November has arrived. This month is probably best known for Thanksgiving, but one of its lesser known titles is “National Inspirational Role Models Month.” You can really honor anyone you want – popular historical role models like Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln, or even personal role models like your parents and your favorite teacher. All of those people are pretty cool, but we want to honor the role models that don’t get nearly enough credit for their contributions to society: our drinking role models.
James Beauregard “Jim” Beam
Jim Beam was born into the whiskey business, with his great-grandfather Jacob Beam starting the brand in 1770. It was originally called “Old Tub” (appetizing, right?), but changed to “Jim Beam” in 1943 in honor of Jim himself. He took over the family distillery in 1894 and was so protective of his bourbon’s yeast strain that he used to take a jug of it home every weekend. He reasoned that if an accident happened at the plant, he’d always have a sample to keep the strain going. During Prohibition, Jim Beam tried coal mining and citrus farming, but he wasn’t any good at those things. Once Prohibition ended in 1933, Jim Beam had the distillery up and running again in 120 days.
Jeremiah “Jerry” Thomas
Jerry was a bartender and is widely considered to be “the father of American mixology.” In 1862, he published the first drink book ever in the United States, The Bar-Tender’s Guide. He worked in hotels and saloons across the country and became well known for his showmanship as a bartender; he wore flashy clothes and jewelry, did tricks like juggling cups, and liked to mix up elaborate cocktails. Jerry was so good at what he did that at one point, he was earning $100 a week – that was more than the Vice President of the United States.
Adolphus was born in Germany and came to the U.S. when he was 18 years old. He married Lilly Anheuser in 1861 and her parents owned a small brewery. While serving in the Civil War for 14 months, he learned that his father had died and he had inherited a portion of his estate so he did what any rational person would do with such an inheritance: he started a wholesale brewer’s supply store, and four years later, bought a share in Mr. Anheuser’s brewery. Once Mr. Anheuser died, the company’s name changed from “Anheuser and Company” to “Anheuser Busch Company.” Adolphus bought the name Budweiser from Carl Conrad in 1891 and envisioned a national beer with universal appeal. That’s how the Budweiser brand was born.
We’ll be raising our glass to these heroes all month long. Bartenders, brewers and distillers alike deserve our praise. Cheers to you, our drinking role models.