What’s your dream job? Even if traveling the world to sample different national drinks isn’t number one on your list, it’s probably on there. Lucky for Jack Maxwell, that’s just what he gets to do on the Travel Channel’s new show, “Booze Traveler.” The South Boston native has gone all over the world, from Mongolia to Peru, to learn about national drinks and customs. The resulting hourlong program begins Monday night, with each episode focusing on an individual country, and Maxwell’s time there.
In your time in Southie, did you work in any of the big bars in the neighborhood?
I worked in most of them on Broadway, but it’s probably not what you think. When I was a little kid, I asked for a shoe shine box for my birthday, and I got it. So I would go into bar rooms and shine shoes until I left there at just about 13. I would listen to these guys and their great stories and I realized how these normal average everyday blue collar people transformed when they had a couple of cocktails. I learned about alcohol’s magic socializing effect — the lubrication that it provides to help us, at least in this case, be who they wanted to be.
Had you traveled much before this?
I go to some of these places for the very first time and I have real time, true experiences and reactions to that. Like most of us, when I’d go to these places, before I’d go, I’d have ideas in my head of what it might be like, and I was never right. Never. Because it was almost always more adventurous and wonderful and spectacular than I thought, or just different.
Did you find that drinking customs were similar across countries?
I realized that when we drink, basically, no matter where you go, whether it’s with native villagers in Peru or Mongolian nomad families, or very passionate soccer fans in Turkey, that we drink for the same reasons. To celebrate, to mourn, to socialize, to take the edge off after a long day.
What was the most unexpected drink you were faced with?
Spit beer in Peru was very unexpected.
What’s spit beer?
Pretty much what it sounds like. The women of the tribe get together. They chew up this potato-like thing, because there are 330 varieties of potato in Peru, so this is one of them and they spit it into a big bowl, and then it ferments, and then you drink it. … And I think frog in a blender was certainly unexpected.
Where was that one?
That was also Peru!
What’s frog in a blender?
I’ll give you a guess, and I bet you’ll be right. They skin a frog right in front of you, throw it in a blender and hit puree. And then they add molasses, moonshine, and tree root for taste, and other things. And you see this frog swirling around, crunching up, and I don’t want to be graphic, but, it’s that.
Any other really unusual drinks?
Every civilization, every culture has found alcohol and learned how to make alcohol from something. We make it from fruit, or grain or herbs, but in Mongolia they have none of that because nothing grows in the Gobi desert. So instead, they have camels – let’s milk them, and then let’s trun that into vodka. On the other side of the Gobi, there are only horses, so let’s milk them, and let’s turn that into vodka. I did both.
You milked a camel?
I’m not proud, but I did.
Did the camel hold still?
Not really. Not happy. Not happy at all. Because I had to move her kid away. The kid had two udders, well, I had two. “I don’t remember giving birth to that ugly one over there!” But I milked it. I wasn’t as lucky with the horse, because horses are a little pickier about that.