“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”
Every year, the day after the summer solstice, I feel a little sadness.
Because the days are getting shorter.
Every year, the day after the winter solstice, I “rage, rage against the dying of the light.*”
The days are getting longer, and we need something stronger.
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“The Clark & Sheffield Single Barrel Bourbon smells nice and has a clear color like caramel. It tastes strong but smooth. This is not too hard to drink straight!”
At Christmas Eve, Lisa and I were gifted a bottle of Clark & Sheffield Small Batch Bourbon from our friends Mark and Val. There aren’t many bourbons that Mark hasn’t tasted. This is one that Lisa and I hadn’t ever seen. The label read, “Single Barrel,” “Kentucky,” and “90 Proof.” Mark added that this was a Binny’s Beverage Depot exclusive, and that it was produced at Sazerac’s Bardstown Distillery (crafters of Buffalo Trace, Barton and others). With all that to digest, we wanted our first taste.
Days later, we circled back for our own after party. Lisa and I sampled a shot neat. Lisa: “The Clark & Sheffield Single Barrel Bourbon smells nice and has a clear color like caramel. It tastes strong but smooth. This is not too hard to drink straight!” And me: “The label says 90 proof; I’m expecting this to be a little potent. It has a lively smell. The texture is unexpectedly smooth, not punchy or astringent. I detect a touch of charred wood, and something caramelized. There’s something botanical as well. This has some life to it!” We were getting a little warm, so we must have been on to something good. If warmer implies closer, then hot must be in the kitchen.
“I love the smell when the cupcakes were baking in the oven. I taste the bourbon at the end—it’s smooth and warm. The toasted walnuts are very nice. The cake is so moist. I like this!”
Small Batch Bourbon Chocolate Cupcakes (from A Flavor Journal by Sara):
Ingredients for Cupcakes (yields four):
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt or 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 Tbsp bourbon
2 Tbsp milk (your choice)
1 tsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp cold coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Ingredients for Walnut Topping:
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (preferably toasted)
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon sugar
Instructions for Cupcakes:
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place four (4) cupcake liners into four wells of a cupcake pan, and spray the liners with a baking spray. Fill the EMPTY cupcake wells halfway with water. Set aside for now.
2. Whisk the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, salt, cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl.
3. Mix the wet ingredients: bourbon, milk, maple syrup, cold coffee, vanilla, and vegetable oil in a large bowl. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well combined.
4. Portion the cupcake batter evenly across the four cupcake liners, and bake at 350° for 15 to 17 minutes.
5. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the cupcake pan for five minutes. Transfer them to a wire baking rack where they will cool completely.
Instructions for Walnut Topping:
1. Chop walnuts into fine pieces. In a small bowl, stir: walnuts, maple syrup, and cinnamon sugar together until mixed well.
2. Top the cupcakes with chocolate frosting, and then with about a tablespoon of walnut mixture. Serve immediately.
If first we eat with our eyes, then what about our sense of smell? As the cupcakes were baking, Lisa, my mom and I were enraptured by the aroma of chocolate and bourbon. The cake itself turned out perfectly with the outside crisp and the inside tender and moist. The toasted walnuts and maple drizzle blended beautifully with the chocolate frosting. Everything appeared rustic and unassuming. We unwrapped our foils carefully, and from then on we were jumping like hyenas. Actually, we savored every bite very slowly. My mom: “I love the smell when the cupcakes were baking in the oven. I taste the bourbon at the end—it’s smooth and warm. The toasted walnuts are very nice. The cake is so moist. I like this!” Lisa: “Oh, this cupcake is good! The cupcake is very chocolatey. I feel the warmth from the bourbon that goes well with the chocolate, toasted walnuts and maple syrup!” And me: “This is right up my alley. I love the toasted walnuts. They elevate the cupcake with a rustic look and feel. The maple syrup drizzle tops it off with a nice texture. I’m impressed by the crispness of the cupcake. I can taste the cocoa in the chocolate. I even get the aroma of the bourbon when I breathe in the cupcake!” Would I eat this as a snack? Yes. Would I consider this cake? Yes. Is this a snack cake? NO. These are Small Batch Bourbon Chocolate Cupcakes with Clark & Sheffield Small Batch Bourbon.
The Suffering Bastard Riff (original recipe from Joe Scialom at the Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo, Egypt):
1 oz. bourbon
1 oz. gin
3 oz. ginger ale
3-4 dashes cardamom vanilla Angostura bitters
Ingredients for Cardamom Vanilla Angostura Bitters:
1 bottle Angostura bitters
2 vanilla pods (ideally)
15 cardamom pods (ideally)
Instructions for Cardamom Vanilla Angostura Bitters:
1. Slice vanilla pods longways to expose seeds, then chop into half-inch pieces.
2. Gently crush cardamom pods with a muddler or something similar to expose their seeds.
3. Empty the bitters into a container, and then add the crushed and sliced ingredients. Let this steep for at least 24 hours but no more than 36 hours. Strain and bottle to serve.
Instructions for Riff:
1. Add ice to a highball glass and pour ingredients over the ice. Stir lightly to chill and add more ice if desired.
2. Top with ginger ale, and then garnish with dashes of cardamom vanilla Angostura bitters, and a lemon wheel.
Lisa and I looked at many drink recipes. One jumped out at me. It was calling my name: The Suffering Bastard Riff. These are challenging times. Who hasn’t been suffering to some degree these days? You can riff even if you’re not a bastard. Let’s bring down the temperature before we lose the room. How about we mix Clark & Sheffield Small Batch Bourbon over ice in a highball glass?
Lisa readied our mixers. We admired the color and nose of The Suffering Bastard Riff. Lisa: “I smell vanilla. This flavor is complex. It’s minimally mixed to give it layers. The warmth of the bourbon is very nice with the chill of the drink. The layering of the Riff gives it a different experience with every sip. I’m not suffering when I drink it!” And me: “The Suffering Bastard Riff has a fruity, herbal smell of botanicals. My first impression is that of summer peach, but then the bitters come in and give it more depth. The mellow color spectrum is lovely!” There was, within me, an invincible summer of golden hour mellow hues and mid-year peak flavors.
“The Suffering Bastard Riff has a fruity, herbal smell of botanicals. My first impression is that of summer peach, but then the bitters come in and give it more depth. The mellow color spectrum is lovely!”
Binny’s Beverage Depot describes Clark & Sheffield Small Batch Bourbon as “Classic corn puddin’ opens the nose with cherries and vanilla in supporting roles and a touch of anise in the background. Round and filling on the palate with a touch of toasted oak, baking spice and vanilla all in balance. The finish lingers with vanilla, butterscotch and a touch of clove and cinnamon.” Lisa and I are not bourbon sommeliers. Neither is Mark. But we like what we like and we essentially come around to what is good without all the fancy language. We keep it simple here, and we know how to luxuriate.
Ninety proof bourbon never before tasted so lively, smooth and welcoming. And versatile. Lisa and I could have gone on to make glazed salmon or apple crisp, but we would rather savor winter one sip—or one dish—at a time. What’s your hurry? The days are getting longer, and now we have something stronger.
*excerpt from “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas, 1947, 1951
To learn more about Clark & Sheffield, and to order, visit Clark & Sheffield | Exclusively at Binny’s Beverage Depot
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