Another History of Liquor Lecture


On March 2nd, I will be giving a lecture on the history of liquor at Brookdale Community College for the third time. To my happiness, it has been very well received so far, even calls for a sequel. I try to cover as much as I can. Such an extensive topic can not be condensed into just two hours. We begin with the beer and wine brewed by the ancient Sumerians (they actually worshiped a beer goddess) and Egyptians, before jumping thousands of years ahead to the Whiskey Rebellion. This was a young America’s first domestic insurrection, where hundreds of whiskey and bourbon distillers in Pennsylvania and Kentucky revolted in protest at a new tax being levied against their products. With the nation more than $70 million in debt following the revolution, Alexander Hamilton thought the fastest and least unobtrusive way to make that money back was a tax on liquor. He was only correct on one of those assertions—you can guess which.

We then move to Prohibition before going in-depth on absinthe and how it has been vilified over the years. Literature and propaganda of the time could almost be compared to our modern “War on Drugs” today. I make a direct comparison between marijuana and absinthe, and then engage the audience in discussion and debate over the legality of marijuana vs. alcohol in general—how both are mind-altering substances and only one is legal at the federal level. At the first there were 13 audience members, ranging in age from what appeared to be mid-twenties to sixties and seventies. A class poll over whether or not they felt marijuana should be made legal (at least in New Jersey) rendered a vote of 10-3 in favor.

The class wraps up with a profile of different whiskeys, educating people on “which whiskey is which” and then an overview of the cocktails that are popular now, along with some of my own personal recommendations and recipes. Before the class begins, I go around and ask everyone their absolute favorite drink. I pose the question as if you were going to die tomorrow, what would you drink tonight? The results at the first lecture were six gin and tonics, three vodka martinis, one Jameson black label, one bourbon, one Scotch sour, and one Cabernet. My choice would be a good Scotch.

It is always a fun couple of hours. Many of the stories and focuses of the presentation allowed for humor, especially the “fun facts” I throw in during the lecture at various points; facts such as the Vikings drinking honey mead wine out of the skulls of their conquered victims, it being illegal to serve alcohol to a moose in Alaska, the ancient Romans believed eating fried canary the night after heavy drinking would cure a hangover (they were on the right track), and at any given time there are 50 million people drunk in the world. However, it is unknown how many of them live in Ireland.



  1. This lecture looks really interesting. Would you be interested in presenting at a public library in Middlesex County? I’ve sent you an email requesting further information. Thank you for your great content!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s