My latest book purchase was Distilled in Maine, written by Author and food blogger Kate McCarty, I enjoy Kate’s writing and was excited to pick up my copy, I didn’t expect to finish it over the course of a weekend but it was tough to put down. Having read Maine Beer: Brewing in Vacationland by Josh Christie, and doing a bit of my own research on Maine’s history with alcohol I knew what to expect and Kate still surpassed my expectations.
Distilled in Maine starts with the first ships from Europe arriving on the coast with hard liquor in their holds, the obvious place to start and ends with short chapters dedicated to craft distilleries currently operating in Maine. Over half of the book though is dedicated to the pre-prohibition and prohibition time frames which were fascinating. A glimpse into a time when men went to work to be paid partially (sometimes in full) with liquor, then leaving shift to head to the local tavern to socialize and get filled in on the news of the day and of course drink.
Chapters of this book are dedicated of to Neal Dow the Father of Prohibition, the passing of The Maine Law and temperance movements. In the introduction Kate says “Over 150 years later, Millions of tourists and residents alike largely forget the fact that Maine was the birthplace of Prohibition.” and I would guess most people think of Prohibition as 13 years of American history that alcohol was illegal but for Maine that’s actually 82 years, a better part of a century where prohibition against alcohol was on the books.
I also liked that every chapter of this book except for one, included a cocktail recipe. The recipes later in the book are adapted to include a liquor made by whichever distillery she was writing about in that section. The only place one is missing is after chapter 10 – Post-prohibition alcohol laws in Maine – which seems like a good a place as any to include one but one isn’t there, not sure why but it stood out as a continuity issue where every other chapter had one, but if that’s my only complaint, which it is, it’s pretty minor.
I would encourage anyone who has an interest in Maine history to pick up this book regardless if you drink or not, there were snippets of information that I had no clue about, for instance, lobster boat design was impacted by prohibition, lobster boats, who knew? Pick it up and give it a read and if you dig cocktails check out the chapters that include one, almost all of them, and give those a shot.