November’s Best Reads on Drinks and Drinking

Welcome to The PUNCHbowl, a monthly installment where we share our favorite long reads on all things drinks and nightlife. This month, we met a Mormon DJ who's become one of EDM's biggest names, learned how to make wine in an Alphabet City apartment, contemplated the virtues of room temperature cocktails and more.

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New York’s early Italian immigrants could often be found crushing grapes and making wine in their own homes, a practice that especially thrived during Prohibition. Today, the grandson of one of those immigrants, Matt Baldassano, is resurrecting that tradition churning out two vintages each year from his 550-square-foot apartment in Alphabet City. Though New York’s state laws may prevent Baldassano from selling his wines, the Village Winery Club he’s founded allows him to share the goods with friends and fans. The New York Times takes a closer look at how California grapes become New York-made wine inspired by Italian tradition, all out of an apartment on Avenue C. [New York Times]

Kaskade is one of the biggest names in EDM today, drawing crowds bigger than Drake and commanding as much as $500,000 per performance. Kaskade is also a 44-year-old devout Mormon and a father of three named Ryan Raddon who’s been married to his college sweetheart for 20 years. His music may “evoke the universal desire for something more,” as Buzzfeed’s Reggie Ugwu puts it, but it shies away from being explicitly religious. Buzzfeed investigates how a musician who doesn’t drink, do drugs or party has become one of the rave world’s most popular entertainers. [Buzzfeed]

The term “craft beer” has recently become a tricky one: The phrase as defined by the Brewers Association—that under one-quarter of a brewery can be owned by another alcohol-related company, and no more than six million barrels can be produced annually— doesn’t cut it for purists, and Big Beer eagerly uses the classification to its advantage. The increasingly common practice of big brands buying out small brewers only blurs lines further. Could craft beer be in real trouble? First We Feast examines all the ways macro brewers are bullying smaller producers and changing craft beer as we know it. [First We Feast]

For many these days, milk is lumped in with gluten as a dangerous substance best avoided, encouraging the emergence of non-dairy alternatives like almond, coconut, hemp and oat milk. Even previously straightforward cow’s milk can now fall under any of a number of individual labels: grass-fed, raw, rBGH-free and more. New York Magazine breaks down the state of milk today and asks: Should we even drink it? [New York]

Beijing and Hong Kong have their own thriving craft beer cultures, ones that recently saw the launch of a uniquely Chinese beer brewed out of a collaboration between two of the country’s most popular craft beer producers. (Its primary flavor is akin to that of “the sour plum drink you get when you’re eating hot pot.”) Roads & Kingdoms illustrates China’s approach to craft beer and explores how brewers are combining Chinese ingredients and traditions with modern brewing methods. [Roads & Kingdoms]

The New York Post revisits two of the biggest scandals to rock the wine world over the last few decades. First is the case of wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan, an individual once regarded as a “boy wonder” of the international wine community who is now one of its most infamous players. But while Kurniawan may have caused serious damage to collectors and connoisseurs everywhere, there’s a lesser-known culprit in California who has done just as much harm: Mark Anderson, a man who inexplicably went from wine professional to arsonist when he destroyed more than 4.5 million bottles of fine wine worth over $275 million. [New York Post]

Drinkers are starting to encounter cocktails on bar menus served at room temperature, which, some bartenders say, is ideal for showing off the nuanced flavors and aromas of certain spirits like whiskey. This isn’t a new phenomena, either: An old drink style known as the “Scaffa” could be a predecessor to today’s non-iced options. Kara Newman delves into the past and present of room temperature cocktails and puts the experience to the test with a side-by-side taste test. [Eater]

Monsooned malabar is a type of coffee known for its low acidity, flavors of spice and sandalwood and the unusual method by which it is harvested and processed. Long ago, these beans would be transported from Mangalore on wooden barges, during which exposure to conditions similar to those of a monsoon would cause them to swell up and change color. It turns out, this unexpected effect brews great coffee. Now, the beans are commercially sun-dried and “monsooned” to produce the desired results; Lucky Peach breaks down the process behind this little-known bean. [Lucky Peach]  

Finally, on PUNCH, Courtney Balestier considers the trope of the “whiskey woman“; Drew Lazor shines a light on the role of drinking in Dungeons & Dragons; Leslie Pariseau discovers what sets a four-star bar apart; Jon Bonné dives deep into the state of America’s cider revival and that of Long Island wine; Zachary Sussman contemplates the future of port and Sauternes in a world that favors dry and bright; and Christopher Ross investigates the mystery of who killed the cocktail, only to discover we may have ourselves to blame.

[Photo: Flickr/Allagash Brewing]

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