Hot Rum Cow Issue 2
With craft breweries serving up such eccentric offerings as maple bacon and salted caramel ales and organic micro-distilleries all the rage, booze appreciation has reached heights amongst the general populace formally reserved for wealthy aficionados and alcoholics. While magazines devoted to alcohol culture are hardly new – Wine Spectator has been around since the 1970s – Hot Rum Cow, a new quarterly published in Edinburgh, perfectly captures the fun, independent ethos that has defined the world of alcohol of late. Launched this past summer with a whimsical design that is simultaneously fresh and retro-inspired, we’ve been hooked since the first issue and are impressed by the magazine’s contribution to both the world of independent publishing and booze culture more generally. Each issue is devoted to a specific theme and the latest considers the history of cider with a few off-topic gems thrown in for good measure. Although difficult to source in North America, Hot Rum Cow is available for download as an iPad app that effectively mimics the experience of flipping through the magazine’s pages.
Hot Rum Cow offers an ideal mixture of pithy, newsy items, beautifully designed graphic pages and lengthy features which collectively make the magazine a very compelling read. The issue begins – as every good meal should – with an aperitif, a compendium of short reads that run the gamut from a “Me and My Drinking” column which has celebrities answer a series of questions like “if you were a drink, what would you be?”, a charming infographic that compares beer tax across Europe, and a “Science or Fiction” series that attempts to reveal the truth behind common myths, in this case if drinking Guinness has any quantifiable health benefits. Not only are these pages laid out beautifully, providing enough visual variety to remain absorbing without succumbing to schizophrenic design, the writing hits the perfect balance between earnestness and humor; this is not a magazine that takes itself too seriously.
Before delving into the surprisingly complex and storied history of cider, the issue includes a lengthy feature on the International Wine and Spirit Competition where more than 7,000 bottles are assessed and graded by experts, and an article recounting a delightful visit to The Nutshell – an establishment with the distinction of being the smallest pub in England. As cider is far from our drink of choice, we had never really given it much thought and were astonished to learn of its rather illustrious past when the drink garnered prices that rivaled the most sought after Bordeaux. Writer Liz Longden, in a revealing portrait of cider’s golden age, makes the drink sound so interesting that we were tempted to abandon our cider prejudice and sample varietals with an open mind. An article detailing a Scottish producer’s attempt to redefine popular conceptions of cider with his farmhouse offerings makes the discussion contemporary, as does an illustrated spread highlighting some of the latest trends in cider production including an Aspall Cuvée Chevallier that we’re dying to get our hands on.
With advertising limited to the front and rear spreads, the aesthetic sensibility of the magazine is not disrupted by unwelcome commercial insertions, and Hot Rum Cow is truly a pleasure to flip through. The number of both conceptual and visual angles with which the magazine approaches the subject of cider is truly staggering and it’s a testament to both the eclectic editorials and design that we remained enthralled throughout. If you can get your hands on a physical copy, definitely do so as the design really comes to life in print, but for those of us far from the UK the iPad app is a great and more than welcome approximation.