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Colonial Spirits: a Toast to Our Drunken History

Posted on by Eric Burke

I bought the book Colonial Spirits knowing nothing about it, or it's author. I saw the title and thought it sounded like a fun read. Until I did a little internet searching, I did not know who Steven Grasse was. I did not know that he used to run an ad agency. I did not know that he is the creative force behind Root, Snap and other delightful sounding drinks that I haven't ever had before. But, I am a history buff, and I am a fan of drinks. These topics often intersect in Colonial American history. So it sounded like a good bet that I would like this one.

But there is a problem. The book takes the idea of "Drunken History" a little too seriously. I like the history. I like the recipes (even if it did say to shake a Sazerac). But the book is loud, brash and feels a bit too likely to scream "'Murica!" at me. It reads a lot like a drunk man is telling you stories in the oh-so-confident way that only a slightly inebriated person can manage.

Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. But, we've all been around drunk people. They can be fun, but then without warning, they can be quite emotional. They can be brash and loud until they become quiet and morose. Sometimes they pick fights and wonder why people are picking on them. In other words, drunk people can be really fun until they are not. My problem with this book is that it was written in the voice of the fun drunk person and I kept waiting for it to turn into the emotional, mean one. I get that this is more about me than the book.

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The book is worth a read, and the cocktails are worth a try. My favorite (and the one pictured in the photo above) was one called the New Amsterdam. It's a take on a Manhattan with Cherry Bounce instead of whiskey and both dry and sweet vermouth to go along with orange bitters. It's sweet but quite delicious. 


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