Here's a sampling of stories published in recent years, loosely grouped by topic. Looking for something in particular? Stories I've written for The Atlantic are indexed here. Stories I've written for the New York Times are listed here. My walking column for The Smart Set is here. My columns about New Orleans for The American Scholar's website are here.
COCKTAILS & SPIRITS
HOW W.C. FIELDS MADE IT SAFE TO DRINK AGAIN
The Daily Beast (May 21, 2016)
W.C. Fields died 70 years ago this year. He was more than a comic genius. He also taught America it was OK to drink and laugh after Prohibition was repealed.
WHY WE SHOULD LOWER THE DRINKING AGE
Politico (Dec 4, 2014)
Here's one thing we could do to reduce sexual violence on campus: Lower the drinking age back to 18 or 19.
YOUR AIRPORT'S BARTENDER PROBLEM
The Atlantic (Dec 2014)
Why it’s so hard to get a decent drink before your flight—and why that may soon change.
Afar (Nov/Dec 2013)
Why does Martinique rhum taste so distinctively different? A trip to the island finds a culture of rum that's a world apart.
THE ARCHEOLOGY OF IMBIBING
American Archeology (Fall 2013)
What can you learn about the history of social drinking by digging up centuries-old shards of punch bowls and battered tankards? A whole lot, it turns out. (PDF)
The Atlantic (June 2013)
When your “local” “craft” spirit is neither.
A CITY BUILT ON YESTERDAY
Imbibe (May/June 2013)
The past and the future find common ground in New Orleans cocktails.
CAN A TUNING FORK IMPROVE YOUR COCKTAIL?
The Atlantic (May 2013)
The theory and practice of serving a drink vibrated, not stirred.
The Atlantic (March 2013)
The art, history and legal ramifications of the flaming cocktail.
The Atlantic (Jan/Feb 2013)
The regulatory ordeal of the American micro-distiller
SPRUCING UP YOUR COCKTAIL
The Atlantic (Nov 2012)
A lost flavor of the north woods, rediscovered.
Outside Magazine (March 2013)
Beware imitators. Here are several spirits that are actually grain to glass.
DOES TEQUILA MAKE US CRAZY?
The Atlantic (Sept 2012)
Drinkers say yes. Researchers say no. Bridging the gulf between the two.
TOP TEN COCKTAIL TRENDS
Sunset (July 2012)
What are drinkers in the west drinking, and why?
THE SECRET INGREDIENT
The Atlantic (April 2012)
Liquor companies love to claim they use closely guarded, centuries-old recipes. Usually, it’s just marketing.
enRoute /Air Canada (March 2012)
Exploring Portland's vibrant cocktail scene... by bike, of course.
MY NUTMEG BENDER
The Atlantic (Jan/Feb 2012)
Fresh nutmeg is cropping up in more craft cocktail bars. A little research into the spice and its past turns up a curious fact: nutmeg's structure shares similarities with mescaline, amphetamine, and ecstasy. Eat enough, and it will mess you up.
GIFT GUIDE: BEST COCKTAIL BOOKS OF 2011
Wall Street Journal (November 19, 2011)
Books to give to the lushes in your life, from Jim Meehan's splendid PDT Cocktail Book to Brad Thomas Parson's opus on bitters.
TIKI TO TACKY... AND BACK
The Atlantic (November 2011)
A taste of cocktail Americana comes in from the cold.
THE HIGH TECH HIGHBALL
The Atlantic (September 2011)
At the Aviary, Grant Achatz's new bar in Chicago, bartenders experiment with cocktails that evolve as you sip them.
CAN THE MANHATTAN GO SUBURBAN?
The Atlantic (June 2011)
Will chain restaurants ever be able to replicate the craft cocktail bar?
AMERICA'S TOP TEN COCKTAIL BARS
Travel + Leisure Online (May 2011)
Where to drink in Boston, New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Denver, Washington DC, Seattle, Portland OR, San Francisco and Houston.
SHAKE IT UP
Forbes Life (May 2011)
The annual Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans isn't just a sprawling party — it's the graduate school of cocktail culture, where “geekines” gets forged into “cool.
KEEP CALM AND DRINK ON
enRoute/Air Canada (February 2011)
London leads the race in cheerful innovation in drink — from the curious molecular mixology at Lounge Bohemia to a frozen Tom and Jerry thawed with flaming brandy at Purl. [No longer online]
THE RETURN OF THE RESTORATIVE COCKTAIL
Bon Appetit (Jan 2011)
The renewed dalliance between apothecary and bar opens the door for exploring lost tastes and social attitudes, even if cures don't follow. (Bonus: links to recipes for health-giving cocktails here and here.)
HOLIDAY IN A GLASS
Men's Journal (Dec 2010)
Eggnog is one of those holiday traditions — like fruitcake or regifting — that result in disaster if poorly executed. But not if you make a proper nog.
THE BITTER BEGINNING
The Atlantic (Nov 2008)
Learning to love Fernet Branca, a bracing Italian liqueur
The Atlantic (June 2009)
Ice may be the most neglected ingredient in the modern cocktail. That's just plain wrong.
