Whiskey Catholic Relaunch — Advent 2014

Millars Special Reserve

Andrew and I did not do much blogging in 2014.  A word of explanation — Andrew began a new job in Boston that required his undivided attention and I joined a law firm in Pittsburgh.  My wife and I also had our first baby in September.  It has been a truly blessed year, but we haven’t given up our love of whiskey, the Catholic faith, philosophy, or manliness.

Over the past few months, Andrew and I have formed a schedule that will allow us to blog frequently while keeping our family and career commitments.  We are happy to relaunch the blog this advent without any promises as to its sustainability, but hope that it produces posts that make men of all ages strive for Catholic manliness.

Easter Drinks: Mint Julep

Mint Julep

We have one more Easter Drinks post to share as this Easter season comes to a close.

Refreshing and sweet, the mint julep is a classic American summer cocktail. The drink likely originated in the American South during the mid to late eighteenth century, making it one of the older American cocktails. Mint juleps can be made with gin, brandy, or whiskey. My favorite, however, is the classic bourbon mint julep.

Today, the mint julep is perhaps most famous as the drink served during the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Mint JulepWalker Percy, in his essay “Bourbon, Neat”, recalls the first mint julep he drank in a New York Hotel in 1941: “an atrocity, a heavy syrupy Bourbon and water in a small glass clotted with ice. But good!”.

Of course, he goes on to offer his favorite recipe for the mint julep in the postscript of the essay for his readers who, “don’t want to knock it back straight and would rather monkey around with perfectly good Bourbon”. And while I make my own mint juleps slightly differently, it’s Percy’s recipe which I’ll leave you with today:

You need excellent Bourbon whiskey; rye or Scotch will not do. Put half an inch of sugar in the bottom of the glass and merely dampen it with water. Next, very quickly – and here is the trick in the procedure – crush your ice, actually powder it, preferably in a towel with a wooden mallet, so quickly that it remains dry, and, slipping two sprigs of fresh mint against the inside of the glass, cram the ice in right to the brim, packing it with your hand. Finally, fill the glass, which apparently has no room left for anything else, with Bourbon, the older the better, and grate a bit of nutmeg on the top. The glass will frost immediately. Then settle back in your chair for half an hour of cumulative bliss.

Easter Drinks: The Sidecar

The Sidecar

Christus resurrexit! Alleluia!

And with the Easter Season we’re excited to bring back our Easter Drinks series. Last year we profiled a few drinks, including the Manhattan and the Martini, two classic cocktails.

The SidecarToday, we profile the Sidecar, a drink which adds a Continental touch to the family of classic American cocktails. The sweet cognac-based drink likely originated sometime around World War I, in Europe. American Prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933, and during that time American cocktails thrived in Europe.

In addition to being a classic brandy cocktail, the Sidecar is part of the ‘crusta’ class of cocktails (other classes include fizzes, juleps, collins, etc.), meaning it is served with a sugared-rim glass. The drink’s ancestors include the Brandy Crusta, made with cognac, curaçao, lemon, and bitters. The Sidecar presents a simpler combination of flavors, but retains its sweet, festive nature.

Eric Felten at The Wall Street Journal, tells a few of the stories of the cocktail’s invention:

The standard creation myth for the Sidecar is that it was first concocted in World War I for an officer just arrived in Paris from the front, having ridden all the way in a motorcycle sidecar. The location of this conception is alternately given as the bar at the Paris Ritz or that other Parisian institution, Harry’s New York Bar. A competing tale came from travel and society writer Basil Woon, who claimed to be present when the first Sidecar was born. John, the bartender at a bistro called Henri’s, staggered into work late and bleeding after a motorcycle accident. Woon ordered cognac, his friend ordered Cointreau, and the woozy barman accidentally mixed them. The creation was named after the sidecar in which the bartender had been addled.

The essential ingredients of the Sidecar are:

  • Cognac (1 part)
  • Cointreau (1 part)
  • Lemon juice (1 part)

The proportions can be adjusted to taste. The Sidecar is shaken with ice and strained into a sugar-rimmed cocktail glass, garnished with a lemon twist. It is a perfect drink with which to celebrate this Easter.

