Getting to know booze


How much do you know about booze? Can you walk confidently into a liquor store, walk down the aisles and grab the exact thing you want?

Can you go to a bar and know off the top of your head what’s good to order? Better yet, do you try new drinks or do you stick with what you’ve been drinking since the early days of your exploration of inebriation?

If I’m honest, my knowledge of booze is ok, but it definitely could be better. For me, walking into a liquor store can be like walking into a completely different world, where I sometimes don’t know the language. And I’m often overwhelmed by choice. Generally, when I go into the liquor store, I have a vague idea of what I want – red or white wine, maybe a Moscato, Hennessy. But, usually i have no idea and I’ll either get what I’m used to or just pick something with a pretty bottle.

Generally, I find that our (as in the U.S.) education in booze is seriously lacking. It could be due to our brief period of Prohibition and the lingering attitude toward any types of alcohol, and restrictive laws that lead young college students (or younger) to go overboard in exploring their limits in the realms of alcohol – oftentimes that involves Everclear (A drink I never developed a liking for). And I’ve also never understood why all bottles have to be “hidden” in paper bags. I grew up in Germany and as long as you weren’t drunk and causing problems, it was completely fine to carry a bottle openly and drink from it.

So, if you’re looking for an education in booze, you’ll pretty much have to teach yourself. You can also involve your friends and have lots of parties and tastings.

Recently, I’ve decided to start the adventure of expanding my knowledge in the realm of booze (because really, I’m tired of vodka). And it’s started with Boozehound: On the Trail of the rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits by Jason Wilson. The author is a booze columnist (yes, he gets paid to drink and write about it!), and a former professor of mine (so, maybe I’m a little biased).

When reading this book, you’ll be taking on a journey around the world, exploring cognac, whiskey, absinthe, gin, tequila, pisco, aquavit and more (except vodka – Wilson’s quite clear on the fact that it’s overrated and over-saturates the market) and at the same time learn a little about the author’s journey as a booze columnist.


One of the best parts of this book is that each chapter ends with a few drink recipes, so that you can put your new-found knowledge into practice. I will admit that I’ve been slow to start the practice part, but I have added St-Germain (an elderflower liqueur from France) to one of my favorites. And I’m looking forward to expanding my home bar even more. One way to do this is to make each drink listed in Boozehound.

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