A few years ago a co-worker gave me a copy of Big Shots: The Men Behind the Booze for Christmas. It’s an interesting little book full of witty, earthy, and sometimes sophomoric, anecdotes involving some of the legends and actual history of liquor. Now, I’m not sure this is a good thing, but the nuggets of history, science, and folklore surrounding whiskey (and whisky – you’ll learn whether there’s a difference), gin, rum, vodka, brandy, various liqueurs, famous names and producers encouraged me to try some new things. Try, I said. And, of course, always in the name and for the sake of knowledge.
Anyway, to that point I had never been much of a fan of gin, Tanqueray being a favorite of the other adult in the household. Too much like drinking perfume, I thought. Not that I’d know, you understand, but that’s what I thought. Fresh from learning more about the subtleties of gin, though, I was willing to give it another try. Beefeater (nice citrusy notes), Plymouth (plausibly calling itself “The World’s Smoothest Gin”), and even the eclectic Hendricks (including cucumber and rose petals in its botanical infusion) have turned out to be very enjoyable – all different interpretations on the gin theme, but all enjoyable.
The lasting lesson of Big Shots has been to appreciate the variety among spirits that go by the same name. Seems self-evident, but it just wasn’t a world I had really explored until then. As featured in the New York Times, bourbon is enjoying its own resurgence. Small batch and single barrel bourbons are all the rage, and taking up more and more shelf space (at the store, not so much at home). The bourbons featured in the NYT article are mainly intended as “sippin’ whiskey” in order to appreciate their individual attributes. But whether it’s over ice or in a nice cocktail (try a classic like the Manhattan or Old Fashioned), bourbon has a sweetness owing to the predominance (at least 51%) of corn that makes it (I think) more accessible, more “user friendly” than others.
As always, please drink responsibly. And never drink and drive.