Bourbon and Bullets

True Stories of Whiskey, War, and Military Service

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Pub Date 1 Nov 2018 | Archive Date 30 Nov 2018

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American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines carried whiskey at Yorktown, Gettysburg, Manila, and Da Nang. It bolstered their courage, calmed their nerves, and treated their maladies. As a serious American whiskey drinker, John C. Tramazzo noticed how military service and whiskey went hand in hand during his service as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. In Bourbon and Bullets Tramazzo reveals the rich and dramatic connection between bourbon and military service in America.
Although others have discussed whiskey’s place in military history, Bourbon and Bullets explores the relationship between military service and some of the most notable whiskey distillers and executives working today. American servicemen Weller, Handy, Stagg, Van Winkle, and Bulleit all experienced combat before they became household names for American whiskey enthusiasts. In small towns and big cities across America, veterans of armed conflict in Panama, Somalia, Haiti, Iraq, and Afghanistan cook mash, operate stills, and push the booming industry to new heights. Bourbon and Bullets delves into the lives and military careers of these whiskey distillers and tells the story of whiskey’s role on the battlefield and in the American military community.

American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines carried whiskey at Yorktown, Gettysburg, Manila, and Da Nang. It bolstered their courage, calmed their nerves, and treated their maladies. As a serious...

Advance Praise

Bourbon and Bullets tells the sacrificial side of bourbon you don’t know: how whiskey makers gave their all in America’s wars, from Valley Forge to Vietnam and beyond.”—Lew Bryson, author of Tasting Whiskey: An Insider's Guide to the Unique Pleasures of the World's Finest Spirits

“If you are a bourbon lover, if you have an interest in the history of this country, sit down and read this book—a fascinating portrait of some of America’s military heroes and their connection to many brands of bourbon on the shelf today.”—Sally Van Winkle Campbell, author of But Always Fine Bourbon: Pappy Van Winkle and the Story of Old Fitzgerald

“The bourbon industry has long been filled with military veterans, but never have their valuable contributions been so finely documented until now. Captain Tramazzo’s investigative book not only weaves together these veterans’ military contributions but also provides an enlightening look at the impact they made on the spirits industry today.”—Mark Brown, president and chief executive officer, Sazerac Company

“I thought I’d seen every angle on the history of American whiskey. But John Tramazzo makes a compelling case for the role of soldiers, the military, and veterans in the story of America’s favorite spirit—and he wraps it up in a pretty good yarn.”—Clay Risen, author of American Whiskey, Bourbon, and Rye: A Guide to the Nation's Favorite Spirit

Bourbon and Bullets tells the sacrificial side of bourbon you don’t know: how whiskey makers gave their all in America’s wars, from Valley Forge to Vietnam and beyond.”—Lew Bryson, author of Tasting...

