Yesterday I infused 6oz of El Scorpion Mezcal with 1/3 cup whole French Roast coffee beans. After 24 hours, I strained the Mezcal – it was a dark, rich chocolate color. Almost a full ounce of it surrendered itself to the beans. I poured half for today (later on today, rather) and half into my oak barrel. I will report back in several days…
The historical influence of money and politics on our favorite spirits … Whiskey edition
Good day, my drinking buddies…
Today I offer some interesting examples of how the powerful combo of Money and Politics have shaped and influenced our current drinking culture. Let’s start with my favorite spirit! Whiskey!
Religious Freedom and the birth of American Whiskey Production
In the late Eighteenth Century, the search for religious freedom led Scottish, Irish, and German immigrants to America. With them, they brought invaluable whisk(e)y making knowledge and skill. We have them to thank for popular American expressions such as Rye whiskey (especially in PN, MD, and VA), Bourbon, and Tennessee Whiskey (which is technically Bourbon). Without their technique and methodology, whiskey production in the U.S. could have been set back for quite some time.
Did you know that *Bourbon was essentially born out rebellion to the Whiskey Excise Tax of 1791? The tax was imposed by the Feds in an attempt to pay debt from the Revolutionary War (1775-83). Farmers who produced whiskey (which most did, back then) were often Revolutionary War vets, and were incensed with the tax (which led to the short lived and unsuccessful Whiskey Rebellion – GW and the militia shut that down, quick!).
Regarding taxing war veterans to pay for the war they just fought in — dang, that’s some serious double dipping, Feds!
However, without the excise tax, whiskey distillers might not have gone deep into the wilderness of what is now KY, IN, and TN (as they were forced to do, making whiskey on this land, which was outside of Federal jurisdiction, to avoid paying the tax). Fortunately, this land was rich in maize. Sure, no doubt this land would have eventually been harvested for liquid sunshine – but the impetus was certainly freedom from the excise tax! (Which was repealed during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, he loved whiskey, too, right?)
*Bourbon, by law, must be at least 51% corn mash bill and must be made in the U.S. of A.
The Civil War
Did you know that alcohol taxes paid for a decent percentage of the Civil War (1861-1865)? In a nutshell, the Union’s revenue and tariff system was much more secure than that of the Confederacy (due in part to the Confederacy’s assets being human capital – you know, like, me!).
The Union had a successful treasury system in place, and the implementation of The Legal Tender Act solidified it further:
“Passed in February 1862, the act authorized the issue of $150 million in Treasury notes, known as Greenbacks.”
“The Internal Revenue Act of 1862, enacted by Congress in July, 1862, soaked up much of the inflationary pressure produced by Greenbacks. It did so because the Act placed excise taxes on just about everything, including sin and luxury items like liquor, tobacco, playing cards, carriages, yachts, billiard tables, and jewelry.”
I love that “sin and luxury” part… sounds like a winner, to me! Hell, I’ll pay for that.
Ultimately, by the early 20th Century, alcohol tax accounted for 30-40% of the Federal Government’s revenue! Income tax, much to my chagrin (and yours, too, I’m sure) soon cometh, as well… And – one of the most fascinating eras in U.S. History was impending – gasp – Temperance and The Prohibition Era.
“I had no idea how important liquor was to the federal government,” says Novick. “It started in the Civil War with the levy on beer and whiskey to help fund the war, and it never really went away. Some 30 percent to 40 percent of the government’s income came from the tax on alcohol. So Prohibitionists realized that the only way they’re going to have a ban was through income tax, which was a progressive cause and was really supposed to distribute wealth and to make things equitable during the robber baron era, where the wealth was being accumulated in a very small segment of the population.”
I purchased a hand held smoker, and it was interesting and exciting to use. Within 30 seconds, I was able to add hickory flavor to my maple n’ rye old fashioned. Yum! More deets later, cuz I have a day job. Will add link to the smoker as well…
Where There’s Smoke …
*Update – I like this contraption. My drink tastes smoky – and that was my intent. The more smoke I added, the smokier the taste… once again – it did what it said it would do… The instructions are clear and easy to execute. It comes with 4 double A batteries that will eventually need replacing, but I like that it’s cordless – which makes it super portable. Finally, one minor ding – the wood chips come in a container that is wider than the surface area of the chamber you put them in… That makes it messy – but I’m sure we can find a way around that. Hell, a zip loc with a hole in the corner would do… Will report back in a few months regarding how well it’s holding up.
