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'The Rutledge Rebellion' named signature drink of 2015

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Four Roses takes division and grand champion titles

By Kacie Goode

Jason Stark, representing Four Roses Distillery, took home the division and Grand Champion titles for Wednesday’s Mixed Drink Challenge.

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Stark won the challenge with his drink, The Rutledge Rebellion, named after Four Roses Master Distiller Jim Rutledge.

“I kind of came up with the name Rutledge Rebellion because, as a master distiller, he is one of the faces of bourbon,” Stark said.

Stark is a mixologist from Louisville’s Martini Italian Bistro, but represented Four Roses in the challenge after claiming the 2014 Four Roses Bourbon “Rose Julep” title in February for his Spiced Julep recipe.

“I’ve had the opportunity to do several different news appearances, even had the opportunity to go on Derby Day at about 12 o’clock right on the news, and that was pretty intimidating knowing there were (so many) people watching,” he said of the previous win.

And it was that success and Stark’s love of the bourbon industry that pushed him forward with this year’s Kentucky Bourbon Festival challenge.

“I love working with (Four Roses). I love mixing with bourbon. I’ve been a bartender for about five years now,” Stark said. “It’s a lot of fun. My job is to make people happy.”

As for the Rutledge Rebellion, Stark said his inspiration came from this year’s challenge theme of “bourbon punch.”

“I tried to make something fun. I heard bourbon punch (and what) immediately came to mind was rum punch,” Stark said. “When you make a drink like that, you want a lot of citrus and when you go for a lot of citrus and different things like that, you can obviously end up with a product that comes out too sweet. I tried to balance it out with a good amount of bourbon and a little ginger liqueur, which gives it a little bit of a spice.”

Accompanying Stark at the challenge was Four Roses Marketing Manager Karen Kushner, who spoke a bit about the distillery located in Lawrenceburg.

Kushner said part of what Stark was using in his recipe included a small batch set containing four of the distillery’s 10 recipes.

“I guess that’s what makes us a little bit different from others is that we do have 10 distinct bourbon recipes that we make,” Kushner said.

In transition from the restaurant division, which saw six competitors, to the distillery division, Kim Huston, president of the Nelson County Economic Development Agency and emcee for the event, said the distilleries are what the Bourbon Festival is really about.

“It’s about the bourbon, it’s about the distilleries, it’s about the industry itself.

I tell people, whether you like bourbon or not, it doesn’t matter while you’re here in Bardstown for this event, because this is about the heritage that we have here,” Huston said. “We don’t go anywhere we don’t say ‘We’re Bardstown, the Bourbon Capital of the World.’ ”

While Stark was short on words after being announced as both the distillery division winner and the event’s grand champion, he beamed with excitement over his latest win in the industry, an industry in which he takes pride.

“I really enjoy being a part of the bourbon community in Kentucky and kind of keeping that going on in the mixology scene,” he said. “It’s really rewarding to be able to hand-make a product and to be able to deliver it to somebody and see immediate gratification and satisfaction.”

Restaurant division winner

While Jason Stark took home the distillery and Grand Champion wins for the Mixed Drink Challenge Wednesday, a Louisville steakhouse took home the restaurant division title.

David Berry and John Wilson, representing Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse — located inside the Galt House in Louisville — won their division with “Paisely Punch.”

“It starts out with a citrus apple syrup and a mystery bourbon. Then we have raspberries, fresh, as well as blueberries,” Berry said. “… Kind of going into a little bit of a fall theme.”

To keep judging fair, the bourbon being used in the challenge by the competitors was hidden in a brown bag so that it was not clear what particular brands the participants were using. But Berry said the restaurant, competing in its first year for the challenge, is familiar with the use of bourbon like Maker’s Mark, even offering a Maker’s Mark chocolate mousse on its dessert menu.

As for the name, Wilson explained that the “Paisley” title was actually an improvisation.

“Muhammad Ali is actually a regular in our restaurant and we had thought about naming it the Ali Punch,” Wilson said. “But that didn’t go so well because Southern Comfort already has that drink.”

So, taking a cue from the tie he was wearing, Wilson improvised a name that happened to coincide with the look of the drink.

“I’d seen a lot of colors and the blueberry and said ‘You know what, that’s a Paisely Punch,’ ” he said.

Aside from Jeff Ruby’s, the restaurant division had five other competitors, including the Bourbon Bistro of Louisville, locals Mammy’s Kitchen, Kentucky Bourbon Market, and Talbott Tavern, and Bardstown’s newest addition, the Harrison-Smith House.

Harrison-Smith House, located at 103 E. Stephen Foster Ave., is a newly opened restaurant in town being operated by Newman Miller, his wife and their longtime friend and business partner.

Miller, who came home from Chicago to open the restaurant, had previously lived in the Bardstown area.

“It’s exciting to be part of the community again,” he said. “ It’s been 14 years and it’s good to be back.”

During his mixology presentation, Miller said the establishment was in its first full week of service. He competed with the “Green and Black Punch” inspired by the fall time of year and his grandmother’s love of mixed drinks. And, incorporating a bit of hometown flare, Miller said he makes the drink using blackberry jam, that an employee of Harrison-Smith House makes, and sells at the local farmers market.

Following presentations from each competitor, the judges — consisting of a panel of bourbon experts — noted that each participant had done well to incorporate the theme of “bourbon punch” for this year’s challenge.

After the winners were announced, guests were asked to go around the room to sample the concoctions.

As grand champion, Stark’s Rutledge Rebellion will be featured as the signature drink for Kentucky Bourbon Festival 2015. This year’s signature drink belongs to Talbott Tavern with “A Sidecar Named Desire” and will be available throughout the festival and in the Spirit Garden this weekend.

Recipe for the Rutledge Rebellion:

1.5 oz. Four Roses Small Batch

Stirrings:

1/2 oz. Ginger Liqueur

1 oz. orange juice

1 oz. pomegranate juice

1 oz. apple puree (3 apples, 1 tsp. salt, 1 cup simple syrup, ½ cup water and ½ cup lemon juice — blended and strained) or apple juice

2 oz. dry champagne

1 syringe Bittermens Tiki bitters