I love a good Old Fashioned. They are complex in flavor but don’t sacrifice simplicity to get there. The simplicity of the Old Fashioned lends itself to various riffs or adaptations. Some of my favorite Old Fashioned Variations include the Fancy-Free, Oaxaca Old Fashioned, and Maple Smoked Old Fashioned.
I have even developed a few variants: the Bar Breaker, Smoke-n-Peaches, and Dusty Chaps. And, of all of them, the Bullet Train to Iowa is a riff that I am genuinely proud of. This cocktail offers a lot of deep, complex flavors while remaining easy to make.
What was the Inspiration Behind the Bullet Train to Iowa?
Rarely do I think of a name for a drink before I have a ready and waiting unnamed cocktail. But this was an exception because I knew I had to use this song title.
Many of my drink names come from song titles because I like the artist or the song itself, and the drink seems to embody the feel or motivation of the music.
This isn’t uncommon for bartenders. For example, Anders Erickson’s See No Evil and Sam Ross’s Paper Plane are named after songs.
How Did The Cocktail Get Its Name?
TOOL has been my favorite band since the early 90s, and I don’t think that will ever change. But Maynard James Keenan is a musical genius. Everything he touches is gold, from his roots in TOOL to A Perfect Circle and into Puscifer.
I’ve always liked Puscifer, but I dove into their 2020, Existential Reckoning album. On this album is the song called “Bullet Train to Iowa.” Coming from Iowa, I knew I had to use the name for a drink. After that, I just needed to get to work.
How Do You Create a Cocktail From a Name?
I started by breaking down the name; I knew I could use Bulleit Bourbon for the “bullet train” portion. Bullet trains get you from Point A to Point B quickly. If Point A is sobriety and Point B is inebriation, making this a potent and boozy cocktail would make sense.
I started thinking about how I would get Iowa into the cocktail and was stumped for a while. Finally, after about six weeks, I decided to scrap the Bulleit Bourbon and use a local Iowa brand instead. Using the Iowa Straight Bourbon Whiskey from Swisher Iowa’s Cedar Ridge Distillery was a no-brainer.
But what do I put with it? I started thinking about the origin of Puscifer. The band is from Arizona, which I remember to be hot and dry for the most part. I thought Ancho Reyes Ancho Chile Liqueur would be perfect to represent heat, dryness, and spice while mingling well with the Cedar Ridge Bourbon.
I wanted something else to compliment the Ancho Reyes, and with the Mexican influence of Arizonian cuisine and cocktails, I chose to use mole bitters. The accessibility of Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters made it an easy choice since it’s one of the few mass-market mole bitters. But the quality and flavor of this modifier is unmatched. The prominent cinnamon and chocolate notes of these bitters when added to the Ancho Reyes and Cedar Ridge bourbon, made it the only choice.
Once I had all those flavors, I knew this would have to be made into an Old Fashioned. With a little rich demerara syrup, I was set. It only took a couple times playing with the ratios before I was happy with the drink.
Tasting Notes of Bullet Train to Iowa
The Cedar Ridge Bourbon works wonderfully with this cocktail. Since the mash build is 74% corn, I believe this works great with the chile and mole. The demerara syrup and orange twist garnish help bring the cocktail back into line with what makes an Old Fashioned so good.
Loves metal/hardcore metal. Enjoys the finer things in life….
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