Funny how you can happen upon drinking culture and monumental architecture, sometimes without even knowing it…and that’s not due to the drinks. Not entirely.
If you look in the picture to the left, you’ll see a ghost advert for Emerson’s Ginger Mint Julep, in a photo captured after leaving the Pig & Punch picnic/party at Tales of the Cocktail this year. Me, my pork-loving belly, and my punch-sampling palate had a grand time. But I digress.
While the image of that advert might have you searching the French Quarter for a barkeep named Emerson that mixes up the stiffest, sweetest, spiciest ginger-enhanced bourbon cocktail, it’s actually closer to a mint-enhanced ginger ale — check the definition of a julep in this previous post. But after a bit more research, I found that this Emerson fellow was into a bit more mixology, a little closer to home. One of the more architecturally-notable buildings in Baltimore is the Bromo-Seltzer Tower, built in 1911 and one of the tallest buildings in the city for the early part of the 20th century — you can check the stats on Wikipedia to be sure. The company mainly produced a granular salt headache remedy, which I’m sure was useful to factory and shipping workers by Inner Harbor and Fell’s Point — possibly a hangover cure to a night drinking after second shift? Maybe so, but the final link in the drinking chain is explained in an anecdote on how they concocted their julep mastery:
FIZZIES® was also invented by Emerson Drug Company. The idea derived from scientists working with chemical formulas similar to “Bromo Seltzer” and wondering if a fun, fruit flavored drink could be developed the same way. “Wouldn’t it be grand if we could drop a tablet in a glass of water and have an instant soda pop?” After long hard work, they finally figured out how to combine the right combinations of fruit flavoring, sweetener, citric acid and sodium bicarbonate (a substance that is much like baking soda) into a magical tablet that when dropped into water, turned water into an instant sparkling, effervescent fruit drink!
Aha!! So to bring this whole cross-country carbonated connection to a close…while you may have gotten warm thoughts of a craft soda jerk taking finely shaved ginger, muddling that with the finest crystals of Demerara sugar, giving a loving and playful spank to heavenly-grown mint, then pouring carbonated water akin to Niagara Falls into a tall glass with ice that only a mother’s heart can make — you’d be on the wrong side of the bar. Imagine a cloudy glass with tap water, then taking what amounts to a “Sea Monkey” and dropping it into the glass. A few bubbles and voila — ginger mint julep. Sounds tasty. Harrumph.
I gotta go find Emerson — maybe he’s got a pill for a Gimlet. Or a Negroni. Or an Old Fashioned. Hope springs eternal.
It is difficult to watch television, listen to music, or shop for an item without witnessing some type of product placement. Formal commercials seem to have fallen by the wayside, as informal methods of positioning product has zoomed to the forefront. Are they effective, and get the products to subliminally “stick” in the minds of the consumer?
One might say that they are successful, that the repetitive nature of these products popping up makes them effective — you can only go so long without noticing something. How many times will you page through the catalog for a company like Pottery Barn, as you search for a sectional for your newly-refurbished living room, before you notice the bottle of No. 209 gin placed ever-so-covertly on the coffee table? As you envision yourself in this party, possibly working in the same office with such beautiful people, and finally focus on the main topic of the Bud Light Platinum being peddled, is there still room in your mind to absorb the TWO pairs of Beats by Dre headphones on the DJ table? I’m sure Budweiser hopes that their pretty blue bottle has taken up at least 98% of your attention by then.
We can’t all notice these subliminal maneuvers. I mean, how many of us focused on the bottles that Tony Stark had on his backbar as he poured a drink in The Avengers movie? Yeah, we noticed Scorpion Mezcal and a couple other brands, but would your girlfriend have seen them if you didn’t tell her? Maybe so, and that’s why you’re with her — but just in the case she didn’t, she’s probably similar to countless other people. Oh well, ponder that while watching the “Happy Hour” of Around the Horn & Pardon the Interruption on ESPN, shows that have everything in common with their sponsor.
I don’t think you heard me — cocktails are products that speak for themselves. Everyone can understand what they are, with little explanation or elaboration. They are often used as a “setup” of advertising that has nothing to do with imbibing. Is this proper — should they be tossed around and used in everyday activities, part of common lexicon? Can we be sure that the little ones will know the difference between what they can and cannot participate in, for their own youthful and adolescent good?
Several products utilize cocktail branding, taking a broader and slicker approach to reach their target user group. But there’s a fine line between pulling the clubgoers and the hipster crowd, and your little brother accidentally becoming privy to your efforts. Several common items as virgin as flavored chewing gum and anti-bacterial hand soap have cloaked themselves within a cocktail jacket, boasting such spirituous flavors as “Passionfruit Colada,” “Mint Mojito,” and “Sangria Fresca.” Is this really kosher? Shouldn’t we keep the grown-up activities to the grown-ups? Will Tiny Tim be forced to go to bed without supper if he comes to the table without using the “Sparkling Mojito” to wash his hands after playing outside? Will you unconsciously reach for the belt every time you hear, “Hey Dad, I found that Sangria you had — it’s outta sight!”
Another product looking to make the jump over to the “cool kids” is Crystal Light, with their new flavored beverages. Although they seem to make more of a direct connection to cocktails — as you must measure, mix, stir, and pour — there is still the fine line present. I can remember many times wondering if I could escape my parents’ wrath if I got just a little bit of their Crystal Light. When the thought passed, I went for the Wyler’s they’d made for the kids. What about the parents who dole it out without being stingy — when Mom brings home a bottle of Skinny Girl Margarita, will Little Suzy come to the table with her glass raised for filling? These lines are blurred a bit too much, in my eyes, for a product that is not obviously for an advanced age group.
Maybe someday people will realize the choices they make as advertisers and in branding exercises. Everything is not a good idea, especially when you’re taking liberty with potentially dangerous products. The Crystal Light executives on Celebrity Apprentice said they wanted people that “have fun” drinking their new beverages — well, people have fun that drink orange juice and lemonade-flavored beverages too. There’s nothing wrong with throwing on a new hat, just make sure the bill has no sharp edges.
Some products have commercials because it’s necessary to see a presentation or demonstration for how the product works. Some are true to advertising, to get you cognizant of the brand and personally engaged in the product. Commercials for beverage alcohol products tend towards the latter — everyone knows how spirits work, we don’t need a demonstration, which might be equally parts unintelligible and harrowing.
Many vodkas have their own commercial, with Grey Goose, Ketel One, and Russian Standard all making the rounds. But to crank the party up one notch, Pinnacle and Smirnoff enter the ring with their Whipped Cream vodkas — in addition to a Fluffed Marshmallow by Smirnoff. What happens when whipped cream vodkas attack each other, then turn on the public? The world may never recover.