When it comes to flavor, I am drawn to the Old World. I like liquor with hard-to-define tastes: the bitter complexity of Italian amari, the ancient herbs of Chartreuse, the primal maltiness of Dutch genever. And I’m also drawn to the wilder, untamed parts of the New World: the agave bite of real tequila; the earthy, rustic edge to Brazilian cachaca; the strange, dry conundrum of Peruvian pisco.
I don’t know why. I guess it’s the same reason I like stinky cheeses, funky wines, wild game and yeasty beers. I’m of a similar mind to A.J. Liebling, who wrote in his classic food memoir, “Between Meals”: “I like tastes that know their own minds.”
Perhaps what I’m describing is the exact opposite of what has become the most widely consumed spirit in the United States: vodka… This is not to say there is anything pernicious or immoral or wrong about liking vodka. Plenty of good, decent people do, and some of those people I count among my friends.
Inside, deep down, what I really want to do is grab them by their lapels or elbows or throats or whatever it is one metaphorically grabs. What I want to tell them is this: Try something new. Try something strange. Expose yourself to flavors you’ve never considered before. Taste something – anything – that makes you stop for a moment and pay attention.