VENISON BURGERS

It has occurred to me that the single most consistent ingredient in the Great American Hamburger is testosterone.

The chest-thumping surrounding the making and cooking of burgers is matched only by that of chili in winter or barbecue in the South. This is especially true of men who have grown up eating wretched fast-food patties or had mothers who made, as Eddie Murphy so memorably put it, “brontosaurus burgers.”

There is something validating about being able to rectify a childhood wrong, as a bad burger seems to be in America.

Ideas about the “perfect burger recipe” are as varied as there are minds to contemplate such weighty matters.

I’ve seen complicated equations involving exact percentages of this cut of meat or that one, including such horrors as including hanger steak or skirt steak in a burger. These are noble cuts, not something to be ground into a Wednesday gut filler. Might as well grind a ribeye. And yes, I am certain at least one person reading this has done so.

Meat-to-fat ratio is a big area of contention, too. So is the timeless debate over whether to salt the meat as you make the patty or just on the outside. A few errant souls even add things to the meat itself, which to purists is anathema. (I am one of those souls: My venison burger with mushrooms recipe includes powdered, dried mushrooms in the patty itself. So there.) To flip once or many times? Toast the bun or no?

Get into the Toppings War and you can have some fun, too. Cheese or no cheese? Cooked or raw onions? Is it nobler to use hothouse tomatoes on your burger in winter or not to do so, and by opposing this outrageous arrow against seasonality, end the debate forever? (Sorry, Hamlet. Had to.)

Well, here is where I stand.

I will preface all this by saying that this is, to me, a perfect burger. To you, it may not be. And you are free to believe so. That’s why this is America (or Canada, or wherever it is you happen to be reading this).

First: All burgers, venison or no, need fat. Period. My preferred ratio is 80 percent meat, 20 percent pork fat. I dislike beef tallow; it’s too waxy for me. Ditto for lamb fat, although that is a step up in my book.

Second: Grind your own if at all possible. This is the secret to virtually every great burger joint’s meat. Grinding your own takes less than 10 minutes (unless you are feeding an army), and gives you ultimate control over texture and composition. And in the world of venison burgers, this is what I’ve come to like best: Venison meat from the shoulder, ribs, neck or hind leg, ground with bacon ends. If you’ve never tried this, do it. It’s amazing. What’s more, I vary my grind. (Exact proportions are in the recipe below.) Why? Because it makes the burger taste more interesting.

Third: Gently patties must you make, young padawan. So Sayeth Yoda. These aren’t meatballs, folks. Think of a burger like a you would a crabcake, which is supposed to just barely hold together. It’s a fine line between perfect and too crumbly, but a dense, packed patty is depressing and somehow un-American.

Fourth: Salt only the outside of the burger, right before you cook or even when you flip the patty. This one matters. Salt denatures proteins, which is why sausage binds so well and, incidentally, has a very different texture from a good burger. Add salt to the meat mixture and you have a sausage patty, not a hamburger. And yes, people have done experiments proving this. (As for my bacon ends, which contain salt, I use them only when I grind and cook, not when I grind lots of burger in advance and freeze it.)

Fifth: Grilled burgers are only better when there’s wood or charcoal involved. Yes, I cook burgers over gas grills, and they are nice, but not qualitatively better than those done in a pan inside. Unless of course you add smoke chips to your gas grill. Meat + woodsmoke = awesome.

flipping a venison burger

Sixth: Flip once, or several times. It apparently doesn’t matter in the final judgment. And again, yes, people have done experiments proving this. I flip only once because I want a hard crust on the outside of the burger, which I find helps hold it together.

Seventh: Rest thine burgers. It’s the little-known 12th Commandment, lost in the making of Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part I. (The 11th Commandment has something to do with Republicans…) Why? Remember the original name of a hamburger: hamburger steak. You rest steaks right? Right? Please tell me you do…

Eighth: Let all else be free. Let your burger freak flag fly when it comes to toppings. Just let the meat be the star, OK?

eating a venison burgerI know many of you get your venison pre-ground from the butcher shop. Go ahead and use that for this season, but next time make sure that the butcher either a) grinds your venison with pork fat or, better yet, bacon ends; and/or b) ask him for just more stew meat so you can grind the meat yourself.

