Eight months ago, when David Szlam and Jake Johnson were thinking about doing a gourmet taco food truck in Charleston, Szlam suddenly had a different idea.
What about doing a spin on the classic Southern nectar, bourbon and ginger ale, but all in one bottle? And making it naturally infused?
By the next morning, Szlam says, he had a "ready-to-go" product and already had drafted a design of the label on his computer.
Now, he and Johnson and partner Ben Capa have brought that product to market. Ben Arnold recently became the distributor of Virgil Kaine's Bourbon and Ginger. It's Kentucky bourbon infused with real ginger and hints of vanilla. The "handcrafted" part -- infusion and bottling -- takes place in North Charleston.
Capa, who handles marketing, says the 80-proof spirit is already in 40 locations, including restaurants, bars and liquor stores. Liter bottles are priced about $24.
Szlam and Johnson have been in the local F&B scene for years, both as chefs and in restaurant consulting. They worked side-by-side at the one-time Cordavi restaurant.
The success of Firefly Distillery on Wadmalaw Island, maker of Sweet Tea Bourbon and other Southern spirits, "definitely was an inspiration," says Capa. "They kind of opened the door."
The real Virgil Caine -- well, real in the song lyrics anyway -- was the Confederate soldier who served on the Danville-to-Richmond train in "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." The song was first recorded by The Band in 1969, then by Joan Baez in 1971, and became her biggest hit.
The partners have taken a bit of poetic license with the legendary Caine. In their version, he was smuggling bourbon to the troops. Perhaps no wonder the Rebs lost the war.
--On the rocks or with a splash of water.
--With a splash of soda water and a lime.
--The "Train Wreck" -- Bourbon and Ginger chilled and poured.
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