New Series Alert: The Crumbling of Western Civilization


Andrew and I determined during a 17 second phone call yesterday that the blog has been too soft in recent months.  We have been looking for a less serious series — one that we could write slightly tongue in cheek — for some time.  The Crumbling of Western Civilization set of articles will detail the decline of Western Civilization due to modernism and selfishness, with some hope of pointing out how ridiculous and warped modern social customs are.

A civilization is not something we sim­ply inherit or ever finally possess. Each generation, individually and collectively, needs to make a continual effort to appro­priate it anew because a civilization is not passed along to us at birth. A civilization is an elaborate structure of ideas and institu­tions, slowly built up over time by the intel­ligence and effort of countless individuals working alone and together. If we fail to understand and live out that complexity, which tries to answer to the complexity of human life itself, we can easily fall back to a less human existence. It has happened often in history.

–Robert Royal

BPI: Divine Mercy Sunday

Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity… tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near.

– Jesus to St. Faustina Kowalska in Diary

This coming Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday, the most important BPI of the year.  Divine Mercy Sunday originates from a request by Jesus to St. 200px-FaustinaFaustine Kowalska in the early 1900s.  Devotion to the vision of Jesus’ Merciful Divinity was promoted by Blessed John Paul II, and Divine Mercy Sunday was formally placed on the General Roman Calendar in 2000.  In recognition for what might become his most important accomplishment, Blessed John Paul II was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on  Divine Mercy Sunday 2011.

I want the image solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it.

– Jesus to St. Faustina Kowalska in Diary

Those who fulfill the necessary conditions receive a full remission of all temporal punishment.  The faithful must (1) receive Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday (alternate ways to satisfy this requirement are available for those physically unable to comply), (2) make a good confession within a few days of Divine Mercy Sunday, (3) pray for the Pope, and (4) not be attached to sin.

Divine Mercy Sunday therefore acts as a plenary indulgence.  Many wonder what it means to be detached from all sin, even venial.  We should all strive to be detached from all sin, but specific questions regarding specific situations are best directed to your pastor or spiritual director.  For now, we merely suggest that detachment from sin might be envisioned as an unwillingness to compromise with our human weakness.  Do we allow ourselves small sins in compromise for the good works we accomplish or as a reward for avoiding graver sin?

For those who have never attempted an indulgence before, this would be one of the “easiest” ones to earn as its principle requirement coincides with the Sunday obligation.

Awake, O sleeper


From the second reading of today’s Divine Office, an ancient homily on Holy Saturday:

Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

Man Skills: Making a Table


There’s nothing more romantic than making something for a woman using your own two hands, especially if that something ends up looking better than what you could buy at a department store.  I first got the idea to make a table for my wife while reading the excellent blog The Art of Manliness.  If you aren’t a frequent reader over there, you probably should be.  With very little woodworking experience (I once made a recipe box) and the generous use of a colleague’s garage, I made the table at which, God willing, my wife and I will feed our future children and grandchildren for years to come.

I modeled the base of the table off the plans I found at the Art of Manliness website.  The plans are extremely easy to follow, even for someone unnamedwithout any woodworking experience.  Taking a table saw, I cut notches in the legs and crossbeams so that the pieces would fit together and hold upright even without the use of screws.  Because my wife and I will probably move a few more times before we settle down in a house for good, I added a nut and bolt combination so that I could break down the entire base into a few pieces  without stripping the screw holes.  If you look closely you can see the holes for the bolts in the rails to the right.

My friend talked me into making the tabletop slightly more complex than I planned.  Instead of screwing the boards together like they did over at the AOM, I used glue and clamps to put four boards together and then made breadboard ends using two more boards, a few scraps of  wood, and 1/2 inch dowel.  I found this process pretty difficult given my inexperience, but the end product looks much better for it.

Finally, I did not stain the table, instead opting to slop on some linseed oil to preserve the natural color of the wood.  I made the table using construction grade lumber, going to Home Depot and simply picking out the cheapest, straightest boards I could find (this entire thing cost less than $200), but I still could not bring myself to stain the completed project.

