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Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits Hardcover – September 21, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Despite its flippant title, Wilson’s book has a serious purpose. Its author wants to raise the level of Americans’ appreciation for liquor, that oft-maligned beverage whose connoisseurs find alive with subtle and complex flavors and worthy of imbibing for delights far surpassing mere intoxication. Wilson’s quest for the finest liquors has taken him all over the world. He has sampled the delights of Peruvian pisco, Mexican tequila, and French cognac under some remarkable circumstances. He favors robust distillates such as cognac and whiskeys over the bland neutrality of vodka. He includes recipes for dozens of classic cocktails from New Orleans’ sazerac to the ubiquitous martini. Wilson marks the rediscovery and return of some classic gins and rare liqueurs such as crème Yvette. So long as people continue to enjoy their evening cocktails, they will find fascinating the lore of liquor that Wilson relates with such good, often ribald, humor. --Mark Knoblauch


“Wilson, a natural storyteller, delivers a unique blend of humorous travelogue, spirits history, and recipe collection.”
—Wine Enthusiast, December 2010

“A longtime travel writer, currently a spirits columnist for the Washington Post, Wilson's book is part pithy memoir of a sambuca-soaked kid-turned-haute-liquor-pro, part homage to the beauty of odd bottles, part social commentary, and part irreverent travelogue that's at its most engaging when Wilson is on the road.”
—Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/16/10

“With recipes for all sort of cocktails and libations, plus lots of highly-opinionated rants and raves (and a few pot-shots at the big guys, like the €30 cocktails at the Ritz in Paris that use bottled juice, not fresh) it’s not as much fun as sitting with Jason around a table of spirits, ready to be sampled. But until we meet again, this book is the next best thing.”
—DavidLebovitz.com, Favorite Cookbooks of 2010, 12/6/10

“It's like reading a food memoir but with drink as the backdrop and instigator. . . .There is education here, certainly, but via a pleasurable, relaxing read. Like a fine drink, at its finish, I found myself thirsty for more.”
—San Francisco Bay Guardian, Appetite: Delicious giving, 12/3/10

 “This is not a cocktail book, per se, so much as a grand tale of Cocktailia, circa 2010, complete with heroes and charlatans.”
—San Francisco Chronicle, 5 Essential Wine & Spirits Books of 2010, 11/28/10

“A smart globe-hopping tour behind the scenes of the current ‘cocktail revolution.’”
—The Week, 11/12/10

“The Washington Post's spirits columnist since 2007, Mr. Wilson has never been one for 100−point scales and tasting notes. For him the best drinks are trips down memory lane. . . The wit and judgment that mark Mr. Wilson's column are evident throughout Boozehound, his journey through the modern spirits market. He has had the good fortune to be on the beat as the classic cocktail revival led to the reappearance of long−missing liquors, drinks, and ingredients. In nine chapters, covering everything from artisanal bitters from Italy to how to make a Fizz fizz, he celebrates the new abundance while remaining skeptical about liquor conglomerates' marketing schemes. . . . Throughout his bibulous wanderings, Mr. Wilson never loses sight of the drink in the glass.”
—Wall Street Journal, 10/23/10

“Wilson may just be the best virtual drinking buddy you’ve ever had, as he mixes his insights with hilarious war stories. . . .Whether he’s detailing happy hour in Milan, the annual ‘Tales of the Cocktail’ convention, or Peru’s glass-sharing tradition, one thing’s for sure: this book will make you want to drink—and drink something interesting. . . Let’s hope there’s another round coming soon.”
—Ward Sutton, Drawn to Read, BarnesandNobleReview.com, 10/17/10

“Call him the Sherlock of scotch, the Poirot of pisco or the Marlowe of malt whiskey.”
—Washington Post Express, 10/13/10

"The book is entertaining, and the info is accompanied by a healthy chaser of acerbic wit and plenty of personal asides."
—Liquor.com, 10/12/10

"Entertaining, thoroughly engaging, and utterly informative. . . . In the end, Boozehound is not just a book for drinkers. Rather, it’s an invaluable volume for curious people everywhere, and its insights into culture, history, travel, and, yes, spirits, are rewarding on any number of levels. They’ll also make you seriously thirsty for a cocktail--with a renewed sense of appreciation for what went into it, of course."
—Uncork Life!, 10/11/10

