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Spring Has Sprung! Nature’s Bounty & Its Place in the Cocktail

Spring is in full bloom, and its bounty is enjoyed by everyone and everything living under the sun. Since the dawn of Man, we have harvested, prepared, and enjoyed the many gifts Mother Nature bestows. Naturally, alcohol is one of those many things. Too few appreciate where these spirits come from, however, and too many take them for granted. Luckily, dear reader, I am sharing an array of botanicals, grains, and fruits involved in the spirit-making process, and invite you to learn or refresh what you know about these gifts and their place in your glass.

Fruits and vegetables of all kinds have been used in the mash of history’s favorite beverages, and continue to be used to this day. From vodka to wine to beer, nearly every country on nearly every continent (not too sure about Antarctica) has produced some form of alcoholic beverage from fruiting plant life. Cognac, for instance, is distilled from a white wine from a specific region in France, which was made using… Give you a guess… Grapes. Tequila, likewise, is distilled from blue agave, a succulent native to the arid climate of Mexico. A little interesting fact I like to mention regarding Tequila is that it’s the only liquor that can source its origins within the borders of the North American continent. But I digress – let’s move on to some other liquors.

Plants, herbs and spices also find their way into the distilling process, whether they are the initial mash used to distill the liquor, or the agents used to flavor it. Rum is the distilled product of molasses, which is a by-product of creating processed sugar. Back in the horrid times of widespread slavery, Caribbean slaves discovered they could ferment molasses into alcohol, which led to its subsequent distillation into rum. It didn’t stop there, however; the clear liquid produced was then aged in barrels and enriched with spices and other flavorings to embolden its character. Gin is another example; although the production of gin is very similar to vodka at first, its flavor is made unique by the botanicals and fruit introduced later in the process.

In the past millennium, and even as recent as the past century, alcohol has seen an explosion in use, practice, and consumption. Even today, people are innovating the ways and mean by which liquors are produced. In 100 years, people may be drinking something far different to what we could conceive of today. It might even seem alien to some. It is important to note, however, that while it may evolve into something entirely unique and new, it will still have the same roots, any way you mash it.

~Watson, Fearrington House Restaurant Bartender