January’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 attempted Italian Futurist cocktails, drank through Ulaanbaatar, hunted for the elusive white grapefruit and more.

rosemary cocktail prime meats

Inspired by alcohol historian Fulvio Piccinino’s recent guide to “Futurist Mixology,” Milan’s cocktail culture is taking its cue from the Italian aesthetes of the early 20th century and seeing bold ingredients like hard-boiled egg yolk, cheese chunks and communion wafers stuffed with anchovies find their way onto cocktail menus. The New York Times Magazine explores this radical—and uniquely Italian—cocktail movement. [New York Times Magazine]

An essential ingredient in classic tiki drinks, the white grapefruit is a favorite of many bartenders for its bright acidity and sour kick. Unfortunately, demand for the sweeter, plumper—and genetically modified—Ruby Red and Rio Star grapefruits have plunged the white varieties into obscurity. Sarah Baird heads to Texas’ Rio Grande Valley with a few impassioned New Orleans bartenders on the hunt for the tiki-friendly fruit. [Lucky Peach]

With the highest number of bars per capita of any American city—not to mention a recent loosening of restrictive liquor laws—Pittsburgh is fast becoming a tourist destination for beer- and spirits-lovers. Saveur visits the rustbelt revival town’s wineries, bars and distilleries and explores its cutting-edge beverage scene. [Saveur]

How does a cider company stay at the top of the game? For Angry Orchard, the answer is to act like a small operation with nothing to lose. Under the direction of cider maker Ryan Burk, the nation’s largest cider producer is trying out wild-fermented and barrel-aged brews and planting bittersweet heirloom cider apples. Rachel Singer visits Angry Orchard HQ to examine what these developments mean for Big Cider. [Food Republic]

In Brooklyn, brothers Graham and Max Fortgang are leading the American matcha awakening. The Japanese green tea—traditionally consumed by way of inexpensive vending machines to high-end teahouses—is the focus of the brothers’ rapidly growing Matcha Bar business. Munchies talks matcha with the brothers who may be bringing it to a store near you. [Munchies]

In Japan, shochu’s popularity is booming, in part because of how well it pairs with food: While many spirits can overwhelm a dish, shochu, with its range of base ingredients—barley, rice, sweet potato, to name just a few—and its relatively low 20 to 25 percent ABV, can complement everything from lighter fish preparations to roasted meats. Food & Wine breaks down the flavor profile and pairing potential of this versatile spirit. [Food & Wine]

After the American Revolution, saloon-keeping became one of few careers available to free African-Americans. It also prompted the emergence of a coded system for interaction between the races. Dave Wondrich eloquently lays out the deep and hidden history of the African-American bartender. [Bitter Southerner]

Possibly more than any other method of making coffee, the pour-over is direct contact between preparer and beans. In a coffee culture increasingly dominated by Keurigs, that type of control and attention is becoming ever-rarer. Andrew Pilsch on the intimacies—and importance—of the pour-over in a mechanical world. [The Atlantic]

Mongolia’s $1.3 trillion in mineral reserves has caused its capital city, Ulaanbaatar, to grow at a blistering pace, with plenty of resulting cultural mash-ups—among them, an Indian-Mexican fusion restaurant and a wealth of Irish pubs. Road & Kingdoms offers a guide to drinking, eating and befriending around the far-flung, poorly-signed metropolis. Rule number one: “If you want to make friends, always carry smokes and Chinggis vodka.” [Roads & Kingdoms]

On a lonely stretch of Wisconsin’s County Highway 57, bars recall their 19th century purpose: to provide a sense of community and a place to gather. Wisconsin native Robert Simonson spends some time in his hometown dives, where the food is fried and “the drinks aren’t fancy, but they’re almost given away.” [Imbibe]

In dives throughout New York’s East Village, Navy sonar tech-turned-barfly-turned-writer Phillip Giambri tells the stories of his tattoos at open mic nights; and with his first collection, Confessions of a Repeat Offender, releasing next month, Giambri, 74, is also making a late literary debut. The New York Times profiles this local character, who says, “Life kept trying to make me a writer, and I kept trying to be a drunk.” [New York Times]

Tagged: longreads