Everything old is new again. Sure, our homes and closets have reflected this for years, but our fascination with the past extends beyond that great pea coat we scored on eBay. Whether we're searching for our roots or the value of a favorite antique, it's often the historical narratives that make these investigations truly interesting. Lately, that thirst for the past extends beyond trinkets, treasures and family trees to the bar, where a bevy of yesteryear's beverages have reemerged for our drinking pleasure.
Bitters: This 19th century elixir certainly looks aged with its antiquated label, but for the growing populace of drinkers with refined palates, bitters are an essential ingredient in a growing craft cocktail movement. The rise of mixology and small batch liquor
, as well as the DIY movement, have inspired a turn of the 21st century resurrection of this ancient ingredient...and even a panic
when a pause in production of the popular Angostura
set off a bitters drought in cocktail bars across the US. Riding out the storm, artisanal producers like Fee Brothers
are providing alternatives, while creative cocktail chemists like Bittercube
are imparting their own versions of the stuff, and even staging tasting events highlighting the old school beverage.
Moonshine: When it comes to hooch, most associate it with folks sporting corncob pipes and overalls. Well, the new class of urban moonshiners
tend to be iPhone toting creative class sorts who are perfecting the art of home distillation and bringing some glamour to the historically lowbrow beverage. The practice has become an inventive exercise in kitchen alchemy, with some even turning their boozy pursuits into legit businesses, as did the trio of pals behind Peach Street Distillers
. And while it looks like the white dog has yet to emerge in local bars, we hope the recent surge in DIY spirits will encourage mixologists to start adding it to their custom blends for those of us who are, well, cheap drunks. When it comes to ways to use corn, it's clearly superior to HFCS
Ancient Ales: Humans have been getting tipsy for eons. You can almost taste a bit of trappist monk lore when downing a Chimay
, through which we get a glimpse of what beer was like a century ago. But how did beer taste a couple of millennia ago? Uncorking the Past
author Patrick McGovern decided to find out. The scientific director of UPenn's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has put a career's worth of knowledge into a special Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
line called Ancient Ales
. The collection includes a number of brews, including the chocolate lover's Theobroma (based on chemical analysis of pottery pieces found in Honduras dating back to around 1200 BC) and the honey- and chrysanthemum-infused Chateau Jiahu (culled from preserved pottery jars, found in the small Chinese village of Jiahu, dating back to 9,000 years ago). Sounds like one tasty time capsule to us.