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October 01, 2007

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Let’s take a moment to toast October. Hunting seasons have opened and, if you’re lucky, you’ve already got an animal or two down. Where I live in New England we’re finally getting some crisp fall-like mornings with the promise of more to come. And we have the majority of our deer hunting in front of us. October truly is the best month.

But what to toast with? My own tastes are admittedly fickle in this regard and much depends on where I’m hunting, what I’m hunting and who I’m hunting with. These are some of my favorites:

Bourbon. My default beverage. I drink it either over a couple cubes of ice or neat with a few drops of water added. Makes a great compliment to just about any game dish.

Margaritas. When in Texas or the Southwest, margaritas get the nod. I make them with two parts tequila—I’m partial to Don Julio 1942—and one part each of freshly squeezed lime juice and Triple Sec. Mix it well and pour it over ice into a salt-rimmed glass. Any tequila worth drinking shouldn’t be contaminated with sour mix.

Famous Grouse. My wicked mother-in-law, a vicious predator who’s sent countless animals across the river Styx over the last 70 years, favors this scotch. I’m not about to argue with her—partly because she scares me, but mostly because she is a woman of great taste and sophistication. Her deer rifle is a gorgeous Mannlicher chambered in 7x57 Mauser that’s scopped with a fixed four-power Steyr. How can you not love that?

Martinis. I started drinking martinis many years ago and thought I knew a thing or two about them. Then I got a job at Outdoor Life and met Jim Carmichel, who can accurately be described as a demigod of gin. I’d give you his martini recipe, but I’m afraid he’d gut me like a boar the next time I visited his home in Tennessee. Suffice it to say that if you start with really cold Tanqueray gin—keep it in the freezer—and add just a dash of vermouth, one ice cube, a teaspoon of olive brine and a teaspoon of water—that you won’t go too far wrong.

Kirshwasser. German for “cherry water” this brandy is often known simply as kirsh. It originates from the southern part of German, a place with a rich hunting tradition and a rich tradition for turning fruit into flammable liquid. It’s potent stuff. My daughter and I toasted with a glass of kirsh last Thanksgiving after we killed a deer together at our family’s farm in northern Michigan. (Given that she had just turned seven, I did most of the drinking.) I’m not sure there’s a better way to cut the cold.

Vodka. During a bear hunt two years ago in B.C., I shared camp with a gentleman from Finland, who turned out to be one of the most cheerful and enjoyable companions I’ve ever hunted with. Each evening, no matter whether someone got and animal or not, he initiated a toast with a shot of vodka—he preferred Finlandia, which he naturally insisted was the best—and wished us good health and good hunting.

This October, and for the rest of hunting season, I wish the same for you.

John Snow



I'll drink to that!

Ralph the Rifleman

I'll go with my spiced rum, straight, on the rocks, or with hot apple cider mix to get me warmed up in short order.

B. Cameron

Nothing will ever beat a fine single malt...

William Giordano

Is your mother-in-law currently single ?

John Snow


No, she isn't. But she frequently tells her husband, "when one of us dies, I'm going to Hawaii." So hang in there.



I'm with B. Cameron regarding a preference for a fine single malt; an amber nectar of the gods, to be sure. With that, following are some favorite lines from Jameson Parker (actor, hunter, writer):

“Any discussion of whisky must start with a fundamental truth: there is no such thing as a bad whisky. Some whiskies are better than others, but any whisky is better than no whisky, and more is usually better than less.

“Whisky is the traditional libation taken at lunchtime during driven shoots in Scotland and northern England. These shoots normally occur at a time of the year when either whisky or antifreeze would be equally welcome. Of course, in some parts of Scotland it is also the traditional libation taken at breakfast, teatime and dinner, as well as at lunch. They’re wonderful people, the Scots.”

Scott in Ohio

At our deer camp in Western PA the nod goes to George Dickle Sour Mash Whiskey and more recently, Old Forester Bourbon. If there is any horse-shoe pitching to be done the day before opening day of buck season our drink of choice is bottles of Yuengling Lager.