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: the godfather of absinthe, beer halls in North Korea, Havana's new wave of bars and more.

Having spent a significant portion of his freshman year of college sitting around the tables at McSorley’s, the oldest bar in New York, David Wondrich became intimately acquainted with the details of the place. Here, Wondrich shares the stories and legends of a place that is “more than just a bar.” [The Daily Beast]

The ancestral home of the Daiquiri and the birthplace of a cocktail culture as unique and storied as that of New Orleans or New York, Havana remains something of a cocktail mecca. With bars that are like relics from another era in drinking history, its allure lies largely in its peculiarly unchanged qualities—but a number of newer establishments are offering a glimpse of what a post-embargo Cuba might look like. [Imbibe]

Jori Jayne Emde is a fermentation expert. Her Hudson Valley home doubles as a laboratory for her various concoctions, from tonics to tinctures and kimchi to vermouth, many of which make their way into the dishes at Fish & Game, the acclaimed restaurant where her husband, Zakary Pelaccio, works as chef. In T Magazine, Jeff Gordiner chronicles Emde’s obsession with the age-old practice of fermentation.  [T Magazine]

In Pyongyang, North Korea, beer halls are a relatively recent phenomenon. At the five sparsely decorated establishments that currently exist, there are only seven varieties of beer available—each numbered rather than named—all from the Taedonggang brewery, which got its start after the government purchased and imported a brewery in its entirety. One Munchies correspondent recounts his experience visiting Mansugyo Beer Bar. [Munchies]

In Saudi Arabia, where alcohol is strictly forbidden, the demand for contraband liquor remains high and the black market abounds. One particularly brazen group of bootleggers operated right under the nose of the country’s first Grand Mufti, the highest religious authority, even going so far as to store their illegal supply in the Grand Mufti’s house without his knowledge. Atlas Obscura shares the tale of the most fabled bootleggers in Saudi Arabian history. [Atlas Obscura]

For much of Eastern Europe and Russia, Moldova is synonymous with wine. But a series of sanctions has forced the industry to pivot between European and Russian markets. Roads & Kingdoms explores the wine region as it once again wrestles with the demands of a shifting political landscape. [Roads & Kingdoms]

Importer Nicolas Palazzi specializes in tracking down exceptional small-scale spirits and eaux de vie. But beyond this, his talent lies in earning the trust of producers and distillers whose intention was never to market their product. In Saveur, Leslie Pariseau profiles Palazzi and captures the stories of a few of the families behind the bottles. [Saveur]

Called the “godfather of absinthe,” Ted Breaux has been researching, deconstructing and reconstructing the legendary spirit for over two decades. Bitter Southerner visits Breaux at his home in Birmingham, Ala., where he keeps nearly an acre of land devoted to cultivating several hundred species of plants and botanicals. [Bitter Southerner]

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Chloe Frechette has a masters degree in History of Design from the Royal College of Art, where she earned distinction for her research on the material culture of cocktail consumption.