I began drinking scotch in college. My father drank Dewar’s, and so I started drinking it because I could get it for free at his house. I discovered something about scotch: If you're a poor college student and you invite friends over to your apartment, and all you have to drink is scotch, they bring their own stuff. When they left, they would often leave a lot of booze behind, and I got all of that for free, too. I'm nothing if not clever.
A few years later, I switched to Manhattans because my father-in-law drank Manhattans and he kept making them for me. Funny how quickly you get used to a drink. My mother-in-law drank vodka gimlets, and I would make them for her. She asked how I could make the perfect gimlet without measuring and I told her I went by the color. She apparently believed me, even though she knew I was colorblind. Eventually, I switched from the Manhattans to vodka gimlets.
I never drank beer. I'm not sure why, but I get drunk very quickly on beer. One beer and I literally have trouble walking straight. I can't drink wine—wine is for girls and girly men.
So how did I get to be a bourbon drinker?
Back around 1990, I was working in Austria as a sales, marketing, and management consultant. I was at a resort in Schaldming, Austria, right next to Rohrmoos, where they filmed The Sound of Music (and yes, it was that beautiful). Karl, the bartender, asked what I wanted to drink. I noticed a bottle behind him that was so covered in dust, I couldn't read the label. “What's that?” I asked. “Oh,” he replied, “that's something only Americans drink.” Well, I thought, I'm an American. So I told him to give me a glass. Turned out it was Jack Daniel’s. Carl told me that if I drank up that bottle so he could get rid of it, he'd give it to me for free. 'Nuff said—I became a whiskey drinker.
I am now a sophisticated whiskey drinker—especially bourbon. I can discuss the different notes of various bourbons like a wine connoisseur. I can taste how cheese brings out one flavor and fruit brings out a different one. I can tell a good bourbon from a not-very-good bourbon. Jack Daniel’s is actually not bourbon—it's Tennessee sipping whiskey, which is made with a different process. There’s also a legal difference: true bourbon only comes from one county in Kentucky. If it ain't made there, it ain't bourbon.
Last fall, when the Lovely Louise and I were driving to our winter abode in Florida, I suggested a slight detour from Route 95 for a quick stop in Kentucky so I could pick up some rare bourbons. If you look at a map, it's only a detour of a couple of inches. In reality, it's 551 miles from Richmond, Virginia, and you can drive it in about eight hours. For a bourbon drinker, that's a slight detour.
We did tours of a number of bourbon distilleries, including my current favorite, Woodford Reserve. I was able to buy a bottle of their new double oaked bourbon, which is only available at the distiller. I even had my name engraved on the bottle. Even though it's gone now, whenever I get a new bottle I pour it into the old bottle and pretend. Somehow, it tastes better in “my” bottle.
Eventually we continued on to Florida with the back seat stuffed full of bourbons you can't get anywhere else. I was set for the winter.
There are really only two ways to drink bourbon. You either take it neat or with a small amount of ice so as not to water it down too much. People who come to my house and ask for a bourbon and coke get only Jim Beam or Old Grand-Dad. They don't get near my good bourbon because they won't appreciate it anyway. For them, a $10 bourbon is no different from a $100 bourbon.
Although I love the bourbon, I went off it for a while and drank Black Russians—vodka and Kahlua—instead. Since I have a few pounds to lose, however, and they won't come off by themselves, I started eating low-carb … and Black Russians are definitely not low carb. I realized that if I kept drinking them I’d never lose any weight. Bourbon to the rescue! Bourbon has zero carbs. Zero! When I learned that I went right out and bought a bottle of Woodford Reserve, and now I'm back to losing three to four pounds a week. A few more weeks and I will regain that Adonis-like body that women find irresistible and men envy. All thanks to bourbon.