Hopefully you know it by now. (But if you don’t…) But Is It Lit? is our homegrown series of articles about local/regional, funny, weird, lovable, and most of all downright literary things. Literature is everywhere–let’s talk about it. This post marks the 5th of our series, and it comes from a guest contributor, poet, and dear friend of the Triangle, Samantha Sweigert.
A few weeks ago, the Triangle was in Annapolis, Maryland, experiencing the literary-scene there for the first time at Ahh Coffee‘s monthly open reading. A few days before, our friends Sam and Aaron were also in Annapolis, where they came across a bourbon bar called DRY 85, the menu of which was loaded with literary (as well as whiskey) goodness.
Photo copyright of the Baltimore Sun
Sing all of the slurred praises you like about vodka, rum, and gin; when it comes to lit-saturated adult sipping drinks, whiskey is as poetic as they get. Whether it’s bottom-shelf, crowd-funded Old Crow; a dark colored, honey tinted bourbon bearing the name of some moustached distiller; or a smoke-filled bottle of summin’summin from the mother country; each could write down its own pages. Whiskey has my writer’s heart, which is why on a two-day Annapolis, MD adventure, the fella and I were inarguably intent on visiting DRY 85, a prohibition style modern speakeasy with more than one hundred selections of whiskey and bourbon. Pick your teeth up off the floor.
After a healthy serving of some of my first rye whiskey, I was singing Punch Brothers music in my head and developing an old-saloon worthy plan of snatching the bar menu for my bookcase at home.
1. Quotes. The first page of this book of a menu displays a quote from Senator Morris Sheppard, often called the “father of national Prohibition,” which says, “There is as much chance of repealing the 18th Amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail.” Obviously Mr. Sheppard had very little faith in hummingbirds and the slow burn of a good whiskey, but I appreciate the uncommon simile.
2. HOW-TO. I hate being the one who has absolutely no idea how to order a drink/pack of cigarettes/fancy plate of pasta listed in Italian, and luckily, this publication saves anyone that unique embarrassment by listing the ways a drink can be ordered along with a description.
Neat: a straight pour at room temperature.
Cube: one ice cube. Opens the flavors.
3. Alphabetical Listings. All one hundred and fifty something versions of whiskey available are sprawled out on the next couple of pages along with their alcohol-by-volume. Some of my favorite draaank names are as follows:
Dad’s Hat Rye
High West Campfire
Hudson Baby Bourbon
Whistle Pig Rye
4. The adjectives, though. Each whiskey, bourbon, rye, or special blend is tagged by a quickly eloquent paragraph describing its notes and flavors. If you know anything about whiskey, you know it’s all about those notes. These few lines accompanying each drink title were my favorite part of the experience. I sat there drinking my rye riddled with subtle hints of honeydew and banana while I scanned the rest of the booklet. Each bottle had something to tell me, a little context for the notes. Where had it come from? Were there flowers involved? How many years had it aged in a hollowed out piece of wood? I could have read the whole thing cover to cover. This little trinket really got me:
Busta Rhymes released Pass the Courvoisier in 2002. Sales jumped 30%. Instantly, cognac was cool again. However, the little family grower who works his vineyard and distills truly world-class, small batch juice simply doesn’t have that massive marketing budget to catch the eye of influencers. So, we support the little guys.
Gilles Brisson Grande Champagne 1er Cru VSOP – 40% ABV – France – 12.
Seven years old. Subtle, smooth and profound. More like our KRS-One to your Busta Rhymes.
If whiskey-menus can be literature, what else could? You tell us. Email us (thetrianglepa [at] gmail dot com) with ideas or your own BIIL write-up!