A few weeks ago, the “news” website BuzzFeed did something it has a reputation for doing.
It created an arbitrary list of highly subjective “facts” about something popular in American culture – namely, booze – and slapped it up on the Internet, hoping it would attract a lot of eyeballs (which I am quite sure it did). This practice, known as linkbait or clickbait, is geared toward drawing traffic to a particular post despite having vapid content of little or no journalistic value.
What struck me about this particular post, however, was how absolutely wrong it was about the type of liquor Maine is known for. And I mean unbelievably wrong. It’s as if the author of the piece had never stepped foot in Maine and decided to pick the state’s “signature cocktail” by randomly calling an upscale lounge in a culturally distinct subset of the state (i.e., Portland) and asking the bartender “have you invented a drink that’s kinda popular with your friends right now?”
I have a friend who invented a drink that a few dozen people in my social circles find enjoyable. It’s called a Schlimosa – half Schlitz beer and half orange juice. Believe it or not, it is drinkable. But I am not under the slightest impression it could be considered a cultural phenomenon.
Don’t get me wrong. I am sure the Dust to Dust cocktail listed in the BuzzFeed piece is much better than a Schlimosa (sorry, Dirk). But I know better than to pretend it might be considered the signature cocktail for the state of Maine. Why? Because I have been gathering official Maine sales figures of Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy for the past 10 years.
As I have reported many times, Allen’s beats the snot out of the competition every year for being the best-selling booze in Maine. It is not even close. In 2013 (I got last year’s sales figures from the state after I saw the BuzzFeed piece), more than 950,000 bottles of various sizes of Allen’s were sold in Maine for a grand total of more than $11.4 million.
The next best-selling brand of liquor in Maine last year was Absolut vodka, with 125,000 bottles sold for a total of $3 million.
Not. Remotely. Close.
And the primary booze ingredient in a Dust to Dust, Cold River vodka, is way down the list from Absolut, first showing up in the 104th slot. Mainers bought 12,000 bottles of Cold River in 2013, shelling out nearly $330,000 for the privilege.
True, Cold River Vodka is made in Maine and has a more refined reputation than Allen’s, which is made in Somerville, Mass. But Allen’s overwhelming sales volume in Maine, and its relatively obscure reputation outside the state (even in Massachusetts), make it a predominantly Maine phenomenon.
There is a particular drink that is responsible for most of the Allen’s consumption in Maine. It goes by several different names but it known by many as a Sombrero or simply as “Allen’s and milk.”
It may not be my favorite libation – or even among my personal top ten – but any notion that it is not both the most popular and culturally distinctive cocktail in Maine is pure hogwash.