“Sip Prohibition liquor…Prohibition whiskey…” — Nas, “Locomotive”
Though Nas may have been one of the few to ever raise his hand about drinking liquors federally prohibited by law, we do have examples of those who poured in the years surrounding Prohibition. Esteemed gentlemen like Dick Francis, Tom Bullock, and Robert Bowie were celebrated for their cocktailing exploits, albeit a generation removed. These gentlemen were members of the Black Mixology Club, a professional organization for bartenders in Washington, DC.
Their cocktail recipes were replicated, their literary exploits were celebrated (Bullock was the first African American to publish a cocktail book before Prohibition), and their overall influence upon DC, Black bartenders, and mixology in general was manifested in modern form. In true regionalist fashion, the Chuck Brown Tribute Band started off the go-go music that would help lubricate the night. Though many events are held with great drinks to benefit wonderful organizations, there are few that come to mind that are truly special. It is rare that you can participate in an activity that the true forefathers of your craft did more than a century ago, and use their memory as inspiration while packing ice into a glass, pouring the Curacao Punch into it, and arranging the garnish around the colorful, red elixir. Truly inspiring and one helluva congenial night!
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]
“Don’t take that flask…don’t you know it’s bad luck to take an empty flask?!?!” — Daniel de Oliviera, Chicago bartender
I often aim to be an advocate for great bartenders, even when they’re not behind the bar. I’ve blogged about other instances of superstition & spirituality in drinking culture, but my Chicago homeboy hit me with a nugget I’d never heard of, during my recent jaunt to Tales of the Cocktail. The overproof man wasn’t lying…
…It was shortly after this that Jessold invited me, in his offhand manner, to collaborate on Little Musgrave, redoubling my enthusiasm for his career…
I had the urge to formalise our association (both business and personal) with some token of affection before his departure…There was no particular occasion to excuse such a display of affection, but I thought I could properly present it from both Sheperds. I knew just the shop.
At Regent’s Arcade, I selected a pewter flask to be engraved with Jessold’s initials. I gave my address, and the shopkeeper enquired if I would like it on my account. Unaware that I had one, I enquired what else had been placed on it. A monogrammed cigarette case (priced twelve shillings and sixpence, engraved with the same initials) was the only other item to my name. Miriam too had found her would-be lover worthy of a token…
This delightful coincidence proved once more that duplicity between Miriam (who had yet to remark on Jessold’s impending absence) and me was out of the question…I later showed her the pewter flask.
“Divine,” she said.
“It might make a set with the cigarette case,” I said. She left the room, returning with the item-on-account.
“Our taste is so similar,” she said. Flustered was not in Miriam’s vocabulary.
I kissed her hand.
It was proverbially bad luck to hand over an empty flask, so I topped it off, then filled the case with those filthy Player’s Navy Cut he liked. We handed the set over together at our farewell dinner.
Miriam did not mark Jessold’s departure with any untoward display of emotion.
— Excerpt from Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer, by Wesley Stace
Six plus six equals twelve. Perfect for numerology and outstanding for such a symbolic day as one year removed from stepping out to bring discourse to the world of drinking culture.
I hope I’ve brought exciting topics to the table. I hope I’ve mentioned a few things that piqued your interest or intrigued you. I hope I commented on a few current events that were timely. I hope that Mr. DeVoto kept a common thread through every post, and that everything made sense.
I trust that you’ve found a new drinking place, with warm lights and an open door, and that you’ve confidently and comfortably stepped inside. I hope that you’ve used something I’ve posted to stimulate conversation in that drinking place. I hope that I helped to make for a congenial experience. Above all, I hope that you’ll keep returning to my environment of drinking culture, The Congenial Hour. Cheers!
“And now we must be certain it is the right bar. This is one of the most satisfying of all the settings and combinations that life affords…
Quiet and softly lighted, of course, not necessarily tiny but at least small, only a few stools for the solitary, and if banquettes then not violently colored, if booths then not cramped. There is no more fitting place for the slackening of exigency, the withdrawal of necessity…
Time is extensible, no hour must be met, there is no pressure to go anywhere else…” — The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto, by Bernard DeVoto
**Another trend is developing — cheers to Joshua Lindo of Eye Journey (www.eyejourney.co.uk) for the photograph!**
“Such is the withdrawing-room to which, because of its showy discomfort, no one withdraws; wherein visitors do penance at morning calls; where the common-sense that often rules the living-rooms is left behind at the threshold, and nothing useful is allowed to enter lest it fail to be ornamental.” — The Drawing-Room: Its Decorations and Furniture, by Lucy Orrinsmith
Say “drawing room” to your favorite neighborhood architect and they’ll probably conjure up a plethora of images: the design studio of their undergraduate studies, their kitchen table, Mike Brady’s den, the office they worked in after attaining their professional license, among many others. If you asked that same question to a member of the upper crust around a century ago, they’d start talking about this place where they had the General and his wife over last summer, or where that deal was cemented to purchase those acres to grow the company.