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Bourbon and Bullets: True Stories of Whiskey, War, and Military Service by John C. Tramazzo is a history of whiskey and the American military. Tramazzo is an active duty Army officer and veteran of several deployments in support of the Global War on Terror. He is also an American whiskey enthusiast, Kentucky Colonel, and the founder of the popular blog For all the Puritan roots of America, it certainly has ties to vice. Tobacco funded the revolution and whiskey help the soldiers keep up the fight. Rum was America's first drink. America's ports, Africa, and the Caribean made a self-feeding triangle. America bought the molasses for rum, which paid for the slaves, who worked the sugar plantations. English pressure on American ports caused America to look inward for its fermentable materials -- corn and rye. America made whiskey and whiskey was the reason that a sitting president led American troops into battle-- Washington and the Whiskey Rebellion. The Whiskey Tax was a large source of revenue for the new government and when distillers refused to pay the tax it created a financial crisis. Whiskey was carried into every battle from the Revolution War to Vietnam. Middle East Wars had to rely on the cleverness of military members to sneak whiskey into that theater. Tramazzo presents the history of whiskey and its relation to the American military. There were times when food for troops was scarce but whiskey was still available. It was the one ration that no one wanted to lose. World War I troops returning from were one of the biggest groups and vocal groups against Prohibition. Marines in WWII strained hair tonic through bread to make their own battlefield whiskey. Whiskey, Bourbon, was America's drink; its roots were a tribute to France who was ruled by the House of Bourbon. Louisville, Kentucky was named after the king. Bourbon is a whiskey made from a minimum of 51% corn. Other whiskey's use rye and wheat (Maker's Mark) as primary ingredients. Whiskey was America's liquor of choice from the revolution to Vietnam. Rebellion against the establishment turned many away from whiskey and to light liquors. Ironically in 1976 vodka sales exceded whiskey sales in the US. America's celebration of 200 years of independence was marked by the embrace of our Cold War enemy's drink. Whiskey made a comeback in the early 1980s with single barrel whiskeys. Many popular brands have their ties back to veterans. Jack Daniels fought in the Civil War. Bulleitt, Van Winkle, and Stagg all experienced combat before becoming whiskeys. Civil War veteran Paul Jones is credited with Four Roses Whiskey. Veteran and American President Harry Truman began each day with a power walk and a shot of bourbon. His choice was Old Grand Dad. Navy veteran and President Jimmy Carter was visited by a wild turkey that just happened to fly into the White House grounds. The turkey was most likely from Dick Newman the marketing director for Wild Turkey. In addition to the history of whiskey in the United States,  Tramazzo concentrates on the veterans who continue and continued the whiskey tradition. The US military purchases more Jack Daniels single barrel whiskey than any other group.  The tie between the men in uniform, and those who have served, and whiskey is undeniable.

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Bourbon and Bullets is chocked full of so many great stories. After reading, you can’t help but feel admiration for the people involved once you've read about their military service. I want to go to each of these distilleries to shake hands and thank these men and woman for their service. It was very thought provoking to realize how strong the connections of bourbon and whiskey have been to military service through history. Most of today’s whiskey and bourbon have some connections to military service by the makers themselves or history of the brand names. Whiskey won the Revolutionary War, helped fight in the War of 1812. Rum rations eventually became a ration of whiskey. The Civil War had numerous battles won and lost over whiskey sometimes because soldiers were too drunk to be in the place they were expected or drunkenly falling off their horses. Both World Wars saw whiskey make a remarkable difference; sometimes it was a little extra bit of courage or helping to forget the horrors that the soldiers had experienced. The distilleries took an active role in the war effort by sending many of their employees into the service and producing industrial alcohol. The industrial alcohol was used in the production of war material, even grenades, artillery rounds, and bullets. The Korean War saw whiskey in camps and foxholes providing a relief from the fighting around them. The war in Vietnam experienced a decline in whiskey and bourbon but, interestingly enough, some distillers of today fought as young men. Whiskey and bourbon have seen action around the world largely thanks to the troops of the United States. Some of todays new craft distillers even found inspiration in Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Overall, I learned a lot and enjoyed this book quite a bit. Thanks to Netgalley, John C. Tramazzo and University of Nebraska Press for this advanced copy.

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Doesn't surprise me in the least! I would think one would need to have a couple to bolster bravery in a fight. To say nothing of needing a few at the end of the day to kick back and relax (Back when wars ended at sunset, many opposing troops gathered at the local tavern for a nightcap! I remember this from Civil War history!) I love watching M.A.S.H. reruns with the still set up in the officers tent! You can make alcohol as illegal as you want, it never stopped anyone from getting their hands on it! Loved this story of alcohol and war and the beverages that grew out of the various wars! Fun read for both war and whiskey readers.

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This was an amazing read! The author combined his military service and love of whiskey to write about the long history between soldiers and whiskey. I never knew that barrels of whiskey were carried by soldiers to have it handy to assist with nervousness or injuries. The stories that the author was able to share about the history of the strong ties between military personnel and whiskey were extremely interesting.

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This is a wonderful book that traces not only the history of American bourbon, but also its ties the military. The connections that intertwine with the bourbon business and all branches of the United States military are amazing. The author has done a wonderful job of connecting the dots of events in history and the way the affected the bourbon industry. This book is a must read for anyone interested in military history, or the history of the bourbon industry. There are so many little unknown facts that the author has included in the book is fascinating. Bourbon and Bullets is a great read and a great way to learn some fascinating history.

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