Curiosities from yonder and yore;
a celebration of art, fashion, photography and vintage kitsch from every era.
Weekend Drink History presents; Champagne!
The Romans were the first to plant vineyards in an area of northeast France with the region being cultivated by at least the 5th century, possibly earlier. Wines from the Champagne region were known before medieval times. However, champagne started to become popular when Monks “invented” the drink in the Abbey of Saint Hilaire near Carcassonne in 1531. In France, the first sparkling Champagne was created accidentally; its pressure led it to be called “the devil’s wine” (le vin du diable) as bottles exploded or the cork jolted away. Famed champagne maker Dom Perignon solved this problem by putting a wire collar (muselet) over the cork. Dom Perignon is one of the most famous names in champagne, even today.
Weekend Drink History presents: Brandy!
Brandy, as it is known today, first began to appear in the 12th century and became generally popular in the 14th century. The origins of brandy are clearly tied to the development of distillation. Initially wine was distilled as a preservation method and as a way to make the wine easier for merchants to transport. The intent was to add the water removed by distillation back to the brandy shortly before consumption, but it was discovered that after having been stored in wooden casks, the resulting product had improved over the original distilled spirit. In addition to removing water, the distillation process leads to the formation and decomposition of numerous aroma compounds, fundamentally altering the composition of the distillate from its source. Thus, Brandy was made!
Weekend Drink History presents: Absinthe!
The first clear evidence of absinthe in the modern sense of a distilled spirit containing green anise and fennel, dates to the 18th century. According to popular legend, absinthe began as an all-purpose patent remedy created by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire, a French doctor living in Couvet, Switzerland, around 1792. Ordinaire’s recipe was passed on to the Henriod sisters of Couvet, who sold absinthe as a medicinal elixir. By other accounts, the Henriod sisters may have been making the elixir before Ordinaire’s arrival. In either case, a certain Major Dubied acquired the formula from the sisters and in 1797, with his son Marcellin and son-in-law Henry-Louis Pernod, opened the first absinthe distillery, Dubied Père et Fils, in Couvet. In 1805 they built a second distillery in Pontarlier, France, under the new company name Maison Pernod Fils. Pernod Fils remained one of the most popular brands of absinthe up until the drink was banned in France in 1914.
Weekend Drink History presents: Whiskey!
Between 1100 and 1300, distillation spread in Ireland and Scotland, with monastic distilleries existing in Ireland in the 12th century. Since the islands had few grapes with which to make wine, barley beer was used instead, resulting in the development of whiskey. This crude form of whiskey developed and changed into the Renaissance, but still tasted very raw and brutal compared to today’s versions. Renaissance-era whisky was also very potent and not diluted, and could even be dangerous at times. Over time, and with the happy accident of someone daring to drink from a cask which had been forgotten for several years, whiskey evolved into a much smoother drink.
Weekend Drink History presents: Gin and Tonic!
Gin and Tonic was introduced by the army of the British East India Company in India. Tonic water contains quinine, which was used to prevent malaria. In the 18th century, tonic water contained a large amount of quinine, which caused it to have a very bitter taste. Gin was added to make it more palatable. Tonic water sold today contains only a very small amount of quinine and is consequently much less bitter (and it is sometimes sweetened). The flavor of the quinine complements the green notes of the gin (flavored with juniper), much as dry vermouth complements the gin in a classic martini.
Weekend Drink History presents: Tequila!
Tequila was introduced by Filipinos in Mexico. It was first mass produced in the 16th century near the location of the city of Tequila, which was not officially established until 1656. The Aztec people had previously made a fermented beverage from the agave plant, which they called octli (later, and more popularly called pulque), long before the Spanish arrived in 1521. When the Spanish conquistadors ran out of their own brandy, they began to distill agave to produce North America’s first indigenous distilled spirit
Happy Saturday! Here is some drink history: The Martini!
The first Martini – or Martini-like drink – was poured sometime between 1862 and 1871 and was called a Martinez, a name to honor the humble town of Martinez, California, where it was purportedly first dreamed up by bartender Julio Richelieu, proprietor of the eponymous Julio Richelieu Saloon. That similar (but sweeter) version of the cocktail consisted of sweet vermouth, gin, bitters and was garnished with a maraschino cherry. This version (which was essentially a gin Manhattan) eventually gave way to the more contemporary drier version that includes gin, vermouth and bitters and was supposedly first made popular when John D. Rockefeller started downing them at the turn of the 20th century.