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The name Ganja Acid combines the recreational sloth of marijuana with the cosmic distortion of the 1960’s most iconic chemical without offering any hint that it belongs to a four-seat psychedelic bar. A friend suggested my wife Rebekah and I visit it while on our honeymoon in Osaka. Although I no longer smoked weed or dropped acid, I still loved the psychedelic: surreal books, occult verbiage, hippie satire, and trippy music that sounded like it was made on mushrooms. They were fun and reminded me of the risky excitement required to warp reality in order to examine it. The thing was, neither ganja nor acid were legal in Japan. While marijuana shops had popped up all over Portland where we lived, over there, even the smallest amount of weed brought first-time offenders a minimum of five years hard labor.

Japan’s 1948 Cannabis Control Act outlawed the commercial cultivation of hemp after WWII. Because modern pharmaceuticals have recreational uses, Japan also outlawed the unauthorized possession of many opioid painkillers like codeine and banned amphetamines like Adderall that are used to treat ADHD. It didn’t matter how commonly they were prescribed in other countries. It wasn’t a matter of clinical efficacy. The laws treated them with the same firm hand as heroin and cocaine. In June 2015, a high-level Toyota Motor Corp executive was arrested for having 57 oxycodone pills hidden in a package, mailed to her Tokyo hotel from the United States. Authorities held her for 20 days, and, after she resigned her high-profile post, and after she was widely discussed in the media, they let her off without formal charges. This is common in Japan, where the process is often the punishment for people who apologize and express remorse. Although oxycodone was legally prescribed there, the exec didn’t have a prescription and she didn’t get official governmental approval in advance.

More… “Ganja-Acid”

Aaron Gilbreath is the author of the personal essay collection Everything We Don’t Know, and the ebook This Is: Essays on Jazz. An editor at Longreads, his essays and articles have appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Lucky Peach, Brick, and Saveur. He’s working on a book tentatively titled Tanoshii: Travels in Japan. @AaronGilbreath

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The first time I have been to Valtellina was at the end of last year’s harvest season with three Italians, my other half and a couple of friends from the region. After running the Valtellina wine trail (a scenic marathon through the vineyards) we visited Chiuro to do a tasting of the heady Sforzato wine made with partially dried Nebbiolo grapes grown on impossibly steep terraced vineyards. Beer was the last thing on our minds when we entered the cellars of the winemaker Balgera. We were in for a surprise.

This was when we first heard about the making of the Italian grape ale. A long-standing family wine company Balgera and an artisanal beer company Pintalpina had worked together to make this ale, a newly classified type of beer. But we couldn’t taste it as it was not yet bottled. More… “The Beer Harvest”

Demet Güzey writes and teaches about food and wine, in Verona, Italy. She is the author of Food on Foot: A History of Eating on Trails and in the Wild. Her writing has appeared in Gastronomica, Eaten, and numerous scientific journals. You can follow her on Instagram at demetguzey and twitter @demetguzey

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The 1920s in Shanghai enjoyed a period exactly like the hedonistic ’20s in the United States, or so I understand. I wasn’t around at the time, though my mother told me all about it. A Chinese woman with bound feet, she and my Italian-Dutch-Indonesian father foxtrotted and stomped on the Palace Hotel’s fabled floor, a structure braced on springs that tilted this way and that with its cargo, and drank champagne and other imported wines. Actually, all wines had to be imported. And today, despite their industrious bent to beat the West, the Chinese have begun growing grapes for distillation but fail to achieve any kind of quality. My parents’ circle of friends was multinational, typical of Shanghai then. My father, an importer-exporter who owned a freighter, had a lively hobby, a kennel of greyhounds that he raced on the Shanghai Greyhound Race Track. In Macau, the Portuguese territory, he built a dog track. More… “Drinks to Shine the Moon”

Lucille Bellucci grew up in Shanghai with an Italian-Dutch-Indonesian father and Chinese mother. After exile from China, the family sailed to Italy, where they lived five years before immigrating to the United States. Lucille has also lived 15 years in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
She has five novels and has won many awards for her short stories and essays.

