Jason Wilson, the author of Boozehound, recently retired as the spirits columnist for the Washington Post, which is a great loss. But he's still busy in print, contributing to Philly.com and Sommelier Journal, and editing for Table Matters. His new series of digital wine guides, Planet of the Grapes, will be available August 28th.
We caught up with Wilson about his summer drinking habits, how he found his way into booze writing, and what spirits he's excited about now.
What're you drinking these days, Jason Wilson?
This may not be the best week to chime in, because I spend much of August down at the old Jersey Shore, and a lot of my fancy, highbrow drinking habits kind of get thrown by the wayside. For instance, last night at dinner I had a Sierra Nevada Summerfest on tap, with chicken wings, at a bar overlooking the bay at sunset. However, before we walked over to the bar, I'd made very simple, but very delicious daiquiris with Rhum Barbancourt white. Before that, the last time I was at a bar was back in Philadelphia, and I had a syrah-based rosé wine from La Clarine Farm in the Sierra Foothills and also glass of Bierzo. And maybe some other drinks.
What are your summer go-to drinks? What's in your fridge to drink right now?
Right now my favorite beach drinks are simple. But I still travel with the necessities: Campari, rye, bourbon, Angostura bitters, Lillet Blanc, Punt e Mes, maraschino, three types of vermouth, bitters, etc.
What are your favorite affordable spirits—bottles that offer particularly good value?
I usually have Buffalo Trace bourbon ($24), Flor de Caña 7-year-old Grand Reserva rum from Nicaragua ($22), Laird's 7 1/2 year old apple brandy ($27), and Bulleit rye ($25) or Wild Turkey 101 ($25) in my cabinet.
How did you get into the drinks-writing business?
Lots of practice, right? Well, I started out in creative writing school as a fiction writer, and failed at writing a coherent novel anyone wanted to buy. So I decided to be a travel writer, and I tried to write an insane book about Iceland for like a decade, and failed at that. And then I started writing about the drinks I'd tasted while traveling, and then I didn't fail so much. Then the Washington Post offered me a column writing about cocktails. Then I wrote a book about spirits that was heavy on the travel writing. Then I started getting more and more into wine. And now I'm about to release a series of digital wine guides. Very simple path for any young writer to follow, right? Basically, fail at a bunch of things. Then, start drinking. But be sober enough in the morning to write about it.
What spirits are you excited about right now?
I think the rum category is really exciting. Lots of cool stuff going on there. I love the new-ish Rhum Clement 6-year-old rhum agricole, and they recently began importing a rum from Guadelope that's great. And I love a lot of the new gins, especially from St. George Spirits. And apple-based spirits are always close to my heart: Calvados, of course, but this summer I tasted some white apple spirits from Tuthilltown that were interesting, and they say they will be soon be producing apple brandy.
What cocktail trends are you tired of?
All of them? I think the whole craft cocktail scene needs to dial it back a little. And I do like the recent move toward simpler drinks with only a few ingredients. Derek Brown wrote a good piece for TableMatters.com imploring bartenders to please please please stop making up cocktails. I think he possibly said it better than I can here.