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
When talking drinking, hearing the word “Hurricane” usually makes people shudder. The cocktail-as-named has been known to make many a person quiver under the multiple rums used; the curvaceous glass has no soft touch for light imbibers. It can be a very tasty drink if crafted respectfully, but does not hold the same refreshment quotient as a G&T or Cape Codder.
Similarly, hearing the word “hurricane” can give distillers and owners of establishments a queasy stomach. It can bring an early end to tourist season, let the air out of a vacation weekend, or totally damage the building, putting the owner totally out of business. For a distiller, years of age can be upset by water’s force, damaging warehouses, contaminating barrels, and ruining the ROI that a fine whisk(e)y offers.
In this article, the Old New Orleans Rum brand shows that there is sunlight after the storm passes. Hurricane Katrina brought damage unlike any seen before, but this spirits brand found a way out when they didn’t think there was, and also when they weren’t looking for it. Hurricane Sandy is shaping up to damage many areas of the country as well, but hopefully we can calmly sip a bit of spiced brown until the waters recede.
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….
I poured the ingredients into the mixing glass: some Irish spirit, some herbal aperitif, couple handmade modifiers and sweeteners. Shook the cocktail like my life depended on it, and strained it into the waiting wine glass. With a shimmer on my tooth and a bead of sweat on my forehead, I offered one to the first woman, and extended another to her friend.
“Oh, no thanks, I don’t drink. I’m pure,” she explained.
I almost fell out.
Never in life had I received that response; I was unsure what exactly she meant. It was definitely funny, as her friend also started laughing, and she said with a smile, “Why does everyone always find that funny?” I replied that I’d just never received that explanation or rationale before — it’s usually a range of responses from what people don’t like or don’t prefer.
But when I finally got her to explain her point, she pointed to a history of seeing some family members, and friends, impaired by alcohol and not wanting to repeat those same steps. Many of us can often follow these “breadcrumbs” down the path of our lives to see why we are the way we are, and why we drink, or don’t drink, particular things. And to each their own — one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and if you don’t drink, there’s more for the rest of us!
However, all jokes and surplus whisky aside, the main intent should always be what keeps us the healthiest. Although, it seems that is up for debate, as this article points out. Many doctors have pointed to the antioxidant properties in red wine as offering a health benefit, but this article goes a step beyond, pointing out that a study found increased mortality rates in teetotalers, higher than both heavy and moderate drinkers. What does it mean? Does this signal a paradigm shift? Has the table turned? I’ll consider that over my two fingers of genever.
The Congenial Hour strives to push the discourse in and around drinking culture. While drinks can be had at many different environments, this liquid transaction usually occurs across a bar, with one individual joining another individual to exchange libations for sufficient coin of the realm — seems pretty simple. Oh, but that’s why they play the game.
There are many aspects and layers of nuance to this transaction, but the point person — the bartender — holds all the cards. Everyone and everything is at his bidding; regular patrons, first-time visitors, cocktails, beer, wine, and all else. Nothing moves without his say-so.
What are some things that affect the “movement”? Ah ha, now we’re talking! That is the crux of discussion for this article: all the idiosyncrasies of the bartender and how you should seek to navigate them, in order to remain on his good side and ensure that your liquid transaction remains fluid. Hopefully, the different topics on this blog have prepared you: issues of what to drink, how to drink, and the environment in which you drink. These aren’t always issues that get down to the specifics of how often an establishment should slice garnishes, how digital pourers are operated, and what the sales volume was for the beverage alcohol industry last year.
A holistic cognizance of what you choose to get poured in your glass, etiquette for the ones serving you and others you come in contact with, and an awareness of the quality of operations of the establishments you choose to frequent lies at the heart of my discussions. I doubt if any of the 13 issues in the article will have you surprised or stumped; you probably knew them already!
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.
Shoes and cocktails. A necessary combination. Appear without shoes — and possibly a matching shirt — and you get no service. Out of luck. Monsooned in the middle of nowhere.
And who would want to miss out on such service as the bartender in this video — serving up a wonderfully flexible cocktail type — the cobbler. The cobbler, like the highball, comes in many forms and is not limited to one spirit. It may come in different types of glassware, and you may also find some containing fruit and/or a wine-based spirit. But, two defining characteristics lie at the heart of this cocktail: sugar and crushed ice. Nothing like knowing you have a long path ahead of you with a couple scoops of sugar and ice that’s as easy on the eyes as….well, I’m sure you know who you’re thinking of.