The drawing room was not as indispensable as a kitchen or bathroom, but it filled the role of entertaining where other rooms just couldn’t rise to the occasion. Wonderful items you’ve purchased on international travels? Perfect place for the drawing room. Want to exercise your creativity through otherworldly use of wallpaper? No place better than the drawing room. When you have that extra room, that bonus room, the space that you really could do without — what better use for it than to mis-use it?
However, what other place could you truly focus on discourse with your guest? Zone in on a particular topic, or bring people together in great fellowship? Allow them to see a side of yourself that they might not get from the other rooms? In modern times, and other cultures, a lot of this interaction takes place in the kitchen and the living room, but a drawing room truly allows you to take it slow and comfortable, in a more private environment than other rooms, but not as suggestive as the boudoir.
What would be in your drawing room? What materials would you choose to express it, and would you have elements defining the space or more suggestive, semi-hidden display and storage? Would your seating be more flexible or stationary, allowing for different people to shift places or sink down into their position? So many questions, so little time…why not think about them at this quaint watering hole in Chicago?
Whether it’s striving to time travel, insert wellness in our lives, live freely and embrace fantasies in the present, become a Master Distiller of a finely aged spirit, or a world-famous playwright….we can all dream…and believe…of a life as golden as Jill Scott and Ponyboy’s visions…as gold as the tequila and rum we drink at times. Stay golden, stay congenial…
“”Hot tub time machine, back to the Sybaris,
hats from liquor stores to avoid syphilis/
Frivolous spending, drunk nights with storybook endings,
I guess it’s my addiction to women/
I was in France, Hennessy blending,
writing my own scripts like I’m Tennessee Williams…” — Common, “Gold”
“If you are afraid of head-aches — for, as Xenophon says of another kind of Eastern tipple, ‘rack punch is kefalalgez, i.e., “headache-making” — put twice as much water as spirits. I, however, never use it that way for my own private drinking.” — Morgan ODoherty (William Maginn), “Maxims” of ODoherty”, an excerpt used in Punch by David Wondrich
“Proceeding on their way, they arrived at some villages, from which the guides signified that they might procure provisions. In these villages there was plenty of corn, and wine made from dates, and an acidulous drink obtained from them by boiling. As to the dates themselves, such as those we see in Greece were here put aside for the use of the servants; but those which were laid by for their masters, were choice fruit, remarkable for beauty and size; their color was not unlike that of amber; and some of these they dried and preserved as sweetmeats. These were a pleasant accompaniment to drink, but apt to cause headache. Here too the soldiers for the first time tasted the cabbage from the top of the palm-tree, and most of them were agreeably struck both with its external appearance and the peculiarity of its sweetness. But this also was exceedingly apt to give headache. The palm-tree, out of which the cabbage had been taken, soon withered throughout.” — Xenophon, The Anabasis, or Expedition of Cyrus
“Never be cynical about bars, in fact, though it is right to be wary. A glory of American culture is that there is no place so far and no village so small that you cannot find a bar when you want to. (True, in some of the ruder states it must present itself fictitiously as a club or nostalgically as a speakeasy.) Many are resourceful than the label admits, many others water their whiskey, many are bad or even lousy…But do not scorn any of them, not even the neon-lighted or the television-equipped, for any may sustain you in a needful hour. And each of us knows a fair number of good bars and perhaps even a great one. The good bar extends across America, the quiet place, the place that answers to your mood, the upholder of the tavern’s great tradition, the welcoming shelter and refuge and sanctuary — and any man of virtue and studious habits may count on finding it. If you hear of any I’ve missed, let me know. Let us all know.
But a bar, though often a necessity and often an ornament of culture, is for a need, a whim, or perhaps an urgency. For the fleeting hour. For the moment — the high moment, or the low. For, perhaps, the meeting…bars are a convenience, an assist, a stay and an upholding…” — Bernard DeVoto, The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto
[Photos by ME]
“Robert Rebutato, the son of the restaurateurs, was an architect in Le Corbusier’s Paris studio. For many summers, he had been Le Corbusier’s constant companion for the vacation routine of two swims a day, one at the end of the morning, the next in the late afternoon, each followed by an aperitif. Over ritual drinks, Le Corbusier would hold forth to his acolyte about architecture, nature, color, or whatever the passionate theme of the day was.” — Le Corbusier: A Life by Nicholas Fox Weber
“There were no banquets or speeches, just a quiet dinner party and a cocktail party at Sert’s. When the guests arrived they found Le Corbusier standing among the early arrivals in the patio to the rear of Sert’s house drinking Pernod.” — Le Corbusier At Work: The Genesis of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
What’s in your cocktail cabinet? Arbitrary bottles, the Ghosts of Parties Past? Treasured gifts opened once every Blue Label moon? A steady parade of cascading and rotating bottles, mostly of a mainstream variety?
