Rod’s Rocket Fuel | Vanilla Bourbon Sour

This is sweet and tart cocktail with a touch of vanilla.  It was my mission to use supplies I had on hand without a run to the store.  Rummaging through the pantry, I managed to locate whole vanilla beans and Demerara sugar, and combined those with lemons foraged from the back yard, and some dregs from my bourbon stock. (I drank all the good stuff already, now awaiting on a delivery to restock.)

I love the smell of vanilla and have had these beans on hand for a while,  but the beans were still sealed, so I experimented a bit.  I would rather have used an orange as I think the flavor marries with bourbon better than lemon, but again — in quarantine mode — I wanted to use what I could find.

Recognizing that vanilla beans and Demerara sugar may not be found in your pantry, fine to play around by substituting regular vanilla for the beans (go easy — the vanilla needs a light touch) and brown sugar for the Demerara. The Demerara sugar was originally manufactured and shipped from the port of Demerara, in British Guyana. It comes in the form of large, pale golden crystals, slightly sticky to the touch. The flavor is light and delicate, less intrusive than the taste of conventional brown sugar. It is often used to sweeten coffee or tea, for example, where a distinct molasses note would be unwelcome and is also commonly used in mixing drinks.


  • Simple syrup made with 1/2 cup Demerara sugar (or brown sugar) and 1/2 cup of water
  • 3 jiggers of bourbon
  • 3 vanilla beans
  • About 2 Tbs of lemon juice (to taste)
  • Twist of lemon peel for garnish


  • Make simple syrup by combining 1/2 cup Demerara sugar (or brown sugar) mixed with 1/2 cup of water. Heat until sugar has dissolved. Let cool.
  • Open and strip the center out of two vanilla beans. Pour bourbon over the bean centers and let it sit for an hour or so. Once the bourbon has steeped for an hour or more in the vanilla bean, strain through very fine screen (I used a small piece of cheese cloth in the strainer). 
  • Stir or shake the 3 jiggers of bourbon with a jigger of the lemon juice,
    and jigger of simple syrup with generous ice.  Pour over a single large ice cube.
  • Add your lemon twist and vanilla bean.  The vanilla should be quite mild.  If you want more vanilla flavor add more bean centers and let it sit longer when you steep the bourbon. 
  • Cut another bean into a swizzle stick and a twist of lemon peel, both for garnish. 
Rod Brown is a Piedmont resident who loves his cocktail hour.

I did enjoy playing around a bit and felt smug using ingredients I had on hand. I encourage you to do the same. If driving/walking by the house one evening, you may see me sitting on the porch having happy hour and waving to the walkers.  The lockdown has changed my habits.

In the meantime, be well, stay clear of this pestilence and let’s celebrate in person when we next venture out into the world.

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