Corn Meets Corn Liquor

Bourbon wouldn’t be bourbon without corn

Bourbon wouldn’t be bourbon without corn. Literally. American law requires that any whiskey perched alongside the bottles of Maker’s Mark and Buffalo Trace at the liquor store come from a mash that is at least fifty-one percent corn, with a remainder of barley, wheat, or rye. So infusing the flavor of fresh corn into brown liquor made a sort of intuitive sense for Chris Spear, the Frederick, Maryland–based chef and culinary instructor who writes the blog Perfect Little Bites. “At first, I thought I’d just throw some corn into some bourbon and see if I could get the flavor I wanted,” he says. After some trial and error, he added a second step to the process: dosing the whiskey with a little melted butter, which leaves behind a tinge of flavor and a rich, silky texture.

The corn-infused whiskey is tasty on the rocks—or with a cube of corn stock, if you’re simply looking to celebrate the season. But if you’re interested in a mixed drink that’s as unique as its base spirit, Spear devised a Mexican street corn–inspired cocktail, seasoned with lime juice and chili powder, to showcase the infusion. “If you just mix a Manhattan with the whiskey, there’s so much going on that you won’t really taste the corn,” he says.



  • Street Corn Sour

    • 2 oz. corn on the cob bourbon (recipe follows)

    • 3/4 oz. roasted corn husk syrup (recipe follows)

    • 3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice plus more to rim

    • Chile powder, to rim

  • Corn on the Cob Bourbon

    • 1 ear of corn, sweet or field

    • Non-stick cooking spray

    • 8 oz. bourbon, preferably Four Roses Yellow Label

    • 2 tbsp. ( 1/4 stick) butter

  • Roasted Corn Husk Syrup

    • Husks from 1 ear corn

    • 1/2 cup water

    • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar


  1. For the Street Corn Sour:

    Combine bourbon, syrup, and ¾ ounce lime juice in a shaker with ice. Shake hard. Strain over ice into a highball glass rimmed with lime juice and chile powder.

  2. For the Corn on the Cob Bourbon:

    Shuck the corn, saving the tender inner husks for the corn husk syrup.

  3. Lightly spray the shucked cob with cooking spray, and then grill over high heat, turning frequently, for 10 minutes or until lightly charred.

  4. Remove the kernels from the cob and return the cob to the grill for an additional 5 minutes.

  5. Add corn to bourbon and let sit for two weeks. Then, strain out the solids.

  6. Melt the butter and add it to the whiskey. Cover and let sit for 4 hours, shaking once an hour. (If necessary, the mixture can sit overnight.)

  7. Place the bourbon in the freezer for 2 hours, or until the butter solidifies. Shake to break up butter solids, if necessary, then pour the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth and store in the refrigerator.

  8. For the Roasted Corn Husk Syrup:

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

  9. Remove the husk from the corn, discarding the tough 3-4 layers on the outside; then, wash, cut into thirds, and then roast on a sheet tray in the oven for 10 minutes.

  10. Place roasted husk, water, and sugar to a small saucepan over medium-high heat, and bring to a simmer. Then, remove from heat, cover, steep for an hour, and strain.

  11. Store in the refrigerator.

Recipes from Chris Spear