Cameron Collins' blog Distilled History was recently named Best Personal Blog in Riverfront Times 2013 Web Awards. For a full list of winners click here.
Cameron Collins has always loved a good Manhattan, but his friends didn't always love hearing him gripe about the lack of well-made cocktails in this fair city. So he decided to start writing a blog about booze in St. Louis. That blog soon morphed into a collection of stories about St. Louis history and the origins of some of his favorite mixed drinks. More than a year later, Collins' blog, Distilled History, has developed a following of folks interested in both booze and the past.
"The point was to create a cocktail blog, but every time I sat down to write it, I felt like something was missing," Collins says. "It felt like it wasn't my passion. I like drinking, but the history is my passion. I thought it was a unique way to tie the history and the drink together."
By day Collins is a project manager for CPI Corp., a portrait-studio operator, but he admits to spending as many as fifteen hours a week hunting down stories about local history. His interest in St. Louis' past led him to downtown's Campbell House Museum (1508 Locust Street; 314-421-0325), where he now gives tours and spends time with other history buffs.
Recently Collins wrote on Distilled History about public bathhouses in St. Louis --- a research mission inspired by a washtub in the head servant's bedroom at Campbell House.
"It's difficult to overstate the malodorous condition of St. Louis in the late 19th century," Collins writes. "If you lived in this city 125 years ago, you probably reeked."
It's the conversational tone of his writing, combined with exceptional research, that form the spirit base for Collins' intoxicating blog. Historical images and Collins' fantastic photos (he studied photography in school) serve as decorative garnish, making the site that much more appealing.
Collins says his affinity for Manhattans stems from his memories of his father drinking the cocktail. But he is happy to experiment with any drink with ties to history. Which, if you ask Collins, is all of them.
"Give me a drink," he says, laughing. "I guarantee you I can tie history to it somehow."