Smoke Gets in Your Ice
It might have been a Wednesday a few weeks ago. I was minding my own business, recovering from a bout of bottle fatigue on the deck of Brian Boru, when I got the text.
“Dood! The Bollards up in flames, sorry”
“I doubt that. I’d have heard something if we were going under,” I thumbed back.
“No u idiot, on fire on fire. Smoke, trucks, fucked up traffic”
Cool, I remember thinking as I made my way to the scene. Always wanted to do a column on the Molotov Cocktail. But then again, after you’ve written something like this — “The Molotov is a lousy excuse for a cocktail. It inflames when it should quench, incites where it should soothe, and while a cocktail should strive to do something, this one un-does things in spades.” — where do you go from there? The Irish Car Bomb? Thanks, but no. Publish that recipe and I might end up on some watch list.
Mounting the stairs to the third floor, I pictured the worst: The Fuge’s Star Wars toys in a molten mess, stacks of waterlogged back issues, the liquor cabinet razed, the smell of baked Apples …
What a letdown. The Stormtroopers remained at their watch, the computers continued to whir, and the liquor wouldn’t have to be saved, just relocated. Someone would have to clean the carpets, though; sooty boot-prints ran the length of the office, from the top of the stairs to the back deck.
The deck! The nexus of the crisis! Wiped out, gone, toast. But there was something about one of the rails that caught my eye. The way the wood charred into that familiar alligator texture reminded me of whiskey barrels — American whiskey barrels, to be exact — and the sweet, sooty smell put me in mind of Tennessee’s whiskey. The only thing I wanted — right then and there — was a heavy glass with some George Dickel No. 12 in it.
The American whiskey industry is weird that way. First by tradition and then by statute, if you’re going to make good whiskey in the U.S., you will have to get brand new, virgin oak barrels and char ’em. The wine guys, they’ll toast their barrels, even put on a dark “Heavy ++” toast, but it’s still just a toasting. In whiskey country, the inside of the barrels catches fire and the wood blisters till it looks like that rail. No other category of spirit or beverage alcohol insists on burnt barrels. It is a singularly American thing, like the designated hitter rule.
Down in Tennessee, though, they take things a step further. They drip their whiskey through 10 or 12 feet of wool blankets and sugar-maple charcoal in what they call the Lincoln County Process. This is what separates Tennessee whiskey from bourbon — not anything related to “sour mash” (I don’t care what your uncle told you) — and it was written into the statutes in 1941 in a move by the Tennessee-style distillers to differentiate themselves from their bourbon competitors.
Two Tennessee distillers remain. George Dickel is one. Jack Daniel’s is the other.
I used to drink Jack Daniel’s. Even used to carry a bottle of the green label with me to parties — the bottle fit perfectly in the inside pocket of my Levi’s jacket, and at only 80 proof, it was an easy sipper while waiting in line at the keg. Later, in my pan-rattling days, my usual shift drink (the pat-on-the-back cocktail restaurateurs extend to their staff) was a Budweiser and a shot of J.D. That is, until a bartender — thank God for bartenders — refused to serve me my customary shot of whiskey.
“C’mon,” I begged, “I didn’t get all that rambunctious last night. Gimme my shot.”
“You can have your shot,” he told me. “You just need to quit drinking that crap and expand your horizons a little bit. Get past the whole image thing.”
“But I’m ‘Bud and a Jack’ John. I wear a Jack Daniel’s hat and everything.”
“Not your image, you little shit! You’re a 20-nuthing living in a tiny
town in Vermont! You haven’t got an image. I’m talking about marketing. I’m talking about the Jack Daniel’s image. Get past it.”
“Just give me a Jack. I don’t wanna argue.”
“Then stop talking,” he said as he grabbed a bottle from the bar and poured something into a heavy glass with a couple ice cubes.
It was creamy, sooty, sweet with apples and butterscotch and a touch of cigarette smoke mixed with barroom.
“George Dickel No. 12,” is all he said.
“Thank God for bartenders,” is all I replied.
750 ml gasoline
1 liter glass bottle
Fill bottle with the gasoline and stuff the rag into its mouth. Turn upside down gently until the rag is nicely soaked. Light the match and touch it to the rag. Throw. Run.
Irish Car Bomb
Fill a shot glass with Baileys Irish Cream and Irish whiskey. Half-fill a Guinness glass with Guinness. Gently drop the shot glass into the Guinness glass. Chug like a frat boy and try not to notice the look of disgust on your bartender’s face. She has to wash that disgusting glass, and that’s why she’s charging you all that money.
— John Myers