Archive for the ‘News’ Category
Thursday, January 14th, 2010
By Christopher McCollum
Government officials in North Carolina have decried the actions of local alcohol board administrators for living in a ‘Culture of Entitlement,’ and using public funds for lavish get-aways.
In what could be compared to the halcyon days of Frank Costello and the Teamster Unions, or just plain old government corruption, it has been revealed that the local administrators of the alcohol boards seem to be pocketing enormous sums of money generated from alcohol taxes, and none of it was visible on the State level. North Carolina is the only state in the country in which local ABC boards sell directly to the customers on a local level, and the State Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission has very little authority to exercise over them, since they are appointed and run by the county in which they reside.
In conjunction with governor Bev Perdue, the Control Commission is acting quickly, using their limited powers to reign in the local administrators potential corruption by closing down a law that allowed them to receive modest gifts from liquor companies. This was done in reaction to revelations that liquor companies were footing the bill for extravagant $300 lunches at the Charlotte Ritz Carlton, as well as the bill for a party that included $1,000 of 11 year old Dom Perignon Champagne.
Much of the hype in Raleigh has been attributed to the recent information that a father and son administrator tandem in Wilmington have been drawing over $400,000 a year in salary and bonuses, in addition to using tax payer money to fly to and stay in Arizona resorts that cost $300 a night, while renting a $200 a day luxury car.
Of the $700M worth of liquor sold last year, it generated $259M in taxes that went to state and local governments. $113M went to running the local stores, leaving the rather large sum of $146M to fund the Culture of Entitlement that is said to be enjoyed by these local administrators. Commissioner Chairman Jon Williams had this to say about it: ”Every dollar that comes into the ABC system in this state is a dollar that belongs to the public … the public’s money is not what is left over at the end. It is public the moment it is handed over the counter.”
Time will tell how extensive this use of taxpayer money is, as investigations are pending. Let’s hope that this isn’t a large scale case of alcohol funding corruption.
Saturday, January 9th, 2010
By Micah Hanks
Photo by Sanjay Acharya
At least as far as Californian wines go. In the present Californian wine market, the old standard, 12 % ABV, is out, with most wines from the West Coast raising their alcohol count by a percentage point.
According to experts, this is due to a bolder, richer “fruity” taste that has become the preferred norm. In order to achieve this, the use of sweeter grapes is paramount; hence, more sugars are used as well, leading to production of more alcohol during the fermentation process.
Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
By Christopher McCollum
Fresh news out of Russia indicates that Dmitry Medvedev is at it again, with the Kremlin raising the Vodka tax in Russia by nearly 100% for the New Year, and some people are supposedly rumbling that the Vodka industry will be Nationalized, all in an effort to curb the high alcohol-related death rates that have plagued the nation for the better part of the past century.
Reuters reports that this new effort to combat alcoholism also includes heavy excise duties on Beer, and there are also plans on the table to restrict when and where Beer can be purchased. This new legislation was engineered to come into effect right now, in the midst of Russian Orthodox Holiday celebrations which last the first week and a half of January, and is ridden with rampant alcohol use. The threat to institute duties on Vodka is also being discussed, and there also lies the possibility that Medvedev will follow in Mikhail Gorbachev’s footsteps by ordering cuts in the production of wine and spirits. If that happens, then it’s easy to assume that bootlegging will also pick back up, as it did in 1985 when Gorbachev issued his prohibitive order.
Medvedev has shown a prohibition stance in the past, and we started warning on Culture of Spirits back in October that he was soon going to be taking steps to slow the alcohol industry down in his country. It has finally happened, a few months later, and now we are left to see what the future holds in the Motherland of Vodka.
If Medvedev is determined to follow in Gorbachev’s footsteps, then we will be keeping an eye on the Russian news services, to track the number of deaths related to dirty bathtub Vodka. Additionally, one must wonder where the taxes from these hikes are going to be going, and we can only hope that they go to educating the populace on alcohol consumption and dependence. However, if the Kremlin undergoes a massive new remodeling, let’s see if we can track down where the funding comes from.
