In the South, bourbon drinkers are an enthusiastic lot, swilling handles of Evan Williams, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, and the like, drinking it on the rocks, with a splash of ginger ale, or straight up. David Szlam has been an avid consumer of Southern whiskey since his college days and is currently working on a new drink that he thinks could have the same impact that Firefly's Sweet Tea Vodka did when it debuted a few years back.
"We're keeping the first flavor quiet," he says, "but we're infusing flavors on a molecular gastronomy level. It's basically redistilled, so there won't be any sediment. It'll be 80 proof."
Szlam and his partner Jake Johnson will be bottling their Virgil Kaine bourbon with Teressentia in North Charleston, but first they've got to finalize approval with the government. So far, they've submitted their formula to the feds and will have to get a thumbs up for their label too. They expect to finish jumping through hoops in time to debut their new product in August.
The road to bottling bourbon, for Szlam, started in college, when he first started drinking large amounts of the stuff. "In college, it was crazy," he remembers. "Me and my buddies lived above Bull Street deli and always had a huge case there. It was the only thing we would drink, and, looking back, most of the time we were drinking some pretty nasty stuff."
After college, Szlam opened and ran Cordavi, a restaurant on the Market where he experimented with molecular gastronomy and received critical acclaim for his food. Perhaps ahead of its time, Cordavi closed, and Szlam has spent the last few years getting married, having a baby, and working as a consultant for several restaurants, including Uno Mas in Mt. Pleasant.
Jake Johnson, his former sous chef at Cordavi, has worked with him on numerous projects. The two were originally planning to do a taco truck, but abandoned that once they hit on this idea for bourbon. Szlam says they will focus on the Charleston market when it comes time to launch their product. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter, if you're interested in weighing in on logo designs.
If all goes as planned, we should all be enjoying some Virgil Kaine before National Bourbon Heritage Month rolls around in September.