The culinary world has absolutely taken over television. There are all types of competition shows — MasterChef, Top Chef, The Taste, among others. There are travel shows where people like Guy Fieri dine, drive-in, and dive, Adam Richman takes on the notable adversary food, and Anthony Bourdain takes you around the world to find things you may not have wanted in the first place. I’m leaving out all types of spinoff shows, cupcake rom-com’s, and regular shows where chefs are the most wanted.
What about bartenders — did we get left out? Is Isaac from The Love Boat the most famous bartender that will ever grace the small screen?
Several shows are trying to help bridge the gap between the culinary world and the drinking place. You may catch a blurb of happenings in the mixological world on your favorite late-Saturday night programming, LX TV (Lifestyle Television). The host on 1st Look often happens upon wondrous new drinking places that may make your palate tickle, but the main show that gets all the bartenders cheering is On The Rocks — a real, bare-knuckles, grab-your-muddler-and-tussle cocktail competition show. It actually stars REAL bartenders that you may have gotten served by in REAL life…fancy that! It’s not a show full of model props that show up, look good, then get kicked off, like many other reality shows and competitions. They’ve got a few seasons under already, so go on and catch up!
Another show that may raise your eyebrow a bit is Mixology. If there will ever be a show that brings bellies up to the bar, that’s gotta be it, right? Maybe. It’s a show in the format of the Jack Bauer-thrilling “24”, but Mixology is more like “6”, or “8” if you got lucky that night. It’s all about what happens in one night. That’s it, no “try, try again”, or “there are other fish in the sea”. You’ve got one night to see how things unfold. Yet to see how prominent the barkeeps are in this show, but it’ll be great to see how they hold court.
So saddle up, grab your popcorn, and your best homebar cocktail and turn on the TV! Or head down to your fave watering hole that has a tube and tune in there — and don’t forget to pat your bartender on the back for all the inspiration!
“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!
“The attention of the Middlesex magistrates has been called to the demoralizing consequences likely to ensue in the middling and lower classes from the alarming increase of gin-shops in every direction, in and around the metropolis, by the conversion of what used to be quiet respectable public houses, where the laboring population could find the accommodation of a tap room or parlor in which to take the meals or refreshment they might require, into flaming dram shops, having no accommodation for persons to sit down, and where the only allurement held out was the promise of ‘Cheap Gin’.” — Victorian Pubs, by Mark Girouard
“Ten-year-old Jazimen Warr had nestled on her sister’s shoulder, the two children sleeping in the back of the family’s Cherokee on the drive to a relative’s home in Bowie. She was killed and the rest of her family sustained injuries in the crash.
That was Aug. 21, 2008.
Now, that crash on Interstate 270 could upend Maryland law and allow victims of drunken-driving crashes and their families to sue bars and restaurants if their inebriated patrons cause deaths and injuries.
Moves in the past two years by lawmakers from Montgomery County to create in Maryland what’s known as a “dram shop liability” law — the term essentially relates to a bar or tavern selling alcohol, with “dram” being a small unit of measure — didn’t make it out of the House Judiciary Committee.” — Baltimore Sun, “Maryland court considers liability of bars in drunken-driving crashes”
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!
Cause célèbre: Best of friends. Good tidings. Youthful energy. All the makings of a red cup night.
But all that can turn bad quickly. Quicker than the growth spurt they had over last summer.
To ask what it is that makes underage youth drink is to ask why the sky is blue, why lions eat antelope, and if I’ve ever tasted pumpkin pie before — it just is, they just do, don’t ask me no crazy question like that! But I digress…while I was doing research into the English pub in London, one colleague told me that youths there “aspire to the pub…” It’s the same with youth on this side of the pond — there’s something about looking at that big number “21” that makes you lunge closer and closer to the finish line, until you notice that you’ve started the race before your time. That’s when trouble sets in.
There is something about underage drinking that has gotten more troubling in years past, and I hope I am not taking a nostalgic stance to this issue. Between me, you, and my laptop, I participated in a bit of underage drinking…(egads!! Not the good people at ThCgnlHr!!!)…a few sips with a couple friends, from a shared cup of Bacardi Limon & Sprite. It was the emollient to, wait for it….watching television — quite the daredevil I was in my younger days. Were we participating in illegal activity? Absolutely. What was the obvious consequence of our crime? Probably changing the channel. Not to cast shade on the youngbloods of today, but there seems to exist the wont to get things “turnt up” a notch, to the point where things become increasingly unsafe, to the point where things may not return to the way they were. It becomes less about youths doing something mischievous and strays into a space where no one should be doing these things regardless of their age.
