Pairing Menu: Burgers and Bourbon

Photo by Rachel Vanni

Pairing Menu: Burgers and Bourbon

January 23, 2023 –––––– Brian Freedman, , , ,

Burgers and bourbon are two of the all-time great pairing partners. “The sweetness of bourbon and the savoriness of a burger go hand in hand,” explains chef David Gross of The Standard, East Village, in New York City. Beyond that, there’s generally enough sweet spice in each sip to stand up to whatever toppings and accompaniments you want to add into the mix.

To take full advantage of bourbon’s innate friendliness with burgers, we enlisted the help of chef Gross to create a full, bourbon-friendly menu of dips, sides, dessert, and, of course, a seriously delicious hamburger. We’ve also included his preferred bourbons to enjoy alongside each course, as well as cocktails created by bar manager Ben Guber and the rest of the bar team. The results, as expected, are fantastic.



Apple Upgrade

Serves 4

  • 4 oz. Wild Turkey (or other bourbon)
  • 3 oz. Luxardo Amaro Abano
  • 3 oz. apple cider
  • 1½ oz. lemon juice
  • 1 oz. demerara syrup
  • 4 dashes Angostura bitters

Fresh or dehydrated apple chips for garnish.

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice, shake, and strain. Serve over fresh ice in rocks glasses. Add fresh or dehydrated apple chip for garnish.

Chef’s Recommended Bourbon

Widow Jane 10 year old: “The smokiness of this particular bourbon pairs very well with the sweet and smoky notes of the roasted onions, as well as the richness of the mayonnaise and sour cream in the recipe,” Gross says.



Roasted Onion Dip

Serves 4

  • 3 medium red onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbsp. bourbon (chef Gross recommends Evan Williams or Maker’s Mark)

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a mixing bowl, toss onions with vegetable oil, salt, and pepper. Once fully coated, spread onions on a baking tray and roast at 350° F for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

Add cooled onions, mayonnaise, sour cream, scallions, thyme, and bourbon to a food processor. Pulse until evenly ground. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and whisk until blended. Chill for 20 to 30 minutes (or overnight) before serving. Enjoy with toasted pita bread, raw vegetable crudité, or even potato chips.



Bourbon Burger

Serves 4

  • 2 lbs. ground beef, shaped into four 8 oz. patties (chef Gross recommends a short rib/ hanger blend)
  • 4 brioche buns
  • 8 slices bacon, rubbed with maple syrup
  • ½ head iceberg lettuce, thinly shredded
  • 16 slices of bread-and-butter pickles (or other sweet pickle)
  • 4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Lay bacon slices on a baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until rendered and fairly crispy.

Heat grill to medium-high heat.

Season burger patties with salt and pepper to taste. Grill to just under desired temperature, approximately 4 minutes per side for medium-rare.

Top with cheddar cheese, close grill lid to melt, then remove from heat. Serve burgers on brioche buns with lettuce, pickles, bacon, and smoky bourbon aioli (recipe below).

Chef Gross PHOTOGRAPHS BY RACHEL VANNI Chef Gross. Photo by Rachel Vanni

Smoky Bourbon Aioli

  • 1 cup Duke’s mayonnaise (or other mayonnaise)
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. bourbon
  • Pinch of ground black pepper

Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and whisk together.

Baby Gem Salad PHOTOGRAPHS BY RACHEL VANNI Baby Gem Salad. Photo by Rachel Vanni


Each serves 4

German Potato Salad

  • 2 lbs. new red potatoes, halved
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 bacon slices, cut into strips
  • 1 yellow onion, diced small
  • ½ cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh chives, sliced

Place potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with water, and season with salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cooking until the potatoes are fork tender, approximately 20 minutes. Drain and reserve.

