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Opening Arguments

Waiting to inhale

My birth state takes a courageous stand against modernism:

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The state that claims to produce the world's best bourbon has banned at least one way to consume it: vaporized for easy inhalation.

Gov. Steve Beshear signed a bill on Tuesday prohibiting the sale, purchase or use of alcohol vaporizers, which are devices that resemble asthma inhalers but produce intoxicating fumes.

"These devices have generated considerable concern from the law enforcement and medical communities due to the increased potential for extreme alcohol impairment or consuming alcohol in deadly concentrations," Beshear told advocates who gathered in the Kentucky Capitol for the signing ceremony.

"Claims" to produce the world's best bourbon? Come on, AP, give back the bribe Tennessee paid you. Without getting into the legal or philosophical implications of the law, let me just say that it makes a great del of aesthetic sense. Unless your idea is to just get hammered as quickly as possible, liquor should be sipped. Inhaled, for Pete's sake?

Here, for those of discerning taste, is the perfect mint julep: Make a syrup by boiling two cups of sugar and two cupts of water for five minutes. Refrigerate overnight in a covered container with some crushed fresh mint. To make the drink, mix a tablespoon of syrup with two ounces of bourbon and crushed ice. Then -- this is the most important step -- dump it into the nearest flower pot and pour yourself a B&B. You will kill a plant that no longer needs to be watered and discover the reason liquor was discovered.

I was on vacation in Kentucky once and asked a liquor store clerk if he had B&B. "I got the beer," he said, "but what's the other B?" Well, hell, bourbon, unless you're Hillary Clinton.


Mitchell Surface
Thu, 04/17/2008 - 11:12am

I thought the reason liquor was discovered was so that ugly people could have sex too??

Bob G.
Thu, 04/17/2008 - 11:35am

Kentucky IS the bourbon Mecca of the world...period!

And anyone that hasn't put a finger or two of the whiskey into a hot coffee after shovelling some snow on a freezing morning doesn't know what they're missing.

B&B...bourbon to kill the taste of the swill they "pass" for domestic beer...I can get on board with that.



Harl Delos
Thu, 04/17/2008 - 12:33pm

The liquor store clerk was an idiot, Bob. In a liquor store, B&B is Benedictine DOM (Deo Optimo Maximo) B&B, sold in 375 ml bottles for $18.49 (Pennsylvania State Store price.) They use an old cognac as the brandy, and of course, Benedictine is made from 27 plants and spices.

If you ask a bartender for a B&B, though, he floats a half ounce of brandy atop a half ounce of DOM Benedictine (price: $30.99 for 750 ml) in a cordial glass, and serves it without stirring. It's been that way since the 1930s, when a bartender at the 21 Club in New York first invented the drink.

If you want a mixture of beer and bourbon, you don't ask for a B&B, you ask for a boilermaker, one glass. (A good bartender normally gives you a shot of whiskey with a short chaser of beer when you ask for a boilermaker. In crappy bars, they are served in one glass)

And yes, Kentucky is the bourbon mecca of the world is because, although you can make a corn whisky elsewhere, you cannot legally label it bourbon unless it's made in Kentucky. Jack Daniels, George Dickel, Ezra Brooks, etc., aren't bourbon, they're Tennessee sippin' whiskey.

Kentucky isn't not the whiskey capital of the world, though. A fifth of Maker's Mark, which is about as good as bourbon gets, is $46.99. That's the same as Bushmill's irish whiskey, made by the distillers that've been making whiskey since 1608. Experience counts. Jameson's 18-year-old irish whiskey runs $74.99. A fifth of Johnny Walker Blue scotch, the most expensive of the common whiskeys, runs $199.99.

There's a reason why people pay more for better liquor - it's because they're actually tasting it, by drinking it neat or on the rocks, not using it to kill the taste of domestic mass market beer.

Leo Morris
Thu, 04/17/2008 - 1:20pm

If you mix your own B&B, adding slightly more brandy than the premixed version has, and wam it a few seconds in the microwave . . . man, oh, man.

Bob G.
Thu, 04/17/2008 - 1:56pm

Gee...in the taprooms my Dad and I frequented in Philly (after I was 21 & before he passed in '78) when we asked for a boilermaker, we got a mug of beer alongside a shot of Hennesey 5 star.....Not mixed.

And after several of those, the legs don't want to respond as quickly when you attempt to get off that barstool.

How things have changed.

At least Pats & Geno's are still there!


Thu, 04/17/2008 - 2:23pm

It is extemely distressing to me that I find that Leo and I agree on one thing: B&B. Although I have probably spilled more B&B than he has drunk.

Any decent bar will warm a B&B for you - at least the ones I frequent do. Maybe that's because I am personally responsible for it being available at several local establishments -it being virtually unknown here 40 years ago when I started asking for it.

