Have you noticed that all around you people are drinking a brown drink in a rocks glass with one really large ice cube in it? Most likely, it's bourbon in their glasses. Bourbon is having a renaissance, and the hip often don’t call it by name. They just say, “I could go for something brown to drink tonight.” The really large ice cubes chill the drinks without diluting them too much, preserving the integrity of the spirit that is both classic and trendy.

Bourbon, of course, is a type of American whisky that needs to meet certain standards to be called bourbon. Among other things, it must be made of at least 51 percent corn and aged in new, charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years. It gets its golden brown color from its ingredients and the barrel, that's it. Bourbon may not have added coloring.

The brown liquor is in such demand that recently in Kentucky, rogue distillery workers heisted tens of thousands of dollars of whisky from their employers, according to Yahoo. They’ve been charged with engaging in “organized crime as members of a criminal syndicate.”

It sounds more like a charge that would have happened during Prohibition rather than 2015 when anyone of age can walk into a liquor store and buy a bottle of bourbon. But, the brown liquor is in such demand that the above-mentioned employees apparently found a black market for it.

The theft targeted the Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey distilleries, they said, and included some of the most prestigious brands in the business, including pricey Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. It had been going on since 2008 or 2009, officials said.
What’s with the sudden bourbon boom?

In the video below, master blender Trey Zoeller from Jefferson’s Bourbon explains to Fox News the convergence of events that has everyone buying — or stealing — the brown stuff.

According to Zoeller, there are three mains reasons for the sizable increase in bourbon drinking:

  1. The dip in economy in 2008 led people to drink more at home instead of at bars, and people started looking for value in the drinks they had at home. Because of the precise process of making bourbon, the spirit has great value.
  2. The TV show “Mad Men” has brought about something called the Draper Effect. People are emulating characters from the show, including lead character Don Draper, in the way they dress and the way they drink.
  3. The convergence of classic cocktails that have traditionally been made from American whisky — ryes and bourbons — has both at-home bartenders and professional mixologists reaching for bourbon.
And while the host on the Fox News program called bourbon a “gentleman’s drink,” it’s definitely an equal opportunity spirit; the renaissance sees both men and women enjoying bourbon. I'm a self-proclaimed gin girl, and I've been mixing bourbon into my cocktail creations like the Candy Apple Cocktail and the Hot Spiced Pear Toddy.

In 2014, sales of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey (which is basically bourbon that’s made in Tennessee but the makers don’t call it bourbon) rose 9.6 percent in 2014, according to the New York Times. A similar increase in sales happened in 2013, and prospects look good for the brown liquor in 2015.

Bourbon isn't just enjoying a boom in the glass. It's also increasingly showing up in recipes. It adds great flavor to syrups, sauces and desserts.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Are you in on the bourbon boom?
Whether you're drinking it on one really large rock, mixing cocktails with it, or cooking with it, chances are you’re at least dabbling in the brown liquor.