Tuesday, January 5th, 2010
Our friends over at the Liquor Snob website have recently been lamenting the shortage of Angostura bitters, the popular brand of herbally-infused flavor supplement, which so many of us favor in our drinks. Below, we’ve quoted the words as they exit the horse’s mouth:
We know there are all kinds of bitters out there to use in our cocktails, but we have to say we’re sort of used to using Angostura. For those who don’t pay attention, Angostura is the bitters you commonly get at your local bar in your cocktails…pretty much all of them. We’ve complained about this before, but we can’t seem to buy them anywhere.
Why the shortage? The official sources we can track down say the plant has closed down temporarily, but we heard a rumor that the employees are on strike. Bitter bitters workers? Say it ain’t so, and just bring us back our Angostura before we have to fly to Trinidad to get ‘em…though that doesn’t sound so bad either with all the snow we’re getting in VT.
Glad to say that, in addition to back-stocking Angostura bitters in our private COS bar, we here at Culture of Spirits have enjoyed receiving samples of other bitters this year, namely those provided by the Urban Moonshine company out of Vermont. Their unique varieties of bitters (which feature a “standard” bitter, as well as maple and citrus flavors), paired with our extensive stockade of the Angostura variety have kept us from losing our proverbial minds, in spite of the “cabin fever” that has beset so many of us here in Appalachia.
Sunday, December 20th, 2009
By Christopher McCollum
“Drunk for a penny,
Dead drunk for two pence,
Clean straw for nothing,”
-Gin Lane, circa 1751
The above quote is attributed to a bar in London during the Gin Madness craze of the 18th century, that took the city by storm to such a degree that the spirit had prohibitive acts passed against it, making it more expensive and difficult to produce.
Today, a report came out in the UK’s Times Online about the falling price of alcohol, and how beer is now cheaper than bottled water, by about 30 pence ($0.48 USD) per liter. The falling prices have resulted in British alcohol awareness groups to decry this marketing tactic, saying that it will cause more alcohol-related deaths due to binge drinking. Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer for England and Wales, earlier this year called for minimum pricing on alcohol, at £6 per six-pack, which would be about $9.75 USD. Donaldson claimed that raising the price by this degree would result in 3,000 fewer alcohol related deaths per year, and 100,000 fewer hospital visits. Gordon Brown and the alcohol industry rejected this price-hike, but knowing England’s past responses to perceived social dangers, I think it’s doubtful that we’ve seen the last of Sir Liam and his ilk.
Saturday, December 19th, 2009
By Christopher McCollum
Two evenings ago, Micah Hanks and myself were spending the evening interviewing brewers, and tasting beer. The following morning, there were 6 inches of snow on the ground. While we had seen the forecast that called for several inches of snow, we figured that, like usual with mountain weather reports, it was grossly over-exaggerated. Little did we know, we would receive what would become known within hours as the worst winter storm of the decade in this part of the country, and we would receive some 11 to 17 inches of snow in Asheville, within a 20 hour period.
As the afternoon went by at my house, one tree came crashing down in the backyard, missing the house by no more than 4 or 5 feet.
This led to a frantic next couple hours, with my roommate and I doing our best to knock snow off the lower branches of trees, trying to keep them from snapping and causing potential damage to the house. These frantic efforts relieved the stress on the trees and they rose back up to the sky, with hundreds of pounds of snow dropping to the ground, down our sleeves, and down the open collars of our coats. But fortunately, our power stayed on, even though thousands around the city were already flickering out.
We stayed inside, ate ham sandwiches and drank some beer, until 11:15pm. Right after the basketball game we were watching ended, the power finally flickered once and died, for the rest of the night. After gathering all the flashlights together, lighting some well placed candles, and watching the eerie scene out the window, of a bright snowscape that breathed beauty.
At around midnight, we finally decided that since we weren’t going to be going to sleep that early, we might as well make some cocktails. So we did it in the style of Culture of Spirits, with cutting boards, oranges, limes, lemons, tequila, bourbon, and vodka.
Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
By Christopher McCollum
No, not a misspelling of one of our favorite cocktails. Instead, the Gin and Titonic is a Gin and Tonic, with Titanic and iceberg shaped cubes. There is a retailer in England which has produced ice molds that churn out frigid replicas of the Titanic and the iceberg that was fated to sink the illustrious liner. While the pictures look quite awesome, it does of course bring up the question of whether or not this is appropriate. When the Titanic sank in April of 1912, it took with it some 1,517 victims, out of the total 2,223 on board. Of the 700 odd survivors, the last one passed away earlier this year, in the month of May. With no direct victims left, is it appropriate for a product of this nature? Obviously, some say no, it is not appropriate under any circumstances, no matter the length of time that has passed. The disrespect that is paid to the victims and the victims’ families is overwhelming, and this is a “sick and distasteful product,” according to one critic.
Perhaps partaking in a beverage that is chilled by Titanic and Icebergs is not disrespecting the tragedy, nor celebrating the event. Perhaps it simply is what it is, which is a beverage that has ice cubes shaped into recognizable forms. While the company, Fred and Friends, readily admits that their product is “humor with an edge,” we have to remember that this is yet another tool, and a tool cannot be good or bad. The way in which it is used determines that.
The product is available online for a pretty low price of $6.99, and if you decide to take a somewhat controversial approach to your cocktails this Holiday season, be aware that there may be some who do not view these ice cubes quite as favorably. Remember, be responsible, and be classy.
Sunday, December 13th, 2009
By Christopher McCollum
Over the years, Red Wine has developed the reputation as being a beverage beneficial to health, whether it be the ability to ward off Heart Disease and high blood pressure, or Cabernet Sauvignon’s specific reputed ability to ward of Alzheimer’s Disease, there have been many clinical studies that have suggested that moderate consumption of Red Wine is good for you. One of the major healthy elements are chemicals called polyphenols, which restrict the dissipation of nitric oxide in the blood stream, which in turn keeps blood pressure low, reduces the risk of strokes, as well as other heart problems. White wine has not shown the same positive properties, and before recently, Champagne was an unknown. British and French scientists have conducted studies that now show Champagne to be just as beneficial as Red Wine, carrying high levels of polyphenols that improve vascular performance and reduce the potential of the aforementioned diseases and conditions.
This is great news for Culture of Spirits, as many of our favorite libations include Champagne as the primary ingredient. In fact, just a couple evenings ago, Black Velvets were the order of the day, as Micah A. Hanks and myself enjoyed the the health benefits of a certain Irish Stout mixed half and half with Champagne. In addition to the Black Velvet, there’s also the Mimosa, which has obvious Vitamin C benefits, and also the Poinsettia, which has additional cranberry benefits of raising good cholesterol (HDL), reducing cancer risk, preventing bladder infections, and a variety of others including but not limited to oral health.
With the imminent dates of Christmas and New Year’s Eve nearly upon us, this is particularly good news, as Champagne becomes the ritualistic celebratory beverage of choice. Now when you raise that flute to the sky and make your toasts, you will also have the warm, bubbly knowledge that you’re lowering your risk of heart disease!
New Zealand Herald
World’s Healthiest Foods
Wednesday, December 9th, 2009
By Micah Hanks
Drink to your health!
It’s true… here is the news most guys out there have been sweating over: Beer, coffee are two beverages that studies link to prostate health among men. Exercise is a third non-liquid ingredient that experts recommend, but before you start sweating over the notion of physical activity, as little as fifteen minutes per-day will show expected results. eFitness Now gives us the scoop:
Studies now show that drinking coffee and beer with a normal exercise routine may be healthy habits for men after all. Men who workout at least 15 minutes a day and drinks more than 6 cups of coffee a day reduces their chances of getting prostate cancer by 19%. The same combination reduces the risk of men developing an aggressive form of prostate cancer by 41%.
Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
By Micah Hanks
EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM GUINNESS
Well, in all honesty, it couldn’t be any further from being Guinness without being from Zeta II Reticuli (or Ireland, perhaps). However, the country that concocted the brew in question does share an affinity for making whisky just like the Irish… what in this world–or in space, for that matter–could we be talking about? Read on, ye guzzlers of galactic grog…