Men's Journal (October 2008)
Thanks to booming demand, the best aged bourbons are growing scarce. Of course, scarcity means just one thing: investment opportunity. [No longer online]
THE ICEBERG WARS
The Atlantic (March 2002)
How do iceberg vodka makers get those huge icebergs into those tiny bottles? And more to the point, why?
THE OLD MAN AND THE DAIQUIRI
The Atlantic (Oct. 2005)
Why did the Ernest Hemingway, the manliest of bare-fisted fighting men, love a cocktail associated with sundresses and ice-cream headaches? A journey to Havana offers some clues.
GUNPOWDER ON THE ROCKS
The Atlantic (Nov 2010)
A New Zealand bartender learns what pirates and sailors knew long ago: explosives and liquor mix just fine.
Men's Journal (March 2011)
Dave Pickerell, bourbon legend, takes on another classic whiskey. Plus: brief reviews of three ryes. [No longer online]
ASPEN'S ART SCENE CATCHING UP WITH ITS ORIGINAL PROMISE
Surface (February 2016)
Aspen was founded with high ideals — a place where art, architecture, music, and ideas could flourish. What happened? And can those ideals be revived in the visual arts world. A look at the new museum, the efforts of Aspen Skiing Co. to integrate art, and local galleries. (Not available online; click link to purchase magazine.)
ALL DOWN THE LINE
Forbes Life (Spring 2012)
Private jets are all well and good, but I'll take a private rail car any time. Especially when it's stocked with an unlimited supply of tequila.
AMERICA'S COOLEST COFFEE SHOPS
Travel + Leisure Online (November 2011)
Where to enjoy a stellar cup of joe in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and some 20 other cities.
A TONIC FOR THE MORNING AFTER
National Geographic Traveler (Oct 2011)
Everyone knows New Orleans is well-suited for the continuous consumption of liquor. But it’s also a city-sized balm for the morning after.
GREETINGS FROM AIRWORLD!
The Atlantic (July/Aug 2006)
A tour of America without ever leaving the airport - six days, five airports, 106 hours of layover-as-vacation.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
The Atlantic (December 2005)
A ride on the new Las Vegas monorail raises a question. Why haven't these caught on in cities nationwide? Conclusion: "The monorail was twenty years ahead of its time, and it has been mired there ever since."
THE MAGIC MIX THAT IS TRINIDAD
New York Times Sophisticated Traveler (Nov. 21, 2004)
On an island defined by its global flavor, people arrive, put down roots and then send tendrils off in unexpected directions.
A USER'S MANUAL TO SEAT 21C
New York Times(Jan. 3, 2008)
Congratulations on selectiing Seat 21C. This manual is intended to familiarize you with the many options available to you.
BIDDING THE INTERSTATE GOODBYE
New York Times (July 14, 2002)
Four weeks, 7,052 miles, 23 states, one Volkswagen camper. Taking a road trip that bypasses "Supersize" America.
REBIRTH OF MAIN STREET
Via Magazine (Jan/Feb 2011)
How are Main Streets reinventing themselves in the age of the big box megastore? A road trip through four towns in California and Oregon in search of answers. (Note: enter zipcode 94102 when prompted.)
THE NEW NEW ORLEANS
enRoute/Air Canada (April 2011)
In a city that cleverly salvages, recycles and reinvents, everything old really is new again.[No longer online.]
WALKING & MISC
LEARNING FROM LAS VEGAS
The Smart Set (Sept 16, 2013)
Lessons in urban planning from America's least walkable city.
PIMP MY WALK
The Smart Set (April 17, 2013)
Walking canes were once the 22-inch rims of 19th century cruising culture.
The Smart Set (Feb 18, 2013)
When postal carriers were superheroes: why we're nearing the end of the drawn-out divorce proceedings between information and walking.
IS THE TWEET LENGTH WALK MAKING US STUPID?
The Smart Set (Dec 21, 2012)
Undertaking a 10- or 15-mile mile walk was once something Americans might do routinely in an afternoon. No special note was made of it.
WHY THE MAINE GUIDE MATTERS
Yankee (April 2012)
The centuries-old tradition of guiding in the Maine woods is under pressure from technology, waning interest in traditional sports, and second-home development. Why we should worry when we lose “ritual history.”
HELD HOSTAGE, ACT TWO: MISDEEDS
This American Life (Feb 25, 2012)
Rebroadcast of a 2010 story about an angry man in New Orleans who seeks revenge against people who bought property he formerly owned. New homeowners find themselves trapped in a morass of paperwork, court visits… and worse.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF AIR TRAVEL
Forbes Life (Sept 2011)
When was the golden age of air travel? Hint: It wasn’t in the 1960s and ‘70s.
THE CHAIR THAT INVENTED SUMMER
Yankee (July/Aug 2009)
From utilitarian to iconic in a century flat — the Adirondack chair and how it got that way.
