What happens when the Punch bowl is empty?
Do you cry tears into the vessel until it’s once again overflowing? Do you wait until friends come over and bring you more Punch? Do you stomp down to the Fish House and demand that the City of Brotherly Love replenish your bowl?
Sometimes you have to grab your trusty swivel peeler, the shiniest lemon within arm’s reach, and set out to make another batch of Punch. It’s that easy….right?
Life is not as easy as making Punch. While there are plentiful stores from which you can purchase spirits, recipes to use as a guide, and mixological authorities to consult for nuance, there is no such option for going through Life. You can study all the life guides in the library, consult all the life coaches on LinkedIn, follow curricula from universities across the globe, but nothing quite prepares you for the rigors of Life.
At the end of the day, no one said this would be easy. Sometimes you’ve got to put your head down and continue pushing forward. When life throws you lemons, compound the second batch of Philadelphia Fish House Punch! Now THAT’S how to live congenially.
‘Tis the season. Football season, that is. One of the best experiences of partaking in pigskin culture is tailgating, a whole day, or longer, engaged in fraternizing with friends, family, fans, and strangers over a spread that would put a Thanksgiving meal to shame. BBQ grills usually are in abundance and high regard in this outdoor cornucopia, used to bring glorious recipes to life and spur your favorite team to victory.
One thing about eating is you have to wash it down with something. The Congenial Hour tries to highlight the liquid aspect of this relationship by showing how to “savor”, not just wash. So if you’re going to have wonderful tailgating fare, how about bringing some good grapes along for the game? Nothing brings people together like sharing a bottle of wine, and this article shows how to boost the conviviality under your tailgate tent.
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?
“Forbidden fruit is any object of desire whose appeal is a direct result of knowledge that cannot or should not be obtained or something that someone may want but is forbidden to have.
In Western Europe, the fruit was often depicted as an apple…The larynx in the human throat, noticeably more prominent in males, was consequently called an Adam’s apple, from a notion that it was caused by the forbidden fruit sticking from Adam’s throat as he swallowed.” — From Wikipedia entry for Forbidden Fruit
Adam’s Apple (The Forbidden Fruit)
1 1/2oz Jim Beam Devil’s Cut
1oz Thatcher’s Apple Spice Ginger Liqueur
1/2oz triple sec or premium orange curacao
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Sliver of Granny Smith apple for garnish
With hope in your heart for redemption, add all ingredients to mixing glass over ice. Stir briskly, aiming for atonement. Place julep strainer firmly within mixing glass and pour contents into a cocktail glass, chilled with the breath of the saints. Brandish your saber and cut a heavenly sliver of the Granny Smith apple and float on top of the cocktail. Raise to your nose and inhale for knowledge, seeking to obtain the mash content of the Devil’s Cut, the spice combination in the liqueur, and the age of dear Grandmother Smith. Take a sip and repent. Then, with renewed heart, clear mind, and sound body, repeat.
There’s no limit to the amount of joyous occasions that bring people together. We gather together for all type of celebrations — birthdays, meetups of long-lost friends, bridal/wedding showers, starting/leaving a job, and many more. And while the guest of honor is always showered with congeniality, there’s another congenial issue that deserves discussion.
We often choose to break bread for these gatherings, holding them at any number of restaurants. The cuisine is diverse, as well as the drinking tastes of the guests. Should this issue be broached by taking the communal route — bottles of wine for the table? Or should everyone take their own path to imbibing? There are certain protocols of kinmanship that exist for sharing drinks, but when you’re one of 15, what can you do? Go along for the ride or go down with the ship? Should you bear the brunt of the sweet red that was chosen, or take part in the dessert white that was chosen in seemingly bad taste? Even worse, if you’re an advocate for temperance, a teetotaler to the core, do you agree with your best brohams adding drinks you didn’t have onto your tab? You came to break bread, not break bottles — what if your final bill jumps from $30 to $60? Is it all in honor to the favorite chum of all? That’s quite a steep jump.
We should all aim for an individual route, relying on our personal styles and what we appreciate most about imbibing. But you can’t prevent 14 other people from enjoying the event, in addition to pissing off the person of honor. Oh, what a quandary — is the glass really half full or half empty?
Le Corbusier once noted that architects can have success in obtaining projects by “drinking the right cocktail to secure the commission.” While tales have been told of some architects’ failures at winning over the crowd at a dinner party, one architect that may be a step ahead is Michael Graves. I mean, when you can design a knockout cocktail set, you’re already ahead of the curve!
Graves has a knack of designing products with a touch of whimsy, harkening back to his post-modern design background. That leads to him reconsidering design, history, or culture when he makes a reference — bringing a new perspective to the conversation for a new audience. Whether through architecture by putting new clothes on the classical emperor with the Portland Building, or putting on a product design hat to create a mash-up of drinking styles for the mixologist and sommelier, Graves has set his own standard for interdisciplinary creation, turning design on its head.
