• Weekly Cocktail #30: The Derby

    The Derby Cocktail.

    When we look around our bar, it doesn’t take long for us to see that bourbon is sometimes a neglected spirit. We often prefer rye whiskey in many classic cocktails and when reworking old recipes tend to look to Cognac or Armagnac. But that doesn’t mean we dislike bourbon, we just usually drink it neat, on the rocks or in Mint Juleps when spring comes around. But part of why we write about our explorations in cocktails is to expand our tastes, so this week we took another look at bourbon.

    And it didn’t take us long to find the Derby. The Derby combines bourbon, sweet vermouth, orange Curacao and lime juice. We were attracted to this drink both because it uses common ingredients (like the Scofflaw), but features the uncommon mix of lime and whiskey (like the Junior). And, finally, a little research from Ted Haigh noted that Trader Vic Bergeron himself published this recipe and featured the drink. If it’s good enough for Trader Vic, we figured the Derby was worth a try.

    And the Derby is certainly worth a try, and probably a regular visit. The bourbon and sweet vermouth are a natural fit, but the Curacao adds depth and the lime adds a bright, tart flavor to the sip. If you are a big Manhattan fan, you might find this drink a bit sour, but if you are a rum or gin fan, this cocktail may seem like familiar territory. But make no mistake, you taste the sweet caramel notes of the bourbon, it just doesn’t dominate the whole sip. Like we said, worth a visit.

    As for the spirits, we use Bulleit bourbon as our go-to bourbon and recommend it, but this would be a good cocktail to play with- try the bourbon(s) you have. We also use Pierre Ferrand Curacao, a reformulation / recreation of  “old-time” Curacao. We are big fans of the Pierre Ferrand, it is less sweet and has more spice than most Curacaos or triple secs. But finally, the big variable in the Derby is the sweet vermouth. We use Carpano Antica, a much less sweet vermouth that adds some spice and amps the tartness of the drink. (If you see a theme emerging, it’s that we usually prefer tart and spice flavors in our cocktails).  If you like a sweeter sip, Dolin or M&R might be the way to go. But again, the Derby is a good recipe for experimentation, and a great way to enjoy a little bourbon.

    The Derby Cocktail:


    • 1 oz. bourbon whiskey
    • 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
    • 1/2 oz. orange Curacao
    • 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice.


    1. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé. Serve.
  • Home Cured Canadian Bacon

    Home Cured Canadian Bacon.

    Also known as “back” bacon, “Irish” bacon, “rasher” bacon, or just “bacon” (in the UK), what we have here is a cured, smoked, boneless pork loin. Much leaner than bacon from pork belly (American Bacon or “streaky bacon” in the UK), Canadian bacon is very tasty and pretty good for you. If you worry about the fat in bacon, Canadian bacon is a good choice. We eat both types of bacon, you just can’t have enough bacon in your life.

    Most Americans are familiar with Canadian Bacon as a featured part of the Egg McMuffin, and while it does go well with eggs (and we do make a better McMuffin at home), Canadian bacon has other uses. We use our Canadian Bacon in grilled cheese sandwiches, diced in soups, and simply as a snack.  The best way to serve it is sliced thin and lightly browned in a skillet. The flavor is like smoked ham, but with some of the piquant flavor of bacon. Good stuff and a fun project.

    Making Canadian Bacon at home takes no special skills, just time and a key ingredient. The key ingredient is “pink salt” or curing salts. You can order them here. And if you want your bacon to taste like bacon, you need to use curing salts. Curing salts do contain sodium nitrites / nitrates and there have been some questions on their impact on health. We looked into it and any health risks seemed minimal. In fact, a little more research told us that fresh vegetables are very rich in nitrates (celery in particular) and there is no health risk associated with nitrates from veggies. So, as vegetable gardeners, we get plenty of nitrites and our health is fine. So we may as well enjoy some home-cured bacon.  (Michael Ruhlman has a good, if somewhat heated, piece about overblown Nitrites / Nitrates risks here. It also includes some other scientific links on the subject. )

    Continue reading