I learned two extremely valuable lessons during the few weekends I spent working on my table.  First, I learned how to use some basic tools under the supervision of a more experienced woodworker.  Every man should know how to use a saw, drill, and belt sander.  Second, this project redefined what I perceived a possible do-it-yourself project to be.  When I first picked up the wood for the table in September, the salesman at Home Depot immediately knew that I had no idea what I was doing, what I needed to finish my project, or how to actually build the table I was buying wood for.  He was extremely skeptical of my prospects for success.  By Halloween, the chaperons at my brother-in-law’s high school Halloween party were paying visits to my in-laws’ garage to check out what I had built.  A little perseverance and a big leap of faith can go a long way.

BPIs: Tenebræ

Tenebrae hearse

Tenebræ, meaning “shadows,” is the name used for the praying of Matins and Lauds on each of the last three days of Holy Week. The hours are prayed following Compline the evening before, and during the chanting of the psalms the candles are extinguished one by one until the sanctuary is in total darkness after the final candle is removed. From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

[T]he Office of these three days was treated as a sort of funeral service, or dirge, commemorating the death of Jesus Christ. It is natural also that, since Christ by convention was regarded as having lain three days and three nights in the tomb, these obsequies should have come in the end to be celebrated on each of the three separate occasions with the same demonstrations of mourning.

The Tenebræ liturgies are opportunities for the faithful to be reminded of the solemnity of these three days during which the Church mourns the passion and death of our Lord.

Image: Source (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Catholic Gentleman: Linguistics and Vocabulary

We very often speak of logic as the rules of the cultural-debating game, perhaps mistakenly so given society’s rejection of logic, but linguistics, the way in which logic, thought, and ideas are conveyed, represent the tools necessary to win the game.  It is no coincidence that the clearest Catholic thinkers, including G.K. Chesterton and Cardinal Newman, had an exceptional knowledge of the language in which the wrote and spoke.  The further we remove ourselves from a deep understanding of the meaning of words and the distinctions between definitions, the easier it is for terms to be manipulated for the benefit of those against Catholic thinking.  The Holy Father recently remarked with some urgency that modern education contains the “horrors of manipulation” by pushing the “dictatorship of one form of thinking” in the name of “modernity.”

Many of the contemporary cultural battlefronts are littered with twisted words and meanings.  Consider the popular gay-marriage sign “Equality for all!”  How 486px-Gilbert_Chestertonone defines “equality,” “freedom,” and “rights” is often indicative of where one stands on the non-negotiable Catholic issues of our day.  Explaining why humans do not have the freedom to marry whoever or whatever we choose inherently entails an analysis of what it means to be free.

A strong knowledge of the English language is what makes writers such as G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis so effective.  Chesterton’s book on Aquinas is barely 100 pages and yet he systematically draws distinctions between Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism, Protestantism and Catholicism, Eastern mystics and Catholics, and modernists and Catholics.  In each distinction, he describes the philosophies and methods of the respective religion, articulately explains the definitions of the labels he employs, and applies the definitions to the philosophies and methods.  In this manner, for example, he labels Catholicism as “optimistic” with respect to human nature and Protestantism as “pessimistic.”  An excellent knowledge of the English language allows Chesterton to succinctly (and soundly) make arguments and apply labels which would be widely decried by scholars knowledgeable of Christian religions and yet ignorant of the definition of a word as simplistic as “optimistic.”

There are several ways the Catholic Gentleman can improve his handle on the English language.  First, many of the cultural debates raging today truly began over 100 years ago.  Reading Chesterton takes us back to the time when words such as “optimism,” “freedom,” and “rights” were first being manipulated in the name of modernity.  I think that Chesterton would be very much at home debating today’s culture, and a careful read of his works reveals a plan for confronting these very issues.

