Kentucky Sweet Tea

I imagine that a true baseball fan would be blissful at meeting Babe Ruth's great-grandson. Politicos probably panic when they're introduced to a Kennedy scion. Brits blatantly blanch when they see that little convict Prince Harry. So when I met Frederick Booker Noe III, I was speechless. Freddy, as I started calling him around my third bourbon cocktail, is the great, great, great, great, great, great grandson of Jacob Beam, the man behind Jim Beam Bourbon. Yes, Freddy is the seventh generation of the famous bourbon-making family, and he distills everything you might expect from that fine Southern tradition. He's bigger than life, both in size and character, with a happy spirit and a warmth that emanates as much from within as from the bourbon poured in. When I told Freddy that I wasn't much of a bourbon drinker but had ordered the equivalent of a bourbon martini, a Perfect Manhattan ($12.50), made from Basil Hayden's Bourbon, sweet and dry vermouth and a dash of bitters, he said, "That's a bourbon drinker's drink. I'd like to find you something you're going to love." As it turned out, I liked the drink more than I thought I would — largely because it was made with a super-premium bourbon. But then Freddy insisted (or maybe I insisted) that I try his Kentucky Sweet Tea ($13), and I mean his actual cocktail straight from his glass. And right then, I found my summer 2007 cocktail. Made with Booker's Bourbon — an ultra-premium bourbon and the only one bottled unfiltered, straight from the barrel — ginger ale and a sprig of mint, it was like a mint julep without all the sugary sweet crap used to cover up bad, low-end blended whiskey. Which, I learned, is not a bourbon. And that's not all I learned. Freddy started regaling me with stories of growing up in the Beam family, and his life was nothing like that of Paris the heiress. Instead, he told tales of flunking out of a Kentucky party school before joining the family business, and of sharing a cheap motel room with his father (the sixth generation) while selling bourbon in Alaska. Then he raised his glass in a toast and said, "May there be no hell, but if there is, I'll see you there." You can count on it, Freddy.


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