Oh, and obviously all this applies to burgers made from any other sort of meat.

venison burger recipe
Venison Burgers
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 45 mins
Keep in mind that what’s important here is the technique and the grind, not so much my additional ingredients. Of course, I love my venison burgers like this, so I am biased. But so long as you follow general guidelines on toppings: mix something rich (cheese) with something sharp (tomato) and something slightly bitter or cleansing (lettuce or sorrel leaves) and a touch of sweet (ketchup) and you will be in good shape.
Serves4 people
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 pounds venison
  • 1/2 pound bacon ends or regular bacon, chopped roughly
  • Salt (smoked salt if you have it)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons butter, lard or vegetable oil
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • Burger buns
  • Something green like bibb lettuce, arugula, sorrel or spinach
  • Slices of fresh tomato, or canned, fire-roasted peppers (winter), summer
  • Slices of cheese of your choice
  • Condiment of your choice (ketchup mustard, remoulade, mayo, etc)
Instructions
  1. Make sure the meat and bacon are cold. Cut the venison into chunks that will fit into your grinder. Do the same for the bacon. Mix the two together roughly so you can add a bit of each into the grinder as you go. Grind 1/2 to 2/3 of the mixture coarsely and the rest with the fine die. NOTE: If you are grilling your venison burgers, flip this so you grind 2/3 of the mix fine and only 1/3 coarse — the reason is because grilled burgers tend to cook better and stay juicier when the grind is fine.
  2. Make between 4 and 6 patties, depending on how large you want your burgers. Form the patties with only as much force as absolutely needed — you want the patties to hold together only loosely. Make them about 1/2 to 1 inch thick. Use your thumb to press an indentation into the center of each patty: This prevents the burgers from turning spherical when you cook them. Set the burgers aside.

  3. Heat the butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the sliced onion and cook until it’s done to your liking. Some people like juicy onion with a little char on the edges, some people prefer to go the full caramelized onion route. When finished, put the onions in a bowl so you can have them ready.

  4. I prefer grilled burgers, so I’ll go through that method. Heat your grill on high and be sure to scrape down the grates with a wire brush. Only salt your burgers right before you cook them, and if you are salt-sensitive you might not need to with these because of the bacon. Place the patties on the grill and cook them without disturbing them (with the grill cover open) for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how well done you like your burgers. Flip and cook for the same amount on the other side. I prefer 3 minutes per side with a really hot grill.

  5. When you flip the burgers, grind some black pepper over them, then spoon a little caramelized onion on each one if you’d like. With about 90 seconds to go on the second side, lay the cheese on top of the onions and cover the grill until the burger’s ready. If you like toasted buns, toast them on the grill in this last 90 seconds. When everything’s done, move the burgers and buns to a sheet tray or plate so the meat can rest for 5 minutes, while you build the burgers.

  6. You can do this any way you want, but I start with a green thing, then some ketchup or mayo or whatever, then the burger patty that has the onions and cheese already on it, topped with a slice of tomato (or roasted red peppeand finally some more of whatever condiment I happen to be using. My method is just how I do things; you can do anything you’d like.

 

How to Properly Eat a Chicken Wing

I always thought knowing how to eat a chicken wing was an innate skill until I moved away.   It was then I discovered the rest of the world tends to be chicken wing challenged.  Here are a few tips to eat chicken wings properly.

Chicken wings should always be served in a casual setting.  Never serve them at a formal dinner.

The drumstick should be picked up with the fingers of both hands holding on to the ends.  Hold the drumstick up to your mouth and eat it clean.  Do not make sucking sounds or immerse one end of the drumstick in your mouth like a plunger and suck the meat off as you pull it out.  Wipe your mouth and fingers with a napkin when finished.

The two boned, flat chicken wing should be treated differently.

