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Out from behind bars

Let 10 young bartenders loose in bourbon country and it'll get messy. But as Dominic Roskrow reports, when itcame to the business end of the trip, our boys delivered
By Dominic Roskrow
In Kentucky the racing folk have an expression: the money, they say, is in the lovin’. The expression refers to the thoroughbred race horses that have made the State one of the most famous horse-racing centres in the world.It basically means that no matter how fast you go round the track, or how many times you win big races such as The Kentucky Derby or the Breeders’ Cup, the real money is in breeding.In essence you can be something of a wonky donkey at the races but if your offspring has what it takes you’re big money.Take Distorted Humor, for instance. He made a living on the track but he wasn’t a great. Far from it.But he did enough to justify going in to stud, where he was valued at about $35,000 an ownership share, or $1.75 million as a 50 share horse.Then three years after he first sired a foal it won a race. So did his next foal. And his next. So much so that he became as near as a horse gets to a sure thing.And his value now? A cool $100 million. That’s $2 million a pop if you want in.So the money’s in the lovin’ except on your average Kentucky stud farm there is very little lovin’. Far from it: this is a brutal, sterile and ruthlessly commercial way to make money.The ‘loveshack’ at the Winstar Breeding Farm is basically an over-lit concrete room with shredded car tyres on the ground. At one end a large docking station is in place to keep the mare still. First a teaser horse is brought in to excite the mare but he’s of low stock and is removed, unhappily, before he gets too close. And then the stallion arrives, great boots are placed over the mare’s rear hooves and a thick blanket across her back, and the stallion is guided to his conquest.It can all be over in under five minutes but this is physical, intensive and dangerous work. The stallion has to be helped to his destination and the mare’s not keen at all. A hoof to the chest will leave you with broken ribs at best, and in all likelihood, dead.But between February and July the stallion will perform three or four times a day. The fee is about $350,000 each cover. You do the math.So why am I telling you all this? Because I’m with 10 bartenders who have travelled to Nashville and Kentucky as guests of Brown Forman to show their American hosts how to make a whiskey cocktail using premium bourbon brand Woodford Reserve.And if that sounds like selling coals to Newcastle, don’t believe it for a minute. Frankly when it comes to doing exciting things in a glass, Britain and Ireland leave our American guests floundering.Kentucky is a mass of contradictions. The most Northerly state of the South and bordering on the River Ohio which separates it from Ilinois, it is not true south, but it feels and tastes like it. It’s Bible belt territory, too, and church building is a growth industry.But it is where all the fun stuff happens, too; fantastic bourbon, obviously, horse racing and Tom Kirk, who comes out as winner. He calls his cocktail ‘Rite of Passage because he views just being on the trip with such class company is an honour. Unsurprisingly, therefore, he’s ecstatic to have triumphed against the industry’s best.Mark Jordan, Woodford Reserve’s United Kingdom representative, believes that the cocktail challenge is encouraging young bartenders to think about bourbon seriously and through that, promote it to a new generation of drinkers.“It takes a large slice of our budget to arrange this trip,” he says.“But the interest it creates in Louisville is huge and the effect it has on the bartenders is very important.“They come back knowing the context of the drinks they are using and with great stories to tell. That gives them an incentive to promote our bourbon. And it makes other bartenders want to come the following year.It’s a win-win situation.It sure is. Money in the lovin’? Maybe. But lovin’ in the drinkin’ for sure.MATT KEEGAN (Blanch House, Brighton)
‘Francis Bryan’ Ingredients
Pink grapefruit (1/8)
Black pepper (few pinches)
Woodford Reserve (37.5ml)
Crème Peche (12.5ml)
Liquorish syrup (few barspoons) Method
Muddle grapefruit & pepper
Pour in remaining ingredients
Shake and serve in rocks glass TIM FITZ GIBBON Raoul’s, Oxford
‘Thoroughbred Punch’ Ingredients
Woodford Reserve (500ml)
Madeira (200ml)
Cherry Heering (150ml)
Apple juice (1lt)
Lemon juice (200ml)
Orgeat syrup (100ml)
Cloves Method
Pour all ingredients into a large punchbowl over a large block of ice
Add fresh fruit
Mix and serve in chilled rocks glass STEVE MANKTELOW (Cocoon & Volstead, London)
‘Bluegrass Cobbler’ Ingredients
Fresh peach Apricot Brandy (10ml)
Woodford Reserve (40ml)
Vanilla syrup (10ml)
Lemon juice (10 ml) Method
Blend peach to make puree
Shake and serve in rocks glass over ice
Garnish with peach fan, dusted with cinnamon KOBUS VAN ZYL (Four Seasons, Dublin)
‘Ultimate Chocolate’ Ingredients
Woodford Reserve (40ml)
Valrhona liquid chocolate (40ml)
Kahlua (20ml)
Crème de Cacao (20ml)
Dash of Amarula cream
Crumbled chocolate shavings (white, dark, milk) Method
Shake all ingredients
Serve in Martini glass
Garnish with chocolate shavings MIKE VALENTYNE (Cotton House, Manchester)
‘Woodford Wobble’ Ingredients
Woodford Reserve (50ml)
Ice Maple syrup (2 barspoons)
Lemon juice (25ml)
Black pepper (1 grind)
Apple juice Method
Shake and strain
Garnish with fresh ginger and a cherry in a Martini or rocks glass GARY HAYWARD (Boutique, Leeds)
‘Getting Lucky In Kentucky!’ Ingredients
Woodford Reserve (50ml)
Campari (10ml)
Cartron Caramel (10ml)
Vanilla sugar (2 barspoons)
Peychaud’s Bitters (1 drop)
Muddled orange rind Method
Dilute
Serve in honey and nutmeg rimmed rocks glass

SAM KERSHAW (Tiger Lilly, Edinburgh)
‘Jakey Four Fingers’ Ingredients
Woodford Reserve (60ml)
Buckfast Tonic Wine (25ml)
Damson jam (2 barspoons)
Pineapple juice (37.5ml)
Dash of bitters
Dash of eggwhite
Fever Tree Ginger Ale Method
Shake all ingredients (except ginger ale)
Strain over cubed ice
Lengthen with ginger ale
Serve in tall catalina glass
Garnish with sprig of fresh mint