On the first beautiful day of spring, I was admiring the Wüsthofs at Eversharp when I noticed the patio at Norseman Distillery. A single table was bathed in golden sunlight, as if the heavens had sent down a reservation placard for me and my girlfriend. We skipped across the parking lot to that table and, there in front of a pile of firewood, we savored our first patio drinks of 2017.
Not only were the drinks delicious, they were remarkably uncomplicated. Case in point: the Branch Water. It’s nothing but a fancy whiskey-water, a nod to the Southern tradition of drinking a “bourbon and branch,” which refers to the small streams, or branches, that deliver the water used by bourbon distillers. The idea is to add a little bit of that same water to the finished spirit to make a clean, refreshing drink that retains the essence of the whiskey.
Keith Mrotek, the beverage director at Norseman, tells me how to simulate this kind of water at home. Just bring some tap water to a boil and steep a few savory herbs for 30 seconds. He pours some of this “branch” water over a slug of whiskey, and the sphere of ice starts revolving like a planet in space. The whiskey blooms and sends out what look like oil slicks through the glass.
Why would a person intentionally dilute their whiskey (see this month’s Spirits Close-Up: Water)? For the same reason that 10-step cocktails seem especially pointless when it’s gorgeous outside and you just want to sit in the sun and not think about things: drinking like this is simple and wonderful.
- 2 ounces bourbon whiskey
- 4 ounces branch water
Add the whiskey to a lowball with one large ice cube. Serve with chilled branch water in a separate small glass, and dilute the whiskey to taste. Branch water: Bring one gallon of water to a boil and back it off to a simmer. Add 2 bay leaves, 1 sprig of rosemary, and 1 sprig of thyme to the water and steep for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove herbs and chill the water.