Congenial greetings to those who hold to keeping wondrous offerings in their cocktail cabinet. Whether at home or on vacation, visitors abound — they must be catered to with fervor and warmth. Anyone can offer someone a bit of hooch you can pick up from any corner store. But to have a collection of offerings that make the person really take note that it’s more than just having bottles, and exudes the effort undertaken to bring them all together. Pair that with some attractive and functional glassware and cocktailing tools to make your favorite barkeep smile, and you’ll be on to something. Take care of yourself, and the ones around you. And always stay prepared for The Hour.
“With the introduction, in the 1920s, of a new social pastime — the cocktail party — a new piece of furniture was created, inspired by the 18th-century sideboard with its ice drawers and fitted decanter cabinets. Intended for storing all the accoutrements associated with the making of cocktails, the cocktail cabinet contained fitted shelves and bottle holders.
It often took the external form of a traditional writing desk, while its modern interior was frequently a flamboyant, conversation-making piece of furniture veneered with a host of exotic woods, equipped with lights, and lined with mirror glass. Far from its original intention as a piece of furniture designed for writing, the cocktail cabinet added a more frivolous and decadent note to the fashionable interior that chimed with the contemporary taste for luxury and glamour, which persisted throughout the Jazz Age and the Great Depression.” — Furniture: World Styles From Classical to Contemporary, by Judith Miller
[Photos by ME]
“A person’s sitting alone and apart from others, facing a wall in a library, probably means they want to be left alone to study. In a bar, this same physical behavior can be interpreted as an invitation for conversation. The person might still reject the advances, but is unlikely to be distressed and insulted…” John Zeisel, Inquiry by Design
What can a person observe about behavior in drinking places? Is it all about what they see — the bottles on the backbar, the barkeep in action, the “bric-a-brac”? Is it all about the place itself — the height of the bar stools, the color of the wood on the bar, the ratio of tables to the size of the bar? Is it all about what activities are taking place — dancing to live music, spontaneous networking with other patrons, smartphoning by oneself, or playing pool with the weekly league? Can you distinguish the personal relationships — if people are newbies, friends of the establishment, or regulars?
All these elements add up to your enjoyment, whether direct/explicit or indirect/tacit, of a drinking place. It helps to show you what types of places you enjoy frequenting and what places you should avoid. In case of doubt, always listen to yourself — regardless of all your interests, activities, and wants, you know yourself better than anyone. In the midst of an ever-changing world, you can point yourself to the best place to feel warm upon entering, catch a smile from the barkeep as you order, and a handshake upon introducing yourself to the person next to you.
Stay congenial, my friends.
“Colonial tavern keepers were required by law to hang a tavern sign outside their houses “obvious for the direction of Strangers”; signs were usually hung on iron hooks or from a wooden/metal pole…Isolated taverns which established themselves initially for travelers later became the nucleus of settlements.
Tavern signs are the only artifact from the 18th century tavern to survive in any numbers…Inn signs, a British tradition, were flat wooden boards decoratively painted with a symbolic representation of the name of the house…Were an instant visual orientation in an age when many citizens were semi-literate.” - - Text from Early American Taverns: For the Entertainment of Friends and Strangers by Kym S. Rice
Here’s to hoping you share a *clink, clink* with, in the glorious words of DeVoto, “a woman at the hour, to make the renewal richer, to augment the beauties of evening and ease and alcohol, to orchestrate life’s appetites.”
“Beautiful music when champagne flutes click, eh? Beautiful women sipping through rouge lips, eh…” — “Thank You”, Jay-Z
"Money is ‘fast,’ the Americans are slow. The country is daring, the Americans are timid. The enterprises are bold, the Americans are afraid…Cocktail parties are a safety-valve: crowds of people standing up. They are full of life, they are afraid of life. The radio, the Sunday New York Times, Pullman cars, fill up the voids and empty spaces. And yet, no philosophy of life appears – of life, of enjoyment, of the joining together of the idea and its resolution in an accomplished act. America is young. They do not taste, they do not savor – they drink."
— When The Cathedrals Were White, by Le Corbusier