The culinary world has absolutely taken over television. There are all types of competition shows — MasterChef, Top Chef, The Taste, among others. There are travel shows where people like Guy Fieri dine, drive-in, and dive, Adam Richman takes on the notable adversary food, and Anthony Bourdain takes you around the world to find things you may not have wanted in the first place. I’m leaving out all types of spinoff shows, cupcake rom-com’s, and regular shows where chefs are the most wanted.
What about bartenders — did we get left out? Is Isaac from The Love Boat the most famous bartender that will ever grace the small screen?
Several shows are trying to help bridge the gap between the culinary world and the drinking place. You may catch a blurb of happenings in the mixological world on your favorite late-Saturday night programming, LX TV (Lifestyle Television). The host on 1st Look often happens upon wondrous new drinking places that may make your palate tickle, but the main show that gets all the bartenders cheering is On The Rocks — a real, bare-knuckles, grab-your-muddler-and-tussle cocktail competition show. It actually stars REAL bartenders that you may have gotten served by in REAL life…fancy that! It’s not a show full of model props that show up, look good, then get kicked off, like many other reality shows and competitions. They’ve got a few seasons under already, so go on and catch up!
Another show that may raise your eyebrow a bit is Mixology. If there will ever be a show that brings bellies up to the bar, that’s gotta be it, right? Maybe. It’s a show in the format of the Jack Bauer-thrilling “24”, but Mixology is more like “6”, or “8” if you got lucky that night. It’s all about what happens in one night. That’s it, no “try, try again”, or “there are other fish in the sea”. You’ve got one night to see how things unfold. Yet to see how prominent the barkeeps are in this show, but it’ll be great to see how they hold court.
So saddle up, grab your popcorn, and your best homebar cocktail and turn on the TV! Or head down to your fave watering hole that has a tube and tune in there — and don’t forget to pat your bartender on the back for all the inspiration!
“The attention of the Middlesex magistrates has been called to the demoralizing consequences likely to ensue in the middling and lower classes from the alarming increase of gin-shops in every direction, in and around the metropolis, by the conversion of what used to be quiet respectable public houses, where the laboring population could find the accommodation of a tap room or parlor in which to take the meals or refreshment they might require, into flaming dram shops, having no accommodation for persons to sit down, and where the only allurement held out was the promise of ‘Cheap Gin’.” — Victorian Pubs, by Mark Girouard
“Ten-year-old Jazimen Warr had nestled on her sister’s shoulder, the two children sleeping in the back of the family’s Cherokee on the drive to a relative’s home in Bowie. She was killed and the rest of her family sustained injuries in the crash.
That was Aug. 21, 2008.
Now, that crash on Interstate 270 could upend Maryland law and allow victims of drunken-driving crashes and their families to sue bars and restaurants if their inebriated patrons cause deaths and injuries.
Moves in the past two years by lawmakers from Montgomery County to create in Maryland what’s known as a “dram shop liability” law — the term essentially relates to a bar or tavern selling alcohol, with “dram” being a small unit of measure — didn’t make it out of the House Judiciary Committee.” — Baltimore Sun, “Maryland court considers liability of bars in drunken-driving crashes”
Many architects have been up in arms recently over the news that MoMA is going to demolish the former building that housed the American Folk Art Museum. However, some in the arts world say don’t cry over a spilled cocktail — unless it’s a finely stirred Negroni, I say. Anyways, what does this signal? Hypocrisy on MoMA’s part? A lack of understanding for suiting the true function of a museum? Self-absorption by architects? Idol worship? Developer/owner as king? Maybe all of the above, but I think it signals the opportunity for discourse regarding the subject. No better place to join diverse crowds than at the always-worthy hub of conversation — the drinking place. Maybe the one where Mr. Taniguchi drowned his misplaced sorrows that started all this hubbub:
“When Taniguchi was chosen to design the new, vastly expanded Museum of Modern Art seven years ago, a lot of people in the art world scratched their heads. Out of 10 architects invited to compete for this prize commission (all were under 60—MoMA had ruled out the generation of Frank Gehry), Taniguchi was virtually unknown in America, and his scheme for MoMA’s midtown Manhattan site seemed so smooth and corporate—so unfashionably tame—it looked like a long shot next to the provocative concepts of such hotshots as Rem Koolhaas and Herzog & de Meuron. Even Taniguchi didn’t think he’d win. Convinced he’d fatally fumbled his key presentation to MoMA’s trustees, he headed straight to a neighborhood bar to mourn.” — “New York’s great modern museum is reborn, thanks to $425 million and an unlikely architect named Taniguchi” by Cathleen McGuigan, Newsweek
