Take It From The Best Bourbon Bar On Hilton Head, We Love Our Whiskey!
“Too much of anything is a bad thing,” wrote Mark Twain, “but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” Bourbon is one of the oldest American drinks, older than the Constitution itself, and has influenced countless thinkers, artists, and politicians through the ages.
We even named an uprising after this drink, the Whiskey Rebellion, because early American farmers would rather rebel against duties on corn used to create the drink than pay what they perceived to be an unjust tax. Bourbon is more than just an American answer to rye or Scotch; it is a quintessential slice of American culture, one that turns a steak dinner into a feast or a baseball game into a fast-paced contest. Why do we love the drink so much?
There’s no sin in drinking bourbon alone, perhaps to enjoy a classic movie all the better, or to accentuate an otherwise-bland bag of potato chips. Yet, to drink with friends and family is to delve into the true magic of bourbon. It’s not just that the drink makes conversation lighter, jokes funnier, and embraces warmer; rum can do all these things too, and sometimes for fewer calories in the exchange. Bourbon, however, is a bonding experience unlike any other drink.
It prompts opinions, first and foremost, as people gather around a table, starting a conversation because everyone is eager to list their favorite bottle, their favorite cocktail, or their favorite night of halcyon youth. It creates debate about what is a good-nay-great bourbon: is it the taste, the consistency, the smooth finish, or the way it uplifts a soul? Finally, it creates connections, turning acquaintances into new friends like no other experience in this world, forging ties with each glass emptied.
The United States is a nation of change, a nation of innovative cars and computers and smartphones and solar panels, but as often as not we have greater reverence for that which has not changed throughout the ages. We amend the Constitution, but only ever quote its preamble; we employ credit cards and Bitcoin, but still keep Honest Abe on the penny; we can get a thousand meals from Grubhub, but wouldn’t dream of takeout for Sunday dinner with the family.
At a time when so many alcohols are going through a state of revolution—kombuchas, IPAs, hard ciders—the consistency of bourbon provides a welcome foundation. Change is good, but perfection is better. Even if Jack Daniels is not your definition of perfect whiskey, you nevertheless can admire that it has not required re-alignment within the past 146 years.
Friends With Benefits
Imagine, if you will, a bartender who plunks down in front of you some motley concoctions: gin with Coke; tequila with bitters; rum with mint julep; brandy with tonic water. You might instead ask for a Budweiser, or perhaps for another server. The art of the cocktail is the art of pairing good ingredients, an art that is harder than meets the eye. Not every liquor blends together flawlessly with every mixer—and for some that allegedly do, like vodka with tomato juice and clam broth, sobriety is probably preferable. However, bourbon always provides the most flexibility.
Imagine you go on a first date; you look good, you feel good, the connection is there. When you sit down for dinner, what do you order? Now imagine your best friend is having a child or received a promotion and you want to give him a present. You have just a few minutes before the liquor store closes, what should you choose? Imagine you show up at a party where you only know a handful of people.
What do you bring to make sure you won’t be disappointed in the drinks or the conversation? Bourbon is a great equalizer, a drink for all classes and all backgrounds, and you can be certain that even if a bar or a liquor store doesn’t carry your all-time favorite bottle, they’ll have plenty of great backup choices that are welcome, familiar, and sure to pull their weight in the course of an evening out.
Hobbies and Habits
Above all, our love affair with bourbon comes down to our magnetic interest in the drink, our desire to learn more about its craft and its complexity, a feeling of gravity that pulls us towards a brand we haven’t tried, a recommendation we want to follow, or even a distillery tour where we find out how to turn mash into liquor over the span of decades. There are bourbon fans, bourbon fanatics, and bourbon experts, but you don’t have to know the difference between whisky and whiskey to enjoy it, to appreciate it, and to want to learn more about it.