Is he an architect? A glassware aficionado? What about a graphic design specialist, or a vanguard of universal design? It doesn’t matter — you know it when you see it, and Graves’ products truly give you a congenial feeling.
This post was submitted as a response to the topic question, “How Do You Whiskey Friday?,” by Baratunde Thurston, author of the book, “How To Be Black.”
How do I Whisk(e)y Friday? That’s the type of question everyone should ask themselves — to recognize how “your identity affects how you start the weekend.” I’ll offer my perspective…
The number one way is to always, ALWAYS, be sure to respect the bottle, or it’ll disrespect you. Knowing how you like to drink will lead you to where, and then towards what to drink. I think that you can find out how you whisk(e)y friday at a drinking place that catches your fancy, one that you’ve always wondered what’s happening within its walls. Bernard DeVoto says that time should be spent with “two or three friends,” but Derek Brown finds interest in the lone imbiber; let’s follow that path for now.
You should spend some time asking your friendly neighborhood barkeep a couple of questions. Since you’re by yourself, the bartender is your only “friend,” but well-suited to give you a bit of info on the area, anecdotes about what you’re drinking, even bits of etiquette that will take you far in this world of handshaking and hobnobbing. While you’re sitting at the bar, take a gander at the pretty bottles in front of you — ain’t they purrty? Remember them — they’ll come in handy when you need to make a reference sometime later.
Now, that person that’s been sitting next to you, you notice them? Ask them something. Comment on something. Anything. Doesn’t matter if they like you or if they’re interested in you or if you share something in common. What matters is that you’re elbow-to-elbow at that moment in time. You’ve got a brain — use it. Tell a joke. Or a story. Ask them a question that only they can answer. Remember that shiny blue bottle you noticed earlier? The one with the Queen on it? Ask them if they’ve ever had any. Tell them you’ve got some in your glass and it’s kept you smiling, though other brands usually put a smile on your face. Offer a cheers in response. Take another sip of your cocktail and smile because you can’t wait for the next Whisk(e)y Friday. Then go home, go to sleep, wake up and attack Thursday.
Because when you feel like taking a minute to #getcongenial, you don’t wait for the weekend. The day doesn’t matter. You don’t even wait for Whisk(e)y Friday to come back around; it might be the perfect time for Gin o’Clock. To share in a moment of humanity is a characteristic that’s essentially human. We aren’t meant to suppress desires or common courtesy or humor. For what reason? Because it’s not a designated time and place? Rubbish! Take the time when you have it because you don’t know if the time will come again.
“How I’m feeling, it doesn’t matter
Cause you know I’m okay/
And still, I ask myself, “Why do you worry?”
When you know I’m the same/
I know, I know you don’t love me, baby
They’re trying to take you away from me/
Only over my dead body…” — Drake, “Over My Dead Body”
“Last Call.” Two of the most horrendous words ever uttered within a drinking place. Even worse than, “Not tonight,” “Get out!,” and the two words said during a one and two conversation. But I digress. Hearing “Last Call” causes our spirits to drop a bit, no pun intended, as we realize that the grand time we’re having with our ace booms will soon be coming to a close. It also discourages those of us that arrive at an event late and don’t get to wade in the libations for as long as we’d hoped. How can we deal with this tragic phrase? Is there any way to #getcongenial for a bit longer?
There isn’t. Last Call is just that: the last time a call to the bar can be made. But you can make the most of your time communicating with the barkeep. Many people choose to be “double-fisted”: carrying around two drinks at the same time. Maybe a beer and a shot, a shot with a cocktail back, or two mixed drinks. The stranglehold on the “beer and a shot” requires great manual dexterity, and once mastered, allows you to continue hand gestures that appropriately punctuate high and low points of your conversation. Mere mortals need not attempt, lest they make a fool of themselves, their shoes, and the Bier.
What about a shot followed by a proper cocktail? What’s the saying? “You’re on your way to hell with gasoline drawers.” Talk about putting the pedal to the metal! Not only do you want the effects of the cocktail you’re drinking, but you’re gonna pump it up a notch with periodic shots of MORE liquor? Unless you have a water IV hooked up to you, this is not the best thing to do.
Which brings us to the third option — feeling that two cocktails are better than one. While this is true according to basic math, it also makes sense based on one main circumstance — if the cocktails are free. If not, you’re paying to let one cocktail water down and lose its quality while you suck down the other hurriedly to get to its cousin. Losing on both counts.
As we’ve figured out, Last Call is one of the most unwavering things in a drinking place, other than the 6’-7”, 300lb bouncer. Keep one eye on your watch, and you won’t have to utilize rogue cocktailing techniques to enable an enjoyable experience. Stay congenial, at all costs.
