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I spent my teenage years in Atlanta, so I’m familiar with the humidity, hospitality, and formality of the South. From the age of 13, I was taught that all sentences should end in “ma’am” or “sir”; that despite 100-degree heat and 99 percent humidity, women “glisten” instead of sweat; and that every self-respecting Southerner drinks her liquor brown.
It was that final lesson that refused to take. Even as I tried not to perspire in the sweltering temps at University of Georgia football games as an undergrad, I couldn’t choke down the Jack Daniels offered to me by those who’d snuck it inside the stadium and mixed it with Coke.
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After years of declining (“No, thank you, sir”) to drink the nectar of Dixie, I migrated to Colorado—the promised land of craft beer. Or so I thought. Soon, local bourbons, ryes, and myriad other whiskeys began sidling up next to IPAs on bar menus. My friends would order bourbon cocktails—and smirk when I, a Southerner, asked for an Avery White Rascal.
Then, one day this past fall, two co-workers speculated that I hadn’t been properly educated. Maybe a bourbon tasting would bring me over to the dark side? We started with an old fashioned made with Woodford Reserve (a gateway bourbon, they said) and a Manhattan made with Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey. I gagged on both. Then one of them had a thought: Maybe you don’t like bitters and mixers? Shall we try it straight?
I shrugged. My bartender poured two fingers of A.D. Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon over a king cube. I took a sip, and…I didn’t hate it. In fact, I can honestly say I would sip a two-ouncer of the Colorado spirit on a chilly winter night. It was a revelation—and a relief. But the irony was not lost on me that a Southerner had to come to Colorado to learn to drink bourbon straight.