What it is: America’s foremost native spirits, bourbon is whiskey distilled from at least 51 percent corn and aged in charred oak barrels. Along with corn, it typically also contains barley malt and rye or wheat. By law, bourbon must be between 80 and 160 proof and aged at least two years.
The highest quality bourbons are single-barrel bourbon, bottled from one barrel at a time, or small-batch bourbon, blended from selected barrels.
Where it comes from: Only whiskey produced in the United States can be called “bourbon,” and traditionally the name is reserved for spirits made in Kentucky, where bourbon has been produced since the 18th century.
What to do with it: Besides drinking bourbon straight up, with a little water (the classic “bourbon and branch”), lightly iced, or mixed into cocktails — from the classic bourbon highball to the mint julep to the workingman’s potent beer-and-bourbon boilermaker, the spirits work beautifully to flavor wide variety of recipes. It’s exceptionally good with beef, pork and poultry and its sweetness lends itself wonderfully to desserts. At the Renaissance Schaumburg hotel, they take the bourbon boilermaker and churn it into ice cream.
“The idea came to us when we were working on desserts for a specialty pub menu,” says Pastry Chef Katherine Plucinski. “The beer we use is aged in bourbon barrels to enhance the bourbon and the vanilla essence in the beer.”
Renaissance Schaumburg’s beer and bourbon ice cream
Chef Katherine Plucinski
8 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1-1/3 cups whipping cream
2 cups Goose Island Bourbon County Vanilla Stout
1/2 cup bourbon
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
Ice and water
Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until light colored and well combined.
In a small saucepan, heat the cream, beer, bourbon and vanilla beans for 5 minutes.
Slowly add the warm cream mixture to the egg yolks, a little at a time. Then add the mixture to the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, over very low heat until it is slightly thickened. Once, thickened remove from the heat and place in bowl of ice and water to chill. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until it is very cold. Finish in an ice cream maker according to the package directions.