This past weekend I went back to my college haunting grounds for a fellow swimmer’s wedding. Throughout the weekend we consumed several pints of beer. That’s what happens when you attend an Oktoberfest beer tasting then meet up with the groom and groomsmen at a piano bar and the reception is held at a local brewery. However, it was over margaritas and gin & tonics between the ceremony and the reception that I had the greatest time. We were “that” table. The loud table filled with twenty-something’s laughing so hard we almost peed our pants and choked on French Fries. I haven’t laughed that hard in months.
So how about a few facts about our favorite hard alcohols? Again, all quotes are pulled from Tom Standage’s A History of the World in Six Glasses. Since I downloaded the book to my Kindle I am unable to give page numbers.
Liquor in General, i.e. the discovery of distillation
“Drinks provided a durable and compact form of alcohol for transport on board ship and found a range of other uses. These drinks became economic goods of such significance that their taxation and control became matters of great political importance.”
“When knowledge of distillation spread into Christian Europe did distilled spirits become more widely consumed.”
“Distilled drinks proved particularly popular in the cooler climes of northern Europe, where wine was scarce and expensive. By distilling beer, it was possible to make powerful alcoholic drinks with local ingredients for the first time.”
“In Europe, aqua vitae was called “burnt wine,” rendered in German as Branntwein and in English as brandywine, or simply brandy.”
Rum (I really dislike rum), but it can be healthy! Read on
“Rumbullion, a slang word from southern England that means “a brawl or violent commotion,” may have been chosen as the drink’s nickname because that was frequently the outcome when people drank too much of it.”
“The inclusion of lemon or lime juice in grog, made compulsory in 1795, therefore reduced the incidence of scurvy dramatically. And since beer contains no vitamin C, switching from beer to grog made British crews far healthier overall… The Royal Navy’s unique ability to combat scurvy was said by one naval physician to have doubled its performance and contributed directly to Britain’s eventual defeat of the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar in 1805. (It also meant that British sailors became known as “limeys.”)”
“One reason was that many of the settlers were of Scotch-Irish origin and had experience of grain distilling. The supply of molasses, from which rum was made, had also been disrupted during the war. And while grains such as barley, wheat, rye, and corn were difficult to grow near the coast—hence the early colonists’ initial difficulties with making beer—they could be cultivated more easily inland.”
“1791 there were over five thousand pot stills in western Pennsylvania alone, one for every six people.”
Now, who wants a cocktail?