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Coalition Of The Swilling


Leave the gin and tonic to the limeys; Bourbon and Coke is true-blue American.


Whiskey -- Johnny Walker (DEO), for example -- is as uncivilized as the Old West. After a long day in the saddle, your basic tough-as-nails cowboy wanted nothing so much as a drink. Goddamnit, he'd earned it. Once inside the saloon's swinging doors, he'd make short work of his shot of firewater - straight up, of course, lest ther other cowboys think him yellow.

America's crush on martial law is what's behind Hollywood's portrayal of the Wild West as tough, righteous and populated by hard-drinking men. It's not entirely accurate, but it's the way most would prefer to remember it, including the President. In the fledging days of the War on Terror, he likened a "Wanted: Dead Or Alive" poster to the hunt for Osama bin Laden. The wounds of 9/11 still fresh, Red, White and Greenback: Minyanville's Fourth of July it was encouraging to hear the Commander-in-Chief reduce an unprecedented initiative to a soothingly familiar scenario, albeit one usually played out at 34 frames per second: a sheriff, an outlaw and a high-noon showdown at the O.K. Corral.

Of course, George Bush quit drinking, but had his use of alcohol never grown problematic, his drink of choice would be whiskey. American whiskey to be exact, better known as bourbon.

The country's only native spirit, bourbon burns on contact and on the way down. Like any vice worth the consequences, you need to work through the pain before you really start to enjoy it. Its drinkers -- Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and a host of other completely fictional badasses -- had to be at least a little rough around the edges and exude a toughness that by today's standards seems obsolete.

Thinned out with Coca-Cola (KO), on the other hand, it's as palatable as combinations come, and oh-so-American you might as well be pledging allegiance with one hand and holding your drink with the other.

Ironic, then, that bourbon owes something to the French. Long ago, when France had a spine and the limitless resources of an 18th century superpower, it aided the American colonies in their Revolutionary War, if only because it enjoyed seeing the British brought to their knees. Relations were so warm, the fledgling republic took it upon itself to honor the French through title. The Kentucky county of Bourbon, so named for a French ruling family, was home to an abundance of Old World distilling methods and New World corn. Bourbon the drink was born.

Coca-Cola has proven equally indispensable to getting America hammered. The list of alcohols it spikes with high fructose corn syrup is as long as the mahogany at your neighborhood bar. Rum and Coke is a favorite at State Farm's annual Christmas bash and on the Bar Mitzvah circuit from Boca Raton to Bloomfield Hills. Depending on the method of preparation, the Atlanta elixir also makes a cameo in the Long Island Iced Tea and stars in any number of flavored vodka and cola concoctions.

But bourbon and Coke is something else entirely, and should never be relegated to a laundry list of libations, wantonly set off with commas. Better tasting and certainly more patriotic, it's a sweet, sappy, alcoholic "up yours" to anybody who dares question U.S. foreign policy. This warm-wet medley of Americana is what tailgaters opt for to wash down parking lot barbecue and something dainty little Ryan Seacrest will never develop a taste for.

America isn't the five boroughs of New York City. Elections aren't decided on the coasts. This country doesn't run on lychee martinis. That distinction belongs to the one cocktail these United States can truly call their own: bourbon and Coke

If the stars and stripes could be distilled into liquid form, this would be it.

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