Dizzy Gifts, Part 2: Education

 

Thinking about his next drink.

“Study as if you were going to live forever; live as if you were going to die tomorrow.”–Maria Mitchell, American astronomer

If you’re anything like me, once you become passionate about something, you have a strong desire to learn as much about that something as you can. Some people might call me a nerd. Sure, there is something to be said for artistic intuition and natural talent, and there isn’t a field of study for everything–abstract expressionist painting or a sense of humor, for instance–but when it comes to having a craft, such as writing or making cocktails, well, I come from the school of thought that you can never have too much school for your thoughts (although we should all get outside more and learn from nature, too).

I’ll never forget the time I met Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown a year and a half ago at a Sagatiba tasting at Brandy Library. Spirits and drinks historians whose books include “Shaken Not Stirred: A Celebration of the Martini,” “The Soul of Brasil,” and “Cuba: The Legend of Rum,” the couple travels the world to uncover the secrets behind the history of drinking. They are also the directors of Exposition Universelle des Vins et Spiritueux in Southern France. [In short, they are my idols.] Dave Wondrich, author of “Imbibe! From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash,” also made a similar impression on me last year. These writers have managed to make a living by constantly seeking to quench their thirst for knowledge of drink-making of the past, present, and future.

Most cocktail enthusiasts consider themselves geeks and are in a constant state of study. So if you have a few of those types on your holiday shopping list, why not drop some knowledge on them and give them a gift that will last a lifetime? Here are some suggestions:

The Bartender’s Gin Compendium” by Gaz Regan navigates the world of gin, from its roots as genever to the prominent brands of today.

“The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in American from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet” by Garrett Peck charts the shift in social attitiudes towards drinking since the days of Prohibition and includes lots of facts on how we drink today.

Spirituous Journey: Book One” by Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller is one of the most thoroughly-researched looks at the birth of spirits and the distillation process, from China, to India, to Persia, through Europe and onto the New World.


“Lush Life: Portraits from the Bar” by author/illustrator Jill DeGroff is not only a stunning collection of her caricatures of who’s who in the world of bartending, but the book also includes colorful stories and classic recipes.

Imbibe Magazine is the premiere publication on liquid culture and the art of drinking, and is must-have for anyone in the cocktail industry.

Astor Center’s classes on cocktail-making and spirits history are an excellent resource for cocktailians in NYC. Gift certificates are available to cover the cost of the sessions.

And last but not least, BarSmarts Wired is an online version of the B.A.R. (Beverage Alcohol Resource) program developed by the leading mixologists in the industry. For $45, students receive educational DVDs, a workbook, and a bar tool kit, and earn certification once they pass the class, which takes about four weeks.

D.C. to Celebrate Repeal Day in Style

Repeal Day, December 5th, is a day to celebrate!

Tomorrow is the 76th anniversary of Repeal Day, the day that Prohibition ended in 1933 with the 36th vote from Utah (yes, Utah) to repeal the 18th Amendment. For cocktailians, it’s an actual holiday, a day to raise a glass and toast our freedom to drink  in places other than speakeasies. Many NYC bar industry types are headed to Washington, D.C., where a 2nd Annual Repeal Day Ball is being put on by the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild at PS7. Tickets for the black-tie event start at $100, and guests will get to clink glasses with Dale DeGroff and Portland, Ore., mixologist Jeffrey Morgenthaler.

If you’re going, head down early for author Garrett Peck’s Temperance Tour, which visits all of the Prohibition-related sites in the capital. Garrett knows his stuff–his book, The Prohibition Hangover, is a thoroughly-researched look at how America’s attitude towards drinking has changed from the days of the Anti-Saloon League to today’s $189 billion drinking culture. I sat down with Garrett last month when I was in D.C. for a drink at Bourbon, and we chatted about his writing process.

Garrett got the idea for his book during Christmas of 2003, when he opened a bottle of burgundy to drink with his mother and grandmother. His grandmother, born in 1913, was of a generation that still stigmatized alcohol use, and she refused to have a sip. Meanwhile, Garrett and his mother are both social drinkers and collect wine. This got Garrett thinking about the shift in cultural mores towards acceptance of alcohol following Repeal.

Since all of the alcohol industry lobby groups are in D.C., Garrett was able to interview industry insiders and activists, as well as research historical legal documents. He also traveled across the country, from California wine country to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to craft beer breweries in Pennsylvania and New England, among other boozy locales. Garrett finds that while two-thirds of Americans drink, the debate over how much to drink and at what age to start drinking is still a hot issue. You’ll have to read the book for yourself to hear Garrett’s arguments for lowering the drinking age to 18 to combat binge drinking, and make your own conclusions.

Garrett’s Temperance Tour starts at noon at the Cogswell Temperance Fountain at the Archives/Navy Memorial Metro station on the green/yellow line, and you’ll need a Metro (subway) card. The tour should finish by 3 p.m., so you’ll have plenty of time to get dolled up for the ball that evening, or grab an early drink and start celebrating.

Garrett Peck, author of The Prohibition Hangover, at Bourbon.