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Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History Hardcover – November 6, 2012

4.8 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Until 2011, Mark Spivak hosted a weekly show call Uncorked! on WXEL-FM, the NPR affiliate for the Palm Beaches and South Florida. He is also the Wine and Spirits Editor for the Palm Beach Media Group, and his website, Spivak On Wine, features winery profiles, reviews of restaurants in the U.S. and abroad, and reviews of wines and spirits ranging from selections to collectibles. He has written for National Geographic Traveler, The Robb Report, Art & Antiques, Newsmax, Men’s Journal, Private Clubs, and the Continental and Ritz-Carlton magazines. In addition, he holds the Certificate and Advanced Diplomas from the Court of Master Sommeliers. His running commentary on the world of food, wine, and spirits is available at the Global Gourmet blog on www.palmbeachillustrated.com.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press (November 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762779268
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762779260
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,642,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
ICONIC SPIRITS is not my usual type of book, but the history of spirits and their creators intrigued me. My husband has been having fun creating cocktails and trying out different drinks and I thought this book would appeal to both of us. The cocktail culture has exploded over the last several years with restaurants selling high dollar cocktails and drink menus pages long. Men and women are putting bars in their homes and making their own wines and beer. The cocktail culture is strong and growing.

I have to admit that some of the spirits mentioned in the book were ones I had never heard of. But the evolution of how drinks were made was quite interesting. Having toured wineries in California, I am familiar with the distilling process and was surprised at the levels of flavors and length of time some of the spirits need to evolve before being bottled. Patience is definitely a virtue with a lot of these businessmen.

Nearly each one of the creators came from meager beginnings and just had an idea. Each of them had a strong determination to make their dream a reality and fought through prohibition, wars, bad economies, and clearly came out ahead...most living as millionaires.

I think my favorite story came from Jean Paul DeJoria. In 2010, he was 66th on the list of Forbes 400th wealthiest Americans. DeJoria is the cofounder of John Paul Mitchell Systems (hair care products) and surprisingly, also of Patron Tequila. He grew up in a foster home, joined the Navy, became homeless and was a single dad. He sold Coke bottles to buy food and eventually got a job at Redken Laboratories. That led him and a friend to create John Paul Mitchell Systems. Then one day, drinking with another friend, he was given tequila in beautiful hand blown bottles from Mexico.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I could not put this book down. It cost me a night's sleep. It's a fascinating, wonderfully written history of a dozen spirits and of the spirits industry. But it also chronicles spirits influence on both mainstream history and current pop culture. Who knew that the British Empire almost fell because a significant percent of its population was constantly drunk on gin, or that the first NASCAR drivers were former moonshine runners, or that some people successfully decide what you will spend lots of money on and then create it? You couldn't make this stuff up. What a wonderful read for you or a gift for others. Even teetotalers would love these stories.
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Format: Hardcover
This is not a history of drink or alcohol in general. It is essentially a sort of personal account of a number of famous--iconic--brands of alcohol. It has history, a number of rather lively personal interviews and some historical background.

As other reviews have noted, this is as much about brand development and marketing as it is about spirits generally. The accounts of entrepreneurship are fascinating and often surprising--I have more respect for them now. It includes such brands as Grey Goose, Patron tequila, Jack Daniel's, among others. The aspect of quality is addressed but in some brands, sales and branding seem more important than any particular quality of the spirit itself.

The writing sometimes sparkles and is always interesting. It's always possible in a book like this one that a brand subsidized the book somehow, but there is no indication of that so far as I can tell.

His account of Patron tequila is to me by far the most interesting, but his discussion of how several brands have altered their image by using prominent rap artists is intriguing. After reading the book, you will better appreciate iconic spirits as superbly marketed entities,
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Format: Hardcover
Master sommelier, former radio host and author Mark Spivak has written on wine, food and restaurants for a wide variety of venues. In this book he takes us along on a marvelous social, cultural and historical journey through the world of spirits with a collection of stories about many of our favorite beverages. I especially liked his connections between rum running and the origins of NASCAR and how the juniper berry almost destroyed the British Empire. He provides several interesting business stories about how an entrepreneur took an idea and made it into a major brand and he provides a good view of some of the marketing strategies that helped create major brands. Spivak is an interesting, knowledgeable and engaging writer. If you like spirits you will like this book as will those interested in marketing or good business stories.
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Format: Hardcover
In my mind, Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History by Mark Spivak was going to be stories about iconic cocktails, the Martini, the Sidecar, that sort of thing. In reality it is book about the spirits that go into those cocktails. (The book about the cocktails I suppose would be called Iconic Cocktails.) The stories of how the spirits we all know and love came to be are both surprising and fascinating.

The stories are not what you would expect and the chapter list is sure to include one of your favorites. Can you guess which alcohol goes with each chapter?

Moonshine, Rum-Running, and the Founding of NASCAR
The Golden Goose that Laid the "World's Best Vodka"
Transforming Bitterness into Sex Appeal
How the Humble Juniper Berry Almost Brought Down the British Empire
The LSD of the Nineteenth Century
Behind the Reputation of the Greatest Luxury Drink
The Legacy of a Cuban Exile
How the World Learned to Love Partially Decayed Vegetable Matter
Capturing Flowers in a Bottle
American Whiskey Heads North
Premium Tequila Comes of Age
The Invention of the True American Spirit

One of my favorite stories is of St-Germain. The website includes imagines of men oh so gently picking the elderflowers and then mounting a bicycle to bring them to the factory for processing. Iconic Spirits hints that it may not be entirely true, but the image goes so well with the flavor that I am happy to believe the myth. If you have not yet tried St-Germain, I highly encourage you to seek out a bottle. To me it tastes like Hawaii; flowery, tropical, and sweet. There really is no flavor that comes close.
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