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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Whiskey Tasting Recap -- The Down Under

The Down Under Lounge and Public House
3802 Leavenworth Street
Omaha NE 68105

I know, you're asking why HitThatDive and "old school" whiskey? Let me 'splain. No...there is too much. Let me sum up.  Growing up in Pittsburgh with immigrant relatives (by way of Croatia) that ran the local beer distributor, there was one thing that was standard...beer with a shot of whiskey. Always. Never one without the other. Ever.

My grandfather, fresh off the boat from the old country (and thrown on a bus to Pittsburgh at Ellis Island) quickly acquired a taste for two things. Beer (eventually a PBR man) and Canadian Club.

Now, having spent an inordinate amount of time in neighborhood dives around town as a kid, my grandfather's drink(s) of choice only reinforced that whiskey and beer were as inextricably linked as Abbott and Costello that played in black and white on every bar TV every weekend.

Some Good Old Cutty Sark and The Famous Grouse
Weird thing about me, I didn't drink until I was 21. For reals. So, by the time I got to college and would hang around all the college parties, I was out of the habit of hanging around all the old man bars in my area. Flash forward to my senior year, and turning 21, I got ripped on a pitcher of melonballs and eventually kissed a Nun on the lips...and the journey began.

Hey, I could get used to this whole drinking thing...so the following night we were off to the local dive, at my suggestion, where I would go as a kid to watch a local lounge act with my Dad. (We also figured out how to fix the 50/50 drawing every Monday, but that's a story for another time.)

Wait, what was my point?  Oh yeah...I was shocked that my friends that had been old enough to drink would always forego whiskey at the bars and just drink beer by the pitcher.  I assume that much stricter drinking and driving laws had an impact on all of that...but to be it seemed like another part of nostalgia was dying faster than they could put up new Wal-Mart on every corner.

Getting Ready For Some Free Samples
For the record, I'm not a huge whiskey drinker to this day.  But, a I do like a shot of "old school" whiskey once in a while as a tribute to all the cool old guys I would see firing back shots and beers as a kid.

My grandfather died in 1993 after living well into his 80's.  After his funeral, my cousin Steph and I went to his favorite bar "The Croatian Club" in Monessen, Pennsylvania to have a drink in his honor. "You Mike's grand kids?" we were asked when we sat down. Answering yes, we were immediately given a beer with a shot of Canadian Club. "That's on us." the old man bartender said. "They're all on us for the rest of the day." By "us", he meant the community that resided nearly everyday in that place.

Steph and I got ripped to the point we had to call my Aunt to come and drive our drunk asses home.  And, actually that's not true...we went for wings on the way home first!  Ahhhh...good times.

Women and Whiskey
So back to the original question, "Why old school whiskey?" It's a taste of history and tradition that gets overlooked these days for JagerBombs, Jello shots and Rumchata pudding shots. So, here at HitThatDive, we decided to hand out real drinks at real bars around town for everyone to taste the tradition of years gone by.  Will they be for everyone...hell no!  But, how will you know if you don't even give it a shot? (No pun intended)

Cheers to every crusty, gruff, and occasionally grouchy (but good-hearted) bar people from decades ago (even the ones that hated having a kid in the bar)...these events are for you!

Don't Be Fooled From the Outside
The Bar:  For those that don't know, the NEW Down Under is one of the coolest (and cleanest) little getaways anywhere in Omaha. Owner John Nosal and his wife took months to renovate (and fumigate) the entire place.

I had never been inside the old Down Under, not for lack of trying but I swear they were never open, so I can't give a detailed account of apparently how nasty this place was just before it closed last year.

Part speakeasy, part retro lounge (with just enough of a dive feel to never feel pretentious) regular readers can take my word that you will love this place immediately...once you get inside.   Don't let the rather drab exterior, or the could-potentially-be-intimidating, 15 or so steps to get to get to the bar (watch the last step) fool you. This is the most laid-back and fun bars on Leavenworth Street.

The Booze: Having a nautical theme, Cutty Sark was a no-brainer.  It seemed good to match that with another old school blended whiskey, The Famous Grouse.  Now, if you weren't there last night...it's kind of hard to write how they tasted.  Stop by the Down Under and give them a try...but get with it...you're already one event behind.

The Down Under

What You Missed: 

  • Zac Triemert of Borgata Brewery & Distillery discussing the differences between single barrel scotch whiskey and blended whiskies.  Zac has a Master's Degree in distilling from Scotland, so when Zac talks whiskey, people listen.  (Video of that discussion will be out over the weekend).
  • MelderJerry Jam:  Omaha's number one lounge act was taking requests and playing any song you can you could name.  When you need one the best lounge duos in town...call Mel and Jerry...you won't regret it!
  • Free samples.  Yes...just show up to any of the remaining four events and you're getting some outstanding free booze and a little education on each featured product. 
Don't miss tonight's Jim Beam tasting at The Leavenworth Bar starting at 5:30.  What do we have planned for this one? You'll just have to stop by and find out.  See you there! 

Thanks Zac and Phil!

MelderJerry Jam

Hello Ladies

Jim Beam Tasting is Next!


  1. Jim Beam tasting was outstanding! Not enough O's in smooth to describe it! Love the Devils Cut!

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