To begin with, we’re predisposed to like any book that supports our belief that civilization and fermentation go hand in hand. Give us a book called “Alcolholica Esoterica: A Collection of Useful and Useless Information as it Relates to the History and Consumption of All Manner of Booze”, and we’re in Happy Hour Guys Heaven. Ian Lendler has done a remarkable job of distilling some of history’s most amusing and interesting pieces of trivia in one easy to use, 264 page volume.
Every bottle in the liquor cabinet has a chapter devoted to it, as well as chapters that take the reader through mankind’s history from a yeast’s-eye perspective. How did the monks begin to brew? What were the after effects of Prohibition? Why did absinthe get such a bad rap? Does Mexico really have a Ministry of Tequila? (Yes.) Also included is a series on some of the most notorious imbibers ever, called Mount Lushmore. Humphrey Bogart, Dorothy Parker, Winston Churchill and others are all included in the dubious category.
Information is doled out in easily digestible nuggets, so the book moves quickly. Did you know that “bar” is short for “barrier”, as in keep away from the booze? That Winston Churchill’s mother invented the Manhattan cocktail? That the Jell-o shot has a pedigree stretching back to the mid-19th century? That Johnny Appleseed was planting trees so folks could make hard cider? All these and so many more are contained in this completely delightful addition to anyone’s library.
Don’t worry that the book takes itself too seriously, either. The first chapter is a warning on the possibility of releasing your inner Cliff Claven if you don’t proceed with caution. On the bright side, you’re sure to win a barroom bet or three when armed with the trivia provided. Rather than try to “review” this book, we simply call your attention to it. The joy is in the reading.
Whether you’re a historian with a sense of humor, a comic with a sense of history, or someone who’s just plain curious, this book will quench you thirst for knowledge. (Sorry, had to.)
And most large bookstores.