Bourbon can be a tricky liquor. I love its smoky sweetness, sharp bite, and classic American charm. But for some, it can be heavy, boozy, and overly harsh.
I first discovered the magic match of bourbon and strawberry at Longman & Eagle in Chicago while Celene and I were visiting. This cozy restaurant/old fashioned inn in the Logan Square neighborhood boasts an adventurous menu and an impressive bar—they carry over 300 whiskeys! We slinked in just as a thunderstorm came whipping through the neighborhood and hunkered down at a table in the back with a few friends. We left hours later totally stuffed and blissful after a night of stimulating conversation and indulgent vittles & drinks.
Back at home in L.A., I was eager to recreate the bourbon/strawberry concoction. It took a bit of experimenting, but I think I got it. The strawberry puree helps mellow some the bourbon's sharper characteristics and balances the alcohol, resulting in a smoky, tart, and totally sippable elixir.
INGREDIENTS (makes 3 cocktails)
8-12 very ripe strawberries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
Juice from 2 large lemons
3 oz bourbon
To create the strawberry puree, add strawberries (with stems removed) to a powerful blender like a Vitamix. Rev it up and blend until you're left with a silken juice.
Pass puree through a fine mesh sieve to remove any excess pulp or seeds that may have escaped the wrath of your blender.
Set puree aside and make a simple syrup by combining water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a quick boil, and then remove from heat and let cool.
To assemble cocktail, fill a shaker with ice. Pour in 3 oz of strawberry puree, 1/2 - 1 oz of simple syrup (depending on the sweetness of your strawberries and personal preference. I like my cocktails on the less sweet side), bourbon, and lemon juice.
Shake it up vigorously like they do at fancy bars. Use a straining tool to catch ice as you fill your glasses. Garnish with a fresh strawberry or a few grinds of fresh black pepper.