National Bourbon Day, which is celebrated each year on July 14, may be as American a holiday as Independence Day. Bourbon is as American as apple pie and baseball. It has been around since America’s colonial days, and bourbon’s popularity has soared in recent years.
First, let’s get our facts straight. In order for whiskey to be classified as Bourbon, it must be distilled in the United States. Furthermore, the mash used to make the spirit must be comprised of at least 51% (but not more than 79%) corn. Bourbon must be aged for at least two years in new, unaged charred American Oak barrels.
When settlers moved west from the original colonies, they counted Scottish and Irish descendents among their ranks. These ancestors of Scottish and Irish whisky makers brought their birthright to the new world, along with English, Welsh, German, and French settlers. In the great American melting pot, whisky-makers began springing up near Bourbon County, Kentucky, where farmers had more corn than they knew what to do with in post-Revolutionary War America.
This new “American whiskey” was shipped down the Ohio River, to places like New Orleans, in barrels with “Old Bourbon” stamped on the outside. By the late 1800s, hundreds of distilleries were operating in Kentucky.
In 1968, Lyndon B. Johnson signed an Act of Congress declaring Bourbon as “The Official Spirit of America.”
After experiencing a slight slump in the 1970s and 1980s, the popularity of Bourbon came roaring back in the early 2000s with the dawn of the craft cocktail movement. This also coincided with a surge in the popularity of classic drinks, fueled by television shows like Mad Men, which glamorized the 1960s and its cocktail parties, liquor-stocked offices, and liquid lunches. Almost overnight, Cosmopolitans were out, and Old Fashioneds were in.
Bourbon aficionados enjoy the “spirit of America” neat, on the rocks, or incorporated into countless cocktails, from the classic Manhattan or Old-Fashioned, to a Kentucky Mule…even to sparkling bourbon cocktails perfect for summer day.
So pick your poison… whether you’re a fan of Wild Turkey or Pappy van Winkle, Old Forester or Elijah Craig, Maker’s Mark or Buffalo Trace… celebrate July 14 the American way, with a glass of your favorite Bourbon in hand.
National Bourbon Day is typically celebrated