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!
“Corporate forces, is runnin’ this rap s**t…Hennessy, is runnin’ this rap s**t…we poke out our asses for a chance to cash in…” — Mos Def, “The Rape Over”
Some things just don’t get old. Rappers doing tawdry things and conducting tomfoolery while wielding liquor bottles is a combination that has lit up flashbulbs for the past thirty years. Rappers being bought by corporate forces did not begin nor end with MC Hammer doing commercials for KFC’s Popcorn Chicken, and the words of Yaasin Bey still ring true a few years after he aimed at the influence of the “tall Israeli” on hip hop culture.
Has Hennessy Artistry changed the tide? A list of your favorite rapper’s favorite rappers have been seen with them, and if the Trill O.G., Abstract Poetic, Big Illinois, and Illadelph’s finest see no issue or contradiction, I guess we had better roll with the good times and order up a Sidecar or two.
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…
A few spirit-influenced songs for your listening pleasure. Liquor is sometimes a casual mention in rap songs, and these songs hold true to that technique.
Kid Cudi brings his rap-singy style to “Dennis, Hook Me Up With Some More of That Whiskey!”, the shortest title in hip hop history. There’s no mention of who Dennis is, his prowess as a drink-slinger, or what type of whisk(e)y he hooked Cudi up with, but fans of Cudi should still be enthused.
Rapper Action Bronson waxes poetic about the Australian export “Shiraz”. The closest mention to spirits is the lyric, “Aged wine got me spinning like a dreidel,” but brandy or cognac is probably the topic of that line. Maybe A.B. is pushing for more VSOP in the Queens, NYC area?
Finally, Brooklyn rapper Troy Ave meshes with his borough-bredren Fabolous on the remix track “Merlot pt Deux”. Again, no focus on the roundness of the dry red, but an allusion to how struggles in conversation with a partner turns a man toward the drink. Hey, what else could you ask for? Unless someone tells Paul Pacult to pick up a mic….
Everyone has to go through their own spirit growth. How we get there is another story. Rapper Crooked I details some of his missteps and the point he’s at now, while foreshadowing a future path for rappers: extoling the glory of the grape. Quite the insightful interview, he speaks on the effects of brand ambassadors and product placement in music, appellations growing nebulous and their lines becoming blurred, and the historically key ability of spirits to foster cultural exchange. Hopefully it sparks something in the music, that would be a refreshing take.
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”
From the Hennessy football jerseys, to kicking it with girls by the name of E&J and Henn Rock, before they “guzzle the whole bottle, that’s a New York sip…”, before rocking the grown-up Hennessy t-shirts, these guys have really come full circle. Make it a double of French grapes for these two, hold the glass.
“Hey boy…you drink?”
“Yeah…some rum and some cognac sometimes…”
“You want some Hennessy? Go on and get yourself some…”
*pours Hennessy into ice-filled glass*
*pours cranberry juice into Hennessy*
“Awwww, come on…you’re killing it!”
The shortest month of the year just got a bit longer. February 29th does not come around too often, just every four years, Lord willin’. But while it marks the Leap Year, it also marks the quadrennial extension of Black History Month.
That’s good in some arenas. I can recall learning in elementary school about the work of Garrett Morgan, who invented the gas mask and traffic signal. I learned in my undergraduate studies about great thinkers like W.E.B. Du Bois & Marcus Garvey, and connect them with the work in which Dr. Cornel West & Tavis Smiley are engaged. I can reflect on the works of Julian Abele, Paul Williams, and Robert R. Taylor — African-American architects that did great work in the 19th and 20th centuries — and connect them with the work that Phil Freelon, David Adjaye, & Max Bond (deceased) are completing today on the NMAAHC. And there’s no equal to connecting the work that freedom fighters did to bring about our Black president.
In drinking culture, I’m at a bit of a loss. I have no start and no finish, no connections, no common thread, no alpha and omega. I do not know the person who invented scotch, tequila, or vodka, but I’m pretty sure they were not of African descent. I highly doubt that the person who invented the julep strainer, cobbler shaker, or cocktail glass would’ve been subject to Jim Crow laws. While there are notably historic African-American bartenders, there have just not been enough inroads made in cocktailing and drinking culture on par with other fields. Not sure what I’m searching for, but I guess it is what it is.
