Not all that long ago, I wrote a history of rye whiskey as a metaphor for the history of America. (The Once and Future Rye: The Whiskey That Was America is still available for purchase at www.dragonstairs.com.) Just now, I found a passage in Bernard De Voto's essay/slim book The Hour, a jolly crank rant claiming that there are only two cocktails worth drinking: whiskey straight (by which he means rye or bourbon but not Scotch and how this is a cocktail is beyond me) and the Martini, which I wish I'd run across while writing my own chapbook. Here it is:
I don't know why but there are more brands of good rye than there are of bourbon. And I don't know why the God-damned Navy is permitted to monopolize so many of them--but here's a tip for you. Keep green your friendships in the service.
Now isn't that strange? De Voto's essay confirms one of my own central findings, which is that Prohibition turned America's palate away from rye to whiskey. But who would have suspected that for the longest time (The Hour was first published in 1948), bourbon was an also-ran? To say nothing about that weird observation about USN commissaries.e
It's clear that the history of American tippling has been sadly neglected. There's plenty of room our there for an amateur chronicler to make their mark. (To those reading this: That's a hint.)