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.
We had problems but it’s all in the past/
Everybody got problems baby, algebra class.
Remember I used to do things that’d make you laugh/
Like orderin’ a girl drink in a masculine glass?
You like piña coladas, getting caught in the rain/
Or rocking flannels all summer like Kurt Cobain,
Or that Dolce Gabbana with a few gold chains/
And you the type of girl that probably deserve a new last name….
Rented the whole bottom floor for a candlelight dinner/
Turned the lights out and put my candle right in her,
And told her, “Even though I met you in a club in a tight dress,
At first sight I could picture you in a white dress.” — “White Dress”, Kanye West
X-Men Origins: Wolverine ended with Logan at a bar, drinking to remember. In The Dark Knight, Harvey Dent surprised the policeman at the bar who he thought had a hand in Rachel’s death — he took a drink and it poured down the disfigured side of his face. A round of shots starts Mark Wahlberg’s character, John Bennett, his teddy bear friend, and Sam Jones aka Flash Gordon, on a binge of violence, mayhem, and skullduggery, in the movie Ted. See what wonderful things happen when you show drinking culture in film?
Bets are that there are people out there that can conjure up great motion pictures devoid of mutants and stuffed animals. If you are one of these, Bombay Sapphire is looking for you. Do YOU have a great imagination? Would you like to see your story on the silver screen? Get your popcorn ready!
“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
It is difficult to watch television, listen to music, or shop for an item without witnessing some type of product placement. Formal commercials seem to have fallen by the wayside, as informal methods of positioning product has zoomed to the forefront. Are they effective, and get the products to subliminally “stick” in the minds of the consumer?
One might say that they are successful, that the repetitive nature of these products popping up makes them effective — you can only go so long without noticing something. How many times will you page through the catalog for a company like Pottery Barn, as you search for a sectional for your newly-refurbished living room, before you notice the bottle of No. 209 gin placed ever-so-covertly on the coffee table? As you envision yourself in this party, possibly working in the same office with such beautiful people, and finally focus on the main topic of the Bud Light Platinum being peddled, is there still room in your mind to absorb the TWO pairs of Beats by Dre headphones on the DJ table? I’m sure Budweiser hopes that their pretty blue bottle has taken up at least 98% of your attention by then.
We can’t all notice these subliminal maneuvers. I mean, how many of us focused on the bottles that Tony Stark had on his backbar as he poured a drink in The Avengers movie? Yeah, we noticed Scorpion Mezcal and a couple other brands, but would your girlfriend have seen them if you didn’t tell her? Maybe so, and that’s why you’re with her — but just in the case she didn’t, she’s probably similar to countless other people. Oh well, ponder that while watching the “Happy Hour” of Around the Horn & Pardon the Interruption on ESPN, shows that have everything in common with their sponsor.
With a nickname like “Holiday” Styles, he’s bound to drink like it’s his day off…
“Trying to watch Beat Street and Wild Style…get the feeling back/
Whateva’ happen to realer rap,
Ask my man where the tequila at…”
If you go to the movies, popcorn is a given for many patrons. And possibly a pop to wash it down. But unless you’re going to see Follow That Bird, why not opt for an adult beverage? Haven’t we come far enough to make that happen?
Many theaters now have a spirituous option. Some opt for a cold brewski to moisten the palate and make it feel like being at the ballgame while Moneyball is on the screen. Others opt for a good glass of merlot to get them in the thinking mood while watching The Artist, letting the sound of the full-bodied red swish in their glass act as the only sound necessary. Other theaters offer a full-fledged cocktail menu, with drinks that you’d be able to quaff at your favorite craft cocktail outfit.
Regardless of what you drink, is imbibing really desired during a movie? I must admit, having a Smirnoff Ice while watching The Dark Knight made that experience a bit different and definitely put a smile on my face, it was probably for the novelty. I’d never done it before, and felt like I was “getting away” with something. But you’re not using the cocktail or icy bottle to ease conversation with anyone. It’s usually too dark to make out the different colors in your drink, and you can’t describe the flavor profile to your partner, lest the usher come up to you, throw the drink in your face and kick you out of the place for talking too much.
Maybe the best place is to go to theaters that create a drinking place at the moviehouse itself. Imagine the glorious time that can be had rehashing parts of the movie, why you think George Clooney finally nailed the role that will take him across the Oscar threshold, and why The Help won’t need any additional assistance to continue their award sweep. All the while downing a Red Carpet Fizz in an open space with tons of light and no 18th Amendment towards sound. That sounds like the script to a congenial affair.