The Smart Set (Sept. 1, 2009)
Marshall McLuhan, or somebody like McLuhan, once said that reading the morning paper is like slipping into a bath. But reading the New York Times on the Kindle? It's more like getting a news douche.
POULTRY SLAM 2008: A TWISTERY MYSTERY
This American Life (Dec. 28, 2008)
An examination of an unexplained meteorological phenomenon involving chickens, tornadoes, and Kurt Vonnegut's brother...and a riddle that's nearly two centuries old. (Six-minute radio segment; fourth of five segments, airs at 40:30 of podcast.)
ARCHITECTURE & URBANISM
Architect (Oct 2013)
How does sprawl happen — logistically speaking? A look at one of the leading firms behind the design and building of big box America.
DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS GOES BIG
Sunset (February 2013)
Zappos CEO Tony Hseih is gambling that a $350 million investment in seeding a new downtown Las Vegas will pay off — both for the city and for his company.
GUIDEBOOKS TO CITIES OF THE FUTURE
Wall Street Journal (August 24, 2012)
American cities are becoming more European. A review of three books on this theme, by Allen Ehrenhalt, P.D. Smith, and Taras Grescoe.
Architect Magazine (Sept 2011)
When a tornado ravaged Tuscaloosa, Ala., a network of architects quickly organized to assess the damage. Why and how they did it.
SWEAT THE DETAILS
Architect Magazine (May 2011)
Hot, humid climates require their own set of sustainable design strategies, argues New Orleans' Scott Bernhard.
THE NOSTALGIA TRAP
The Atlantic (May 2011)
In Brooklyn and London, Rafael Viñoly explores the borderlands between history and public nostalgia.
KATRINA'S ARCHITECTURAL REVOLUTION
The Atlantic (November 2009)
In New Orleans, a new kind of house is rising from the ruins of Katrina. Cheap, green, and radically hip, it may change architecture for a generation.
A DESIRE NAMED STREETCAR
Architect Magazine (March 2011)
A letter from New Orleans: What the oldest operating transit system in the U.S. can teach us about planning for tomorrow.
A CAUTIONARY TALE
Preservation Magazine (Jan/Feb 2008)
Amid our green-building boom, why neglecting the old in favor of the new just might cost us dearly.
LITTLE SKYSCRAPER ON THE PRAIRIE
The Atlantic (July/Aug 2008)
A rare Frank Lloyd Wright tower—one of his most bizarre buildings ever—rises high above the Oklahoma plains.
THE COST OF PROGRESS?
Preservation Magazine (May/June 2011)
Razing entire blocks for a massive hospital complex in New Orleans divided residents and decimated parts of a historic neighborhood. (Excerpt only online.)
THE BIG UNEASY
American Scholar (Autumn 2014)
The New Orleans demimonde at the turn of the last century was filled with outsized characters pursuing both vice and reform. Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans, by Gary Krist leads readers on a nicely narrated tour of the rise and fall of jazz, prostitution and organized crime in the Crescent City.
THE BIBULOUS GARDEN
Wall Street Journal (April 12, 2012)
Every liquor store is a fantastical greenhouse, its contents the products of hundreds of plant species. A review of Amy Stewart's The Drunken Botanist.
A COLLECTOR OF THE GILDED AGE
Wall Street Journal (Oct 13, 2012)
Photographer Edward Curtis helped shape our view of Native American culture, and sacrificed much to do so. A review of Timothy Egan's Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher.
AN URBAN FARRAGO
Wall Street Journal (April 9, 2012)
A review of The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans, a masterful and artfully written history of the Crescent City's first century.
OVERNIGHT AND UNDERAGE
Wall Street Journal (January 13, 2012)
One of DHL's co-founders spent his later years in the Pacific, where he sat as a judge, started businesses and cruised for young prostitutes. A review of King Larry: The Life and Ruins of a Billionaire Genius.
WASTING AWAY AGAIN IN MARGARITAVILLE
Wall Street Journal (October 8, 2011)
The two certitudes of life: Death, and that Jimmy Buffett will never find that lost shaker of salt. A review of Mile Marker Zero: The Moveable Feast of Key West.
THE OLD MAN WHO LIVED ON A SHOE
Wall Street Journal (August 4, 2011)
L.L. Bean is structured like the solar system. Everything revolves around the sun of the Maine Hunting Shoe. A review of L.L. Bean: The Man and His Company.
CITIES OF THE PLANE
Wall Street Journal (March 2, 2011)
What's beyond Edge City? The Aerotropolis, an emergent city type built around frictionless commerce. A review of Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next.
WILD CARDS AND JOKERS
Washington Post (Dec 5, 2006)
Are we genetically hard-wired for gambling? That's one of the question tackled by David Schwartz in his a sometimes entertaining, sometimes a-bit-too-comprehensive history of gambling.
BUILDING BETTER HUMANS
The American Scholar (Spring 2008)
In Richard Sennett’s The Art of Doing, shop class might teach us not just how to make a better bookshelf, but how to build a better human being.