Tag Archives: Rice

What was Ameria’s First Whiskey?

As a crop Rye is difficult to harvest, and even more difficult to make into booze. However, the tenacity it displays allows Rye to be planted in late fall, survive harsh winters, and be the first grain ready to harvest in spring.

Corn, Wheat, Barley, and Rice were domesticated by humans between 9,000 – 10,000 years ago. Our ancestors did not cultivate Oats until 4,500 years ago. The last of the cereal grains to be domesticated was Rye: only 2,500 years ago.

Even though it showed up late to the party, Rye made America’s first whiskey. Settlers of New England tried growing wheat & barley, but these crops do not like the poor weather & soil conditions found throughout New England.

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Sake Step 1: Prepare the Rice!

Sake is a very complex alcohol that is made using a unique blend of wine-making and beer-brewing techniques.


In the Sake-making process, the first step is to prepare the rice for fermentation.

To this end, rice is passed over a rough stone to slowly ware down the hulls. The longer rice is pollished like this the better quality the Sake will be.

Polishing the rice like this process can take up to 4 days, and the finest quality of grains for making sake end up 50% of their original size.

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Expiration Date: 10,000 Years Ago

9,000 years ago people in today’s Yangtze Valley, China cultivated wild rice—though perhaps Rice is like the dog of the plant kingdom, in that it practically begged to be domesticated. The plant itself has a remarkable ability to thrive in either dry or flooded fields. In addition, it mass polinates via the wind.

Today, there are over 110,000 varieties of Rice, although only Oryza sativa var. japonica is ever used for making alochol—the oldest of which (made actually 10,000 years ago) is a Rice wine made also with fruit and honey.

Dogfish Head teamed up with molecular biologist Patrick McGovern to re-brew this ancient alcohol in 2006. The result is their Chateau Jiahu—named after the site in China’s Henan Province where the archeological evidence turned up.

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Plum Wine Lies To You

Unlike other fruit wines—which are made from the fruit in their name—Plum Wine is not made from Plums. In fact, it is not even wine!

“Plum Wine” is made from infusing Plums into a vodka-like liquor called Shochu. Originating in Persia, Shochu is liquor distilled from fermented rice, barley, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, brown sugar, and sometimes even more obscure ingredients.

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Rice-Booze is 8,000 Years Old!

Between 8,000 – 9,000 years ago humans domesticated Rice. While that is no where near as sexy as domesticating wild horses in a western movie, it did pave the way for rice-based booze, which began 8,000 years ago, too!

The uncanny ability of the Rice plant to thrive in both flooded and dry fields gave it a leg up on crops into which early humans would want sink their efforts. While over 110,000 varieties of rice exist, only ‘Oryza sativa var. japonica’ is used for making alcohols like sake and rice wine.

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Lao-Lao is the World’s Cheapest Liquor

American craft beer brewers look down their noses at beers that brew with Rice (like Bud Light). However in many parts of the world rice serves as a perfectly legitimate ingredient for making booze.

The cheapest liquor in the world is Lao-Lao: a rice-whiskey made in Laos. A 0.7 L bottle costs $0.74.

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“Vile Rice Wine”

Sake is a wine that is made from fermented rice, instead of grapes. It is about 8,000 years old, having originated in the Henan Province of China.

Contrary to popular belief, Sake does not need to be served warm. In fact, it should not be served warm! This is a marketing gimmick that helps poor-quality sake go down more smoothly—just like the salt and lime with tequila (spoiler alert!).

In 1896 somebody at the New York Times had the pleasure of reviewing Sake for the first time. They described it as a, “Vile rice wine,” with a, “markedly poisonous effect.” It would seem that in the last 123 years we have come quite a ways in appreciating this unique beverage…except for drinking it warm!

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