CLOSE
iStock
iStock

Drink Beer Inspired by an Ancient Recipe at Chicago's Field Museum

iStock
iStock

Love history, archaeology, and obscure craft beers? Thanks to Chicago’s Field Museum, you'll soon be able to combine all three. Starting in March, museum visitors will be able to sip on Wari Ale, a single-batch limited-edition brew based on a recipe that the Wari people of southern Peru enjoyed more than 1000 years ago.

The Wari Ale will be officially released at one of The Field Museum’s quarterly tasting and beer-science Hop To It events. Named after the Wari—who once ruled parts of modern-day Peru and northern Chile—it’s what the museum calls "a purple chicha de molle (corn and pepper) beer" and contains traditional ingredients.

Brewers from Chicago’s Off Color Brewing collaborated with Ryan Williams, associate curator of anthropology at The Field Museum, to create the “beer-like drink with a dry, grainy funk and pepper spiciness," according to Off Color Brewing's site.

The ale is inspired by an archaeological find. In 2004, scientists from the Field Museum announced that they unearthed an ancient brewery while excavating the mountaintop city of Cerro Baúl (600 to 1050 CE). The facility predated the Inca Empire by at least four centuries, and its size indicated that the Wari once produced—and enjoyed—massive quantities of an alcoholic, beer-like drink called chicha, NBC News reported. However, ceramics excavated at Cerro Baúl showed traces of maize and molle berries, which suggests that Wari brewers mixed the two ingredients to make a zestier—and more potent—libation than regular chicha.

Researchers believe the ancient brewery once produced 1500 to 2000 liters of the brew in a single batch, according to a museum press release. The Wari guzzled it at large parties thrown by ruling officials to thank subordinates for their service to the state.

The Field Museum’s Hop To It event on March 3 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. won’t be as beer-soaked as these early Peruvian fetes (attendees receive one glass of beer per ticket). Open to the public, ages 21 and up, the event will feature a beer tasting and lectures as well as a display of Peruvian beer vessels from 600 AD and artifacts from the brewery in Cerro Bau'l. Tickets are $35 for Field Museum members, and $40 for non-members.

Can’t make it? Starting on March 7, the Wari Ale will be available on tap and in bottles at the Museum’s Field Bistro. For more information, check out the museum’s website.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Courtesy New District
arrow
Food
Say ‘Cheers’ to the Holidays With This 24-Bottle Wine Advent Calendar
Courtesy New District
Courtesy New District

This year, eschew your one-tiny-chocolate-a-day Advent calendar and count down to Christmas the boozy way. An article on the Georgia Straight tipped us off to New District’s annual wine Advent calendars, featuring 24 full-size bottles.

Each bottle of red, white, or sparkling wine is hand-picked by the company’s wine director, with selections from nine different countries. Should you be super picky, you can even order yourself a custom calendar, though that will likely add to the already-high price point. The basic 24-bottle order costs $999 (in Canadian dollars), and if you want to upgrade from cardboard boxes to pine, that will run you $100 more.

If you can’t quite handle 24 bottles (or $999), the company is introducing a 12-bottle version this year, too. For $500, you get 12 reds, whites, rosés, and sparkling wines from various unnamed “elite wine regions.”

With both products, each bottle is numbered, so you know exactly what you should be drinking every day if you really want to be a stickler for the Advent schedule. Whether you opt for 12 or 24 bottles, the price works out to about $42 per bottle, which is somewhere in between the “I buy all my wines based on what’s on sale at Trader Joe’s” level and “I am a master sommelier” status.

If you want to drink yourself through the holiday season, act now. To make sure you receive your shipment before December 1, you’ll need to order by November 20. Get it here.

[h/t the Georgia Straight]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Wally Gobetz, flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
arrow
Food
A Brief History of the Pickleback Shot
Wally Gobetz, flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Wally Gobetz, flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

It's sour. It's briny. For some, it's nauseating. For others, a godsend.

It's the pickleback shot, an unusual combination of drinking whiskey and pickle brine that has quickly become a bartending staple. Case in point? Kelly Lewis, manager of New York City's popular Crocodile Lounge, estimates she sells at least 100 pickleback shots every week.

Pickleback loyalists may swear by it, but how did this peculiar pairing make its way into cocktail culture? On today's National Pickle Day, we hit the liquor history books to find out.

PICKLEBACK HISTORY, AS WE KNOW IT

As internet legend has it, Reggie Cunningham, a former employee of Brooklyn dive bar Bushwick Country Club, invented the shot in March 2006. He was half bartending, half nursing a hangover with McClure's pickles, when a customer challenged him to join her in doing a shot of Old Crow bourbon whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice as a chaser. As he nostalgically tells YouTube channel Awesome Dreams, "the rest is history."

Cunningham went on to introduce the pairing to more and more customers, and the demand grew so much that he decided to charge an extra dollar per shot, just for the addition of pickle brine. After that, the mixture spread like wildfire, with bars across the world from New York to California and China to Amsterdam adding "pickleback" to their menus.

THE PICKLEBACK'S UNCLEAR ORIGIN

Two shot glasses topped with small pickles.

Neil Conway, flickr // CC BY 2.0

Sure, Cunningham may have named it the pickleback shot, but after reviewing mixed reports, it appears pickle juice as a chaser is hardly novel. In Texas, for example, pickle brine was paired with tequila well before Cunningham's discovery, according to Men’s Journal. And in Russia, pickles have long been used to follow vodka shots, according to an NPR report on traditional Russian cuisine.

Unfortunately, no true, Britannica-approved record of the pickleback's origin exists, like so many do for other popular drinks, from the Manhattan to the Gin Rickey; it's internet hearsay—and in this case, Cunningham's tale is on top.

SO, WHY PICKLES?

Not sold yet? Sure, a pickle's most common companion is a sandwich, but the salty snack and its brine have terrific taste-masking powers.

"People who don't like the taste of whiskey love taking picklebacks because they completely cut the taste, which makes the shots very easy to drink," Lewis told Mental Floss. "Plus, they add a bit of salt, which blends nicely with the smooth flavor of Jameson."

Beyond taste masking, pickle juice is also a commonly used hangover cure, with the idea being that the salty brine will replenish electrolytes and reduce cramping. In fact, after a famed NFL "pickle juice game" in 2000, during which the Philadelphia Eagles destroyed the Dallas Cowboys in 109 degree weather (with the Eagles crediting their trainer for recommending they drink the sour juice throughout the game), studies have seemed to confirm that drinks with a vinegary base like pickle juice can help reduce or relieve muscle cramping.

WAYS TO PARTAKE

While core pickleback ingredients always involve, well, pickles, each bar tends to have a signature style. For example, Lewis swears by Crocodile Lounge's mix of pickle brine and Jameson; it pairs perfectly with the bar's free savory pizza served with each drink.

For Cunningham, the "Pickleback OG," it's Old Crow and brine from McClure's pickles. And on the more daring side, rather than doing a chaser shot of pickle juice, Café Sam of Pittsburgh mixes jalapeños, homemade pickle juice, and gin together for a "hot and sour martini."

If pickles and whiskey aren't up your alley, you can still get in on the pickle-liquor movement with one of the newer adaptations, including a "beet pickleback" or—gulp!—the pickled-egg and Jägermeister shot, also known as an Eggermeister.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios