Ben Harrell tells about the Bourbon Tasting at The King and Prince on July 24, 2011.
Vinny D’Agostino thinks it is high time that bourbon reclaimed its rightful place as “America’s Native Spirit,” the title it was awarded in 1964 by Congress.
“I want people to be educated about bourbon so that they can really appreciate what a unique spirit it is. There’s so much history there, in how bourbon is made, from the charred white oak casks that give it that distinctive color and flavor, to how the art of distilling it was nearly lost during Prohibition.”
Reinvigorating a passion for former glories is “on the menu” for Vinny, who joins the King and Prince family as its new Food and Beverage Director from the Sawgrass Marriott Resort in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and he hopes to see the storied Kings Tavern Restaurant mirror its heyday when the island social scene made its hub in the Tavern’s oceanfront venue. A big part of that plan for restoration, as Vinny sees it, is hosting events like this bourbon tasting.
The event itself, hosted by Vinny with hors d’oeurves catered by the King and Prince kitchen, featured a little over fifteen in attendance, a mixed crowd of both guests and locals. It was held in the Retreat Room, one of the King and Prince’s many meeting venues, which features stunning ocean views. The tasting featured labels included Four Roses, Buffalo Trace, Knob Creek, Bakers, Evan Williams, Blantons, and Maker’s Mark. Attendees enjoyed a brief lecture on the history and roots of bourbon, from the Whiskey Rebellions of the 1790’s, to the rise of bourbon as America’s spirit of choice in the 1960’s, and to its eventual fall from grace at the hands of James Bond’s vodka martinis (shaken, not stirred) in the 70’s.
Attendees also learned the finer points of tasting spirits, starting with smelling the alcohol, experiencing the bouquet, and identifying the base. After each tasting, group discussion revealed varied reactions to each individual label, but overarching themes became apparent.
The bourbon tasting was finished with a King and Prince creation: bacon-infused bourbon. Both surprising and tasty, the spirit seemed to be a crowd-pleaser, but was quickly overshadowed by a surprise treat from local island ice cream shop, Moo Cow Creamery: candied bacon ice cream, and as if that sweet treat wasn’t enough to finish the night, Vinny introduced one final cocktail of the night, one of the King and Prince’s signature offerings: The Whiskey Smash, whose recipe is included below.
As the evening drew to a close and the buzz of excited conversations filled the room, Vinny offered one last bit of advice: to consider bourbon in all its storied past and history the next time you frequent your favorite bar or go to stock your liquor cabinet. As a true piece of classic Americana, bourbon, not unlike the King and Prince Resort, is always a safe bet for a good time.
1 oz simple syrup
2 sprigs of mint
1 oz of water
Muddle the ingredients in a shaker.
Add 1 ½ oz. of bourbon
Add ice, shake to mix, strain and pour.