45% ABV neat
Maker’s Mark is the bourbon that made me fall in love with bourbon. And it was a Tennessee—not a Kentucky—boy that taught me how to drink it. His wife had somehow talked him into hosting a snooty engagement party for my best friend and his wife. A party predominated by DC quasi-movers and pseudo-shakers. The kind of folks that don’t go to parties to engage in normal endeavors, i.e. getting wasted, eating free food, and trying to hook up. But, rather, go to schmooze about polling data and try to make “connections.” Bleh. The only alcohol available was sensible wines, a watered-down party punch, and the very few kinds of bottled beers that the sort of men who wear brass-buttoned blazers to a baseball game on a Saturday afternoon drink (Amstel, Heineken, Stella). I quickly became bored. There was nothing to do. I also quickly became the only person at the party that was wasted. I gravitated to the kitchen to drink by myself and maybe steal some expensive cutlery. There, I ran into the host of the party. A guy a decade my senior, and with a highly important chief of staff job I might add, but a dipsomaniac nonetheless. He too was bored by the party and quickly saw me as a brother-in-arms. He secretly invited me downstairs to his man cellar to sample the “good stuff”: his immense collection of bourbon.
I noticed immediately this his huge collection was dominated by these squat battles dipped in a gorgeous red wax. It was kismet as my host explained that this was his favorite brand of bourbon. He had even been down to Loretto, Kentucky and had personally hand-dipped a few of his own bottles. I was impressed. Then we got down to the drinking and I immediately fell in love. By night’s end we were both shitfaced and having a Colt 45 forty chug-off in the kitchen as the rest of the uptight party goers surrounded us in a mixture of both shock and awe, as if they were watching some underground cock fight. If I recall, my host got quite the talking to by his wife the next morning. I was still a single man so I got no talking to, except by myself as I woke up stripped naked in my hotel room with only a pile of minibar macadamia nuts covering me and my bedspread. Hotel’s price for the nuts? $19. Oh well.
It’s been nearly a decade since I fell in love with Maker’s. What to say about it? I still consider it a great “beginner’s” bourbon and I don’t say that as an insult. You’re not going to want to start a green bourbon drinker off with say a Blanton’s or a Booker’s. Too potent. Maker’s has a great sweetness and a very drinkable flavor, probably due to the fact that it isn’t aged like most other bourbons. It’s got a nice, cheap retail price too. I like it neat and it blends well in Manhattans too. I don’t drink it much any more—I prefer higher ABV bourbons like Baker’s—but it is still a great bourbon and it’s a guarantee that 99% of bars, restaurants, and probably even airlines will have it on their shelves.