A History Lesson With Booze ®

A Priest and the ‘Polish Edison’ Battle over the Bulletproof Vest

Learn how a Chicago priest named Casimir Zeglen used silk to invent the modern armor and how the crafty inventor Jan Szczepanik took all the credit.

Mr. Borzykowski shooting at Joseph, assisting in a bullet-proof armor. Photo: Courtesy Slawomir Lotysz/ Ilustracja Polska, vol. 6, 1901/ Public Domain

This week, we’re giving our stalwart voice-of-history Michelle Philippe the week off. Instead, Brendan and Rico chat with journalist David Goldenberg. He wrote a fascinating article about the origins of the bulletproof vest for the online cabinet of curiosities Atlas Obscura. Below you’ll find a cocktail inspired by the unlikely story…

The Father’s Bullet

Photo credit: Elana Lepkowski, stirandstrain.com
Photo credit: Elana Lepkowski, stirandstrain.com

Locked and loaded by Kate Jerome, bartender at The Bedford in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, where Father Zeglen’s former church still stands.


  • 2 ounces Bulleit Rye Whiskey (obviously)
  • 1/2 ounce of Bénédictine (an herbal liqueur made by monks)
  • 1/2 ounce pickled beet juice (to represent the color of sacramental wine and church. It’s also the color if the vest didn’t work…)
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 lemon (for garnish)
  • Dash of orange bitters (to represent the bitterness Father Zeglen might’ve had in his heart after Jan Szczepanik got credit for the vest)

In a cocktail shaker add ice, Bulleit Rye Whiskey, Bénédictine, beet juice, lemon juice and orange bitters. Shake and then strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube. Take three lemon twists, braid them together and wrap the braid around the ice cube like a little vest (or headband?) protecting the cube.



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