One more thing -make sure you get a decent pour. At the price they get you should, plus I learned the hard way that you really only want one B&B of an evening. Overindulgence leads to the worst of all possible hangovers.

Harl Delos
Thu, 04/17/2008 - 3:00pm

I learned the hard way that you really only want one B&B of an evening.

Changing the subject for a moment, because there'll never be a better time to ask, I read something about twenty years ago about a prof at IU that had a vocabulary test. You'd tell him what different things are - for instance, do you fry eggs in a skillet, a fry pan, a frying pan, a spider or something else - and by the time you went through 20 or 30 words, he could tell you what county of Indiana you were from. Sometimes, he'd guess an adjoining county, instead of your own county, but he had a really good record.

That phrase "of an evening" is a regionalism, or possibly a localism. My first wife and her parents used it; she grew up down towards Marion. I wasn't used to hearing it; I grew up east of FW. They also used the word "tasty" a lot, and although I'd heard people using it when I was growing up, they didn't use it often.

So where did you grow up, CED?

Although I have probably spilled more B&B than he has drunk.

And definitely more than I have. I've read enough that I know what a B&B is, but I've never tasted Benedictine, and I'm not a big brandy drinker.

I've had apricot brandy, and blackberry brandy. When a flavor of brandy isn't specified, as in the recipes for B&B, does just plain "brandy" mean grape brandy?

There are times, and this is one of them, when I regret not having done a better job of misspending my youth.

Thu, 04/17/2008 - 4:11pm

Mr. Delos

If you must know, I was born in St. Joe Hospital, right here in the Summit City, and grew up in Southwood Park, out by Foster Park, close to where Leo lives.

I don't always say "of an evening". I just like to sprinkle a little variety in how I express myself.

There are, of course, many regionalisms in any area. Whether you call it pop or soda is a common one. One of my favorites was an expression used by my sainted grandmother. After a big family meal, her first chore was to "redd up" the table -meaning to clear it of dishes, utensils, etc.

In the same vein of regionalism, Wisconsin natives consume the most brandy per capita in the U.S. So much so that, in many places in Wisconsin, you will get a brandy Manhatten, for example, not a whiskey-based one, unless you specifically order otherwise.

If you are making your own B&B, using straight Benedictine, a good quality brandy - maybe a cut above Christian Brothers - will do the job, although naturally the better the brandy the better it will taste, up to a point. The Benedictine is a much stronger flavored potable than brandy, so using really expensive brandy is pretty much pointless.

Leo Morris
Thu, 04/17/2008 - 5:21pm

My most recently discovered regionalism: Here in Fort Wayne, when we take food to work, it's called a "carry in." Where my sister works in Indianapolis, they call it a "ptch in."

Harl Delos
Thu, 04/17/2008 - 7:32pm

If you must know

Honest, I wasn't trying to twist your arm; I was just curious. My wife doesn't like to go places with me, because I will hear an unusual surname, and I ask the bearer if it actually means something, or if it's just a noise, and does he know where the name originated geographically. She thinks it looks like I'm trying to decide whether the person is the member of an ethnic group I dislike, but sheesh, 75% of your grandparents had a different surname than you do....

Dad always told us kids to "redd up" the table; I never heard anyone else use that phrase, and I was embarassed as a kid, and hoped he never said it in front of other people. I thought it was an illiteracy derived from "to make ready".

When I was about 30, I ran across it in the dictionary, spelled redd, instead of red or read, as I had presumed. It made me feel a lot better about Dad, knowing that it was an honest old english word, but a whole lot worse about myself, for having thought it wasn't.

Lawyers use the word in writing leases, usually commercial ones, that require the tenant to leave the premises "void and redd" at the end of occupancy. Void means empty, of course, and redd means cleaned up.

I didn't notice much brandy consumption when I lived in Janesville, but it's almost on the Illinois line, so maybe it's different than the rest of the state. Of course, I was young then, and the only bars I ever went to had hard rock on the Wurlitzer and Old Milwaukee on tap, and nobody drank anything except draft beer.

If I'd picked bars for the over-25 crowd, I probably would have had another experience. We get too soon old, and too late smart.

Thanks, Leo. I'd never heard that one.

Out in the San Francisco area, they have a fish stew they call "cioppino". On one of the Food Network shows, they were visiting a place where all the italian fishermen ate, and supposedly the place where cioppino originated. The stew was a "catch of the day" affair - as each fisherman arrived, they'd ask him what he brought to "chip in to" the stew, the stew being called "chip-in-to" and eventually "cioppino". That story doesn't jibe with other explanations I've seen, which says that in Genoa, Italy, they make ciuppin, which is basically the same stew. But it seemed to be a pretty good story, anyhow.