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!**
“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.
[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
Life has a way of coming around full circle.
I try to keep a separation between church and state when it comes to bringing my “personal life” into my blog; at the very least, make somewhat hazy connections that can be illuminated with a little thought. It would be much too much to showcase my rockstar life to the Tumblrsphere. But sometimes, things happen to make me say, “Ehhhh, what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks.”
So yesterday, I had a Tweetscussion about scotch with a couple friends. Broached a few brands, went around the realm of brown a bit — touched on ryes, bourbons, and even cognac. I’d also looked at old texts I’d written upon some Friday visits to Nicholson’s, a Scottish pub in Cincinnati, where I tried to keep track of the scotches I’d tasted, and ones I’d tried to taste. In addition, I’d received a text from a good friend asking me about Macallan — any friend is a good friend that texts you about scotch. I offered a bit of my background with the brand, as I went to a tasting seminar last year for it. I also told him, as he is a cognac drinker, that he might appreciate the mouthfeel that Glenmorangie has with its three scotches that are finished in wine barrels, a bit smoother and silkier than your normal scotch.
And today, as I’m thinking about something to blog about, I come across this article about the ten things every man should know about scotch. Hmmmm, there might be a chance I know one or two. Enjoy and #getcongenial.
[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.
“I never used to understand the difference. One guy would say he’s British, and then another would come and say he’s English. I never understood…..you don’t understand until you have a sit down and have a couple of drinks with the guy and say, okay would you explain this difference to me?” — Excerpt from personal research conducted on individual connections to the traditional English pub and associated issues of cultural identity
The bar holds court to many diverse topics of conversation. It might be begin as small talk between two patrons, exchanging pleasantries and making short commentaries on other patrons or passers-by. With more time and more liquid, it might get more personal, as the patrons begin to disclose more about their likes and dislikes, idiosyncrasies, views, principles, commandments, etc. As a higher level of camaraderie is reached, the discourse gets even more glorious — now through the exchange of rounds, issues that might be taboo for discussion, at least with a stranger, are open for resolution. Each patron feels at comfort with the other, and is personally vested in adding fruitful energy to the conversation.
This type of conversation might be one of 8 million that occurs in a person’s travails through the house of spirits. Even though there was great congeniality expressed by the two patrons, it might be disregarded in terms of importance — just another conversation at the bar with a stranger. But what can you learn about others, your environment, and most importantly, yourself, through these instances? How do “barguments” tacitly inform us? What are some “barguments” you’ve had that have influenced your worldview?
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
This research discusses how the cultural appearance of buildings helps to steer people’s perceptions of an area — determining whether or not they’ll frequent that establishment, that street, that neighborhood, and so on. This is especially important when considering a person that doesn’t have background history of that environment, such as a transplant, tourist, or other “outsider” in that situation. The buildings above are all located in Cincinnati: a jazz speakeasy, an “English pub”, a historic saloon revived for a festival, a historic cafe that was recently closed, and a new restaurant/bar located in the downtown area.
The building’s appearance played a large part in determining and evaluating the culture of each of these environments. How would a person know that a warm, jazz-filled room was right in the heart of a downtrodden, culturally-disenfranchised community — especially when two green lights at the doorway were the only signal of activity? If an award-winning restaurateur opens an establishment that appears to be a nightclub to many prospective patrons, how would that affect their engagement of the establishment — help or hinder? If a 19th/20th-century era cafe falls in the city, does it make a sound, if no one with any ties to the heritage is around to hear it?
This research led to formalize responsive, and responsible, mechanisms of design and redesign. This approach would seek to resolve the disconnect between appearance and experience that these buildings exemplified.
[Research by ME]
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]
This is a diagram I did of the changing linguistics of drinking places throughout history. The purpose of the diagram was two-fold: one, to show that a drinking place has not been termed a “bar” forever; there is considerable nuance to its nature and how human and environmental factors have affected it. Two, I wanted to show that people can and should think about what they are looking for when they seek out a drinking place, and when one is created. You may like going to a “tavern” that is really more of a “public house” by nature. The “speakeasy” that everyone is ecstatic about on Yelp is really a “dram shop”, when the “speakeasy” you’d really prefer is that place in the middle of the block you have been ignoring for years now, but has been there for as long as you can remember….never really see anyone going in or coming out.
Let’s try to be more informed about our selections of drinking places….it can only lead to more congenial experiences.
[Design/Research by ME — see link for definitions]