“Taverns were identified not only by reputation for strong drink, but also by the political backing of its owner…Taverns played a little-known but vital role as an important center of community life and activity…Because the tavern was so well integrated into ordinary, everyday urban and rural experience, few Americans commented on it…Taverns varied widely from one location to another…(In urban areas) tavern moved from a small-scale domestic operation to a more specialized business which emphasized goods and services and required a substantial investment by the proprietor…City tavern became simultaneously a meeting house, market place, restaurant, political arena, social setting, hotel, and communication hub…” — Early American Taverns: For the Entertainment of Friends and Strangers, by Kym S. Rice
“The proposed zoning code also clarifies the definition for alcohol outlets that have BD-7 licenses, commonly known as taverns. Currently, holders of BD-7 liquor licenses are permitted to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on and off-site from 6am to 2am seven days a week, compared to holders of A-2 licenses that are limited to off-site consumption sales and have more restrictive days and hours of operations. The new zoning code requires that all taverns have more than 50% of their sales and floor area for on-site consumption, to ensure that they are not just selling for off-site consumption.” — “The Baltimore City Planning Department’s three-pronged approach to reducing the density of alcohol outlets.” http://www.bsasinc.org/2013/01/bsas-to-testify-at-transform-baltimore-hearing/
Two of Queens’ finest getting congenial. Good to see a classic group taking classic takes to their personal drinking styles & cocktails…although I can see them ordering them with a brown bag around the glass, just to keep it all the way gully. Why not? They’ve come many years since the days of sitting on project benches…pour by your own measure, CNN!
“Me and shorty, from the Mecca, having a session/Play the Shark Bar, sippin’ on French Connection/On the rocks…” — Capone, “Stick You”, The War Report
“Jose Cuervo, no Grand Marnier, drink hard liquor, hard liquor all day/I’m a certified-holic, kid, you know I don’t play, cause…” — Noreaga, “I’m a G”
Many of us have made visits to distilleries and vineyards, even gone to special tasting receptions and branded events produced by spirits companies. We’ve been served expertly-mixed cocktails, given nuggets of information about the aging processes, with the best hospitality you could imagine. Regardless, none of that adds up to the red carpet laid out to rap stars.
Loso, in case you ain’t no so, took a little trip to the Land of Yak to pay a visit to the House of Remy Martin. A walkthrough ensued, where Fab was beat over the head with the finest of spirits education, tasting sessions, and to bring it all home, a fine dinner by the Executive Chef of the Remy Martin Club. I don’t know if this was the precursor to an endorsement deal, or the result of a special request, but none of the hors d’oeuvres I’ve ever had hold a candle to this experience. You too can sell out arenas all over the world, while simultaneously being able to name all the crus of Cognac. I guess I better step up my bars!
The Congenial Hour will soon give way to The Closing Hour — polls in such battleground states as Virginia, and other early-closing polls such as Vermont, Indiana, Georgia, and a few others. This is about to be a long night.
The Congenial Hour holds no partisan feelings. We hold the rights of ALL people to choose whatever spirit you like, patronize whatever drinking place you fancy, and imbibe in a style all unto yourself.
But The Congenial Hour would like to applaud President Barack Obama for showing how to bring compromise and understanding, through his Beer Summit. And how many other Presidents released a recipe for their homebrew made in the bowels of the White House itself?
Let’s toast the man that has continually chosen to raise the bar. Let’s move FORWARD.
Drinks are served on tables, hand-to-hand, on kitchen counters, carts, among many other surfaces. But in modern times, if you’re going to sling, craft, shake, mix, or pour a drink, it’s probably going to be across a bar. However, that doesn’t limit your options.
There is no limit to the layout, material, and size of bars; no standard appearance for any of them, actually. Save for corporate franchises, you have probably never been to the same bar twice, and that’s not just when you walk into the drinking place. You may have carved your initials into the wood while sharing a couple tall boys with your friend, admired your Manhattan almost hovering above the marble, and spun your two fingers of single malt around the backlit glass without noticing the unique nature of taking up space at a drinking place. Every experience is one unto itself, never to be replicated again, and that big hunk of material is one reason why — it has seen all and never forgets.