  1. Pick the wing up by the ends with the fingers of both hands.
  2. Locate the end with the larger bone sticking out.
  3. Pull the cartilage off from this end and discard or eat it.
  4. Locate the smaller of the two bones and twist to loosen it.
  5. Pull the small bone from the wing.
  6. Do the same with the larger bone.
  7. You may now eat your boneless chicken wing.
  8. Wipe your mouth and fingers with a napkin when finished.

Should meat become lodged in your teeth while eating, excuse yourself from the table and go to the restroom or private area to clean it out.  Do not use a toothpick at the table.

If you bite into a wing that is too spicy hot for your palate, eat bread or a cracker.  Water will not dowse the flames.  Do not hold your mouth open while flapping your hand in an attempt to decrease the heat.  This looks silly and will do nothing other than disgust other diners.

When you are completely finished eating, use a wet nap or wash in your hands at a sink.  Never, ever lick your fingers clean.

Enjoy your wings.  If you visit Buffalo, I hope you can stop by the Anchor Bar, the acclaimed birthplace of the Buffalo wing.

Types of Tequila

With close to 1000 Tequila brands to choose from, it helps to know the different types of Tequilas and the categories they fall into. Strict regulations on labeling assist the consumer in determining the type of the spirit, where it was produced, and the term it was aged (if any).

The main two types of Tequila are first split into two categories, 100% Blue Agave, and Tequila Mixto (Mixed). Mixto Tequila contains a minimum of 51% Blue Agave, and the remaining 49% from other sugars (typically cane sugars). The additional products allowed in Mixto Tequilas are caramel color, oak extract flavoring, glycerin, and sugar based syrup. Mixto Tequila can now be bottled outside of the Tequila territory, including other countries, which started January 6, 2006.

By reading the label on the bottle you can tell which clasification it is in, as all Tequila that is made from 100% Blue Agave will say “Tequila 100% de agave” or “Tequila 100% puro de agave”. All other Mixto Tequila labels will only read “Tequila”.

The above two categories of Tequila are then divided into the following five types of Tequila and are labeled as such:

Tequila Silver – Blanco – Plata – White – Platinum
This is the Blue Agave spirit in its purest form. It is clear and typically un-aged, where the true flavors and the intensity of the Agave are present, as well as the natural sweetness. It can be bottled directly after distillation, or stored in stainless steel tanks to settle for up to 4 weeks. There are some Blanco products that are aged for up to 2 months to provide a smoother or “Suave” spirit.

Types of Tequila – Blanco

Tequila Gold – Joven – Oro
Gold Tequila is typically a Mixto, where colorants and flavorings have been added prior to bottling. These “young and adulterated” Tequilas are less expensive and used in many bars and restaurants for “mixed drinks”.

There are exceptions however, as a “Gold” or “Joven” Tequila can also be the result of blending a Silver Tequila with a Reposado and/or Añejo Tequila, while keeping the 100% Agave classification.

Types of Tequila – Joven

Types of Tequila – Mixto Gold

Tequila Reposado
A Reposado Tequila is the first stage of “rested and aged”. The Tequila is aged in wood barrels or storage tanks between 2 months and 11 months. The spirit takes on a golden hue and the taste becomes a good balance between the Agave and wood flavors. Many different types of wood barrels are used for aging, with the most common being American or French oak. Some Tequilas are aged in used bourbon / whiskey, cognac, or wine barrels, and will inherit unique flavors from the previous spirit.

Reposado Tequilas are also referred to as “rested” and “aged”.

Types of Tequila – Reposado

Tequila Añejo (extra aged)
After aging for at least one year, Tequila can then be classified as an “Añejo”. The distillers are required to age Añejo Tequila in barrels that do not exceed 600 liters. This aging process darkens the Tequila to an Amber color, and the flavor can become smoother, richer, and more complex.

Añejo Tequilas are also referred to as “aged” and “extra-aged”.

