Welcome to Distilled History! If you know me, you know I’m a big fan of two things: history and drinking. Specifically, St. Louis history and specifically, drinking well-made cocktails.
I’m from upstate New York and I have lived in St. Louis for about eighteen years. I’ve always enjoyed living in this town, but I never thought I’d be here long. Recently, I’ve started to realize that my stay in St. Louis is a bit more than temporary. I have a great little house in south city and I have a ton of great friends here. I’ll always consider myself an upstate New Yorker, but I’m comfortable here for now. I’ve also started to become really interested in the history of my new city. I have started reading books, articles, and blogs about the history of St. Louis and what life was like here over the past few hundred years. It’s turned into a great new hobby.
The history in St. Louis is deep and rich. It abounds with tales, monuments, and landmarks that rival the oldest and largest cities in America. The more I read, the more I realize much of the history of St. Louis is unknown, hidden, or even lost. I want to point some of this stuff out to my pals.
So, I started heading out on my bike to find some of the places I was reading about. In January of 2012, I also started volunteering at the Campbell House Museum in downtown St. Louis. This place is like a window into the past. Great people with similar interests work there. Each time I walk through the door, I learn something new and fascinating. I’ve had a great time there.
As all of this came together, I started sending emails to friends and posting facts on Facebook describing the bits of history I was uncovering. I included square format photographs with pretty photo filters applied (some of the places I find need something to add to the allure). I was simply having fun, but the feedback was very positive. People suggested it could be a blog. That’s where this whole idea started, but I needed to make it a bit more fun.
So, I decided to add a bit of alcohol to it. As I stated earlier, I love to make and drink cocktails. My favorite drink is the Manhattan cocktail, and I have often struggled finding a great Manhattan in St. Louis. Still, I have had fun walking into bars and ordering one just to see what I get. As I did this, I started becoming interested in the history of the drink. I learned just a few years ago that the original Manhattan was made with rye whiskey and used bitters. This lead me to researching other drinks like the Old Fashioned, the Sidecar, and the martini. Where did these drinks originate? How did they evolve? And most importantly, where can I get well-made versions of them in St. Louis?
Wrap it all up, and that is what I’m doing here. I plan to scour St. Louis for its bits of history and post it here. As I go after a topic, I’m going to stop and get a drink or two. I hope to learn more about my drink and write about the places that serve them well. I’ll invite friends to join me and add to the fun. I will certainly post about topics that are well-known, but my focus is the stuff that goes a bit under the radar. I want to find things that native St. Louisans may not even be aware of.
Please bear with me as I do this. I am no academic. I’ll eventually start citing sources and give credit where it’s due. I hope my research skills improve along with my blogging skills. For now, I’m going to focus on what I find and I’ll try to mention how I got the idea or give credit to the people who pointed me in a certain direction. My guess is I have much to learn about all aspects of this endeavor. I think I’ll simply get better as I go.
Update: Eight months after starting this blog, I’m proud to report that the Riverfront Times voted Distilled History as the “Best Personal Blog in St. Louis” at the 2013 RFT Web Awards. They also wrote a great article about this blog and how it came to be. The article was printed in the January 23, 2013 issue that announced all of the 2013 RFT Web Award winners. Thanks RFT!
Thanks and have fun reading this. I look forward to any comments or suggestions you may have.