Friday, April 12, 2024

Vanilla, Vanilla Baby

August 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Spirits Events

For his Tales of the Cocktail seminar, Phillip Duff gave a highly entertaining introduction to the story of Vanilla, the most popular flavoring in the Western world. It has been highly regarded, and badly imitated, since it was first introduced to Europeans. Here are a few high-level, and otherwise memorable tidbits from the seminar:

  • When vanilla was introduced it was the first sweetening flavor available in Europe, other than honey. As a result it boomed in popularity.
  • Emigrating Sephardic Jews promoted Brazilian vanilla in Europe partly because they were not allowed to keep slaves in Brazil and thus had to switch to less labor-intensive crops, such as vanilla production. Because growers sold exclusively to other Sephardic Jews, the secrets of production were kept closely guarded for many years.
  • Elizabeth I was a huge vanilla and sugar fan, and so were William and Mary, and their connections with the Dutch East India Company helped popularize vanilla among the English aristocracy and wealthy merchant class.
  • Thomas Jefferson helped popularize vanilla, and was the creator of what we now call “French vanilla”, and that term still is used to describe pure vanilla, rather than vanilla flavorings.
  • Coca-Cola acquires 10 percent of the world’s vanilla supply for use in their products, making it the world’s largest consumer of the bean. Vanilla consumption tripled worldwide when they dropped the New Coke recipe and went back to the previous Coca-Cola recipe.
  • Vanilla helps penile blood flow. This comment was met with howls of laughter, but more seriously, perhaps this does help explain its historic, and continuing, popularity.

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