The fine gentleman Robert Burns, Scotland’s favorite son, had a way with words. But all gentlemen know when to give it up to the ladies. On this Burns Day, hoist your Burns Cocktail in a toast to congenial lasses the world over:
Tonight we stand, here in praise,
So join me lads, let your voices raise.
Prepare to toast, fill up your glasses,
Join me now, to our bonnie lasses.
To the Lasses!
The beginnings of public drinking in England were of a similar relationship as modern times, in that public patrons would be served by an owner of a home or establishment. But the owner during the 12th century, when alehouses are initially mentioned on public record (Clark 20), provided services in a small-scale, do-it-yourself manner, a far cry from the industrial relationships that would form in later years that are in existence in modern times, of large breweries distributing ale to the majority of drinking establishments. In these days, ale production was independent, up to the means of the alehouse-keeper, and as such, the product would vary in quality.
This is brought into perspective by the alehouse-keeper most commonly being female (Clark 21). The modern phenomenon of living and working in two different places was millennia away from these times. So while the husband may have had a job in whatever industry of the time, be it farming, hunting, commerce, etc., the wife would prepare the ale and run the home, or alehouse, herself, acting as hostess and retailer to visiting guests. The true essence of house in “public house” was established at this early time, as the place of business was truly an extension of the home. Although in this incarnation, it was not able to be truly “public”, as it was the home of the alehouse-keeper, whose services did not lean too far towards commerce.
[Research by ME — see book link for quotations]
From the early 13th century brewing and serving ale in England, women have had a notable role in the practice of bartending and mixology. Recently, through the efforts of LUPEC and the many female bartenders that have participated in “Speed Rack” bartending competitions to bring awareness to breast cancer, they’ve shown that this isn’t just a man’s world — the most congenial barkeeps have a soft touch as well.
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
Some of us just don’t know when to stop being congenial. Sometimes when to start.
A bit of a faux pas by our wonderful President. Maybe he was wowed by the opportunity to offer a toast to the granddaughter of the woman on the pretty blue bottle. Maybe he thought he had the most congenial toast ever prepared. Maybe he wanted to discuss the special relationship and peculiarities of drinking culture between the two countries. Whatever it was, he should’ve just paused a moment. Don’t rush — we aren’t going anywhere. There’s more than enough time to get congenial after the music stops playing.
There are two transitions in the day when drinking occurs. One of them is “The Hour”, which Bernard DeVoto so eloquently detailed about the happenings of six o’clock. Another transtion in the day that has a connection with drinking is what happens after late-night drinking. Not quite after the last drop is gone, but in the next hour or so following it.
Let’s set the scenario: You get clean/spiffy/appropriate at home before heading out with spouse/significant other/brohams/wingwomen. You head to a neighborhood spot/Da Club/hotspot and get it in, having a most glorious and congenial evening. It’s at the point where the heels of the people in your group near the threshold of the establishment that someone asks the prescient question….
“You all wanna go grab something to eat?” *sound of the angels singing*
The main point of that question is on the surface quite easy to figure out — the person is hungry and wants to grab a bite to eat. But if the time is 2am, 3am, 4am, or even later, who is thinking about their sustenance & nutrition? No one! Which is precisely why I’ve argued that the point of going out to eat after drinking is not to eat, but “to extend the night.” Who cares about rushing home to brush their teeth or hang up their slacks? We want to spend a bit more time with our best buds & favorite people, and what better way to do that, if we can’t drink, than by sharing some food?
Hummus and pita will have to wait for another meal. The main approach to “soaking it up” post-quaff is to get fat into your system, as it slows your body’s absorption of alcohol. Anyone can return home to a bag of chips. But after a night of quaffing mint juleps, why not go, or return to The Brown Hotel for a Hot Brown? After all, it was CREATED for fourthmeal — what food can say that? Isn’t it always nicer to go to an authentic place, a “one of one” instead of a corporate rehash? If the Brown is a bit too posh for your t-shirt wearing brigade, why not go to your favorite late-night restaurant or diner? At Tempo in Chicago, Sip-n-Bite in Baltimore, Chau Chow in Boston, or House of Pie in Los Angeles, everyone has times that resemble Schrevie, Boogie, and the guys. That McDonald’s or Burger King might beckon, but you can spend time with them during the day — why not head to White Castle, that family-owned bastion of sliders? Or go with the “tree theory” at your fave pizza window and throw three oil-laden slices on a separate plate and nosh while taking in the scenery. Nothing is funnier than the street talk that emanates from people post-clubbing. Add a Maxwell Street polish sausage or a Philly cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz and you’ve got yourself live television in HD!
People sharing stories, serendipitous conversations about who-knows-what, trying to see if you can make that quick couple of minutes turn into something special — it all resembles a fine drinking place, probably the one that got us at our favorite eatery in the first place. Stay congenial!
