Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves

The Bronfman family changed the face of the booze business in America. Old Mr. Sam, regardless of what he did or did not do during prohibition, was smart enough when it ended to hold off shipping goods until they aged, had great taste and would command a premium price.

In his grandson’s office – that would be Edgar Bronfman Jr. – there was a photo of Mr. Sam with the caption, “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” That was his way of saying from nothing to nothing. In a biography on A&E, Edgar Jr. looked into the camera and earnestly said, “not on my watch.”

Not long after, at the turn of the century, the “genius,” as he was referred to, sold the birthright for a song.

No worries…the family holdings must have gone from $8 Billion to $3 Billion, I suppose. But, still a boatload of money.

Not quite shirtsleeves but prophetic nonetheless.

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Here Comes Whiskey

Once upon a time when the folks from Mad Men ruled the earth, it was all about whiskey – Scotch, Rye, Bourbon, and Blends. Oh sure, there was the multiple martini lunch (Gin not Vodka) but for the most part it was the “brown goods” that ruled the home bar.

By the late 60’s, Vodka started its ascendency and today it is the single largest category of spirits. And, it’s rise practically wiped whiskey off the map. The so-called brown stuff became “my father’s drink” and a new generation of drinkers jumped on the “white goods” bandwagon.

But guess what? There’s a newer generation of drinkers for whom Whiskey can be a real alternative to Vodka. Spurred on by the emerging sub-category of flavored whiskey (Red Stag by Jim Beam, Wild Turkey American Honey, others) I think Whiskeys will continue to grow and at a faster rate.

Bourbon is the engine of growth but you can expect good old Rye to fuel the category. Who knows – Blended Whiskey may make a comeback.

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Why is it called Booze?

If you Google the origin of the word booze a number of explanations and origins come up. None of which I consider to be as interesting as the one I have heard.

The most common origin ascribes the word to either the Dutch or German word busen ‘to drink to excess’ or ‘to carouse’.

One of the most persistent “booze myths” traces the word to a Mr. Booz, a mid 19th century distiller from the Philadelphia area. Some say it comes from the Middle English word (circa 1300) ‘bouse’ meaning to drink.

One of my favorites is based on a promoter who promised free beer to anyone who came to one of his events. His name? Mr. Booz.

The one that makes the most sense to me (and didn’t come from google) is that its origin is said to go back to World War I and a contingent of ‘doughboys’ the nickname given to the American Expeditionary Force that took part in the war. These troops were in a southwestern French town with no alcohol to consume except for the local wine. The town was Buzet… as in Buzet Wine…as in “what’s this here booze?”

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