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 (Which was repealed during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, he loved whiskey, too, right?)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.
Random note – this project fuels me and keeps me going.
Please do yourself a favor and check out Death & Company’s cocktail book. I bought my book from the actual bar – took a special day trip to NYC on that rickety ass China bus (seriously, doe – I love you, China bus) just to visit – that’s how strongly I feel about it!
I tasted another patron’s drink “Too Old to Die Young” I believe it was called – and it had peanut butter infused rum.
So, in honor of that amazing evening I had at D&C – I offer you this…
Shake with ice for ca. 30sec (if you can stand it) strain into a Coupe glass and garnish with fresh cherries. So good!!!
For the peanut butter infusion – mix half a teaspoon of peanut butter with 3oz of rum, until rum turns opaque and peanut butter is dissolved. Strain. I will do a special post just for the Orgeat soon… SPR
Hey y’all – I’m back! I finally made my first Bloody Mary. Purchasing the deliciously kitschy Benny’s Original Meat Straws certainly factored in this decision! And, well, alcohol.
I will be frank – unfortunately – these meat straws did not work for me. Unless, their function is not to suck liquid through, but to just look cool and interesting…
First, I thought maybe the finely grated horseradish I purchased was not so finely grated, after all… So, I tried the straw on the reminder of the fresh tomato juice I just pressed. Suck, suck, suuuuuuck….. nothing but a lungful of disappointment.
I cut the straw in half and saw that it wasn’t completely hollowed out. Ok, things like this happen, no biggie… I try another straw out of the pack of six, this one had what looked like a large enough hole (on both ends). Once again, I looked like a schmuck sucking on this hunk of meat, hoping and anticipating a quick burst of spicy tomato goodness and coming up with nothin’ but net.
Anyway, if someone has a different experience with these meat straws – drop me a line. They are tasty and look cool, so I am not sorry I got them. They can also be used a stirrers…