Types of Tequila – Anejo

Tequila Extra Añejo (ultra aged)
A new classification added in the summer of 2006, labeling any Tequila aged more than 3 years, an “Extra Añejo”. Following the same rule as an “Añejo”, the distillers must age the spirit in barrels or containers with a maximum capacity of 600 liters. With this extended amount of aging, the Tequila becomes much darker, more of a Mahogany color, and is so rich that it becomes difficult to distinguish it from other quality aged spirits. After the aging process, the alcohol content must be diluted by adding distilled water. These Extra Añejo’s are extremely smooth and complex.

Extra Añejo Tequilas are also referred to as “ultra-aged”.

Types of Tequila – Extra Anejo

Other types of Tequila spirits you can find on the market include Tequila Liqueurs, Tequila Cremes, Tequila Infusions, Flavored Tequilas, and Tequila soft drinks.  Many of these products are used in specialty cocktails, restaurant dishes and desserts. Mixto Tequila is standard for most liqueurs and flavored products, but it is best to check the label and look for “Made with 100% Agave Tequila”.

BOOZY PUMPKIN PIE MILKSHAKE

Step aside pumpkin spiced latte – this boozy pumpkin pie milkshake is exactly what you need this fall season!

 

 

Boozy Pumpkin Pie Shake
 Servings
 milkshake
INGREDIENTS
½ cup milk
½ tbsp pumpkin spice
 cup puréed pumpkin
INSTRUCTIONS
ADD all ingredients to a blender.
BLEND until smooth.
POUR into a glass. Garnish with whipped cream, pumpkin spice and graham cracker and enjoy!

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Mushroom Soufflé

MUSHROOM SOUFFLÉ

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup egg whites
1 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 oz onions, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
Wine Pairing

INSTRUCTIONS:

MELT butter in saucepan then add heavy cream over low heat, whisk and cook until it reaches a boil.
ADD in salt, onions, garlic and 2 oz comte-gruyere, whisking until cheese is melted.
REMOVE sauce from heat and cover.
PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees.
PLACE dried morel mushrooms in bowl and soak in hot water for 5 minutes. Remove and place on a towel to dry.
PLACE eggs and cornstarch in mixer while the morels are drying. Mix on low setting until egg whites are foamy, frothy and firm. Remove and place in a mixing bowl.
ADD the remaining comte-gruyere cheese, sliced morel mushrooms and 1 oz of prepared sauce mix.
SCOOP mixture and pile up high on a ceramic soufflé bowl.
PLACE in oven for 20 minutes or until the soufflé is golden brown.
REMOVE soufflé from oven and serve with the remaining sauce on the side.
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The 10 Best Gins to Drink Straight

The Gin and Tonic is a classic cocktail. People hear about it before they ever find out gin is even alcoholic. First imbibed by British soldiers in the early 1800s, the G & T began as a way to choke down their daily dose of quinine tonic water. They quickly realized that the combination not only helped make the tonic water more palatable, but it also gave them a nice buzz. There’s no disputing the fact that the drink remains a bar staple to this day, but we aren’t traveling to and from India on a naval ship and malaria isn’t sitting in ambush for us on our daily commute. So why not just enjoy gin straight?

thebotanist

The Botanist

Bruichladdich has been making Scotch since 1881. It wasn’t until 2004 that Master Distiller Jim McEwan started seriously thinking about making a gin at the famous Islay distillery. In 2010, with help from local two local botanists, McEwan finally distilled this crisp, flavorful gin packed full with twenty-two herbs, plants, flowers and botanicals for a unique taste that could only come from the sheep-filled island off the coast of Scotland.

$43

hendricksgin

Hendrick’s

Another Scottish brand, Hendrick’s first showed up on the market in 1999 and quickly became one of the most popular gin brands in the world. What sets Hendrick’s apart from the competition is the flavor. After juniper and the other usual botanicals, Hendrick’s is also flavored with Bulgarian rose and cucumber to give it a sweet, floral flavor that is just as easy to sip on its own as it is to mix into your favorite cocktails. Hendrick’s is also super into the cucumber stuff too, as it’s heavily featured on their brand site, so cutting one up and throwing it in the glass probably isn’t a bad move.