I’ve come to enjoy the cobbler myself, even before I knew its name. The flexibility of fresh fruit you can add, molding the crushed or fine ice over the top of the glass — it really makes for an enjoyable cocktailing experience. You just sit back, kick your feet up, and look at your shoes in front of you. The shoes that you spent good money on, that you take TSA-type levels of security to prevent anyone or anything from getting on, that you whisper a couple sweet nothings to before returning them to your hanging shoe rack with cedar inserts, or right after you place the aluminum shoe trees that your father gave you into each one. You look at the sole — getting a bit worn, maybe from the time you spent running to the train before your job interview. And, egads — a scuff near the heel! No worries…all it takes is a trip down to see your favorite cobbler. Not the one with rye whiskey, brandy, muddled white peaches, and demerara sugar, but the one that knows exactly what your shoes need and how to get them there. Although, he’s kind of like the guy that serves you your favorite cobbler — always hospitable, offering just the right service at the right time, and gets you back on your feet in no time. Cheers, gents.
A few spirit-influenced songs for your listening pleasure. Liquor is sometimes a casual mention in rap songs, and these songs hold true to that technique.
Kid Cudi brings his rap-singy style to “Dennis, Hook Me Up With Some More of That Whiskey!”, the shortest title in hip hop history. There’s no mention of who Dennis is, his prowess as a drink-slinger, or what type of whisk(e)y he hooked Cudi up with, but fans of Cudi should still be enthused.
Rapper Action Bronson waxes poetic about the Australian export “Shiraz”. The closest mention to spirits is the lyric, “Aged wine got me spinning like a dreidel,” but brandy or cognac is probably the topic of that line. Maybe A.B. is pushing for more VSOP in the Queens, NYC area?
Finally, Brooklyn rapper Troy Ave meshes with his borough-bredren Fabolous on the remix track “Merlot pt Deux”. Again, no focus on the roundness of the dry red, but an allusion to how struggles in conversation with a partner turns a man toward the drink. Hey, what else could you ask for? Unless someone tells Paul Pacult to pick up a mic….
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!
The premise of this post is just one small sidenote of a hilarious article. In the article, the writer mentions a “50-yr old ceramic jug of Kentucky bourbon that had been passed down to him by his father.” When the jug met its demise, the father’s reaction was absolutely hilarious, not to mention the adage he dropped unto his son, who had been contemplating his inevitable doom.
But to digress, the relationship of kids driving you to the bottle, or the struggle of keeping them from the bottle, or the joy of introducing them to the bottle, is what their exchange brings up in my eyes. In some families, children are drinking bits of beer and brandy from pre-teen ages, while in others, it’s like 1919-1933 all over again.
What’s the best approach? If there was an answer to that question, there’d also be an answer to the question, “What’s the best way to raise kids?” Having none myself, my best advice is to ensure they know the good things about the bottle. Having something with familial connections is important, regardless if it’s “just” liquor. But showing them how to cherish certain things, while keeping them at arm’s length or moderation, is a lesson you can relate to almost any other situation your little ones get into.
From the Hennessy football jerseys, to kicking it with girls by the name of E&J and Henn Rock, before they “guzzle the whole bottle, that’s a New York sip…”, before rocking the grown-up Hennessy t-shirts, these guys have really come full circle. Make it a double of French grapes for these two, hold the glass.
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.”
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.
Ash Wednesday. Not the day that you profess to only drink products that come from charred white oak barrels, but the day you start upon your quest of reflection. A quest that tries to remove worldly desires in an effort to focus on the spiritual.
For many people, “worldly desires” can be put into two scattergories: sweets and spirits. The last crate of Twinkies is deep-fried before the clock strikes midnight and the cask of Very Superior Old Pale cognac is sealed shut, lest you turn back into a brandy-infused pumpkin. Where does this piety of distillation come from? Is your manner of drinking really something you should do away with for 40 days and 40 nights? Are you hanging onto the wagon by a thread?
The issue at hand is that of excess. If you live the life of a Jersey Shore episode, a never-ending cycle of pre-gaming, binge drinking, fighting, promiscuity, throwing up, and regret, maybe a little time away from the bottle will do you good. But what if your time is spent respecting the bottle — going to Scotch sipping meetups, joining old friends in a bout of remembrance and nostalgia, or preparing little congenial treats for close family? Is that cause for a month-and-a-half of neglect? If you spend time exchanging knowledge of new places and spaces, in good conversation with your fellow man, shouldn’t you get a “pass”?
Then again, there are some things that we aren’t supposed to question. Lord Willin’, 40 will turn to 39, which will turn to 38, which will turn to 37, and so on, until you can fully embrace your full spirit again. In the meantime, become a monk. Some monasteries are involved in activities that’ll help you bide the time.
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.