Explorations in Mixology Cocktails Drinking

Bourbon Renewal

We have always felt privileged to write about recipes and techniques demonstrated by Jeffrey Morgenthaler just a few miles away at Clyde Common. One of the benefits of living in Portland, Oregon is having first-hand experience with one of the most celebrated bartenders in the world. His ever-popular Bourbon Renewal cocktail has appeared in numerous publications, both in print and online over the years, and despite having ordered this drink many times at Clyde, we have never bothered to make it at home. This is our loss—something we hope to change in the coming year.

If you have not had the pleasure to visit the restaurant you should make a plan to do so. So many bars and restaurants have had to redefine themselves—if they have been able to weather the storm of 2020—and Clyde Common is no exception. As we look forward to the new year and the possibilities it may bring, we have a feeling that this popular drink will surive to support future visits. In the meantime, and for everyone outside of Portland, here is a fantastic cocktail to celebrate the new year.

Bourbon Renewal
2 oz bourbon
1 oz lemon juice
.5 oz crème de cassis
.5 oz simple syrup
1 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake with ice to chill, then strain into an old-fashioned glass over fresh ice and garnish with a lemon wedge.

One thing we love about this drink is its simplicity. It isn’t fancy. It doesn’t require hard-to-find ingredients. It is an honest recipe that is not trying to be anything more than it is—which is delicious! The formula is a whiskey sour, with some of the sugar replaced with blackcurrant liqueur. It reminds us that a great cocktail does not have to involve Italian amaro, exotic fruit, or messing around in the kitchen for days in advance. You can probably make this with what you have already.

Starting with the base spirit, we have read accounts of this cocktail improving with higher-proof varieties. We used a smooth 100-proof bourbon to make ours, and the extra alcohol kick does cut through the other flavors nicely. However, use what you have or what you like. You can always adjust proportions if necessary.

The sweet and sour elements are a delicious combination of lemon (always freshly-squeezed) and crème de cassis, bolstered by a little 1:1 simple syrup. Cassis is a dark red liqueur made from blackcurrants that is easy to find and something you will appreciate having in your cabinet. It is a common reference in red wine noted for deep berry flavors. It is reminiscent of raisins, owing to the fact that currants are often dried in similar fashion, but also blackberries. We even detect a little floral overtone like violets. It can be sipped on its own but it appears more often as a component of mixed drinks. In addition to this one, you can use it to make several classics including the Kir Royale, and the El Diablo—the fact is, you can drizzle this over just about anything for a nice transformation of flavor or pop of color.

To finish this off, Morgenthaler includes a dash of Anogstura bitters. This serves to add a little spice to the flavor profile which you may or may not detect, but the real benefit is that Ango always helps to bring flavors together, acting like a cocktail seasoning to bridge the whiskey with the liqueur and citrus. Shaken and strained over fresh ice, you have ample dilution and chill, with the lemon wedge adding a zesty nose to a drink that is so good you will wonder why you haven’t been making these every week!

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clay smith
clay smith
3 years ago

I’ve been glad to see you back at it for a while. Tried this with old grandad bottled and bond. I think I’ve got some old Forester 114 that I think is too hot for most things and it might be worth trying with this. I always find cream to cassis a little overpowering I think I may dial it back a tad next time!

Paul Olsson
Paul Olsson
3 years ago

Made this yesterday and I agree fully that it’s a simple but oh so satisfying cocktail. Thanks for describing the origin of this drink and for sharing it🙂