“Time to Switch to Whiskey” is a Corb Lund song that the local Kyle Bennett Band covers and that has been stuck in my head for about the past two months. Not because of the music, though it’s great.
But because, well, is there ever a time to switch to whiskey? Especially for a ‘tini-and-tequila gal like me?
I’m thinking no. My first tango with the brown stuff was at a long-gone bar in Arlington, where my girlfriend and I faked our way into a couple of whiskey sours. In the excitement of making it to the stools without the bar police kicking our underage butts to the curb, I blanked when the bartender asked us what we wanted. I defaulted to something my dad used to order. I must not have liked it that much because I switched to tequila and never looked back.
I got a taste o’ whiskey late last year when I stole a sweet cowboy’s drink. I think it was so good to me because the booze was mixed with straight, original, sugar-and-corn-syrup-infused Coca-Cola. (I hadn’t had a non-diet Coke in about 20 years.)
More recently, I met a friend who works downtown at Whiskey & Rye in the giant new Omni Fort Worth Hotel. I was frankly curious about what the hotel looked like inside. Answer: swanky. And Whiskey & Rye features extremely comfortable leather chairs: great to sink into after a long, hard day counting your millions — or after glancing at the prices on the bar menu. Let’s just say Whiskey & Rye is the home of $12 mixed drinks.
My drinking partner, Mr. Dirty Vodka Martini, sagely observed that most hotel bars are intended for the guests. We should welcome out-of-towners and their flow of money into the local economy, he argued. And maybe he’s right. As the old saying goes, “When out of town on the company dime, splurge!” (That’s not an old saying? Whatever.)
I picked something off the menu that was apropos to the bar’s vibe and that took me back about 20 years: the Fort Worth Sour, made with rye whiskey, lemon, and simple syrup. I have no clue what made it extra “Fort Worth” special. The wait staffers couldn’t answer — they clearly haven’t mastered W&R’s fancy menu yet. Or maybe nobody orders a cheesy drink like a Fort Worth Sour. At any rate, what I got tasted like ginger ale. I momentarily envied my dirty-vodka friend and his properly made libation.
Eventually, I ended up with a drink that tasted sweet and sour and burned like whiskey. We sat in our comfy leather chairs and watched the tourists walk up and down Houston Street. There, I pondered anew the appeal of whiskey. Bands using “whiskey” in their names are everywhere — Catfish Whiskey, Whiskey Meyers, Rob Baird and the Whiskey Reunion … . And there are a kazillion songs about whiskey. Nobody really sings about vodka, except that one obscure band from Malta.
Then there was that jigger of Jameson I did on St. Paddy’s Day. I guess I thought the most popular brand of Irish whiskey in the world would have tasted smoother or more … something. It went down like molten lava. After I caught my breath, I promptly ordered a Diet Coke chaser.
Mary Ann LeRoy, the owner of Arlington’s venerable Tanstaafl Pub, just about laughed in my face when I told her that story. Most people, she said, mix good whiskey with water or have it over ice. Apparently, you don’t shoot good straight whiskey like you do tequila. You sip it. As far as my mixing Jameson and Diet Coke, LeRoy just shook her head. “There’s no sense wasting good whiskey when you’re putting Coke or sweet-and-sour mix into it,” she said.
If you order a whiskey and Coke in her bar, you’ll get a well whiskey like bourbon. “Real whiskey,” she said, “is an acquired taste.” Translation: You have to drink a lot of the stuff before you know what’s good and what isn’t. So ask me what I think of Jameson in about 10 years. – Laurie Barker James