Origins

History of the Cocktail

History of the Cocktail

Before there were cocktails, there was punch.

In 18th century England, big bowls full of booze, juice, and spices were served in punch houses across the country, the Age of Enlightenment equivalent of Jungle Juice. Then a more civilized way to imbibe was devised, and the sling was born, a mix of sugar, water, and liquor served neat at room temperature.

It wasn’t until 1806 that bitters got in the mix and the cocktail was formally introduced in The Balance and Columbian Repository, where it was defined as a “stimulating liquor composed of any kind of sugar, water, and bitters.” As you can imagine, the lack of acid from lemons and limes made these pre-Prohibition potations incredibly sweet, and the lack of ice at the time made them tepid at best.

The Age of Enlightenment equivalent of Jungle Juice.

Over time though, the cocktail got better. Jerry Thomas, the writer behind The Bartender’s Guide, had a lot to do with that. His book became an encyclopedia of sorts, with recipes to classic cocktails like a mint julep to an eclectic mix of now antiquated drinks, including Balaklava Nectar, made with claret, soda water, champagne, and lemon, and the Locomotive, a whiskey cocktail with lemon and Cointreau.

Then, in 1920, Prohibition abruptly halted the growing cocktail movement. People were still drinking, sure, but the secrecy of that drinking often meant moonshine in basements, not martinis in parlors. Many talented bartenders left to work abroad, and when the 18th amendment was repealed in 1933, people were ready to drink their spirits straight, cocktails be damned.

Of course, over time, cocktail culture picked back up. The Mad Men of the ‘50s and ‘60s, with their copious Old Fashioneds and Manhattans and Martinis, made sure of it. And while there was a brief hiatus in the late ‘60s into the ‘70s, where cannabis culture took over, by the ‘90s another cocktail renaissance was underway.

Cranberry juice became popular due to its purported health benefits, and the earliest iteration of the Cosmopolitan began to pop up around gay bars in San Francisco. In 1988, the Cosmo landed in the capable hands of Toby Cecchini, owner of Long Island Bar in New York, who modernized the saccharine drink by swapping Rose’s lime and grenadine with Cointreau, fresh lime juice, and of course, cranberry juice.

Other decidedly ‘90s cocktails include the Espresso Martini, the Appletini, and the Bramble, a gin cocktail made with Giffard Crème de Mûre. These days, drinking trends have evolved in favor of classic cocktails with a subtle twist (think: a martini washed with olive oil). But despite the Cosmo no longer being the drink du jour it once was, we still love the power cocktails have to serve as a portal to the past.

Curious about the story of cocktails past? Read up on the history of happy hour, or take a deep dive into aperitivo culture.

History of Mother's Day Flowers

History of Mother's Day Flowers

A bouquet of flowers for Mother’s Day is the oldest trick in the book, next to maybe breakfast in bed or a hand-drawn card. But where does the tradition stem from, and what flowers are associated with the holiday?

It all started with a woman named Anna Jarvis. Born in West Virginia in 1864, Anna would go on to found Mother’s Day in 1908, three years after her own mother’s death. It would be a few years later, in 1914, that President Woodrow Wilson would formally declare the second Sunday of May Mother’s Day (it wasn’t until 1972 that Father’s Day became a national holiday, if you’re keeping track).

What started as a way to commemorate Anna’s own mother quickly became a way to recognize mothers everywhere. In celebration of the first memorial, Anna gave the events’ attendants 500 white carnations, her mother’s favorite flower.The flower became an important symbol of the holiday, as Anna explained,

The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart, and so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts.

Over time, the floral industry commodified the flower, even introducing red carnations to meet growing demand. Prices went up, and Anna’s original symbolism behind the carnation faded, instead taking on a new meaning; the red carnation was gifted to mothers, while the white carnation was used to honor mothers who had recently passed, placed on their gravestones as a tribute.

It wasn’t just the symbolism that changed; aware that Mother’s Day was quickly becoming a cash cow, greeting card and confection companies quickly hopped on board as well, creating their own product lines gearing toward celebrating moms everywhere.

Anna, fed up with the the commercialization of a day founded on altruistic grounds, boldly spoke out about the trivialization of the day, at one point saying, “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.”

In 1923, Anna went so far as to stop the day’s festivities by disturbing white carnation sellers, though she was shortly arrested for her public order violation. Her attempts to have the holiday formally rescinded also failed. And despite her best efforts, Anna’s unwillingness to adapt to the times led to her own economic hardship; when she died in 1948, it was the floral and greeting card companies that paid for her medical bills.

Fast forward to today, when Mother’s Day is still widely celebrated, remaining one of the biggest days of sales in the floral and greeting card industries.The most common gift? Flowers, though the carnation isn’t the only popular pick; tulips, daisies, lilies are all common choices, though your mom’s favorite flowers is always the best bet in our book.

Fascinated by flora? Read up on the history of the L.A. flower district, or dive deeper into the origins of the poinsettia.

The Color Green and Its Power to Soothe

The Color Green and Its Power to Soothe

This past year, the color green has been in. From the uptick in houseplants to the cultural phenomenon that was Dakota Johnson’s Alligator Alley-colored kitchen in her now-infamous Architectural Digest tour (IYKYK), it’s clear the verdant hue has overtaken our homes. And it makes sense: in a year where we’re glued to our screens and so much is unknown, of course we want to swath ourselves in the cool, relaxing color of nature. But why, exactly, does the color green have the power to soothe us?

Color therapy, also known as chromotherapy, is a therapeutic remedy that uses color and light to treat physical and mental health and balance the body’s chakras. If that sounds woo-woo, rest assured that the principle has been backed up by research; in one small experiment, researchers at the Aalborg University of Copenhagen monitored the brain activity of subjects and exposed them to different colors of light. Their brains were notably more active when exposed to red and blue light, while green light led to an overall feeling of ease and relaxation.

This isn’t a new phenomenon; in the early 1900s, a New York psychiatric hospital had a color ward to treat patients. There was a black room to soothe manic patients, a red room for those dealing with feelings of melancholy, a violet room for treating insanity, and then a green room for the boisterous. While we now know that purple walls are no cure for insanity, the idea that the shades of our surroundings can affect our mood still holds.

The Japanese concept of forest bathing, known as shinrin-yoku, speaks to this very premise; surrounding yourself in lush green spaces reduces stress, improves focus, and can even have positive effects on your physical well-being, from boosting your immune system to lowering heart rate and blood pressure. And yes, it can even help you from being too boisterous, if that’s a particular problem you face.

Looking to self-soothe by enveloping yourself in the color green? Paint your living room a deep emerald. Outfit your space with Monsteras galore. Or perhaps the simplest way: green-ify your bar cart with a bottle of Riverine, our non-alcoholic spirit packed with verdant botanicals like rosemary, mint, and cucumber.

The Science Of Bubbles

The Science Of Bubbles

Gin and tonic, hard seltzer, champagne; here at AMASS, we love an effervescent drink. But within the world of carbonation, countless types of bubbles abound. Here’s the science behind the bubbles, explained.

Put simply, carbonation is what happens when carbon dioxide is added to liquid. This can happen manually by forcefully dissolving CO2 in water, as is often done in mass-produced sparkling waters and sodas. Or, it can occur naturally.

Certain mineral springs around the world produce naturally-carbonated water. In Soda Springs, Idaho, there are thousands of these carbonated springs, which have arisen thanks to past volcanic activity in the region. The residual geothermal activity hundreds of feet below ground heats water and mixes in carbon dioxide, resulting in naturally carbonated water.

Another form of natural carbonation can be achieved through the process of fermentation, as is sometimes the case with alcohol, like beer, champagne, and even kombucha. For kombucha, this happens during secondary fermentation when the kombucha is flavored, bottled, and left to ferment for longer. As it sits, the bacteria in the kombucha is reactivated by the sugars in the flavoring, causing it to release gas for a slightly fizzy drink.

Across all these bubbly beverages, carbonation levels vary somewhat dramatically. Soda is more carbonated than beer, seltzer and mineral waters are on par with soda, and champagne is as bubbly as they come, with roughly 1.5 times as much carbonation as an average soda. Despite all this variance, each of these beverages has one thing in common: they all are made up of thousands of bubbles. What distinguishes one bubble from the next though? Usually, it’s the size.

Think about your favorite tonic water. While some prefer the harsh carbonation of a traditional soda, others opt for brands like Fever Tree, which has small champagne bubbles that create a softer mouthfeel. This distinction between bubble size is a key factor in the experience of a beverage, but there are other variables to consider when it comes to effervescent drinks.

One of those variables is the water itself. Some waters are hard, some are soft, and the taste difference is palpable. For instance, BallyGowan, our Co-Founder and Master Distiller Morgan McLachlan’s favorite still mineral water that hails from Northern Ireland, is incredibly soft due to the limestone in the terrain. Meanwhile, Vichy Catalan, a Spanish mineral water that’s another one of Morgan’s faves, has such a high total dissolved solids content that some people actually feel stimulated by it. It’s also incredibly salty; one liter of the stuff has a whopping one gram of sodium.

And that’s another important factor when it comes to your favorite sparkling waters: salinity. Club soda has some salt added, which is a big reason why bartenders love it so much. A splash of soda in your Tom Collins does more than just refresh; the salt content adds necessary balance, offsetting the sweetness of simple syrup and the bracing acidity of a heavy squeeze of lemon. It’s the same reason why flaky Maldon salt is so delicious on top of a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie, or why a margarita with a heavily salted rim is irresistible. Is it any wonder why salt + water + bubbles is a winning combo?

Now that you’re sufficiently parched, enjoy some tongue-tingling cocktails, like a Negroni Royale made with a splash of sparkling wine and a Malibu Mule featuring our Botanic Hard Seltzer.

History of Bathing

History of Bathing

Bathing has always been about much more than getting clean. The act of slowing down for a soak is synonymous with self-care, and that’s been true since humans first had the thought, what if we sat in some hot water?

The history of tub time starts in ancient India, where the daily ritual of bathing first began. In Ayurveda, the Indian system of medicine, water is a purifying force thought to cleanse not only the body, but the mind and the soul. That’s why the vedas and puranas recommend bathing not once, but three times a day, an elaborate hygiene practice that was first recorded in the Grihya Sutra, a Hindu text detailing the samskaras, or ceremonies, that guide a person’s life.

While the ritual or regular bathing was first devised in India, the bathtub itself dates back to around 1500 BCE in Crete. Alabaster bathtubs excavated in Santorini and the frequent appearance of the Greek word for bathtub in Homer’s literature suggests that bathing was not just a hygienic practice for the Greeks, but a way of life.

The same was true in ancient Rome, where a network of aqueducts was developed to supply water to all large towns. The advent of the aqueduct brought with it thermae, or Roman public baths. What was once a private affair very quickly became a public spectacle, and these cathedrals of cleansing became a place to converse, learn, and quite literally blow off some steam. Within their walls stretched lecture halls, Greek and Latin libraries, and baths at every temperature.

Public bathing quickly became a part of life in other parts of the world as well. Dating back to 1266, the earliest iterations of Japanese bathhouses were built into natural caves or stone vaults, which were heated by burning wood before seawater was poured over the rocks to create steam. The entryways to these bathhouses were made intentionally small so as to slow the escape of heat. Because of this small opening and a lack of windows, the inside of these bathhouses was pitch dark, meaning users would have to clear their throats to announce their arrival. The combination of nudity and dim lighting meant that sexual shenanigans often arose, and in time these public bathhouses would come into disrepute on moral grounds.

Morality wasn’t the only thing to bring an end to public bathing. Disease, unsurprisingly, ran rampant in these bathhouses, which without soap or other germ-killing agents became cesspools of sorts. With health concerns looming, private baths grew in popularity and became increasingly accessible to the working class. As cleanliness became more and more correlated with social standing, soap became all the rage, too.

