Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee.

Bufala Negra

recipe by Jerry Slater, from The Southern Foodways Alliance Guide to Cocktails (UGA Press, 2017)

Jerry Slater created this drink in 2007, as the cocktail renaissance gathered steam. Some of his customers were initially put off by the idea of balsamic and basil in their bourbon. A decade later, shrubs and drinking vinegars are popular, and herbs of all kinds get to play with booze. Jerry’s network of tipsters has reported spotting this well-balanced drink on menus from Brooklyn to Oakland to Australia. 

Garnish: Basil leaf

Service ice: Cubed

Glass: Old-fashioned

Yield: 1 (5 12-ounce) cocktail


12 ounce balsamic syrup (see recipe below) 

5 basil leaves, divided

1 brown sugar cube

1 12 ounces bourbon

2 ounces good-quality ginger beer, such as Blenheim’s hot (look for the red cap) 

Place the balsamic syrup, 4 basil leaves, and the sugar cube in a shaker and muddle until sugar dissolves. Add bourbon and ice and shake. Strain into ice-filled glass, add ginger beer, and garnish with remaining basil leaf.

Balsamic Syrup:

14 cup brown sugar

14 cup water

14 cup balsamic vinegar

Place brown sugar, water, and balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Cook, stirring continually, until the sugar dissolves, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a glass container and refrigerate, uncovered, until cool. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month. 

Yield: Approximately 12 cup

For this recipe and 87 others, pick up a copy of The Southern Foodways Alliance Guide to Cocktails