Maybe it’s because I just spent a week in New Orleans substituting business cards for handshakes and watching industry folks bust capillaries in their eyeballs trying to find new and interesting ways to hock their snake oil without having an honest conversation, but now I’m begging you, faithful reader, please—stop. If you’re a blogger, stop softballing multinational liquor conglomerates with substandard products and matching interpersonal skills because they give you free booze and buy you the occasional sandwich. If you’re a consumer, stop falling for the dodgy advertising machinations of said conglomerates, or, conversely, the purported taste of the legion of tastemakers who just want to steal your money while selling you an idealized (and purely fictional) abstraction of a lifestyle you’ll never have. And, if you’re an advertising hack, please, for the love of all deities great and small, stop the bullshit. Really.
Case in point: two days before my wedding, we received a package in the mail containing three mason jars filled with a brown liquid and emblazoned with the label ‘root’. Being that we had been receiving gifts in the mail for days, we spent a full 90 seconds of our lives that we will never get back trying to figure out a) who would send us such a thing and b) what the fuck is ‘root’? That is, until second 91, when we discovered Ye Olde Handcrafted Dossier Of Marketing Ephemera ™, enrobed in completely recyclable Browne Papere (ending everything in ‘e’ automatically makes it authentic…e) at the bottom of the box. Oh, the waves of endless ecstasy.
Turns out, the mason jars (undoubtedly handcrafted in flickering candlelight by Mennonite craftsmen in log cabins) contain Root ™, The First Truly Authentic American Liqueur Since The Pre-Prohibition Era. This is the slightly retarded brainchild of the folks who brought us Hendrick’s Gin (which I happen to like very much, incidentally), and some unholy clusterfuck of lifestyle entrepreneurs called Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction, an artist collective (read: LLC) whom purports to “fight fire with fire, subsuming the onslaught of watered down facsimiles and inaccessible displays with thought-provoking products of real cultural capital”. In case you don’t speak Postmodern Bullshit, this means they sell t-shirts, mostly, with bumper sticker sloganeering (“Never Forget. Spaceship Earth.”) and furry animals designed to showcase one’s flimsy environmentalist leanings without the pesky problem of having to retreat from the consumption of useless lifestyle goods. In case you’re interested.
Further inspection of the carefully handcrafted marketing materials revealed pictures of underfed urban waifs posing next to maple trees, hooded young collectivists watching the sunrise while artfully perched atop fence posts, and the aforementioned t-shirts hanging from a very rural clothesline, blowing in the hickory wind—you get the idea. Another slick lifestyle consortium selling you overpriced hipster bullshit and calling it art.
Which is fine with me, actually, except for one thing—call it what it is. If you’re just selling your root beer liqueur, and you want folks to buy it, why not just say, “Here’s a bottle of our product. Hope you like it.” Were the mason jars really necessary? Will you be selling it in actual mason jars out of the back of a horse drawn cart? Who, exactly, are ‘The People’ crassly mentioned in the marketing material, and do they get a cut of the profit? Will bearded men in overalls gather round the freshly raised barn sipping this shit in the waning purple light of dusk? Does an Artists Collective™ need a PR Director? I think the answer to most, if not all, of these questions is a resounding ‘no’. And if that’s true, why bother?
So, being that I’m a spirits writer, here’s my review: Root tastes like root beer. Olde Tyme Roote Beere, just like my Great-Grandpappy drank on the way out to Ol’ Californey, fleeing the genuinely rural, lifestyle-hampering blight of Arkansas dust and locusts. Wait, no—that was whiskey, un-ironically housed in mason jars, because that’s what was available. This was during the years when he wandered from town to town, cutting hair (genuine redneck haircraft™) for 5 cents a go, and authentically subsisting on popcorn and coffee so the kids could have one more cup of potato soup. I like to imagine him then: late at night with the razor and strop, sipping whatever rotgut shit he could barter for—hungry, wired, and beaten, maybe, but relatively safe from the unyielding subterfuge of salesmen, selling him someone else’s history in brand new jars.
Root: tastes like root beer. No surprise, and no rating necessary.
Post-Script: We did, however, try a jigger of Root in a Coors Lite (known as Shooting The Root where we are, because this is, after all, what The People really do). I prefer Dekuyper.