spirit possession

Embittered VI: You Had Me At “Swamp Birch.”

every time i say "swamp birch", my brain replies "blood bitch". it's a Cocteau Twins thing, don't get it twisted.

~

This shit is great. It tastes like crushed up aspirin and caramelized vegetable sugars.

If this – surely the most detailed (if of uncertain authority) account of what remains a pretty obscure drink – is accurate, “possible first 17 ingredients” include: mint, nutmeg, swamp birch blossom and buds, linden berries, raspberries, bilberries, peppermint, valerian, ginger, black pepper, hyssop, sweet flag root, cranberries, huckleberries, honey, lemon-balm and St John’s wort, and the whole is aged in clay amphorae (I loooove pluralizing words that end with ‘a’). This is the same type of vessel used in the production of traditional Georgian amber wines, as well as some of the other European orange wines that have been popping up in recent years.¹ Which is -almost- nothing more than an interesting coincidence, save that in both cases, producers insist that the amphora (or kvevri, in the Georgian case) is not just a method of preparation, but constitutes an ingredient itself. Now, one can make a similar claim for all sorts of products wherein a given technology is essential to the final gustatory outcome, especially the wide range of alcohols aged in anything chosen for the particular qualities it lends (oak, usually.). There is a subtle difference, however, between affirming the necessity of the chosen technique / materials, and assigning to them the status of ingredients. Now, without access to the terms in which these matters are discussed in Lettish or Georgian, there is only so much imaginative speculation in which one may responsibly indulge, so let’s leave it at me liking the way it makes a little fuzzier the divide between product and process.

(Also, turns out it’s available at the LCBO, although annoyingly nowhere in Toronto or anywhere else I ever am.)

¹ A great primer on orange and amber wines here, w/ adorable illustrations, to boot. For those curious to taste some, now is a great time to swing by Pullman, where they have late been pouring a couple of orange wines by the glass to provide just such an opportunity for the unfamiliar. One of these is by orange wine luminary Stanko Radikon, whose bottles usually price in the upper 70$ range (in restaurants) for a half-litre, so I say hit that shit while you can, because it is super interesting.

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