“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!
So you want to throw a Derby party, but your idea to have everyone bring a horse doesn’t mesh with the entrance policies of the bar…what do you do? Never fear, ThCgnlHr is here! Here are three keys of advice for a dynamite, guaranteed-to-be-remembered, shindig-of-all-ages Kentucky Derby party.
Step One: Spruce up your mint julep. While most people making them can’t craft a quality mint julep, for those of you out there that know your way around a muddler and some crushed ice, how about expressing them in different ways? Grab some different julep cups, authentically pewter, and wow your guests. Grab some fabulous bourbons and have a bit of a tasting, showing how their different aspects hold up in a julep. Buy a handful of muddlers and have your guests make their own julep! There are many ways to enhance the traditional cocktail experience of the race.
Step Two: Use the race to spruce things up. How about each person gets a different number when they walk in, and that’s the horse they cheer for, with some sort of prize going to the winner? Even the names of the horses can provide a theme. Last year’s winner, I’ll Have Another, was a quintessential drinker’s horse — what about this year? While Orb is said to be the favorite, its name doesn’t exactly lend easily to a cocktail. But Normandy Invasion could be a Calvados cocktail, Golden Soul could contain some honey liqueur at its core, and who couldn’t see asking their host for another Java’s War? Wondrous opportunities.
Step Three: I had to dig deep for this one, but it’s very important — Watch. The. Race. While you can provide the best environment, the best juleps, the best music, and the best of partygoers, none of that matters if you don’t watch the race. Seems easy enough, but the Derby is verrrrry short — not like hosting a Super Bowl party. It’s hard to stay focused when the juleps start circulating, but take it from the good people at ThCgnlHr — you don’t want your friends to keep reminding you that you forgot about the Derby at your own Derby party. I am the picture of regret until I right my own wrongs! Happy Derby Day!
Two definites in life: death and taxes. But what gets taxed?
In the presence of bartenders, cocktail swiggers, and spirit tipplers, many topics of conversation cross the bar, from marriage to sports to religion…politics is also high on the list. But who would know that contained within the biggest issue in political discourse of the past month lay a little nugget of drinking culture? Wasn’t the fiscal cliff supposed to be all about the middle class, Bush era tax cuts, and spending disparities? Who knew it really dealt with the Solera system, pressed sugarcane, and the Hemingway Daiquiri??
Another oddball provision dealt with excise taxes on imported rum, which the U.S. government mainly funnels to the territorial governments of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This deal said that arrangement will continue.
Nobody had said a word about excise taxes and rum on the floor of the House or the Senate in the two years since the provision was renewed the last time.
“I keep saying, let’s take the occasion to reform it,” said Pedro Pierluisi (D), Puerto Rico’s nonvoting representative in Congress. Pierluisi believes that too much of this money gets funneled back to rum distillers instead of being used for economic development. “It didn’t happen this time around.” — “Tea party backers swallow a bitter pill in ‘cliff’ bill”, Washington Post
“What we dranking? No, we drankin’ it ALL! We gon’ do it ‘til we can’t or we fall, last call…” — Outkast (Big Boi) ft. Various Artists, “Last Call”
It’s all fun and games when you sit down for a long day of talking mess and chest-pounding.
Even more fun when you make a cocktail to get you through the middle rounds of tight end and defense/special teams selections.
You’re all ready for the fun and games to start after looking over your lineup, seeing where you have strengths & weaknesses, who you might trade, etc.
You can’t have anything but fun when you start the year off unbeaten through the first six games.
Remembering that it’s just fun and games, you don’t panic when you go on a two-game losing streak — nothing you can do but coach well and keep an eye on the waiver wire.
You have a little fun during the games by posting photos of various “football cocktails” that fuel your viewing activities.
You finish the year strong, and look forward to the fun and games to be had during the playoffs.
Then you lose. Your season is over. The Commish comes calling — literally, the last call. No more fun and games.
Until next season…
Repeal the Affordable Care Act. Repeal the Bush-era tax cuts. Repeal the Civil Rights Act. Repeal the Tuck Rule.
There are more than enough rules, acts, laws, codes, & mantras to worry about repealing. Can’t we just be happy one BIG one got repealed on this date, that allows us to take all the rest of the repeal-worry in stride? The only repeal you should worry about today is the lemon peel spraying oils into your cocktail, which you’ll replenish again, and again, then again again — possibly at one of these 25 wondrous drinking places to celebrate the achievement of this informal holiday. Cheers to legal imbibing. *clink, clink*
This way or that-a-way?
Yesterday was Halloween, a holiday observed by many, through custom and costume. Last year, The Congenial Hour fell right into place, with a pre-post and day-of-post commemorating the occasion. This year — not so much. While Andre 3000 has rhymed about Valentine’s Day, there aren’t too many rhymes in his catalog referencing The Great Pumpkin. And wine, though enjoyed on many, if not all, 365 days of the calendar, isn’t directly related to Halloween. And you know what I say to that?
