Have you ever been reading a history book, and thought, “I’d like to have a drink with that person?” As a historian and avid bourbon drinker, this happens to me often. So, here are the ten people I would most like to have a few glasses of bourbon with. Obviously, this is an anachronistic list because bourbon whiskey as we know and love it did not originate until the 18th century, and it was not made official by Congress until 1964. The only qualifications for this list are that the person had to have lived at some point, and that person must have lived most of their life prior to 1900 (a list of more contemporary bourbon companions is in the works).
10. Mithridates VI of Pontus (Mithridates the Great) (134 BCE-63 BCE) – Mithridates was arguably Rome’s greatest enemy. He spent most of his adult life chipping away at Rome’s territory, until he was eventually holed up in his tower, where he tried to kill himself by consuming poison. However, he had built up such an immunity to poison over his life that he ended up having his servant stab him to death instead. In addition to being a ruthless militarist, Mithridates was also one of antiquity’s most famous polyglots, claiming to speak around 30 languages fluently. All things considered, Mithridates the Great is one of the most epic individuals to have ever lived. Mithridates’ bourbon: Fighting Cock 6 year. Its big, bold, and finishes with a bang. Mithridates was always one to go big or go home. Its also a bourbon of the people, not elitist, much like Mithridates and the way he fought the Romans.
9. Charles Earl Bowles (Black Bart) (c. 1829-c. 1888) – Black Bart is perhaps the most famous criminal of the American West, mostly for his gentile style and the poems that he left behind. Supposedly, he never even loaded his gun. He simply relied on intimidation to hold up the stagecoaches he robbed. Like most Wild West characters, separating fact from fiction is nearly impossible with Black Bart. However, that does not mean that he would be any less of a bourbon partner. He was a poet with some great stories to tell over a glass or two. Black Bart’s bourbon: Wild Turkey American Spirit. Black Bart was not an American, but he came to embody the romance and ruthlessness of the American West. I’ve got him drinking a top shelf bourbon that’s a little rough around the edges.
8. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) – To my knowledge, the only one of America’s founders to have a bourbon named after him/her is Thomas Jefferson, which puts him on my list of people to drink bourbon with. In addition to his political exploits, he was also interested in a variety of different things, from farming to architecture. He also had an eye for aesthetics rather than pragmatics, which is probably why Monticello was a failed business venture that left Jefferson in debt most of his life. Like Mithridates, he spoke many languages (between 5 and 10), which would have made him a great bourbon companion. Jefferson’s bourbon: Jefferson’s Reserve, Presidential Select. Come on, the bourbon is named after Jefferson’s presidency. What else would he drink?
7. Henry “Long Ben” Every (1659-c. 1696) – Henry Every has been dubbed “The King of the Pirates,” primarily because he was never caught. Of course, nobody actually knows what happened to Every after he stopped pilfering the Atlantic. I like to think that he lived happily on Madagascar for many years. That is where I’d like to sit and drink bourbon with “Long Ben” Every and hear his crazy seafaring stories. Long Ben’s bourbon: Jim Beam Devil’s Cut. Devil’s Cut just sounds the bourbon that a pirate would drink.
6. Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) – Leonardo Da Vinci was a genius, one of the few pure geniuses ever (in my opinion). Unfortunately, many of his inventions were too far ahead of his time to be practical, which is why he would be a fascinating person to meet during time travel. He was notoriously mysterious and reclusive during his lifetime, all the while pressing his mind to its limits for the sake of satisfying his own curiosity. That’s certainly one recipe for a good bourbon companion. Da Vinci’s bourbon: Angel’s Envy. It’s innovative, and a little off the beaten path. It’s also hard to find, just like Da Vinci himself.
5. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) – Oscar Wilde is one of the most quotable people I’ve read, which makes me think he would be a great bourbon partner. Bourbon is not a drink for those who simply desire intoxication. It is a complex drink that invites deep thought as well as light banter. I believe Oscar Wilde would excel at both. How many people have a top ten list of just their quotes? http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-quotes-by-oscar-wilde.php Oscar’s bourbon: Blanton’s Original Single Barrel. This bourbon is certainly one of the most iconic bottles in bourbon, with its orb-shape and racehorse stopper. It is also incredibly smooth and seductive, much like the beautiful sexuality that Oscar Wilde loved so dearly.
4. Jesus of Nazareth (7-2 BCE-30-36 CE) – Regardless of your personal beliefs regarding Jesus of Nazareth, somewhat that has sparked the amount of controversy that he has would be a great bourbon companion. His following indicates that he was an intelligent and captivating speaker, which is definitely one thing to look for in a bourbon companion. Honestly, I’d like to just talk with him to see what was really going on in his mind. Jesus’ bourbon: Honestly, he would probably just supply his own.
3. Socrates (c. 470 BCE-399 BCE) – In many ways, my first introduction to Socrates was when I slowly began to learn the powers of the mind, and the powers of language. For this reason, I would love to have a drink with the man who is partially responsible for my journey into intellectual history. He loved a good conversation, and most good conversations are enhanced by bourbon. Socrates’ bourbon: Old Grand-Dad 114 proof. As one of the grandfather’s of Western thought, it is only fitting that Socrates drink the best the Grand-Dad of bourbon (Basil Hayden, Sr.) has to offer.
2. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) – Like Da Vinci, Franklin was pretty damn close to being a pure genius. His curiosity knew no bounds, and his intellect followed closely behind. He was a strong proponent of a few glasses of the good stuff, and I’m sure he would have been a strong endorser of bourbon had it been around in his lifetime. Like Oscar Wilde, Franklin could be both a genius and a rabble-rouser in the same hour, which makes him a pretty solid bourbon companion. Ben Franklin’s bourbon: Hooker’s House. Obviously, Franklin’s propensity for prostitutes makes this bourbon the logical choice. In addition, Hooker’s House is an innovative bourbon created by finishing the bourbon in Pinot Noir casks before bottling it. Creativity and sex were definitely two of Franklin’s hallmarks.
1. John Henry “Doc” Holliday (1851-1887) – As is the case with Black Bart and many other legends of the American West, separating fact from fiction with Doc Holliday is nearly impossible. However, in the case of Doc Holliday, there are several themes among all his biographers and Hollywood portrayals. Doc Holliday was a smooth-talking Georgian with a penchant for bourbon, poker, and a prostitute called Kate. Hence, Doc Holliday is the historical figure I would most like to drink bourbon with. Doc Holliday’s bourbon: William Larue Weller. I’ve got Doc drinking a bourbon that tastes great, but will also have the alcohol content to cure his tuberculosis. Although William Weller is hard to get, Doc Holliday could sweet talk just about anybody with that soft, seductive Georgia accent.
Those are my top ten bourbon companions, what are yours? Let me know what you think and let it ride!