While I’m an equal-opportunity friend of the animal kingdom, those who know me would easily identify me as a “cat guy.” Dogs were a part of my household growing up, but there was always a cat underfoot. From childhood through high-school there was Waldo, a larger-than-life, 20-pound bruiser who we always suspected was half Maine Coon; then my college girlfriend thought that breaking up with me would be easier by gifting me with Wushu, an agile calico kitten who came home with me on Thanksgiving break and was quickly adopted by my father as his own; and I now share my life (and my Brooklyn apartment) with Louis, an affable 11-year-old gray tabby whose exploits on Instagram typically garner more “likes” than my steady stream of food and drinks posts.
Aside from calling out Louis in the Acknowledgments in Bitters, my twin passions for cats and cocktails didn’t fully align on the page until last December, when I wrote a piece for PUNCH entitled “The Secret Lives of Distillery Cats,” where I surveyed the spirited tradition of the subset of working class cats devoted to protecting distilleries’ barley, rye, and corn from rodents, birds, and other potential invaders. Feline legends like Glenturret Distillery’s Towser the Mouser, the Michael Jordan of distillery cats, and the new breed of distillery cats, such as Carlos and Jeffey of Brooklyn’s King County Distillery, were but a few of the featured cats carrying on this centuries old practice.
In early August I received an e-mail from NPR’s Ari Shapiro and the next morning I was in the New York studios of NPR off Bryant Park talking about cats for half an hour. Ari’s report, “Behind Every Good Whisky Is a Trusty Distillery Cat” (R.I.P. Peat the Distillery Cat) aired on Tuesday, September 9, and in an instant, distillery cats were not so secret anymore. You’ll forgive me for the high-reaching analogy, but if Ari was inspired by my original story (in this example, my Rubber Soul) to produce his own story (in this example, his Pet Sounds), then I can only hope that the next product of this inspirational trade-off, a book on distillery cats, will be my Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. That’s right, in addition to Amaro (Fall 2016), the book I’m currently working on, I’m happy to report that Ten Speed Press will also be publishing Distillery Cats (Spring 2016).
To continue the music analogy, Distillery Cats will be a much smaller book, an EP between Bitters and Amaro. A well-designed, very giftable volume of 30 notable distillery cats, with illustrations, photographs, essays, and cocktail recipes. It’s Profiles in Courage meets Secrets of the Sommeliers, but with cats. If you’re a distiller with a cat on staff,
drop me a line, and be sure to get your daily distillery cat fix @DistilleryCats on Instagram.