Jack Maxwell, the host of “Booze Traveler”, has traversed the globe sampling some of the world’s most unique concoctions along the way. From Eastern European villages to the tropics of Tahiti, each place brings with it a new libation. Now Jack is back with a brand new season of Booze Traveler, airing Dec 18th at 10p.m. EST on the Travel Channel. North American Traveller chats with Maxwell on his first introduction to booze, drinking a frog, and his love of travel.
Jack Maxwell: South Boston, Booze & Beyond
NA Traveller: What was your first foray into booze?
Jack Maxwell: I was young and without naming people who influenced me, let’s just say I had an uncle who liked to drink. There was something on the table that looked like orange juice and he was in the other room, I took a couple of big gulps, which were horrible. He came in and started laughing in a big Irish laugh. I told him I thought it was orange juice and he said it’s called a screwdriver – that was my first experience.
Then when I was shining shoes in the barrooms of South Boston as a kid, once in a while you would get someone who would say, “Do you want to try this?” I would say no, because I wasn’t supposed to drink and my mother would be mad. It was qui-pro-quo; they would say, “Come on over here Jack, have a sip and shine my shoes for a quarter.” I would have to take a sip of it, and back in the day in South Boston the cocktails weren’t to fancy. Straight whiskey, a high ball, it wasn’t fancy. No Louis XIII on the shelf put it that way!
NA Traveller: This season on Booze Traveler you really traverse the globe. What was one of the most obscure concoctions that you either really loved or really disliked on your journeys?
Jack Maxwell: I had a frog in a blender in Peru; they take the skin and throw it in a blender, which was wild. Cow’s blood out of a neck of a cow that was owned by the Masai Warriors in Tanzania with honey wine. Those were pretty exotic.
Then there was stuff that was really beautiful. Like in Guatemala, we had a traditional homemade concoction called Ponche de Frutas. It was like a sangria full of cherries and just wonderful – strong but good. I really like homemade stuff because it’s not really regulated; they do it out of love. Very rarely is homemade liqueur measured, it’s like, “I put a little bit of this and that.”
In Tahiti, which is the first episode, there is a liqueur made from seven thousand oranges. The greatest part of that story is the oranges, even though it’s the tropics they don’t grow there naturally; they destroyed them all. So this guy has to trek up the mountain three hours to get these oranges and come back. They grow up on a mountain as opposed to an orchard. He brings them back because his grandfather taught him how to do this and past it on. So he does it to keep the memory and the love he had for his grandfather alive.
NA Traveller: Were you a big traveller prior to getting this gig hosting the show Booze Traveler?
Jack Maxwell: I had wanted to do it, but like most people, I just dreamed of it and never did it much. I was a broke actor and did not have the funds to really do it. I travelled around the states and back and forth across the country to meet people and have experiences. I had been to London, Canada, Mexico, but not really outside of that. I regretted it always, so when I had to be in L.A. for auditions I couldn’t take a week off if that great audition came along, being an actor. So when this show came along it really opened my eyes and my heart to the people that are out there.
NA Traveller: If you had your own signature cocktail what would it be called and what would be in it?
Jack Maxwell: Great question – I don’t know it’s something to think about! I would think it might be a tie to my background; my twitter and Instagram handles are Southie Jack, which is the neighborhood I grew up in. Maybe something for my mother and late grandmother who helped raise me, they are both named Dorothy, maybe something like that. It would probably be to those ladies to who I owe everything; they mean the world to me.
As far as what would be in it I have to think about it and get back to you, but I love so many things. We went to England this year and we were punting on the river in Cambridge and a bartender came up with an alcohol called “Absolutely Punted”. It was rum, whiskey, vodka, cointreau and amaretto with limejuice and ginger beer. I would never think to put all those together but it was great – strong as hell! The artistry of the chemical balance; the secret to a cocktail is well balanced. I would not be such a stickler with what was in it, as long as it was a wonderful experience when they drank it.
NA Traveller: What is your go-to hangover cure?
Jack Maxwell: This might disappoint a lot of people but there is no one magical thing. By definition you have poisoned yourself and you are just going to have to take the time to feel better. I drink water throughout the night if I think it’s going to be a late one. First thing in the morning I shock my system with a super cold glass of fresh orange juice that I squeeze myself. Then it’s no time for dietary restrictions. I eat the biggest, baddest, greasiest breakfast I want to. Then, of course, the biggest coffee or two I can find and that usually straightens me out.