Blues legend John Lee Hooker cut the barroom classic "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" in 1960, but it was George Thorogood & The Destroyers' version, which came out in 1976, that got stuck in America's craw through near-continuous radio airplay. On days when things seem like they couldn't get any worse—or, conversely, when a latecomer to the party has some catching up to do—there's that much-sung nuclear option. We asked three bartenders to tell us what they'd put in front of such a customer. Here's what they said:
Whiskey Bar, Matt Stredder
This watering hole at the corner of Sixth and Main streets pours 2-ounce shots, making Hooker's after-hours recipe especially potent. At first, bartender Matt Stredder, who also teaches whisky education classes at Whiskey Bar, demurred on what he'd serve, but eventually said he'd start with a shot of Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon ($9 for 2 ounces). The product of a long-running Kentucky distillery, it has accolades from International Review of Spirits, the World Whiskies Awards and Cigar and Spirits magazine. It's an award-winner and a crowd-pleaser.
"You can enjoy it if you're a novice drinker, but [an expert] can pick up the subtler notes," Stredder said.
Next up, he suggested a drought of Macallan 12-year Scotch whisky ($15 for 2 ounces). Scotches have a reputation for being peaty and smoky, which can turn off some customers. Macallan, Stredder said, is approachable for its other flavors, which can cut through the brogue.
"There are notes of honey, vanilla and stone fruit," he said, adding, "there's no peat flavor people are scared of."
Whiskey Bar is known for its strong sauce and cocktails, and less so for its beer selection. With just four taps dedicated to a few mass-market and smaller beers, it's challenging to find something to stand beside bourbon and Scotch, but if he had it on tap that day, Stredder said he'd pour a 10- to 12-ounce snifter of Anderson Valley Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel-aged Stout (estimated $7), which is aged for three months in whiskey barrels and "stands up to the whisky you're drinking." Stredder did urge caution, though.
"I would absolutely recommend not shooting the two whiskies and chasing them with the beer," he said.
The Piper Pub, Gene Hutchison
Gene Hutchison has "been in the business" for 25 years, but it wasn't until a decade ago that he took over as owner of Piper Pub, the downtown bar with arguably the best patio in town. Located on the second floor of the newly renamed Main + Marketplace, its deck overlooks the bustling corner of Eighth and Main streets, and on plenty of nights when the weather's good, the sound of live music pours down into the city below.
In 2018, Main + Marketplace underwent a renovation designed to update a look that hadn't changed since its construction, with crews laying new, modern tile and adding exterior flourishes to the building.
"They aren't just putting makeup on it," Hutchison said.
Piper Pub has amassed one of the most extensive whiskey selections in Boise, and Hutchison said he stocks 68 Scotches and between 58 and 60 bourbons, and the bar runs a popular scotch club to bring knowledge of aqua vitae to the masses. Having a strong variety, Hutchison said, is the name of the game.
"You go to some bars and they have six whiskeys," he said.
For the bourbon-Scotch-beer crowd, Hutchison said he'd lean toward a local Pale Ale and a "well-style" bourbon, but he doesn't stock a well Scotch.
Instead, Hutchinson said he'd ask customers their personal preference, and pour that.
10th Street Station, Dan Krejci
Dan Krejci, owner of 10th Street Station, knew right off the bat that Hooker wrote "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer."
"I get brownie points for that? I worked at The Record Exchange for 20 years!" he said.
10th Street is ever in the eye of the storm. Whether it's the middle of Treefort Music Fest or the end of a hard day at work, the basement bar is always chill enough for conversations, board games, watching TV with the volume turned down or tossing back beers. Its depth goes way past the wall, though, and it serves a lot of middle- and upper-shelf whiskeys at low prices.
"A lot of people get the Cheers reference. We had a guy named Colin who looked just like Ted Danson. Now, we've got 'It's 10th Street Station: Let's get awesome!'" Krejci said, pointing at a coaster with the tagline illustrated by local artist Noble Hardesty.
As for the Hooker recipe: "If you wanted a Basil Hayden and an Oban, you can do that. Those are probably the two most popular bourbon and Scotch [shots] that we sell," he said. And for the beer: "I'd say the Payette North Fork."