“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”
Six plus six equals twelve. Perfect for numerology and outstanding for such a symbolic day as one year removed from stepping out to bring discourse to the world of drinking culture.
I hope I’ve brought exciting topics to the table. I hope I’ve mentioned a few things that piqued your interest or intrigued you. I hope I commented on a few current events that were timely. I hope that Mr. DeVoto kept a common thread through every post, and that everything made sense.
I trust that you’ve found a new drinking place, with warm lights and an open door, and that you’ve confidently and comfortably stepped inside. I hope that you’ve used something I’ve posted to stimulate conversation in that drinking place. I hope that I helped to make for a congenial experience. Above all, I hope that you’ll keep returning to my environment of drinking culture, The Congenial Hour. Cheers!
“And now we must be certain it is the right bar. This is one of the most satisfying of all the settings and combinations that life affords…
Quiet and softly lighted, of course, not necessarily tiny but at least small, only a few stools for the solitary, and if banquettes then not violently colored, if booths then not cramped. There is no more fitting place for the slackening of exigency, the withdrawal of necessity…
Time is extensible, no hour must be met, there is no pressure to go anywhere else…” — The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto, by Bernard DeVoto
**Another trend is developing — cheers to Joshua Lindo of Eye Journey (www.eyejourney.co.uk) for the photograph!**
“Never be cynical about bars, in fact, though it is right to be wary. A glory of American culture is that there is no place so far and no village so small that you cannot find a bar when you want to. (True, in some of the ruder states it must present itself fictitiously as a club or nostalgically as a speakeasy.) Many are resourceful than the label admits, many others water their whiskey, many are bad or even lousy…But do not scorn any of them, not even the neon-lighted or the television-equipped, for any may sustain you in a needful hour. And each of us knows a fair number of good bars and perhaps even a great one. The good bar extends across America, the quiet place, the place that answers to your mood, the upholder of the tavern’s great tradition, the welcoming shelter and refuge and sanctuary — and any man of virtue and studious habits may count on finding it. If you hear of any I’ve missed, let me know. Let us all know.
But a bar, though often a necessity and often an ornament of culture, is for a need, a whim, or perhaps an urgency. For the fleeting hour. For the moment — the high moment, or the low. For, perhaps, the meeting…bars are a convenience, an assist, a stay and an upholding…” — Bernard DeVoto, The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto
[Photos by ME]
“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.
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.
[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
Do you have respect for your drinking place? Do you know of its history? People have come and gone, both neighborhood dwellers and curious tourists — does that matter to you? Have you ever taken the time to engage one of these persons in conversation, to see what brought them to the place you’ve visited on so many occasions?
Are you informed about the design of its environment? Are there certain details that you think are useful, creative, or notable? Does it pique your interest at all, or do you just order another and keep the spirits flowing, while ignoring the architectonic spirit that infuses the bar, the walls, the lighting, and the millwork?
Slow down one time. Take a sip. Look around. See that over there. Notice that up there? You haven’t paid attention to that before. Ask the bartender about it. Then ask that fellow next to you about it. Maybe they haven’t either. They might want to talk about it, too. Who knows — there might be a lot more to the space than you previously thought. Maybe around 300 years of it.
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.
If it’s two things the good people at The Congenial Hour love, it’s architecture and hip hop. I mean, cocktails and England. Or perhaps it was fashion and drinking places? Oh bother, I can’t seem to remember.
But out of all the connections and combinations illuminated through drinking culture, the tag team of architecture & hip hop has to be one of the most enjoyable. Not only do both of those areas of culture bring joy and happiness to the world over, affecting us on a daily basis, but they’ve also served as personal motivation the last decade or so. It’s a great thing when I can bring instances of these two worlds colliding to the wonderful public.
Here we have one of the elder statesmen of hip hop, Ice Cube, discussing the Eames House, an object of prefabrication included in the Case Study House program and, as Brother Cube so eloquently states, “…going green 1949-style, b*tch.” Architectural theory, indeed.
The good Dr. Ice also mentions that he studied architectural drafting before rapping straight outta the CPT. That must’ve been why he did so much work with Chuck D — who also considered architecture early before switching to graphic design — and the Bomb Squad in his early albums. Maybe they can rekindle their magic and get Havoc from Mobb Deep to produce a new album, as he previously said he would be an architect today, had Mobb Deep not put Hennessy on the front of their jerseys and taken over the world. Or possibly the three of them can get in on some flag football and have Andrew Luck play quarterback. These things can easily be worked out over a nice cocktail….errr, I mean, a couple 40s of St. Ides. Sorry, Cube.
