You might find yourself with a little extra time these days to experiment in the kitchen. Why not have a little fun with one of the most versatile beverages out there?
Four of the country’s best culinary experts challenged one another to create the ultimate food and cocktail pairings, featuring their favourite bourbon, Woodford Reserve. These masters of flavours chose a drink that offers 200 different favour notes with every sip making it the ideal ingredient.
Their first pairing challenge: Food and Cocktails for Sunday Night Football
Star bartender James Grant, Alberta’s reigning Manhattan champion challenged Ross Bowles, the Head Chef from River Café, to create a restaurant quality dish that paired perfectly to his cocktail inspired by a classic punch. He added Woodford Reserve, sherry and a homemade Oleo Saccharum to really test Ross’ pairing skills. But Ross didn’t fumble; he responded with a brilliant recipe for Game Day Wings, slow cooked in duck fat until crisp with a sweet bourbon glaze and a parsley puree.
The tables turned for their second challenge, where James had to create a cocktail to Ross’ dish.
Challenge #2: Date Night In
Ross may have had an advantage with this challenge, creating a light fish dish of Barley Blini’s with a creamy Sabayon that melts in your mouth. James stepped up, leveraging the flavours in Ross’ Sabayon to create a twist on a Flip, incorporating nutmeg, cream and Woodford Reserve.
The next two challenges were executed by Carl Heinrich, former Top Chef Canada winner and Co-Owner of Richmond Station, and Evelyn Chick, one of Canada’s top female bartenders from Vancouver to Toronto. This dynamic duo created challenges designed around cool weather and cozy nights in.
Challenge #3: Lazy Lounge Days
Kicking if off, Evelyn created a cocktail fitting for lazy afternoons, taking inspiration from a classic sweet tea, and giving it a fall twist. She created a cashew syrup and added Woodford Reserve, sherry and citrus. Carl realized a light drink requires a light dish, so he played on the same flavours, splashing some Woodford Reserve on a cured piece of fish, coating it with salt, brown sugar and citrus and garnishing with watercress. No cooking required; ideal for a lazy day, and a match made in heaven to Evelyn’s cocktail.
Challenge #4: Warm and Hearty
For this final challenge, Carl created a roasted maple glazed squash dish, with a Woodford Reserve vinaigrette topped with bacon, dill, pepper and endives. Evelyn met this challenge by playing on the savoury and sweet notes from Carl’s dish, mixing classic fall spirits like apple brandy and Woodford Reserve with a chilli-infused maple syrup. She then garnished it with thyme, as it pairs perfectly with squash. A stunning pairing, they call Warm Rejoice.
CHALLENGE ONE: Football with Finesse
COCKTAIL: GAME DAY PUNCH
1.5oz Woodford Reserve
0.5oz Alvear Medium Dry Sherry
0.5oz Lemon Juice
0.5oz Oleo Saccharum* (peach, orange and lemon)
Shake all ingredients with ice and stain into a punch saucer on the rocks. Garnish with a mint bouquet.
*Oleo Saccharum – in a non-reactive container, combine 2 cups white sugar with half a peach (roughly chopped) and the zest of 2 lemons and 1 orange. Allow to macerate for 3 hours before combining with one cup of water over medium/low heat. Once combined, strain and transfer to clean bottle. Store in the fridge.
DISH: GAME DAY WINGS
7 Chicken Wings (not drumettes)
1 cup Woodford Reserve
1 cup Sugar
¼ cup Honey
1 cup Blanched and Squeezed Parsley
1 tbs Grapeseed Oil
¼ Cup Vegetable Stock
1 Clove Blanched Garlic
Brine the chicken wings in a 5% salt/water solution for 1 hour, then slow cook in fat (duck, chicken or oil) for three hours until crisp. Make Woodford Reserve Bourbon glaze by adding sugar, Woodford Reserve and honey: cook down until thick and glaze chicken wings. Finish by adding the remaining ingredients to a blender / food processor and puree on high until smooth to create parsley puree– cool over ice and add.
