What would you do if you walked up to your favorite watering hole…and your favorite rapper was behind the bar? How would you greet him? Would you order the same thing or sample something different? Would you order something he referenced in a rhyme? Would you try to test his mettle — either asking about the new Grand Marnier Natural Cherry, throw some Cherry Heering in a cocktail, or maybe a bit of kirschwasser, neat — in a bit of a mixology battle?
Soon we’ll be able to answer these questions. #LifeIsGood
“Everything’s good, everything’s fine….yeah, pour a little cherry wine…” — Nas, “Cherrywine”, Life Is Good
“Forbidden fruit is any object of desire whose appeal is a direct result of knowledge that cannot or should not be obtained or something that someone may want but is forbidden to have.
In Western Europe, the fruit was often depicted as an apple…The larynx in the human throat, noticeably more prominent in males, was consequently called an Adam’s apple, from a notion that it was caused by the forbidden fruit sticking from Adam’s throat as he swallowed.” — From Wikipedia entry for Forbidden Fruit
Adam’s Apple (The Forbidden Fruit)
1 1/2oz Jim Beam Devil’s Cut
1oz Thatcher’s Apple Spice Ginger Liqueur
1/2oz triple sec or premium orange curacao
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Sliver of Granny Smith apple for garnish
With hope in your heart for redemption, add all ingredients to mixing glass over ice. Stir briskly, aiming for atonement. Place julep strainer firmly within mixing glass and pour contents into a cocktail glass, chilled with the breath of the saints. Brandish your saber and cut a heavenly sliver of the Granny Smith apple and float on top of the cocktail. Raise to your nose and inhale for knowledge, seeking to obtain the mash content of the Devil’s Cut, the spice combination in the liqueur, and the age of dear Grandmother Smith. Take a sip and repent. Then, with renewed heart, clear mind, and sound body, repeat.
Fill kettle with water. Place on stove on medium-low flame. Cut peels from three clementines and put in kettle; eat innards to boost Vitamin C. Go retrieve Bombay Sapphire and Becherovka from cocktail cabinet — botanicals, herbs, and spices to the rescue! Struggle with Ron Zacapa molasses jar. Emit hearty harrumph. Repeat three more times until finally open. Get mint tea bag from pantry. Retrieve Givenchy mug from wall cabinet. Feel good about the slogan: “A Sign of Intelligent Life.” Hear kettle beckon. Pour hot water into mug over teabag; let steep. Add Zacapa molasses and stir. Smile that you cannot smell the molasses clearly. Add gin and liqueur to mixture. Add lemon juice to cup. Stir. Smile. Retrieve ground ginger from cabinet; sprinkle on top. Smile again. Sip. Smile for the thrice time. Retreat to create post.
You learn how to play sports during recess. You learn how to tie a knot and light a fire in the Boy Scouts. You learn how to wear a tuxedo at your high school prom.
How and where do you learn to drink?
A great man in London once told me that, “When you’re young, you aspire to the pub.” In a contemporary American context, yutes usually aspire to the nightclub. The corner/neighborhood bar notwithstanding, Da Club runs these streets. Holiday, birthday, Saturday, bored today — nothing holds up to going out to Da Club, taking in the lovely sights and thumping music. We put up with the lines, the cover charges, even the propensity for random and multiple gunshots. Dave & Buster’s may be fun, but King Kong ain’t got sh….I think you know the rest.
The music is obviously going to be there. Though crowds fluctuate between sporadic and packed-to-the-gills, there are always people there to interact with. But what do you take away from the drinking culture at Da Club — the type of cocktails that can be made, whether they’re served in plastic or glass, and the speed at which they’re mixed? Do you look at the backbar and assume that the varied types of spirits there are what every backbar has, or is supposed to have, assuming you even look at the backbar? Do you look at the patrons ordering bottle service and assume that is the best way to enjoy a cocktail? Does Da Club influence what drink you’ll order? You may not want to go up to that shorty in the pink dress with scotch in your glass; not when Da Club just got in that Nuvo Yellow and Ciroc Peach.
