HBD America: 10 PUNCH Stories All About You

In honor of America, and the many booze-filled taverns and drunken brawls that birthed it, we've rounded up some of our favorite stories concerning its drinks and drinking culture. Happy birthday to you, USA. Thanks for all the drinks.

red white blue booze cocktail
  • 1

    The Rebirth of Truly Local American Craft Whiskey

    Straggling along behind a tour group at Hillrock Estate Distillery in Upstate New York, I couldn’t help but linger in the malt house. Sunlight streamed in through the broad glass panes releasing an earthy scent from the grains raked across the floor like a giant sandbox. I squatted at the edge of the floor, and scooped up a small handful of warm barley. Surreptitiously, I popped a few grains into my mouth, before letting the rest run through my fingers back onto the malting floor. Until recently, this was an experience few Americans might have so close to home. But a growing number of U.S. craft distillers are ...

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  • 2

    The Wines of Wall Street

    Ninety-hour workweeks, huge fortunes in the balance, cutthroat competition: it’s no wonder Wall Street drinks. The lap of global wealth and economic power, densely concentrated at the lower tip of Manhattan, has always had a relationship with the bottle, dating back to 1860s when cocktail legend Jerry Thomas operated a saloon there and nearby bars created a jigger tailor-made for bankers who wanted to pop in and out for a light nip. These days, the archetypal vodka-guzzling, coke-snorting Master of the Universe, mythologized in films like The Wolf of Wall Street and American Psycho, is a familiar one. But with ...

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  • 3

    The South's Last True Juke Joint

    By the time we arrived at legendary juke joint Po'Monkey's—past endless stretches of flat-as-a-flitter farmland and cheerily named bodies of water like the Sunflower River—the journey up the misty Mississippi Delta from New Orleans had already been filled with enough bluesy good fortune to make the trip feel sanctified. Over the course of an afternoon, our band poured out an offering of Old Fitzgerald at the grave(s) of Delta blues hero Robert Johnson (who reportedly favored the whiskey), heard an impromptu concert from the legendary Jimmy “Duck” Holmes at the cinder block-walled Blue Front Café while swilling beer ...

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  • 4

    40 Ounces to Freedom

    In the summer of 1992, exactly one year after I moved to Hartford, CT with my American mother, I returned to my hometown of Melbourne, Australia to visit my father and friends. In the year I'd been gone I had changed immeasurably—or so I imagined. I scoffed at my Australian friends as they danced in exaggerated sexual gyrations to Prince. None of them had even had sex yet! I rolled my eyes as they sang along to Public Enemy. They didn't even know any black people! I was so much more worldly, so much badder/bolder/better. I was 16 and insufferable. Is there any other way to be 16? But the complaint I made the ...

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  • 5

    The Rise of the American "Somm"

    For good or ill, we are living in the era of the transition from the sommelier to the “somm.” Whereas a previous generation of quiet professionals confined themselves to their fine dining restaurants, now the American sommelier is ubiquitous. On the covers of wine magazines, in documentary films and across social media it is the sommelier that has become the public face of wine. Even the trade press is not immune. No sooner had Sommelier Journal suspended operations in October this year than the press releases were flying out to announce its acquisition and rebranding. The name, re-crafted in the hopes of ...

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  • 6

    Drinking Through Disney World

    I have never been a “Disney person.” As a kid, I was legitimately terrified by Mickey Mouse. I never chose a favorite princess or Disney theme song. And during my lone trip to Disney World when I was four, I broke out in a debilitating rash and had to be carried around by my long-suffering father. Thus my relationship with the magical creations of Walt Disney has been acrimonious at best, and maybe even a little cursed. But last fall, my 20-plus years of Disney ambivalence came to stare me directly in the face when my best friend—a true lover of all things Magic Kingdom—was proposed to in front of the Cinderella ...

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  • 7

    The Speakeasy Comes to Suburbia

    Sprawl. It’s the term we use to describe what happens when people migrate away from the cities and into the suburbs. Sprawl is what begat bedroom communities, commuter rails and the anti-culture of parts of Long Island and New Jersey. Sprawl is why I grew up in the Garden State, even though both of my parents were born in Queens. But human beings are not the only things subject to sprawl. Cultural trends tend to form in the cities too, saturating the market before dribbling out to the rest of the country. Forgive the reference, but there’s a scene in The Devil Wears Prada in which a fashion editrix does a tidy job ...

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  • 8

    The Siren Song of the Jell-O Shot

    My first experience with a Jell-O shot was, I believe, fairly typical: My body rebelled. It was the early days of college, and the roller-coaster ride of cheap booze and bad decisions lay mainly in front of me, that first big drop still a few months away. So, when confronted with a solidified spirit, a cocktail gained physical manifestation, my systems froze up, unable to process the information being presented to them. Was it dessert, or drinking? Why did it feel like one thing, but taste like another? It was my first mouthful of a cultural force. Jell-O shots are edible synesthesia, a conflicting set of signals ...

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  • 9

    The Case of America's Disappearing Gay Bars

    Herman Nieves' memory stretches back to when the epicenter of San Francisco's gay scene wasn’t the tony Castro, or the leather-and-Levi’s bars South of Market or even the hustler hangouts in Polk Gulch. In the 1950s, it was the Embarcadero, then something of a sailor's haunt. “Jack’s Waterfront. That was the first gay bar I’d ever been in,” Nieves, who is now 78 years old, recalls. “Edith Piaf’s songs were real big at that time. We used to go to all these underground bars with signs saying, ‘You are subject to a raid at any time’. And we were. I was arrested three times. [But] when we weren’t legal [referring to ...

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  • 10

    American Masculinity and the Miller High Life Man

    A shirtless, barrel-chested man turns to the camera and stands proudly akimbo, his thumbs hooked over his belt, in front of a white gas range. His head is out of the frame and there’s a faint popping of hot grease in the background. The scene cuts away to a smoking cast-iron pan and a sweating bottle of Miller High Life. A voice asks… “Is your name Sally? Sally, the Salad Eater?’ … and answers:  “No. You’re a High Life Man. And you don’t care who knows it.” In 1998, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Errol Morris was hired by the advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy to produce a series of commercials for the ...

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