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Ezra Brooks bourbon with stack of books

Literature’s Great Bourbon Moments

Ezra Brooks bourbon with stack of books

In 35 B.C., the great poet Horace speculated in his XIXth Epistle, “… no poems can please long, nor live, which are written by water-drinkers.” William Faulkner took it a step further: “Civilization begins with distillation.”

While Horace preceded the creation of bourbon, Faulkner was well-steeped in the knowledge. He mentioned whiskey frequently in his novels, going so far as to write, “There is no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskeys just happen to be better than others.” Noir mystery author Raymond Chandler mirrored the line: “There is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren’t as good as others.”

Many of the manly writers of the first half of the 20th century were bourbon aficionados. Think Hemingway: “Never delay kissing a pretty girl or opening a bottle of whiskey.” Or F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby. Said Daisy to her husband, “‘Open the whiskey, Tom,’ she ordered, ‘and I’ll make you a mint julep. Then you won’t seem so stupid to yourself.’”

But references to bourbon run throughout the literary canon. Here are a few more well-read morsels to skillfully slip into your next sipping session with friends:

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” —Mark Twain (attributed, not verified)

“Bourbon does for me what the piece of cake did for Proust.” —Walker Percy, Signposts in a Strange Land

“James Bond, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and thought about life and death.” —Ian Fleming, Goldfinger

“If it’s not bourbon or sweatpants, it’s going in the garbage.” —From Justin Halpern’s Twitter feed (that became a book that became the short-lived television series Sh*t My Dad Says) came his dad’s answer of what he wanted for his birthday.

“There’s nothing quite like a naked woman to get a man interested in bourbon.” —Fred Minnick

“The year was 1964, and bourbon was America’s spirit, the dominant drink for the true man who liked two fingers, neat or maybe with a cube of ice or two. If he was a man, by God, give him bourbon.”—Minnick again, both from Bourbon: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American Whiskey

But let’s not leave out the women:

“My mama always told me there are few things a good hug can’t cure, and those things are what bourbon’s for.”―J.T. Geissinger, Burn for You

“There’s no app for a bourbon buzz on a warm day in a cool, dark bar. The world will always want a drink.” —Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl

“And bourbon’s like the truth, you know? The first taste burns, but once you get used to it, it’s the only thing you want in your mouth.” —Tiffany Reisz, The Bourbon Thief

Finally, there’s the oft-cited 1966 line from Jack Doom: “Creativity is 80 percent bourbon and 20 percent ice.”

Great quote. Problem is, we can’t confirm who Jack Doom is or was, or where this pearl of wisdom appeared. Readers, it’s your move.

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