REVIEW: Disney Springs Debuts the Bourbon Trail, erm… Bourbon-Inspired Experiences
May 1st brought the limited-time engagement of the Bourbon Trail to Disney Springs. Well, at least we were told it’d be called Bourbon Trail. A few days ago, we told you that Disney Springs was rolling out a summer promotion across West Side, The Landing, and Town Center areas. This would encompass multiple restaurants and food & beverage options into a bourbon-inspired experience named ‘Disney Springs Bourbon Trail’. We went to Springs to check out the new offerings and were met with no signage, no posters, no advertisements, no brochures, no passports…. nothing. It was almost as if the promotion never began. We started at Splitsville where our bartender confirmed the event was taking place and they are making their exclusive cocktail. We didn’t find out until later in the evening that Disney pulled all promotional material for the ‘Bourbon Trail’, including all @DisneySprings Twitter posts and the official Disney Parks Blog announcement they did earlier in the week, but this time with an updated title. We learned that the name, Bourbon Trail is copyrighted which resulted in the event name and promotional material being changed. A manager at The BOATHOUSE even shared that someone had come in that evening to pull all signage that they had, literally within hours of the event starting. Guest relations said there should be new promotional materials out next week.
With that being said, we were able to experience many of the offerings for what is now a ‘Discover Bourbon at Disney Springs’ promotion. We visited Splitsville, The Edison, The BOATHOUSE, and Raglan Road. We also stopped in at the Ganachery to see what option they have, which is a straight bourbon poor, but we did not try that one.
Out of the 18 locations participating in the summer event, there are ZERO new food options. That’s right, nothing. There are two items worth noting, however. YeSake has arranged their already available ingredients into a brand new bowl (or wrap) specifically for this event. Raglan Road is offering their Dubs Schpuds all day long, which were previously only available after 11pm. As for drinks, there are ten event inspired drinks, while some locations are featuring drinks already on their menus. Let’s dive into what’s new, what’s old, and what we checked out.
To give you a glance at the break down, here are the details for new items that we did not get to try:
Bongos: Angel’s Envy Bourbon Mojito
Yesake: Citrus Fresh salmon entree
Planet Hollywood Observatory: Bulleit Frontier Old Fashioned
Enzo’s Hideaway: Enzo’s Bourbon Swizzle
Paradiso 37: Kentucky Sunrise
The Ganachery: Straight shot of Woodford Reserve Bourbon paired with chipotle chocolate square
The Polite Pig: Winner’s Circle
Frontera Cocina: Bórbon Néctar
Homecomin: Mint Julep
House of Blues, STK, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, Paddlefish, and D-Luxe Burger are all listed as part of the experience, however they are only featuring items from the pre-existing menu. Some of them we have tried, including the Coffee Old Fashioned from Jock Lindsey’s when it was new, and you can check out a full Hangar Bar update here.
Now, on to what we tried.
Splitsville: The Trifecta – a stirred concoction of Old Forester 100, Carpano Antica Vermouth, Benedictine, and Pimento Dram – $12.00
As the first stop on the trail, Splitsville made it a bit obvious that it was day one of the experience as the bartender was aware of the drink, however she had not had a chance to make it. That might have worked in our favor, as we got to watch one of the bar managers walk through the drink with her including notes on how everything mixed together. As for the drink, it was surprisingly smooth, light, and refreshing. It had a hint of sweetness, but still a solid taste of spirits. There’s not a huge bourbon taste up front, but rather a great slow after-burn on the tongue and throat. Even someone who doesn’t like bourbon can enjoy the nuanced flavors without being smacked in the face with straight alcohol. This was also served with a drunk cherry, which was highly recommended by the bartender. This is a fantastic summer option.
