Wine or beer is much less frequently drunk at meals than in Europe, though the amount of alcoholic liquor seen on the tables of a hotel would be a very misleading measure of the amount consumed. The men have a curious habit of flocking to the bar-room immediately after dinner to imbibe the stimulant that preference, or custom, or the fear of their wives has deprived them of during the meal. Wine is generally poor and dear. The mixed drinks at the bar are fascinating and probably very indigestible. Their names are not so bizarre as it is an article of the European’s creed to believe. America possesses the largest brewery in the world, that of Pabst at Milwaukee, producing more than a million of gallons a year; and there are also large breweries at St. Louis, Rochester, and many other places. The beer made resembles the German lager, and is often excellent. Its use is apparently spreading rapidly from the German Americans to Americans of other nationalities. The native wine of California is still fighting against the unfavourable reputation it acquired from the ignorance and impatience of its early manufacturers. The art of wine-growing, however, is now followed with more brains, more experience, and more capital, and the result is in many instances excellent. The vin ordinaire of California, largely made from the Zinfandel grape, has been described as a “peasant’s wine,” but when drunk on the spot compares fairly with the cheaper wines of Europe. Some of the finest brands of Californian red wine (such as that known as Las Palmas), generally to be had from the producers only, are sound and well-flavoured wines, which will probably improve steadily. It is a thousand pities that the hotels and restaurants of the United States do not do more to push the sale of these native wines, which are at least better than most of the foreign wine sold in America at extravagant charges. It is also alleged that the Californian and other American wines are often sold under French labels and at French prices, thus doing a double injustice to their native soil. Coffee or tea is always included in the price of an American meal, and these comforting beverages (particularly coffee) appear at luncheon and dinner in the huge cups that we associate with breakfast exclusively. Nor do they follow the meal, as with us, but accompany it. This practice, of course, does not hold in the really first-class hotels and restaurants.
The real national beverage is, however, ice-water. Of this I have little more to say than to warn the British visitor to suspend his judgment until he has been some time in the country. I certainly was not prejudiced in favour of this chilly draught when I started for the United States, but I soon came to find it natural and even necessary, and as much so from the dry hot air of the stove-heated room in winter as from the natural ambition of the mercury in summer. The habit so easily formed was as easily unlearned