This month’s Mixology Monday hosted by Rowley’s Whiskey Forge is all about desperate times. In these days of economic downturn how do we tipplers keep ourselves fully saturated? For the ladies of LUPEC Boston its through an understanding that quality hooch doesn’t have to carry a hefty price tag.
Now don’t get us wrong. We are more than willing to splurge on a delicious bottle of 20 year old bourbon every now and again. It takes a lot of care to shepherd a barrel of bourbon through 20 years of aging and we will happily empty our wallets to enjoy that labor of love. But all too frequently a bottle sports a hefty price tag due to the producer’s million dollar ad campaign. So what about the bottle next to the $40 bottle of bourbon, the one that is only $20 and has a name with which you’re unfamiliar? With a little research you just may find a gem. Here are a few tips and things to keep in mind as you explore:
RULE #1: Skip anything packaged in plastic. These aren’t the desperate times of college.
RULE #2: Don’t be afraid to ask questions at your favorite cocktail bars and liquor stores. We are fortunate to have several establishments here in Boston that stock unconventional brands in their wells and on their back bars. If your bartender appears to have some time next time you visit your favorite local, ask a few questions about what they’ve chosen to stock and why.
RULE #3: Don’t be afraid to take a chance. It’s doubtful that $20 bottle will be completely undrinkable. Take it home and taste it next to some of your higher priced bottles. You may decide that one bottle was enough – or you may have found a diamond in the rough.
A favorite affordable bottle for the LUPEC broads is Old Fitzgerald bourbon, a quality spirit with a distinguished history. According to the Heaven Hills web site John E. Fitzgerald started producing his bourbon in 1870 for rail and steamship lines. Around 1900 he released his bourbon to the public and was able to continue distilling through Prohibition, thanks to the national medicine trade. It’s also around this time that the famed Pappy Van Winkle took over Old Fitzgerald and introduced the “whisper of wheat” formula. Today the fine folks at Heaven Hills distillery continue the tradition of Old Fitz.
The final stamp of approval for Old Fitzgerald comes from one of our favorite saucy broads of yore, Dirty Helen (aka Helen Cromwell). A woman who wore many hats, including prostitute and madame, Dirty Helen was known far and wide. Her bar at the Sunflower Inn in Milwaukee, WI was frequented in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s by gangsters, millionaires, society, famous sportsmen and just plain people. With no furniture to speak of guests plopped down on the plushly carpeted floor sipping one of two options: House of Lords Scotch or Old Fitzgerald Bourbon. And if you dared to order something else, Dirty Helen’s salty sense of humor would turn you into the spectacle of the bar.
In 1946 her dedication to Old Fitzgerald earned her a personal invite by Julian Van Winkle to attend the three day annual sales meeting of Stitzel-Weller distillery. In true Dirty Helen style she eschewed the offer of a free plane ticket and traveled by taxi from Milwaukee, WI to Louisville, KY with an unsuspecting cab driver named Harold.
So in honor of hard times and salty broads, grab a bottle of Old Fitz, pour yourself a shot and raise your glass to Dirty Helen!