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Bub City Whiskey Tasting

Best BBQ & Bourbon Pairings

Tasting tips from Bub City's experts

Bourbon and barbecue may be as iconic a pairing as peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, and bacon and eggs. In honor of National BBQ Month coming up in May, Bub City Chef Tim Cottini and Partner Eric Rose give us the rundown on the best bottles to pour alongside your favorite dishes.

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How To Taste Bourbon

Cottini and Rose say it’s best to pour bourbon into a large, wide glass, and if possible, to let it sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes to allow some of the ethanol—a natural byproduct of distillation—to evaporate. Some distillers allow more ethanol to evaporate during the blending process, which results in a more balanced bourbon. 

Bourbon and barbecue at Bub CityThere are three key parts in properly tasting bourbon:

  1. On the Nose: While gently swirling the bourbon in the glass, smell with one nostril in and one out so you don’t overwhelm your senses.
  2. Mid-Palate: Sniff and inhale as you sip the bourbon, then let it sit on your tongue for a few moments before you swallow or spit it out, if you’re trying to preserve your palate.
  3. Finish: Notice how the bourbon coats your mouth and how long it continues to change flavor profiles after it’s left your mouth.   

Ready to taste some bourbon and BBQ? Let’s go!

Perfect Pairings

When pairing whiskey and food, Cottini and Rose recommend considering what will best compliment the flavor and matching flavor profiles whenever possible, for example drinking smokier bourbons with smoked meats, spicier whiskeys with dishes that bring the heat, and so on. As a rule, they say, enjoy all spirits responsibly, and when tasting bourbons over 100 proof, make sure to have some water. Here are their recommendations for the perfect pairings. 

Nashville Hot Chicken & Waffles + Elijah Craig – Bub City 9 Year

bub wafflesFor a perfect pairing with Bub City’s Nashville Hot Chicken & Waffles—a weekend brunch favorite—Elijah Craig Bub City 9 Year is an ideal partner. Rose says, “This bourbon is barrel proof, which means it has a little more of a burn and even at nine years the flavors are well developed. The cherry and sweeter notes compliment the savory waffle and the higher ABV holds up well with the Nashville spice.”

Overindulged? Cure what ails you with brunch and Hangover Happy Hour at Bub City – River North and Bub City – Rosemont, Saturdays and Sundays, from 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM! 

Nachos Bub Grande + High West Campfire 92 Proof

Bub City Chili Cheese NachosA great way to kick off any meal at Bub City is the Nachos Bub Grande. Cottini and Rose suggest a sip on the side of High West Campfire 92 Proof, which has a smoky profile that works well with the starter’s roasted red salsa.

Get the recipe for Bub City’s Chili Cheese Nachos

18-Hour Smoked Prime Brisket + Old Forester – Bub City 100 Proof

18-Hour Smoked Brisket at Bub City - RosemontCottini and Rose say Old Forester – Bub City 100 Proof carries a little spice that matches the pops of pepper and sweetness of the sauce Bub City uses on its 18-hour Smoked Prime Brisket. Both the bourbon and the brisket have a similar complex flavor profile, making them a marvelous match.

Mac ‘N Cheesy + Buffalo Trace – Bub City 94 Proof

Bub City Mac n cheese“Whiskey needs to be able to stand up to the food and vice versa,” Cottini says. Buffalo Trace – Bub City 92 Proof’s rich but mild flavor is able to cut through the richness of the restaurant’s signature Mac ‘N Cheesy. “Its simplicity compliments the simplicity of the dish,” he shares. “Mac ‘N Cheese would struggle to compete with a higher proof bourbon but this one makes for easy sipping.”

Make Bub City’s Mac ‘N Cheesy at home.

Chocolate Chip Cookies + Woodford Double Oaked

Bub City Chocolate Chip CookiesBourbon is also delightful with dessert, and Cottini and Rose say that Woodford Double Oaked has wonderfully rich, slightly sweet cacao notes that make it pair nicely with Bub City’s Chocolate Chip Cookie.

More Tasting Tips

Bourbon bottles at Bub City in River NorthWhen tasting a high-end whiskey for the first time, for maximum enjoyment, Cottini and Rose recommend tasting before eating, when your palate is clear. Taste bourbons from lower proof to higher proof to allow your palate to open up gradually. 

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