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Art of the Craft

The brave new world of unusual spirits is actually not that new.

History teaches us many things: why war is bad, how to prevent the return of the plague, and lots of other neat, humanity-preserving tactics. And, in that vein, history also teaches us how to make delicious alcohol. Philadelphia-based Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is an atypical spirits company that taps into the lighter pages of our past to create organic spirits distilled from nostalgia- evoking ingredients and recipes.

“I think people in the spirits industry are obsessed with the legal definition of rum, gin, or whisky,” shares creator Steven Grasse. “We really break into new categories, and we do it by going back in time.”

There are four signature products – Root, Rhubarb, Sage and Snap – and they are named after the primary ingredient they were distilled from, with a touch of yesteryear. Snap, for instance, was inspired by Grasse’s grandmother’s ginger-snap recipe, while Root works off the original Native American recipe for root tea – the basis for modern root beer.

Take note that these aren’t flavoured vodkas or liqueurs, but proper 40 per cent-strong spirits. This effectively takes them out of any existing category of alcohol, ensuring a unique flavour experience. And, because Grasse wanted to be “historically accurate” to a “pre- pre-pre-Prohibition era”, he believes the products should be organic and reflective of a period when things were crafted with care by artisans with stories to tell – which brings us to the name of his shop.

Art in the Age is named after an essay of the same name by Walter Benjamin which, in essence, blames mass production for the loss of authenticity. So Grasse has also gathered artists and craftsmen to showcase their wares. Books, prints, clothing and accessories also share the roof that Grasse has built to shelter the frailty of art created from the heart.