Archive for the ‘History’ Category
Thursday, October 1st, 2009
The Scottish Brewery BrewDog underwent major criticism from health advocates and alcohol awareness groups this past summer, as they unveiled their new beer, Tokyo*. Tokyo* is Britain’s highest alcohol content beer, at 18.2%, and they were slammed for being irresponsible, by providing a beer with that high of an alcohol content, in a society that is already troubled by alcoholism.
In response to this criticism, BrewDog is launching their newest beer, naming it ‘Nanny State,’ with an ABV of 1.1%. They are very pleased with the production of the drink, which by British law, does not have a high enough alcohol content to even be called beer. They claim that it has more hops per barrel than any other British beer, and they are all hand picked by the brewers as their personal favorites. Richard McLelland, BrewDog’s sales director, had this to say: ”It is an extraordinary little ale, jammed full of all the brewer’s favourite hops, giving it as much body and mouth feel as possible, ensuring that low strength does not translate into reduced flavour.”
Wednesday, September 30th, 2009
Recently, my good friend Miguel who posts frequently at the Daily Grail blog shared this unique story about the ancient Egyptian sun-god Ra, and how in a strange Frankenstein-like “I’ve created a monster” scenario, he brewed a batch of red beer to calm a furious deity of his own making:
“It’s interesting that just yesterday I was finishing one of Darklore III’s essays, in which Robert Schoch tells one legend concerning Hathor, an Egyptian goddess sent to Earth by the sun god Ra to punish mankind for not paying him enough respect; she enjoys her slaying job so much that Ra then fears she will end up killing all of mankind; so he decides to prepare a red-colored ale and leave it in a field where Hathor would pass nearby. Mistaking the beer for blood Hathor drinks it and gets so drunk that she stops killing men; thus mankind was saved by beer!”
An interesting legend that, as is often the case, illustrates how ancient societies seemed to liken beer and spirits to being next to godliness. Strange that so many religions now look down on alcohol use, particularly here in parts of the US. A surprising fact: The pilgrims that landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts actually carried more beer with them than water, since beer spoiled less easily, and could be carried along with them on their voyage across the Atlantic.
Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
It’s late summer, and in spite of the tropical environment here on the Isle of Palms in sunny South Carolina, Daiquiris have begun to finally lose a bit of their zest. I’ve spent the last several days indulging in the semi-sweet citrus concoctions, mixed with a healthy diet of jogging twice a day on the Atlantic shoreline, swimming during the hotter parts of the day. Leading such an unaffected lifestyle, cool cocktails comprise the later portions of most weekdays; thus, in a mild state of desperation, I decided to try and spice-up my beverages before fall arrived (and without having to resort to purchasing spiced rum). An attempt to do so led me to an almost forgotten aspect of mixology in my own extensive repertoire, resulting in both a tasty–and semi-historically accurate–mixed drink capable of ending most any business day with a light (sweet) kick: the Cuba Libre.
According to fairly recent legend, “¡Por Cuba Libre!” was the battle cry of the Cuba Liberation Army during the war of independence, which ended in 1878. An infamous collision involving the United States and Spain, the Spanish-American War, upon ending, provided a window by which Teddy Roosevelt and his “Rough Riders” could land for a brief excursion in Cuba. Most proponents of Daiquiri and Rum-and Cokes cite that one hot afternoon, a group of off-duty soldiers from the U.S. Signal Corps met in a bar in Old Havana. A young messenger by the name of Fausto Rodriguez would later recall how a captain came in and ordered Bacardi Gold blended with Coca-Cola (keep in mind, this soft drink wasn’t introduced to Cuba until 1900) on ice with a wedge of lime. The captain was said to have “drank the concoction with such pleasure that it sparked the interest of the soldiers around him.” Thus, the onlookers urged the bartender to mix a round of the captain’s new-found pleasure for them, too. “The Bacardi rum and Coke was an instant hit,” states the Bacardi website, and in honor of their recent battle cry, “¡Por Cuba Libre!”, the beverage was named thusly.
Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
The Kennedys have often been referred to over the years as American Royalty, their kingdom square in one of the oldest European Colonized regions in the United States. The Kennedys first arrived in 1849, and produced their first politician in Patrick, who served several terms in the Massachusetts House and Senate. Patrick was the Patriarch of arguably one of the most Cultured families in the country, and would be the grandfather to arguably one of the most popular presidents in American history, John F. Kennedy, whose love for the Daiquiri has already been documented in ‘Spirits of the Oval Office,’ back in early August.
Middle; Joseph Kennedy, Right; John F. Kennedy
Even though JFK is the most famous of Patrick’s descendants, it is actually his firstborn child, Joseph, who might have the more interesting connection with alcohol. Joseph Patrick Kennedy was for all intents and purposes, the primary creator of the family fortune, utilizing business practices that would later become illegal, such as the stock-pool, in which groups of investors would work to inflate the value of a stock and then dump it before it crashed. He was also involved in real estate, merchandising, commodities, and import/export. It was these industries that he used to build the Kennedy fortune, but over the past several decades, many rumors have circulated that there was a slightly more illegal practice that he had engaged in during the 1920′s: Bootlegging.
Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
That’s right, Big Brother. Alcoholic indulgence is still a prolific issue in England, and now British doctors are calling for the removal of alcoholic advertisements from television. Sadly, in all likelihood this would do little to ebb the flow of spirits down young people’s throats.
“The move was necessary to challenge Britain’s dangerous drinking culture,” Associated Press reports said Tuesday. In a recent report, The British Medical Association makes the assertion that “a rapid increase in alcohol consumption among young Britons in recent years was being underpinned by ‘clever alcohol advertising’,” as well as the fact that a prohibition on alcohol-related publicity was needed to help turn the situation around.
Although the idea here is only to prohibit the appearance of advertisements (for now), red flags shoot up any time I see the “P word”. Removal of a company’s right to promote their product is a step in the right direction toward ultimately turning Britain into a dry country, although to jump to such conclusions at present may be a bit far off base. Nonetheless, when looking back at the history of Prohibition of alcohol in the United States, we are given some indications of ways that, socially, problems could get far worse if England ever does decide to tighten it’s grip on alcohol consumption.
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009
Down along the Texas Gulf Coast, there is a sprawling, cosmopolitan metropolis known as Houston. Within the downtown district of the 600 square mile city, there is a tire store that has been converted into a bar, that now bears the name Anvil. I have never been to this particular bar, yet I read a very interesting article in the Houston Press yesterday that put this place in one of the top 10 bars in the country that I would like to visit. The staff at Anvil have put together a list of 100 essential beverages(most of them cocktails by definition) that they feel everyone should try at least once in their lifetime. I have tried many of these libations already, but there are numerous of which I’ve never even heard of. Anvil has issued out a card with the full list on the front and back, and every time a customer has partaken in one of these beverages, they cross it off his/her list. Even though I am unable to do this at Anvil, as I do live quite some distance from Houston, I CAN do it myself, and look to do so over a long period of time. For now, let’s look at some of the more interesting concoctions on this list, and some of the ones that I have already experienced.
Monday, August 31st, 2009
The Gin and Tonic is one of the most popular drinks in England, if not the world. According to The Free Library, as of 2008, about 11,379,000 cases of gin were sold by the major manufacturers. That equates to 26,171,700 gallons. This, of course, is not counting smaller bottles or bigger bottles. The case size in question is 9 liters. Imagine that… A gallon of gin for every man, woman, and child in the combined populations of Greece and Holland (well, technically, the gin would fall about a million gallons short. But who’s counting when we get to numbers that high?). According to the same source, roughly 80% of that gin is estimated to be consumed with tonic water, making that famous cocktail. That is about 20,937,360 gallons of gin that is going into gin and tonics around the world. Granted, this is a very small number when compared to vodka, where the Russian consumption alone is between 2 and 4 BILLION liters per year, or 1.05 billion gallons at the high estimate.
