“Sip Prohibition liquor…Prohibition whiskey…” — Nas, “Locomotive”
Though Nas may have been one of the few to ever raise his hand about drinking liquors federally prohibited by law, we do have examples of those who poured in the years surrounding Prohibition. Esteemed gentlemen like Dick Francis, Tom Bullock, and Robert Bowie were celebrated for their cocktailing exploits, albeit a generation removed. These gentlemen were members of the Black Mixology Club, a professional organization for bartenders in Washington, DC.
Their cocktail recipes were replicated, their literary exploits were celebrated (Bullock was the first African American to publish a cocktail book before Prohibition), and their overall influence upon DC, Black bartenders, and mixology in general was manifested in modern form. In true regionalist fashion, the Chuck Brown Tribute Band started off the go-go music that would help lubricate the night. Though many events are held with great drinks to benefit wonderful organizations, there are few that come to mind that are truly special. It is rare that you can participate in an activity that the true forefathers of your craft did more than a century ago, and use their memory as inspiration while packing ice into a glass, pouring the Curacao Punch into it, and arranging the garnish around the colorful, red elixir. Truly inspiring and one helluva congenial night!
Oh, not that type of “black liquor”?
“Legislation that would have phased out millions in ratepayer-financed subsidies for mostly out-of-state paper mills died in a House committee Friday, just a day after the Senate passed a companion measure.
The House version of the so-called “black liquor” bill, HB1102, fell one vote short of the 12-vote majority needed to get out of the Economic Matters Committee. The vote in the panel was 11 to 8 for it.
“I think labor played a pretty big role in the vote,” the Baltimore County Democrat said, noting that even some of the bill’s cosponsors did not support it. Olszewski said he was a “labor guy” as well but saw this as a matter of ending subsidies paid for by Maryland ratepayers to out-of-state paper mills.
The bill would have ended in five years lucrative renewable-energy “credits” that paper mills receive for burning a byproduct known as black liquor and other wood waste. Maryland’s renewable energy law requires power companies to get some of their energy from renewable sources, and paper mills can sell their credits to meet those obligations.” — “House panel kills ‘black liquor’ bill”, Baltimore Sun
Many of us have made visits to distilleries and vineyards, even gone to special tasting receptions and branded events produced by spirits companies. We’ve been served expertly-mixed cocktails, given nuggets of information about the aging processes, with the best hospitality you could imagine. Regardless, none of that adds up to the red carpet laid out to rap stars.
Loso, in case you ain’t no so, took a little trip to the Land of Yak to pay a visit to the House of Remy Martin. A walkthrough ensued, where Fab was beat over the head with the finest of spirits education, tasting sessions, and to bring it all home, a fine dinner by the Executive Chef of the Remy Martin Club. I don’t know if this was the precursor to an endorsement deal, or the result of a special request, but none of the hors d’oeuvres I’ve ever had hold a candle to this experience. You too can sell out arenas all over the world, while simultaneously being able to name all the crus of Cognac. I guess I better step up my bars!
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.
Wine lover? Upholder of viticulture? Fermented grape enthusiast? The only problem doesn’t deal with what glorious bottle of medium-bodied Merlot nor stone fruit-forward Grenache to grab, but what to do with all the corks! Well, every bottle and glass needs a table….brilliant!
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.
Hell hath no fury…like a whisk(e)y-drinking woman….
I’m talking about the woman that ends her workday by hanging up her coat, dropping her briefcase and purse on the couch, and pouring a touch or two of 46 — the more oak the better in her eyes…
The woman that holds a Ladies Night over her house, and instead of a sweet, colorific, fruit juice-laced mixed drink, offers her ladyfriends a flight of Speyside malts…
The woman that, before departing to try out a new establishment with a nice Irish whiskey selection, jumps up and slaps the “Drink Like a Champion Today” sign above her doorway…okay, maybe not that woman….
The type of woman that takes a seat at the bar, and before any of the prowling vultures chomping at the bit to buy her a name-your-own-tini off the drink menu, eyes a particularly-distinctive bottle of Scotch on the backbar and orders a dram. The vulture is left wondering how she came to pronounce such a name…
In conclusion, to question my initial statement — why does hellborn fury lack the intensity of our main damies? That comes from years and years of having men ask, “Ohhhh, come on now…you can’t possibly want that, right? Aren’t you just going to have that clear sweetness?” My goodfellows, at the end of the night, after you find yourself under the table, vodka tonic in hand, while your ladyfriend continues to hold court and two fingers of Kentucky brown with the same grace she began the night with, you’ll wonder, “What in the HELL was I thinking?!?!”
I have waited a whole year to utter five words: I am back at Tales.
