A Complete Ranking of Every Cocktail I Drank for Free at the Bonnie Rose Release Party

I love free stuff.
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Claire Lower
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I love free stuff.

A little over a month ago, I got an email with the subject line "Press Trip to Nashville?" I'm used to getting invited to a lot of things I can't attend -- I can't fly to New York for every roof-top bar opening -- so I quickly read over the itinerary and responded with a polite "That all sounds like a lot of fun, but unfortunately I can't afford to fly to Nashville right now."

My contact was then like "Dude, it's a free trip," and I was like "Oh. Okay then yes please and thank you I would like that very much." 

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The trip was for the launch of Bonnie Rose, a new a Tennessee white corn whiskey that comes in two flavors (Orange Peel and Spiced apple). As a drinker of mostly bourbon and rye, flavored whiskey gives me pause, but not enough to turn down a free trip because, let's face it, I love free shit. (I did turn down a free trip from a certain large brewery however, because I have at least one standard.)

My plane to Nashville left at five o'clock in the morn, the morning after my half-marathon, so I arrived in Tennessee with about three hours of sleep and only one fully functional leg. This ended up being less of a problem than you would think, as I pretty much had a drink in my hand from the moment I landed until the moment I left. Let's take a tour of those beverages now (with recipes and my really important opinions).

Sunday, no clue what the time is:

I arrive at my hotel and am greeted with a nice little note and a package of "treats" that I hope are edible/drinkable. There were chips, along with playing cards and shot glasses, but they were of the poker variety and thus not suitable for human consumption. 

I have arrived!

I have arrived!

I "freshened up" (read: blotted the airplane oil off of my face) and met everyone else in the lobby. We were then whisked away to Peter Nappi, a premium purveyor of fine leather goods. 

It's also an "event space" because of course.

It's also an "event space" because of course.

There was a bartender, a wall of shoes, and a super hot British guy named "Joe," who helped me pick out a pair of boots and said nice things like "Oh no, you just ran a half-marathon, let me zip this for you." (Also present: a very nice boy with a super thick accent who had just had his wisdom taken teeth out. He gave me one of his giant Tylenol.)

The nice bartender presented us with two ethanolic offerings. I tried them both.

The Orange Palmer

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Ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces BONNIE ROSE Orange Peel 
  • 2 ounces sweet & sour mix 
  • 2 ounces iced tea 
  • 1 squeezed lemon wedge

Pour all ingredients over ice and build in glass. Stir. Squeeze lemon and add to glass.

Opinion: Not bad. Nice, fresh orange flavor but the sweet and sour mix made it a touch cloying for my taste. I would omit that and sub in fresh lemon and lime with maybe a touch of simple syrup.

Ranking: 5th out of 5

The Tennessee Mojito

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Ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces BONNIE ROSE Spiced Apple 
  • 2 ounces apple juice 
  • 5 mint leaves  
  • 0.5 ounces lime juice 
  • 0.5 ounces simple syrup 
  • Top with soda

Opinion: Really very delicious. Like a summery apple tart in a glass. (I know there's no such thing as a summer apple tart but that's what this tasted like.) Again, I would omit the simple syrup, as the liquor and the juice provide enough sweetness, but I liked it enough to go back for another.

Ranking: 4th out of 5

Bonnie Goes to Italy

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This was not one of our "real" options, but something I asked the bartender to make especially for me. It's just equal parts Bonnie Rose Orange Peel and Campari over ice and it is fantastic. Given that the whiskey is flavored with cold-pressed orange peels, it's a natural partnership. I always have Campari in my home, and this is how I will be enjoying Bonnie Rose Orange Peel for the remainder of the summer.

Opinion: What genius came up with this?

Ranking: 2nd out of 5

During cocktails, we tried on shoes. I put these on my feet first and, while they are quite cute, they weren't quite "me."

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Hot British Joe then suggested I give these a spin, and I was smitten. (The shoes were great too.)

I then wore my new treasures out to dinner at Josephine, where I had the best beef tongue appetizer of my life and a really boss Manhattan. More drinks were had at various establishments around town, though I had to tap out at around 1 AM, since I was literally on my last leg.

Monday, 9-ish?

I met everyone down in the hotel restaurant and we headed out to the Country Music Hall of Fame. There were no cocktails there, but there was a Taylor Swift Education Center.

Also worth your notice, Carl Perkins' "blue suede shoes" that are actually purple. 

Sorry your life was a lie, Carl.

Sorry your life was a lie, Carl.

Next stop: The Grand Ole Opry, which was also lacking in ethanol.

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Our just-a-bit-too-cheerful tour guide took us through the famed concert venue, where we got to see dressing rooms, that famous wooden circle, and the names of some of the most important and influential people in country music.

