A friendly game of 'liquor store archaeology' unearths potable treasures

Posted: Thursday, April 03, 2008

My brother Tyler and I sometimes play a game we call Liquor Store Archaeology. The aim is to make a pith-helmeted visit to older, neglected liquor stores, the sort of family-owned shops that perhaps were once prosperous and now do business mainly in pint-size flasks or liters of cheap wine or beer by the can. Inside, we scour the dark bottom shelves and dank back corners of the place, looking for forgotten bottles of spirits that have been languishing, perhaps for decades.

More often than not, we indeed turn up something rare or just plain strange. Our finds span the world: caraway-flavored kummel from Germany, an Armenian brandy called Ararat, eaux de vie with all manner of fruit floating in them, a wasabi-flavored liqueur, even a honey liqueur bottled with a real honeycomb.

It has become rather competitive. I thought I had taken the lead with something called Panache, a sweet aperitif wine with a 1970s-looking label that was made by Domaine Chandon but now is impossible to find.

ButTyler became the clear victor not too long ago when he turned up something called, somewhat disturbingly, Peanut Lolita, a thick, peanut-flavored liqueur that once was produced by Continental Distilling in Linfield, Pa. The logo and fonts on the label suggest the early 1960s, but according to what little research exists, Peanut Lolita was still around in the mid-1970s, when infamous presidential brother Billy Carter "often made drunken appearances" with the liqueur's spokesmodel, according to an essay by Christopher S. Kelley in "Life in the White House: A Social History of the First Family and the President's House."

We may now own the only two bottles of Peanut Lolita left in existence. Due to the liqueur's overwhelming whiskey-and-peanut taste and grainy texture - not to mention its unfortunate name - it is unlikely to make a comeback anytime soon. But Tyler has created a respectable drink with the stuff: He layers ice-cold Peanut Lolita and raspberry-flavored Chambord in a cordial glass and calls it a PB&J.



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