Shipwrecks and spirits (the liquid variety) just seem to go together. And no, it’s not because the latter can lead to the former, but because you can’t read about a shipwreck these days and not learn about the booze that went down with the ship.
Last month, officials announced the discovery of five bottles of unopened wine hidden in the bow of the wreck of the Marie Celestia, which wrecked off Bermuda’s South Shore in 1864. Archaeologists suggest the stash could be evidence of sailors “making a little money on the side” in the trans-Atlantic black market. But the only thing investigators can say with any certainty (at least at this point) is that the contents of the bottles have a “sweet smell.”
A few months ago word got out that researchers had found a substantial stash of booze in the summer of 2010, including 145 bottles of champagne and five bottles of “the oldest drinkable beer yet found” from an early 1800s shipwreck in the Baltic Sea. The local government sent the beer to be chemically analyzed with the ultimate aim of conjuring up the recipe so it could be replicated and (if all went well) commercially brewed. In June, the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland announced the study’s conclusion. Unfortunately (perhaps unsurprisingly) the beer did not fare well under 165′ of water–no living yeast samples survived, but they did find the beer usuals: hops, malts, sugars, and “aromatic compounds.” The Finns remain undeterred–they plan on sacrificing another bottle to the rigors of scientific inquiry. The Finns, for their part, might not be as crazy as they sound. Last week, the New York Times Magazine published a fantastic article by Charles McGrath about the successful effort to replicate Sir Ernest Shackleton’s whiskey stash.
Look around a bit more and shipwrecks and spirits pop up everywhere. Today there is a shipwrecked brewery, a shipwreck porter, and a shipwreck spiced rum. (not to mention brews named after particular shipwrecks; the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter is a personal favorite.) A Jersey City bar’s signature cocktails are all named after New Jersey shipwrecks. And there are at least three cocktails and one shooter named, appropriately enough, “shipwreck.”