Bootleg Paradise

Seeking a monument to Prohibition’s immense impact on American society, the writer finds it in a French colony.

Prohibition ranks among America’s most vivid historic epochs. Yet the era of flappers and jazz is also curiously Oz-like. The drinking ban dominated the American social and cultural conversation between 1920 and 1933. Then one day the country awoke as if from a dream to find all traces of it gone, save for a few bootlegged bottles that washed up at local historical society museums, flotsam on history’s beach. Read more »

The American Spirit

Bourbon whiskey has had a long, rugged ride from the frontier to the top shelf

 

After two hundred years bourbon whiskey appears to be coming into its own. It is one of America’s unique cultural contributions to the world, our native equivalent to single-malt Scotch or Cuban cigars or Russian caviar, but it has never been the object of the esteem and connoisseurship those luxuries enjoy. Its history has to a large extent been one of struggle against moralism, corruption, and capricious popular taste, along with gradual improvement from frontier swill into genuine delicacy. Read more »

“there Is Something About A Martini”

IT’S MORE THAN JUST A POTENT DRINK, AND MORE THAN THE INSPIRATION FOR SOME HANDSOME ANCILLARY EQUIPMENT. IT IS MODERN TIMES, BROUGHT TO YOU IN A BEAUTIFUL CHALICE.

In November 1943, as Allied leaders met in Teheran to plan the defeat of Nazism, Franklin Roosevelt asked Joseph Stalin to join in a toast. Inevitably, at that moment in history, the drink the American President offered was a dry martini. Read more »

The Rise Of American Wine

AFTER TRYING TO PRODUCE DRINKABLE WINE for three hundred years, we finally got the hang of it—so effectively that in the last quarter-century our results have raised the quality of winemaking all over the world

A GENERATION AGO THE United States was little more than an afterthought in the world of wine. America certainly had a long history of grape growing and winemaking, but that history hardly mattered. Nor did the wine itself much matter. Large producers, led by E & J Gallo, made gallons of innocuous jug wine, but only a handful of small, largely unknown American wineries produced anything resembling fine wine from Europe. Then, seemingly overnight, American wine took a huge leap in both quality and prestige.Read more »

Reflections On The Dry Season

The voice down at the other end of the table was edged with irritation. “Damn it, Prohibition was a failure too. You’d think we’d have learned something by now!” Then my friend turned to the dinner party’s in-house historian. “Right, Bernie?”

“Sure” was my quick answer. Like most quick answers, it was too easy. Read more »

Bourbon

In the early years of this century, when an American scholar, James Schouler, could still define history as the record of “consecutive public events,” it would have been inconceivable for the American contribution to the world’s varieties of distilled spirits to be considered a proper subject of academic inquiry.Read more »