As you may have noticed, we enjoy hitting the sauce from time to time (to put it lightly) over at MUNCHIES. This year, we visited a plethora of amazing (and strange, and even haunted) bars; explored the merits and makings of intriguing spirits around the world; followed chefs around their home cities while they threw back their favorite shots, beers, and handpicked poisons; and heard the stories of some of the world's most fascinating barkeepers. With so much neat (pun intended) fodder to be found in the world of booze, it's hard to narrow down our favorite moments that centered around liquid merriment. But for you, my friend, we will try.
For starters, go watch all six excellent episodes of Al-Kee-Hol, our dedicated documentary series of all things intoxicating. Then cozy up with a Tom & Jerry (it's still the holiday season, after all) and we'll tell you all about our most high-proof hijinx of 2014.
Who doesn't love a good story? This year we asked tons of our favorite bartenders to share stories about how they got into drinkmaking, started their own bars, or came to love their favorite liquor. With the New Year just around the corner, you may want to revisit "Japanese Whiskey Is All About Starting Over," Momofuku Bar Director John deBary's story of how watching the clock strike 12 in Japan cemented his obsession with Japanese whiskey. And then, while you're at it, make his gorgeous and potent Mountainside cocktail—appropriately made with Yamazaki Single Malt 12 Year.
Our most popular bartender-related story this year was a Restaurant Confessional from a bartender who shared his experiences of watching you drunkenly fumble through all of your Tinder dates. Our interviewee sees a lot of crazy shit go down (and sees you trying, and failing, to spit game) while he keeps your date's gin and tonics flowing—and, he's hysterical. So if you haven't taken a gander at that piece and you're familiar with the woes of online dating, you can't miss it.
Rounding out our trifecta of beloved bartender profiles is that of Karen Brownlee, bartender and manager at Earnestine & Hazel's: the most haunted bar in America, located in Memphis, TN. When we were trying to scare ourselves truly stupid on Halloween, we asked Karen to tell us all about the supernatural occurrences she's come across while tending bar—and she had no shortage of stories. From possessed jukeboxes to mysterious voices to spirits embodied by rogue birds, Karen's tales from the crypt had us on the edge of our barstools.
But there was much more to learn, too. Tony Conigliaro of London's 69 Colebrooke Row taught us how cocktails can taste like an opera (and how to put vampire fang bites in our martinis). And we found a Catholic priest who makes better cocktails than your favorite fancy hotel bar.
Perhaps even more importantly, we learned how to make a damn good Negroni (and why the Negroni will always be in style); a proper, gin-based Bloody Mary; and marijuana-infused craft cocktails that will knock you on your ass and taste great while doing so. We learned all about the famed New Orleans daiquiri—and the story behind the city's (and possibly the world's) best non-Christmas Christmas bar, Snake and Jake's.
Ready to venture outside of the realm of well drinks? We climbed palm trees for the local liquor toddy in Myanmar, felt the freight-train strength of Irish moonshine, and got totally sauced off baijiu in China. We talked to an Austrian winemaker who uses music to perfect his process, and to an absinthe-distiller in Washington who warns against lighting his sugar on fire. If there's one lesson to be learned from all of the above, it's that no matter where you are in this great big crazy world, there are a million different ways to get drunk.
Don't be intimidated if your own bartending skills are subpar; Death + Co. co-owner Alex Day's first great cocktail made no sense whatsoever.
And if after all of this, you're feeling pretty deathly yourself, just remember: nurse your morning-after woes with Pedialyte (like Dimebag Darrell) or this tried-and-true, 1,000-year-old hangover cure.