This post isn’t a condemnation of all things young and spontaneous. I didn’t take my first drink after your granddaddy’s war, nor did I walk 18 miles to school every day, both ways, through the snow in July. While I have never been in the position of recent youths in Steubenville, OH or Loudoun County, VA, we’re all one bad choice away from the same predicament. This an overture to young people everywhere that as my London colleague said, we must aspire to something. The greatest thing about drinking is that, Lord willin’, we will get to enjoy the next one. Let’s ALL aspire to that next drink, while enjoying the current one in a congenial manner.
“Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it/I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.” — Rocko feat. Rick Ross, “U.O.E.N.O.”
With those lyrics, Rick Ross set off a flurry of backlash against his seemingly nonchalant approach towards sexual assault via date rape drugs. Does Ross deserve the benefit of the doubt that you would normally offer an artiste of his girth — errr, I mean, stature — or was the witch hunt rightfully due?
There are human rights violations that The Congenial Hour is not the authority on, so let’s tread a bit to the other side of the “date rape” issue — gender relations within drinking culture. The question that has been asked more times than any other in drinking culture is, “Can I buy you a drink?” Seems simple enough, but in the bottle service environment that Mr. Rozay is known for, the question is usually, “Can I pour/offer you a drink?” If you are willing to forgo whatever preferences you have towards a drink, and purely accept whatever someone hands you…well, that doesn’t say too much for your sensibilities. Further, it is always better when the bartender prepares your cocktail, then hands it directly to you. Al-ways. That is not to be debated — in terms of using the proper care, craft, and technique. Why would you have just anyone pour you a drink when there’s a person who has come to the establishment specifically for that reason?
And when you’re not by your glass, how about using that handy cocktail napkin to cover it? That has been used for eons to ensure a half-finished cocktail isn’t discarded, or to let a newly-entered patron know that someone is sitting at the seat in question. But what it also could be used for is an informal way to ensure no one can casually drop something in your drink. A steel trap it is not, but better something than just air.
Finally, it pains me to write a blog about this issue, but as the Ross lyrics debate showed, it resonates with a lot of people. But as the rapper N.O.R.E. has stated, he has seen the date rape drug game play on BOTH sides of the field — that’s something you don’t hear every day. I guess both dudes & dolls should be on their p’s and q’s — pour your own pints and quarts. The drink you accept may be a glass of smoking Tang!
“Seems almost un-American to me for a bachelor not to go around having a drink with a lady now and then….” — Joe Willie Namath
What gets you in the mood for sharing some congenial time with a young lady? Maybe the low-key jazz stylings of “The Girl From Ipanema”? How about finishing a deadline?? The sound of silence, the essence of calm…Nothing better to open your mind, body, and soul than to get something hot off your plate, allowing you to focus on nothing but the person on the other side of that glass. Broadway Joe knew it best, and we should heed his advice. Cheers to all the Tax Day Warriors out there — enjoy this evening!
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
‘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.
The Congenial Hour will soon give way to The Closing Hour — polls in such battleground states as Virginia, and other early-closing polls such as Vermont, Indiana, Georgia, and a few others. This is about to be a long night.
The Congenial Hour holds no partisan feelings. We hold the rights of ALL people to choose whatever spirit you like, patronize whatever drinking place you fancy, and imbibe in a style all unto yourself.
But The Congenial Hour would like to applaud President Barack Obama for showing how to bring compromise and understanding, through his Beer Summit. And how many other Presidents released a recipe for their homebrew made in the bowels of the White House itself?
Let’s toast the man that has continually chosen to raise the bar. Let’s move FORWARD.
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…
It’s October, and that signals more than the onslaught of carved pumpkins — it’s playoff baseball. Several series have ended, as fans in Cincinnati & Oakland join Atlanta & Texas in lamenting, “There’s always next year.” But, for Detroit & San Francisco, their players are exclaiming, “It’s a celebration!” And you know what that celebration brings with it — bottles and bottles of bubbles.
Champagne celebrations in the locker room have followed wins in the division series, the pennant, and World Series for seemingly as long as people have been watching baseball. Joe & Jane Q. Public often pop a bottle to celebrate many occasions in their lives, from their children’s christenings to getting a promotion at the job to a landmark birthday. I’ve also previously written about using champagne to mark the maiden voyage of a ship. While many occasions use champagne, where the shark is jumped is that baseball takes the usage to the extreme — champagne sprayed everywhere, on heads, down shirts, on walls, on cameramen. Attire often includes ponchos, goggles, and towels. A bog of excitement and glee.
Baseball has taken attempts to curb the enthusiasm of players recently, by instituting limits on the amount of bubbles spewed about, and also requiring non-alcoholic options like sparkling juice and ginger ale. Maybe that can be seen as raining on the players’ parade, but they’ve got to realize that the flaunting doesn’t convey the best image to their families and all their fans. But hey, at least for one day, let’s just bathe in the joy of accomplishment. We might lose tomorrow, but we’ll deal with that then. For today, we’re on a natural high — on grapes that have been naturally harvested and fermented! Prost to your bubbles!
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!
“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.