• Linda Ruffenach

Blending Bourbon and Business


The first time I went to a fine restaurant with a business client, I felt so intimidated. I was barely 21 and while I had been out to nice places to eat before, I never had to worry about what to drink or how to order. I was afraid I would do something stupid. My boss was a very large imposing man, probably 6 foot 6 and over 300 pounds. He had moved to Kentucky from New York and it was abundantly clear he was much more sophisticated than me. I was invited to join him for dinner with an incredibly important customer, with whom I had created a bond and who had specifically asked that I attend dinner.

"There is only one right way to drink bourbon. The way YOU like it. "

While I was flattered, I was incredibly nervous. We were seated, menus were presented and the wine list left on the table. Up until this point I had never seen anyone order from a wine list. My Dad would always ask for a glass of ice with his white wine if that gives you any clue of my wine experience. Questions were asked about what type of wine we liked and I proudly said White Zinfandel, which was greeted with slight chuckles from my dinner companions. Of course they ordered something much nicer. I am not sure what it was other than it was red and it didn’t taste anything like the Cella Lambrusco my parents use to drink.


During this one dinner I was introduced to so many new things. I think we ordered calamari for an appetizer, which I later learned was squid, an entree with duck confit (which I confused with confetti and was not sure what to expect) and a fabulously rich dessert that was lit on fire table side at the end of the evening. We were then asked if we wanted an after dinner cocktail. I think my boss ordered some type of brandy and our client ordered a glass of port. I ordered what my favorite aunt would have ordered, a Maker’s Mark on the rocks. I am proud to say a new found respect for this inexperienced 21-year-old was established.


Just like my experience with wine, if you have never really experienced good bourbon, you may not know where to begin. Do you order it neat, straight up, on the rocks, with a twist, shaken or stirred? For some, they just scratch their heads and declare they are too confused and just ask for beer or a glass of wine. I am here to tell you, there is only one right way to drink bourbon and that is the way YOU like it.

"For many, the journey begins with a natural curiosity and interest in learning about the famed amber spirit."

I always recommend that if you are just starting your bourbon journey, take it slow, experiment with different cocktails then work your way to “on the rocks” or “neat.” If you are a wine drinker, chances are you did not start out drinking a heavy Cabernet or Zinfandel. You probably began with a White Zinfandel, a Chianti or even something sweeter. It took time to move up into tasting and experiencing different types of wine before you discovered your absolute favorites and what brands and blends you prefer.


I have been honored to walk alongside many newcomers as they begin their bourbon journey. Each began with a natural curiosity and interest in learning about the famed amber spirit. The journey like each person is unique and it begins one step at a time. 


An excerpt from the book, "How to be a Bourbon Badass". Want to learn more? The book is available online and at many local bookstores and retailers.


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