So You Want To Be A Waiter

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Jack Daniels is not bourbon

Don’t ever forget that Jack Daniel’s, while tasting very similar to bourbon, is categorically not bourbon – it’s Tennessee whiskey. More precisely, “Tennessee sippin’ whiskey”.

First of all, it’s made in Tennessee, not Kentucky. Bourbon is named for a county in Kentucky where little bourbon is distilled today, but that doesn’t mean that bourbon can cross state lines. I mean, some try to do it and all, and legally it’s just a specific process with certain parameters, but is bourbon from Colorado really bourbon? C’mon people, let’s get real. If there is one state that could get away with it (and some of us have tried), it’s Tennessee. We are two states bound by a common heritage. If you look on a map, Kentucky looks similar to a pregnant Tennessee. Since we’ve been spooning since our births, this doesn’t seem out-of-place.

But Jack Daniel’s (and the other famous named-for-a-dead-guy Tennessee whiskey, George Dickel) is not, I repeat not bourbon, despite being made of sour mash just like bourbon. The key difference is that Tennessee whiskey is filtered through charcoal. Bourbon is not.

The last thing you want to do as a waiter is to upsell Jack Daniel’s products when someone asks for a bourbon drink. While some people think of it erroneously as a bourbon because, let’s face it folks, it does taste a lot like bourbon, there are some partisans who would cut out your heart and squeeze a few drops of blood out of it into a Manhattan if you lumped Jack Daniel’s in with bourbon (and this comes from both bourbon and Tennessee whiskey fans).

So, those of you young whippersnappers who are just getting started peddling the devil’s elixer, repeat after me -“Jack Daniel’s is Tennessee whiskey…Jack Daniel’s is Tennessee whiskey…Jack Daniel’s is Tennessee whiskey…”

I mean, you wouldn’t screw up and call Bushmill’s a scotch would you? I hope not.

Class dismissed.


6 responses to “Jack Daniels is not bourbon

  1. waiterextraordinaire September 10, 2009 at 9:05 am

    That was highly informative. I am sure most people including myself did not know that.

  2. teleburst September 10, 2009 at 9:45 am

    It’s a common mistake for waiters to make, undoubtably because Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel are always included on the bourbon screeen (and for good reason – there are dozens of true bourbons but only two Tennessee whiskeys).

    This can be a contentious partisan thing, esepcially in this part of the country. Not sure how many people care outside of the South.

    It’s not really quite the mission-critical sort of thing that I’ve made it out to be (kiddingly, of course), but, as you know, the perception by the guest of your competency is built on many small things. Show that you know your shit to the right person and it will pay off in dividends. Slip up on this to a bourbon or JD freak and it’s not the end of the world, even around here, where I’m actually twice as close to the Kentucky line than I am to Lynchburg here in Nashville. You’ll usually get a mock scolding, but that’s about as far as it will go. Still, it’s the little things that you get right that maintain your credibility as a waiter. Might as well get them right, eh?

  3. nok chim December 5, 2009 at 10:01 am

    I have a friend that love Jack, so what is the best Jack I can buy? Last year I got him a Jack Daniel Single barrel.

  4. connieemeraldeyes April 4, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Interesting. I do like the taste of Jack and coke though.

  5. minxtamer April 30, 2010 at 2:26 am

    I would most definitely tip a server more who knew that Jack Daniels was a Tennessee Sippin Whiskey.
    I have actually asked for Tennessee Whiskey in a bar before to see what they give me, or what they say. Most of the time they try to pawn off low grade dismal bourbon.
    I have loved this elixir for many, many years and a young server that was sharp enough to know the difference would get a larger tip from me for sure.

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