"A breezy, archly opinionated picaresque from the world of tippling, on the order of a milder-mannered Anthony Bourdain."
—Dallas Morning News, 10/4/10

"Wilson got his sea legs as a travel writer so Boozehound dips hard into travelogue. Here, though, it's a crucial means of moving liquor beyond recipes to the realm of geography and personality. Recipes are there, of course. But Wilson's real fodder is the fabric of the cocktail revolution."
—San Francisco Chronicle, 10/3/10

“A global travelogue with a buzz.”
—New York Post, 10/3/10

"[Wilson] does an outstanding job of conjuring the images of time, place, and sensation that are so vital to the appreciation of any fine food or drink."
—The A.V. Club, 9/30/10

"Wilson not only has the rare opportunity to write about spirits on such a frequent basis, but he also has a true enthusiasm and affinity for the topic, which shows in the vibrancy of his writing. Boozehound takes Wilson's Post columns several steps further, creating for the reader a more comprehensive view of today's dynamic world of drinkables.I've enjoyed reading Wilson's columns for several years now, and Boozehound is a fantastic read as well."
—Paul Clarke, Serious Eats, 9/29/10

"A new combo travelogue/industry commentary/drink recipe collection addressing all that matters in the world of fine spirits."
—Philadelphia City Paper, 9/28/10

“This high spirited book is sure to quench your thirst for knowledge and fun.”
—Los Angeles Daily News, 9/21/10

"Wilson's rich descriptions will entice readers to try something new the next time they hop on a bar stool."
—Library Journal, 9/15/10

"If Post spirits writer Jason Wilson has any mission with his forthcoming book, Boozehound, it’s to inject some intellectual rigor into a form of journalism too often drunk on its own superficial prose."
—Washington City Paper, Young and Hungry Blog, 9/15/10

"Jason Wilson, the spirits columnist for The Washington Post, is funny, smart, and just irreverent and critical enough that you trust every word he writes. And he likes the sauce? Sounds like our kind of writer."
—Eater.com, 8/30/10

“Superbly informative, entertaining, and yet deeply subversive.”
—Anthony Bourdain, author of Medium Raw and Kitchen Confidential

"In his first book, Wilson, the spirits columnist for the Washington Post, has concocted an idiosyncratic exploration of the world of spirits. His primary ingredients include heavy doses of cocktail recipes, travelogues, history lessons, polemics against popular trends (flavored vodka is his primary target), all mixed together with a dash of autobiography. Wilson's bibulous quest takes him across Europe and the Americas, where he quaffs everything from Genever and Calvados to añejo tequilas and a substance called "Peanut Lolita." As he drinks his way around the world, Wilson also examines the myriad ways in which alcohol has shaped culture and his own suburban New Jersey upbringing. Wilson sees the American obsession with flavored vodka as part of the long hangover from Prohibition. Yet he also discerns a growing American interest in more complex spirits, and he makes it his mission to introduce readers to the delights of arcane substances like Chartreuse and Tuaca. Wilson succeeds in his pose as an American everyman abroad...Yet he has done his readers a real service: with cocktail recipes at the end of each chapter, Boozehound serves as a smooth personalized guide to classy mixology. (Oct.)"
—Publishers Weekly, 6/28/10

“There’s nobody I’d rather read on the subject of booze than Jason Wilson. Smart, funny, illuminating, and opinionated, this is a book I’ll return to often—both when I need a good read, and when I need a good drink.”
—Molly Wizenberg, creator of Orangette and author of A Homemade Life
Boozehound takes you behind the labels and delves deeply—and humorously—into the world of liquors and libations. I’ve had the pleasure to sip, swirl, and savor a cocktail (or two) with Jason Wilson, and with this collection of highly spirited stories and recipes, you can too.”
—David Lebovitz, author of Ready for Dessert and The Sweet Life in Paris
“Jason Wilson’s overworked liver is a national treasure. A deeply entertaining guide to the periodic table of liquors, Boozehound is a serious fount of pleasures, chief among them Wilson himself: doggedly curious, acidly opinionated, refreshingly irreverent, and epically thirsty.”
—Jonathan Miles, author of Dear American Airlines and former cocktail columnist for the New York Times

