I wasn’t much looking forward to my three day trip to Orlando. I’m kinda done with traveling alone. While I would know one person at the conference at which I was presenting — my co-author — that was likely going to be it. After days on end of gray mountain skies, the promise of sunshine appealed to my vitamin D deprived self but I’ve been to central Florida often enough this time of year to know that it is never as warm as you hope it will be. And did I mention that I loathe the plastic that is Disney? In the end, I had a lovely weekend, met some nice people, got a little sun and drank some great bourbon.
I can only aspire to be a knowledgeable bourbon taster. Jack and water was a favorite during my twenties, but after I quit drinking during my pregnancies in my early thirties, I found that I’d pretty much lost my taste for much of any kind of hard liquor. A few dates with a old-school Southern gent changed all that. We drank Manhattans in the lounge at Eseeola and Old Fashioneds at the Fowl Play Pub, and sneaked his flask of Makers Mark into the John Prine concert. Now, I’m sippin’ and mixin’ up all kinds of things and learning lots in the process.
Night one was dinner with my co-author at Ragland Road, an Irish pub near our hotel in Disney Springs (known until recently as Downtown Disney). Ragland Road promised lively music, good food, and and an array of libations. The pub was busy and loud, and there were no seats at the bar so we opted to dine on the patio, even though it was a little chilly, which is what drove me to order a flight of bourbons and set in motion my Orlando bourbon drinking adventure. I should have ordered Irish whisky as we were in an Irish pub, but in my rush to get a shot of something to warm me up, I went for the Kentucky variety:
Orphan Barrel Kentucky Bourbon Series
Barterhouse 20 yr | Rhetoric 20 yr | Old Blowhard 26 yr
My flight included generous tastings, all of which I enjoyed. I seem to have been spoiled by my favorite bottle of Michter’s though. They were all good sippin’ whiskies, but even my clear favorite of the three, the Rhetoric, didn’t thrill me as much as smoky toasted barrel Michter’s.
Night two was solo-dining at The Rusty Spoon in downtown Orlando. Owner and Chef Kathleen Black is a semi-finalist for this year’s James Beard Best Chef: Southeast award. I’m not going to write about her fabulous food here as it deserves a post all its own! I’d initially made a reservation for early in the evening, but cancelled because it conflicted with the conference reception — just as well as I prefer to sit at the bar when I am dining alone. I couldn’t resist ordering this from their great selection:
The Kentucky Red – Bulleitt Bourbon, Ginger Syrup, Averna, Orange Bitters & Fresh Lemon
And it was fabulous — the clear winner of the three night’s samplings. Bulleitt bourbon, one of my favorites, with ginger and orange bitters? Yes, please. I was not familiar with Averna, but I’ll be going out shopping for some of this divine little Italian liqueur.
Night three was dinner at Todd English’s bluezoo with a new friend. Their cocktail menu included several tempting barrel-aged favorites. The Moscow Mule and the Boulevardier both sounded fabulous. Ultimately, we each ordered this: