I had my first taste of bourbon when I was in kindergarten. My great-grandmother Mimi had moved into our sunny one-level, and Dad mixed her a Manhattan almost every night. The blush on her Norwegian cheeks matched the maraschino cherry at the bottom, a glossy sponge for Maker’s Mark, vermouth and bitters. Over gin rummy one night I asked for the cherry. She smiled, plucked it out by the delicate stem. It was cold and so sweet on my tongue. The booze was an afterthought, a whisper, but it left an imprint.
To this day I’m a whiskey girl, though I sometimes cheat with gin. I love a good cocktail, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t slummed with Mad Dog 20/20 and Steel Reserve. I’m friendly with beer, but most of the time I prefer to sip something more complicated, from stiff classics to the frothy, fruity confections on the “girly” menu. A bartender once told me that mango margaritas are like chocolate chip cookies. “Everybody likes cookies,” he said. “So have one and don’t apologize.”
With this column, named for the favorite glass of my favorite liquor, I plan to drink and tell with no apologies. I wanted the launch to be sexy, a chance to wear white leather heels way after Labor Day while dancing on top of a speaker. Instead, I woke up with a nasty cold. Where, I wondered, can a sick girl get a snort?
That’s what Mimi called indulging in a drink, and thinking of her made me think of her hot toddies. A little bourbon, a little lemon, a swirl of honey and hot water—everything is right again. The bars I called said they could make one, but none had it on the menu. So Woody and I went to a place brimming with well-worn charm, Crown & Anchor on Tropicana.
Crown’s toddy is DIY—a shot of Jameson, a china teapot of hot water, lemon wedges and ketchup-sized packets of Heinz honey ($5.50). I stirred in half the whiskey, a teaspoon of honey and the juice from two wedges. The drink coated my raw throat and opened my sinuses to the balance of spice and sweet and citrus. The medical community frowns on the toddy as a remedy because alcohol dehydrates the body, but mine felt soothed after two doses. Woody enjoyed a creamy Boddingtons, and we played hangman on the paper place mats (he got “Liberace was here” in record time) and tucked into some world-class chicken fingers while the Cowboys wailed on the Bucs.
I felt so restored that we headed to Republic Kitchen & Bar. Co-owner Patrick Haggerty offered to make a traditional toddy with brandy and butter, but the Jack Honey Palmer ($10) caught my eye. In a Collins glass, lemon and mint are muddled under Jack Daniel’s and its Tennessee Honey liqueur, with splashes of agave and iced tea. It’s a hot toddy without the hot, best chased with Republic’s killer deep-fried peanut butter.
The next morning I felt better. Maybe it was the nightcap of vitamin water. Maybe it was the snort. More likely, it was the warm memories of Mimi. Here’s to you, you old Viking.
Republic's Jack Honey Palmer
1 oz. Jack Daniel’s
1 oz. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey
.25 oz. agave syrup
Splash of iced tea
Fresh mint leaves
Method: Muddle mint and a lemon wedge in a Collins glass. Mix whiskey, honey liqueur and agave and shake with ice. Pour into glass and add a splash of iced tea. Garnish with mint and lemon.