July’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: taste-testing Havana Club, the whiskey-aging arms race, Paso Robles' growing pains and more.

In South Korea, where foreign bar items—from syrups to bitters to vermouth—are illegal to import, bartenders like Christopher Lowder face a unique set of challenges. The American expat, who manages all 12 beverage programs at the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul, routinely toils through six months or more of paperwork to receive a license for each product stocked at his bar, and is shifting the drinks landscape in the process. [Munchies]

With distillers trying to understand the science of whiskey-aging (and a host of entrepreneurs trying to bypass the process entirely), a veritable arms race has begun. Ars Technica takes stock of the findings of both the old guard and the new, presenting a snapshot of the state of the whiskey world and examining the risks, rewards and mysteries of a variety of aging processes. [Ars Technica]

Daniel Burns, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø and Joshua David Stein offer a glimpse into the marathon daily operations of Greenpoint’s Tørst and Luksus. For the team—which is made up of five kitchen staffers, seven bartenders and three servers—each day includes prepping, cooking and juggling not only a beverage program, but also an a la carte selection of dishes and a 15-course tasting menu. [Lucky Peach]

Havana Club holds a particular fascination for Americans, many of whom have never visited the island or tasted genuine Cuban rum. As diplomatic relations thaw and embargoes ease, M. Carrie Allan wonders how Havana Club will stack up against its competitors in classic drinks (like the Mojito and the Daiquiri) and subjects the fabled rum to a blind taste test. [The Washington Post]

Following the controversial clearing of oak trees to build a reservoir on a Paso Robles winery, a backlash against vineyard development and a push for conservation suggest the wine region is experiencing its first growing pains. The debates surrounding the demand for more regulation echo those that have dominated public discourse in Napa and Sonoma for decades, where requests for vineyard approval are often met with years of resistance and countless obstacles. [San Francisco Chronicle]

With more than 4,600 craft breweries in the United States already, and with new breweries opening at a rate of two a day, the quest for creative, pun-inflected beer names has grown increasingly competitive. Today, new entrants into the industry find themselves treading on the toes of their peers, many of whom have taken legal measures to protect their beer and brewery names in the crowded field. [The Wall Street Journal]

Half a century ago, the first major winery since Prohibition was founded in Napa, thus beginning a transformation of the valley from plum country to wine region. On the 50th anniversary of the opening of Robert Mondavi’s Oakville winery, The Washington Post looks back at the man who changed the landscape of Napa and altered the way Americans buy and drink wine nationwide. [The Washington Post]

With the waning of British pubs, which are closing at a rate of 29 per day, one writer seeks to find out where the British public are doing their drinking. Staking out the spirits aisle in supermarkets—and following drinkers home from the shops—Oobah Butler presents a snapshot portrait of British drinking in 2016. [Vice]