“And yeah my type, I like ‘em brown, just like my drink, — the f**k you think?” — “The Recipe,” Kendrick Lamar feat. Dr. Dre
What do you use to transport your pretty bottles? Various types of packaging are utilized for spirits — as diverse as a brown bag for some MD 20/20 from the corner store to an insulated canvas bag for some refreshing Pinot Grigio at a picnic in the park with some live jazz. While traveling, some people leave the cooler in the trunk to keep their Natty Boh on chill; before jetsetting, some people ensure their bottles are tightly nestled within their padded and absorbent travel bag. There’s no use in letting all those special releases from the duty-free store run the possibility of breaking or leaking, right?
But when we’re at home, what then? Throw a pile of bottles on the counter, the room temperature technique? Maybe a bottle of vodka in the freezer, to lessen the sting of those pre-game shots? Many of us leave a bottle of a nice white in the fridge for when our special people come over, but what about another option? A classic option, one that will get us points until the cows come home. Vintage champagne requires a vintage bar boy, and this one is guaranteed to be the best package that could ever hold a bottle safe, secure, and special. Such a scintillating sight to whomever is blessed enough to set their senses of sight and taste upon it. So sensuous, so….ummmm, seems alliteration has failed me. Just pop the cork and enjoy, it’s that easy, right? Ohhhhh, I forgot, it has to be PAID for first. Anyone got an extra $35,000 Hong Kong laying around?
Wine lover? Upholder of viticulture? Fermented grape enthusiast? The only problem doesn’t deal with what glorious bottle of medium-bodied Merlot nor stone fruit-forward Grenache to grab, but what to do with all the corks! Well, every bottle and glass needs a table….brilliant!
Hell hath no fury…like a whisk(e)y-drinking woman….
I’m talking about the woman that ends her workday by hanging up her coat, dropping her briefcase and purse on the couch, and pouring a touch or two of 46 — the more oak the better in her eyes…
The woman that holds a Ladies Night over her house, and instead of a sweet, colorific, fruit juice-laced mixed drink, offers her ladyfriends a flight of Speyside malts…
The woman that, before departing to try out a new establishment with a nice Irish whiskey selection, jumps up and slaps the “Drink Like a Champion Today” sign above her doorway…okay, maybe not that woman….
The type of woman that takes a seat at the bar, and before any of the prowling vultures chomping at the bit to buy her a name-your-own-tini off the drink menu, eyes a particularly-distinctive bottle of Scotch on the backbar and orders a dram. The vulture is left wondering how she came to pronounce such a name…
In conclusion, to question my initial statement — why does hellborn fury lack the intensity of our main damies? That comes from years and years of having men ask, “Ohhhh, come on now…you can’t possibly want that, right? Aren’t you just going to have that clear sweetness?” My goodfellows, at the end of the night, after you find yourself under the table, vodka tonic in hand, while your ladyfriend continues to hold court and two fingers of Kentucky brown with the same grace she began the night with, you’ll wonder, “What in the HELL was I thinking?!?!”
This post should be titled, “Confessions of a Pack Rat.” Since this isn’t a “personal” blog, I plead the fizziff.
But I digress. What should you do with those empty wine and spirits bottles you have laying around. What if you have more than one or two, maybe 15? I previously showed this way of dealing with them. But here’s another that is more useful than just taking up space. *cough, my trunk, cough* Especially if you have bottles that are tinted different colors, like Bombay Sapphire or Skyy or Tanqueray Ten. I can imagine the wonderful tones they’d bring to a space. Now all we need are self-replenishing bottles. I wait with baited breath and empty glass.
This Saturday marks the 138th observance of the “Run for the Roses” — the Kentucky Derby. It’s arguably one of the biggest events in Louisville every year, not to mention the entire South, and is steeped in tradition. The Derby is one of the only events that has its own signature cocktail, the mint julep, not to mention the gorgeous pewter vessel it is imbibed in.
Drinking culture also is steeped in tradition, and back when the world was still flat, spirits used to have nuance of taste, differences by location. Their characteristics were not as homogenized as they might be said to be today; their makers still held on to the idiosyncrasies of place.
