Bushmills' Black Bush

Our kitchen, South City

Bushmills Black Bush

Nary a week after we'd boasted how we'd skated through fall and winter without so much as a sniffle, we woke up and found our face holes plugged with gunk. Our ears feel as though we're trying to hear underwater, and our throat is a coarse sheath from which a knife has been pulled and plunged over and over again until raw. It's not pretty.

Looking though our medicine cabinet through bleary eyes, we find Top Care's Nite Time, an off-brand NyQuil which somehow manages to be even worse-tasting than its more expensive Vicks kin. But the promise of a solid night of sleep ultimately wins out, and so we throw back a full plastic cup of it, disregarding the lines marking off the appropriate dose, like a high schooler taking a shot of tequila with something to prove.

These days, only extremely hot and extremely cold temperatures feel soothing traveling down our esophagus. But after a while, hot tea becomes boring and the amount of mint chocolate chip ice cream we've consumed would make Ben and Jerry blush. And then we remember our old friend, our constant standby, our favorite winter drink: Bushmills Black Bush. Their Web site tells us that four centuries ago this year, Bushmills was officially licensed to distill their whiskey, and today Bushmills is produced at Ireland's oldest functional distillery. (The site is coyly elusive about the origin of the "Black Bush" moniker and encourages drinkers to come up with their own version of the lore.) We're glad to help them celebrate their anniversary at our kitchen table, a disgusting, hacking, sniffling party of one. We grab a rocks glass and the bottle from our kitchen shelf and give ourselves a generous pour.

We don't know any party tricks (the most impressive one we've seen is Al Franken drawing a map of all the contiguous U.S. states — freehand). But these days drinking whiskey straight and neat seems to be something of a novelty itself. Girls ask to smell the drink and then look like they're going to vomit; guys give us profound looks of admiration, and, truth be told, we enjoy both reactions equally. Bushmills Black Bush is an ideal gateway whiskey. The malty whiskey has whispers of sherry (because of the casks it's made in) but it's disarmingly smooth while still being boss — drinking it any way but neat, we feel, is almost amateurish and insulting.

It's one of the only things we like about winter: enjoying this drink slowly and contemplatively as it burns its way down our throat. And so we do, over and over. We take occasional sips of ice water, and as it mingles with the warmth of the Black Bush, we find the precise hot-and-cold balance that we've been seeking. We check the bottle: There are no dosage instructions, so we continue to self-medicate.

We haven't felt this great for days, and at this late hour, sleep is somehow just starting to come on its own.

Got a drink suggestion? E-mail [email protected]

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