A book review of “Southern Spirits”
“Southern Spirits: Four Hundred Years of Drinking in the American South, with Recipes” is a lofty book in that the author, Robert F. Moss looks to take on the entire history of the American South in terms of alcohol. Despite this meaning he needs to cover five centuries in less than 300 pages, the book manages this with great ease and a wealth of information.
Looking forward to look backwards, he starts out by talking about Bourbon and that most famous of bottles, Pappy van Winkle which is a modern invention that’s only come into fashion in the 21st century and now fetching prices that give high-end Scotch a run for its money. But Mr. Moss posits that despite our assumptions that Bourbon & Rye = The American South, the real history of it is quite different.
For anyone who knows about wine, you know that the native American varieties of vitis labrusca simply can’t make fine wine. This led to early settlers drinking any number of alcoholic substances that they could producer as importation was incredibly price prohibitive. The author then follows through the various phases of drinking in the south that included Rum, Madeira, Cider, and eventually whiskey. Various periods of history also created various needs to change over the centuries.
A fun practical aspect to the book is that each chapter features a drink recipe to make and possibly enjoy while reading that chapter. Quite fun overall in that it adds a physical dimension to the book.
Ultimately, the author comes back around the current modern state of alcohol from the South and the resolution that things seem to be very much on an upswing currently. Overall a very good, informative, and potentially tasty read.