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press; First Edition edition (September 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580082882
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580082884
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I think if I died and was reincarnated I would want to come back as Jason Wilson. That man has a job of traveling to drink and write about various distilled spirits, what a gig! The nice thing is that author realizes he is pretty lucky to be a "Lifestyle Journalist" and he doesn't take himself too seriously.
This book "Boozehound," comes off as part memoir, part travel log, part spirits review and part cocktail recipe book. And in all those things it makes for a fun read. Wilson takes on a trip through his past while commenting on learning to taste and understand the flavors in spirits. He discusses cocktail snobs, searching for lost spirits and liqueurs, the great stories (True or not) behind many beloved alcohol brands, the world of Italian bitter drinks, a whole chapter on aquavit, terroir and its effect on spirits, and much more.
At the end of each chapter the author always gives out a handful of cocktail recipes, which are neither recipes that you have seen a hundred times before or amazingly complex examples of molecular mixology. They are just straightforward recipes that use the ingredients discussed in the proceeding chapter and out of the ones I have made they have been pretty good.
So while this book seems to cross many genres, part cocktail history book, alcoholic travel log, spirit critique and tasting notes, humor, and personal history I found it an enjoyable read; I learned a lot and had a great time reading it. If you are interested in this kind of stuff then you will like the book too, and if you have a friend or family member who enjoys the history and stories behind different spirits, then I think they may like this book to. I recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you're not sold on the concept of a "liquor critic" going in, Washington Post spirits columnist Jason Wilson isn't trying to convince you otherwise.

Wilson's 2010 book, a series of essays on such spirits as rum, brandy, gin, tequila, and many less-common adult beverages, is half-journal, half-callout for interested drinkers to try more items outside of their comfort zone. "Try something strange," as he puts it. Wilson describes such dubious pleasures as washing down bites of rotting shark with a gnarly Icelandic aquavit, or partaking of various absinthes despite its legend for inciting homicidal rage.

It's a sometimes engaging book, yet not all that much fun. Wilson drinks with a triathlete's passion, but his adventures have a jaded feeling about them, a glazed ennui of shrugs and wisecracks that builds from chapter to chapter. Put it this way: Despite Wilson offering a number of unique cocktail recipes at the end of every chapter, I never had a hankering to try just one.

Wilson is writing here less as a full-blown critic, suspicious as he is of the language involved, and more as a memoirist. A drink for him is like a pop record to someone else, a means of recalling a specific place and time. Little wonder one of his best essays involves his visiting the Jagermeister plant in Germany, with happy memories of lost college evenings drinking same. He's surprised to learn "Jager" is actually sipped in Germany, not downed in shots like over here.

Many of the liquor makers he visits seem put off their hard labor winds up being diluted with tonic water or assorted other invasive elements. "Cocktails destroy good spirits" says one Swedish master blender credited with creating Absolut, the famous vodka.
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This is a lovely book almost the author's memoir of his relationship with spirits and writing about distilled spirits. It's a very personal account and a glimpse into his obsession with finding awesome beverages!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Don't let the boozy title fool you; Jason Wilson is to drinking what M.F.K. Fisher is to eating. He writes beautifully, and his tasting and evaluation of liquor doesn't begin and end with the first few sips. He roams far and wide, both topically and geographically, as he contrasts the modern cocktail scene with the golden age of about a hundred years ago, before the lightening-speed dissemination of trendy drinks.

Wilson's #1 complaint about the modern drinking scene is the lazy,unimaginative preference for vodka, particularly the "ridiculous" flavored vodkas:

...it's no surprise that flavor trends seem to work a little like high school. One day, the cool kids--usually the people with suspicious job titles like "flavorist" or "cool hunter" or "trendspotter"--wake up and decide that, say, pomegranate will be the next big flavor. Suddenly, everywhere you turn, they're putting pomegranates into everything... Then, without warning, you're told: pomegranates are so, like, last year. Pears are the new pomegranates..."

Instead, Wilson yearns for something genuine, classic, and with a bit of history (as in a few hundred years or more). He's not an alcohol reactionary though. Although Wilson enjoys cocktail recipes that adhere to tradition, he's especially enthusiastic about those that discover new flavor avenues. And so, at the end of each chapter, he includes a "round of drinks," simple recipes that use the neglected spirits that he describes in each chapter: Bitters, absinthe, rum varieties (e.g., "rhum agricole"), grappo, aquavit, amari, and genever ("the orignal gin"), for example.

The wonder of the book is that non-drinkers will enjoy it (although some reserved affection for alcohol may help you understand this Don Quixote of the bar).
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