A fine Tennessee whisky company decided to take up the mantle and bring in some weekend warriors for a good ol’ bar-building competition. Got a free eight hours? Come on down and see if you can design and build the best bar to taste that sugar maple charcoal-filtered goodness. Sawdust for garnish…Why not? Makes my mouth water just thinking about it….
To all friends on travel to Oktoberfest…
Have a time of your lives, an experience you can tell your little ones about someday, while sharing a tall frosty mug of your favorite lager…
Enjoy all while you’re there, and drink more than your share…
And soak up every tidbit of culture while you’re drinking…it’s not just an exercise, but the means to an end — and a beginning!
[Photos by ME]
I, too, know what it is to treat the hospitality environments of London as a university…
“…but because I am an American, and my country has been said to represent the cosmopolitan blood of other nations; so that in a sense my response is intended undoubtedly to be that of Germany, of Italy, and of many other nations, all of whom are of us as they are at home…the best that any one nation can do for itself cannot be equal to that done by them all working together and interchanging their ideas; and those who have been the most deeply engaged in this work, and most earnest in the prosecution of it, have constantly felt that they need a sort of university which they may attend; and it does not surprise us that London has become such a university…So we come to London as guests; and what do you offer us? Food and wine, flowers, the faces of fair women and noble men. But you do much more than that. Your hospitality is of the kind which affords the greatest opportunity that could now fall to the lot of those who are interested in the study of town planning — the opportunity to meet and to see the best work of others.” — Welcome Statement by Daniel Burnham at RIBA Town-Planning Conference in London, noted in Daniel H. Burnham, Architect, Planner of Cities by Charles Moore, 1921
[Photos by ME]
How do you envision the drinking culture on your special day?
Do you see a formal occasion, with pre-established pours of the finest still and sparkling grapes on earth into exquisite crystal goblets and flutes, circulated throughout the room on silver platters? Do you value formal toasts, synchronized by everyone in the room? Should everyone be on their best, rehearsed behavior?
Or would you prefer an occasion with loose morals, a free-for-all that starts at the open bar and continues in the middle of the dance floor — leaving all in the room aghast at what happens when best buds attack and BFF’s collide? Should there be shots all around, to whomever is still standing, until the cows come home? Would it be the icing on the proverbial wedding cake to have a contest between the parents of the bride and groom to see who can finish an Irish Car Bomb the fastest?
Please, for the sakes of all that is good…let’s envision a middle ground. What about an environment that reflects the congeniality of the best drinking places? Informal but with expected decorum, filled with acceptable offerings pleasing to all, quick-shifting with conversations, introductions, and sharing of experiences. Where banquet tables don’t act as barriers and no not-with-my-Mom-here’s to worry about. Wouldn’t that be a special day?
What would you do if you walked up to your favorite watering hole…and your favorite rapper was behind the bar? How would you greet him? Would you order the same thing or sample something different? Would you order something he referenced in a rhyme? Would you try to test his mettle — either asking about the new Grand Marnier Natural Cherry, throw some Cherry Heering in a cocktail, or maybe a bit of kirschwasser, neat — in a bit of a mixology battle?
Soon we’ll be able to answer these questions. #LifeIsGood
“Everything’s good, everything’s fine….yeah, pour a little cherry wine…” — Nas, “Cherrywine”, Life Is Good
[Photos by ME]
“Shut down your operation, closed for business/
Leave a foul taste in your mouth, like Guinness…” — Mobb Deep, “Hell on Earth”
You don’t have to be a fan of Bar Rescue to know that countless drinking places close every day…gone forever, lost to the memories of the former patrons. While there is a range of emotions that set in upon the closing — disappointment, heartache, happiness to some, anger to others — it eventually dissipates as we find another bar stool with our name on it at another establishment. Is that all it takes — on to the next one? What does the literal “Last Call” mean to the built and social fabric of our communities?
What does it mean to the patron? To the common visitor or urban transplant, it’s a lost opportunity to make a new acquaintance, learn something unexpected about their new surroundings, or see that new culture “in action”. This may not resonate with residents, as they may not give the same value to certain places that have “been there forever”. However, it’s a problem for them as well — the next time they want to show a visiting friend what their city is truly like, it may look the same as every other city in FranchiseTown, USA. What made that particular city unique passed on right under their noses, as they didn’t lift a finger to try and prevent it.
