Spirit Lives

Every spirit has a story and those stories reflect the cultures that produced them. This is a repository for them. Once I told a guy that I wrote about spirits. Months later he told me “I thought, ‘cool, he writes about ghosts.’” The confusion makes sense and these two definitions of the same word share a Latin root, spiritus, meaning ‘breath.’ All the other descriptions of these drinks like the French Eau de Vie or Danish Aquavit mean “water of life” which leads down a similar path. Without wandering too far afield, we humans have long prized alcoholic spirits and understood their innate power.

I've written about spirits for a while now. Mostly about mezcal for Mezcalistas which I cofounded with Susan Coss in 2012. I still write about agave spirits for Mezcalistas but I’ve also been writing about other spirits and bigger stories about the cultures and industries that produce spirits. These stories of the people who do this work, their cultures and shared histories, have occupied the lion’s share of my time lately to the point where I have many more ideas for stories that haven’t found homes. That’s why I’m launching this newsletter.

I find that spirits bring together so many of the big questions of our era like sustainability, cultural continuity, and globalization with the very individual stories of the people who make them. To say that things are in flux is an understatement: Cocktails remain the main way that most people consume spirits but COVID has altered the way many people go out. Meanwhile smaller distillers are carving out amazing new spaces for spirits that reflect local agriculture, crazy ideas, or deeper philosophies. Traditions are rapidly changing, being reinforced or redefined so I figure that this is a great place to tell those stories.

Join me in this quest to understand the spirit world, it’s all around us.

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I get into distilled spirits, not the other kind.


I never finished Moby Dick but I don't feel guilty about that.