Drink of the Week: The Brown University

Regular readers may have sensed that I like to keep things very simple. Life can be awfully complicated and stressful sometimes, and I myself tend to see the world as not a black and white matter but one of endless shades of gray. Still, where ever we can keep things simple, I think, we probably kind of should. Why make life harder than it has to be?

Cocktails don’t get that much simpler than the Brown University. It also seemed a good fit for yet another really great bottle of whiskey to mysteriously turn up here at Drink of the Week manor.

Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, which is another worthwhile spirit under the Jim Beam Small Batch umbrella, has a taste that’s gentler than most bourbons, which makes sense as it’s mere 80 proof, not the 88-100 (or more) proof we bourbonistas are used to. It’s sweet in the way of a good bourbon, and it’s certainly not harsh, yet it’s far from boring and has plenty of the right kind of complexity. I’ve been joking for a while that I was getting to the point where merely 80 proof liquor was starting to bore me. Basil Hayden’s reminds me that I really am joking when I say that.

Anyhow, time to try the stuff in a unfairly obscure cocktail classic, Brown University.

Brown University

1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1 1/2 ounces dry vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Stir for a good long time or, if you’re using a less sublime bourbon than the brand I found myself using, consider shaking…perhaps.  With this drink the anti-shaking traditionalists may be right on the money. Definitely strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

If you like, you may toast Rhode Island’s Ivy League school and, maybe, you can find out for me what the connection is between the drink and the college, because I haven’t a freaking clue.


The Brown University may be simple with it’s equal parts of bourbon and white vermouth, but it’s as sophisticated as cocktails get. It seems to contain a spice rack full of flavors. In fact, an even simpler version of this drink that’s made without bitters is called a Rosemary, and that seems appropriate. Of course, some of that savory spice might have been the influence of Basil Hayden’s and I didn’t have a chance to try this one with another brand, though I surely will. Whatever brand you end up with, you definitely want to stick with one of the mellower bourbons for this one, I think.

And now we close with a musical interlude provided by some the talented young ladies of Brown University.  I hope they all get to try the beverage that bears their alma mater’s name sometime.


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