When we spoke for our interview, Jack Maxwell had just returned from a trip to Norway. He'd seen the Northern Lights and drank “very strong moonshine” with the Sami people, the region’s indigenous population. “The Vikings were afraid of [the Sami], and the Vikings weren’t afraid of anybody,” he explained. “But they respected the Sami because they thought they were invincible,” in part because of this killer moonshine, Maxwell hypothesized. This sounds like an adventure of a lifetime, but for Maxwell, the host of Travel Channel's Booze Traveler, it's really just another day in the office.
Booze Traveler was just picked up for a fourth season and is getting a spinoff called Booze Traveler: Best Bars, premiering later this April. The show will feature America's best bars in different categories, in case you're itching to take up Maxwell on some of his recommendations but don't have the ability to whip out your passport at the moment.
As glamorous as drinking around the country and the world may seem—and yes, it does—hitting so many bars isn't all fun and games. How does the so-called Booze Traveler deal with the aftermath of a hard night out? Maxwell told Extra Crispy why alcohol is the great unifier and shared his go-to hangover cure on the road.
Extra Crispy: The title Booze Traveler is pretty self-explanatory, but I would love to hear your explanation of the show.
Jack Maxwell: Certainly, the title does lead you down a certain path. Some people who watch the show say, "Oh, it's not about what I thought. I thought Booze Traveler guy was going around the world getting shit-faced." But that's not it at all.
Really, it's a cultural exploration of all the peoples and traditions of the world, through the lens of a cocktail glass, I suppose. Why alcohol is important to them, what they use it for—spirituality, ceremonies, honoring their ancestors. And I do that with them. I drink with them, I explore with them, I understand the connection of the spirit to who they are and why, and it's been great for me.
But I think if you had to sum it up, you just just say, we try to discover what people drink, why they drink it, and the stories they tell when they do, because every civilization, from the beginning of time, has discovered alcohol or found something to do with it. Sometimes it would pop up simultaneously around the world, and whatever you can ferment, people have fermented in order to make a drink.
Do you think that's why booze is a good lens through which to explore the world? Because it is so universal in this way?
Yeah, I do. That's a good point. It is very universal ... but also very unifying. We used to come together over a meal, traditional supper, the whole family would be there around the table. That doesn't happen too much anymore. But the pub lives on. You go down there to meet your friends, have a couple of drinks, and I think that'll live on for the rest of time.
It sounds like you're on the road constantly, and whenever there's booze, even if you're not trying to overindulge, you still don't always feel great the next day, so I was wondering if you had anything you do in the morning or the night before to make sure you're ready to take on the day.
As anyone who'd know who watches the show, it's not about consumption or overindulgence at all. It's a healthy respect for the alcohol, and that just gets us into the scene. It's really about the people and the culture. Very rarely do I regret it the next day. Well, I can't even say I've ever regretted it. But sometimes I hurt the next day, this is true.
I don't think there's any magical cure for hangovers. That has not been invented yet, because if you hurt yourself, you're going to be hurt. That's like saying, "What do you have to erase a black eye?" the next day. You could cover it up with makeup, but it's still going to be there. You've hurt yourself internally, which is why you have a hangover. You've basically poisoned yourself, but there are things you can do to make yourself feel a little bit better.
So the night before, if I remember to, depending on my state of being, I drink as much water as I can, right before I go to bed. Then I wake up, I drink water and a nice cold glass of fresh orange juice, with all those minerals and vitamins. It just makes you feel better. And then I have a big, fatty breakfast. Whatever I want to eat, I eat. I'm not worrying about calories at a place like that, because I've found that whatever it is you do when you make yourself feel better, I don't know if endorphins kick in or serotonin or something, but after that, I'm usually feeling better. And, of course, always present: a cup of coffee or two in the morning.
Oh, yeah. You've got caffeinate the next day, for sure.
Whether I'm drinking or not, I've got to have my coffee.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.