$34

aviation

Aviation

Produced in Portland, Oregon, Aviation American Gin falls under the category of “American Dry Gin.” It’s only been on the market since 2006, but has already found a strong following in the bartending world. The gin is flavored with juniper, orange peel, coriander, cardamom, sarsaparilla, lavender and anise to give it the taste of a classic gin that is worthy of a glass with a few ice cubes and an easy chair. You also better be in Oregon if you want to pick up a bottle for yourself. Availability doesn’t seem to have spread outside that specific Pacific Northwest state, so a road trip may be in order.

$30

caorunn

Caorunn

Part of what makes this gin special is the use of foraged botanicals from the Scottish Highlands. These include Bog Myrtle, Rowan Berry, Heather, Coul Blush Apple and Dandelion Leaf. It almost hits a sort of hunter-gatherer distiller feel. Like you’re the first person to discover putting a bunch of leafy stuff in old fruit juice makes you feel dizzy. This spicy, crisp gin is a combination of fruity, floral with a dry finish worthy of your most beloved London Dry gin.

$43

tangueray

Tanqueray No. Ten

Tanqueray is one of the most well-known gin brands in the world. They have distilled many different, special gin varieties over the years and if we’re ranking them, No. Ten should be at the top of the list. First introduced in 2000, No. Ten is distilled four times and has a huge citrus presence that was made for a martini, but is perfect on its own as well.

$35

martinmillers

Martin Miller’s

Founded in 1999, Martin Miller’s Gin puts a unique spin on gin flavor. The distillation is split between two different methods. The first method consists of distilling juniper, botanicals and dried lime peel. After, lemon and bitter orange peel are distilled before both are combined together to create this extremely drinkable gin. They also use Icelandic spring water when creating the final product, so we’ll go ahead and say this might be one of the cleanest sounding gins ever made. Its ingredient list reads like an organic cleaner commercial. Take that as you will, but we don’t mean it in a bad way.

$30

monkey47

Monkey 47

You might not expect a delicious dry gin to come out of Germany, specifically the Black Forest. With a name like the Black Forest, the only thing we expect to come out of there is German Voldemort. But after it was launched in 2010, Monkey 47 won numerous awards including a gold medal at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in 2011, so either Monkey 47 is going for the long con on evil or they’re genuinely making good gin. The flavor is sweet, fairly juniper heavy with floral and citrus notes with a subtle hint of pepper to finish.

$52

plymouth1

Plymouth

This famous gin has been produced the same way since 1793, confirming our belief that alcohol recipes are one of the few good holdouts from the 18th Century. It was a popular choice by British sailors in the 1800s who mixed it with quinine tonic water and limes in the earliest recipes for gin and tonic, drastically reducing their chances of getting malaria, scurvy, and invited to a lame party. The original strength has a large juniper profile along with a zesty citrus finish that is perfect for a classic naval-inspired cocktail or on its own in a glass with a handful of ice.

$34

anchor1

Anchor Old Tom

The third gin made by Anchor, Old Tom is a classic pot-still distilled gin made with juniper and myriad botanicals that are formulated to create a sweeter, less dry gin. The sweetness mostly comes from the addition of star anise and licorice as well as the surprising inclusion of stevia. Sipping Old Tom on a fall day is our recommended form of enjoyment, but you can enjoy it any day. If you’re feeling rebellious, maybe have one outside on a warm summer morning. Not enough to feel it, just enough to connect with the locale.

$30

fordsgin

Ford’s Gin

Made at London’s Thames Distillers, Ford’s gin is a collaborative effort between Simon Ford of the 86 Co. and Master Distiller Charles Maxwell. Like all proper gins, the first notable flavor is juniper. This is followed by lemon and grapefruit peels as well as bitter orange and a medley of flowers and spices. So what we’ve learned overall is not all gins taste like the cheap stuff that comes in plastic and sometimes not even the expensive stuff that’s just a liquid Christmas tree. Sometimes people put actual flavors in their spirit.