I used to look towards holidays/occasions as a “gimme” in blogging, as it afforded me a day where I didn’t have to conjure up a drinking culture connection for a post. But there’s only so many times you can do that, and at the very least, I like to keep people on their toes. There’s one thing I’ve always said about ThCgnlHr: “I don’t care if there’s one person or one million people reading, the one thing you cannot say about the blog is that it’s boring.” One way to stave off boredom is to keep things fresh and unexpected.
I’m often asked what my favorite cocktail or spirit is, and I usually have no answer, just a lot of explanation. But it’s the truth: it totally depends on how I’m feeling at the time, and can often be without rhyme or reason. It’s truly about personal style, one of the tags you can follow on ThCgnlHr. The same goes for the blog — let the feeling carry the content.
This way or that-a-way?
Neither. MY way.
ps This post means there won’t be an El Dia de Los Muertos blog today either. My apologies…
Though quite the refined gentleman, the man most commonly known as Andre Benjamin (as well as 3000, Ice Cold, Possum Aloysius Jenkins, Cupid Valentino, and Benjamin Andre, among others) knows how to get down with a cocktail or two. But to share one with him, you’d best be on your p’s & q’s — that stands for Pinots and Qualitatswein, by the way, not pints and quarts….
“Then go grab the finest wine and drink it like we know which grape and which region it came from, as if we can name ‘em/
Hint hint, it ain’t, um, Welch’s.
Hell, just fell three thousand more degrees cooler/
Ya’ll can’t measure my worth, but when you try, you’ll need a ruler made by all the Greek gods…” — “Sixteen”, by Rick Ross feat. Andre 3000
When talking drinking, hearing the word “Hurricane” usually makes people shudder. The cocktail-as-named has been known to make many a person quiver under the multiple rums used; the curvaceous glass has no soft touch for light imbibers. It can be a very tasty drink if crafted respectfully, but does not hold the same refreshment quotient as a G&T or Cape Codder.
Similarly, hearing the word “hurricane” can give distillers and owners of establishments a queasy stomach. It can bring an early end to tourist season, let the air out of a vacation weekend, or totally damage the building, putting the owner totally out of business. For a distiller, years of age can be upset by water’s force, damaging warehouses, contaminating barrels, and ruining the ROI that a fine whisk(e)y offers.
In this article, the Old New Orleans Rum brand shows that there is sunlight after the storm passes. Hurricane Katrina brought damage unlike any seen before, but this spirits brand found a way out when they didn’t think there was, and also when they weren’t looking for it. Hurricane Sandy is shaping up to damage many areas of the country as well, but hopefully we can calmly sip a bit of spiced brown until the waters recede.
A bit of Punch in the park…green grass, sunlight, not a care in the world.
Autumn…colder temps, less sunlight — can you still enjoy the combination of cocktails and nature? Light a fire in the backyard and pass around a few brews…maybe even light up a cauldron of Tom and Jerry…ehhhh, maybe we’ll just keep the cocktailing indoors until Mr. Springtime comes back around. Hopefully the apples, pumpkin, squash, nutmeg, & heavy cream will hold you over until then, allowing you time to enjoy the change of fall flavors and colors. If it’s good for leaves, it’s good for your shaker! Cheers!
I poured the ingredients into the mixing glass: some Irish spirit, some herbal aperitif, couple handmade modifiers and sweeteners. Shook the cocktail like my life depended on it, and strained it into the waiting wine glass. With a shimmer on my tooth and a bead of sweat on my forehead, I offered one to the first woman, and extended another to her friend.
“Oh, no thanks, I don’t drink. I’m pure,” she explained.
I almost fell out.
Never in life had I received that response; I was unsure what exactly she meant. It was definitely funny, as her friend also started laughing, and she said with a smile, “Why does everyone always find that funny?” I replied that I’d just never received that explanation or rationale before — it’s usually a range of responses from what people don’t like or don’t prefer.
But when I finally got her to explain her point, she pointed to a history of seeing some family members, and friends, impaired by alcohol and not wanting to repeat those same steps. Many of us can often follow these “breadcrumbs” down the path of our lives to see why we are the way we are, and why we drink, or don’t drink, particular things. And to each their own — one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and if you don’t drink, there’s more for the rest of us!
However, all jokes and surplus whisky aside, the main intent should always be what keeps us the healthiest. Although, it seems that is up for debate, as this article points out. Many doctors have pointed to the antioxidant properties in red wine as offering a health benefit, but this article goes a step beyond, pointing out that a study found increased mortality rates in teetotalers, higher than both heavy and moderate drinkers. What does it mean? Does this signal a paradigm shift? Has the table turned? I’ll consider that over my two fingers of genever.
