Rating: 4 stars (Spotlight Review)
Classy, clean and totally upscale, such is the latest spirit-themed contribution by Mark Spivak. Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History is one book that can be judged by its cover, a cover that instills great anticipation for the content within—and, Spivak definitely delivers.
Throughout the book the reader is regaled with interesting background and captivating stories based on 12 iconic spirits including rum, vodka, and tequila; and, while singing the praises of blended whiskeys Mr. Spivak even manages to make a tasting of Canadian Club sound like he’s eating a decadent hot fudge sundae.
In addition to well know liquors, there’s also a fairly in-depth look at the more popular liqueurs. Taking on the challenge of Cognac, the author attempts to clarify and demystify the classic spirit, as well as introduces St-Germain, a fairly current French creation made from the elderflower that has taken the market by storm.
As a former college student and bartender, I found the backstory of Jägermeister to be quite enlightening. It’s nice to know that I wasn’t alone in my assessment that considers Jägermeister to be one of the most vile concoctions ever invented—it's no surprise the Germans called it “liver glue”. First hawked as a “digestif” the liqueur got its cult status from a group of college kids who suggested it was an aphrodisiac and called it “liquid valium”. It’s also no accident that Jägermeister has it’s own special dispenser—the whole idea behind it is to aid in masking syrupy NyQuil taste by chilling it.
Though top-notch writing is to be expected from Mark Spivak, the amount of intriguing information he provided was quite surprising. Not only was it fascinating to learn that the John Paul Mitchell hair care product line was started while co-founder John Paul Dejoria was living in his car, but that he also founded Patrón, a premium tequila that enjoys a huge celebrity following, and which added to his billionaire status when he sold it to Bacardi. From homeless to 400th richest American (2010), incredibly impressive by any standard.
Packed with interesting stories, anecdotes, and trivia, Iconic Spirits provides a riveting look at the history behind the hooch. Best of all, there are a plethora of classic and contemporary drink recipes to render all this new knowledge into something tangible and relaxing.
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Lyons Press (November 6, 2012)