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Friday, March 20, 2009

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Steve Cole, Whiskey Professor

Happy Weekend Whom You Know readers! What could be better than kicking it off than to have a virtual happy hour with our latest Mover and Shaker, Steve Cole, whom Peachy Deegan met at a recent event in Manhattan.

Steve Cole can tell you about country music. He can tell you what it takes to become an Eagle Scout or a college mascot. But above all, the gentleman can tell you anything and everything about bourbon. And if you have five minutes and an empty stool beside you, he will.

Steve’s real passion for bourbon began in college - as a bartender. Mostly. But, Steve has never thought of those nights behind the bar as work. Instead, they were an opportunity to meet people and get to know them. To find out what they liked and what they didn’t. For Steve, this was his “Bourbon 101.” He studied. He explored. He discovered. He couldn’t wait to tell others about what he’d discovered. Naturally.

As a special events manager and bartender in Chicago, Steve did his share of spreading the good word about bourbon. But, like all those with a true passion for it, he never stopped wanting to learn more. So when he got the opportunity to join the faculty as a whiskey professor, he headed straight for the heart of bourbon country to our distillery in Kentucky. There, Steve learned from the masters, literally. He discovered the secret of Knob Creek’s maple sugar aroma and distinctive sweetness. He was taught the importance of charred, white oak barrels. He even learned what it means to “chew” a bourbon.

Today, Steve travels the world as a whiskey professor. When not singing bourbon’s praises, he enjoys listening to country music, specifically while sipping bourbon. Peachy Deegan chatted with Steve recently.

Peachy Deegan: How does Knob Creek relate to Manhattan?
Steve Cole: Whether being served at some of Manhattan’s top restaurants and bars or being used as the base of the classic Manhattan cocktail, Knob Creek and Manhattan go hand-in-hand. Aged nine years and bottled at a sophisticated 100 proof, Knob Creek delivers a rich vanilla flavor, sweet maple aroma and a brilliant amber color. Its complex finish engages the senses at every level, offering Manhattan bar goers and bourbon aficionados a deep, rich cocktail experience.

Knob Creek Manhattan

2 Parts Knob Creek® Bourbon

½ part sweet vermouth

½ part dru vermouth

1 dash bitters

Swirl with ice to chill, pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Where were you a college mascot?
I was the college Mascot at Middle Tennessee State University. My name was Lightning and I was a Pegasus. It was one of the best adventures of my life. I traveled the country with the football and basketball teams and always had the best seat in the house.

What did you do for your Eagle Scout project and how has being an Eagle Scout helped you in life?
For my Eagle Scout project, my troop and I helped revitalize a not-for-profit in my hometown called La Casa Latina. I had done volunteer work there prior to my Eagle Scout project and knew they were in desperate need of storage space and some fresh paint. We built a series of shelving units, installed them and repainted the walls creating a plethora of new space and a nice clean look. It has helped me to always be prepared.

What are the best places to drink whiskey in Manhattan?
Is there a bad place to drink Whiskey? I'd have to say my favorite spot in the city is The Brandy Library. The bartenders are incredibly educated and are truly passionate about what they do, the atmosphere is unique in the best way possible and it's essentially a library of could you go wrong?

What makes a good whiskey professor?
Someone who is passionate about Whiskey, loves people and doesn't mind traveling the world spreading his or her knowledge with others. And someone whom is open to learning from others.

What whiskey professor awards have you earned?
Just last month the Whiskey Professors (there are three of us) won Whisky Magazine's 2009 Global Ambassador of the year. A few months prior we won the same award for North America.

What is your favorite place to be in NYC?
Central Park. There's something magical about a park of that size in the middle of such a densely populated area.

What is your favorite shop?
Muji - It's a random Japanese based retail store that is simple, clean and environmentally friendly.

What is your favorite drink?
Knob Creek Bourbon on the rocks

What is your favorite restaurant?
I'm still looking for it.

What is your favorite NYC book?
Does Time Out count? I like knowing what's going on around the city and think they do a great job of covering everything.

What is your favorite thing to do in NYC that you can do nowhere else?
People Watch. Sure you can do it anywhere, but it's never the same anywhere else.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
The people are definitely underrated. It annoys me that people think New Yorkers are rude. I disagree.
I'm almost afraid to say it, but the Statue of Liberty.'s beautiful and stands for so much, but as a kid it was something I dreamed of seeing and think I built it up to much as it didn't do it for me the first time I saw it.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I have a passion for foreign languages and am determined to be fluent in Portuguese before I die.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
Via the website: There is an Ask the Professors section in which I can be contacted.

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