In my mind, Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History by Mark Spivak was going to be stories about iconic cocktails, the Martini, the Sidecar, that sort of thing. In reality it is book about the spirits that go into those cocktails. (The book about the cocktails I suppose would be called Iconic Cocktails.) The tales of how the spirits we all know and love came to be are both surprising and fascinating.
The stories are not what you would expect, and the chapter list is sure to include one of your favorites. Can you guess which type of alcohol goes with each chapter?
Moonshine, Rum-Running, and the Founding of NASCAR
The Golden Goose that Laid the "World's Best Vodka"
Transforming Bitterness into Sex Appeal
How the Humble Juniper Berry Almost Brought Down the British Empire
The LSD of the Nineteenth Century
Behind the Reputation of the Greatest Luxury Drink
The Legacy of a Cuban Exile
How the World Learned to Love Partially Decayed Vegetable Matter
Capturing Flowers in a Bottle
American Whiskey Heads North
Premium Tequila Comes of Age
The Invention of the True American Spirit
One of my favorite stories is of St-Germain. The website includes images of men oh so gently picking the elderflowers and then mounting a bicycle to bring them to the factory for processing. Iconic Spirits hints that may not be entirely true, but the image goes so well with the flavor that I am happy to believe the myth. If you have not yet tried St-Germain, I highly encourage you to seek out a bottle. To me it tastes like Hawaii; flowery, tropical, and sweet. There really is no flavor that comes close. Learning that a spirit that feels like it has been around for decades is actually a new product, with a smart man at the head of the company, appeals to the capitalist in me.
Iconic Spirits is very well researched and leaves you wanting to hang out with each of the people profiled. Peppered with black and white photos, the book also includes color plates of advertising posters. Every chapter includes a number of drink recipes from the era the spirit was invented. History, pretty pictures, great recipes, so much to love.
Leave a comment to this post telling us your favorite spirit before midnight Thursday December 6th. I will do the random number thing and post the winner on Friday. Because I am mailing the book myself, I can only mail to US address. I can't wait to read your comments!