The Edison: Peach Tree Downs – a refreshing peach mint julep with a nutty pecan finish featuring Knob Creek Bourbon and Old Camp Peach Pecan Whiskey – $14.00
Once again, this was a first make for our awesome bartender, Jerry, who worked directly with the recipe card. That being said, we think he will have a lot of practice as the summer goes on, because this was easily our favorite from the evening. And surprisingly simple. It is a very nutty beverage, that had a sweetness from the simple syrup used and a refreshing finish with the hint of mint. The mix of spirits give you a warming feeling as you go through it, and it was by far the easiest to drink. There’s a single ice cube involved which makes it rather trendy, and leads to that easy sipping. The stringent alcohol taste is masked very well, but you certainly feel it afterwards. Wonderfully unique addition to the ever-growing list of drinks at The Edison! We were told it will be added to their printed signature cocktail list in a few weeks. Highly recommended for everyone, and not just bourbon drinkers.
Raglan Road: Gold Cup – featuring Bulleit Bourbon, Jameson Black Barrel Irish Whiskey, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, and muddled mint, lime, and cucumber – $13.50
And now on to the real disappointment of the evening. The Gold Cup at Raglan Road Irish Pub was rough, to say the least. With as many ingredients that it listed, we would have expected a pretty strong flavor. But, no. Instead, it tasted like pure soda water. You could barely even pick out the bourbon flavor, let alone any of the more subtle items, except for the extreme mint smell from the garnish. All together, this was just a plain fail and fell flat compared to all other items we had over the course of the evening. You know it’s never a good sign when you tell the bartender you didn’t like it and he agrees it isn’t good. He said he recommended against the restaurant promoting it.
On a brighter note, however, he not only replaced the drink, but gave us his version of an Old Fashioned, which was stellar. This would have been a much better promotion item, in our opinion, as it showcased a slight twist on a classic using bourbon.
As previously mentioned, Raglan Road brought a food item from their late night menu out all day long, so we wanted to try it. We received confused looks when trying to order the Dub Schpuds ($13.00) before the 11pm late night menu start time, but the kitchen was able to produce them. They’re fantastic. Six large charred potato wedges serve alongside a bowl of spicy, cheesy beer cheese dip that rivals Canada’s cheddar cheese soup. These are an excellent pairing that do not quite work alone. The char on the wedges was a little much until you dipped it in to the cheese, and the cheese was a bit cold, but was amazing when used on the smoking wedges. This is a great option that we are excited to have all day long.
The BOATHOUSE: Orlando Pride – featuring Old Forester Bourbon and a homemade blackberry citrus purée – $13.00
Probably one of the most unique offerings we noticed from the promotion, as the Orlando Pride is a bit of an odd man out. With each location, they focused on making a bourbon drink, but this is very much a cocktail that uses bourbon, and with that it mind, it was a really good drink. We were a little hesitant at first as we had been having very different beverages prior to this, but after that initial confused taste, we really enjoyed this one. Citrus, blackberry, and bourbon flavors compete for dominance, which leads to an interesting balance. Each sip had a different front flavor, similar to when you have a mai tai or other mixed drinks. It was light and refreshing and a seamless addition to The BOATHOUSE’s menu.
The highlight of this evening was by far the Cast Member interactions. We had amazing conversations at all four locations we visited, and everyone seemed to get involved. The Splitsville team gathered around to see how their drink was made. The Edison cast were highly entertaining, inquisitive and held great conversations about the spirits that they’re serving. Our bartender at The BOATHOUSE was very excited to serve the Orlando Pride, because he was the one who invented it and was so delighted for us to try it. Raglan Road, albeit very loud, still had charm and the quick wit of our bartender made the bar visit perfect. As this promotion goes on, we think that this will be a chance for the bartenders at Disney Springs to really shine as the extremely bright, friendly, and knowledgeable people that they are.
The entire ‘Discover Bourbon at Disney Springs’ event is solely a marketing tactic to attract more people to the district this summer. That’s not typically a bad thing because new experiences are fun, but what isn’t fun is restaurants hopping on the bandwagon by showcasing drinks and food that they’ve had previously. Only half of the locations premiered new drinks and nobody brought new food items to the table. It’s a clever idea that uses the variety of the Springs restaurants to its advantage, but falters a bit due to the less than enthusiastic approach. There’s huge potential here for future events and we hope that the organizers invest time into making future “trails”. We would personally love to see a Beer Walk or Dessert Trail with these restaurants participating, granted showing something that isn’t already on their base menu.