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Jed Portman

Jed Portman

Southern-food columnist, soda writer

  • Location: Charleston, South Carolina
  • Favorite foods: Skillet cornbread, smoked meat, buttermilk, chicken & dumplings, trout, fried chicken, pickled vegetables, sassafras tea
  • Last bite on earth: Trout rolled in cornmeal and pan-fried, on the side of a mountain creek in the morning, with coffee

The Serious Eats Guide to Montana-Made Spirits

For decades, microdistilleries were illegal in Montana. Then in 2005, the state legislature approved the Microdistillery Act, a bill championed by Helena lawyer and would-be distiller Mike Uda. Less than a decade later, native-made spirits are flowing across the state like water through a mountain stream. More

Essential Sodas: Jarritos Tamarindo

In the years following World War II, as Coca-Cola climbed to international superstardom, Don Francisco Hill had an idea. A native of Mexico, a country long enamored with aguas frescas made from water, sugar, and fruit, Hill envisioned a line of Mexican-made soft drinks that would capture the same fresh and simple flavors. To me, tamarind (the second-best-selling of all Jarritos flavors) is the be-all and end-all, the single must-try, the Alpha and the Omega of the venerable collection. More

Soda: Grapico, A Rich Taste of Alabama

Grapico, born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1914, moved to Alabama in 1917 and has been produced there since. Though flavored artificially, the soda skyrocketed to early fame with advertisements that implied that it contained real grape juice (complaints from real grape-juice vendors led to eventual charges from the Federal Trade Commission that forced Grapico vendors to adjust their advertising). Today, the soda enjoys a cult following among Alabamians almost equivalent to that of Cheerwine in the Carolinas. More

Have You Ever Tried Hot Dr. Pepper?

When is a soft drink no longer a soft drink? When it's not carbonated, by definition. Sugar, water, and flavoring, with bubbles, is soda. Sugar, water, and flavoring, served flat, is something else. Hot Dr. Pepper is a drink that straddles the line between the two. More

A Sandwich a Day: Pork Chop at Willie's Wee-Nee Wagon, Brunswick, GA

You wouldn't know that the place is anything special. Where it is, perched on the side of the road, painted in fast-food reds and yellows, you'd take it for a run-of-the-mill hot dog joint. But when I was in Brunswick, Georgia last month, I asked a range of people—from my cousins over at luxury resort Sea Island to Big George Drayton to a teenage Wal-Mart cashier—where to eat in town. Every one of them recommended Willie's Wee-Nee Wagon. More

Will We Drink Soda Differently in 2013?

For half a century, we've looked to Coca-Cola and other stalwarts like Sprite, Pepsi, Fanta, and Mountain Dew to whet our thirst and wake us up. But as we move into 2013, chefs and consultants are laying out their predictions for this next year's culinary trends, including changes in the soda scene. More

Soda: Taylor's Tonics Holiday Fizz

I went back to Cost Plus World Market last night to buy Taylor's Tonics Holiday Fizz four-pack, which includes sodas called "Gingerbread House," "Eggnog Fizz," "Candy Cane Shake" and "Cranberry Dream." Risky propositions all, save maybe the cranberry. Or so you'd think, before you see that the cranberry soda is flavored with pine needles, to create the impression of "holiday berries strung along an evergreen garland." More

Down South: An Antebellum Punch for the Holidays

This antique punch is one of the most consistently popular drinks at Husk, one of only two that has remained on the menu while plenty of other drinks have come and gone around it. Whether you need to atone for a social faux pas or want to entertain your guests in old Charleston style, it'll be a welcome presence in a punch bowl this holiday season. Be sure your guests are thirsty, because this recipe makes a lot. More

Americana Gets Huckleberry Soda Right

I'm all for homemade huckleberry pies, jams, pancakes, and so on, but too many of the products in stores are artificially-flavored and made out-of-state. It breaks my heart to know that so many visitors will always think that huckleberries taste like the taffy they bought at a gas station in Missoula. More

Flu-Season Sodas: Taylor's Tonics

A friend of mine came down with pneumonia last week. It hit him hard. Laid him up at home for a day or so. Then I saw him at a concert, not forty-eight hours after he'd been in the hospital, with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. It was a good show, and I couldn't blame him for wanting to be there, but I was a little bit worried for his health. More

Hangover Helper: Beauregard Benedict at The Glass Onion, Charleston, SC

I woke up around dawn with light trickling through the blinds into my bedroom. I was fine, I thought. Just a little headache. Then I sat up. About three hours later, once the balance of ravenous hunger and wobbly nausea had finally tipped in hunger's favor, I got my girlfriend and drove out to the suburbs for brunch at The Glass Onion, an unlikely mecca for made-from-scratch Southern food situated beside a shuttered car wash and a hibachi grill on a busy stretch of Highway 17. More

Where Are the Savory Sodas?

Not long ago, the only savory cocktail at many bars was the Bloody Mary. Now, in the wake of the cocktail revolution, savory drinks are numerous enough to populate a genre. Having been converted to the savory side somewhere around my first bacon-infused Old Fashioned, I've found it hard to go sweet again. More

Have You Tried Nehi Soda?

Nehi is a soda with a mid-60s Motown beat. It's a muggy summer night, dew on asphalt, the lights of an all-night diner. Lightning bugs in jars, honeysuckle nectar, parades. Nehi makes you nostalgic for the wholesome Southern childhood you never had. More

Have You Tried Red Rock Cola?