The rise of the private bath has brought with it new bathing rituals. Complete with bath salts and bubbles, the tub has become a place to take care of yourself and indulge in some alone time. It’s a decidedly different approach to bathing than the Romans had with their amphitheatre-like bathhouses, but the principle still stands: bathing has always and will always be about much more than getting clean.

We Miss Bars

We Miss Bars

Do you remember the last bar you went to?

Maybe it was small, cramped, dim with the warm glow of tea lights on tables. Tucked away in some hidden alleyway in Los Feliz. The kind of bar that feels like a secret, until 9pm rolls around and you realize the rest of the neighborhood is already in on it.

Or maybe it was a cathedral of cocktails, all high ceilings and echoing conversation and some serious R&D going on behind the bar. Rooms leading into rooms, staircases unfolding into unknown worlds.

Or maybe it was a tiki type of joint, with heavy pours of rum and banana leaf wallpaper. An institution of celebratory cocktails you wouldn’t dare make at home; piña coladas and daiquiris and drinks that require a heavy shake.

Since bars closed last March, we’ve thought a lot about the simple pleasures that come with a night out on the town. The pre-game playlist, the squeak of vinyl seats when you sidle up to the bar, the dizzying array of bottles on the back bar. The glimmering ruby hue of a perfect Negroni.

It’s a sensory experience we find ourselves craving even more now that our sights and sounds have been relegated to the same four walls for nearly a year.

And perhaps the part we miss most? Chatting with our local bartenders, the friendly faces behind the bar that dole out advice like the hospitality industry’s unofficial therapists and churn out drinks at a clip that any at-home cocktail shaker could never match.

Over the past year, bars have taken on many forms: cocktail outposts serving martinis in mason jars, sidewalk patio spectacles, even indoor shells of what they once were, set at 10% max capacity with distanced tables. Through all this shapeshifting, the bartenders and bar backs that make up the industry have remained committed to upholding what has always kept hospitality together at the seams: a sense of community.

Now it’s our turn to take care of them. Here’s how you can continue to help:

1. Order takeout straight from the source.

You’ve probably heard by now that the big delivery apps like Grubhub, UberEats, and Doordash are predatory to independent bars and restaurants. Instead of ordering through them, call up your local haunts and place your order directly, or order through a more ethical platform like ChowNow.

2. Donate to community organizations.

We love Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, a nonprofit created by and for restaurant workers dedicated to making the hospitality industry more hospitable to everyone.

3. Stay safe and tip big.

We’re itching to get back to bars, but the best way to keep our hospitality community safe is by staying home when you can, ordering often, and continuing to tip at least 20%.

Behind the Bottle: How We Made a Non-Alc Spirit

Behind the Bottle: How We Made a Non-Alc Spirit

When AMASS Master Distiller Morgan McLachlan set out to design our latest spirit, Riverine, the process began with botanicals, just as it always does. Then she went rogue, ditching the alcohol in favor of something a little lighter: water vapor.

Traditional spirits, like our Gin and Vodka, undergo a distillation process in which alcohol is used to extract oils from a blend of botanicals. With our Gin, that process begins with brighter botanicals, like citrus and California bay leaf, which go into our botanical basket. Meanwhile, earthier, richer botanicals, like Reishi mushroom and juniper, are macerated in alcohol for 18 hours.

From there, we place our spirit base in the kettle of a hybrid Carl pot still, and then run a long, lower-heat distillation where alcohol vapor is passed through a rectification column to soften flavors before joining the remaining botanicals in the botanical basket.

With Riverine, we did things differently. Each of our 14 botanicals is individually distilled in a proprietary hydrosteam distillation process. There, water vapor, instead of alcohol, is used to extract essential oils for a crisp, evergreen flavor profile. The result is a spirit that captures the freshness of the Pacific Northwest, the region where Morgan first forged her passion for plants.

Without the addition of alcohol, all the flavor comes directly from plants. Vibrant botanicals like sumac, sorrel, lemon, and apple are carefully layered along with earthy juniper and parsley. What you get is a complex spirit that is devoid of the dizzying effects that come with drinking a high-proof spirit. There’s none of the harsh burn you’d get from cheap alcohol, either. Instead, it’s smooth, nuanced, herbaceous, and endlessly mixable.

