Let's start things off with a fun fact: "There are over 5.5 million barrels of bourbon currently aging in Kentucky, which is around 1 million more barrels of bourbon than Kentucky residents," says Susie Hoyt, the beverage director at The Silver Dollar. Repeat: there are more barrels of bourbon in Kentucky than there are people. With no shortage of the stuff at any given Louisville bar, it's important for mixologists to add their own spin on bourbon-based cocktails to distinguish themselves. Enter the Silver Dollar's take on the French 75.
The whiskey-fueled restaurant occupies a historic building that was once a firehouse. "It was built in the late 1800s," explains Alyssa Smoger, a manager at the space. "It was called the Hook and Ladder Company No. 3, and it remained a fire station until 2009."
Since 2011, The Silver Dollar has served a rotation of bourbon-based cocktails to a community that loves its share of whiskey. "We change cocktail menus seasonally, and we try to incorporate flavors that represent those times of the year," Hoyt says, adding, "since The Silver Dollar is a bourbon honky-tonk in concept, we try to stick to the classics with our house cocktails, and not go overboard with the number of ingredients." The most ordered drinks include their Mint Julep, the Kentucky Mule (a bourbon play on the Moscow Mule), and the Gold Rush, which is a bourbon and lemon combination sweetened with honey.
But one of the most interesting cocktails on the list is the Silver 75, the restaurant's take on the French 75. The original is made with Champagne, gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup. The Silver Dollar's version combines bourbon, sparkling wine, and a simple syrup that's actually crafted in-house. "A few of us here wanted to add a bourbon and sparkling wine cocktail to our menu—something light and refreshing. The Silver 75 came about from there," Hoyt recalls.
A Is for American
Bourbon can only be called bourbon if it's distilled in the US (sort of like how Champagne can't be called Champagne unless it's made in Champagne, France), and 95 percent of bourbon is made in Kentucky.
"There are over 5.5 million barrels of bourbon currently aging in Kentucky, which is around 1 million more barrels of bourbon than Kentucky residents." — Susie Hoyt
"Back in the day, settlers found their way into Kentucky and started making bourbon," Smoger says. "They found that what made the whiskey so good here was the abundance of limestone—which naturally filters out water." The alcohol gets its bold taste because the formula isn't watered down.
B Is for Barreled
In order for a bourbon to be a true bourbon, it must be stored in a barrel. And not just any barrel. "It has to be in a new charred-oak barrel that can never be reused," Smoger says.
C Is for Corn
Bet you didn't know that corn is one of the main ingredients in this whiskey, did you? "It has to be made of 51 percent, or more, corn," Smoger says. "You can use other grains, such as rye, wheat, and barley, but if it's not at least 51 percent corn, then it's not considered bourbon."
Another bourbon absolute: "Bourbon cannot have any colors or flavors added," says Hoyt. "Everything that you see comes from the barrel."
D Is for Distilled
The distillation process is all about precision. "Bourbon is distilled to at least 160 proof, and it can't go over," Smoger says. "When it enters the barrel, it can be no more than 120 proof and when it enters the bottle, it has to be a minimum of 80 proof."
Now that you know your bourbon basics, it's time to graduate to making the Silver 75 yourself! The Silver Dollar bartenders kindly show us how....
- ¾ ounce Old Forester Signature bourbon
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- ½ ounce lemon juice
- sparkling wine
- cherry and lemon peel for garnish
How to Make It
Hoyt's tip on making drinks in general: "We always make drinks in the order of least to most expensive ingredients. The theory for this is that if you make a mistake, the least amount of ingredients are wasted."
Combine bourbon, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a tin and shake lightly.
Shake and strain into a wine glass and top with sparkling wine.
Drop a cherry to the bottom of the glass and garnish with a lemon peel.