Much like a good country song, a good whiskey is smooth on the way down, with just a little burn. These country songs about whiskey all have that little somethin' to let you know they're there.
Given country stars' propensity for a good glass of whiskey, this list is far (far) from comprehensive. If we're keeping with the drinking metaphors, you don't need to hear every country song about whiskey in the same way you don't need to drink an entire bottle of it— hello, hangover. Our favorite whiskey-related songs span from country classics ("Tennessee Whiskey") to new tracks ("Whiskey Glasses"), hangover odes to heartbreaking ballads. In fact, one of country music's all-time saddest songs is a whiskey song. Read on to hear 'em all.
"Whiskey's Gone" shows off all of the things that Zac Brown Band do so well: The band's harmonies are, as always, on point, and both Brown's vocals and the melody whip to a fevered pitch as the song's narrator plants himself at a bar and tries to drink his way out of a breakup. "Kentucky, Tennessee, you better find whiskey / Not leaving it's a fact," Brown spits at rapid-fire speed. "Red nose, red face, gonna wreck the whole place ... Lord it's a hard thing to overcome to wake up and find the / Whiskey's gone."
Sometimes, even a stiff drink isn't enough to ease the pain of a breakup. In "Drowns the Whiskey," Aldean and Lambert are trying to forget: "Whiskey's s'posed to drown the mem'ry," they point out. "And the thing that really gets me / Is how your mem'ry drowns the whiskey." The heartache is palpable in the harmonies on this song, from Aldean's 2018 album Rearview Town.
Keith and songwriting partner Scotty Emerick's ode to the whiskey-sippin' women of the world, "Whiskey Girl" is a No. 1 single from Keith's 2003 album Shock'n Y'all. Lovey-dovey cliches? Sweet margaritas or champagne? Not for this "ragged-on-the-edges girl."
"She ain't into wine and roses / Beer just makes her turn up her nose," Keith sings. "She needs / Somethin' with a little more edge and a little more plain / She's my little whiskey girl."
"If My Name Was Whiskey" is a powerful track about loving someone with a drinking problem: "If my name was whiskey," she sings, "Maybe right now you'd miss me." The song — from Pearce's debut album, 2017's Every Little Thing — doesn't clarify whether or not the couple in question is still together, instead choosing to make a point about never settling for someone who doesn't put you first.
It's one of the Red Headed Stranger's signature songs — he opens every show with it — but "Whiskey River" isn't a Nelson original. Co-writer Johnny Bush, who penned the song with Paul Stroud, originally recorded "Whiskey River" for his 1972 album of the same name, then re-recorded it in 1981. Nelson, meanwhile, put the song on his 1973 album Shotgun Willie. Both Bush's and Nelson's versions became Top 20 country hits.
In 1991, Tritt and Stuart teamed up for this drinker's lament, now a '90s country classic. "I need one good honky-tonk angel / To turn my life around," the two sing. "A woman warm and willin', that's what I'm lookin' for / 'Cause the whiskey ain't workin' anymore." Co-written by Stuart and Ronnie Scafie, and released as a single from Tritt's It's All About to Change album, "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'" hit No. 2 on the country charts.
Written by Dean Dillon and Linda Hargove, "Tennessee Whiskey" is an often-covered track most recently made famous by Stapleton. Before the bearded country star's smooth-as-Tennessee-whiskey vocals made a whole new generation of country fans fall in love with this song, however, it was a No. 2 hit for George Jones in the mid-1980s. A couple years earlier, David Allan Coe made the song the title track of his 1981 album.
The subject of Jana Kramer's "Whiskey" has many a nickname, but it's her who's uncovered his identity in a romantic relationship. "Shoulda just called it like I saw it / Shoulda just called for help and ran like hell that day," she sings in the chorus. "I shoulda just called him whiskey." Sure, love is great when you're in it -- but man, that hangover's pure hell.
The title track of Williams Jr.'s 1979, "Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound" name-drops songs by the singer's father, the late Hank Williams, concluding, "Old Hank's songs / Always make me feel low down." You see, Williams Jr. "love[s] to get drunk / And hear country sounds" -- but the minute you put on "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" or "Your Cheatin' Heart," it's all over for him.
"I'll get all balled up inside," he sings, "And I'll get whiskey bent and hell bound."
Easily the saddest song on this list -- and one of the saddest country songs ever -- "Whiskey Lullaby" tells the story of two ex-lovers who both meet the same fate: She ends the relationship. He drinks himself to death, leaving behind "a note that said, 'I'll love her 'til I die.'" She blames herself and does the same, and is found "face down in the pillow / Clinging to his picture for dear life."
If there's any solace to be found in this song, it's that the two are reunited in death: "We laid her next to him beneath the willow / While the angels sang a whiskey lullaby."
Jack Daniels is a fickle friend, that's for sure, and Church finds out just how much he can hurt you in this song from his breakthrough album, Chief. "I hung in pretty good for a round or two," Church notes, "But he don't fight fair like daddy taught me to" -- and when good ol' Jack's teamed up with "the memory of her taillights fading," there's no beating him.
"They say every Superman has got his kryptonite," Church muses. "Yeah, Jack kicked my ass again last night."
Sure, the person doing the drunk dialing is responsible — but in their single "Hey Whiskey," Smithfield take on the other responsible party: the whiskey. "Why you gotta make him miss me? / Why's he only call me up when he throws you down?" the duo questioningly harmonizes, before also taking on whiskey's good friend, bourbon.
Wallen's "Whiskey Glasses" covers familiar country music territory — drinking to mask the pain of a breakup — but it does so with clever wordplay and a catchy-as-heck hook. "Poor me," he starts out. "Pour me another drink."
In the chorus, Wallen adds, "I'mma need some whiskey glasses / 'Cause I don't wanna see the truth ... If I'mma be single / I'mma need a double shot of that heartbreak proof." And the wordplay continues throughout the song: "Last call / I swear this will be my last call / I ain't drunk-dialing no more at 3AM / Mr. Bartender, hit me again."
Know that feeling when you go from a passionate, fiery relationship to a smooth, comfortable one? You know the former's no good — but there's still something to be said for it. In "Whiskey to Wine," Brooks and Yearwood sing the tale of a couple that's split up and found good, solid love, and yet ...
"It's just not the same high / I miss the fire / The burning desire," they sing in the chorus. "We're no good together / But it's sure as hell better / Than going forever / From whiskey to wine."
Make no mistake: Swindell is doing some post-breakup drinking in "Ain't Worth the Whiskey," but not to mask a broken heart. A good country song, "another long work week gone," the company of a good old friend? All cheers-worthy situations, "but don't think for a second I'm out to drown your memory," he cautions. "Baby, you ain't worth the whiskey."
"Ain't Worth the Whiskey," Swindell's third single, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. It was his second consecutive No. 1 song on that chart.
An Emory Gordy Jr. / Jim Rushing co-write, "Cheap Whiskey" is dark. The story song finds a man "all alone in his easy chair ... embracing reality" — specifically, that a woman he loved left him because he loved alcohol more. "Since the hour that she left, he's been sober," McBride sings, but the damage was already done.
"Now the things that will haunt him / Until the day that he dies," goes the chorus, "Is the smell of cheap whiskey / And the sound of goodbye."