Friday, January 30, 2009
The Health Benefits of Whiskey
A short while ago, I took up drinking dark spirits. Whiskey, that is. Aquae vitae. Eau de vie. The water of life.
Not because of the economy or marital problems or any deep malaise, but just because. Because I recently rediscovered a bottle of single malt whiskey my husband bought me a while back -- a bottle I thought he and his musician friends had polished off long ago.
And because I've started watching reruns of the series Mad Men, where the pre-Kennedy Madison Avenue characters drink hard liquor in just about every scene -- in the office, restaurants and at home. No event, big or small, goes by without the pouring of spirits onto a glass full of ice. They're smoking in every scene, too, but I have to draw the line somewhere.
And because, according to Slate magazine, President Obama has brought cocktails back into the White House. Writer John Dickerson reminds us that drinking liquor in moderation "promotes relaxation and laughter" and, among politicians, can "shave off a few layers of posturing." That could be helpful in the months to come.
But whereas there are absolutely no benefits to cigarettes, whiskey has been a proven elixir since distilled spirits were discovered in the Middle East in the eighth century. Six hundred year later, French professor Arnald de Villanova claimed spirits could “prolong life, clear away ill humors, revive the heart, and maintain youth.” And as we all know, depriving early-20th century Americans of their booze only led to crime, unhappiness and even death, when people turned to tainted moonshine.
In recent years, scientists have turned modern research methods to proving what people have observed for centuries. Each shot of whiskey contains a whole slew of antioxidants, according to Dr. Jim Swan, an expert in all things whisky (as spelled in Canada and Scotland), who also argues that these anti-cancer properties may be more powerful than those found in red wine, the current favorite libation for all those seeking eternal life.
Does it seem like I'm trying to get you drunk? That I'm trying to get you to put down that glass of chardonnay or pale ale and start hitting the bottle instead? I know, I know. Taking up whiskey right now seems so very retro, so very black-and-white movie. But whereas wine has always made me whoozy and beer makes me dumb, one little glass of whiskey can keep me bright, cheerful and charming the whole night long.
So give it to me straight, honey. Hold the ice. Neat, very neat.
Disclaimer: The author receives no royalties from the whiskey industry. Nor any other industry for that matter.