winery. I don’t do the hard liquor much anymore — no stomach for it — but beer always and that wine trip I told you about has made me a HUGE fan of Cabernet Savignon. So get that job and I will come visit and we can drink your science project product together. Deal?

  4. I Love this Liz, I have use some products aged in Bourbon Barrels, we use to sell some products in our stores, I also have my own “Barrel” down at Maker’s Mark, it is finally ready but I have not gone down yet to get a bottle from my barrel πŸ™‚

    • What the wha’? Did you say you have YOUR OWN BARREL DOWN AT MAKER’S MARK??? Fantastic! Be sure to holler when you do taste. Would love to know more. You like bourbon, then, I assume? Knew you had excellent taste πŸ˜‰

      What products did you sell? When we were in KY, I bought honey, maple syrup, and I’m forgetting what else–flavored with bourbon. It works so nicely with so many foods.

    • I will order you one at the Ramona.

      Trifecta, huh? Liking that, Kerbey–thanks.

      Don’t suppose you’ve hit chili weather yet. Still hot? We’re down to 56F today–sheesh.

      • Shut. Up. 56??????????????? It’s 97 here, so no outdoors for me today (except the walk I made from the parking lot to the school to get a child whose face is killing him bc the dentist had to administer FIVE shots yesterday to deaden his gums) I am reminded of Steve Martin in “Little Shop of Horrors.” 56 is winter! I can’t wait until I can wear jeans! I can’t wait until it’s 90! Oh, sweet merciful day!

        • lol, yes 57 was the high. We were at 70 yesterday, so it was sad to feel the change. And here I am with chills and fever tonight, which means that darn change of season has found the cracks in my immune system put there by lack of sleep. Arrgh. But. I am going to Kentucky NO MATTER WHAT. Just sayin’

          And 56 is a cool fall. -40 will be winter. 😦 Funny how we have the extremes, you and I.

          Hey, you looked great with the yellow feathers in your hair and the dress cut down to there! I hadn’t realized we were heading over to the Copacabana. Was Tony tending bar?

  5. Liz, I want some chili, cornbread, and bourbon! That sounds so amazing right now. Fall is my favorite season and sadly I will be missing it in Colorado!!! Luckily, I am getting a little taste of it as I am in the mountains in Spain right now where the weather is similar to a Colorado mountain town- warm days and cool nights. I only started being able to drink bourbon straight during this last winter. There is something so amazing about it on a cold evening that cannot be replaced by anything else. Congrats on the anniversary and have so much fun in Kentucky! I have never been but I do love me some bourbon πŸ™‚

    • wow–impressed you drink it straight. Can you throw it back? I think I’d have to sip.

      Very cool re: Spain! Saw you had a Barcelona post and it’s on my “to read” list. Looking forward to knowing more.

      Thanks for coming over. Love how the blogosphere connects folks no matter where we all are.

      • Oh no, I’m a sipper πŸ™‚ and depending on what type I will throw a couple ice cubes in. There are some that go down easy and others that are a bit too much “hair on the chest” πŸ™‚

        Yes, I love it too! It feels a little like home when I’m on here checking blogs πŸ™‚ which is nice while I’m traveling! Your post definitely made me miss home! Love my moms cornbread and my bf is the one that got me sipping bourbon πŸ™‚

        • lol, yes the “hair on the chest” bourbons. After my cousin’s wedding, the younger kids (i.e. your age πŸ˜‰ ) were in a back room passing bottles of homemade and also white dog. Yowza. Wanted to enjoy it, but just couldn’t choke it down. I need to cut it and especially like the bubbles in the soda water.

  6. I cannot wait to hear about your trip and all things bourbon. You know you’ve got your Bourbon Bon toasting you while here at home! I also cannot wait to try that chili recipe and since Kiddo doesn’t like chili, well, the bourbon can go in at the end, more for me! Definitely going to be trying these recipes once the fall weather arrives (we are supposedly in triple digits this weekend?! What-the…. πŸ™‚ Have an awesome trip and can’t wait for the recap afterwards! I will toast you and your hubs and your 20 years with a bourbon over the weekend for sure!

    • Thanks, Miss B! You were someone who I especially wanted to read this. Feel we’re bonded by the Mama’s Manhattan. And I wouldn’t have known about cherry bourbon without you. (did you ever try that second brand?)

      Triple digits? Wowza. We’ve dropped to high 50s here, which is unseasonably chilly. Arrgh. But a little bourbon should take the chill off, yes? πŸ˜€

      • Of course I’d you not think that bourbon would call me from the interwebs from far and wide? πŸ™‚ We are totally bonded by Mama’s Manhattan and don’t forget the Cherry Bon Bombe! My signature drink! πŸ™‚ I have not tried the other stuff yet…what is up with that? I know on the’s our typical last ditch effort at summer around here. Just enough to make me ready for the fall cool down. But nonetheless, I am ready to start prepping for the chili and cornbread. Safe travels – so wishing to make that trip someday! Remember everythign! πŸ™‚

  7. Now that chili sure looks marvelous. And corn bread!?! You’re making me salivate. I hope you feel better soon.

    We waved as we drove by on Tuesday night. BTW the Spam Museum looks great at night. Some day I’ll make it there to have a full visit.

    Have a wonderful time in Kentucky!

  8. What a great post to read now that I’ve “found” you, Liz. A great chili made better with bourbon and chocolate. YUM! This is the time of year that I make chili and this is one I’m sure to try. Besides, Winter is coming and having bourbon in the house is a very good thing. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks for coming back, John πŸ™‚ Missed you, but know how WP gets about dropping folks from readers. Too many blogs to keep up with, really. You do seem a bourbon sort of guy so glad you found your way to this post.