Maybe the high-volume activity and energy of Da Club influences you in other ways. Maybe you drink your beer or cocktail a lot faster, finding yourself ordering another every fourth song. Maybe you and your band of comrades shoot everything — liqueur, vodka, tequila, whiskey. No matter the proof, color, or appellation d’origine contrôlée, you’re throwing it in the barrel and pulling the trigger. Or possibly you train yourself to know your drink order in a maximum of 1.8 seconds, in order to avoid the harsh glares and sighs or impatience of the patrons behind you.
Da Club is the one of the first places where you’re judged by a jury of your peers. How you act and how your behavior affects other people are constantly being tested, to a bevy of successes and even more failures. Over all, hopefully it will be seen as just one place of distinctive drinking culture. There are many others, and you can use them all to inform each other. Stay congenial!
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.
“God is in the details.”
One of the most famous quotes by one of the most famous architects in history. Though devoid of swooping gestures that Le Corbusier or Frank Lloyd Wright may have used, or layers of ornament that Louis Sullivan was known for, Mies used building components in tandem to produce wonderfully technical masterpieces that shaped the future of modern architecture. Appearance was not everything you assumed — God was truly in the details.
Architects are known to be very meticulous in their craft, undertaking tasks requiring such focus that they can drive mortal men to the brink of losing concentration. Similarly, craft bartenders extract every nuance out of the cocktail, adding layers of complexity and notes of complementary flavors until a masterpiece is created. But neither of these two truly embodies the epitome of focused craftsmen — monks.
Monks? Yes, monks. Everyone knows that most monks live a life of solitude and focused prayer. But they also have a long and spirituous history in drinking culture, creating some of the world’s oldest and most unique liqueurs and beers. Benedictine is a liqueur with herbal notes, initially produced in 1510 by monks at the Abbey of Fecamp in Normandy, France. The aim of alchemists was to find that “higher level of learning” that can only take place through such scientific and focused tasks. The monks at this order were especially interested in distillation and herbaceous products, thus the product of their study was based on the use of 27 herbs and spices — the Colonel ain’t got nothin’ on them.
The Chartreuse order of monks, also known as Carthusians, first produced their namesake liqueur in 1737, creating it from a 1605 recipe. It’ll take more than “pretty please” to get one of the monks to give up any one of the 130 herbs that compose Chartreuse, as they take a vow of silent reflection in honor to God. The recipe is especially secret, and should remain that way since only two monks know of it — and their “contemplative” vow means it will stay that way for a long time, at least four centuries!
Secrets aren’t relegated to distilled beverages — fermented beverages also have a history of privacy. Trappist abbeys have created some great beers over time — Chimay, Westmalle, Achel, and others. As monks have to work for their own livelihood, a brewery was often part of the abbey. Though not a commercial enterprise for the sake of finance — excess proceeds were used for charitable purposes — Trappist monks have worked hard to create their beer and ensure that it uses only pure ingredients. Could you expect anything less from a monk?
Many people say a small prayer before eating. But while you’re taking in the various notes of your Bijou cocktail, you might want send up a little thanks for the focused purveyors of Chartreuse, for all their work of [spirit]uality. God is indeed in the details.
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.**
Soooooo, when we last saw our hero, he was pushing a soft, light, colorful, regal liqueur. A month later, he’s saying that wasn’t “pure” enough — the best expression for mixology is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. Say whaaaa???
To each their own — and I have no Grammy’s, Pritzker Prizes, or Spirited Awards to my name — but let’s think about this for a moment. Is a “blank canvas” really sought after for design creativity? Would architects rather design an object in an open field, or an infill within an urban environment with a distinct history and a definite trajectory? Would a fashion designer rather produce a non-gender concept design, or construct a new look for an after-hours menswear line? Would you rather start with a base spirit designed to blend better with mixers and modifiers — Wild Turkey 81, Pierre Ferrand 1840, or Hennessy Black, to name a few — or drink a Blank Canvastini? A search for “purity” should not hide or mask the merits of the spirit itself.