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!
[Photos by ME]
“Shut down your operation, closed for business/
Leave a foul taste in your mouth, like Guinness…” — Mobb Deep, “Hell on Earth”
You don’t have to be a fan of Bar Rescue to know that countless drinking places close every day…gone forever, lost to the memories of the former patrons. While there is a range of emotions that set in upon the closing — disappointment, heartache, happiness to some, anger to others — it eventually dissipates as we find another bar stool with our name on it at another establishment. Is that all it takes — on to the next one? What does the literal “Last Call” mean to the built and social fabric of our communities?
What does it mean to the patron? To the common visitor or urban transplant, it’s a lost opportunity to make a new acquaintance, learn something unexpected about their new surroundings, or see that new culture “in action”. This may not resonate with residents, as they may not give the same value to certain places that have “been there forever”. However, it’s a problem for them as well — the next time they want to show a visiting friend what their city is truly like, it may look the same as every other city in FranchiseTown, USA. What made that particular city unique passed on right under their noses, as they didn’t lift a finger to try and prevent it.
Let’s discuss the perspective of the changing city. When all this urban energy and social activity is gone, doesn’t it make our cities feel a bit dormant, just a little empty? Maybe lacking for that excitement and experience that you go home and tell someone about, or are able to pass along in recollection to a friend in a fond retelling? Every urban environment may not be like Vine Street in late 19th-century Cincinnati, which had 136 drinking places along its downtown stretch in 1890. That speaks to a certain culture of industry that sustains that level of activity — an industry long gone, with only physical remnants still visible.
Finally, the industry. One truism espoused by Bernard DeVoto was, “The surest proof of the moral foundation of the universe is that you can always find good whiskey if you will go looking for it.” If one places closes, we can surely find another place willing to suit our tastes of fine cocktailing. However, what does that do to the local industry? In these tough times, it’s not easy to just set up shop somewhere. In simple terms, it’s hard out here for a publican. Small business loans, identifying and reaching a target user group, sustaining sales to woo continued supply — it takes more than just pouring a pony of spicy brown into a glass.
So, friends, in the words of Sean Connery, what are we prepared to do? The answer — realize that we can’t do it all ourselves. We must join together to keep our cities alive. About to enjoy that bottle of sweet brown you picked up the other week? Call over your buddy you haven’t spoken to in a month of Sundays to help you, so he knows what to look for upon his next visit to a drinking place. Stopping off for a quick cocktail with your main damie before a snazzy event? Have her girlfriends join you, and soak in their comments on how impeccably detailed a combination your suit and cufflinks make. Had an unexpectedly-informing exchange with the bartender at that corner spot, where you went for a “one and done”? Tell a couple people about it and send some business their way. The city will always be there, but it’s up to us to live in it.
We’ve all seen how my namesake feels about Punch.
Moving a bit closer to home, and away from classical times, we see what Baltimore’s barkeeps are stirring up with the P-funk. A truly classic mixture for a city with a truly American heritage, Punch is shaping to be the drink of the summer. With the recent “Sailabration” of the War of 1812, a colonial essence is still wafting over the city, and the combination of oleo-saccharum and the devil’s elixir carry it far and wide. Maybe you’ll find it in a city or picnic near you soon?
There are three definite things in life: death, taxes, and cities changing. How can you gauge this change, and where can you go to witness the change? Drinking places are the heritage keepers within cities, where you can discuss issues that might not be on the front page of the newspaper or Facebook. A very informal way to find out where your city has been and where it is going. Grab a cold one and enjoy the discussion!
This Saturday marks the 138th observance of the “Run for the Roses” — the Kentucky Derby. It’s arguably one of the biggest events in Louisville every year, not to mention the entire South, and is steeped in tradition. The Derby is one of the only events that has its own signature cocktail, the mint julep, not to mention the gorgeous pewter vessel it is imbibed in.
Drinking culture also is steeped in tradition, and back when the world was still flat, spirits used to have nuance of taste, differences by location. Their characteristics were not as homogenized as they might be said to be today; their makers still held on to the idiosyncrasies of place.
Take a gander of this little quiz and delight in the nuance of design. It shows that the designers of julep cups strayed from the path of “same” and aimed to make their drinking vessels a bit different as you rode through the Chitlin’ Circuit. Maybe you can try to find as many as you can and make a different mint julep in each? Hope springs both eternal and congenial.
