Finding Bourbon: Sipping Slowly

Story by Kevin Gibson


Three or four years ago, I was faced with an age-old dilemma: Do the shot? Or not? I am happy to say, I stood my ground.

Here’s how it all went down.

I met a friend at a neighborhood bar. He in turn invited a couple of his friends, guys I hadn’t met before. We had a round of beers, everyone was getting along well, having spirited conversation, and an enjoyable session was set up for us.

Then one of the guys offered to buy a round of shots. Now, I generally don’t do shots, but sometimes a person can get into a social situation wherein refusing the shot can be a buzzkill. This could have been one of those situations.

So, the initial question in my mind was: Would I be the guy to let the air out of the tire when the car was humming along so nicely? At what point can one politely bow out without instantly becoming said guy?

And then the guy in my group doing the ordering said, “Let’s get Woodford Reserve.” Oh, he didn’t mean shots. He meant pours. Sure, guys, count me in.

Our server brought the four neat pours to the table and doled them out one by one. The friendly guy who’d purchased the round said, “Cheers.” We responded in kind, and I was again blind-sided when everyone downed their bourbon in one gulp.

Well, everyone but me. Awkward.

My friend said, “You’re not going to shoot yours?”

“Nah,” I said. “I’m going to sip it slowly.”


“I want to enjoy it.”

He shrugged, and the conversation continued forward. No one seemed to give it another thought, which relieved and impressed me. I mean, I’ve been that “no shot for me, thanks” guy plenty of times, particularly when I’m driving myself home, and typically the response is a throwback to high school-type peer pressure.

But the situation felt like a step forward to me in my quest to better appreciate bourbon. Not only did I know that “shooting” liquid like that would be an insult to Woodford and all who represent it, I instinctively wanted to enjoy it. Hey, this guy just bought me a pour of some delicious bourbon. Why would I want to gulp it?

Truthfully, had he bought a round of well whiskey or even cheap tequila, then I might have said, “Why not?” and slammed it home like a frat brat. But Woodford Reserve? It just felt wrong, even though doing it would really not harm a soul. It’s sort of like ignoring a red light at 3 a.m. when there are no other cars in sight. Sure, there isn’t any harm done, but you still feel a little guilty about it.

Still relatively new to bourbon culture, I’m not even sure what, if any, protocol exists for such situations. If I had consumed the Woodford as a shot, would I have received demerits from the Bourbon gods? Would a fairy have died? I wasn’t taking any chances. I stood my ground in the name of good bourbon.

And it’s worth noting that long after the server had cleared away my friends’ empty shot glasses, I still had tasty amber liquid in mine with the flavors and finish still giving my palate pleasure. I’m going to call that a win.

Kevin Gibson
Official Contributor

Kevin Gibson is a free-lance writer who writes for numerous publications, including Thrillist and Alcohol Professor. He also is author of Louisville Beer, Secret Louisville, and several other books. In his three decades as a professional writer, he has won numerous awards but doesn’t know where most of them are now (they're probably in the basement). He lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with his dog, Atticus.