Friday, November 4, 2011

Cowboy Trails and Street Fairs at Chicago's "Taste of the Nation" Charity Event

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” - Plato

Every year I make sure to donate my time and talents to charitable causes and events. For three years, I have proudly donated my time to an outstanding organization. Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation® is one of the nation’s premier culinary benefits dedicated to making sure that no child in America grows up hungry. Each spring, the nation’s hottest chefs and mixologists donate their time, talent and passion at more than 45 Taste of the Nation events across the United States and Canada, with one goal in mind: to raise the critical funds needed to end childhood hunger. A mixologist’s job at this event is to create a signature cocktail recipe using a sponsored spirit that is assigned to you. Woodford Reserve Bourbon was my assigned sponsored spirit for last year’s benefit event that had an overall event theme of “street food.”  

Latigo Crossing Website
Music played a large inspirational factor when I was contemplating my cocktail recipe.  I am an avid music fan who listens to a vast and wide array of genres regularly. It is not unusual, nor uncommon, to hear a turn-of-the-century old-time cowboy instrumental followed by a Lady GaGa or Snoop Dogg song on my mp3 player. On my way home one evening before the event, I was thinking about my cocktail. I decided that I needed some additional inspiration from audio sounds, so I popped in a CD that I am very fond of. I come from a long line of very talented musicians, and one particular branch of the musical family tree has members that perform Old Time Cowboy/Western music. I’m not referring to Country and Western or Bluegrass music styles. I’m referring to a style of music from years before that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle play. 

Old-Time Western Music is a genre of North American folk music that is derived from the traditional music of England, Scotland and Ireland. It developed along with various North American folk dances, such as the square dance, buck dance, and clogging. Originally composed by and about the people who settled and worked throughout the Western United States and Western Canada, the genre also encompasses ballads and other types of folk songs. It is played on acoustic instruments, generally centering on a combination of fiddle and plucked string instruments, most often the guitar and banjo, and hammered dulcimer.

This particular musical style of the early days, developed from Protestant Scots, Irish and English descents, is distinctly similar to whiskey, and more importantly, American bourbon.  Bourbon is an alcoholic distillate from a fermented mash of grain consisting of at least 51% corn, aged in charred, new white American oak barrels, and produced in the United States. Bourbon began its early childhood development with these pioneering immigrants.

Whiskey was a commodity that was used instead of currency. What better way to utilize a perishable crop than to distill it? The Whiskey Rebellion played a very important factor in our nation’s early development. In 1794, after gaining our independence from England, our newly-formed country needed to pay for the Revolutionary War loans that we had incurred. Cash was needed, and taxes were imposed. When the farmers and distillers resisted, President George Washington gathered together 15,000 militiamen to squash the rebellion. It was the first time our President had to gather troops to gain control. Had he failed, our nation would not have formed into what it is today. To avoid further issues, incentive was given to those who would be willing to move to Kentucky, our newest state formed from Virginia. Anyone who was willing to set up a permanent homestead/farmhouse and raise our country’s native corn would be given 60 acres of land. One can only eat so much corn before it goes bad, which brought the pot still into the picture (it came over with the immigrants), and bourbon was born. 

As I began to notice the similarities between Bourbon and Old Time Western Music, I was driving up a large hill in an area that was predominantly flat farmland. The sun was just beginning to set into a beautiful burst of orange, red, yellow and purple that reflected and bounced off the newly-plowed acres that were getting ready to pop with spring seedlings. This scene, coupled with the music playing on the car’s CD player, took me back to an era of cowboys, saloons, dirt, rugged boots with spurs, planked wooden sidewalks, and Bourbon. Bourbon and cowboy trails would be a perfect fit for the Taste of the Nation charity event’s theme of “street food.”  One particular song on the CD, “Booth Shot Lincoln,” took me back to the Civil War era, and my mind zeroed in on the traditional whiskey sour, a classic cocktail circa 1850–1860.  I came to the conclusion that a twist on this old-school classic using my assigned spirit, Woodford Reserve, would be ideal for Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation charity event. 

I decided to alter the simple syrup normally used in the classic recipe, and to create a spiced maple apple syrup that would dance and play in harmonic balance with the already phenomenal flavor profiles that exist in Woodford Reserve Bourbon (just like Old Time Western Music). I also felt it necessary to name my signature drink after the talented and creative musicians who gave me the inspiration for this cocktail recipe, Latigo Crossing. I am very proud to call two members of this sensational band my family. I hope that these talented gentlemen keep the “spirit” of Old Time Western Music alive and not allow a piece of Americana music history to become so faint that it rides off into the eternal cowboy sunset, never to be heard from again.  Enjoy this video of the sensational Old Time musicians, Latigo Crossing, and see below for the cocktail recipe they inspired me to showcase at the 2010 Chicago Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation Charity Event   Cheers!



Latigo Crossing

2 oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon
1 oz. Spiced Maple Apple Syrup (see recipe below)
¾ oz. Fresh-Squeezed Lemon Juice

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass.  Add ice to Boston shaker and shake ingredients for 10 seconds.  Strain into an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass and garnish with orange/cherry flag.

Spiced Maple Apple Simple Syrup

2 c Indian Summer Apple Juice
1 ½ c Turbinado Sugar
1 tablespoon pure bourbon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick
2 two-inch pieces of skinned ginger root

Heat the apple juice in a non-reactive pan over medium heat.  Once simmering, slowly stir in sugar and stir well until dissolved.  Add vanilla and maple syrup, stir well.  Remove from heat and add ginger root and cinnamon stick.  Allow to steep for 20-40 minutes according to taste preference.  Once flavor is achieved, remove cinnamon stick and ginger root and allow to cool.  Once cool, bottle and refrigerate for up to 30 days.




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