On a recent trip to the package store, I bought what I thought was a new-to-me brand of bourbon. Later I poured a serving of it, on the rocks, and was sadly disappointed when I took my first sip. The item I had purchased was not bourbon, it was bourbon liqueur. Now that I am the owner of this bottle, do you have any suggestions for how I can use this cloyingly sweet liqueur?
Well, I hope that teaches you a lesson. I can empathize. I made the same mistake once buying what I thought was a value-priced Irish whiskey that wound up being an Irish whiskey-flavored liqueur. I’d never want to find the Irish whiskey from which the flavor was derived, though — the stuff was cloying, yet also godawful harsh, with a shallow flavor and a raw, chemical kick, both problems likely resulting from too little time (if at all) in the barrel. Being loath to waste liquor, no matter how bad, I choked down that stuff either mixed into a generous amount of cola or ginger ale, or shot it straight, chased quickly with anything that tasted better (not a tall order.)
If your bourbon liqueur is harsh, and badly made, rather than just cloying, that’s about your only solution. Anything tastes all right mixed with enough cola or ginger ale. If that solution sounds too loathsome to you (and it might, depending on how much the stuff cost you), you have my blessings to pour it down the drain.
If the liqueur has been made from good enough ingredients that it at least finishes smoothly, though, I’d suggest making a bourbon version of a Rusty Nail — a cocktail made on the rocks with two parts Scotch and one part Drambuie (a sweet liqueur made with honey, Scotch, and herbs.) I’d use Knob Creek, or a similarly sour, dry bourbon. Something like Maker’s Mark would still leave your drink sweeter than you might like.
Another radical option if the liqueur isn’t too harsh: cook with it. I use a shot of bourbon to kick up my red beans and rice, and substitute it for vanilla in anything from cookies and cakes to waffles. Bourbon chicken is always delicious, and if you have more of a sweet tooth, you could make a bourbon-based version of bananas Foster (or apples Foster, if bananas aren’t your bag.)
Worst-case scenario, you can serve it to guests who don’t know better, or whom you’re trying to discourage from visiting too frequently.