There is a widespread myth that Australia’s Indigenous peoples were introduced to alcohol by European settlers, and were susceptible to drinking a lot of it because they’d never had it before. The first chapter of this fascinating book blows that myth away with descriptions of fermented gum tree sap and how it had been used long before the arrival of rum and wine.
This is both a really good book about alcoholic drinks and about history. The author, a journalist and wine writer, goes to great lengths to describe the taste of certain historical drinks and also to recreate their flavours, often through interesting little experiments. For those who are inclined to do a little experimenting at home, there are some bonus ‘recipes’ mingling amongst the pages.
The drinks, I mean chapters, are arranged in a timeline. After the traditional Indigenous drinks come the rum and other strong spirits on the ships of English sailors, the home brew cider that was encouraged as a low alcohol alternative in the rowdy colonies, champagne (a bit of an unexpected luxury), bitters, wine, and of course, beer. We finish where we started, with native ingredients and Indigenous drinks, but this time looking towards the future.
I’ve never really read much in the way of food and drink literature, which does seem strange given my love of food and drink, and this book came to me by way of dear friends (including one sommelier). I have them to thank for sparking an interest in wine, not only drinking it but also from now on reading more about it. The danger of reading such vivid descriptions of delicious wines though is that you just want to go out and taste them all! And spurred on by this book, I’m going to try my damned hardest to do just that.