Take a gander of this little quiz and delight in the nuance of design. It shows that the designers of julep cups strayed from the path of “same” and aimed to make their drinking vessels a bit different as you rode through the Chitlin’ Circuit. Maybe you can try to find as many as you can and make a different mint julep in each? Hope springs both eternal and congenial.
Le Corbusier once noted that architects can have success in obtaining projects by “drinking the right cocktail to secure the commission.” While tales have been told of some architects’ failures at winning over the crowd at a dinner party, one architect that may be a step ahead is Michael Graves. I mean, when you can design a knockout cocktail set, you’re already ahead of the curve!
Graves has a knack of designing products with a touch of whimsy, harkening back to his post-modern design background. That leads to him reconsidering design, history, or culture when he makes a reference — bringing a new perspective to the conversation for a new audience. Whether through architecture by putting new clothes on the classical emperor with the Portland Building, or putting on a product design hat to create a mash-up of drinking styles for the mixologist and sommelier, Graves has set his own standard for interdisciplinary creation, turning design on its head.
Is he an architect? A glassware aficionado? What about a graphic design specialist, or a vanguard of universal design? It doesn’t matter — you know it when you see it, and Graves’ products truly give you a congenial feeling.
The importance of language is sometimes taken for granted. In the world of instant messaging, shorthand, text messaging, and TweetShrinking, there is more than enough opportunity for certain parts of the King’s English to slip through the cracks and be forever lost. Luckily, there are tools that enable the lexicon of drinking culture to remain steadfast in personal communication.
Speaking of tools, what are they really worth to a craft? As most DJs have accepted the utility of Serato in their repertoire, the turntable is most likely on its way out of practice in future years. Contemporary musicians have shown their ability to record on computers — when was the last time you heard of an artist shipping a collaborator a two-inch reel to lay down a hook? Architects always say, “Learn how to draw by hand — what happens when the power goes out??” Answer: everyone will put their laptops on “Hibernate” and head to the local Starbucks and soak up some Wi-Fi!
One thing that bartenders have done for eons is pour drinks. It’s the essence of the craft and there is no other way around it…until those robots learn the difference between a Manhattan and a Rob Roy — but I digress. In order to pour, you must know how much you’re pouring — isn’t that an inherent part of the equation? One thing about our aluminum friend is that he doesn’t always say how much volume he holds, whether it’s a half-ounce, three-quarters of an ounce, a full ounce, ounce-and-a-half…you just might have to do your own measuring to be sure. But where do those measurements come from in the first place? A look back through history will show that the aptly-named Jigger Pony was traditionally used to measure one-ounce and ounce-and-a-half amounts of spirits — a pony and a jigger, respectively. So no matter if you’re battling yourself over using a jigger pony or not, or if you’re using a very snazzy and geometric one like in the photo above, you’ll know exactly what those amounts are and what they refer to linguistically. Bartenders do speak in the language of love, no? The spirits are known to warm hearts…
Hip hop “heads” often speak of the four pillars of the culture — b-boying, emceeing, deejaying, and graffiti writing. While the emcee has not only taken over hip hop music, it has made a notable impact upon drinking culture, but other pillars have also made their presence felt.
The DJ, akin to the good person behind the bar, is known to control the crowd and let his hands do the talking. With many ingredients at their disposal, each has to decide what precise mix will win over their patrons and ratchet the night up another notch. Smirnoff has produced a DJ competition, “Master of the Mix”, that pits already-famous DJ’s against one another for the title, while Smirnoff stands idly by and hosts a “massive vodka tasting event” and offers the winner a personalized labeled bottle of Smirnoff. Because what better way to build brand recognition is there than to go straight to Las Vegas and throw vodka at countless wild partygoers in the nightclub? And shouldn’t your special bottle be held high in plain sight of everyone, when those same partygoers are dancing and, in the words of Loso — in case you ain’t no so — standing on the couches like their moms ain’t teach them no manners?
