Cooking With Fire: The Seelbach Cocktail

Dec 29, 2017

We’re taking a break from the grill this week, because what better way to ring in the new year than by diving into one of our other passions: spirits.

Classic cocktails have officially made a comeback. Bars across the U.S. are dusting off their high-rye bourbons and offering a classic Old Fashioned or a Manhattan.

But there is one classic bourbon cocktail with a history that isn’t exactly what it seems.

The Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, is home to the Seelbach cocktail. This famous hotel, which receives a mention in "The Great Gatsby," was home to bartender Adam Seger in the 1990s. Seger claimed that he had found a recipe for a signature cocktail on an old menu and after remaking it himself, decided to put it back on the menu.

The story of the Seelbach cocktail took off, with historians and cocktail aficionados all lauding this classic pre-Prohibition recipe as a lost classic. It even made its way into the 1997 book "New Classic Cocktails" by Gaz Regan, a bonafide cocktail expert.

The only problem is that it was all a lie. Seger himself had developed the cocktail and made up the story to promote both himself and the hotel. He came out after 20 years and fessed up to his concocted story.

The big plus side here is that the Seelbach cocktail has a much more interesting backstory than the one Seger had made up. Sure, the idea of sipping on a cocktail that F. Scott Fitzgerald would have ordered while hanging out at the Seelbach Hotel is a fun one, but what about the story of the unknown bartender who tricks the entire world into thinking his cocktail is a lost classic?

 Yeah, that’s the story I’d stick with.

And this isn't going to be a complete departure from the grill. In this week's podcast, we will be doing a grilled variation of this cocktail.

Seelbach Cocktail with a Grilled Twist


  • 1 oz Kentucky bourbon
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau
  • 7 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 7 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • Champagne
  • Lemon twist


  1. Preheat your grill for high heat direct grilling. Wrap your twist of lemon around a wood skewer, pinning the ends with toothpicks to hold in place. Grill the lemon peel over direct flame until lightly charred on all sides and aromatic.
  2. Pour the bourbon, Cointreau and bitters into a cocktail mixer with ice. Stir. Strain into a chilled champagne glass.
  3. Top the liquor with champagne. Garnish with the grilled twist of lemon.