You learn how to play sports during recess. You learn how to tie a knot and light a fire in the Boy Scouts. You learn how to wear a tuxedo at your high school prom.
How and where do you learn to drink?
A great man in London once told me that, “When you’re young, you aspire to the pub.” In a contemporary American context, yutes usually aspire to the nightclub. The corner/neighborhood bar notwithstanding, Da Club runs these streets. Holiday, birthday, Saturday, bored today — nothing holds up to going out to Da Club, taking in the lovely sights and thumping music. We put up with the lines, the cover charges, even the propensity for random and multiple gunshots. Dave & Buster’s may be fun, but King Kong ain’t got sh….I think you know the rest.
The music is obviously going to be there. Though crowds fluctuate between sporadic and packed-to-the-gills, there are always people there to interact with. But what do you take away from the drinking culture at Da Club — the type of cocktails that can be made, whether they’re served in plastic or glass, and the speed at which they’re mixed? Do you look at the backbar and assume that the varied types of spirits there are what every backbar has, or is supposed to have, assuming you even look at the backbar? Do you look at the patrons ordering bottle service and assume that is the best way to enjoy a cocktail? Does Da Club influence what drink you’ll order? You may not want to go up to that shorty in the pink dress with scotch in your glass; not when Da Club just got in that Nuvo Yellow and Ciroc Peach.
Maybe the high-volume activity and energy of Da Club influences you in other ways. Maybe you drink your beer or cocktail a lot faster, finding yourself ordering another every fourth song. Maybe you and your band of comrades shoot everything — liqueur, vodka, tequila, whiskey. No matter the proof, color, or appellation d’origine contrôlée, you’re throwing it in the barrel and pulling the trigger. Or possibly you train yourself to know your drink order in a maximum of 1.8 seconds, in order to avoid the harsh glares and sighs or impatience of the patrons behind you.
Da Club is the one of the first places where you’re judged by a jury of your peers. How you act and how your behavior affects other people are constantly being tested, to a bevy of successes and even more failures. Over all, hopefully it will be seen as just one place of distinctive drinking culture. There are many others, and you can use them all to inform each other. Stay congenial!
December 1st is notable for many things. Besides being the anniversary of the Brazilian royal crowning of Peter I, the first serving of Dr. Pepper, and Honest Abe stating to the Union that he was actually serious ten weeks prior, it signals something else in contemporary culture.
The first possible day for an office holiday party. *sounds the party favors*
But before we go into all the ways to run up management’s overhead on a classy, baller *ss spread with cheeses you’ve never even seen before, let’s discuss the topic of imbibing in this quasi-office environment. While it’s not quite “drinking on the job”, how you conduct yourself around your colleagues will not be easily forgotten.
Personal and professional conduct traditionally has maintained a “church and state” relationship. That has waned in recent years with the proliferation of social media. Though your supervisor saw you leave the office looking like Clark Kent, after a day of crunching numbers and generating proposals, he didn’t have to be there to watch the Superman-like task of taking 20 shots of tequila in one night — all the Facebook status updates and Twitpics gave you away. The office party is even more pervasive — everything happens within the same environment with the same people you see the most every day! How can you escape that? One simple answer: don’t break your face.
Heard how the most interesting man in the world has a “game face that would break an average man’s jaw?” You don’t quite need to be at that level. But don’t be like your six-year old nephew on Christmas morning when the wine first comes out. What do sports veterans tell the rookies? “Act like you’ve been here before.” We’ve all had a drink before, don’t act like your pinot grigio tastes better because the Boss paid for the grapes. Acting cheap, freeloading, or feeling like you’re entitled to the provisions isn’t the best way to build respect or garner acclaim. Bring up stories that fit the occasion — places you’ve been where you’ve had similar offerings or bits of spirits education that make people say “Hmmmmm….I didn’t know that!!” That’s what people will remember.
Everyone wants to be around the “life of the party”. No one wants to be around anyone that is too picky to enjoy the restaurant chosen, too vain to notice anyone else, or too self-absorbed to talk about anything other than the usual shop talk. The effects of liquor are another issue entirely — though we’ve seen them countless times in the club, we don’t want to hang around the crying drunk, the angry drunk, or the sloppy drunk, just because we can’t necessarily escape them at the time. And best believe, that’s one of the easiest ways to end up at the top of “New Business” on the next day’s Water Cooler Meeting. We want to hang around the person whose conversation gets a little deeper with added spirits, whose jokes get a bit more jovial throughout the event. The ratio of spirits to camaraderie should be a direct relationship — that’s how you build office culture and have that talk you’ve been waiting for with Mr. Bigwig himself.
So take it easy this holiday season. Enjoy yourself, impress others, and be fond of making new contacts — the essence of staying congenial.