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On Whiskey and Gamedays

“You can smell the bourbon on the field.” - Mike Archer 

Look, nobody ever said that Mike Archer couldn’t smell.

We all know that beer is great. Beer is wonderful. There have been a lot of things said about me on this here website, but the truest of them all is certainly “Billy loves beer.”

But I think we can all agree that it is not beer alone, that gives LSU tailgating, or Tiger Stadium, its unique feel. Its je ne sais quoi. It is not an LSU fan’s sole joie de vivre, no?

No, that involves liquor. A brown kind, more than likely. Sure, you might start your day with a bloody mary or a screwdriver. Maybe a mimosa if you fancy. But a pretty significant number are going to end their Saturday with something brown in their cup.

Tailgating is a marathon, not a sprint, so cutting your booze can be important for pacing. That brings mixers to the party. Besides, we can’t all afford the high-end hooch every week. That brought me to this poll a few weeks back:

Now is a good time to point out that yes, the best thing to mix with bourbon is ice. That brings us back to the quality issue. If you’re springing for some Woodford Reserve, or even some Maker’s Mark, by all means, keep it simple. I myself typically enjoy a little Buffalo Trace on my walk to the stadium.

But we all know that is not a long-term solution for this situation. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with mixing your drink the way you like it. It is, however, obfuscating the very reason you pay the premium for a nicer bourbon. The smoothness, the nuances of flavor, will all be lost by the mixer. Think of it like steak. There’s nothing wrong with ordering yours well-done, but when it comes to a finer cut of meat, that will rob the steak of all the qualities that make it so good in the first place. If you like a well-done steak, buy a cheap cut and char that sucker. If you like a bourbon-and-coke, pick up something under $20 for a fifth.

And with that in mind, a few of the ATVS Gentlemen of Leisure and I have created a nice guide for your tailgating bourbons:

Billy Gomila

We stuck with most of the basics — Wild Turkey and Jim Beam, plus Jack Daniels, Jameson and Crown Royal, which are not bourbon specifically but fit into the gameday brown liquor category well enough.

And we also slummed it with a little McAfee’s Benchmark. It tastes like sadness. Do not drink it with anything.

Our mixers focused on Diet Coke and Ginger Ale, and a few other exotics because zrau decided to go by World Market. He fancy. Cheerwine, an internet favorite, was solid, but requires a good two to two-and-a-half fingers of whiskey to really make a flavor dent. That could be flying too close to the sun if you’re in this for the long term.

Jack Daniels

My preferred cheap whiskey of choice. Mr. John Daniels is a friend. A confidant. He’s seen me through some rough times. He also tastes better with ginger ale by far. Coke is just too overpowering, and that much sugar — or aspartame — is going to catch up with your stomach sooner or later. I know Jack & (Diet) Coke is a classic, but rethink it. Do you want to drink a coke or do you want to drink whiskey?

Jim Beam vs. Wild Turkey

We went with the white label here, versus the 101 proof. Wild Turkey was one of the first true Kentucky bourbons that I’ve ever tried. With ginger ale as well, to be honest. And I was surprised that head-to-head, beam wins out here. Turkey has an almost too wooden taste...but not that sugary flavor...more like you’re licking a piece of wood. Once again, ginger ale proved to be the superior mixer here.

Crown Royal

So here’s the thing. I have a confession to make, as an LSU fan. I do not particularly enjoy Crown Royal. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll drink it. Just never my first choice. Too sweet. Oddly enough, it was the one whiskey here that was actually better with the Diet Coke versus the ginger ale. The vanilla notes of the Royal paired better with the caramel of the Coke.


Actively terrible with Diet Coke, but not bad with ginger ale.

The brown is the life. And like life, bourbon is to be enjoyed. Responsibly, of course. Your tailgate may not have a full bar with the finer things and those extra special ice spheres, but it’s still easy to savor. May Tiger Stadium be with your spirit.