Every year, the Depot Theater Company in Dodge City, Kansas plays host to the area’s only cocktail and spirit tasting. It began three years ago, when theater leadership began looking for a way to bring new people into the theater world.
It was also an excuse for the theater’s bar staff to stretch their mixology legs. This year marked year number three, as well as tripled attendance.
Follow along over the next week as we share the Raising Spirits cocktail menu, as well as tasting notes from the spirits that were featured.
Frank loved his Jack.
It was no secret that the king of cool was a fan of the ubiquitous Tennessee whiskey. Frank’s love was so entrenched in his public image, in fact, that any number of Rat Pack performances contained some good-natured barbs hurled his way courtesy of Sammy or Deano.
Consider, for example, Dean Martin’s bon mot from The Rat Pack: Live at the Sands recording.
“I love Vegas like Sinatra loves Jack Daniels.”
The (somewhat apocryphal) story behind Frankie’s love affair with Jack Daniel’s goes that Sinatra, looking for something to get him hammered, asked Jackie Gleason for suggestions for the most efficient drunk.
“Jack Daniel’s. That’s a good place to start.”
So that’s where Sinatra started. And ended. He famously had a bottle near him during performances, and especially during the afterparties the Rat Pack was so known for. The man traveled with cases of Jack, and routinely toasted his audience.
A little less than 20 years after his passing, Jack Daniels themselves have released two bottles in as many years with the Sinatra family blessing.
Last year, Jack Daniel’s released the Sinatra Select – a $175 bottle of Jack.
This year, for what would have been Frank’s 100th birthday, Jack Daniel’s rolled out the wallet-emptying $500 Sinatra Century.
It’s enough to have Sinatra spinning in his grave, if his head wasn’t already spinning from the flask he was buried with.
I’ve never been very secretive about my general ambivalence towards Jack Daniel’s. It’s a passable Tennessee whiskey that runs hot and offers little in the way of subtly.
That’s not to completely throw Jack under the bus, however. Gentleman Jack ($29) is a softer, gentler version of their famous No. 7 that I’ve bought and enjoyed on more than one occasion.
I’m actually quite fond of their Single Barrel Select ($50), a spicier, bolder offering compared with other Jack Daniel’s products. Which is why we chose the Single Barrel Select as the base for the Frank’s Julep cocktail during the third annual Raising Spirits event at the Depot Theater.
Tasting Notes: Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel
According to Jack Daniel’s, only one out of every 100 barrels is set aside for special aging. These barrels are then placed “in the highest reaches” of Jack Daniel’s barrelhouse. The dramatic changes in temperature give this Jack Daniel’s its deeper flavor and darker hue.
The nose is vegetal and spicy. There are noticeable bits of oak, vanilla, and black pepper.
Served neat (as it should be), it’s spicier than your standard Jack Daniels. Smoother, with a stronger, oakier flavor. Geoff Kleinman from Drink Spirits calls it “Jack Daniel’s turned up to ’11′”which is a pretty accurate way to describe it.
On the Rocks
The spice takes a backseat to the sweeter flavors. The black pepper spice ratchets back, and you’re left with a gentler whiskey.
I knew I wanted to take advantage of that extra bit of spice and oak that shows up in the Single Barrel Select. The challenge, however, became how to keep that spice up front, but how to make it accessible to a drinker not used to that depth?
One of my go-to whiskey cocktails, divorced of scotch, are juleps. Because they tend to be so spirit-heavy it allows the base to shine forth, but utilizes sugar and herbs to soften the razor edge of the alcohol.
Frank’s Julep utilizes Angostura orange bitters to add a few more layers to the whiskey, but softens the blow of the spices with mint and simple syrup. A flamed orange peel brings out the smoke of the Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, creating a powerful but balanced cocktail.
You Will Need:
- 3 oz. Jack Daniels Single Barrel Whiskey
- 4 dashes Angostura orange bitters
- Handful of mint leaves
- .2 oz Simple syrup
- 1 splash seltzer water to top
- 1 flamed orange peel
To Make Frank’s Julep:
- Place the mint leaves and simple syrup at the bottom of a rocks glass.
- Muddle well, until the leaves are bruised but not shredded.
- Fill the rocks glass with ice, then add the Jack Daniels and bitters.
- Add a splash or two of seltzer water.
- Stir well.
- Flame the orange peel over the drink, rub around the glass, then garnish and serve.
Frank’s Julep is powerfully spicy without being overpowering. The orange bitters give some extra body to the spicier Single Barrel, while the sugar and mint help tame some of the burn from the higher proof whiskey. Delightfully savory and sweet. Unsurprisingly, this became the most popular cocktail of the entire night at Raising Spirits.
We hope Frank would be proud. Although we’re pretty sure he’d still just drink the Jack straight.