The “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom has often been referred to throughout modern history. It affords opportunities to analyze many “special relationships” at a macro level (internationally) and see how they manifest themselves on a micro level (domestically). What does this phenomenon show us in regards to cultural identity on both sides of “the pond”? How does the connection of cultural identity to space reveal itself on both sides of “the pond”? We can study these issues through scholarly approaches of environmental psychology or anthropology, preferably through doctorate-level studies.
Or we can just watch Get Him to the Greek.
Of all the issues tied up in Get Him to the Greek — the aims of a wayward music industry, substance abuse, current & post-relationship stress and coping mechanisms — the drinking culture that is shown throughout the movie is simultaneously obvious and tacit. At times, it takes on the persona of Aldous Snow: direct, full-force, and with the volume turnt up to the red. Full of shots of straight liquor, binge drinking, and alcohol abuse. At other times, it takes on the persona of Aaron Green: low-key, thoughtful, and hesitant. Deep and thoughtful conversations over a couple fingers of brown, enjoying a pint while keeping one eye on your watch.
What does the drinking culture displayed in the movie tell us about ourselves? What does it tell us about our English cousins? British relationships to their lineage of spirits, traditional drinking places, and personal styles of cocktail culture are something we should usually envy, as they’ve held steadfast throughout the generations, withstanding the onslaught of shots Jager Bombs, TGI Friday’s, and cake/cupcake/whipped cream-flavored vodka we’ve weathered stateside. With each drink, Aaron seems to discover more about Aldous, and with each cocktail he hands him, Aldous finds out more about Aaron’s personal limit, and what he stands for at his core. They say what you drink says a lot about you, but you also learn a lot about a person both how they drink and while you’re drinking with them. This is key during the movie — it’s not just that Aaron and Aldous share countless amounts of spirits on their trip from London to L.A., but the different environments in which they imbibe, as well as the particular manners involved. As the rundown shows:
Aaron: “This lager hits the spot…” — bottled lager
Aldous: “Bushmills!!” — shots of Irish whiskey at a “bourgeois s**thole”
Rounds of pints at an outdoor lounge, the shenanigans begin, the social misfits are released…
Drinks at a nightclub while mingling — champagne from a stemmed glass/flute
Champagne flutes at a nightclub table service
Beer in plastic cups at a fountain — public skullduggery
Champagne toast on an airplane
Aldous: “I’m feeling a bit sleepy…” — Aaron, whiskey from a flask in a limo
All the brown from the decanter inside the limo
Round of brown at the bar, neat: celebratory drink, good spirits
Aldous: “Hello, love.” Aaron: “‘Eh-lo, luv.” Round of classic/dirty martinis at the bar: deeper conversation, cultural exchange
Aldous: “…a little sip of naughty water…” — absinthe at the bar
Assorted drinks backing the absinthe
Drinking straight from the bottle on the car hood
Bottle of Ketel One while reminiscing
Bottled beer in a airport lounge
Classic martinis at a Vegas show while watching the Rat Pack show
Round of cocktails and shots and beers at a restaurant, post-show
Toasts of brown at a strip club
Drinks back at a hotel lounge after the club
The range of drinking culture is beyond apparent. English. American. Classic. Contemporary. Clear spirits. Brown spirits. Fermented beverages. Bubbles. Diddy the vodka ambassador. Pharrell the liqueur ambassador. So much it’ll make you stroke a furry wall. Stay congenial, my friends.
[Photos by ME]
“A person’s sitting alone and apart from others, facing a wall in a library, probably means they want to be left alone to study. In a bar, this same physical behavior can be interpreted as an invitation for conversation. The person might still reject the advances, but is unlikely to be distressed and insulted…” John Zeisel, Inquiry by Design
What can a person observe about behavior in drinking places? Is it all about what they see — the bottles on the backbar, the barkeep in action, the “bric-a-brac”? Is it all about the place itself — the height of the bar stools, the color of the wood on the bar, the ratio of tables to the size of the bar? Is it all about what activities are taking place — dancing to live music, spontaneous networking with other patrons, smartphoning by oneself, or playing pool with the weekly league? Can you distinguish the personal relationships — if people are newbies, friends of the establishment, or regulars?
