Colonial Spirits by Steven Grasse

Cover of Colonial Spirits by Steven Grasse

“On a scale from Grandma Moses on one end and the filthiest pirate on the other, our early American drinkers most often fell somewhere closest to say, Charlie Sheen in a three-cornered hat.”

Since there has been an America, there has been a tavern and a desire to drink. In Colonial Spirits, Steven Grasse prevents a manifesto to colonial era drinking. Whether it be from necessity because of unclean water or socially to plan a revolution, drinking in the United States has a rather esteemed history. This book provides a timeline of all the colonial favorites ranging from beer and rum, to cider and bourbon with adages by the founding father. Also included is expert DIY advice to get your home brewing adventure started.

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin wrote the Drinkers’ Dictionary, which is a testament not only to liquor, but to language itself? Neither did I, but it includes an A-Z reference guide of phrases to describe being drunk. Which is obviously something that everyone needs and clearly needs to be brought back into use. This was just one of the things that this book gave me that I didn’t know that I needed.

This book covers a wide arrange of alcoholic topics ranging from beer, cider, wine and rum to liqueurs, cordials, and medicinal beverages. It even talks a little about the British gin craze, which never really hit the United States. It has fun illustrations on almost every page and several recipes at the end of each chapter. It is also excellent for those who want to pick up a few extra trivia bits: such as how many bottles of wine Thomas Jefferson collected.

This book is quite easy to read, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it was compulsively readable. I would read about one chapter a day and feel like it was enough. Some of the histories and subjects I found more interesting than others, for example I personally really enjoyed the Bourbon chapter. That is probably because I enjoy a good Bourbon quite a bit.

As I was reading this in lock-down in a foreign country I didn’t have a chance to try out any of the recipes, but I did earmark a few to try out later, such as a cherry bounce. This book contains numerous recipes and there is bound to be something interesting and unique for even the most experienced palate to try. It ranges from more common recipes that are still found in bars across the country to things that haven’t been served in public since the 1800s. I can’t wait to try some of them out when I get home. It even has “temperance drinks” for those of you who do not partake in much alcohol.

Overall, I would recommend this for people looking for unique recipes, who enjoy micro-histories, who are interested in history, are overall American, or interested in alcohol. I think that covers quite a few people of the world population. If you have read this and enjoyed it, perhaps may I also recommend: The History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage.

Have you read Colonial Spirits? What did you think? Do you have any similar books to recommend? Let me know down below!

Cover of Colonial Spirits by Steven Grasse

Important Bits:
Length: 224 pages
Published: September 13th 2016 by Harry N. Abrams
Awards: None.
Also by:
The Good Reverend’s Guide to Infused Spirits: Alchemical Cocktails, Healing Elixirs, and Cleansing Solutions for the Home and Bar (2019)

Book Depository:

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