“For today’s “Daily Double”, the following pictures represent and showcase elements of _______…”
*Jeopardy theme plays*
“Let’s see…we’ve got a mixologist, holding a cup of Punch, at a picnic in a park. We’ve also got four people at a banquet-style event…it looks like they’ve been serving cocktails that evening. We’ve also got a woman with a very stylish apron on, probably from some big cocktail expo-extravaganza…And finally, a guy preparing some welcome cocktail tastes to be distributed by others. Alex, I’d have to say that these photos exhibit different aspects of VOLUNTEERING!”
*confetti falls, dancing bears and circus elephants parade around, balloons cascade*
There are many events and initiatives that professions use to contribute to the greater good, and the photo stream above show a few. The Pig & Punch picnic, facilitated by is held at various locations around the country and proceeds from the events are given to charitable causes such as the art program for a charter high school in New Orleans. A spit-roasted pig, countless gallons of Punch, and proceeds for future artsy-types? A wonderful combination!
Other organizations cater to the hungry and underserved populations. Share Our Strength strives to combat youth hunger, and towards that cause leverages the Taste of the Nation event through their No Kid Hungry campaign. Using noted chefs and bartenders in several cities helps build awareness and financial assistance for healthy eating and cooking programs, in addition to connecting kids to school breakfast and summer meals programs. Focusing on the opposite end of the spectrum, the Meals on Wheels program uses its Celebrity Chefs Ball to combat hunger and lack of accessible meals amongst seniors. Both of these events utilize the creative power of mixology, as participating bartenders construct cocktail recipes that are made for the event attendees. Using your tools of the trade for good? Kudos!
Finally, Tales of the Cocktail has become “too big to fail”. Recently celebrating their 10th annual bombast of cocktailing and mixological pursuits, it has come to represent all that is wonderful and engaging about bartending. The spread of its hospitality is felt upon the Hotel Monteleone, the French Quarter, drinking places and restaurants, and so many elements of New Orleans as a whole. That results in changing the culture and welfare of a city on a larger scale than just one banquet or fete. Further, it takes the efforts of so many people from across the world that volunteer their time, efforts, and experience — distributing cocktails, assisting with registration efforts, crowd control, event setup/management/breakdown and countless other responsibilities over the nearly weeklong event.
It definitely takes a village. And at times, the villagers have to be able to build a great cocktail to help out!
Is your glass half-empty or half-full? Or are you on your last sip?
Do you feel that you’ve reached the end of your drink, like there’s nothing left? Scraped the bottom of the barrel?
Keep scraping…there’s always a bit left. Reach deep within yourself and find out what you need to do — and watch that cocktail refill itself and make your glass totally full. Cheers!
**Thanks to Joshua Lindo of Eye Journey (www.eyejourney.co.uk) for the photo!**
You never know when you’re gonna get a shot of enthusiasm.
It may come in the form of a postcard for a job well done. How many people have luminaries call them a “rock star”?
It also might be through a tweet. How many of your “tweeps” sent a message saying to show you some love on this Follow Friday?
It might be through people responding to a query. We might know a little something about a little bit, but we’ve got to depend on those that have walked this road before — and rejoice that we can call upon them, and that they respond!
We might not have all these people within arms’ length every day; maybe not even often. So, this evening — when you’re sharing a pre-event cocktail with your main damie, allowing some 1738 to relax you after a hard day’s work, or sipping on some of the last Green Label you’ll be able to buy again — think about them for a minute, and toast to their health, wealth, and prosperity, in hopes that you’ll be able to see them again soon to make your glasses go *clink, clink*. Be well and be congenial…
I have waited a whole year to utter five words: I am back at Tales.
Writing a self-reflexive blog post about one’s Tales of the Cocktail experience is about as unique as writing a blog post on Facebook, the best mobile phone apps, or how Angry Birds has taken over — EVERYone has already done it. When you’re doing a blog, you usually want to see how you can set yours apart from others, even in discussing the same topic. It’s not unique just because you say it. As my father once told me, “The only thing unique about you is that no one else can stand in the place of your two feet at the same time.” My dad was one helluva science phenom.
What were the most unique aspects about busting my Tales cherry? For one, I was a newbie in the bartending/mixology game. I knew a little bit about a little bit, and I knew what Tales was about, but I wasn’t ready for the onslaught. Every time I retell the story, I get a big smile across my face. Remembering all the relationships I made, all the wonderful products I saw, everything I learned…priceless. All the free tastes, noses of glorious welcome cocktails, tipples of boutique craft spirits, straight swigs from high-priced bottles of booze, shots of tequila from a water gun…you just can’t put a price on stuff like this!
What does that mean for this year? I’ve used the relationships from last year to build momentum for my blog, for my burgeoning bartending exploits, and I’m very proud of that. Seeing how a trip — enabled by a free Southwest Airlines voucher and three nights each sleeping on the couch of two different friends — turned into one of the greatest springboards of my life is still amazing a year removed. I return a year wiser, a bonafide Tales veteran, looking forward to take Tales over for The Congenial Hour, [BAR]chitecture, and The Chocolate Bar. In the words of the almighty Jiggaman, “Watch me.”
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!