Alone. A feeling of utter emptiness. Complete isolation. No one but yourself. What do you feel? What do you think about — what experiences, what special people, who made the biggest impression? What do you long for, to do or see one just one more time? If only I could….if only it were….
The movie, The Grey, starring Liam Neeson, offers a stark picture of just what survival is. It offers the full picture of the mental, physical, and emotional aspects of survival — what it takes to survive, what it means to survive, and what survival really feels like. As the prospective survivors were in their predicament due to a plane crash, there were obviously airplane bottles available to them. So while they were able to have some say in the last tipple they had —
“What about you?”
“How about something clear?”
“Sorry, no tequila.”
“I’m gonna spend some minutes with my good friend, Jack Daniel’s.”
— they still knew it would be their last.
If you could have one last drink, what would it be? Condemned murderers have to suffer the spectacle of a last meal, but someone who was most beloved had a Last Supper. Some people know it’s coming, some don’t. Some do it willingly, with a last chug of whiskey before heading outside the saloon to the duel at high noon. Some do it unknowingly, as they perish in their car soon after taking too many shots of tequila. But if you were alone, on a literal island, and one airplane bottle of spirits rode the current to the edge of your beach, what would you hope it was? One last taste of Old No.7? Perhaps something stronger, like good ol’ 101, to go out on a high note? Or would you want a last bit of complexity, perhaps a bottled cocktail? Hey, we can all wish and dream…hope always springs eternal.
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.
Word hit last night that Kim Jong Il, the dictator of North Korea, had passed away from heart failure. The world never truly got to know who Kim Jong Il was as a person. Operating under the principles of Communism, there was tension with US/Western relations ever since the country’s founding.
The son of the country’s father, who prepared his son to rule the country under the premise of “juche” or “self-reliance”, Il spent his lifetime through somewhat adversarial relationships. When you construct your life upon being so “self-reliant”, you inevitably view others/outsiders through a lens of suspicion. Though they might eventually be friends, the relationship begins with them being prospective/potential enemies.
Another side to this is that heads of state have always put up a constructed persona — it’s not always what you see or what I say, but how I want to convey that to you. This makes the plebian in all of us explode in wonder of what our leaders are really like, what they show when their guard is down, at times of vulnerability, happiness, and privacy. We all want to ask, “What’s behind the veil?”
And too often, it happens that someone has to die before we find out more about them. It was often said that Il was a cognac aficionado — Hennessy XO to be exact. His cook also said that if scotch was in order, he had a liking for the topsy-turvy-but-never-fall-down bottle of Johnnie Walker Swing. His liquor cellar was said to contain nearly 10,000 bottles of spirits, in addition to seating for 15 to 16 people, a karaoke set and a piano. Sounds quite congenial!
North Korea was said to be softening relations with Western nations, as they looked for food aid for the nation. This was a long time coming; the US & North Korea should have a natural connection. Il’s favorite cognac producer also made a bottle commemorating the inaugaration of our current 44th president. President Obama took a minute once for a “Beer Summit” to bring people together, as they drank Blue Moon, Red Stripe, and Bud Light. Couldn’t Hennessy have brought the nations together for a Summit of Cognac, as they slowly sipped the XO from snifters produced by Baccarat for the occasion? I guess we’ll never know.
Oh, what a world.
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.
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.**
I don’t blog about cocktails directly too much….that’s not the point of The Congenial Hour, per se. There are many other places throughout the blogosphere and the literary world that offer more direct insight on drink itself.
However, one cocktail that I often enjoy is one that has brought me quite a few widened eyes….led some to question where my loyalties are….inquire as to whether I’ve been bamboozled or led astray….when in actuality, I just love the light and citrusy flavor of it! It’s the White Lady cocktail — a dominant mixture of gin, with Cointreau and fresh lemon juice playing supporting roles.
I can’t actually recall the first time I ordered a White Lady. I am good friends with the pretty blue bottle of Sapphire, but I don’t recall how I came to find out about the White Lady. But everytime a bartender asks me what elixir I fancy, and I respond, “I’d like a White Lady,” all I get are smiles and jokes and “A what?!?!” It’s seemingly better than ordering a Sex on the Beach or whatever Dirty/Slutty/Sex-Crazed cocktail is floating around out there — but then again, I guess it may not be. I wonder if there is a double standard though….maybe I’ll have to order a White Russian and see if I get the same response. Here’s to testing it out….cheers!