Second, becoming proficient in other languages will help the Catholic Gentleman understand the roots of his own language.  For example, most English words contain roots stemming from either Latin, German, French, or even old-English, not to mention the theoretical concepts added by the philosophical contributions of the ancient Greeks (the proper definition of “justice”, for example, might be found in Plato’s Republic).  Catholic high schools and colleges have moved further and further away from these building-block languages, and our conceptions of the philosophical concepts implicit in words has suffered as a result.  It is no coincidence that nearly all theologians and philosophers of note speak at least two languages.

When discussing Catholic concepts, especially concerning the non-negotiable social issues of the Faith, the Catholic Gentleman should ensure that he is speaking the same language as those around him.  Defining the words upon which our culture places a degree of importance is especially important.  Protecting our culture begins with protecting the words we use to convey our ideas, thoughts, and identity.

St. Albertus Magnus, Ora pro nobis!

Whiskey Men: The U.S. Bishops

Rarely have the U.S. bishops had as good of a two week run as the one they just had.  Three bishops, in particular, stood out for their courage in confronting social and pastoral issues, each in firm a, clear-headed manner.  These three men exude the continuity of leadership the John-Paul II, Benedict, and Francis appointments have brought to the episcopate.

Bishop Jugis (appointed by John-Paul II): Crisis descended on the Diocese of Charlotte this week after Sr. Jane Laurel, OP, gave a talk to high school students about aspects of the Church’s teachings on sexuality.  Her talk included evidence drawn from scientific studies in an effort to demonstrate that the natural world reflects the supernatural reality.  Parents and members of the Catholic community in Charlotte hotly contested both the presented studies and the moral teachings she conveyed straight from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  A town hall meeting was called, which descended into the public smear and shaming campaign familiarly directed at those who dare to dissent from modernist sexual ethics.

Bishop Jugis responded not only by defending the teachings of the Catechism, as well as Sister’s efforts to convey them to high school students, but also by condemning the uncharitable way so many treated Sister’s reputation, both at the town hall event and on social media.  Instead of groveling for the acceptance of society through “further dialogue” or issuing an apology to those who “may have been offended by their interpretation” of what Sister said, Bishop Jugis stood his ground and refused to give the laity a blank check to abuse those in the consecrated life defending the catechism.

I am shocked to hear the disturbing reports of a lack of charity and respect at the parents’ meeting, and outside the meeting in conversations and in social media. There simply is no room in the Catholic Church for such displays of uncharitableness and disrespect. If we have failed in this regard let us make amends to God and neighbor. Even when we disagree, that disagreement should be expressed respectfully in love.

Far too often have orthodox priests and religious been left to fend for themselves, and the good bishop’s unwavering support is a sign of hope.

Bishop Paprocki (appointed by Benedict XVI): Bishop Paprocki is no stranger to being dubbed a Whiskey Man.  In yet another instance of a bishop backing up a religious despite the howls of society, Bishop Paprocki supported a priest in his diocese who preemptively denied the Sacrament to pro-abortion Senator Durbin.

The prudential and pastoral concerns of Canon 915 are exceedingly complex, however one factor which must be weighed is the grave scandal caused to Catholics and non-Catholics alike by the apparent ratification or mitigation of public dissent from Church teachings, regardless of whether such ratification is real or imagined.  Time and time again Bishop Paprocki has proved that he has the courage and prudence to do what is necessary, regardless of the public fallout.  This is a man truly worthy of his office.

Bishop Barber (appointed by Francis): Bishop Barber has risked the ire of liberals everywhere (California liberals nonetheless) for removing an openly homosexual priest of the Paulist Fathers from his post at UC Santa Barbara.  Including widespread accusations of liturgical abuse, the parish regularly engaged in activities such as “dance ministry and Taize prayer.”  Not only is the Bishop’s courage admirable, but his prudence is impeccable.  Knowing that the “Spirit of Francis” was likely to be invoked, Bishop Barber explained that the reason for the change was to “totally reinvigorate our evangelization efforts for the University Community at Cal Berkeley,” and “reinvigorate and expand our mission ‘to the periphery.’”  His detractors were left with the sorry argument that the Bishop could not understand the needs of the parish as a non-parishioner.  Bravo.

Continuity marches on. . .