Drinks are served on tables, hand-to-hand, on kitchen counters, carts, among many other surfaces. But in modern times, if you’re going to sling, craft, shake, mix, or pour a drink, it’s probably going to be across a bar. However, that doesn’t limit your options.
There is no limit to the layout, material, and size of bars; no standard appearance for any of them, actually. Save for corporate franchises, you have probably never been to the same bar twice, and that’s not just when you walk into the drinking place. You may have carved your initials into the wood while sharing a couple tall boys with your friend, admired your Manhattan almost hovering above the marble, and spun your two fingers of single malt around the backlit glass without noticing the unique nature of taking up space at a drinking place. Every experience is one unto itself, never to be replicated again, and that big hunk of material is one reason why — it has seen all and never forgets.
A fine Tennessee whisky company decided to take up the mantle and bring in some weekend warriors for a good ol’ bar-building competition. Got a free eight hours? Come on down and see if you can design and build the best bar to taste that sugar maple charcoal-filtered goodness. Sawdust for garnish…Why not? Makes my mouth water just thinking about it….
Wine lover? Upholder of viticulture? Fermented grape enthusiast? The only problem doesn’t deal with what glorious bottle of medium-bodied Merlot nor stone fruit-forward Grenache to grab, but what to do with all the corks! Well, every bottle and glass needs a table….brilliant!
What happens when you design a building like a bottle? What happens when you design a bottle like a building?
Which is more effective in making an impression in the minds of its user, client, audience, patrons, and viewers? Is scale the defining factor — does size matter?
Design is fluid and transmits across languages, cultures, land, and ocean. Whether you design an object tall enough to view from miles away, or effervescent enough to bring a crowd together in celebration…know that its quality will be measured in units that neither the architect or vintner used. You cannot measure personal satisfaction.
“A lot of architects design a lot of details,” Taniguchi was saying. “I try to conceal details.” His brand of modernism doesn’t always express its structure; instead, his buildings tend to have a lightness of being, defying the steel, glass, concrete and stone it took to make them. Their exquisite craftsmanship is legendary, and Japanese contractors are proud to oblige him…
Later, ordering drinks before dinner, Taniguchi talked about how different building methods are in America. But he never really answered the question of why such a famous architect at home had taken so long to design outside Japan. “You are psychoanalyzing me,” he said with a slight smile.
Then his cocktail arrived. It was a Manhattan.
— Excerpt from “Red Hot MoMA: New York’s great modern museum is reborn, thanks to $425 million and an unlikely architect named Taniguchi,” by Cathleen McGuigan, Newsweek
This post should be titled, “Confessions of a Pack Rat.” Since this isn’t a “personal” blog, I plead the fizziff.
But I digress. What should you do with those empty wine and spirits bottles you have laying around. What if you have more than one or two, maybe 15? I previously showed this way of dealing with them. But here’s another that is more useful than just taking up space. *cough, my trunk, cough* Especially if you have bottles that are tinted different colors, like Bombay Sapphire or Skyy or Tanqueray Ten. I can imagine the wonderful tones they’d bring to a space. Now all we need are self-replenishing bottles. I wait with baited breath and empty glass.
“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?
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.
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.
They say that “clothes make the man”. But do the emperor’s new clothes help him make the most imperial cocktail?
Women can look at a man’s shoes to see how he takes care of himself. If he has a nice little shine to his shoes, maybe he takes care to keep them in good condition, wears them only in appropriate environments, and stores them properly. Seeing a nice style of color coordination, balance of pattern, and artistic use of texture shows that a guy knows a little something about a little something — he might be able to upgrade YOU. All these little stylistic notes are good for many things, but do they enable you to choose the appropriate combinations for cocktails? You might grab the right tie, but will you grab the right bourbon?
I’ve made cocktails in a wife beater, a t-shirt, a track jacket, and a dress shirt with French cuffs & British cufflinks. I’ve been served drinks from bartenders wearing a t-shirt, a halter top, a dress shirt with sleeve garters and suspenders, and a dress shirt with rolled-up sleeves and a leather vest — and received great service from all. It might warm your heart to see a well-dressed barkeep in front of you, but if they pass you a warm drink, you might throw them outside on their newly pressed shirt. Act the part, look the part, and know the parts for your cocktails — such a congenial combination.
[Photos by ME]
“Given that many convivial spaces seem to have grown organically through an accumulation of adaptations and additions, can we design such places at the drawing board? Critics of formal architecture and planning such as Bernard Rudofsky [Architecture without Architects (1964)] and Christopher Alexander [A Pattern Language (1977) & The Timeless Way of Building (1979)] suggest that we are better off ‘growing’ good places and spaces, rather than trying to build them from a blueprint.” — Convivial Urban Spaces: Creating Effective Public Spaces, by Henry Shaftoe
How many architects does it take to pour a glass of wine?
That depends on the typology of grape that the wine comes from, the proportion of wine to the volume of the glass, the site characteristics of the terroir from which the grape was harvested, the context in which the glass of wine is poured, whether it is a traditional expression or a modern blend….even the rhythm the wine gives as it’s poured into the glass.
The wonderful connections of design and mixology…always a congenial combination.
[Photos by ME]
Glassware, glassware, glassware. What type to be used, what drink it will hold, where does it come from — wait, where does it come from? Isn’t it a given that everyone uses the same glasses for their cocktails, no matter the location? Isn’t a shot a shot, no matter if it’s taken in Jalisco or Holland?
