Would you drink a beer that was made from another human’s spit? Sample a drink made from frogs? Or drink fermented horse’s milk? Probably not …but one man does just that and his name is Jack Maxwell the host of Travel Channel’s new hit show the’ Booze Traveler’ which airs on Monday nights at 10. ‘Booze Traveler’ is not like any other type of drinking show on TV. Jack travels the world to learn about different cultures and customs by trying out the local alcohol offerings. Learning about people and their cultures is something that Jack Maxwell did while growing up in South Boston. Jack worked in the local bars and taverns and said that one thing he noticed was that people liked to tell stories over a drink. This unique perspective of other cultures, local stories and unusual alcoholic beverages is what Jack brings to us as the host of the ‘Booze Traveler’. Here at Journey to the Beer Store we wanted to learn more about the show the ‘Booze Traveler’ and its host Jack Maxwell so we reached out to Jack for this one of a kind interview! If you would like to follow Jack Maxwell on twitter and follow his travels his handle is @SouthieJack.
Jack, you are from South Boston. How does someone from Boston end up on the Travel Channel with their own show traveling the world sampling the worlds booze?
Well the short answer is I auditioned as an actor because they were looking for a host of the show, but the real answer is when I was a little kid in Southie I would walk up and down the streets of Broadway shining shoes in the bar rooms (and there were a lot of bar rooms) and they would let you go in as a little kid to make money and shine shoes. I just fell in love with the stories these rascals would tell after a few drinks. They were boozy stories and tales and they were just captivating. I thought WOW that is a great thing…traveling and having a few drinks at the same time, whether it was beer or whiskey (there weren’t a lot of fancy drinks back then when I was a kid) and I thought this was so fascinating. So really I have been getting ready for it since then and I just didn’t know it.
When did you audition for the show?
I auditioned about three years ago and we shot a pilot with a company called White Reindeer Productions. Maria and Debra ran auditions and I got the part and we went out and shot a pilot in all these different places. A year later they sold it to the Travel Channel and after they developed it into what they wanted we went out and shot 13 episodes and here we are airing the original episodes.
Along with being the host of Travel Channels Booze Traveler you are also an actor, starred on stage, and also in TV shows like 24, Lost, Beverly Hills 90210, House, and some other movies. What is was your favorite role that you played in?
You know there are just so many that are really rewarding and for an artist to get to do what he/she does every day and in my case it would be acting. It is such a wonderful blessing. It is all frosting, they are great for different reasons. This job here, which I don’t even call a job, has to be my most rewarding and most fulfilling because I get to travel the world and meet people and places and different cultures and share meals with them and cocktails with them and strange concoctions which is just great. As far as the acting part, being on stage with Al Pacino is a fascinating and trippy thing because here he is maybe the greatest living actor (I would certainly make a case for that) and he is acting and he is teaching how to act at the same time. Here you are acting and following him and you are on stage together and it was beautiful. It was a nice full play and then afterwards we shot a movie together so I spent a nice long time around the man. It was really great. Jessica Chastain was in that play also. She was just starting out at the time and look at her now with all of the nominations.
Wow you know here is just a handful...Spain because of its food and beauty and its fantastic temperatures. Iceland was so remote and I met people there that I would be friends with forever. Mongolia was so far away and those drinks were trippy. Peru because we sailed down the Amazon and found a lost native tribe. It has just been fascinating in so many different ways I could never pick one!
You have sampled a lot of different alcoholic beverages while filming the show like spit beer from Peru. What was the toughest thing that you drank that you would not want to drink again?
Well to be honest I probably would drink everything again and in the right circumstance, however a couple stood out. I mean spit beer I had to get my mind around that. The ladies in the village chew up this root and spit it out and they invited me to do that. After that they ferment it and you drink it and that is all it is. It is saliva fermented on this potato like root. Yeah that is weird to me but that is it. I would never go and spend time with them and have a culture of people, in this case a tribe, take me in and not partake in everything that they do. At the same time yeah I paused for a second before I took a sip of their spit beer as they had invited me to do.Oh frog in a blender was no chocolate shake! Frog in a blender is supposed to be good for your lungs. It was at a smoothie shop with strange concoctions and you had to drink it 15 days in a row. I drank it just for the novelty of it because she made it right in front of me. She skinned a frog, put it in a blender and drank it down. So yeah, I did that but it was weird to see something alive two seconds before that and then in the blender with all the bones and blood crunching…but I guess if I go there and just look at it and don’t drink it, it is not as good of a show!
Where would you like to travel next for Booze Traveler?
Wow you know there are a few places I would like go. I am Italian and Irish so Italy of course for great foods and fantastic wines and Ireland for great story tellers and the beauty of those green rolling hills but I thought Cuba would be fascinating. I would like to go anywhere though because when I was going out the first time we hit 15 places, (13 countries and 2 states) and I could never have predicted it went down the way it did. I thought some places wouldn’t be as fascinating as there were and vice versa. Now I am just open to going anywhere and living that experience because it is not looking at the monuments and the buildings and the historic landmarks. It is about the people and why they do it and why they do what they do and when they invite me to be a part of it it is the best part of it. You can get that anywhere on earth.
If you could have a dream six pack of beer/booze from the places that you traveled to on the first season of Booze Travelers, what six beer/drinks would be in your dream six pack?
Whoa that is a really good question. I would start with the beers since this a beer thing right? In this Monday nights episode we go to the Neverlands and there is the first World beer bank and he ages beer 3, 4, 5 years and it gives such complexity to the beers. They are all dark beers of course. You get a hint of chocolate and nut and it wasn’t like that when they stored it. It was really fascinating. The beer bank was a bunker that they used to fight off the Germans in the World War and you wouldn’t think of storing beer in there. But it was the perfect place for because it keeps it cool, it was somewhat underground, they store it at room temperature and then you come back years later to drink your beer and it is smooth and creamy. It is really the best beer I have ever had.
Another one would be a nice chocolate stout that I had in Belize. Oh that was a good beer! There is a guy called a chocolate man and he makes chocolate into everything. He even puts it in to his beer and it was so hot in Belize and a nice cold chocolate stout did the trick...it was just what the doctor ordered. Austria had good beers. They had most lagers that we enjoy in the States but there was also a nice Pilsner. They also had a Suntory Whiskey that makes a wonderful whiskey and a Pisco Sour which is a really great cocktail.
Also, Mr. Wano who has won so many titles as World’s greatest bar tender along with Japan’s greatest bar tender made a couple of cocktails for me. So either one of those…the White Lady or the Japanese Garden. Those are both fascinating and really great.
Any chances of bringing the show to Boston in a future season?
Actually there is a chance and you are the first one hearing this. They want to go back to Boston for one of these episodes and find out how I grew up and how I became who I am and became fascinated with what I am doing. We will probably go to Southie and go to a few bar rooms and show where it all began. I love the people of Southie and Boston is such a great, great city and I can’t wait to go back.
When do you think it will be coming to Boston?
We don’t know because we don’t have a schedule and it hasn’t been announced but I know they say in the future they would like to get back.
Well here at Journey to the Beer Store we hope there is a second (and third and fourth…) season to the Booze Traveler because we know that we along with so many others really enjoy where Jack takes us drinking the eccentric drinks that he drinks! Make sure to watch Booze Traveler on the Travel Channel tonight and see Jack drink some fantastic Neverlands beers!