CHALLENGE TWO: Date Night In: Cocktail paired to the dish
DISH: Woodford Reserve Sabayon
½ cup sugar
12 Eggs Yolks
3oz Woodford Reserve
1/2 cup Whipping Cream
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1 Tbs Nutmeg
Whip the sugar, egg yolks and Wood Reserve in a Bain Marie until thick. In a bowl, whip the whipping cream, sour cream and nutmeg, the fold into the Sabayon mix. Use to top a dish of Barley Blini’s or Cured Trout Roe or whatever light fish you prefer. is available.
1.5oz Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
0.5oz Tia Maria
0.5oz 1:1 Demerara Syrup
1oz Heavy Cream
3 Heavy Dashes Angostura
Shake all ingredients with ice and stain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with fresh nutmeg.
ONTARIO: EVELYN AND CARL
CHALLENGE #3: Lazy Lounge Days
1 oz Woodford Reserve
0.5 oz Amontillado Sherry
0.75 oz Cashew Orgeat **
0.75 oz Lemon Juice
Shake, add to a tall collins glass, add crushed ice, garnish with mint and angostura bitters
Blend 500ml Cashew milk with 500g granulated sugar in blender until smooth, add 1 dash orange flower water. Bottle & Refrigerate.
1 large Trout Fillet (300 g)
25 g Woodford Reserve
40 g Kosher Salt
30 g Sugar
30 g Brown Sugar
Zest of one Lemon
Zest of half an Orange
Mix the salt, sugars and zests in a bowl. Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on a tray and sprinkle a small amount of the cure mix the size of the fillet on top.
Place the fillet of trout skin side down on top of the sprinkled cure. Drizzle the bourbon on the fish and gently wash it into the flesh with your fingers.
Sprinkle all of the remaining cure mix on top of the fish and spread evenly.
Fold up the sides of the plastic wrap so the fish is fully enveloped. Place another tray on top of the fish (about 1 kg of weight) and put in the fridge for 12 hours (or more or less depending on the size of the fillet). Open the plastic and rinse the fillet well. Pat dry with a towel and return to the fridge uncovered for 1 hour. Slice off the skin thinly on a bias and serve with your choice of accompaniments.
CHALLENGE #4: Warm and Hearty
1 small Squash, peeled and cut into thick wedges (about 500 g of cut squash), butternut works well
5 g Kosher Salt
20 g Maple Syrup
20 g Woodford Reserve Double Oak
20 g Vegetable Oil
Toss the squash with the salt. Mix the maple, Woodford Reserve and vegetable oil and mix with the squash. Line a pan or tray with parchment paper and spread the squash onto the tray. Bake at 400 F until very soft, roughly 35-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool at room temperature on the tray.
60 g Woodford Reserve Double Oak
20 g Maple Syrup
15 g Dijon Mustard
10 g Lemon Juice
8 g Sherry Vinegar
1 pinch Cayenne Pepper
50 g Sunflower Oil
5 g Woodford Double Oak
Pour 60g of the Woodford Reserve Double Oak into a small pot and gently reduce by half on medium heat. Pour into a bowl. Add the maple, dijon, lemon, sherry vinegar, cayenne, oil and 5 g of Woodford Reserve Double Oak. Whisk well to emulsify.
80 g slab Bacon, cut into lardons
1 head Belgian Endive, leaves separated, washed and spun
1 small Shallot, finely diced
4 sprigs Dill, picked
Render bacon on medium high heat in a sautee pan until caramelized, drain the fat and place in a medium size mixing bowl. Add the squash and endive and vinaigrette and gently mix. Divide among two plates and sprinkle with the shallots and dill.
1.5oz Woodford Reserve Double Oak
0.5 oz Calvados
0.5 oz spiced maple syrup (cayenne, chicory)
0.75oz Lemon Juice
Top with Ginger Beer
Add to a rocks glass with ice and garnish with charrred Thyme Sprigs