Cocktail Challenge: 16-Course Menu

Sue Knopp with Outside the Box catering asked me to design two bourbon cocktails to pair with her ambitious 16-course menu offered at a private function. Fortunately, we were only pairing cocktails with four of the courses since the first course was itself a micro-cocktail and the rest had wine pairings.

But to add to the challenge each cocktail had to pair with two consecutive courses since we needed to pace the drinks!

The first cocktail was intended as a light introduction to the meal and was paired with:

  • Bistecca alla Fiorentina – marrow cream with French onion and potato dip
  • Zuppa di Zucca – dumpling squash and pickled butternut squash with crema and topped with basil, nutmeg, hazeulnut and Parmesan

I thought these should go with a light drink with strong contrasting flavors. Since the dishes were based on heavy, meaty, rich and umami flavors, I decided to make a bourbon grapefruit-lime fizz. And since the bourbon still needed to be evident as the base spirit, I chose Old Forester 1920 for its high proof and strong flavor profile.


Bourbon Grapefruit-Lime Fizz Cocktail

Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Servings 1 drink
Author Tim Knittel


  • 1 oz bourbon whiskey (recommend Old Forester 1920)
  • 1/2 oz grapefruit juice (fresh squeeze or use a high-quality brand like Uncle Matt's)
  • 1/2 oz lime juice (fresh squeeze)
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 2 - 3 oz sparkling water (use plain sparkling water if possible)


  • Fill highball glass half-way with crushed ice. Add ingredients, stir and serve.

In between the cocktails was:

  • Cappuccino – mushroom consommé with coffee butter

The second cocktail had to pair with courses 5 and 6:

  • Burro di Piselli – pea butter on spinach asiago bread
  • Ravioli in Brodo – ricotta raviolo in pea broth with radish pea corn and micro greens

The dominant flavor in both dishes came from peas. In truth, peas are simple in flavor but difficult to pair against. Peas – especially in concentrated form in these dishes – are green, bitter, sweet and sour all mixed together. Since the intermediate course was heavily smoky, I decided to transition to a bitter and sweet cocktail using smoke as the bridge.

My initial attempt was to make smoke-infused ice balls, but I discovered my freezer was too cold to form the ice properly for that drink.

So I decided to infuse smoke into water and make simple syrup from that. I had little success using a Smoking Gun but then I was reminded (thanks Hilary!) that I have a liquid smoke kit from Red Arrow USA. A few drops did the trick!

The final cocktail was an Old Fashioned variation:


Smoked Cherry Old Fashioned Cocktail

Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Servings 1 drink
Author Tim Knittel


  • 3 dashes aromatic bitters
  • 2 oz smoked simple syrup
  • 1/4 oz cherry juice concentrate
  • 2 oz Rabbit Hole Fingerprint Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in PX Sherry Casks


  • In rocks glass, add one ice ball, then add ingredients, stir and serve.


If substituting the bourbon, consider any sherry or port finished whiskey, especially if the whiskey maintains strong fruity and floral notes. Also consider the Rabbit Hole bourbon since it has strong fruit character from the complex of malts.