Monday, August 31st, 2009
After writing the Spirits of the Oval Office article, I realized that I had so much fun doing the research for it, that I wanted to continue writing a series of articles based on that topic. After a couple of weeks stewing on it, trying to figure out where exactly to go with it, I now present to you, the Sophisticated Elite, the next installment: Spirits of the British Empire, which will give us some insight into the drink preferences of some of the most influential and renowned political figures, past and present, of our cousins across the pond.
This list will start with the Queen Mum, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who lived from 1900 to 2002. She was the Queen of England during World War II, and Hitler once described her as being the most dangerous woman in Europe. Always a popular figure in Great Britain, she was well known for her love of gin. Her cocktail of choice was Gin and Dubonnet (according to sources, mixed 3:1, Dubonnet). Dubonnet is a French aperitif, otherwise known as an appetite stimulant. It is a combination of fermented wine, spices, and quinine.
Following in her mother’s footsteps, Queen Elizabeth II, who has been occupying the throne since 1952, is also a lover of gin. Her cocktail is a Gordon’s gin and tonic, with three slices of lemon. This takes me back to the second article that I wrote, ‘Hold The Lime,’ in which I argued in favor of substituting lemon for lime in vodka tonics. The present Queen of England opts not for the traditional garnish of a lime wedge, and instead goes heavy with three lemon wedges. It sounds delicious.
Sunday, August 2nd, 2009
President Obama has garnered a lot of attention lately with the so-called ‘Beer Summit’ at the White House, between himself, Harvard professor Henry Gates Jr., and sergeant James Crowley of the Cambridge, Mass. Police Department. The story between these three is well documented by every major news outlet in the country, so rehashing it here seems redundant to me. My interest in this stems from the President using beer as the medium to sort out their differences, and that has caused me to do some research into other spirits of the Oval Office. What have been the preferred beverages of some of our notable Commanders in Chief?
George Washington (1789-1797) was regarded as the most successful whiskey producer in the country after his tenure of President was over. His Mount Vernon distillery produced 11,000 gallons of Rye Whiskey per year, but within a decade of his death, it fell into disrepair. Washington was also known to have dined and drank whiskey at Charleston, South Carolina’s famous McCrady’s Tavern in 1791, during his Southern Tour.
Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) is regarded today as one of the healthiest early American presidents, and also the foremost wine connoisseur to have ever held office. According to a letter to an inquiring doctor in 1819, he would drink 3 to 4 glasses of wine at dinner, but never a drop otherwise. He wrote that he did not drink ardent wines or spirits, and he would also water down his wine so as to weaken its effect on him.
Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) was born into a bourbon family; His father was a distillery hand at the site that Knob Creek bourbon is named after today (in a distillery that was owned by one of Daniel Boone‘s relatives, no less!). Reaching adult hood, he applied for and received a license to sell alcohol in Illinois, and went on to operate numerous taverns. Despite the taverns and a grocery store that sold primarily whiskey, his personal stance on alcohol was one of educated, responsible drinking in moderation. As for his personal tastes, it’s hard to figure out because he spent a good portion of his political career appeasing the Temperance group, which eventually evolved into the Prohibition group.
Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
Recent legislation has introduced tough new anti-smoking laws in the U.S., which now give the federal government sweeping power over how cigarettes are made, packaged, and sold. Recently, President Barack Obama commented that, “Along with legislation to protect credit card owners from unfair rate hikes, homeowners from mortgage fraud and abuse, and taxpayers from wasteful defense spending, this kids tobacco bill would be the fourth piece of bipartisan legislation that I’ve signed into law over the last month that protects the American consumer and changes the way Washington works and who Washington works for.”
Cigarettes displayed for sale
“It will force these companies to more clearly and publicly acknowledge the harmful and deadly effects of the products they sell,” said the president, “and it will allow the scientists at the Food and Drug Administration to take other common sense steps to reduce the harmful effects of smoking.” The intention here, I believe, is honest and good. Also, I think that we members of the cultured alcohol elite would all agree that keeping potentially harmful products like cigarettes away from minors, much like preventing underage drinking, is of great merit without question. Still, the notion that the tobacco industry is being handed over to the FDA to be regulated doesn’t sit well, since it evokes the beginnings of something we already know is inherently flawed: Prohibition.