Robert Elder wanted a Martini to go with his dinner, but the server at the raw vegan restaurant he took his family to wouldn’t serve him one. “I’m over 21,” he pleaded with the server. Regardless of legality, gin wasn’t on the trendy Manhattan restaurant’s menu. Nor was vodka, whiskey, tequila or any spirit—only beer and wine were considered raw and vegan, that is, not distilled above 118 degrees fahrenheit, as grain alcohol requires.
Elder grew up in downtown Manhattan, in a brownstone on the East Side where his parents would—very legally, he notes—make wine in their home’s cellar. His great uncle would take the pumice (the remnants from the grapes), and distill grappa (perhaps less legally, but let’s not get into that). Elder would hang out at both cellars and help with the process, occasionally being gifted a cherry soaked in grappa as a reward for good behavior.