Corks+Forks: The Sexton’s Southern Charm of Bourbon and Ribs

Braising, bourbon and Ballard, Seattle’s Scandinavian headquarters goes south for comfort food and drink.

Point of clarification: Whiskey is from Ireland and the United States, while whisky is Scottish (scotch) or Canadian. But whiskey produced in the great state of Kentucky, is the one and only bourbon. Mirroring the appellation designations similar to Champagne in France or Barolo in Italy, unless the whiskey is produced in Bourbon County, Kentucky, then it ain’t bourbon.

Although legally, bourbon can be produced anywhere within the states, most distillers outside of Kentucky steer clear of the title to avoid southern scorn.

Kentucky Bourbon is America’s only native spirit, produced in strictly new American white oak barrels to give it its unique, complex and distinct flavors. Courtesy of then-governor Thomas Jefferson’s order to plant, an influx of corn was rooted up in Kentucky. Add in an ideal crop climate, water and the region’s white oak trees and early settlers created bourbon.

Kentucky produces the vast majority of the world’s bourbon (a mere 3% sneak by with the name elsewhere), specifically distilled and aged in or around the town of Bardstown. A few more regulations are mandatory, including the grain mixture must be a minimum of 51% corn, the spirit must be aged in new American white oak barrels, it cannot be distilled past 160 proof (80% alcohol by volume) and only can be barrel aged up to 125 proof (62.5% ABV). Although ageing is not necessarily specified or mandatory, “straight” bourbon has been aged under four years to slap the title on the label.

One rock, two rocks, three rocks, a massive ice sphere – bourbon drinkers typically want to avoid watering down their drink when it is served neat (simply poured in a short glass or snifter to enjoy the spirit untainted), the trendy styles of mixologists and bars have been exploding in the Northwest through specialty ice carvers, glassware and blended libations.

The Restaurant: The Sexton — Titled and decorated in honor of owner Amber Sexton’s southern ancestors, the restaurant/bar leans on their focus of bourbon, braising and their own brand of music decor through pounding jams of their choosing and a mixed tape cassette lined bar top. The storefront windows are lined with roomy booths while more table seating stretches well behind the bar cooler and kitchen in the back. The food’s focus is coziness, with dishes like hushpuppies dipped in a red pepper aioli and chicken pot pie. Happy hour sports some sweet deals such as $4 wells, $2 off house drinks and $2 cans of Olympia, which Ballardites adore.

The Dish: Apple cider braised short ribs ($13) — The sprightly pang of sour apple cider, with the addition of spicy ginger, the vanilla enhancement from the bourbon and the sticky, sweet barbeque sauce amount to a deliciously messy treat. The sheer clout of the dish is sincerely Southern, both in the power of the flavors and the hefty meal in general.

The Drink: Veranda Cooler– Although The Double Bind might be the obvious choice (bourbon, ginger beer, sage and cider shrub), the Veranda Cooler boasts its southern spirit through springtime flair. The bourbon is joined with lemongrass syrup, grapefruit and sweet iced tea, melding together to create a fresh and poundable libation.

Why It Works: The sweetness of the bourbon matches that of the slathering barbeque sauce and richness of the meat while the drink’s citrus and refreshing iced tea complement the cider braise.

Nosh, drink, enjoy and be comforted by the allure and delight of the south.

The Sexton | 5327 Ballard Ave NW,  Seattle | (206) 829-8645