The last time I had to pretend really hard to understand literary works about subjects like capitalism and Marxism I was being lectured by a college professor and attempting to earn credits toward my college career.
But recently Boy Toy and I were sitting around sipping some Snap and discussing German cultural theorist Walter Benjamin's 1936 essay "Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." You know, specifically the part where he talks about how the onset of mass production essentially separates the original artwork from its aura, or exact place in time and space. Benjamin discussed the authenticity and uniqueness of artwork and theorized that mass producing removed the "WOW" feeling an individual gets when seeing a piece of artwork for the first time. Boy Toy and I have these in-depth discussions when we imbibe because, you know, that's how we roll.
But it is true that we were sipping some Snap, one of the four 80-proof artistic creations of Philadelphian Steve Grasse. Finding his own self guilty of mass-production after years of working in the world of advertising and marketing, Grasse conceived the concept of a business loosely based on and by the same name as Walter Benjamin's literary work. His old-fashioned mercantile business, Art in the Age, focuses on restoring authenticity and uniqueness by featuring small-batch and hand-produced products from various artisans. According to Grasse, "the new luxury is knowing where the stuff comes from and knowing that the person who made it got paid. Not the fancy packaging or the glam, but the ethics of it, the sustainability and the goodness of it."
Considering himself also an artisan, Grasse started developing small batch certified organic spirits made from ingredients grown locally and even grown on his own farm. Root, a throwback to the alcoholic root teas that were popular in the Northeast before Prohibition, was his first creation in 2009. In 2010 he launched Snap, a liqueur based on the Pennsylvania Dutch recipe for "lubkuchen" or what most people know as a gingersnap cookie. Grasse literally sent a package of gingersnap cookies to his distiller and told him to put it into a bottle.
Effectively reviving the humble, old-fashion recipe and bottling it in what resembles tonic in old apothecary jars, Snap is the true essence of a just-fresh-from-the-oven gingersnap. You can both smell and taste bittersweet hints of blackstrap molasses, the zing of ginger, and a spicy-sweet combination of cloves and cinnamon.
Forefront on the palate for me was the taste of cloves and it finished with a sweet honey aftertaste. It evoked memories of sitting by a warm fire during the holidays eating cookies that my mom or grandma had just baked. Or maybe of coming in from the cold and sipping on warm mulled apple cider. Either way, it was a homey, nostalgic feel. It also reminded me of the time when my entire family gathered together to make molasses right on the carport of my grandparent's house. I was too young to actually remember that, but I've seen the photos.
After a few swigs of Snap, I began to really (and I do mean really) understand what Walter Benjamin meant by keeping things simple and not wanting big business to interfere with the process of creativity. Maybe I should have drank more in college. Or maybe it was the fact that at 80-proof, Snap will sneak up and bite you and make you think you are smarter than you really are. Whatever it was that caused the enlightenment, I'm not complaining.
I didn't want to enjoy Snap just as a hot toddy during the cold winter months so I decided to pair it with one of my favorite summertime beverages - ginger infused lemonade. What epitomizes a carefree summer like lemonade and cookies? Put them both together and enjoy the "WOW" factor of Grasse's unique take on his regional heritage.
If you live in the Charlotte NC area, you'll have to make the short trek across the SC state line to pick up a bottle of Snap. It is currently available at Village ABC and Southern Spirits in Fort Mill, SC and Lake Wylie Liquor in Clover, SC.
Ginger Snap Lemonade
8 ounces ginger infused lemonade (recipe below)
2 ounces Snap
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add lemonade and Snap. Shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a slice of crystallized ginger. (I also like to rim the glass with the sugar crystals from the bottom of the bag of crystallized ginger.)
Ginger Infused Lemonade
makes 1 gallon
3 to 4 cups sugar, depending on taste
4 quarts water
14 slices fresh ginger root (or 3 oz. crystallized ginger)
4 cups fresh lemon juice
In an 8 quart saucepan combine sugar, water, and ginger. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
Stir in lemon juice. Refrigerate lemonade at least 1 hour, or until completely chilled. You can remove the ginger at any point from about 15 minutes after making the lemonade. The longer you leave it in the more ginger flavor you'll have. I personally like to just leave it in and make sure none escapes into the glass when I pour.