Basically, we took the best of booze and brought it to a non-alcoholic bottle.

Before you dive in, put our tasting tips to good use and learn a bit about the British Columbia island that inspired our first non-alcoholic spirit.

A Brief History of Vancouver Island

A Brief History of Vancouver Island

When AMASS Co-Founder and Master Distiller Morgan McLachlan was a child, she spent summers deep in the coniferous forests and alongside the rushing rivers of Vancouver Island.

“It was like Avalon,” she describes the terrain now, alive with flora and fauna such as elk, black bears, and mountain goats.

In that picturesque stretch of land plopped in the Pacific, Morgan became enamored with plants and the unique microclimates of the region she called home.

Vancouver Island, unlike the mainland of British Columbia with its harsh winters and frequent snow, has a mild climate. It's one of the warmest areas in Canada, and Mediterranean crops like olives and lemons thrive there because of it, as do sun-loving botanicals like sumac and sorrel.

The island’s rich, plentiful natural resources are why indigineous peoples have lived there for thousands and thousands of years. The Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw, Nuu-chah-nulth, and various Coast Salish peoples all still reside on the island, and their cultures are deeply entwined with the bountiful nature the region has to offer.

Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw oral history says their ancestors came in the forms of animals. Origin myths tell the tale of seagulls, grizzly bears, and orcas emerging from the sea and forest before transforming into their human form. The Coast Salish peoples, too, have their own stories of shapeshifting between animal and human spirits. This profound connection to the natural appears in their cultures in other ways, too, like fishing, which historically was central to both the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw and Nuu-chah-nulth economy.

Today, nature remains at the forefront of social, spiritual, and commercial life on Vancouver Island. The 12,407 square miles of terrain that make up the island is broken up into seven regions, each with their own unique microclimate. South Island, which sits at the southernmost point of Vancouver Island, is a commercial hub home to British Columbia’s vibrant capital, Victoria. Other regions offer more quiet respite, like North Central Island with its alpine mountains and running rivers.

The Pacific Rim, which sits on the central western coast of Vancouver Island, is home to a temperate rainforest and boasts the largest rainfall in North America. The tallest recorded Douglas firs were found in this stretch of forest, swaying in the canopy alongside dozens of other species of coniferous “big trees” like western hemlock, Sitka spruce, and yellow cedar.

It was this particular microclimate that inspired our Co-Founder Morgan to develop Forest Bath. Craving the sensory comforts of her home province, she sought to capture the essence of Vancouver Island in a bath salt blend. The crisp salt of the Pacific pairs with the soothing scent of rain drizzling on the treetops of the island’s coastal forests for an immersive soak that transports you to the Pacific Northwest’s lush landscape.

Read more about how Morgan self-soothes with a long soak here, and then take a trip to Vancouver Island from your tub.

P.S. Stay tuned for another PNW-inspired product, dropping later this month.

Origins of the Poinsettia

Origins of the Poinsettia

Aside from the Christmas tree, the poinsettia – a red and green plant belonging to the Euphorbiaceae family – is December’s star botanical. And it looks like a star too, with its pointed crimson bracts that fan out in a distinct celestial shape.

The poinsettia is rooted, like most other botanicals, in lore and legend. The story goes like this: in 16th-century Mexico, a girl by the name of Pepita was too poor to afford a gift for the yearly Christmas celebration. Inspired by an angel, she gathered weeds from the roadside and placed them in front of the church altar. Poinsettias blossomed, and from the 17th century onward the plant was prized in Mexican Christmas festivities, its star-shaped foliage said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem and its crimson color the blood of Christ.

It took several centuries for the plant to be officially recognized as a new species, until 1834 when it was listed by German scientist Johann Friedrich Klotzsch as the “Mexican flame flower” or “painted leaf.” It wasn’t until Joel Roberts Poinsett, a botanist and the first US Minister to Mexico, began shipping the plant back from Mexico to his greenhouses in South Carolina that it earned its lasting name: the poinsettia.