I’m excited – yet very anxious and nervous, too… How to choose?! So honored to be trusted to make such a decision. This is gonna be EPIC!
Cocktail photo contest!
During this Summer I will be giving away some gorgeous vintage glassware to some lucky winners! Let’s start with this amazing blendo pitcher and glass set. Tag me in your photos to enter, and please #sipponderrepeat as well. I’m excited to give away a little piece of vintage class and style. Rules:
The photographs will be judged based on 1) composition 2) how tasty the cocktail sounds 3) use of ingredients/proportions and 4) style. The bartender/homebartender are both welcome! 1) Max 4 photos per entrant 2) classic cocktails welcome – but *must* add at least 1 original/unique spin to recipe 3) cocktail *must* be made by entrant 4) photos *must* be taken by entrant
Best of luck! (but y’all got skills, so y’all don’t need it 🙂
Today I want to discuss recipe substitutions. When I first started this home bar endeavor a few years ago, I felt beholden to using the exact ingredients in a given recipe. Not having the perspective or context to decide for myself what subs would work, etc., I followed w/ blind faith.
Now… bump that! Home bars are mad expensive, yo! I have bills to pay and I do love to eat as well as imbibe (typical, right?! 🙂 Although, I know I spend much more on the latter…)
Now that my tastes have developed and I have a more well-rounded understanding of various flavor profiles (e.g. orange based liqueurs, amer/amari, herbal liqueurs, various types of simple…) I feel confident in making due with the bottles I have on deck, and not using strict recipe interpretation as an excuse to go to Schneider’s on Capitol Hill (again!).
I had to ask myself: Could I make a Mai Tai with the spirits I already have now?
I decided I could.
Also, there are multiple Mai Tai variations. If you’re interested in the history of the drink – this is an interesting read about Don the Beachcomber vs Trader Vic and who actually created the drink first.
On to the drink (and pic)! I made a riff on this recipe that consists of light (which I added to make boozier, hence the light color) and dark rum, fresh lime juice, rock candy simple, orgeat, and orange liqueur …
My Bootleg Mai Tai
What is YOUR favorite Mai Tai recipe? Did you make any substitutions? Let me know 🙂
*Cachaca is essentially Brazilian Rum Agricole, rum distilled from sugar cane juice instead of molasses sugarcane byproduct. It is the main ingredient in the Caipirinha (which I spell wrong e’retime!) cocktail, which also includes fresh lime juice and sugar.
I cracked my first coconut. I didn’t maim myself. More on Tiki later – once I further educate myself. Please check out Intstagram #tikiaf – cuz those guys got it covered. Also check out @homebargirl and @ntitz cuz they know Tiki…
1 1/2oz Fresh Pineapple Juice — 1oz Fresh Coconut water — 3/4oz Homemade Orgeat — 3/4oz Rhum Barbancourt — 3/4oz Appleton Estate Special Rum — 1/2oz Cointreau — 1/2oz Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach — 4 dashes El Guapo Whiskey Barrel Aged Spiced Cocoa Tea Bitters — 1 barspoon Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Syrup — SPR
I don’t travel Internationally nearly as much as I’d like. I tell myself I can’t afford it – but that’s not the truth. The truth is – I am gainfully employed and prioritize my funds according to my values, just as every other gainfully employed person does. I enjoy travel, but it also drains me quite a bit. So much getting there, then getting back. What environment will I come back to? The Spartan life is not for me – I need beauty and whimsy e’reday.
Ultimately – I am in love with creating a dynamic environment within my home. This is my world, and it is ever changing – just as I am. Design, photography, cocktail creation, and experimentation are things I value – and my bank account proves that. Damn, my hobbies are expensive af.
I say all of this because while my travel game needs a lot of work – I can still experience parts unknown through drink. I can connect with people from Scandinavia by drinking something they drink – Aquavit. I can connect with people in Scotland – their land is in the Scotch. I can connect with those in Haiti by drinking the rum they painstakingly produce. Ok, enough of my musings, for now…