Speaking of bottles, the label is muy importante — the visual is often the first thing people notice, so the artistic execution must be on point. If you’re a spirits producer, wouldn’t it behoove you to hire an artist for that reason? That’s exactly what Hennessy did, through a collaboration with graf artist/toymaker/fashion designer/cartoonist/graphic-visual designer extraordinaire KAWS. If there was any spirit that took on such a reworking of their bottle design, it would not seem that a cognac company would be at the top of the list, nor one with the prestige of Hennessy. The colors of the bottle and overall design almost seem fit for a Caribbean rum packaging, but the French grapes inside it don’t disappoint. KAWS also has a collaboration with beer producer Dos Equis — that seems as obvious an opportunity as any, as their name and branding are synonymous with the artistic symbols of two X’s that KAWS uses in many of his pieces, if not all.
All of us can let our inner graf writer create. Just throw your favorite spirit, a sweetener, maybe a little juice, and some bitters in this graffiti shaker and let it do what it do. But don’t add any carbonated beverages until afterwards; the spray that comes from the can is good for the TATS Crew, but it’ll take you a little while to clean that “graffiti cocktail” off your walls and floor!
How many architects does it take to pour a glass of wine?
That depends on the typology of grape that the wine comes from, the proportion of wine to the volume of the glass, the site characteristics of the terroir from which the grape was harvested, the context in which the glass of wine is poured, whether it is a traditional expression or a modern blend….even the rhythm the wine gives as it’s poured into the glass.
The wonderful connections of design and mixology…always a congenial combination.
“I never used to understand the difference. One guy would say he’s British, and then another would come and say he’s English. I never understood…..you don’t understand until you have a sit down and have a couple of drinks with the guy and say, okay would you explain this difference to me?” — Excerpt from personal research conducted on individual connections to the traditional English pub and associated issues of cultural identity
The bar holds court to many diverse topics of conversation. It might be begin as small talk between two patrons, exchanging pleasantries and making short commentaries on other patrons or passers-by. With more time and more liquid, it might get more personal, as the patrons begin to disclose more about their likes and dislikes, idiosyncrasies, views, principles, commandments, etc. As a higher level of camaraderie is reached, the discourse gets even more glorious — now through the exchange of rounds, issues that might be taboo for discussion, at least with a stranger, are open for resolution. Each patron feels at comfort with the other, and is personally vested in adding fruitful energy to the conversation.
This type of conversation might be one of 8 million that occurs in a person’s travails through the house of spirits. Even though there was great congeniality expressed by the two patrons, it might be disregarded in terms of importance — just another conversation at the bar with a stranger. But what can you learn about others, your environment, and most importantly, yourself, through these instances? How do “barguments” tacitly inform us? What are some “barguments” you’ve had that have influenced your worldview?
Drinking and driving are a bad combination; this is time-tested and Mother-approved. Unless you’re sipping some 18yr Borderies in the back of your Maybach, and everyone knows that only happens on Thursday mornings. However, the automotive+imbibing combination can get intriguing in the realm of good ol’ cross-branding.
Design is a term that encompasses many activities, traversing many areas of culture; maybe too many at times. An eye for design can lead a person to execute many products — buildings for architecture, logos for graphic design, shoes for fashion design, etc. But why stay constrained to just one sandbox? Isn’t there enough room for everyone to play? All designers learn techniques and conventions native to one craft, but overlying principles of concept development, object proportion, and visual aesthetics come into play whether the aim is to create a magazine cover, a television, or a sports car.
Porsche Design has taken this mantra to the tilt, designing products as diverse as inkpens, golf clubs, and eyeglasses, not to mention the supercars we all know and love. The studio has also made eye-catching inroads into the spirits world, with collaborations with Johnnie Walker, Veuve Clicquot, and Veltins. While the Walker and Clicquot products are super-luxury items — because EVERYONE has $155K laying around for a whisky bar that opens with automatic sensors — but the attention to design details is immaculate. The Walker bar is made of stainless steel, leather, and wood materials; some of its accessories are also custom-designed. The design of the Clicquot refrigerator takes cues from the stacked positioning of the bottles inside, and Porsche even designed a custom label for the bottles, carrying the design even further through the product. The sky really is the limit to design, and when we have such wondrous, spirituous muses, that’s what should be expected, no?
