Our affable colleague, senior editor Victorino Matus, is famous for his big head, big heart, big appetite—and encyclopedic knowledge of food, drink, the consumption of same, contemporary German politics, and the sociology of his native New Jersey. Vic’s attention to detail, and mastery of English prose, has served us well since the earliest days of The Weekly Standard; now, in happy combination with his other varied interests, he’s produced what The Scrapbook believes is not just the ideal book for summer reading, but the ideal book for any hungry/thirsty reader in any season of the year: Vodka: How a Colorless, Odorless, Flavorless Spirit Conquered America (Lyons Press, 272 pages, $26.95).
It’s a fascinating story, told in rich (and need we add amusing?) detail: How, in the land that invented bourbon whiskey, moonshine, and bathtub gin, did a rotgut medicine from -medieval Russia become the biggest-selling alcoholic beverage in America? One-third of all cocktails contain it; it’s marketed to movie stars and Average Joes alike. We spend something like $5.6 billion every year for vodka, and in true American fashion, we’re now producing it in mass quantities, in quaint craft distilleries, and throwing in ingredients Ivan the Terrible never dreamed of.
The Scrapbook is emphatic: You need only be a reader, not a drinker, to savor Vodka—and like the stuff itself, it goes well with anything, appeals to all tastes, and is fun to consume. Put another way: Which book will you give your best friend this season? Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices or Vic Matus’s Vodka? The question answers itself.