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Bourbon goes boutique

Food and wine matching is nothing new; we’re certain the Greek and Roman gods were doing it back in the day. Beer matching is kind of novel; a fairly contemporary Aussie phenomenon, anyway. And one night recently, I even enjoyed a degustation meal where cognacs were matched with delicate dishes. But bourbon paired with boutique cuisine? Who’d have thought it?
Recently, Maker’s Mark took the challenge of matching its quality, Kentucky-distilled bourbon, with quality Australian fare via a special lunch at the Steel Bar & Grill in the Sydney CBD, with executive chef Damian Heads outdoing even his usual results in above-par culinary delivery.

The meal kicked off with a Stone Fruit Julep cocktail that consisted, simply enough, of peach liqeur, mint leaves, caster sugar and, of course, a good dash of Maker’s Mark. It was the perfect drink to cleanse the palette for the variety of dishes to come. First up: Sydney rock oysters with a side of buffalo mozzarella, peach, mint, chilli and rocket salad; the punch-like dressing working well with intermittent sips of the julep.

For entree, a Kingfish sashimi was served with shaved fennel, pink grapefruit and citrus dressing, again the juices flowing well with a glass of Star Hill Sgropino on the side. The drink consisted of one part Triple Sec, two parts Maker’s Mark, and topped with sparkling Prosecco and a dollop of grapefruit sorbet. Yes, it’s as refreshing as it reads.

Third up, a special concoction, called the Samuels Sangria – named after Bill Samuels Jr, president of the Maker’s Mark Distillery – was paired with the main dish of a generously-sized pork cutlet glazed with the good bourbon on a bed of celeriac remoulade and watercress salad. I so wished I wasn’t allergic to red wine because I would have loved to have sampled this specially customised sangria,
but after quick contemplation, the pork and glaze were happy to be matched with another glass of the Sgropino.

Finally arrived the chef’s piece de resistance in what was very much an innovative experiment in food and bourbon alchemy – dessert: a divine slice of macadamia tart that had been laced generously with Maker’s Mark, oozing with toffee, and topped with ice cream.

After a decade of food reviewing, I must say this recent Maker’s Mark event proved to be one of the most interesting culinary experiences I’ve had. In fact it’s inspired me to jazz up my cooking the next time I’m preparing a roast.

As a special touch to the occasion, present was vice-president for the brand, Victoria Macrae-Samuels, who even gave journalists a go at sealing our own bottles of Maker’s Mark, dipping each individually in hot red wax and having them signed by her. It served to remind us of the good old-fashioned care put into every unit of this quality straight bourbon whiskey. Well, perhaps not so ‘straight’ once I try my hand at cooking with it.


Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky is available from all good liquor outlets. For special cocktail and food recipes, visit www.makersmark.com
Photography courtesy Sireshan, ChicTraveller.

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