“…Glock 4-tini, Nina Colada…” – Lil Wayne, “Gucci Gucci” freestyle
Weezy F. Baby (and the F ain’t for fermented) plays word association in many ways, but he might be onto something here. Guns and liquor have had a relationship for years, although traditionally to protect a secret stash of moonshine from unwanted intruders — creating the “Tommy Gun” as the lasting icon of the Prohibition era. Even reaching back to the days of manifest destiny shows the frontiersmen of the Old West sauntering down to the saloon to “shoot” some good brown “firewater”.
Some spirit producers and product designers hope we don’t forget that connection. But how could you when you’re pouring out measures from this? Really show your hubby how to “shoot straight from the holster” — seriously. But don’t keep all this resigned to your private residence, all to yourself; one thing about spirits is that they’re meant to be shared. Who wouldn’t want to take a Tommy Gun full of vodka to their next Murder Mystery party? And no Cinco de Mayo party is complete without .45 cal tequila! Salud my friends….duck!
Maybe a more responsible connection is made by Smoke & Oakum’s Gunpower Rum. Coming from our friends in New Zealand, it contains “actual muzzle-loader style black gunpowder”. I had the opportunity to sample some at Tales of the Cocktail this year, and it was an experience — very full-bodied, wonderfully spicy without too much heat, and visually intriguing as you swirl around the gunpowder residue in your glass. It was much more responsible than taking that shot of tequila from a Super Soaker at the Milagro pool party — my “debauchery fence” failed me, obviously seeking to sustain this long-lasting historical connection.
Swag. A word that has been thrust into the stratosphere of popular culture, and used seemingly by any hip-hop artist with microphone-in-hand. Various types have been described: pretty boy swag, dope boy swag, swag unlike anyone else on the corner, and many, MANY others. We’ve heard that people should have their swag send other people’s swag apologies, that their swag is in such peril that it needs a bodyguard….”Swag” has even been used as a week-long assumed name. But different from all these is the type of swag prolific within the spirit industry.
While the swag of drinking culture does not resemble Mick Jagger, it can have you feeling just as cool. Why drink out of just any rocks glass when you can coordinate your spirit with a glass with the ____ name or ____ logo on it? And that’s after you’ve shaken it to perfection in the similarly-coordinated ____ cocktail shaker and stirred your bitters into it using a ____ company swizzle stick. But this cocktail experience is still average….you’ve got to beat the heat by the special cotton contained in the specially-manufactured ____ t-shirt, while wiping your sweat with a ____ secret logo wristband and keeping the sun’s rays off you with the firm canvas on their ____ hat you’re wearing.
What about traveling to your favorite watering hole to meet up with one or two friends to observe the hour? Throw your stuff in the chevron-pattern ____ shoulder bag, look for your keys through all the ____, ____, and ____ keychains you have….if it’s dark, use their ____ flashlight that shines their logo like the Bat-Signal. You can even take your friends a taste of the starfruit and cilantro-infused tequila you just made….just grab that uber-cool flask of ____ advertisement.
There truly is more than one way to enjoy the drink — even if you’re not imbibing! Be thankful that while you drive down the street in the Cooper MINI you won on the ____ website, listening to Drizzy, the BAWSE, and Tunechi!’s summer opus, maybe you can hit your Dougie just a little bit harder.
**Help me help you….fill in the ____ : What spirit company swag have you ever received?
Drinking in the workplace — Beer Thirty, Wine o’Clock, Gin o’Clock — goes by several names. Times when co-workers are able to take a load off and get a little comfortable with the people they spend a good chunk of their day with. They can get as formal as a catering service facilitating the activity, circling the room re-filling glasses of wine and champagne. Maybe more comfortable as some Amstels and Coronas laid out on a table for self-cracking. Even as celebratory as a birthday observation, with the “birthday principal” pouring shots of some oddly peculiar Japanese liqueur directly into the mouths of employees…and hey, it was pretty good!!
These are also names for happy hour events, as establishments look to cash in on people seeking to fully embrace “The Hour”. I once attended a “Pimm’s o’Clock” at the Zetter Hotel in Clerkenwell, London; a drinking special at a posh hotel lounge.
I’m sure we all have remembrances of various times observing The Hour under this banner. Care to share any?