This may seem like a list of people who've covered "Wagon Wheel" but it's actually a list of Opry members.

This may seem like a list of people who've covered "Wagon Wheel" but it's actually a list of Opry members.

Lunch was at Husk, which would have been a great place to get a Bloody Mary, except I was too old and hungover for even that and opted for unsweet and a bunch of food.

Such delicious food.

Such delicious food.

After lunch, it was time to gussied up, and we were taken to Scout's for some styling. Given that I am not a beauty writer and have no idea how to style my hair, I was greatly appreciative. Also, there were drinks there.

Tennessee Mule

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Ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces BONNIE ROSE Spiced Apple 
  • 0.25 ounces lime juice 
  • Ginger beer 
  • Cinnamon stick for garnish

Pour BONNIE ROSE and lime juice over ice in rocks glass (or mule copper cup). Finish with ginger beer. Garnish with cinnamon stick.

Opinion: This is a perfect porch sipper. It's very refreshing, and I like that it doesn't have any syrups or other extraneous sweeteners (the soda is sweet enough). I might leave out the cinnamon stick next time and garnish with a lime or lemon wedge; it's still too hot for a cinnamon stick.

Rating: 3rd out of 5

Once everyone was pretty and pampered, it was time for a pre-party supper at Merchant's. We ordered one of every appetizer and my absolute favorite cocktail of the trip, which was created by Merchant's bar manager especially for the event.

Far From the Tree

I long for this drink.

I long for this drink.

I was able to obtain a list of the ingredients, though not the exact ratios, so I'm guessing here on measurements.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces Bonnie Rose Spiced Apple 
  • 0.5 ounces Crème de Peche 
  • 0.25 ounces Lemon Juice 
  • A couple of dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters
  • Ginger Beer to top

Stir first four ingredients together in a lowball filled with ice. Top with ginger beer. Garnish with fresh apple slice.

Opinions: I would order this again any day of the year. I wouldn't have thought of pairing Crème de Peche with spiced apple whiskey, but the whole thing reads as very light and refreshing (dangerously so). I could have drank ten of these if they hadn't ran out.

Rating: 1st out of 5

After supper it was time to party.

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Nikki Lane and her immaculately dressed band

Nikki Lane and her immaculately dressed band

I disguised myself as a human lady and headed to the event.

SMOKE AND (HOTEL ROOM) MIRRORS

SMOKE AND (HOTEL ROOM) MIRRORS

Also in attendance? Nikki Reed (from Thirteen and Twilight), Nikki Lane (playing excellent tunes), and all of those cocktails I've been telling you about. I thought about getting a photo with one or both Nikki's but decided against it for vain reasons. For while they are beautiful, waif-like ladies that do not sweat, after about an hour my facade began to crumble and I transformed back into my true self.

That's chicken in a damn WAFFLE CONE.

That's chicken in a damn WAFFLE CONE.

After the party, I confessed to my fellow media people that I was "so relieved that the product didn't suck" and that I would be able to write something positive "because I liked it, and not just because of all the free shit."

Awesome free shirt!

Awesome free shirt!

We'll see if I'm ever invited to another one of these things.

Tuesday, too damn early:

Check out wasn't until noon so I spent the morning watching Drunk History. We then met for lunch at Jack's BBQ, which had some really weird cornbread but excellent ribs, and then it was time for everyone but me to head to airport. Having a later flight and some time to kill, I made one last, very important stop.

LOOK WHO IT IS

LOOK WHO IT IS

For those of you who miss Olivia as I do, know that she is doing very well. She's teaching classes and working at the most adorable vintage shop in Nashville, Old Made Good. This place has everything, including bunny rabbits.

Not for sale.

Not for sale.

After photos, bunny pets, and a good chat, it was finally time to leave Nashville. Before boarding, I ordered some fries and a whiskey ginger at an airport restaurant that I can't remember the name of. It looked like this was going to be the end of all the free drinks, but then my server placed a glass of opaque liquid in front of me. "Do you want this white Russian? The bartender made one too many."

I mean, obviously.

I mean, obviously.

I really meant what I said about this product; Bonnie Rose whiskey does not suck. It's not going to replace your bourbon or rye, but it's a great flavored liquor, and I prefer it vastly to almost every flavored vodka I've ever had. Though sweet, neither the Orange Peel nor the Spiced Apple has an overwhelming syrupy quality, and the flavors taste genuine. They lend themselves well to cocktails, though they don't need much more than a splash or soda water and maybe a squeeze of your favorite citrus fruit.

Unlike some of the free liquor I receive, this bottle will go quickly. It mixes well with Campari, and I love things that mix well with Campari.