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People — women in particular — have been making themselves up for centuries, often despite fear of public derision and threats to personal health. Makeup has been used as art and artifice, for subjugation and empowerment. Read about how it has changed through the years and how it looks today, as seen in the mirror of The Good Wife. (Open Letters Monthly, The Smart Set)

Blood may be thicker than water, but alcohol is stronger than both. Read about the truth and cliché of vodka in Russia and the hangover left by Prohibition in the United States. (Gastronomica, The Smart Set)

What do you do when you know you’re losing your mind? Read about a journalist who knows Alzheimer’s inside and out and a young, forgetful woman trying to ward it off. (Nautilus, The Smart Set) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.

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Being cool is mostly about posture. It is a way of holding your body. It is a certain expression on your face. It’s the way you handle a cigarette, but not the way you smoke it. Maybe you never even take a puff; you just let the thing dangle in your right hand, smoldering, until it burns out.

Morgan Meis has a PhD in Philosophy and is a founding member of Flux Factory, an arts collective in New York. He has written for n+1, The Believer, Harper’s Magazine, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. He won the Whiting Award in 2013. Morgan is also an editor at 3 Quarks Daily, and a winner of a Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers grant. A book of Morgan’s selected essays can be found here. He can be reached at morganmeis@gmail.com.

Sometime between 7,000 and 5,600 BC, along the banks of the Yellow River, an early inhabitant of modern-day China left behind a jug that was once filled with the earliest known example of a fermented grain beverage. With no written recipe or recorded history of the Neolithic concoction, the contents of the vessel were left to evaporate and decay during its long burial, fading into the past. Today, however, roughly 9,000 years later, you can go to your local beer store and walk out with an alcoholic concoction brewed to that seemingly lost ancient recipe. How is that possible? Through the unlikely union of traditional archaeology, modern chemical analysis technology, and the adventurous craft-brewing industry, tasting a 9,000-year-old beer has become as easy as picking it up off the shelf.

It’s been known for a while that some of the earliest civilized humans brewed beer. The almost 4000-year-old “Hymn to… More…

It’s become fashionable in American beer-geek circles to talk about the dire state of beer in Germany. The story is usually based on this fact: Germans are drinking less beer, about 101 liters per capita last year, down from more than 130 liters in the mid-1990s.

The story usually then leaps to questionable assumptions about why this is happening. Chief among these: German beers have become boring because the big six Bavarian beer producers make exactly the same beers. A conclusion is arrived at: What Germany really needs to regain its former glory is some gosh-darn, rootin’ tootin’ American innovation — namely in the form of American-style craft brews.

The latest appeared a few weeks ago in a Slate piece by Christian DeBenedetti titled “Brauereisterben” — literally “brewery death,” a term used since the 1990s and named after a term for Germany’s dying forests. One of the few… More…

Are there still wine people out there who won’t give beer the time of day? Seriously? Sadly, it appears so. When I’ve mentioned to wine friends that I’ve started writing about beer, some act as though I’d told them I’ll be writing about bromance comedies, Hooters’ waitresses and fantasy hockey.

 

I actually saw a Wine Spectator forum this year that began, “Why do you consider wine to be far superior to drink than beer?” Maybe I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised by the responses:

“I think the superiority is clear. … For one, I find the flavors of beer to be quite fatiguing. … The range of bright and fruity flavors that wine can portray just cover a broader and more impressive scale than that of beer.”

“Hot wings, hot dogs, potato chips = Beer. Everything else wine…. More…

I love a good argument. I particularly love a good argument about drinks. And I especially love a good drinks argument in which manifestos are published. This is why — whether we’re talking about wine, spirits or beer — it’s endlessly amusing to bring up the topic of alcohol content.

 

In wine, there are supporters of high-alcohol fruit bombs versus sommeliers who refuse to put any wine over 14 percent on their lists. In spirits, it’s the opposite: Many craft bartenders thumb their noses at whiskey that falls below 100 proof. And in beer, there’s the perennial issue of the session beer.

Session beers are low-alcohol, high-flavor, easy-drinking, reasonably priced beers that one might drink all night long and still be able to walk home without doing something stupid. Essentially, a session beer is the opposite of… More…

How, though, to explain that I boarded the bus at Kent State University with a two-liter bottle filled with Seagram’s 7 whiskey and 7-Up?  My brothers didn’t drink the stuff. I could have sourced some other intoxicant, say beer or vodka, or better yet, a nice bottle of Bourbon.

My answer is simple: Prohibition.

Kevin R. Kosar is the editor of AlcoholReviews.com and the author of  Whiskey: A Global History (Reaktion).