Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Bourbon Cocktails

Seelbach

Seelbach Cocktail in a flute with a long orange twist wrapped inside the glass
Image:

 Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

The origins of some cocktails are easy to pin down, created in precise years by specific bartenders, with corroborating documentation available for all to see. Other drinks—probably most drinks—lie in limbo, their origins a mix of rumor, innuendo and shoddy record keeping. Then there are those whose backstories are entirely made up.

The Seelbach, a glittering mixture of bourbon, orange liqueur, two kinds of bitters and Champagne, falls into the latter camp. It’s the signature drink of Louisville’s historic Seelbach Hotel and was once thought to be a classic cocktail rediscovered in the ’90s after decades of obscurity. However, years later, the drink’s inventor confessed to having fabricated the vintage backstory.

The supposed classic was created by bartender Adam Seger. He claimed to have discovered the recipe on an old menu from the hotel prior to Prohibition, hoping the story would help to drum up business for the bar and to make a name for himself.

Regardless of the tall tale, the elegant drink continues to delight locals and travelers who visit the hotel for a taste of history. It’s bright, bubbly and balanced, providing everything you want in a good cocktail. Nothing in the Seelbach is particularly unique: It’s just bourbon, Cointreau, bitters and Champagne. But the generous application of bitters—three dashes of aromatic Angostura and four dashes of bright-red Peychaud’s—sets this drink apart from so many others.

Give it a try the next time you’re in Louisville, or opt for instant gratification and make one for yourself at home.

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Click Play to See This Seelbach Cocktail Recipe Come Together

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce bourbon

  • 1/2 ounce Cointreau orange liqueur

  • 4 dashes Angostura bitters

  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

  • Champagne or sparkling wine, to top

  • Garnish: extra-long orange twist

Steps

  1. Add the bourbon, Cointreau and both kinds of bitters into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.

  2. Strain into a chilled flute.

  3. Top with cold Champagne or other sparkling wine, and garnish with an orange twist.