Last weekend I made a trip to Vermont with old friends, new friends and soon to be moving away friends. We collectively rented a ten bedroom cabin that at one time served as a lovely home for livestock–a barn if you will. I often have dreams where I wander into an apartment/house/flat/living space and one room leads to another that leads to another and on to another and just keeps going–this dream has been fully realized in Plymouth, Vermont. I want to send the owner of this cabin a plaque to hang above the front door that reads, “Escher House”.
I lost track of the head count but I believe our entourage was somewhere around 17 human beings and three canines. Managing 20 expectations is never easy and this is precisely what alcohol is for. Unless of course you don’t drink, and well, shit. What French person doesn’t drink wine? I think there is a saying, “everything tends to randomness”. Or was it Sartre that said, “hell is other people”. Either is à propos.
Our group fund covered an enormous amount of beverage. Whiskey, scotch, gin, vodka, beer… wine. Like being a kid in some kind of a store.
Someone brought two different un-aged corn whiskeys, a.k.a. moonshine, purchased at one of the New Hampshire state liquor stores.
Hispters, we are through the looking glass.
I have this vision in my head that someone from, let’s say Brooklyn, made a trip to the backwoods of Tennessee while visiting their significant other’s family and stumbled upon Moonshine. He or she thought, “OMG we need to get this into [insert Park Slope tavern name here].” He or she then presented it to his or her Executive Creative Director who immediately assembled an away-team to Gatlinburg. Oh, and Don Draper was there for some reason. Apparently since Peggy Olson is now working for a rival firm there was a pitching duel to determine who would land the accounts. (Spoiler alert: turns out that Peggy got the Midnight Moon account whereas Don was awarded the Ole Smoky gig.) And then Betty rode up on a horse wearing her delicious equestrian gear. I’ll stop now.
Every brand needs a story, and holy shit–if there’s any spirit that has a story it’s moonshine. Both spirits tout ‘the craft’ and legacy of Moonshine as a mode of surviving the Great Depression–expressed explicitly as an economic commodity and implicitly as an analgesic of the time.
From Midnight Moon’s website:
“Robert Glen Johnson, Jr. (better known as Junior Johnson) was born June 28, 1931 in Wilkes County, North Carolina. He grew up tending to the family farm and moonshine stills during the great depression. His family didn’t make moonshine in order to make a “quick buck”, they did in order to survive.”
The Midnight Moon that I tried was the “Apple Pie” flavor. (According to their website they have a few different varieties including cranberry, blueberry and strawberry.)
It’s not without its charm. Infused vodka still tastes like vodka to me. With this I just felt like I was tasting cinnamon, apple… and evaporation.
From Ole Smokey’s website:
“Our families were among the early settlers of the Smoky Mountains – they came to the Smokies through Virginia and North Carolina. They honed the art of whiskey making in order to survive during tough economic times. Most families from this area share a history of a family member making, running or selling whiskey.”
A common colloquialism for Moonshine is “White Lightnin'”. Ole Smoky Moonshine is 50% alcohol (100 proof). After a calculated sip its clear how this nomenclature came to be. If a smell could be described as blinding it would be this. White burn. White heat. I don’t even know what the point of this is… a way to forget about that pesky Dust Bowl?
I think both of these distilleries did an amazing job with the package design, websites–the whole ID from top to bottom–flawless. Both stories tie in perfectly with even the smallest of visual detail. I guess in the end it just seems a bit of a novelty. Like something you buy once out of curiosity only to have it slowly collect dust next to that lonely bottle of limoncello.
“I’m goin’ where there’s no depression, to a better land that’s free from care, I’ll leave this world a-toilin’ trouble, my home’s in heaven, I’m goin’ there…”
This is where this blog should’ve ended. Curious about the rest of my trip? By all means continue…
Speaking of depression, evidence from 2011’s Hurricane Irene is still to be found in Plymouth, Vermont. A few photos taken nearby our cabin:
I did a bit of cooking on our trip. I don’t know why I have such a weird thing about wanting to cook for people. Has anyone studied this phenomenon? Anyway, the first night everyone arrived fairly late making for an interestingly timed dinner. I made two lasagnas from scratch at around… midnight. The next morning everyone was flitting about either eating leftover lasagna or making scrambled eggs. Naturally, I had to make a quiche. Or faux quiche. I scrounged around enough ingredients to come up with this:
It’s kind of amazing what you can do with butter, sharp aged provolone, eggs, milk, mushrooms, onion and a premade piecrust baked at 325 in a casserole dish.
On the final night I made six pizzas including my patented pizza dough recipe.
I know what you’re thinking, why did you go all of the way to Vermont to cook and watch the Pats crumble in the playoffs? Well there was also lots of hiking, snow-tubing, and… (gulp) skiing.
We started at Killington’s K-1 lodge which is a horrible place to be if you are a complete novice such as myself. The black and blue runs all empty out nearby and so it’s a fantastical blur of people whizzing by every which way–very intimidating. I clicked into my skis and thought, “what the fuck am I doing here?” while simultaneously drifting backwards into a snow bank of self-pity.
It only took about 30 minutes before I was doing the snow boot shuffle back to the lodge.
It started snowing coupled with a fierce wind, “I am not sitting inside here all day listening to these nineteen year old asshats talk about how awesome their last run was.”
I found a Killington concierge, “look man, where are the bunny hills? I suck at this.” I was pointed in the right direction and before long I was very, very slowly sliding past a train of four year-olds learning how to ski. The ski instructor was very positive making it even more impossible to not feel shameful as she shouted, “You guys are doing great! Good job!”
Eventually the snow train eclipsed me as I stared up at the sky completely laid out, temporarily blinded by melting snow on my pupils.
I made it up and down the Snowshed (green) run a few times. It was painful. I did appreciate the “slow speed” signs everywhere. After a plate of $30 chicken tenders and french fries I regrouped with some of the other more proficient skiers in our entourage and got a few lessons…
Ah-ha! Finally, on the last run of the day it “clicked”. I think my problem was the fear of going too fast and losing control. Unfortunately, you have to go a little bit fast to be able to transfer weight from one side of your body to the next to be able to make a turn. Anyway. Glad I got over it and can now join the ranks of the snow train on the green hills. Probably not buying skis anytime soon, but at least I know I can go and not feel like a complete tool.
On a final note, I won $20 in poker. And go buy this game… Cards of Humanity. Hysterical.