Let’s discuss the perspective of the changing city. When all this urban energy and social activity is gone, doesn’t it make our cities feel a bit dormant, just a little empty? Maybe lacking for that excitement and experience that you go home and tell someone about, or are able to pass along in recollection to a friend in a fond retelling? Every urban environment may not be like Vine Street in late 19th-century Cincinnati, which had 136 drinking places along its downtown stretch in 1890. That speaks to a certain culture of industry that sustains that level of activity — an industry long gone, with only physical remnants still visible.
Finally, the industry. One truism espoused by Bernard DeVoto was, “The surest proof of the moral foundation of the universe is that you can always find good whiskey if you will go looking for it.” If one places closes, we can surely find another place willing to suit our tastes of fine cocktailing. However, what does that do to the local industry? In these tough times, it’s not easy to just set up shop somewhere. In simple terms, it’s hard out here for a publican. Small business loans, identifying and reaching a target user group, sustaining sales to woo continued supply — it takes more than just pouring a pony of spicy brown into a glass.
So, friends, in the words of Sean Connery, what are we prepared to do? The answer — realize that we can’t do it all ourselves. We must join together to keep our cities alive. About to enjoy that bottle of sweet brown you picked up the other week? Call over your buddy you haven’t spoken to in a month of Sundays to help you, so he knows what to look for upon his next visit to a drinking place. Stopping off for a quick cocktail with your main damie before a snazzy event? Have her girlfriends join you, and soak in their comments on how impeccably detailed a combination your suit and cufflinks make. Had an unexpectedly-informing exchange with the bartender at that corner spot, where you went for a “one and done”? Tell a couple people about it and send some business their way. The city will always be there, but it’s up to us to live in it.
The Congenial Hour strives to push the discourse in and around drinking culture. While drinks can be had at many different environments, this liquid transaction usually occurs across a bar, with one individual joining another individual to exchange libations for sufficient coin of the realm — seems pretty simple. Oh, but that’s why they play the game.
There are many aspects and layers of nuance to this transaction, but the point person — the bartender — holds all the cards. Everyone and everything is at his bidding; regular patrons, first-time visitors, cocktails, beer, wine, and all else. Nothing moves without his say-so.
What are some things that affect the “movement”? Ah ha, now we’re talking! That is the crux of discussion for this article: all the idiosyncrasies of the bartender and how you should seek to navigate them, in order to remain on his good side and ensure that your liquid transaction remains fluid. Hopefully, the different topics on this blog have prepared you: issues of what to drink, how to drink, and the environment in which you drink. These aren’t always issues that get down to the specifics of how often an establishment should slice garnishes, how digital pourers are operated, and what the sales volume was for the beverage alcohol industry last year.
A holistic cognizance of what you choose to get poured in your glass, etiquette for the ones serving you and others you come in contact with, and an awareness of the quality of operations of the establishments you choose to frequent lies at the heart of my discussions. I doubt if any of the 13 issues in the article will have you surprised or stumped; you probably knew them already!
When life starts to beat you down, the day-to-day grind makes you resemble crushed peppercorns, and you reach the very end of your rope, the word “vacation” starts to sound extremely enticing. That should be the easy part — deciding to take a vacay — but the logistics usually take precedence. When flight itineraries, hotel stays, entertainment costs, and lack of public transportation start to rear their ugly head, a glorious option pops up.
People might decide to stay in their home city instead of spending googobs of money on expensive flights, cruises, train rides, or pony expresses. This “city retreat” might include a visit to a museum, dinner by candlelight, and a walk on the river with one’s sweetie. Other staycations might be held inside the home, with a book, a DVD, or a pillow.
But are those the only options available? All of us need our rest — and home is where the heart is — but can’t we rest when we’re dead? The fact is, YOLO should be the aim; we don’t have nine lives like our feline friends.
Why not take a “city retreat” and make up your own pub crawl: one place for happy hour, another for aperitifs — maybe a dinner break — then another place for digestifs or dessert + drinks. Embrace the warm weather and try out a couple new drinking places’ summer menus. Take a rooftop lounge tour, a grungy basement tour, an alfresco/riverfront tour — the possibilities are endless. Well, that is until last call. Regardless, take advantage of your city whenever you can. You might not get an umbrella in your drink, but you might grow fonder of the place you call home.