Drinking In History


When Bars Were More Than Just Bars

In colonial America, a general lack of infrastructure meant the tavern had to pinch hit in various other social functions, whether of church or state. They sometimes doubled up as courthouses (and even jails) and other times served as local theaters. More

Drinking George Washington's Whiskey

The biggest question on my mind before a recent trip to the Mt. Vernon distillery: "Did George Washington's wooden teeth add a little bit of extra aging to whatever whiskey he drank?" I quickly learned that the wooden teeth thing is a myth. One set of his false teeth was composed of a cow's tooth, one of Washington's own teeth, and hippopotamus ivory, making his mouth a Noah's Ark of dental wizardry. More

The Rise and Fall of America's Beer Gardens

The rise of beer gardens in America coincided with the opulent economic advances of the Gilded Age, and their style reflected that. The gardens built by brewing giants such as Frederick Pabst and Frederick Miller to promote their brands were the exact opposite of the dive bars where their brews are popular today. Schlitz Garden, built in 1879 by the Schlitz brewery in Milwaukee, featured a concert hall, dance pavilion, bowling alley, and a three-story pagoda that provided stunning views of the city. More

Prohibition and Wine's Darkest Hour

When you think of illicit substances that are shipped in brick form, wine probably doesn't come to mind first. And no, boxed wine doesn't count. During Prohibition, however, drinkers got around laws that banned alcohol by dissolving bricks of grape concentrate in water and fermenting them into wine. More

What Are They Drinking on Mad Men?

What are the characters on Mad Men drinking? The short answer: everything, all the time. They also drink so much it's a surprise the alcohol vapors don't explode every time they light up their Lucky Strikes. But the specific drinks that the characters on Mad Men drink show us a period in American history when the drinkscape uniquely reflected the cultural forces that created it. More

How Budweiser Became the King of Beers

Calling Budweiser the "King of Beers" is a good way to get beer geeks to roll their eyes. A lot of beer connoisseurs mainly think of Budweiser as a thin-tasting symbol of corporate hegemony—it's the beer version of a Big Mac. But regardless, Budweiser's success has always been a story of savvy marketing; less known is that it's also a story of ingenuity and invention. More

The Whiskey That Won the Wild West

Despite all the old-fashioned images that adorn today's American whiskey bottles—log cabins, buffalo, and long-dead distillers who look like Civil War generals—most of today's famous brands wouldn't taste very familiar to cowboys from the Wild West. And vice versa: whiskey drinkers today likely wouldn't recognize frontier whiskey. And that's a good thing, because it probably tasted horrible. More

How To Drink Like H.L. Mencken

Any book that's been written about drinking in the last 50 years probably has a quote from H.L. Mencken, the American writer and cultural critic. The "Bard of Baltimore" had so much to say about drinking that ignoring him would be like forgetting to mention Confucius in a book about Chinese philosophy or overlooking Daryl Hall in a book about musical duo Hall & Oates. Yes, he's really that important. His essay "How to Drink Like a Gentleman," is recently back in print as an e-book. More

Maker's Marketing: How Bourbon Came Back Into Style

Maker's Mark became one of the most recognizable names in bourbon by following a path most people would assume could only lead to disaster. Step 1: Create an unknown brand in a crumbling industry. Step 2: Charge a lot for your product. Step 3: Advertise that you charge a lot. Step 4: Fail to make much money for over two decades. It sounds like a strange path for the Samuels family, who started the distillery, but along the way, Maker's helped resurrect bourbon from the dead. More

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