This doesn’t mean I have nothing to reflect upon. I reflect upon my personal experiences, like the exchange with my uncle from above, where he schooled me on enjoying spirits neat. The greatly rewarding visit I made to the local pub of my cousin that was born and lives in Somerset, England. I recall a time with a family friend I had a tasting session with — we enjoyed and compared a couple of fruit and grain wines and spirits that his uncle had moonshined. I think of the friends and colleagues I have today, that push me to succeed and further the cause of mixology. If the purpose of Black History Month is to think about how role models of the past inspire you to great things, I can’t help but think about how my family and like-family has set me upon this path. I’m forever thankful for my people.
Ash Wednesday. Not the day that you profess to only drink products that come from charred white oak barrels, but the day you start upon your quest of reflection. A quest that tries to remove worldly desires in an effort to focus on the spiritual.
For many people, “worldly desires” can be put into two scattergories: sweets and spirits. The last crate of Twinkies is deep-fried before the clock strikes midnight and the cask of Very Superior Old Pale cognac is sealed shut, lest you turn back into a brandy-infused pumpkin. Where does this piety of distillation come from? Is your manner of drinking really something you should do away with for 40 days and 40 nights? Are you hanging onto the wagon by a thread?
The issue at hand is that of excess. If you live the life of a Jersey Shore episode, a never-ending cycle of pre-gaming, binge drinking, fighting, promiscuity, throwing up, and regret, maybe a little time away from the bottle will do you good. But what if your time is spent respecting the bottle — going to Scotch sipping meetups, joining old friends in a bout of remembrance and nostalgia, or preparing little congenial treats for close family? Is that cause for a month-and-a-half of neglect? If you spend time exchanging knowledge of new places and spaces, in good conversation with your fellow man, shouldn’t you get a “pass”?
Then again, there are some things that we aren’t supposed to question. Lord Willin’, 40 will turn to 39, which will turn to 38, which will turn to 37, and so on, until you can fully embrace your full spirit again. In the meantime, become a monk. Some monasteries are involved in activities that’ll help you bide the time.
Black History Month is the time of year where links to the past are dusted off and remembered. There are many heroes, organizations, experiences, and memories that are circulated throughout the month. But hopefully, you come across something new; something that informs current affairs and contemporary Black culture.
African Americans have several historic and distinct ties to distilled spirits that come from grains. In the years of sharecropping and Jim Crow, and especially Prohibition, some of our grandfathers and forefathers were trying their hand at moonshine — producing gin and whiskey from some of the leftover corn, wheat, rye, and other grains. But in modern times, it seems that cognac has the most significant connection to African Americans. But how? Are there some ties to France that schoolkids aren’t getting taught?
Actually, there is. The company Moet Hennessy, part of the luxury goods conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH), was one of the original cogs in the conglomerate that formed the National Urban League. The aim was to improve the plight of Blacks in New York City, but the Urban League has obviously taken that charge across the entire country. A great start to great work — that’s something to toast on the first day of Black History Month!
In Tuesday’s post, I mentioned that if you just, “live life, everything will fall into place.” I don’t always fly by the seat of my pants, but sometimes I go off of what inspires me. Something that has just come across my visage. Something I just discussed with someone.
When you have a daily blog, you have to take advantage of those opportunities. So while I had an idea what I was going to post for today, I instead decided to slam on the brakes and take the sharp right to Spontaneous Topic Blvd. An article I read commented on the rise of Moscato sales in the US, as spurred by that nebulous and unnamed group — the “urban” community. Artists and songs in the genres of R&B and hip hop were attested to the rise, as their lyrics were a bit more sec than brut. The good people at The Congenial Hour have previously commented on hip hop’s influence on cognac, but here’s another spirit that seems to be trending. But why? And why would that influence even be possible — do people really listen to these big money artists when it comes to what $7 wine to purchase??
Let’s see if I can play a bit of Sherlock Xenophon here. For whatever “urban” legend or unfounded reason that people say African Americans mainly drink cognac (which I’ll touch upon in a future blog post), the truth is that cognac, whether Hennessy, Courvoisier, Remy Martin or another, has a significant market share within the culture. So when rappers started pushing more cognac in their songs, and Busta released “Pass the Courvoisier”, the connection was believable and a bit to be expected. On the other side of the palate, if you’re going to get many — not all — women to drink something, and especially wine, it should probably be sweeter than drier. This flavor profile combined with the push in champagne by hip hop artists, too numerous to count by now, as the connection of bubbles and hip hop go back to EARLY days. But let’s say that all these youngsters are going to the club, and can’t purchase that bottle of Ace of Spades that Jay-Z told them to buy when they left their car, but they still want to pop bottles in the club like T.I. and Drake said — what’s their option? Parade around the club with a bottle of wine, but sweet enough for them to pass around to unsuspecting and indiscriminating women.
