An Open Letter To Whiskey
My name is Jeremy and I want you inside of me. This is a love letter, wrapped within a memoir, wrapped within a cautionary tale—a literary turducken, if you will. Many years ago I tried writing a similar letter to a glass of warm milk, but I fell asleep before I could finish. Whiskey, I’m a man of 27 and have grown to love your rich, toothsome flavor more than water itself.
But we both know that our story wasn’t one of lust and passion. You see, whiskey, I’ve always viewed our relationship as something along the lines of an arranged marriage; flooded with pressure and anxiety, but a match made in a Jesus guest house in heaven.
Let’s start at beginning. I dove into the whiskey world knowing I was embarking upon the manliest drink of all time. Say what you will about beer, martinis, and shots, whiskey is the physical incarnation of testosterone—even when compared to a tube of literal human testosterone. It’s the liquor that Don Draper drinks before he delivers an awe-inspiring full-color advertisement about tampons. It inspires, uplifts, mends, binds, and soothes. Whiskey, like a Jimmy Carter to an unbuilt house, makes you feel whole. It is within that valiant subtext that my initial feelings of intimidation and anxiety planted their roots in my brain. All before I had my first proper drink.
Like many amateur pre-connoisseurs, my first glass of the ol’ tornado juice was underwhelming to say the least; hell, I didn’t even drink it from a glass. It was the summer of 2007 and my substance-free lifestyle had come to an end. I broke edge, shattered it rather, and celebrated with a red Solo cup full of the ol’ Kansas sheep dip. That first night, giddy with the notion of willful intoxication, I gained the courage to drink whiskey and did so like Mormons on the first night of their honeymoon. I was uncaring, reckless, self-serving, and immature. I just wanted to get it in. I vaguely recall shots, chasers, mixing, and an ensuing hangover that could only be described as: HNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGGGGG.
The societal pressure to drink led me to do just the opposite; the following morning’s Olympic-sized swimming pool full of vomit turned me off to the ol’ prairie dew for many months. A full year passed before I rekindled my relationship with the juice and grew to love the drink I felt pitted against from the start.
Like many arranged marriages, in which the parties involved have zero say in the the matter, stories are often recounted on how the couples learned to love each other. Learned, like how a killer robot learns to love or an ape learns how to overthrow a nation and imprison Charlton Heston. I figured out how to bypass my own forced stigma and give whiskey another try.
Fathers, do you remember when you held your first-born child in your arms? Looking into the eyes of your offspring, you likely felt love and unabashed happiness. Well, that unfiltered emotion was a few steps down compared to how I felt when I raised a tumbler of good bourbon to my lips for the first time. It was sublime, probably the exact opposite to how a Mormon feels 20 seconds after their honeymoon night has ended. “Whiskey,” to quote everyone under the age of 20, “is everything.”
Whiskey taught me a lot of important lessons about myself, many of which can be applied to the rest of humanity. I was taught to treat life like a marathon rather than a sprint. You don’t need to down ten shots in 10 minutes when you can get the very same feeling from a small glass, warm fire, and an illegally-downloaded MP3 of your favorite song.
Whiskey also taught me to practice civility towards those who have done me wrong; I believe in absolution and my love of whiskey is proof that such an act is possible. It’s something I’ve dubbed “the Broccoli Paradox." It's that moment you understand that something you hated as a child is no longer vomit-inducing as an adult. Broccoli and whiskey have a lot in common in that regards; they’re important to the diet and are forced upon us from societal standards. Yessir, both are completely the same in every aspect: color, texture, consistency, nutritional value, and genetic makeup.
With that, I leave you with a short synopsis of the years between my first sip to my latest. I met whiskey masters, drank from expensive bottles, paired with cigars, learned how to make cocktails, used you to aid my fears of flying, bugs, and life—and exercised restraint when I know I’ve had too much. I’ve tried it all, and loved every drop along the way.
Sure, there’s the occasional hangover and less-occasional sex-fueled-text marathon to Tinder matches, but every protagonist has its foibles. Perhaps, that’s the final thought I’ll leave you with: There are many, many sides to those you love. A famous ogre once told me that a person is like an onion, full of layers and delicious atop a salad.
You can’t always expect to find the Jenny to your Forrest in one night, but what’s the rush? So, never say never, people. My relationship took years to incubate, and I appreciate the journey. Like Gandhi would have said if he had a chance, “Love takes time, patience, practice and a dash of vermouth.” Hear that, kids? You should literally drown your significant other in vermouth.