Not only should connoisseurs of Bourbon not read this article, neither should persons preoccupied with the perils of alcoholism, cirrhosis, esophageal hemorrhage, cancer of the palate, and so forth — all real dangers. I, too, deplore these afflictions. But, as between these evils and the aesthetic of Bourbon drinking, that is, the use of Bourbon to warm the heart, to reduce the anomie of the late twentieth century, to cut the cold phlegm of Wednesday afternoons, I choose the aesthetic. What, after all, is the use of not having cancer, cirrhosis, and such, if a man comes home from work every day at five-thirty to the exurbs of Montclair or Memphis and there is the grass growing and the little family looking not quite at him but just past the side of his head, and there’s Cronkite on the tube and the smell of pot roast in the living room, and inside the house and outside in the pretty exurb has settled the noxious particles and the sadness of the old dying Western world, and him thinking: ‘Jesus, is this it? Listening to Cronkite and the grass growing?’

— Walker Percy, “Bourbon”


  1. Alan, you really should try the recipe ("receipt") for mint julep he provides in that essay. Despite being a Southerner, I always thought juleps were tourist drinks; my people always drank bourbon, but always with water or on the rocks, never with mint. After reading Percy's recipe, I made juleps one day, and even grated the fresh nutmeg on top. Man! What a great, great drink. I want me one right now, as a matter of fact.

  2. Not long after reading your post I was reading Arendt's prologue The Human Condition and it struck me that the state Percy describes may be related to Arendt's observation that automation has liberated us from labor at a point at which we as a society unfortunately no longer know to do or value anything other than labor.

  3. Rod, I have tried Percy's recipe, and it's a good one. But I've developed one of my own that I prefer — probably because it's mine. It involves a simple syrup infused with mint. My problem is that it's really hard for me to drink just one, and as Percy says, a julep has a lot of bourbon in it.

  4. Sadly, in my middle-aged dotage, I have developed an allergy to whiskey. For some reason, no matter how little I drink, it gives me a headache (this, as opposed to clear spirits, which are just fine). As long as I take three Advils with my first sip of a whiskey cocktail, I'm okay, but I cannot have more whiskey than that. Such a burden!

  5. What is "life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death", Alex?

    Oh wait, Autie Mame drank gin. Maybe that's the difference.

    Speaking of, this last week Ellinoz and I have been enjoying Saphire G&Ts very much, while very much enjoying seeing our spouses and children enjoy getting to know each other. It's a surplus of something, cognative, or elsewise.

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