Coat a large straight-sided sauté pan lightly with olive oil. Add bacon and cook over medium heat. When the bacon is crispy remove it from the pan. Add the onions to the bacon fat and cook until they are soft, 7 to 8 minutes. Add bacon, stock, and vinegar. Add the potatoes while they are warm and cook until the liquid absorbs into the potatoes. Season with salt to taste. Sprinkle chives on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Bourbon Baked Beans

  • 2 12 oz. cans baked beans, drained
  • ½ cup chili sauce
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 1 Tbsp. molasses

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Baby Gem Salad with Maple Cider Vinaigrette

  • 4 heads baby gem lettuce, halved lengthwise
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, washed, unpeeled, and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup crumbled goat cheese
  • ½ cup toasted pecans
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Maple Cider Vinaigrette

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup (or barrel-aged maple syrup, see page 46)
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Pinch black pepper
  • 1 tsp. shallots, minced

Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk together until well combined. As an option, you can add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Set aside.

Clean, trim, and dry baby gem lettuce and arrange on a rimmed tray or in a bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Layer sliced apples, crumbled goat cheese, and toasted pecans onto each lettuce. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Dress salad liberally with vinaigrette before serving.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

  • 4 ears fresh corn, shucked
  • 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp. cotija cheese, divided
  • ½ tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

Heat the grill to medium-high.

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, half of the cheese, and paprika. Transfer to a plate.

Brush the corn with melted butter. Grill for 8 minutes, turning every 2 minutes for an even char, until it is nicely browned in spots. Remove from the grill and roll the corn in the mayonnaise mixture, then place on a serving platter.

Squeeze the lime over the corn, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and dust with smoked paprika.

Add lime wedges as a garnish and serve immediately.



Dark Horse

Serves 4

  • 6 oz. Wild Turkey (or other bourbon)
  • 4 oz. grapefruit juice
  • 2 oz. lemon juice
  • 3 oz. honey-pineapple syrup (recipe below)

Lemon wheels for garnish

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice, shake, and strain into an ice-filled Highball glass. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

Honey-Pineapple Syrup

This syrup also makes a great base for a tequila or vodka cocktail.

  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1½ cups pineapple juice

Make honey simple syrup by bringing water, sugar, and honey just to a boil. Reduce heat to low and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Add pineapple juice and stir to combine. Strain if you prefer, to remove any pulp, but it’s not necessary. Allow to cool. Refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 1 week.

Chef’s Recommended Bourbon for the Burger and Sides: (neat or on the rocks) - “Woodford Reserve is reliably a multi-use bourbon,” chef Gross explains. “Its rich taste and flavors of cinnamon, orange, and cocoa balance well against the richness of the burger, while its more complex notes of orange and tobacco spice stand out in the sauce.”



Peach Crisp

Serves 4

  • 4 cups fresh peaches, sliced (peel if preferred)
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. bourbon
  • 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar


  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup cold butter, cubed
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • Vanilla gelato or ice cream

Toss sliced peaches, lemon juice, bourbon, and granulated sugar together in a bowl. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a separate bowl, add all topping ingredients. Mix using a fork to combine the butter into the dry ingredients until it forms small crumbles.

Place peaches in a baking dish and top with crumble mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until browned on top and bubbly. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream on top of each serving.



Summer Peach Julep

Serves 4

  • 8 oz. Wild Turkey (or other bourbon)
  • 1 oz. granulated sugar
  • 1 small bunch fresh mint, leaves picked (about 30-35 leaves needed)
  • 1 ripe fresh peach, diced (skin on or off)
  • 3 oz. water
  • Club soda
  • 4 dashes Angostura bitters

Heat water to a simmer. Remove from heat. Add granulated sugar and mint to a pitcher. Use a wooden spoon to gently mix and slightly muddle the mint. Add diced peaches and hot water, and allow to sit until warm. Add bourbon. Add ice until the pitcher is 3/4 full. Stir to mix well, and top with club soda. Top pitcher with 4 dashes of bitters.

Chef’s Recommended Bourbon

Widow Jane Lucky Thirteen. “It feels like a classic bourbon, with corn, oak, and vanilla, plus a hint of apples and raisins, and is sweet on the palate.” He also enjoys the “light tannic finish with a glow of orange and spice,” adding: “The notes of vanilla bean, caramel, and nutmeg are a natural pairing for this classic summer dessert. It’s also very nice to end a meal with this special-occasion bourbon.”