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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Today happens to be two fab days in one.

First, it is National Bourbon Day, the day we celebrate the deliciousness that is bourbon.

Second, it is Flag Day, the day that commemorates the resolution to adopt the American flag.

Turns out these two things go together perfectly, because bourbon is all-American, just like the flag it was born under.

I knew it was bourbon day from a mile away, because… well, bourbon. I did not, however, remember that it was flag day until Kevin mentioned it in one of our daily chats.

Kevin and I have a habit of turning entire sentences into acronyms. If one of us says, “Why is it Monday?” we will never again ask why it is Monday. Instead, we will text WIIM and know exactly what it means. We have more acronyms than the dictionary has words. It makes texting quite a bit more efficient, if not always decipherable.

So today when we were talking about bourbon day, and he mentioned it was flag day, my brain immediately thought…. Flag and Bourbon day… FAB… at the exact moment that he typed FAB.

Thus a most appropriate word of the day was acquired.

In honor of FAB, I would like to share a few fab things with you, beginning with a most fab classic bourbon cocktail: the Old Fashioned.

I mean, there are a lot of fab bourbon cocktails, but if you really want to have fun then you need to play with an Old Fashioned. It is deceptively simple: bourbon, sugar, bitters. It is because of this simplicity that it is so difficult to get right. A marginally more or less vigorous shake of the bitters bottle can mean the difference between a fab drink and a meh one.

The fun part is trying it with different bourbons, different syrups, and different bitters. Strawberry syrup and fig bitters, for example, go together quite well. Maple syrup and cinnamon clove bitters are quite fab, too.

If you’re feeling particularly fab, you can smoke your Old Fashioned. And if you’re feeling not just fab but sassy, you can use half bourbon and half something else, like Applejack or an amaro.

Bourbon is truly an American spirit, both literally and figuratively. Its manufacture and consumption has sparked some of the most heated debates, accompanied the bloodiest wars, sparked more than a few lethal battles of its own, and been responsible for everything from trademark law to consumer protection acts. It is “America’s Native Spirit,” and while you can get whiskey made in countries across the globe, bourbon can only be made in the United States.

Three cheers for the Red, White, and Blue!

Did you know that the original flag resolution stipulated 13 red and white stripes, and 13 white stars in a blue field, but it did not say how those stars should be arranged? The first flags had quite a variety of designs.

If you were required to read any elementary school history text book you probably know that Betsy Ross created the first official United States flag.

And if all you had to support that theory was the word of your text book and a card catalog in the library, you could be forgiven for believing everything you were told.

It’s not untrue that Betsy Ross created the first flag. There is just no supporting documentation to prove it. Her grandson reported the story to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and it was corroborated by her niece and granddaughter.

That was good enough for the historians at the time, and it was absorbed into the collective mythology of our history.

Do you know what would be really fab? If just ONE story I learned as a kid was actually true.

Fab food made with bourbon: Bourbon Mango Pulled Pork. Add buttered biscuits and I’ll see you in a week.

Fab bourbon dessert: bourbon balls. They’re basically pecan covered gobs of chocolate and butter spiked with bourbon, each one equal to about 300 miles on the Peloton.

Fab flag fact and a free bonus tongue twister: the original flag resolution never said that the number of stars had to match the number of states. Two more were added when Vermont and Kentucky entered the union, but none would be added for another 26 years, when a new flag was unveiled with 20 stars to represent states that had been added in the intervening years. They included Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiana, Indiana, and Mississippi.

That was also when a new resolution was passed to add a star with each new state.

The flag has changed 26 times since its original 13 stars-and-stripes version, but it wasn’t until 1912 that President Taft finally defined the flag’s proportions and the arrangement of the stars.

By the way, the only day that a new flag can be adopted after it changes? July 4th.

The flag that we know today has been the longest in use, with the addition of a 50th star to represent Hawaii’s entry into the union in 1959. But it didn’t get flag status until July 4th, 1960 when it was officially raised over Fort McHenry National Historic Site.

Do you know what will happen if another state gets added?

The United States Army Institute of Heraldry does! It has designs ready to go with up to 56 stars.

Fab and fave bourbon memory to put a pin in a most fab day: pouring it for my grandfather.

I did not actually enjoy drinking bourbon until MUCH later in life. But my grandfather almost exclusively drank bourbon – I.W. Harper to be exact. And I enjoyed pouring it for him.

More specifically, I enjoyed sneak-pouring it while my grandmother’s back was turned.

At some point she would cut him off, then go wash a dish or make a meatball or something, and one of us would grab the bottle and slosh a whole bucketful into his glass then run off giggling.

Grandpa would grin and wink and pat your hand. He never asked us to pour him another. It was just what we did, this little act of defiant love. Afterwards you could go snuggle next to him and he’d hold your hand and tell you in great detail how much he loved you.

When my grandmother noticed she’d fly into a snit, but never at us. She would always yell at my grandfather for instigating. She couldn’t have been too mad or too scary, though, because we always did it again.

Ah, sweet land of liberty! Where you can pour bourbon all day… as long as you don’t live in a dry county, that is. And where you can wave your flag without knowing a thing about its history. If we’re all a little smarter and well-imbibed today then that’s the most fab outcome of all.

Photo: an honorary pour photographed and enjoyed by my brother Kevin today. The flag and napkin came courtesy of my mother, who OF COURSE had a flag and a matching napkin.