A cola is a cola is a cola, most of the time. The "cola" flavor—sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, acid, a little citrus—is so deeply impressed on the American palate that we hardly recognize it for its parts anymore. Last week in Tennessee, though, I tried a soda that broadened my sense of what a cola can be. More

Drinks That Bring Back Memories: Kern's Horchata

Montana might seem like an unlikely place to find horchata, but that's where I tried it first. Kern's horchata isn't exactly like Mexican horchata, which I'd discover later and enjoy less. Kern's is thick and creamy, like melted ice cream, and silted with sugar and cinnamon. I bought it for the first time on a snack run some weekend in the late summer, and kept buying it as temperatures plummeted well below zero and our weekends became more and more about the television in our living room. More

We Try Johnson City Gold, Mountain Dew's New Malt Soda

Back in September, we wrote about Dr. Enuf, the vitamin-rich soda that came of age alongside Mountain Dew in 1950s East Tennessee. While Dr. Enuf is still made and bottled exclusively in Johnson City, Tennessee, Mountain Dew has long since moved on to PepsiCo and the bright lights of convenience stores the world over. Mountain Dew's newest soda, though, pays tribute to its Appalachian roots with its name: Johnson City Gold. More

Bristol, VA: Burgers with a Side of Country Music History at Burger Bar

According to local legend, that restaurant where Hank Williams could have eaten his last meal, had he not declined it, was the Burger Bar. Now, there has been a fair amount of kick-back against the legend. Carr himself has said that he may have misremembered his meal and may not, in fact, have stopped in Bristol. One report that I found online claimed that the Burger Bar did not even exist in 1952, when Hank died (that is not true—it's been in Bristol since 1942). I ceased all research when I heard the conviction of the line cook at the Burger Bar. "Of course it happened," he said. No need to pry too much into a good story. More

Soda: Have You Tried Irn-Bru from Scotland?

Irn-Bru is iconic in its native Scotland, a place with which I am not personally familiar. I have never tried this drink along a misty country road or seated by a murky loch, or in a crowd of red-haired Scots, and I imagine that it might benefit from the context. What sodas we enjoy can be determined as much by context as by flavor, a point hammered home to me when I was hit by a near-insatiable thirst for Cheerwine while on my way to North Carolina's Lexington Barbecue Festival last week. More

Meet Jack Rudy Small Batch Tonic

This is Jack Rudy tonic syrup, and it has almost nothing in common with any of the watery, artificially-flavored tonics you've tried before. "When Tasting Table covered us," says creator Brooks Reitz, "I was making it out of my house. The day after the piece ran, I woke up with 400 emails in my inbox. People were saying, 'How can I get it? Tell me more. What is it?' And I freaked out." More

The Serious Eats Guide to Montana-Made Spirits

@ramsbee @Daveguy I could have gone on and on. Headframe is great, and I'm a big fan of Vilya's gin. I kept it short and sweet here, but the wealth of new spirits in Montana is amazing—especially for a guy who lived in Montana before the ban on microdistilling was lifted. Keep on spreading the good word!

A Sandwich a Day: Pork Chop at Willie's Wee-Nee Wagon, Brunswick, GA

@Lorenzo Generally, no. I mean, not like skillet cornbread or shrimp & grits or hot chicken are "things." But around Brunswick, this particular pork chop sandwich is without question "a thing." Places in the area try to imitate it.

Will We Drink Soda Differently in 2013?

@BangieB & Adam: Just bought my first SodaStream. So excited to have it, but plan to use only fruit juices or homemade syrups for flavoring. My experiences with SS flavors have not been good. And store-brand colas and root beers are already dirt cheap and easy to find—why copy the generics when you can use the thing to up your soda game? Maybe if you're hooked on the basics and too busy to play around in the kitchen...

I just came into a lot of sorghum, so I'm going to do something with that to start. Then on to the sassafras root beer, maybe. That looks good. BangieB, any particular homemade syrups or flavorings that I should know about?

The Food Lab's Complete Guide To Pan-Seared Steaks

As always, I just learned a lot and I'm hungry. Well done, Kenji.

Down South: How to Cook a Raccoon

@rlp122 Possum is way up there on my list of things I'd like to try! But trapping them and flushing their systems with corn or sweet potatoes for a few weeks is key. Which is why I have yet to try one. One day, when I have room in the backyard for a possum pen...

Down South: How to Cook a Raccoon

@erineats Thanks so much. Though I lived in New York for a couple of years, I am Charleston-based now and proud of it. And was once on track for a degree in Ranch Management from Texas A&M University, which I think disqualifies me from calling myself a "New Yorker" for life. My goal is to celebrate the centuries of culinary tradition down here.

Your comment means a lot to me, as do all of the nice things folks have said here. Passing it all on to George. Thrilled to see that the Serious Eats audience digs these sorts of things!

Down South: Lunch at the Museum of Appalachia in Tennessee

@Lorenzo I wish!

@phillamb168, @topodrinko -- Kristy's recipe is so easy. I have it scribbled down somewhere. Keep your eyes peeled...

Bristol, TN: Classic Sliders at Blue Circle

Grace, please share! I have not made it up that way yet, but plan to.

Soda: Have You Tried Irn-Bru from Scotland?

Thank you for the input, Irn-Bru drinkers! I am with you. Picked up a super sweet fake-orange flavor, as in orange soda or "orange" hard candy, but did not mean to suggest that it tastes a thing like fresh-squeezed orange.

Soda: I Love Blenheim Ginger Ale

@JamesonVZ if there were no other pluses to living in SC, I think that easy access to Blenheim and readymade pimento cheese would be enough. How about this weather, though?

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