Fast Food Review: Jim Beam Bourbon Burger


The merging of Carl’s Jr. with Hardee’s was an odd one to me, as one who essentially went to high school with Hardee’s and college with Carl’s. In my small town of Sylva, NC, we didn’t have even one Taco Bell…but we had TWO Hardee’s. And they started serving breakfast at 11 p.m., which was a huge deal for college kids. I always thought of it as a redneckier McDonald’s – aside from the usual hamburgers, fish filet, etc. you could also order fried chicken or biscuits & gravy.

Carl’s, on the other hand, was a chain I didn’t get familiar with till I got to California, and it’s totally west-coast – was even before they incorporated Green Burrito menu items. Green chili on chicken sandwiches, fried zucchini, a star as the logo…very L.A., even if the founder had a reputation as a hardcore conservative.

Now both are one. But this item in particular screams Hardee’s rather than Carl’s.

Yes, rockers on the Sunset Strip drink Beam, but it’s the cheap well booze at high-end clubs in Hollywood. Jack Daniel’s, which doesn’t call itself a bourbon, is the metal choice while Beam is name-checked in a Hank Williams Jr. song. And since the only things name-checked in Hank Jr. songs are either redneck essentials, the Republican ticket for president or celebrities he doesn’t like, I think we can give the booze its Southern cred.

Jim Beam on a Hardee’s burger. How did this never come up before? I’m not proud of this, but hell, it’s a fact – I love fast food and Jim Beam. I may have even poured Beam directly into my half-full fast-food soda cup a time or seven (never while driving, because I’m responsible to the road, if not my digestive system). I think I can say, then, with authority, that this tastes like fast food. But it doesn’t taste like whiskey.

Isn’t it funny how things that used to seem gross become trendy? I remember thinking that mixing salty and sweet flavors was the most horrible thing anyone could do – pretzels in ice cream? Are you kidding? But the other day I bought a salted chocolate bar at a movie theater, and “salted caramel” is the hippest flavor in L.A. cuisine right now. Chicken and waffles is something I still don’t get, but it no longer freaks me out. I still won’t go as far as my father-in-law to-be, who’ll put onions and Tabasco on Black Forest cake, but I don’t fear the mix like I used to. I just don’t think it works on this burger.

See, the Jim Beam sauce is basically just syrup. Legally they can’t put alcohol in it in any quantity, so there’s enough in there to say they put it in there, and no more. So…syrup on a cheeseburger. Sound good to you?

Maybe so. People like maple bacon; I don’t care for the bacon much at all, so I put it aside, and maybe in doing so, I missed the point. Carl’s already has a pretty good barbecue burger – throwing some Beam in the BBQ sauce would have worked a lot better, with sweetness balanced out by tang and spice.

Keep the Jim Beam in your soda cup, where it belongs. Order a real cheeseburger. You’ll feel better, and I think Hank would approve. Not that you want his approval.