Drink like Don

Whiskey drinks for people who don’t like whiskey. Yet.
By JASON O'BRYAN  |  December 8, 2009

DRINKS_Seasons09greenst 
Green Street Grill's Emily Stanley serves up a Maple Leaf

If Mad Men has taught us anything, it's that we shouldn't go to a 1960s advertising executive for health advice.

But just because we can't live like them, it doesn't mean we can't drink like them (or, at least, drink what they drink, not as they drink). Good thing, because let's face it: whiskey — a thoroughly Mad Men drink — is cool.

For almost everything, coolness is ephemeral (a lesson Sisqó will give you personally, in exchange for a hot meal), and yet whiskey's reign endures. When Rick is drowning in memory in Casablanca, he may be in a gin joint, but he's drinking bourbon, straight up. Sixty-five years later we got our opening glimpse of Mad Men's too-perfect-to-be-true Don Draper, and the first two things we learn about him, in order, are that he's well-dressed and handsome, and that he'll have a whiskey old fashioned— another one.

This is an easy way for the show's writers to characterize: if he drinks whiskey, he's a guy's guy, tough and seasoned. His is an unconquerably cool spirit, which is nice, because it also happens to be really, really good.

If you've never liked whiskey, now's the time to grow up and learn. The month of December is made for dark liquor. It's cold and wet, and you have to be with family the whole time, and whiskey whispers from its bottle, promising to warm your frayed and frozen nerves.

While it is, in some ways, an acquired taste, its impenetrability is a complete myth. You won't be drinking it straight at 11 am (at least not right away), but there are a number of cocktails, like a whiskey starter kit, to ease you in and develop your palate.

We spent a couple nights with two of our favorite mixologists — Scott Holliday from Rendezvous and Emily Stanley from Green Street Grille, both in Cambridge — to collect ideas, gateway drinks into the fabulous world of whiskey. Cultivate a taste for these, and you'll be drinking like a mad man in no time.


BOURBON WHISKEY

Good if you like: Jaeger shots; Southern Comfort; tequila; rum & coke; Hunter S. Thompson

Bourbon (along with the lesser-known rye) is the American variety, and like every other consumable in this country, is made with a lot of corn (at least 51 percent). It is, therefore, noted first for its sweetness, and second for the fact that it can kick like an angry mule. If you're just starting, stay away from the high-proof stuff; instead, go for the gentler Basil Hayden's (80 proof), or even push it with Maker's Mark or Woodford Reserve (90 proof each).

EMILY SUGGESTS WHISKEY SMASH

2 OZ BOURBON
HALF A LEMON, QUARTERED
4 TO 5 MINT LEAVES
1/2 OZ SIMPLE SYRUP (2:1 SUGAR TO WATER RATIO)


MUDDLE MINT AND LEMON, SHAKE AND STRAIN OVER ICE. GARNISH WITH MINT SPRIG.

The smash is a derivation of the mint julep, but it uses cubed (as opposed to crushed) ice, and is therefore harder to screw up. The sugar mellows the bite of the bourbon, and the lemon cuts it. The added mint gives it a refreshing, almost sparkling taste, offering the hope that it could, at least, be summer in your mouth.

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