More than five months into the pandemic, the early lockdown novelty of homemade cocktails and virtual happy hours may be starting to wear thin. If you’re seeking inspiration for your next quarantini, trying to figure out which wines to stock up on for the fall, or just feeling wistful for the atmosphere at your neighborhood watering hole, there just might be a podcast out there to quench your thirst.
If you like your cocktails served with a generous dash of historical context, you can’t go wrong with this deeply researched monthly show from The Daily Beast, which juggles broad trend pieces about the booze industry with deep dives into specific drinks. One week, the hosts, Noah Rothbaum and David Wondrich, might explore the history and evolution of a classic cocktail like the Negroni; the next, they might zoom out to discuss the decline of the dive bar or mull how bars can weather the challenges of 2020. It’s a perfect comfort listen for the curious drinker.
Starter episode: “The Bars We Can’t Wait to Visit Again”
The Good Beer Hunting collective positions itself as a one-stop shop for craft beer drinkers and professionals alike. Founded almost a decade ago, the company offers marketing and event planning in addition to long-form writing and photography exploring every aspect of the beer business. Regular episodes tend to focus on interviews with brewery owners and other beer entrepreneurs. And “Sightlines” episodes focus on news, trends and projections about the industry. Recent ones have explored race and beer and how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting bars, breweries and bottle shops.
Starter episode: “SL-019 Econ 101 — Supply and Demand in a Panicked Market”
This show is all about dismantling the intimidation factor that comes with wine. Aimed at listeners who “like wine, but not the snobbery that goes with it,” it also offers some escapism if you’re missing travel this summer. With infectious enthusiasm, Elizabeth Schneider, the host and self-confessed “wine dork,” spotlights different winemaking regions around the world, from Italy to Lebanon to Australia, and interviews local experts about the specific history and attributes of their wines. Some episodes also focus on more practical topics, like which fancy vino gadgets you really need, or how to pick the perfect wine as a holiday gift.
Starter episode: “The Wines of Lebanon”
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Hosted with warmth and panache by the San Diego-based career bartender Erick Castro, this show has changed shape slightly in 2020, much like the industry it spotlights. Since lockdowns began in March, “Bartender at Large” has dealt with the practical implications of the pandemic — how to make a really great to-go cocktail, for instance — as well as the mental health repercussions on bartenders. And if you’d rather think about anything other than the pandemic, there are plenty more evergreen subjects to pick from, like the mysterious formula for a great neighborhood cocktail bar, or the behind-the-scenes process of picking the World’s 50 Best Bars list.
Starter episode: “Chloe Frechette on Easy Tiki Drinks”
If the quarantini era has inspired you to stock your liquor cabinet and perfect a few classic cocktail recipes for the first time, here’s a crash course you can get delivered right to your ears. Scroll all the way back to the show’s early episodes in 2017 to hear Eric Kozlik’s guides on glassware, essential liquors and flavor profiles. Over the years, the show has featured more interviews with bartenders, distillers and other alcohol aficionados, along with segments in which Kozlik answers questions from listeners. Asked to define the difference between a fizz and spritz, he takes a delightful foray into the wisdom of a 19th century bartender’s manual, exemplifying the show’s affable blend of passion and curiosity.
Starter episode: “Cocktails in a Time of Plague”
The digital media company VinePair covers news and trends from the drinks industry, but you don’t need to be a winemaker or mixologist to enjoy its punchy, thought-provoking podcast. The show’s hosts — the VinePair co-founder Adam Teeter, editor in chief Erica Duecy and the sommelier Zach Geballe — offer up some enjoyably strong opinions (Dry January is dumb, and “signature cocktails” are overrated, to name a few) and tackle seemingly esoteric subjects in accessible and fascinating ways. A recent episode explored the byzantine American laws that make it almost impossible for alcohol producers to ship their products directly to consumers, and why the lockdown era may finally create change.
Starter episode: “What Happens When Summer Drinking and Social Distancing Collide?”
How do you find the perfect wine to pair with cannabis? Or yoga? Or meatless burgers? These are just a few of the off-the-beaten-path subjects that the Canadian journalist Natalie MacLean explores in this engaging, unpretentious series, which also explores wine trends and pop cultural representations of wine. Some of Unreserved Wine Talk’s most memorable episodes expand into broader conversations about sociology and human behavior. In recent weeks, MacLean has explored gender differences in wine-buying, how people’s drinking habits can be shaped by a movie like “Sideways” and how the name of a wine affects the way that it tastes.
Starter episode: “How We Buy Wine Based on Secret Retail Triggers”