Just last month a good friend of mine back from Boston University finally decided to take the plunge with his college sweetheart, so I of course hopped on a flight to drink to the couples everlasting happiness. Now of course the wedding was fantastic, and I wish the happy couple all the best, but for me the highlight of any trip is doing the rounds at the liquor stores. Hong Kong, for all its strengths, still lingers at the tails of the new craft spirit movement, meaning that many of the most exciting products can only be found by people going overseas. It’s become an integral part of my planning for any trip to bookmark any notable liquor stores as well as cocktail bars in each city I visit.
There was a huge gap in my blog posts, and thats primarily because I felt suffocated at my post in The Ocean. Good news is that I’ve resigned from my position there, and will be starting a new job soon. Yay!
While I polish up some articles that have been stuck in limbo since forever, have a gander at some new entries in my Original Recipe section
When is loads of booze a bad thing?
An impossible thought, I know. The more the merrier, many people would say. Bartenders are, after all, competitive creatures, and one such measure on the mixology-o-meter is the number of rare and obscure liqueur and spirits on one’s back bar.
A fully loaded bar certainly does have its advantages. First off, it is an impressive sight; both inviting and daunting, a well lit wall of bottles gives a bar a certain charisma. And few bartenders can deny it feels good to thoughtfully twirl his (or even perhaps her) mustache and coyly ask a guest if he’s ever had such-and-such amaro when in all probability they have not, and then mix it into their next drink. Finally, there is the advantage of versatility; tastes and preferences vary wildly from person to person, and having access to a large arsenal of spirits and liqueurs allows you to cater to even the most finicky of individuals, or even perhaps update your menu at the drop of a hat.
But what is the cost of setting up a bar this way?
For centuries the people in China have enjoyed booze at celebrations, but few drank regularly. As incomes have shot up over the past 35 years, alcohol consumption has accelerated, says an article in The Economist. This article published in August this year together with its aptly crafted title ‘The Spirit Level’ and loud imagery showing a group of youth each with a bottle of the local Baijo to his lips, does enough to catch attention.
What the article presents is nothing economists would find alarming, who have for long found a positive correlation between growth in GDP and alcohol consumption. Indeed in case of China it has been sprinting in alcohol consumption as the GDP kept growing over the last decade, with the average annual consumption rising from 2.5 litres of pure alcohol in 1978 to 6.7 litres in 2010.
Soju and Agriculture in the 20th Century
Like shochu, soju is a distilled product, but in Korea, the materials with which soju was traditionally made was generally restricted to rice, with a small number of producers using cereals such as barley or wheat. Up until 1910, there were a number of independent producers of soju, but during the Japanese occupation of Korea, many of these operations were shut down. Only a small number of producers that were supportive of Japanese government and policy were granted special privileges to run their stills. Meanwhile the Japanese colonial government instituted several changes to boost Korean productivity, through the introduction of improved infrastructure such as railways, modern medicine, and what was called the Rice Production Development Program, with the final goal being to increase resources available to the Japanese Empire. During the course of WWII, these gains in rice and cereals production were lost, as they were diverted to the Japanese military, forcing the few distillers in operation to limit their production or shut down for want of raw materials.
First things first; an apology from me for leaving the blog unattended for so long. I had been absolutely buried in a enormous amount of things to do, between moving house, to quitting my job(s), designing a new menu for a bar, and getting started on my MBA.
The good news is that because my MBA program kicks off with a month-long stay in Beijing, I found the opportunity to stop by Korea to say high to relatives, drink maekgolli, eat copious amounts barbecued beef, and otherwise unwind. In between all my Nero-esque debauchery, I managed to squeeze in a day trip to Andong, home to a Korean ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’, Andong Soju. Continue Reading