Wild Turkey

June 15, 2011 by Aaron Goldfarb | Filed under Bourbon.

The beacon of lightly colored booze that kept us going night after night on my 30 Bars in 30 Days book tour was the frequent appearances of the special How to Fail Cocktail:

Bourbon, Grand Marnier, apple cider, and a splash of ginger beer created by noted DC mixologist Derek Wallace.

It was never stated in the recipe what was the “correct” bourbon to use and, no matter where we went–dive, upscale cocktail lounge, craft beer bar–we usually let the establishment’s bartender choose the booze.  Luckily, no matter where we went, all bars had the classic Wild Turkey and that’s what usually found its way into the cocktails.

Wild Turkey has some great literary roots.  It was the preferred drink of Hunter S. Thompson, makes frequent appearances in David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest,” and there always seem to be a bottle lurking nearby U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens on James Ellroy’s “Justified.”

I’ve become quick friends with the good PR folks for Wild Turkey and they’ve turned me on to several varieties from the Wild Turkey line, most notably Russell’s Reserve, American Honey, and the Rare Breed.  I even had a bull session with them over Turkey and BBQ last night at Hill Country, surely Manhattan’s best BBQ below 125th Street.

American Honey

I won’t lie, I wouldn’t be caught dead drinking this in public.  But, truth be told, I’ve fallen for it.  PR flack Brian was quickly able to assess the kind of person I am as we talked about the podcast and radio interviews I give sometimes.

“You ever ‘pre-game’ an interview?” he asked.

Damn, if he hadn’t nailed me spot on.

I DO pre-game interviews.  I’m so much more interesting with a few fingers in me.  And, quickly, American Honey has become what I pre-game with.  Just a little.  It’s so sticky and syrupy that after a few pours the bottle cap will be nearly soldered onto the bottle.  Packed with a honey and caramel-y sweetness, it goes down easy.  Perfect for a quick mid-day quaff.  To be clear, it is not bourbon.  It is a bourbon-based liqueur.  But I really dig it.  And chilled, it’s a revelation, a perfect dessert libation to coat your insides and prepare you for bed.  Why are college kids wasting their time taking shots of Jager when this is so much better?

Russell’s Reserve

This 10-year-old small-batch bourbon is soooo easy drinking at 90 proof.  It’s even master distiller Jimmy Russell’s “everyday” bourbon.  Thick and full-bodied, vanilla and sugar cane with a little cinnamon-y zing.  I could drink this all night.

Oh, and I did.

Rare Breed

Rare Breed is a beast.  Surely the most reasonably priced barrel-proof bourbon around at a mere $35 or so.  At 54.2%, Rare Breed truly separates the men from the boys, but it’s not as hot as you’d think.  Toffee and honey, with a creamy rye finish.

After a few Russell’s Reserves and a dessert shot of American Honey, I came home for a nightcap, with a determination to invent my own Wild Turkey cocktail.

What can I say, I had no choice but to name it after my short story collection, continuing the tradition of a cocktail for each of my books.

The Cheat Sheet

*2 parts Rare Breed
*1 part American Honey
*a generous splash of bitters (I recommend Fee Brothers)
*garnish with a cherry if you have one around the house (you don’t, and I didn’t)

It’s like a Manhattan except replacing the wussy sweet vermouth with something a little more potent.

And, it’s amazing.

6 Responses to “Wild Turkey”

  1. STG says:

    I freaking love Wild Turkey and the Cheat Sheet cocktail sounds amazing.

    I will def try.

    Thanks Aaron!

  2. ClaireF says:


    It sounds AMAZING.

    I don’t have any Honey, but I will get some this weekend and try it!


  3. BourbonBoyz says:

    Where can you get Fee Bros. bitters? Never seen them.

  4. BB:

    As they say…

    Check your finer alcohol retailers.

    Mainly on the east coast I’m guessing as they’re out of Rochester.

  5. PR flack Brian says:

    Pretty great cocktail you created, I’ll have to give it a try. Glad you enjoyed yourself last night, we did as well!

  6. Is “flack” an insulting term nowadays, akin to “stewardess”? I didn’t know. I hope not.

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