$25

Upscale Whiskeys Pairings for All Your Bro Food

Pairing chicken wings, pretzels, and chocolate cake. Yes, we’re trying to drink whiskey at every meal.

Whiskey Sommelier Chris Straka has spent 20 years working in the restaurant industry as a beverage manager, and is now the moonshine master at Denver’s new Hearth & Dram whiskey-focused bar (opening January 28)— a dark and wood-fired restaurant with 350+ whiskeys on the menu.

We sat down with Straka in an attempt to add some manly posh to our sometimes not-so-classy meals. Thanks to his whiskey know-how, we’re happy to report there’s a craft bourbon or rye for every dish you’ll eat this month. Yes, chips and guacamole too.

Pair it with…

Seared Steak

Hearth & Dram steak

For simple grilled steak, I would look for a really good Bourbon Manhattan. When you grill, you get a nice char, which is a caramelization of the meat, but also gives the steak a little bitterness. Made with a little sweet vermouth, the Bourbon Manhattan will give more sweetness to the dish and contrast nicely with the bitter grill marks.

Soft Pretzel + Grey Poupon Mustard

I’d go with one of my favorites, and a very important Colorado whiskey, Leopold Bros. Distillery. They make an American-style, lighter, softer, more approachable whiskey that is typically a little lighter than rich bourbons. Typically, the whiskey is not aged quite as long and doesn’t contain heavy caramel and fruit flavors. With that pretzel, Leopold’s will cut through the Dijon mustard and work nicely with the saltiness of the pretzel. A soft pretzel doesn’t have big, forward flavors, so a whiskey too heavy will overpower.

Chips and Guacamole

Compass Box

Courtesy Compass Box Whiskey

Scotch. Something not too crazy. There’s a producer called Compass Box. The one I recommend is the Hedonism. It’s really well balanced, smokey, with the hints of iodine you want to see in scotch. Normally with this dish you’d drink mescal which has smokeyness. Scotch would be similar.

is so delicate it can be overpowered very easily. I’ll revert back to a cocktail. Something very simple like a Whiskey Collins; made with Whiskey, lemon juice, sugar, and soda water. This cocktail has a little more acidity to tone down the alcohol. This would pair very nice with something that would be delicate on the pallet.

Pepperoni and Italian Sausage Pizza

Distillery 291

Courtesy Distillery 291

A really nice Rye whiskey. There’s a really good Colorado one out of Colorado Springs, 291 Distillery. They call it their Colorado Whiskey because it’s heavy in Rye but not as heavy as most. Typically, a rye can be 80-95-percent rye, but they only use about 65 percent. You’re going to get more of a spice characteristic that way (pairing with the spice in the pepperoni and Italian sausage), but still a good amount of bourbon flavor, which brings a caramel and fruit flavor that compliments the tomato sauce. Definitely Rye with a pizza.

Chocolate Cake

One of the single greatest pairings with whiskey is a dark chocolate in the 70-72-percent coco range with an Islay Scotch. The reason is, that slightly sweet/slightly bitter richness pairs with the iodine of the scotch. Specifically, Islay scotch has more richness, more maltiness. I recommend Lagavulin— their 16-year is absolutely phenomenal.

Spicy Chicken Wings

I would want to go with a wheat whiskey. Wheat whiskey’s (produced with a higher amount of wheat) typically have a sweeter characteristic. One of my favorites will come from Dry Fly Distillingout of Spokane, Washington. It’s got great complexity and is extremely well balanced. Any time it’s a spicy dish you want to have a little bit of sweetness to your whiskey pairing. Otherwise the heat can make the alcohol heavier on your pallet and bring out more of the burn.

Mac & Cheese

upscale whiskey pairings makers mark

Courtesy Maker’s Mark

Stay with a really well balanced whiskey; I would go with a Maker’s Mark. If you wanted to up the ante, Maker’s Mark Reserve. And I would want it on the rocks. This is a really good sipping whiskey. It’s very smooth and won’t overpower the mac & cheese— which is not a complex dish. Stay away from your ryes. Cheese can be interesting because it’s fattiness sticks on your pallet. Maker’s Mark is a good drinking bourbon, and since they have a higher wheat, but they aren’t a wheat whiskey, it’s a little richer.