Voila. Sherlock Xenophon has done it again! With no hands! *pause*
Life has a way of coming around full circle.
I try to keep a separation between church and state when it comes to bringing my “personal life” into my blog; at the very least, make somewhat hazy connections that can be illuminated with a little thought. It would be much too much to showcase my rockstar life to the Tumblrsphere. But sometimes, things happen to make me say, “Ehhhh, what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks.”
So yesterday, I had a Tweetscussion about scotch with a couple friends. Broached a few brands, went around the realm of brown a bit — touched on ryes, bourbons, and even cognac. I’d also looked at old texts I’d written upon some Friday visits to Nicholson’s, a Scottish pub in Cincinnati, where I tried to keep track of the scotches I’d tasted, and ones I’d tried to taste. In addition, I’d received a text from a good friend asking me about Macallan — any friend is a good friend that texts you about scotch. I offered a bit of my background with the brand, as I went to a tasting seminar last year for it. I also told him, as he is a cognac drinker, that he might appreciate the mouthfeel that Glenmorangie has with its three scotches that are finished in wine barrels, a bit smoother and silkier than your normal scotch.
And today, as I’m thinking about something to blog about, I come across this article about the ten things every man should know about scotch. Hmmmm, there might be a chance I know one or two. Enjoy and #getcongenial.
“It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon…”
Does that adage really hold true in drinking culture? As the pace car can be fueled by either continuous shots of Jager bombs or a session of pints of ale, the speed of the race is arguable. But the heart of the act never wavers — it’s all in the “spirit” of competition.
But should we really be competing while drinking? How many of us have had a buddy threaten to “drink us under the table”? But then when he got a good first swig of The Big Fellow and made a screwface, you knew you had him on the ropes in the first round? Has anyone ever told you, upon your late arrival to a function, that you had to “catch up” to everyone else? Like you can’t start the Chicago Marathon two hours late or something??
What about all the drinking games out there — beer pong, spoons, questions? What drives us to pair drinking with these competitions, the glory of the race or the wonder of the spirits? Since I’ve never seen or heard of a game of Scotch Pong, or seen craft beers or Trappist ales used in beer boot drinking competitions, I’d have to side for the want to show up our main damies.
Although the “Macho Man” rages to be released while drinking, find a way to soothe your beer muscles for a bit. Taking a drink with a friend should be a smooth and calming situation, full of good spirit and even better spirits. Leave the competition to the bar fights — but only after you’ve been sipping some vintage Fine Champagne cognac while debating the glory of the ugni blanc with a cognac ambassador that will surely give you the upper hand in that contest.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. While this may hold true for sweethearts and grandparents, when I want my favorite spirit, I want it not now, but *Neil Everett voice* RIGHT now! But what if you can’t get it, for reasons other than a light pocket or hateful inventory? Absence may warm the cockles of your heart, but what about distance?
The food world has been influenced by organic/sustainable/local movement in ways that make obvious sense. Don’t make Mother Earth cry if you don’t have to — why pay a premium for blackberries picked from glorious regions in Holland when there are farmers all around your city that grow them? This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the availability of local food, with community gardens, farmers’ markets, and good ol’ backyard gardens.
But in the spirits world, things are a bit different. While Joe Q. Public can plant a bag of seeds, throw some water on some dirt, chase squirrels away, and come away with squash and bell peppers larger than your head, it takes a bit more know-how to distill spirits. There is a “local” element to them: there’s only one Cognac, only one Bourbon County, and people in Champagne didn’t make that type of sparkling wine because they liked cabernet sauvignon. By the same token, depending on your location, all of these products need to be imported. Should that be frowned upon? Koval makes products that make Chicagoans proud, Sloop Betty makes a vodka that Marylanders can brag to their Russian and Polish friends about, and ROOT has made more Pennsylvanians happy than the Steelers sixth championship — is it still wrong to want for a bit more from a bit further away? Or should we only imbibe what is properly distilled within our city limits? What do you think?