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.
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.