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In 1848 when Samuel Brannan shouted “Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!” the precious metal he was waving around was stored in a quinine bottle. Malaria, scurvy, and plague all impacted the young city of San Francisco- and many of the recommended treatments for each (cinchona bark, citrus, gin) came in beverage form. The City’s most fashionable bar, located on the site of the Transamerica Building, served a drink made with Peruvian brandy, perhaps laced with a bit of cocaine, which was described by Rudyard Kipling as “compounded of the shavings of cherub’s wings, the glory of a tropical dawn, the red clouds of sunset and the fragments of lost epics by dead masters.”
In this talk by author Camper English, we’ll start locally and think globally about diseases and conditions treated by alcohol-based medicine. Alcohol and Medicine have an inextricably intertwined history, with innovations in each altering the path of the other. The story stretches back to ancient times, when beer and wine were used to provide nutrition and hydration, and were employed as solvents for healing botanicals. Over time, alchemists distilled elixirs designed to cure all diseases, monastic apothecaries developed mystical botanical liqueurs, traveling physicians concocted dubious intoxicating nostrums, and the drinks we’re familiar with today began to take form.
In turn, scientists studied fermentation and formed the germ theory of disease, and developed an understanding of elemental gases and anesthetics. Modern cocktails like the Old-Fashioned, Gimlet, and Gin and Tonic were born as delicious remedies for diseases and discomforts. In Doctors and Distillers, cocktails and spirits expert Camper English reveals how and why the contents of our medicine and liquor cabinets were, until surprisingly recently, one and the same.
An in-person and virtual presentation by Camper English, cocktails and spirits writer and speaker