Let’s raise a glass to Dan Huckelbridge for putting together the definitive history of bourbon, the penultimate American whiskey, in “Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit” (William Morrow, $25.99, 288 pages).
The corn-based spirit is so thoroughly American that Congress passed a 1964 resolution calling it a “distinctive product of the United States.” Given its history as Huckelbridge lays it out, that declaration isn’t surprising.
The author — who likes his bourbon straight up — tours us around the saloon, so to speak, beginning with whiskey-making colonists at Jamestown and segueing to George Washington (who had a “distilling operation on his estate), the Scots-Irish immigrants working stills “in the rugged oak forests of the Appalachian frontier,” into the Civil War and into the wild West (”Bartender, leave the bottle!”).
Bourbon continued its journey into the Roaring Twenties, through Prohibition and onto the international front after World War II. In more recent years, small batches of hand-crafted bourbon have given the booze a new cachet — and price tag.
Taking a cue from Huckelbrildge’s closing remark — “Who’s ready to go get a drink?” — fine bourbons and bourbon-based cocktails can be found locally at Shady Lady Saloon (1409 R St.), Red Rabbit Kitchen & Bar (2718 J St.) and the newly opened Fahrenheit 250 (7042 Folsom Blvd.).