We’ve been reading the Washington Post for a while now — not because we are cerebral in any way, but because the paper seems to employ some pretty creative (and prolific) drinkers. One imaginative such byline is given to Jason Wilson, who imagined and coined the game Liquor Store Archaeology with his brother in 2008.
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“Liquor Store Archaeology,” says Wilson, “describes the pith-helmeted explorations that cocktail geeks make to unearth so many lost and forgotten spirits.
Liquor Store Archaeology can refer to scouring the dusty shelves of older bottle shops to look for surprises. In this way, my friends and relatives have found weird treasures such as Cordial Campari, a clear after-dinner, raspberry-tinged cousin to the bitter aperitif, rarely seen in the United States since the 1960s; and quirky historical footnotes such as Peanut Lolita, a thick, peanut-whiskey liqueur that infamous presidential brother Billy Carter once shilled.
It also can be taken figuratively: a way of thinking, investigating, traveling, importing and even resurrecting (through old distilling recipes). This sort of study begins in the imagination. You read a 19th- or early-20th-century cocktail book and see drinks that call for creme de violette or Old Tom gin or batavia arrack or allspice dram, and you wonder what they would taste like, if only you could find the ingredients.
It’s not nostalgia, because you’ve never tasted these spirits. But it’s something akin to it. When you finally locate that authentic ingredient and taste the cocktail you’ve dreamed of, you experience history in a visceral way. It can be powerful.”