Whiskey and the Wild West--the Myth Endures

"None of that cow purch. Give us whiskey." John Wayne at the bar, Rio Lobo.

The most famous cliché in Westerns is a cowpoke loping into a saloon, slapping his palm onto the bar top and telling the bartender, “Give me a whiskey.” Certainly we’ve seen our fair share of John Wayne doing exactly that in scores of movies. In fact, one of our favorite quotes, from Rio Lobo, is when Duke stops the barkeep from pouring and says, “None of that cow purch! Give us whiskey.”

Author Sherry Monahan explains that there was more to saloon drinking than whiskey and beer. She recently penned a post for one of our favorite magazines and websites, True West. In her essay, Monahan writes:

Not all American West pioneers walked up to bars, like Hollywood Westerns often portray, and ordered shots of whiskey. In fact, most would have considered doing so uncouth or ill-mannered. During the Victorian era, fancy drinks were all the rage.
Some of the most popular drinks in frontier saloons in 1881 included Whiskey Punch, Stone Fence and Tom and Jerry. Sure, if you lived in a rural location, simple whiskey may have been your only choice for liquor, but not in places like Denver, Colorado, Virginia City, Nevada, and Tombstone, Arizona…

Monahan even goes on to print a cocktail recipe for a popular drink called a Stone Fence from an 1882 bartender’s guide. Read the entire post, including the recipe, here.

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