As Cheers begins a new year of covering the on-premise beverage business, it’s perhaps a good time to reflect upon the world of beverages and the beverages of the world.
Historians of drinking are well aware peoples around the world discovered ability to create alcoholic beverages early on the road to civilization. Some anthropologists have even speculated that the desire for a ready source of grain to brew beer is what led to the development of the first settled agrarian communities. Brewing was established in Mesopotamia and Egypt at least 6,000 years ago. Similarly in China, rice beer was developed, while inhabitants of the East Indies were making arak from sugar cane. Wine is mentioned often in the Bible and one of the first things Noah did after the Flood was to plant a vineyard. Distilled spirits didn’t arrive on the scene until the Irish discovered the process during Europe’s Dark Ages.
And in America’s 21st Century bars and restaurants we can enjoy this international heritage of beverage tradition. A look at the table of contents for this issue aptly illustrates that point.
To start with there’s a feature on beverages in Asian restaurants. Operators we spoke with serve a range of beverages including Chinese and Japanese beers, wines from Austria, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and California and premium spirits from around the world. And of course saké, which is served in the traditional manner (both warm and cold), infused with fruit flavors and in a variety of modern cocktails.
From another part of the world and with an eye toward St. Patrick’s Day we highlight the adult beverages of Ireland: whiskey, stout, beer, cider and cream liqueurs and look at the Irish pub phenomenon.
There’s also a profile of the Italian Village in Chicago, recipient of last year’s Cheers Award for Beverage Excellence–Best Independent Restaurant Wine Program. This 75-year-old family-run operation built its reputation and initial cellar on the wines of Italy, the perfect match for the restaurant’s cuisine. But times have changed and now the 45,000 bottle collection is only about half Italian with remaining wines coming from France and the U.S. as well as South Africa, Australia, Spain, Germany and New Zealand.
What all these stories help to illustrate is just how global our beverage culture has become. The continuing expansion of the beverage horizon is good news for us all and a subject we’ll continue to explore in the months to come.