      Also, if ChgoJohn means you are in Chicago, I will send a wave as my husband and I drive through. We’re spending two nights there on the way to the Bourbon Fest.

    • It got chilly here in Minnesota, too, Becky. Bourbon seems a good warmer for sure. Will take lots of pictures at the fest and make sure you see them. Curious if Stick likes bourbon? Not sure where he puts it all as he’s so skinny. ??

      Oh, and am still cracking up about your “flip-flopped to the hilt” line. Awesome.

  9. What wonderful fun! I am a big fan of brown liquors (do you know the blues artist Sweet Betty and her classic “Brown Liquor In A Dirty Glass?) and am super envious of your trip. We went to Islay in Scotland to the Laphroaig distillery and it really gives one an appreciation for Scotch, whiskey, and bourbon! Have a great trip!

    • I will be looking for Sweet Betty’s song–sounds perfect. I’d pick Scotland over Kentucky any day (though both would be my first choice πŸ™‚ ). What a cool tour that must have been. The whole “whiskey” thing fascinates me. Read a book called Drink More Whiskey that broke out all of the different types. One of the growing sectors is Japanese whiskey, which is based somewhat on Scotch. So much to learn and so much to drink, haha. Thanks for stopping by, Kerry!

  10. This all looks 100% amazing and delicious. I’m so excited for you guys! Congrats on 20 years, too!!
    Still haven’t made marshmallows. Must happen soon. I’m thinking we’re almost into bonfire weather and homemade marshmallows would make for some amazing s’mores!

    Thanks for sharing this awesomeness with us, Liz!

    • Thank YOU for being awesome and coming over, Kaela. The ‘mallows will wait until whenever you are ready. Though your daughter will go nutsos when you do. What better treat?

      Which reminds me of something I’ve been wanting to mention forever: A while back you tried to make the bourbon ball recipe I published and they turned out too soft to roll. Wanted you to know that that’s what happened to me the first time, too. Never figured it out and things have gone better when I’ve made them since. ?? No idea why they turned out too soft that time.

    • Thanks for coming by and your kind words. The bourbon world was new to me, too, and for whatever reason it struck me as something I needed to keep learning about. Over the moon that we’re really doing the festival as we don’t travel much.

  11. I honestly don’t know much about liquor, except that I enjoy guzzling it down every now and again πŸ˜› But I am also quite a big fan of vegetarian chilli so to combine the two? I am down with that πŸ˜€
    Chili already has a kick, but an extra kick with it? I am all for it!

    Choc Chip Uru

    • Hey thanks, CCU. Not sure bourbon is meant to be guzzled, lol. I know I couldn’t do it πŸ˜‰ Definitely try a splash of bourbon in your next chili. Yum. And you can bake with it, too πŸ˜€

  12. It’s been cold enough in the mornings and evenings that chili sounds fantastically warm and comforting to me. And to add bourbon to it! Well, that’s not too fancy for my blood. I love bourbon. Our friends came back from Kentucky once and gifted us an amazing bottle of bourbon. Now, even though I don’t drink very much, we always have a bottle of bourbon in our cabinet for guests because it is seriously the best alcohol ever. It just rounds out the evening so well, no matter what we eat. I hope you and hubby have a great time on your trip back to the festival and am looking forward to seeing pics and recommendations of the best Kentucky bourbon out there!

    • I love that you’re a bourbon fan, Ngan! We’re back now and had a lovely time away from home, touring distilleries, enjoying cocktails, etc. Highly recommend! Buffalo Trace is one of my favorites, though we also found a new distillery (Barton) I hadn’t known of. Their Very Old Barton (what it’s really called, lol) is amazing. Very cool to have friends bringing you bourbon from Kentucky. What labels do you enjoy?

    • Thanks, J πŸ™‚ Definitely had a blast. See many warm-weather bourbon cocktails in my near future. Wishing you the same, though I know it won’t be with any brown spirits πŸ˜‰

    • lol, boozy anything works for me, too. You would have enjoyed the bourbon treats we found: brownies, brittle, fudge, twinkie (no lie), candies (toffee!), cake. Brought a lot of it back with me, so am still living the dream πŸ˜‰ Thanks for coming by to share!

  13. Pingback: Harlen Wheatley, distilling corn, rye, and barley | The Blog of Funny Names

  14. Pingback: the bourbon slide show | food for fun

    • Cognac is a French brandy and bourbon is a corn-based American whiskey.

      Yes, that was a lot of booze in the chili, which is why I put it in at the beginning. Hopefully not a lot of alcohol in the final product.

      Thanks, Sophie πŸ™‚

  15. Bourbon… in anything is the bomb! Somewhere I have a formula for a bourbon cream sauce with sage for pork chops… awesome:) love chili / love corn muffins/ love bourbon… have to try these!!! Thank you!!!! Great to read your blog!!!

    • Thanks, Poppy πŸ™‚ Fun to see your smiling face around here again! Cooking with bourbon is a very good thing. I seem to remember a suggestion you had for broiling overripe bananas with butter and bourbon before mashing and using as a baking ingredient. Was that you? It’s become my standard M.O. !

      • Ohhh Liz! I forgot about that but I did do cranberry sauce … and…bread pudding… and carrot cake as blog posts with scotch and rum:-):-):-):-) … cannot have enough delicious
        concoctions with burbon scotch or rum or ..! !!!


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