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Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  440 ratings  ·  88 reviews
While some may wonder, “Does the world really need another flavored vodka?” no one answers this question quite so memorably as spirits writer and raconteur Jason Wilson does in Boozehound. (By the way, the short answer is no.) A unique blend of travelogue, spirits history, and recipe collection, Boozehound explores the origins of what we drink and the often surprising reas ...more
Kindle Edition, 242 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2010)
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It would be easy to dismiss Jason Wilson as a spirits snob. His rants about populist vodka and adoration of the obscure certainly rings of snobbishness. But that's just on the surface. Sprinkled throughout the length of the book, Wilson admits to all sorts of un-hip, un-snob likes and dislikes. And while he may be friends with some true snobs, I think his own self-applied label is spot-on: geek.

Geeks are great. Geeks have strong opinions for one reason only - they're really into things. If a ge
M. C.
Really enjoyed this. Wilson has an enjoyably tongue-in-cheek approach to his subject, an admirable lack of pretension and willingness to mock sacred cows (and himself), and a good sense about the essential good fortune of working as a spirits writer. While there are plenty of anecdotes that start off in one exotic locale or the next, occasionally leaving the impression that the job is nothing but travel and drinking and other first world problems, he's aware of that issue and balances it with pl ...more
This book would make an excellent gift for anyone who enjoys stepping outside of the box when it comes to imbibing. It is a wonderful introduction into a large variety of alternative beverages from the obscure and hard to find to the easily available but often under-rated. The drink recipes that follow each chapter help whet the appetite, and made me want to rush out to my local store to start picking up ingredients. Best of all, the narrative voice was friendly and approachable- I felt more lik ...more
Some of the information in this book is also available on the spirits column archives at the Washington Post website.

I highly recommend both the book and the Washington Post spirits column.

I read the library copy but this book is definitely worth buying.

This book really opened my eyes about how little I know about spirits.
Wilson's Boozehound is a great introduction to the joy that can be had by drinking well. It takes the form of a sort of travel memoir focused on spirits (and interspersed with recipes), and Wilson's experiences seem to make him the perfect person to pitch the subject. Perhaps most importantly, he succeeds in avoiding pretension, which can be offputting to readers not already immersed in the subject. He introduces topics at the neophyte level, so the reading is appropriate for any one, but there ...more
This was an entertaining book about, well, booze! Specifically rare, local spirits from all around the world. Granted, you have to have a particular interest in this for this book to be interesting (and you have to accept the fact that you'll never try 90% of the rare, exotic, and expensive spirits that the author gets to try, him being a "lifestyle" journalist who writes about spirits for a living). The only reason I give it 3 stars instead of 4 is that it's just kind of a narrow topic. But if ...more
Most of the other reviewers have hit the high, and, to my mind, the most important bits about this book. What I want to add is that the author doesn't take himself seriously. However, he does convey an appreciation for the passion involved in producing excellent spirits. He explains succinctly what it is we should be looking for in drinkable spirits.

I found myself laughing out loud as he called a spade a spade regarding martinis - and it's something I've been saying ever since I discovered the
The more books I read by columnists, the more I recognize the simple fact that they can't write in anything other than a column format, even if that column is 15 pages long. One of the last chapters in which he covered tequila, eau de vie and brandy felt especially truncated.

While you could consider this a history of spirits, this is not for someone who has little knowledge about them. Wilson will often refer to terms he hasn't explained or give incomplete explanations.
While you could also cons
John Banister
Wilson is simply a joy to read. He will ingratiate himself to you as a reader whether you are knowledgable about spirits or not; the stories of his travels, those whom he meets, will captivate you. The ending may slightly surprise you, but surely it will leave you reaching for a bottle to pass around either way. Highly recommended.
This was really an enjoyable read, far more so that I expected. I was afraid the author was going to be snobby and pretentious or only try and sell the reader on what he liked or what was prohibitively expensive. Instead, he's pretty down to earth, witty, and writes in a very casual style for the average person. I learned a lot about history (of places in the world and generalized history as well as specifically to spirits), almost without realizing it. I'm not a big drinker of spirits, but he r ...more
Eric Felten's "How's Your Drink?" a collection of essays about various spirits and cocktails--weaving stories in about their history and legend in our culture-- was so enchanting that it was a revelation: a sui generis form of literature, a literary series of "amuse-bouches." While "Boozehound" by Jason Wilson falls short of the gold standard set by Felten, it is nearly as entertaining. The front cover has an Anthony Bourdain quote which intrigues:"Superbly informative, entertaining, and yet dee ...more
Melissa McCauley
I have long wanted to learn about liquor, but all the books I have picked up were pretentious tomes talking down to suburbanites like myself. (Yes, I know I have terrible taste in wine… and I admit it - I have no idea what is in a Tom Collins… so just get over it!)

This book is part travel memoir, part spirit review, part cocktail recipe book. Each chapter takes you on a journey through the author’s past and attempts to educate the reader about how to taste and understand the flavors in various o
So good. Really interesting. Great stories. Well-written. It started off a little rough, but Wilson settled into his style. The recipes he shares at the end of each chapter are also excellent. If you like reading about the booze industry, I completely recommend this book.
Wilson could've gone the pompous ass route here -- fortunately, he manages to avoid that altogether. Instead, he explains why it's important to drink the good stuff (you get what you pay for). I appreciated the travel narrative aspect for each liquor: Norway for akavit, Netherlands for gin, Italy for vermouth, etc. As a matter of fact, I've never even had vermouth before, but was scouting the local liquor stores for some of the ones he recommends! He gives drink recipes at the end of each chapte ...more
Scott J
Easily my favorite introduction into the world of cocktails Jason Wilson does an amazing job of showing how liquor has shaped cultures from the United States to Europe.
this was delightful nerdery at its best. the author unashamedly calls himself a cocktail geek, and i would like to go drinking with him sometime.
This made me want to try new things. Drinks, specifically. I liked that the author seems very unpretentious in his love of alcohol.
I'm really looking forward to reading this having read some of his columns through the years. I imagine I'll find much to ponder and a little bit to challenge vociferously. Thanks to Briar and Michelle Jones for such a thoughtful gift. Having read it now, I can say it's a fun n d witty book, except that much of what he writes about Martinis is bunk. Still a great treasure trove of more antique cocktail recipes for starters. As well as an interesting cultural history of what I would argue is one ...more
Shaun Brady
First off let me say I didn't hate this book,despite my low rating. This just wasn't what I was expecting to get from all the blurbs, and descriptions. The book makes this boast: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits. from that one would have expected a rip roaring journey across the world in search the rare and obscure, not all what this book is about.

