This Week’s Best Drink Reads

Welcome to The PUNCHbowl, a weekly installment where we share our favorite longreads on all things drinks and nightlife. This week, we got down with Club-Mate, were schooled on the history of Franzia and contemplated the ever-blurrier line between restaurant and bar.

To most, Franzia is simply one facet of too many hazy memories from college dorm parties. But the preeminent boxed wine actually sports a surprisingly fascinating back story, featuring marriage proposals gone wrong, the mob and… murder? Not to mention $325 million in business in 2014 in the U.S. alone. Broadly takes a deep dive into what has become one of America’s most popular wines. [Broadly]

The U.K.’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport has recognized South London’s Royal Vauxhall Tavern—an important fixture for the city’s LGBTQ community, with a long history as an inclusive cultural hub—with a Grade II listing (the first site in the country to receive recognition based on its relevance in LGBTQ history.) Despite its new status, the venue’s future is cloudy: Recently purchased by Austrian conglomerate Immovate, there are rumors that the building could be torn down and tuned into luxury apartments. The Daily Beast contemplates what the future might bring. [The Daily Beast]

What do German hackers and club kids have in common? A love of Club-Mate: a fizzy, highly caffeinated and rather addictive soda made from the South American stimulant yerba mate, which has effects similar to those of an energy drink, but is considered healthier because it’s more natural. Club-Mate has found its way to American shores, popping up in bigger cities, in clubs and, naturally, among the hacker legions. Will the cocktail world be the next group to discover Mate’s appeal? [Eater]

Though natural wines are getting lots of mainstream love right now, they are, of course, in no way a 21st century endeavor. In the 1840’s and 50’s, the Douro wine region of Portugal was churning out high-quality wines similar to Port without any added fortification. Explorer and cartographer Joseph James Forrester was one of the first ardent supporters of this less-is-more approach in the Douro; Wine & Spirits magazine investigates Forrester’s influence and the legacy he left behind after passing away aboard his ship. [Wine & Spirits]

The line between of distinction between being a bar and being a restaurant has started to blur. Between bars with full (often chef-driven) menus and restaurants with sophisticated (destination-worthy) drinks programs, it’s getting harder to define certain places as one or the other. Pete Wells discusses the phenomenon through the lens of some of New York’s best openings this year. [New York Times]

[Photo: Flickr/JOH_7396]