Since the early 19th century when cultivation of the poinsettia first began in the US, the industry has blossomed. That’s been in large part because of the marketing efforts led by Albert Ecke. In 1900, Ecke opened a dairy and orchard in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles and began selling poinsettias from street stands. His son, Paul Ecke, developed a technique in which two varieties of poinsettias are grafted together to produce a denser, fuller plant. Things really took off when Paul Ecke Jr., the third generation of the Ecke family, led an extensive marketing campaign to promote poinsettias during the holiday season.

He sent poinsettias to television stations to display on air from Thanksgiving to Christmas, and appeared on programs like The Tonight Show and Bob Hope’s Christmas specials. These publicity efforts coupled with the Ecke’s proprietary production methods allowed the Ecke family to effectively monopolize the plant and turn it into something that looks, well, very little like a naturally-occurring poinsettia.

In the ‘80s, university researcher John Dole discovered Ecke’s unique production methods and published them, allowing competitors to stand a fighting chance and adopt the same money-making practices. Despite this leveling of the playing field, the Eckes still serve 70 percent of the domestic market and 50 percent internationally, accounting for a large portion of the some 70 million poinsettias sold in the US alone every year.

These days, poinsettia production is a $25 million industry, a staggering number for a plant that’s only sold six weeks out of the year.

Plant curiosity piqued? Learn about the history of the Los Angeles Flower District here, or get to know the bad boy of botany Nicholas Culpeper.

History of the LA Flower District

History of the LA Flower District

At the corner of Wall and 8th streets in Downtown LA sits the heart of the Los Angeles Flower District. The perennial institution has been the standard supplier of fresh-cut stems for Angelenos everywhere since the early 20th century.

Available only to those up and awake in the sunrise hours between 5am and noon, this botanical cornucopia offers every commercially available cut flower under the sun, from snapdragons to marigolds. That, coupled with the low cost of admission ($2 on weekdays, $1 on weekends) spurs everyone from earnest lovers seeking Valentine’s Day roses to Instagram influencers in pursuit of anything deemed aesthetic to flock here in droves.

Like most Los Angeles stories, the LA Flower District has a young yet rich history, one that starts –  and truthfully, ends – with immigrants seeking to bring something beautiful, human, true to this desert city by the sea.

In the early 20th century, LA-area flower farmers drove their horse-drawn wagons into DTLA every morning to sell their flowers. The scene was starkly different than what it looks like now: the blaring horns and headlights that fill the 101 replaced with dirt and dust. There was no Eastern Columbia Building gilded and glimmering in the aquamarine light, telling time. And the Flower District that is now a sprawling mecca of buds and blossoms was just a couple wagons lined up along the side of the road.

A prominent carnation grower based out of Santa Monica named James Vaweter established the first dedicated flower market in 1905. It was on Spring Street, the west side. It would take a few years for the floral business to make its way East into the derelict streets of downtown, where it would stay and flourish for the next century.

The Southern California Flower Market, organized by local Japanese-American farmers, was the first to settle there. In a few years, European immigrants would set up their own shop down the street, called the Los Angeles Flower Market. In due time, both markets would relocate to the 700 block of South Wall Street, where they would expand and modernize.

Over time and out of simple necessity, these two standalone shops that were seemingly at odds came to be part of a mosaic of florists and nurseries that called DTLA home. Through the ‘90s, dozens of smaller flower shops migrated downtown to do business near the historic Los Angeles Flower District, blooming alongside these towering cathedrals of chrysanthemums. A ragtag community quickly formed, and today more than 50 vendors make up the largest wholesale flower district in the US.

Regardless of whether you’re outfitting an entire wedding reception or simply looking for a single pink peony to sit on your kitchen counter, the Los Angeles Flower District is the kind of place special enough to set your alarm for. Carve out a few hours to aimlessly stroll through its stalls, bargaining with vendors and getting lost in the sea of blossoms. Just a PSA: don’t forget to bring cash.

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