This book is more of an autobiographical life story of one man and his journey with spirts. This was well done and
An enjoyable, though insubstantial, book on spirits. As a self-professed lover of "old man drinks" I was excited to read this. The author, a spirits critic, has a refreshing lack of pretension while trying to convince Americans to enjoy foreign drinks. Most of the spirits he talks about aren't so much exclusive as they are obscure in the US. I don't share his fondness for such herbal liquors as Grappa and Aquavit, but reading his stories has made me more likely to try them again! Highly recommen ...more
Jason Wilson is a very good writer, not some tacky lifestyle-mag scribbler. But he writes without the whiff of snobbery that often hangs around "serious" beer and spirits reviewers. He's a guy, in other words, that you'd want to have a beer (or whiskey, or akvavit...) with. This alcoholic tour of the world taught me a little about liquor, and has already convinced me to spend some serious cash on a few of the spirits he praises in the book, but Boozehound is mostly just a collection of good drin ...more
Great book. I'm completely jealous that Jason Wilson gets to travel around the world and drink booze. Oh yeah, and he gets paid for it. Color me *very* jealous.

Really well-written book. Has some great history of booze in general and specific drinks as well. He also includes a hell of a lot of actual drink recipes from various places (including some famous bars around the country).

Very entertaining, incredibly fascinating, quite informative and perfectly easy and fun to read, I'd recommend this
First of all, the structure is a mess -- this might've read easier if it were presented as a collection of essays or lifestyle columns than as an actual book. As it is, chapters begin randomly and end whenever Wilson runs out of breath. I could've done without the hipper-than-thou tone, as well. Promising anecdotes like tasting Castro's rum should've been intensely engaging and historically fascinating, but in this book they feel more like bragging rights. This could've been a great book -- my h ...more
Jan 03, 2011 Josh rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
Jason Wilson's column is always enjoyable in the Post, and it's fun to read him championing obscure liquors and bashing on vodka. So of course I enjoyed this book, which is just that, plus a bit more personal anecdotes. It's going to cost me quite a bit to stock up my liquor cabinet with some of his recommendations, with Calvacados first up.

My only complaint is his worship of Derek Brown, who is a great bartender who owns a cool faux-speakeasy, but that complaint is only based on an inside joke,
Geoff Carter
Spirits writers are, pardon the pun, usually dry in nature; it's all terroir this, tannins that. Jason Wilson writes about these things, but in a personable way that makes them readily understandable to laypersons. This is, for all intents and purposes, a biography and travelogue with drink recipes -- and goddamn if it doesn't make you want to stock up on absinthe and Luxardo, while taking a bat to the flavored vodka aisle. Strongly recommended, even for intermittent drinkers. Have rarely read b ...more
Starts out strong, gets a bit weaker as it goes along. Just like an over-iced drink. And, for a short book, even becomes redundant at times.

But some great stories, and great drink recipes end each chapter. The drinks are easy to make, but usually include some hard to find component.

I'm a gin lover, he almost makes me want to try some high end rums and tequilas.

I've heard "Imbibed" is better.

But pretty much a fun, quick read. Makes you want to go out and spend too much money on high end, obscu
Another great book about spirits and the cocktail world. It's both fabulous and annoying that the author mocks cocktail snobs and is one at the same time. Of course, since I totally agree with his whole rant about vodka, the book is probably less annoying than it might be to some other people. He doesn't quite have the joy and frivolity of someone like Victoria Moore (How to Drink), but his book is quite informative about trends and brands and has definitely added some bottles to my home bar.
Jan 31, 2011 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
I loved this book. It's definitely more lifestyle journalism than a primer on the spirits industry, but as such it is a completely enjoyable and fun read. The writer has great admiration for liquor, and the history of the many spirits and cocktails- without taking it overboard to the land of pretension that seems to be an easy fate for so many others in the industry.

The writing actually made me laugh out loud. It's not quite subversive, but it's a fun read on America's (arguably) favorite pasti
Bleu Caldwell
I really enjoyed this. Wilson is passionate while remaining down to earth, and I appreciated his good-natured dismissal of the trendiness and hype that runs rampant in the food and drink industry. I'm not much of a cocktail drinker, but his love of spirits and his descriptions of their history and complexity have encouraged me to go out and explore. Cheers!
I bought this one for my boyfriend the cocktail hobbyist. The top of the fridge used to be big enough for this one of many hobbies - but now I only have myself to blame. He enjoyed the book immensely, so I picked it up and also found it enjoyable. Lots of fun little anecdotes sprinkled with cocktail recipes. It will rapidly become dated by its pop-culture references, but it made me laugh. And a homemade Singapore sling is a nice thing to come home to.
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JASON WILSON is the drinks columnist at the Washington Post, the series editor of The Smart Set, and the author of Boozehound: On The Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated. He teaches at Drexel University.
More about Jason Wilson...
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