A deep burn: Turn to bourbon for vintage cocktails that will warm you from the inside out

Party like it’s 1929: The Cherry Bourbon (left) and Ginger Bulleit from MGM’s West Wing Bar and Rouge, respectively.
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

“’Tis the season of brown spirit cocktails,” says Kent Bearden, master mixologist at the MGM Grand. As you may have noticed, popular culture has embraced the Prohibition era of late, with shows like Boardwalk Empire piquing the public’s interest in period fashion. And bartenders are going the same route with spirits, particularly bourbon, a 1920s favorite—albeit one that doesn’t go down easy by itself.

“Bourbon does have a burn to it,” Bearden says. “But as you create cocktails with it and as you put in different flavors, that burn goes away and you start realizing the depth of character—the vanillas, the coconut flavors even, the butterscotch, all of those wonderful flavors that are underlying in bourbon.”

For a taste, stop by the MGM’s West Wing Bar, a hidden upscale gem where we first experienced the Cherry Bourbon. Maker’s Mark, cherry brandy and simple syrup are combined then topped off with Prosecco and served with a cherry in a champagne flute. Nice. But it was the Ginger Bulleit, which Bearden features at nearby Rouge and created for the founder of Bulleit Bourbon’s great grandson, that really warmed us up. Muddled lemons are mixed with bourbon and simple syrup, then topped with ginger beer and garnished with fresh raspberries and mint. It opens up the senses for fuller enjoyment of the bourbon, burn free.

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