“Taverns played a little-known but vital role as an important center of community life and activity…
Two forms of the early American tavern were closely modeled on English institutions and were found exclusively in urban settings: the city tavern and the coffee house…
Tavern activities in the city establishments were centered around economic life, everyday business transactions, mercantile exchange, and events such as auctions of goods, property, and slaves; city officials frequently held their meetings in taverns…
Small taverns were clustered along the docks of…port cities; catered to transient seamen or day laborers…” - - Text from Early American Taverns: For the Entertainment of Friends and Strangers by Kym S. Rice
Ice and cocktails go hand in hand. The sling, the sans bitters precursor to the cocktail, was a combination of spirit, water, sweet, and sour. Water may enter a mixed drink in its fluid form, as with a couple drops added to scotch to release the essence of its flavor. But more often, water’s frozen friend is utilized — ice.
Ice brings rhythm to the cocktail world, helping to “wake up the spirit” inside shakers. Many savvy cocktail bars have instituted their own ice program, cutting blocks by hand, mallet, and pick. Machinery also comes into play, with KOLD-DRAFT machines and specialty ice-sphere machines creating harder, purer ice that won’t screw up the delicate balance in today’s craft cocktails. A slower melting ice cube
also helps with the dilution of your cocktail — allowing just enough water to help with the alcohol absorption into your system, while not drowning your scotch.
Some products would stop here, but ice strives for more, truly earning the “S” on its chest. It also shares a basic role — to keep food from going bad. In colonial times, way before the days of machines that produce 65mm ice spheres for the low cost of 650 pounds sterling, ice was relied upon to keep that 8 billion pounds of crab you bagged on your fishing trip cool enough to make crab cakes for a while. But since Frigidaire wasn’t in business yet, where did people store the ice?
Naturally, they’d want to keep it close to the chest. Back then, if you couldn’t hold it at your home, your local tavern was just as good. Ice wells were prevalent, like the one above that was kept at an Alexandria, VA tavern frequented by a whiskey distiller. It’s been mostly covered up by a couple centuries of transportation infrastructure and urbanization, but there are enough reveals to tacitly show the history of its usage. Quite the congenial way to display technological ties to our past, no?
Many buildings are placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Religious buildings like Quinn Chapel in Chicago; colonial-era buildings like the White Horse Tavern in Newport, RI; sites in the nation’s capital like the Cogswell Temperance Fountain; and Southern showpieces like the Brown Hotel in Louisville. Since the recognition symbolizes national significance, sometimes a flag-raising is in order.
The Jack Daniel’s Distillery realized this in 1976, and set out to enact a raising of the flag. This ad from that year stated as much. Distilleries are part of a nation’s history, whether it’s Bushmills in Ireland or the Hacienda Corralejo, they showcase a nation’s manufacturing mettle along with its artistic spirit; this is very much a cause d’celebre. As the distillers of Old No. 7 believed, you should wave your flag in honor of your favorite spirit — maybe they forgot that Ol’ Blue Eyes set the standard two decades earlier:
“The legendary residence was host to some of the valley’s most glamorous parties with Hollywood’s brightest stars of the day. The twin palm trees located poolside, appropriately name the infamous estate. Frank Sinatra often hoisted his Jack Daniel’s emblem flag on the flag pole once positioned between the twin palms, which indicated an invite to his Movie Colony neighborhood cronies that revelry and cocktails were in order.”
This research discusses the redevelopment of historic urban districts, offering analysis of change at the scale of a neighborhood. Neighborhoods are flexible in terms of city scale — macro-attributes such as socio-economic and changing demographic issues, as well as micro-attributes such as interpersonal relationships and signs & symbols on buildings. Opportunities for redevelopment can touch upon many of these issues as themes, tying together the neighborhood in a way that reflects its past and creates a responsible and promising trajectory for the future.
Contemporary breweries and microbreweries tend to be isolated from the built and social fabric of urban neighborhoods — either located in unadorned, industrial areas or totally unrelated to other services in the vicinity. Historically, breweries were large-scale operations, sustaining the economy of large swaths of a region and creating a need for services that extended down to the neighborhood level. Breweries were connected to local craftsmen for construction and engineering services, to local drinking places for patronage of their products, and to personal customs of the workers and their families. The overarching drinking culture contains objects for architectural commentary and metaphor, which are especially promising for success in redevelopment of historic urban districts, as shown above: historic buildings that reflect the “urban narrative” that future development should follow, building symbols and imagery that reflects cultural ideals, and looking to create a synergy between current professional opportunities and previous crafts & occupations that used to sustain the neighborhood.
A successful example of an urban redevelopment that brought all these attributes together is the Distillery District in Toronto, which successfully maintained the heritage of the area and its inhabitants, creating responsible development with smart and compatible uses.
[Research by ME]
[Photos by ME]
One thing that stands out about the beautiful city of Geneva is the great amount of fountains. The Jet d’Eau notwithstanding, the city is full of many other beautiful fountains, many containing potable water for its inhabitants, not merely objects to be viewed.
