They clearly were cool. It wasn’t something the two needed to say outright, it just permeated every aspect of their being, from their tribal tattoos to their attitude.
“We’ll have a Kentucky mule and a bourbon press. You do know how to make those, don’t you?” she asked.
“We’re from the City, so …” she added for no apparent reason.
Now I might be a suburban hick bartender but I think I can manage two drinks with almost the exact same ingredients. Whiskey and ginger beer; and whiskey, ginger ale and soda. Yup, I think I got it.
“A highball in a copper mug and a Presbyterian, both coming right up,” I said turning to make the two classics, albeit with slightly modern twists.
“No,” said the more tattooed of the two. “A Kentucky mule and a bourbon press.”
I detected a slight eye roll. We hicksters tend to be a dense bunch.
“That’s what I said.”
“No you said some presber-thingy thing,” she said.
“That’s what a press is. It is short for Presbyterian.”
The look of doubt clouded her pierced eyebrow. She retrieved her insta-Internet machine and dutifully poked at it while I made her drinks.
I’ll tell you what the Internet told her — the Presbyterian is a old cocktail made with bourbon, ginger ale and soda. Sometimes it’s called press and sometimes made with lemon-lime soda in place of the ginger ale. The reason that an alcoholic beverage made with American whiskey is named after the Calvinist Church of Scotland seems unknown.
Now, I’ll tell you what I know. The origins of American whiskey lay in western Pennsylvania. It was there that Monongahela rye grown along the eponymous river was first made into whiskey. No surprise that it was whiskey, because the settlers in that region were predominantly Scotts-Irish.
These same settlers later rose up in rebellion against the British Crown, not just in Pennsylvania but all throughout the colonies. And according to some, it was the Presbyterians who led the way.
Author Kevin Phillips, wrote in his 1998 study of the American Revolution, that, “King George III and other highly placed Britons called the colonists’ rebellion a ‘Presbyterian War.’” British historian George Trevelyan wrote that Tory loyalists originally alleged that “political agitation against the Royal Government had been deliberately planned by Presbyterians,” and that it “was fostered and abetted by Presbyterians in every colony.”
In fact, the legendary “shot heard around the world” was fired just feet from the steps of the Presbyterian meeting house on Lexington Green. The belfry that summoned the faithful to worship (and warned them that the British were coming) is still there, albeit in a different location. And even the monument that stands to those first fallen revolutionaries is shaped like the steeple of that meeting house, testifying to its importance.
Later a former British officer, George Washington, an Anglican led the army of those revolutionaries and became their first president.
Ironically this same president who led the revolutionary army ostensibly over a 3 percent British tax on tea imposed his own 25 percent tax on whiskey. Whiskey that was predominantly made by the Scots-Irish Presbyterians of western Pennsylvania. To say those settlers were upset would be an understatement. In July 1794, shots were fired as federal officers served a warrant on James Miller, a Bethel Presbyterian Church member and the last man in Allegheny County to resist paying the whiskey tax. It was the first violence of the so-called Whiskey Rebellion. A mob marched on Gen. John Neville’s house, burning it to the ground in a confrontation known as the Battle of Bower Hill. When Washington later led an army into western Pennsylvania to confront those rebels, he found that most of them had slipped away. Myth says that these Scots-Irish rode the Monongahela down to where it becomes the Ohio River, and then down to Bourbon County in Louisiana, taking their whiskey-making proclivities with them. All of which makes the name Presbyterian perfect for any American whiskey-based drink.
I thought of telling this to my ultra-cool City couple, but then, what do I know? I’m just a suburban hickster bartender. Albeit, one with 25 years of bartending experience, a degree in investigative journalism and plenty of Internet access.