Winter 2017-18|volume 11|Issue 2

    Raise Your Spirits

    Give Your Memories a Taste

    Spirits – noun. An alcoholic beverage that is distilled rather than fermented; the liquid containing ethanol and water that is distilled from an alcoholic liquid or mash—often used in plural.

    Max Miller

    Max Miller

    During my childhood, every holiday season my family would drive from Philadelphia to Grantville, Georgia, to celebrate Christmas. Both my mother and father were born and raised in Georgia. I can remember vividly the joy of those trips­—visiting family, the aroma of the holiday meals, the laughter around the table. Now, some 40 years later, what seems to linger in my memory is one simple story that I would hear several times over the years. It was a story that gave perspective, humility, and thankfulness—and it was all about oranges.

    My parents are from small rural Georgia towns. Christmas in their respective childhoods was not the onslaught of toys and technology that my son now experiences. It was a time to be thankful and enjoy family. There would be the occasional new pair of shoes or new outfit, but one of the prized gifts was a Christmas bag of oranges. What we now can go to the grocery store and get year round was a holiday delicacy back then. So each Christmas during my childhood, the bowl of oranges that always sat on my grandmother’s table was, for my parents and grandparents, an echo of their holiday experiences, and for me an appreciation of where I come from and for what we now have.

    As I contemplated all this, I started thinking about how I could capture the taste of this memory. What sensory elements could I engage to create something to honor the past and look to the future? Naturally, I started with trying to create a drink to capture this! (I rarely drink cocktails, deferring to the purist’s approach to spirits. This project, though, seemed to call for a blending of unique elements to embrace the powerful memories of my youth.)

    I began with a few iterations of drinks using Rhum Clement’s Creole Shrubb liqueur—a blend of aged rhum agricoles and orange peels and a nod to the sugar-cane heritage of Georgia. While the tasting was fun, it just was not quite resonating with me as representative of those Georgia holiday gatherings. So, I decided to change gears and go with a warm orange hot toddy with Maggie’s Farm spiced rum and Liberty Pole Spirits’ six-month rye. The warmth of this elixir was certainly reminiscent of the joyous warmth of being with family, and yet I still could not taste the memory. After taking an evening to clear my palate (i.e., recover from all the sample drinks), I refocused my efforts.


    Closing my eyes and thinking of the holidays, I could smell the orange spritz as it was being peeled. I could look out the window at the garden where, just a few months earlier, cornstalks and vegetables abounded. I can remember the comfort of tradition and the familiarity of home. When I opened my eyes, I knew I’d have to use bourbon. It is at the center of my own passion for spirits. It embodies the elements of the patient nurturing of a distillate made from corn, barley, and rye. It is complex, but presents itself in a simple and humble way. But how to integrate the oranges? After a few iterations of squeezed orange and even a splash of the Creole Shrubb, I landed on a simple dash of orange bitters and some orange peel zest to accompany my Baker’s 107 bourbon.

    And there it was, with the first sip—synapses firing—my mind’s eye was sitting at the dining room table, hearing the laughter, feeling the joy. The light zest of orange in the air and on the nose; the complexity of the lightly stirred bitters; and the warm and flavorful finish of the Baker’s—all combined to help me taste the memory. This drink is now called The Grantville, and I intend to share it with my family the next time I see them in Philadelphia!

    We all have the power to give our memories a taste. Whether through spirits, wine, beer, or food, a world of experiences awaits you. This holiday season, embrace the best of your holidays past, and toast to the future by finding your memories’ tastes and savoring every sip.