Oh my, that was wonderful. I looked up some vintage whiskey cocktail recipes. Going back to whiskey’s roots, I find weird things like maple syrup and egg whites being put to use in places usually reserved for the amber spirit. Yes, Americans apparently ate nothing but breakfast in the 19th century. Molasses was even weaponized after it couldn’t be turned into booze. But that’s a story of a newer century, a story for a more brutal and feral America, one I am unafraid of, yet seemingly powerless to change.
Whiskey. Let’s face it. There’s no way to make whiskey any cooler than it already is. When people in the early 19th century began transporting it from Monongahela Valley to places like New York and other coastal cities that lay to the east, they had to use casks because the stuff would be moving for weeks or more. A sealed cask did the job nicely. Casks that contained maple syrup, or wine or other liquids imbued the casks with their essence, and the spices of these sundry goodies gave bourbon special complexity that people enjoyed even more. The supply method of whiskey made whiskey more popular. Once the method of transport became obsolete (donkey cart, then train), the artisanal casking became a signature of the booze that assuredly could improve despite the cooper’s worst efforts its taste, deep amber color, its nose. Casking was a lean, an ace up its sleeve. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Casking made the bourbon grow less blonder. I rather like that. Nothing against blondes. My grandmother was blonde, built like a man, and she could snap the neck of a chicken in each hand at the same time. The trace amounts of amber that can be found in old wood actually helps the body of the spirit. enriches it. In its pure form, amber can cost you a fortune. Whiskey aging actually adds a trace amount of amber, so you become immortal when you drink it, and gives you natural amber vision.
I starting dipping into scotch years and years ago, my first love. I preferred it straight, sometimes with olives. I know that’s weird, but hey, artisanal has the word ‘anal’ in it, and I was pretty anal about my whiskey. I enjoyed the clash of flavors, the turbidity of the oil in the spirit. I wanted it just so. I drank alone. I drank my scotch, I remembered my life on the island, the police raids, the puppy I found in a bag and nursed to life, the wild sunsets, the hills redolent with thyme and sage. Stateside, I moved back to bourbon. It fell like rain around me, so I decided I should as well get good and wet than rather bothered. I moved from the rye to the corn.
When things go bad, lean on the whiskey. If you fall down, do it just so. Waking up sick in a crumpled heap outside a stranger’s apartment door pantsed and mugged has a certain “je nais sais quoi in Memphis” kind of style I returned to again and again. Reliable, that’s what whiskey is. It gets the job done. Plus eye sweat.
Willie Nelson sang Whiskey River. It’s a beautiful song he enjoys singing, and everyone enjoys drinking. Helps with the harmony. The Monongahela is a whiskey river, mentioned, of course, in Moby-Dick. I live upon the banks of the original whiskey river. The leader of the whiskey rebellion had a house in Brownsville, two shakes from my modest single-family cottage. If I knew where to look, I could find ruins of old stills along abandoned trails that people borrowed from the deer a for a spell. Now the stills fade into the landscape, become places for the deer to bed down and raise their fawns. Venison goes well with whiskey.
As a drunk, I appreciated whiskey more than a connoisseur. My appreciation did nothing for the whiskey itself, but I had an interest in it that grew over time because I simply craved it. And scotch was like eating a live cobra from the tail. The bite was quick, the venom pure and strong. But with bourbon, much more mellow. Bourbon set up a garage band in your mouth but by the time it hit your brain, you had pure Van Halen running in your veins. You could cook more than carrots with it. Scotched carrots are awesome, but I’m not a rabbit. And bourbo n was for ham glazes, but I’m not usually drinking my hams, so I need:
My scotch –
- short glass
- three olives
- glass of water for endurance purposes
I spent two years at UGA in Athens watching the streets run with bourbon. The official drink of UGA is the Bulldog. It is pure southern magic. Cast upon me, the spell, as I mentioned already, enchanted me, called me home.
- Coca-cola – this is not an eponymous reference to soda or pop, but the specific soft drink created in Atlanta, Georgia. You had to use a “co-cola”. Merp.
- Red cup
When I became a chef, I learned a bunch more about food, a little more about bourbon and scotch whiskey. Because bourbons were often mixed with sweet things, I didn’t drink much of it. Because I drank much.
I’m going to share with you an amazing cocktail recipe. If you read my running stuff, then you’ve heard this one recently, but that’s how booze is. People repeat the same stories. If I already told you about the Hellderberry Smash, then this blog is drunk.
Last night, at midnight, I ran 6.24 miles, then had a shot of small batch bourbon. I call it a Hellderbery Smash
- 1 shot bourbon – do it it right, get single batch from Kentucky or Tennessee if its in maple casks – pour in small martini glass
- I lemon – squeeze half in small cup, cut a thin ring and set aside, cut into half-moons.
- I tsp. raw honey poured in lemon juice cup
- 1 dash ginger powder, or a sliver of fresh – don’t use old ginger powder, that’s disgusting and could result in death or communist thoughts
- 3 drops of elderberry juice (sub tart cherry extract if needed – that’s awesome with the Tennessee maple bourbons)
- Nuke the honey lemon for 10 seconds, pour into small martini glass, add the ginger, stir. Should look like chicken broth.
- Carefully drop the elderberry into the center of the glass. It should sink unmolested to the bottom
- Add the lemon moon. Hell, add two. This will disturb the reddish elderberry, and kick up a hematoma next to the lemon. Looks like someone bled into your drink.
- Drink it down in a swallow. Yum!
- Option-dip the rim of the glass in maples syrup and a crust of dark brown sugar. Put a quarter in it. Put some chicken thighs and your gas bill in it. Put an ice cream sandwich and a goat nostril in it. But don’t put any quit in it.
I hadn’t had a whiskey in five years. I was on the floor in five minutes. Am I a lightweight?
I had bought a case of beer in October 2012, but over the past year I only managed to drink seven beers. I used two bottles for chili, one for bread, and the other three were opened and abandoned. That’s some serious lightweight drinking action. That’s Wuss Knighthood. I bought the whiskey because it won’t go bad like the beer did. People go bad before whiskey does. That is because whiskey doesn’t go bad, it goes better.