“Let’s have a shot,” says my friend. We’re at the bar, drinking beer, and it is that time in the late afternoon to have a wee bit of a dram of whiskey. The bartender fills two shot glasses with Jameson’s and places them on the bar in front of us.
I pick up my shot glass and pause, nosing the dram, wanting to get the full effect of the whisky before I take a sip. Slowly I raise the glass to my lips and take a small sip, rolling it around on my tongue and in my mouth to experience the full effect of the amber liquid. I glance over at my friend. He’s already downed the shot in one gulp and is motioning for the bartender to pour another. Inwardly I cringe and my jaws tighten.
No, I want to shout. You need to savour it. But my protestations remain locked in my head. It isn’t my place to criticize. I simply smile and shake my head no to the bartender, as I take another sip from my shot glass. Saying anything to my friend would be pointless. I don’t condemn him, I simply am sorry because he isn’t taking the opportunity to experience a well-crafted dram.
And that’s the difference. To many people a shot is simply a more efficient alcohol delivery system. To others, like myself, it is a way to enjoy the amber liquid that is the culmination of hundreds of years of careful distilling. There’s history there, and craftsmanship, and acknowledging that is part of the enjoyment.
I watch the guys at the bar and am surprised at how they sometimes pick really strange liquor for their shots. Stuff like Jaegermeister that is actually a German disgestif, Fireball (I can’t think of a worse flavor for a liquor than cinnamon*), and Rumple Mint, liquor the people here in Steamboat fondly refer to as “Steamboat mouthwash” because of its peppermint taste.
*--Digression: I have an aversion to cinnamon because of something that happened in my childhood. In the mid-1950’s, when I was in fourth grade or so, my friends and I began going to the pharmacy to purchase small tubes of cinnamon oil from the pharmacy. We’d put toothpicks into the oil and let them soak up the liquid. Then we’d walk around with the cinnamon toothpicks in our mouths, acting cool, thinking we were tough. The liquid was strong and almost burned our mouths until we became used to it. Finally our principal banned our use of cinnamon oil and toothpicks. That was my first experience with an “illegal” substance. Because of my experience with cinnamon oil I developed an distaste to the smell of cinnamon in gum and hard candy. I can’t stand it. Real cinnamon used in baking and actual cinnamon sticks in hot cider doesn’t bother me. It’s the artificially strong cinnamon smell or taste that I can’t abide. Fireball cinnamon whiskey is the worst. It’s the last thing I want to smell when I’m at the bar. –End of Digression
Friends of mine who regularly drink shots of Rumplemint tell me that because it smells a bit like mouthwash the cop may accept that excuse if you are unlucky enough to be stopped and he asks if you’ve been drinking. Truthfully, I doubt that any police officer worth his salt would buy the excuse that you just used mouthwash. But . . . I guess you never know.
Some of the guys choose Jack Daniels or Jameson for their shots and this definitely is a step up from Fireball or Rumplemint. But of course the price for those shots go up a bit as well.
I’ve written in my blog before about whisky; see my post, “A Wee Bit of a Dram,” that related my story of ice/snow climbing in Scotland and being introduced to the pleasure of single malt whisky. I do prefer single malt Scotch and have even acquired a taste for the peaty, smoky, Islay scotches like Laphroaig.
Again, I’ve spent a lot of time working on my palate so that I like not only single malts, but other types of whiskey as well. I don’t want to be a whisky snob, and I don’t look down on people for their choice of the liquor they drink. Well, maybe I do a little bit when it comes to cinnamon—at that I draw the line.
One reason I’ve been trying to expand my taste for different types of whiskey is that a local distillery opened up here in Steamboat Springs about a year and a half ago. I will write specifically about Nathan and Jes’ distillery, The Steamboat Whiskey Company, in a future blog post. I enjoy frequenting their bar, which is the room next to the large space where the magic happens and they distill their various spirits. They make their Warrior Whiskey, Ski Town Vodka, Sleeping Giant Gin, and moonshine. Currently their Warrior Whiskey is a blend of a bourbon and a rye that they age in rum casks for around six months. I’m waiting for their own whiskey to be unveiled; they’ve distilled it and now aging it in casks in a warehouse somewhere on the edge of town. But that will take at least another couple of years before it will be ready to drink.
At the bar of the Steamboat Whiskey Company one can get a variety of interesting cocktails, and they have the best deal in town: $10.00 for a shot of their Warrior Whiskey and a cold beer. They always have four excellent beers on tap, a couple of them from local breweries. So, at least once a week I stop in for a shot and a beer. I am learning to enjoy their whiskey even though it isn’t single malt. See? I’m learning. I’m expanding my horizons.
Finally it comes down to the reason for the shot. What’s your reason for ordering a shot? Do you want to enjoy a pleasant whisky along with your beer? Or are you in a hurry to get as much alcohol in your system in the shortest time and willing to drink questionable shots of strange alcohol? Interesting question.