Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The Once and Future Rye, Part 9: Bourbon After the Deluge




Chapter 9: Bourbon After the Deluge


Pretty much all histories of rye recount how, immediately after the Whiskey Rebellion, thousands of farmers left Pennsylvania for the wilds of Kentucky, bringing their stills with them. Where, the climate and soil being better suited for corn than for rye, they (it is implied) invented Bourbon.


Histories of bourbon, however, omit that narrative. In its place, they present the inconvenient fact that bourbon was invented before the Whiskey Rebellion. When the whiskey tax was imposed, Kentucky distillers wisely refrained from outright rebellion. Instead, they kept their heads down and simply didn’t pay it. After the uprising in Pennsylvania, nobody thought it prudent to try to make them do so.


It is perfectly understandable why, after its being eclipsed by bourbon, those who fancy rye would like to credit their favorite tipple for the birth of its rival. Nevertheless, bourbon has its own mystique, its own origin story, and its own folklore, the result of decades of hard work and corporate self-mythologizing. Bourbon is now—it has to be said, without blushing or looking away—America’s Whiskey.


This is not likely to change anytime soon. We can only be gracious in our recognition of the facts.


To graciously celebrate the ascension of bourbon to the heights once held by rye, there can be no better cocktail than the Mint Julep:


Mint Julep

5 to 8 mint leaves

 ¼ ounce simple syrup

 2 ounces bourbon

 mint sprig


 directions: muddle mint leaves in simple syrup, add bourbon, then pack glass tightly with crushed ice; stir until the cup is frosted on the outside; top with more ice and garnish with mint sprig. Be sure to slap the sprig smartly on the back of your hand first to release the aromatic oils


The mint julep is served in a rocks glass or a silver julep cup and is traditionally prepared with a lot of fuss and ceremony. Let’s be honest here, that’s half the fun of it.



Above: Okay, I confess, I have no bourbon in the house. And, not being a bourbon drinker, a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle would be wasted on me. Still. When you're faking it, why not go with the best?




Edd_Vick said...

I'm enjoying this series. Just noting you have a sentence in the directions ending in the word "making"; seems like there should be more to the sentence.

Michael Swanwick said...

Thanks for catching that! Correction made.