All these elements add up to your enjoyment, whether direct/explicit or indirect/tacit, of a drinking place. It helps to show you what types of places you enjoy frequenting and what places you should avoid. In case of doubt, always listen to yourself — regardless of all your interests, activities, and wants, you know yourself better than anyone. In the midst of an ever-changing world, you can point yourself to the best place to feel warm upon entering, catch a smile from the barkeep as you order, and a handshake upon introducing yourself to the person next to you.
Stay congenial, my friends.
[continued from previous post]
….Rye Old Fashioned, please…no cherry, and only orange peel.” More celestial words were never uttered.
The Old Fashioned won me over the first time I discovered it, while reading Drinkology: The Art and Science of the Cocktail, years ago. To read that it was considered the “first” cocktail says a lot. How long have people been drinking? Eons. And how many cocktails are there in existence? Googobs. To still be able to pick out the very “first”, the granddaddy of them all — well, I just had to have one of these.
For reasons that I’m sure are TOTALLY unrelated to the number of Old Fashioneds I’ve had since then, I can’t remember when or where I had my first one. But I do remember where it really began to wow me — in jolly ol’ Londontown. It was there, at the Ruby Grand in Hammersmith, that I first saw the spectacle of placing the cocktail napkin over the rocks glass, setting one sugar cube on top and letting the bitters soak into it. When it was sufficiently soaked, the trusty barkeep would then use it as a slide — Wheeeeeeeeee!!!! — and slip the soaked cube into the glass. I remember at the Florodita in Soho, that the bartender would then pour a measure of my selected rye or bourbon into the glass, and ever so gently drop one ice cube into the glass, and begin to stir, repeating this a couple of times, with a focus I’d never seen before. I remember after ordering one at an energetic lounge in Islington on Upper Street, the bartender got the OK from his supervisor to offer me a double of anything else I’d order — because an Old Fashioned required THIRTEEN minutes to prepare, and he’d dare not affect its quality by rushing it on a hectic Saturday night. I gladly obliged with the utmost respect.
Many things can make you nostalgic; drinking is near the top of that list. Whenever I share an Old Fashioned with friends, explaining its relevance to cocktail culture and history of drink, that warm feeling in my belly feels just a bit warmer. Friends tell me I have an old soul, but the Old Fashioned just feels right. I look down at my glass, swirl the whiskey around the orange peel, and catch the glass winking back at me, almost exclaiming, “Yes, we’ve had a good connection over the years…always good to see you.”
Stay congenial, my friends.
[Photos by ME]
“Punch started up in the parlour of the Edinburgh Castle in the Strand in 1841, and its staff later frequented the Crown and Sugar Loaf in Fleet Street in such numbers that its name was changed to Punch’s Tavern. Punch was only the best known of early Victorian periodicals associated with taverns.” — Victorian Pubs, by Mark Girouard
Inscription in Cittie of Yorke, an English pub located in Holborn in Central London, said to have the longest bar in Britain.
in vino veritas — “in wine, (there is) truth”
“If my language has a touch of turbulence, do not marvel: partly the wine exalts me; partly that love which ever dwells within my heart of hearts now pricks me forward to use great boldness of speech against his base antagonist.”
— Socrates, from Xenophon, The Symposium
Drinking culture surrounds us; a great and tangible thing, it is. All the tacit nuances that exist within urbanity express this — examples are too vast and numerous to relegate drinking places to indirect objects of common culture and unworthy of analysis. Their centuries-old history is not akin to a tree falling in the forest….
“Even the most perceptive writers about them have tended to treat them as folk-art and taken it for granted that exact dates, names or architects and craftsmen, or particulars of what they cost or who commissioned them cannot be hoped for…
In the center of London, they still exist in abundant numbers…In Victorian days, their abundance was reckless and, in the eyes of the Temperance reformers, scandalous.
As the streetlights dimly lit up in the twilight the pubs lit up far more brightly; long rows of monstrous lanterns stretched out into the street on curling and caparisoned tentacles of wrought iron and underneath them walls of sinuously bending and elaborately engraved glass were lit from the inside by an inner row of blazing globes…” — Victorian Pubs by Mark Girouard
[Photos by ME]