Apple Pie

A.D. Laws

Courtesy A.D. Laws

Definitely young Rye whiskey because of the spices used in apple pie. For that I’m going back to a Colorado craft whiskey, the A.D. Laws, produced in Denver. Their Secale Rye is one of my favorite ryes being produced in the nation right now. It’s got a beautiful spice to match the apple pie. It will be a knockout.

Written by Jahla Seppanen

 

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Which Bourbons Should You Drink With Beef Jerky?

It’s difficult to imagine a more American pairing than bourbon and jerky. The former is our native spirit, born of bluegrass. The latter conjures images of rugged cowboys roaming the open prairie. On the palate, they make perfect stablemates. The oak-imbued sweetness and spice of an aged whiskey meets its match in a dried meat with hefty overtures of pepper and lingering umami.

When it comes to both bourbon and jerky pairings, there is a dizzying array of options. Bourbon shelves are crammed with wheated, high rye and wine barrel–finished expressions, to name a few. The jerky market is perhaps even more dense, with nearly every kind of seasoning and meat imaginable. Certain combinations seem destined for one another.

So in honor of our country’s upcoming birthday, we’ve sourced the best local jerky and sussed out their most suitable, oak-aged sipping companions.

Jimmy’s Sticky Jerky Sweet Beef and Blanton’s Single-Barrel Bourbon

Made in the South Bay, Jimmy’s Sticky Jerky immerses its beef in inventive marinades prior to drying, with offbeat results. The Sweet Beef, a solid example, delivers hints of maple syrup, brown sugar and fresh ginger in every tender bite. It’s an exotic sweetness that finds its match in Blanton’s Single-Barrel Bourbon. The high concentration of corn in the whiskey merges with notes of vanilla and cinnamon from the barrel in which it sits for nearly half a decade. It finishes smooth as butterscotch. You’ll actually want to bite into the jerky first, introducing the maple and ginger, to prep the palate for the easygoing spirit to follow.

Which Bourbons Should You Drink With Beef Jerky?

Long Beach Jerky Company

Long Beach Jerky Company Buffalo Wing and Hooker’s House Sonoma-Style Bourbon

Long Beach Jerky Company‘s Alex Naticchioni has a lifelong obsession with buffalo wings. So it was only natural for him to incorporate the familiar flavor into his dried beef, which is available at dive bars and breweries throughout the L.A. area. Although the Long Beach Jerky co-founder recommends pairing his buffalo-wing-sauce-topped jerky with beer and football, it’s even better with a respectable bourbon. Made in Northern California, Hooker’s House is putting out one of the best wine barrel–finished bourbons on the market today. Its Sonoma-style spirit is 6-year-old Kentucky juice girded by an additional few months up north, resting in vintage pinot noir casks. Bold and curiously tangy, it unites two great flavors into one beautiful whole — much like the merger of beef jerky and buffalo wings.

Krave Jerky Basil Citrus Turkey Jerky and Maker’s 46

Juicier than normal jerky and lighter in mouthfeel, Krave’s Basil Citrus Turkey Jerky is clearly an outlier in the realm of dried beef (mainly since it’s not beef at all). It’s only fair, then, that its ideal sipping companion is a bourbon-world outlier: Maker’s 46. Part of the Maker’s Mark portfolio, Maker’s 46 is a wheated whiskey finished with seared French oak staves. The tweaking adds a layer of earthiness to the caramel-like qualities for which traditional Maker’s is known. Crisp, marginally herbaceous properties of the basil and citrus provide a sensible parallel. They bring out the best in each other.

Peppered beef jerky

Dried and True Peppered Beef Jerky and Buffalo Trace Bourbon

Venice’s own Dried and True Beef Jerky is notable for its thick, chewy consistency. Produced without nitrites and sourced from California cattle, the beef hardly needs enhancement. The peppered variety lets the meat take centerstage, adding only a subtle layer of spice to tickle the tongue. These same notes are echoed in a proper dram of Buffalo Trace, a Kentucky bourbon renowned for the gentle rye notes it imparts in its lingering finish. A hearty chunk of the peppered beef plays as perfect chaser.