Writing a self-reflexive blog post about one’s Tales of the Cocktail experience is about as unique as writing a blog post on Facebook, the best mobile phone apps, or how Angry Birds has taken over — EVERYone has already done it. When you’re doing a blog, you usually want to see how you can set yours apart from others, even in discussing the same topic. It’s not unique just because you say it. As my father once told me, “The only thing unique about you is that no one else can stand in the place of your two feet at the same time.” My dad was one helluva science phenom.
What were the most unique aspects about busting my Tales cherry? For one, I was a newbie in the bartending/mixology game. I knew a little bit about a little bit, and I knew what Tales was about, but I wasn’t ready for the onslaught. Every time I retell the story, I get a big smile across my face. Remembering all the relationships I made, all the wonderful products I saw, everything I learned…priceless. All the free tastes, noses of glorious welcome cocktails, tipples of boutique craft spirits, straight swigs from high-priced bottles of booze, shots of tequila from a water gun…you just can’t put a price on stuff like this!
What does that mean for this year? I’ve used the relationships from last year to build momentum for my blog, for my burgeoning bartending exploits, and I’m very proud of that. Seeing how a trip — enabled by a free Southwest Airlines voucher and three nights each sleeping on the couch of two different friends — turned into one of the greatest springboards of my life is still amazing a year removed. I return a year wiser, a bonafide Tales veteran, looking forward to take Tales over for The Congenial Hour, [BAR]chitecture, and The Chocolate Bar. In the words of the almighty Jiggaman, “Watch me.”
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!
“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.
Everyone has to go through their own spirit growth. How we get there is another story. Rapper Crooked I details some of his missteps and the point he’s at now, while foreshadowing a future path for rappers: extoling the glory of the grape. Quite the insightful interview, he speaks on the effects of brand ambassadors and product placement in music, appellations growing nebulous and their lines becoming blurred, and the historically key ability of spirits to foster cultural exchange. Hopefully it sparks something in the music, that would be a refreshing take.
Whether it’s striving to time travel, insert wellness in our lives, live freely and embrace fantasies in the present, become a Master Distiller of a finely aged spirit, or a world-famous playwright….we can all dream…and believe…of a life as golden as Jill Scott and Ponyboy’s visions…as gold as the tequila and rum we drink at times. Stay golden, stay congenial…
“”Hot tub time machine, back to the Sybaris,
hats from liquor stores to avoid syphilis/
Frivolous spending, drunk nights with storybook endings,
I guess it’s my addiction to women/
I was in France, Hennessy blending,
writing my own scripts like I’m Tennessee Williams…” — Common, “Gold”
“Taverns played a little-known but vital role as an important center of community life and activity…
Two forms of the early American tavern were closely modeled on English institutions and were found exclusively in urban settings: the city tavern and the coffee house…
Tavern activities in the city establishments were centered around economic life, everyday business transactions, mercantile exchange, and events such as auctions of goods, property, and slaves; city officials frequently held their meetings in taverns…
Small taverns were clustered along the docks of…port cities; catered to transient seamen or day laborers…” - - Text from Early American Taverns: For the Entertainment of Friends and Strangers by Kym S. Rice
Ice and cocktails go hand in hand. The sling, the sans bitters precursor to the cocktail, was a combination of spirit, water, sweet, and sour. Water may enter a mixed drink in its fluid form, as with a couple drops added to scotch to release the essence of its flavor. But more often, water’s frozen friend is utilized — ice.
Ice brings rhythm to the cocktail world, helping to “wake up the spirit” inside shakers. Many savvy cocktail bars have instituted their own ice program, cutting blocks by hand, mallet, and pick. Machinery also comes into play, with KOLD-DRAFT machines and specialty ice-sphere machines creating harder, purer ice that won’t screw up the delicate balance in today’s craft cocktails. A slower melting ice cube
also helps with the dilution of your cocktail — allowing just enough water to help with the alcohol absorption into your system, while not drowning your scotch.
Some products would stop here, but ice strives for more, truly earning the “S” on its chest. It also shares a basic role — to keep food from going bad. In colonial times, way before the days of machines that produce 65mm ice spheres for the low cost of 650 pounds sterling, ice was relied upon to keep that 8 billion pounds of crab you bagged on your fishing trip cool enough to make crab cakes for a while. But since Frigidaire wasn’t in business yet, where did people store the ice?
Naturally, they’d want to keep it close to the chest. Back then, if you couldn’t hold it at your home, your local tavern was just as good. Ice wells were prevalent, like the one above that was kept at an Alexandria, VA tavern frequented by a whiskey distiller. It’s been mostly covered up by a couple centuries of transportation infrastructure and urbanization, but there are enough reveals to tacitly show the history of its usage. Quite the congenial way to display technological ties to our past, no?
“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.
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.