Despite what any uninformed asshat may tell you, bourbon doesn’t have to be made in Kentucky or aged for any specific amount of time, unless it’s going for the designation of “straight bourbon.”
What bourbon has to be is delicious.
OK, delicious isn’t actually one of the legal requirements (which are: made in the U.S., at least 51 percent corn, aged in unused oak barrels, at least 80 proof when bottled), but it is usually true.
You can get plenty of delicious bourbon at Oliver’s Burgers Steaks & Bourbon (26 N High St.), the latest concept from the Fab Dining group, which also operates nearby scotch-centric bar Manifesto, in addition to de Novo and Fin. Though burgers and steaks take equal prominence in the bar’s name, the star at Oliver’s is the brown stuff.
“I was charged with the really fun and interesting task of perfecting our bourbon infusions,” said Matthew Wilson, bar manager at Oliver’s. “It took some trial and error and a lot of research and a lot of bourbon. It was definitely an act of love. I like to call them my babies.”
Wilson’s babies comprise a diverse bourbon family: fresh mint; anise with German noble hops and tea; honey with cayenne and thyme; blackberry; walnut and tobacco; espresso; fig and vanilla; almond and clove; bacon; and chocolate.
“There are so many different layers and flavors in bourbon, and these different flavor combinations bring out the accents and flavors,” said Wilson.
Most of the infusions use Evan Williams Black Bourbon, which Wilson describes as a middle-of-the-road – not too sweet and not too harsh – bourbon that takes well to flavor additives. The bacon bourbon uses Middle West Spirits’ OYO bourbon, and the chocolate uses Watershed Distillery’s bourbon.
Chocolate, espresso, and bacon will be staples on the menu, but other infusions will change seasonally. In the fall, look for flavors like caramel apple, and clove and peppermint coming around Christmas time.
You can find a few of the bourbons used in the bar’s cocktail menu: bacon and chocolate are combined in Not Your Daddy’s Manhattan, and espresso is used in Really, An Espresso Manhattan? (I’m not questioning it – that’s the name of the cocktail.)
During Oliver’s “1 Damn Good Happy Hour”, which takes places Monday through Friday from 3 – 6 p.m. and every night from 10:30 p.m. to close, you can try a bourbon infusion for $7 (normally $10), plus take advantage of discounted small plates, $5 specialty cocktails, $6 house wines, $1.50 domestics, and half-off drafts. •