Bombay Sapphire sponsors a glass design competition, and with the most synonymous gin cocktail being a Martini, that’s what the designs are generally tailored to. However, you do see some very interesting designs coming from many different international locales. It’s great to see designers put a cultural spin on an object that is thought to be iconic, like there’s only one standard to work from.
I had the pleasure of attending the final exhibition held in London several years ago and was impressed, excited, and inspired by what I saw. Design is art, yes, but there’s also a function to objects that are designed — it’s not solely about how it looks. With the cocktail glass, there’s the obvious purpose — to hold the cocktail and allow it to be experienced — but there are many different methods one can undertake. Cheers, indeed, on making a cocktail even better than its components alone.
Drinking and driving are a bad combination; this is time-tested and Mother-approved. Unless you’re sipping some 18yr Borderies in the back of your Maybach, and everyone knows that only happens on Thursday mornings. However, the automotive+imbibing combination can get intriguing in the realm of good ol’ cross-branding.
Design is a term that encompasses many activities, traversing many areas of culture; maybe too many at times. An eye for design can lead a person to execute many products — buildings for architecture, logos for graphic design, shoes for fashion design, etc. But why stay constrained to just one sandbox? Isn’t there enough room for everyone to play? All designers learn techniques and conventions native to one craft, but overlying principles of concept development, object proportion, and visual aesthetics come into play whether the aim is to create a magazine cover, a television, or a sports car.
Porsche Design has taken this mantra to the tilt, designing products as diverse as inkpens, golf clubs, and eyeglasses, not to mention the supercars we all know and love. The studio has also made eye-catching inroads into the spirits world, with collaborations with Johnnie Walker, Veuve Clicquot, and Veltins. While the Walker and Clicquot products are super-luxury items — because EVERYONE has $155K laying around for a whisky bar that opens with automatic sensors — but the attention to design details is immaculate. The Walker bar is made of stainless steel, leather, and wood materials; some of its accessories are also custom-designed. The design of the Clicquot refrigerator takes cues from the stacked positioning of the bottles inside, and Porsche even designed a custom label for the bottles, carrying the design even further through the product. The sky really is the limit to design, and when we have such wondrous, spirituous muses, that’s what should be expected, no?
What are all the senses that comprise the experience of a spirit or a cocktail? A few are obvious — taste, sight, smell, touch — but is there something missing? What is that “fifth element” that takes the cocktail to extraterrestrial heights?
Various cocktails have basic compositions for their elements: strong/weak/sweet/sour, spirit/sweet/sour/bitters, sparkling/aperitif/bitters/sugar, among many other spirituous combinations. In this superfecta of choices, is ice the “fifth element”? Has LeeLoo traded her orange “Sideshow” bob for a coiff that’s either cubed or crushed?
When you’re walking through the aisles of your favorite spirits store, what makes you stop? When there are “racks-and-racks-and-racks” of so many types of gin, vodka, rum, and whatever else you can think of, at what point do you stop walking and start to make a decision? When you see a bottle with a nice price point to it? When you take the bottle in your hands and admire its distinctive design? Maybe if you’re at the bar, and your local barkeep has handed you something the establishment got in, you take out the cork and get a whiff of this intriguing liqueur he was raving about. If he offers you a tipple of it, is that enough to win you over? Or do you have to put your ear to the bottle and hear the whispers of….alright, that’s taking things a bit too far!
Umami is a term from the culinary world that stands for the “savory” element of food. Since this is a stretch to describe apart from the other four — sweet, sour, bitter, salty — it’s said to be the fifth element of taste and represents the “indescribable” part. While there are subjective aspects to flavor profiles, there are also some very objective aspects: a type of gin has a certain amount of flavoring botanicals, for example, that have their own distinct flavors. Maybe since certain culinary ingredients are entering the cocktail world, the “savory” can be experienced now. Or somewhat experienced, as the umami takes over your palate….
**Thanks to Christophe of Local Wine + Spirits blog for introducing me to the term umami.**
What image does “retro” have in your mind? Is “modern vintage” an oxymoron or can those two terms mutually exist? In the search for the next best thing, is the past something we should casually review or extensively cull from?
Many attempts are made to reach this combination of present and past, through a multitude of cultural objects. The Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang all reached for the old school/classic car enthusiast in all of us, harkening back to the days of pure-bred, American muscle. The tragic story of Amy Winehouse recalls many rock legends who passed at an early age, and her mid-20th century rhythm and blues situated her right in line with singers of that era. As many architects and interior designers that have a distinctly sharp modern aesthetic, there are countless others that utilize the warm feelings of past styles as their point of reference.
The success and intercultural influence of the 50s/60s-era period piece Mad Men reflects popular culture walking the tightrope between “now” and “then”. The TV show is literally transforming into a “brand”. Banana Republic looked to the vintage fashion to reinvigorate its clothing line, creating a “special release” Mad Men-inspired collection. It has sparked a renewed interest in mid-20th century cocktails, libations borne of The Hour — dry martinis, Manhattans, Sidecars, among many others — that AMC published a cocktail guide on its homepage. While the glassware selections and instructions might make some mixologists raise an eyebrow, the effect is certain: this train is beginning to pick up some steam. If people begin to generate interest in classic bases of cocktails, and discover that every drink doesn’t have to include sour mix or some pre-mixed/sugarrific/powder base, that the spirituous ingredients have wondrous flavors that should not be masked, you’ll soon see your local bartender smiling a bit more as you belly up to the bar.
(Source: The Huffington Post)