What is their purpose? They’re not temperance fountains as were built in Washington, DC — the Swiss have a long history of great food and drink. Absinthe is greatly appreciated there, and the fountains do have a tacit connection to the absinthe fountain — it seems too obvious for it to be a coincidence.
Regardless, they are historic specimens to be both experienced and enjoyed as an irreplaceable part of the urban fabric — both built and social. Drink up, without a care to its effects!
Boardwalk Empire is a throwback to the days of Prohibition. It shows the underworld-in-action through the life of “Nucky Thompson”, the fictionalized crime baron of Atlantic City, based upon the wayward activities of Enoch “Nucky” Johnson. The show can make you awestruck at all the things that took place during the Dry Age. But what does that sense of “cultural nostalgia” do to your senses when you’re in a drinking place? Does it transform from mere tourism to a vicarious feeling?
“Faux speakeasies can resemble real, historic speakeasies, except for one thing: real speakeasies, operating from 1919 to 1933, were totally illegal and run by gangsters like Al Capone. That disreputable nature — the inherent seediness — of the operation was part of its allure. With the faux speakeasy, no one is worried about the Feds busting up the place; they’re merely concerned with keeping out the, you know, riffraff — that “uncool” crowd who might order Coors Light. The faux speakeasy clearly grows out of a nostalgia for the glamorous seediness of Prohibition.” — Boozehound, by Jason Wilson
With the advent of the modern speakeasy, many have been derided as havens for “popularity contests”. As Jason Wilson stated above, the mere fact that there is NOTHING illegal going on inside makes it a contradiction in terms. The “social club” is nothing new in American communities, but the modern speakeasy is more in line with this drinking place, than one that kept a tommy gun next to the Hawthorne strainer. If you want a controlled environment, that’s fine — it makes for more congenial experiences, I agree. But there are other design and mixology methods that provide that desired outcome. To paraphrase one of the great poets of our times, a bird in the trunk does not make you Nino. A Southside crossing your bar does not make it a speakeasy.
“YouTube is littered with guys in speakeasy-era clothes mixing up classic cocktails, and the vast majority are practical, if a little boring. Even great cocktail writers are few and far between. Our favorites (Gary Regan, David Wondrich, Paul Clarke) tend to cover more of the history of a drink than anything else. You know, tales of bigger-than-life bartenders and drunk customers.” — Nick Kindelsperger, Grub Street Chicago
This is the quandary of the past speakeasy — a place that used to be a “front” for illicit activity, or a place that was brazenly operating illegally. As we’re about 80 years removed from the 21st Amendment, and 90-plus removed from the 18th Amendment that precipitated it, does the history of Prohibitive activities still carry the same weight? Granted, it is abnormal history; Bar Louie doesn’t have a tunnel system like the one constructed under the Green Mill. But isn’t there more to the cultural heritage of a place than who sat at the bar, whether criminal or celebrity? Or does that generate enough excitement in itself — to know that you’re drinking your Old Fashioned in the same manner and maybe out of the same glass that Al Capone did?
This research discusses how the cultural appearance of buildings helps to steer people’s perceptions of an area — determining whether or not they’ll frequent that establishment, that street, that neighborhood, and so on. This is especially important when considering a person that doesn’t have background history of that environment, such as a transplant, tourist, or other “outsider” in that situation. The buildings above are all located in Cincinnati: a jazz speakeasy, an “English pub”, a historic saloon revived for a festival, a historic cafe that was recently closed, and a new restaurant/bar located in the downtown area.
The building’s appearance played a large part in determining and evaluating the culture of each of these environments. How would a person know that a warm, jazz-filled room was right in the heart of a downtrodden, culturally-disenfranchised community — especially when two green lights at the doorway were the only signal of activity? If an award-winning restaurateur opens an establishment that appears to be a nightclub to many prospective patrons, how would that affect their engagement of the establishment — help or hinder? If a 19th/20th-century era cafe falls in the city, does it make a sound, if no one with any ties to the heritage is around to hear it?
This research led to formalize responsive, and responsible, mechanisms of design and redesign. This approach would seek to resolve the disconnect between appearance and experience that these buildings exemplified.
[Research by ME]
Philadelphia has the distinction of being the first place in this country where lager beer was brewed. It was brewed by George Manger in 1846, on New Street below Second. It was dispensed at Wolff’s saloon, Dilwyn Street below Callowhill.
While an employee at the Haas and Wolf sugar refinery, Manger convinced his boss, Charles Wolf, and fellow employee Charles Engel to brew lager for private consumption in the sugar plant. Manger then established his own brewery on New Street.
The brewing history of cities from the “German Triangle” — Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Milwaukee — hangs heavy over the regeneration of their urban cores. The shells of the historic breweries remain, akin to huge, masonry headstones. Has Philadelphia resolved the fate of its historic breweries, working them into the built and social fabric of its contemporary culture?