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Anthony Bourdain on Bourbon

Posted by Colonel Bourbon on

In 2011, Anthony Bourdain not-so-subtly proclaimed his favorite bourbon (or at least one of them, see the second love further down).

He tweeted:

"I am considering a full back Pappy Van Winkle tattoo."

Anthony Bourdain on Bourbon

 (Photo: Anthony Bourdain hints at what his favorite bourbon might be, Pappy Van Winkle.)

Anthony's other tweets about Pappy 

It was not his only Twitter exclamation about the most sought-after bourbon. The six others:

  • "With the Black Keys and Pappy Van Winkle 20yr in KC" (with a link to a photo not available).
  • "Biggest problem I have with #justified is it creates inappropriate urges for Oxy and Pappy Van Winkle. Baby head a bad role model."
  • "I would like some Pappy Van Winkle to chase my pills. And distract me from the
    #Analbreeze in this flying tube!"
  • "Introduced @Ericripert to Pappy Van Winkle last night. welcome to the cult!
  • “@JonAP1: Welcome to Louisville @NoReservations @ericripert where Pappy Van Winkle is patiently waiting.” I hope!"

The tweets are from 2011 and 2012, a few years before the traveling wordsmith's demons would catch up with him in 2018.

The Layover "Philadelphia" episode 

Pappy was featured in an episode of Bourdain's TV series, The Layover. Each episode would have Bourdain landing in a city, and experiencing it for 24 to 48 hours. In the episode "Philadelphia," first aired in December 2012, Bourdain says that most food traveling shows to the city predictably include the Philly cheesesteak. Bourdain then says:

 "There will be no cheesesteak in this show."

Within about ten minutes into the episode, after Bourdain has made us hungry  by showing  some delicious Italian sandwiches and a melting pot of international dishes,  we are introduced to the:

"City Special"

AKA a beer and a shot of whiskey. Each bar may have its variation on the Special, for example with a cantina offering Tecate beer and tequilla. All for about $3.00 (in 2012), it can be a quick, inexpensive libation.

And the Pappy

The Stateside bar features beer and whiskeys from the USA and this is where Bourdain comes to the beloved Pappy Van Winkle. He says to the bartender:

"I know what I'm here for. I'm here for that incredibly wonderful bourbon whose name I'm not gonna mention because there are just too many sons of bitches out there who want it."

This is followed by the 20-year being poured, with music, over one rock, in a way that of course is meant to mimick and pay homage to a beautiful woman being poured into a dress.

Bourdain says "If God made bourbon, this is what he'd make."

Founding Fathers' brews

At City Tavern, originally established in 1773, they've recreated the beers that quenched the thirst of America's Founding Fathers. Called 'Ales of the Revolution" by Yards Brewing, they use the recipes penned  by  these revolutionaries, many of whom were homebrewers.

The episode is very clear that the Founding Fathers thoroughly enjoyed their drink

(We should mention here that George Washington made whiskey at his Mount Vernon estate, as we wrote in a previous post:

"America's first President George Washington had a distillery at his Mount Vernon estate that produced rye whiskey. In 1799, the distillery made 11,000 gallons and was the largest American distillery at the time. (The average distillery produced about 600 gallons)."

But at the end of this scene in The Layover episode , it is revealed that our curmudgeon traveller is still at the  Stateside bar, "Good stuff," he says, about the colonial beers, "But I'm not leaving Pappy alone."

While Pappy's market price is high, Philadelphia isn't a city that likes pretension. No overpriced Kettle One, as someone in the show describes. This acknowledges that Pappy and other high-shelf bourbons pass a test of authenticity, of hard-working, hard fought respect. 

Cheers to that.

Below the photo, we get to another bourbon Anthony Bourdain really liked.

 Anthony Bourdain

 (Photo: Anthony Bourdain, Wikipedia Creative Commons, WNYC Public Radio, David Case.)

Old Fitzgerald

In a Reddit Ask Me Anything, when asked what Kentucky bourbon he liked or preferred, he repiled:

"Very, very old Fitzgerald, that's some nice stuff. If you were to present me with a bottle of very, very, very, very, very, old Fitzgerald, I don't know if it exists, but man that's good."

Not sure why he focused on Old Fitzgerald here instead of Pappy Van Winkle since it was around the same time as filming the The Layover episode. He said he didn't  know much about bourbon, but we can see why he would have liked both bourbons: the wheat.

Both are wheated bourbons, which have the reputation of being smooth-tasting.

Not surprisingly, the two bourbons have crossed paths. During Prohibition, Julian "Pappy" Van Winkle purchased Old Fitzgerald for $10,000 and added a favor of wheat to the recipe.

Julian got his start in the whiskey business in 1893, when he became a salesman at W.L. Weller.  Pappy Van Winkle passed away in 1965 at 91 years old. The business Pappy had built was sold  to the Sazerac family and the Buffalo Trace Distillery. The brands sold included W. L. Weller, Old Fitzgerald, the original Old Rip Van Winkle, and of course the famous Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve.

Today Old Fitzgerald is owned by Heaven Hill. Pappy today remains part of Buffalo Trace.


After writing this article, our spellcheck is now recommending either bourbon or Bourdain as the correct spelling of either/or. We suppose that's a fun issue to have :)

Below: Fun excerpt from Bourdain's The Layover episode in Philadelphia, which shows the emphasis on the parts of the city he preferred to write about:

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1 comment

  • I wonder if he tried Maker’s Mark, and knew it was a wheated bourbon

    Michael Frank on

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