Beer is clearly a beverage that members of the Fervent Few feel passionately about. But this week, we wanted to know: what other drinks do they approach with the same fervor? From wine and coffee to rum and whiskey, the Fervent Few shared the non-beer options they obsess over most, and discussed the ways in which they seek out, build, and connect with other beverage communities.
Chris Cohen: “Rum is very much where it's at. For starters, there’s huge flavor variety in rum: from Jamaican rums with loads of estery ‘hogo’ that taste like overripe tropical fruit; to Rhum Agricole that hails from former French colonies, which is made with straight sugarcane juice and features a grassy, vegetal funk; to richer demerara rums from Guyana. Rum can be fresh, clear, and bright, or barrel-aged, dark, and woody. Some are barreled for ridiculously long periods of time, but are still much more affordable than long-aged whiskeys (21-year-aged El Dorado for $100?!). Some are made solera-style, some are even shipped to and aged in rickhouses in Scotland, and get a touch of Scotch-whisky character from the air.
Rum comes in all proofs as well. Great rum can absolutely be sipped just like a great whiskey. The influence of fermentation is important to rum’s flavor in a way that is not typical for many other types of liquor—some are even wild-fermented, like those insanely estery Jamaican rums. Good ones also have a real sense of terroir: rums from different parts of the Caribbean vary greatly in aroma and flavor due to differences in ingredients, local techniques, and the use of very old pot stills in certain distilleries. On top of all that, if you get into rum and want to travel to check out the sources...well, I dare you to do better than a bunch of Caribbean islands.
If you think all rum is sweet, or that Captain Morgan/Bacardi/Myers’s/Flor de Caña/Sailor Jerry is rum, then you've basically never had rum. That's the case for most people, because who goes out and spends decent money on good rum? Most people think of it as a cheap liquor made for big batches of sweet cocktails. Find yourself an excellent rum bar, and go try a few good ones—or do some research and make a trip to the liquor store. (Serious Eats also has some good guides to affordable bottles and different styles of rum.) Start by sipping, but then make a classic Daiquiri with each (or make a 'Ti Punch if you have Rhum Agricole—it's like a rum Old Fashioned). There are few better drinks than a simple, classic Daiquiri made with a great rum—go light on the syrup and lime so the rum shines.
As for how the rum community compares to the beer community—it's small but vibrant. The information is out there, but you have to look harder. I believe it will have its moment soon. It's just about the only remaining liquor, after tequila and mezcal, that the cocktail-geek masses haven't jumped into full-force yet.”
Claire Bullen: “I need coffee to live, but wine is probably the beverage I'm most interested in outside of beer. I've always enjoyed it, though the wine world used to feel forbiddingly esoteric to me—overly formal and difficult to work one's way into. Natural wine, on the other hand, by dint of being iconoclastic, feels far more accessible. I think there's also a lot of overlap with wild or mixed-fermentation beers, flavor-wise; it's no accident that so many beer people I know are also natty-wine geeks.
Lately, I've been drinking lots of 'glou-glou,' light, crushable reds—lots of Gamay. Also a big fan of Rieslings, Georgian skin-contact wines, Pét-Nats, Vin Jaune from the Jura, etc. I'm still pretty new to the scene, and still have much to learn, though it feels like an exciting place to be right now. I've started listening to natural wine podcasts (like Natural Disasters) to learn more. I also seek out events like the RAW Wine Fair and hit up bottle shops and bars in London that focus on natural wines. There's a wealth to choose from, so it's a good time to be getting into it.”
Melissa Jones: “I’ve gotten super into Japanese whiskey, and whiskey in general. The community is similar in nature, in my opinion.”
Ashley Rodriguez: “I'm obviously a coffee person (since that's what I mostly write about, and that's the world I come from), but I've been trying to get more into wine recently. But that's like, a coffee thing—go to any natural wine bar in any city and I can guarantee you'll find your favorite baristas there. We've gone through phases, it seems. In 2012, you could find all your favorite coffee people at cocktail bars. I remember I was dating this one coffee dude and a bunch of coffee folks had a thing called ‘Rum Sunday’ at this bar called Cienfuegos in New York (RIP), and he'd never invite me. I had a feeling it was because I wasn't yet ‘cool enough’ in the coffee world.”
Doreen Joy Barber: “Tea. All the tea. Tea was my original geek-over drink before beer. I get all of mine now from Postcard Teas in Mayfair, London, which makes me sound more posh than I am. It’s a really lovely shop, though, and everyone is so nice there.
First-flush Darjeelings, Lemon Pekoes, single-estate black teas which are light and nutty—all of these are incredibly dreamy, and I usually have a stash of about five or six different types of teas for different moods and times in the day. I used to drink up to six or seven cups a day, but now I don’t drink as much. I’ll have one maybe, or two. On the weekends when I’m having a day in, I’ll drink two or three cups in a row of something like a Genmaicha (if I’m on that savory tip) or the Yimu Oolong.
Plus I have tea strainers shaped like sharks and manatees, and if that doesn’t bring you a tiny amount of joy, what even.”
Jim Plachy: “I also started geeking out on tea long before beer, but that faded. I’m also really into coffee, but not the way I’m into beer. The only thing that comes close now is whiskey, but I find whiskey to be very solitary. You can’t drink a ton of it without becoming intoxicated very quickly, and the best bottles are astronomically expensive. I mostly drink whiskey at home (alone), and so it takes me a very long time to get through a bottle. This leads me to not buying very many bottles, so I can’t say I’m well-versed in very many whiskeys. I find it nice as a treat, but I can’t see whiskey ever taking over as a hobby for me like beer has.”
Lana Svitankova: “Well, geeking out over beer taught me not to geek out too much over other drinks—it's too expensive :) My drink of choice would be coffee. Because beer spoiled me, and got me into the terrible habit of trying to pick out flavors when I drink, I now indulge in buying beans of various origins and processing methods. I really enjoy coffee, but don't delve into it too much, though I really love to listen to somebody geeking out about it. I also really cherish the person who got me into whiskey (I never drank spirits before—thank you, Platon). Now, from time to time, I visit distilleries and take part in ‘guided whiskey tasting tours’ to explore the vastness and gorgeousness of this peculiar spirit.”
Rob Steuart: “I'm into lots of different beverages. I get into coffee, tea, wine, cider, and whiskey to varying degrees. What I have been really nerding out on lately is gin. I like the variations in base spirits (grains vs. grape vs. sugar), and all of the different botanical possibilities. Then there are the batch distillers vs. the botanical distillers and blenders. Then add barrel-aging in on top of that, and the different permutations are endless. It's such a fun rabbit hole to go down. All the producers I have spoken to have been really great people, and happy to talk about how they go about their craft.”
Mike: “Natural-washed coffee. I put on a coffee and coffee-beer festival in Vancouver, much like Uppers and Downers (I assume—I haven’t been), but it's been really beneficial to connect with the roasters, distributors, and suppliers while learning about what my body can tolerate. I have some caffeine sensitivities, so with the 30-odd bags I've been gifted, it's become a social thing with sampling vs. pounding shitty coffee.”