 

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Braised Short Ribs with Cheesy Grits

INGREDIENTS:

For the Short Ribs:

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 5 pounds beef short ribs
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 4 stalks celery, cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 5 thyme sprigs
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups dry red wine (example: cabernet sauvignon)

For the Cheesy Grits:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup corn grits
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 ounces smoked gouda cheese, shredded
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Prepare the Short Ribs: Heat the vegetable oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Season the short ribs liberally with salt and pepper, then add half of the short ribs to the skillet until a brown crust forms on all sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove the short ribs to a 9×13-inch baking dish and repeat with the remaining short ribs. All of the short ribs should now be in the baking dish in a single layer.

2. Reduce the heat to low and add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic to the now-empty skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetable are very soft and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Add the wine and thyme and bring to a boil over high heat. Pour the hot mixture over the short ribs and allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight, turning once.

3. The next morning, remove the short ribs from the marinade and place in a 6-quart slow cooker. Transfer the marinade to a medium saucepan, add the chicken stock, and bring to a boil over high heat. Pour over the short ribs, place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.

4. Prepare the Grits: About 30 minutes before planning to eat, begin to prepare the grits. Bring the water to a boil, then slowly stir in grits. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick and creamy, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and shredded cheeses until both are melted and incorporated into the grits. Season with salt and pepper.

How to Drink Whiskey

In preparing to learn a little about one of Kentucky’s grandest enterprises, the art of distilling, I would suggest we all get relaxed and comfortable. I think it would be appropriate that you go get a bottle of your favorite bourbon, pour about three fingers in the bottom of the glass and get ready to enjoy a sip. But don’t do it yet. Not everyone understands how sipping whiskey should be sipped. While everyone has his or her own method, I prefer to drink my whiskey neat—in other words, mixed with nothing and without ice. A great bourbon is like a great cheese: you wouldn’t eat cheese cold because at that temperature you can’t properly taste it. Cheese needs to be eaten at room temperature so you can enjoy the full flavors the maker intended. Bourbon is just the same. If you want to drink something cold, go have an ice-cold shooter of vodka. Vodka has no taste, smell or color, so you may as well fire it down icy cold and get it over with. Bourbon, on the other hand, is to be sipped in small quantities, savored and enjoyed. Here I am going to offer you my method for tasting.

With any luck at all you now have a glass with a splash of whiskey in the bottom, but before you taste it, think about a few characteristics of the bourbon in front of you. The first is the color—the soul of the whiskey. Your bourbon should have a rich and brilliant amber color with a flame-orange glint. Next is the bouquet, or nose. Hold your glass in both hands for a moment to warm the bourbon. Without swirling your whiskey, place your nose just above the rim of the glass and savor the aromas. You are not sniffing wine, so there is no need to stick your nose down into the glass. Bourbon is a “big” drink, not intended for the meek or timid drinker. Open your mouth slightly and breathe gently through your mouth and nose at the same time. Experience the aroma more than once. Did you catch the distinctive vanilla and caramel scent of the charred oak barrel? If it is fine bourbon it should not take your breath away with an overpowering alcoholic vapor, nor should it be without robust scent. Now, sip just enough of the bourbon to cover your tongue. Part your lips slightly and draw in some air over the liquid. Hold it in your mouth for a few seconds and let it wash over your tongue. Your bourbon should be full-bodied, yet soft and well-rounded. It should never bite or burn. Now, take a swallow. Did the taste live up to the promise of the aroma? Was it clean, crisp and smooth? Did you feel it all the way down? Taste it again. Remember this is not the Wild West, where you’re firing shots down because the whiskey is so hot you can’t stand it. Nor are you trying to drink the whole bottle in one sitting.

This is sipping whiskey. Take your time; enjoy it.

 

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