“And yeah my type, I like ‘em brown, just like my drink, — the f**k you think?” — “The Recipe,” Kendrick Lamar feat. Dr. Dre
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….
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?!?!”
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….
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.”
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.
Black History Month is the time of year where links to the past are dusted off and remembered. There are many heroes, organizations, experiences, and memories that are circulated throughout the month. But hopefully, you come across something new; something that informs current affairs and contemporary Black culture.
African Americans have several historic and distinct ties to distilled spirits that come from grains. In the years of sharecropping and Jim Crow, and especially Prohibition, some of our grandfathers and forefathers were trying their hand at moonshine — producing gin and whiskey from some of the leftover corn, wheat, rye, and other grains. But in modern times, it seems that cognac has the most significant connection to African Americans. But how? Are there some ties to France that schoolkids aren’t getting taught?
Actually, there is. The company Moet Hennessy, part of the luxury goods conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH), was one of the original cogs in the conglomerate that formed the National Urban League. The aim was to improve the plight of Blacks in New York City, but the Urban League has obviously taken that charge across the entire country. A great start to great work — that’s something to toast on the first day of Black History Month!
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.
“…it is a kind of ‘Alice in Wonderland’, with the same moving picture re-shown over and over again, the same analysis, the same recommendations, and the same inaction.” - - Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, appearing before National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders after Summer 1967 riots
Americans that took part in the Civil Rights Movement did so to bring about equal rights to all Americans, not just a certain portion. They marched in the streets, stood off against antagonistic police forces, and even rioted when they could not take any more. Although Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for peace, non-violence, and brotherhood amongst all mankind, the violent roadblock of racism that he encountered was too sizable an adversary, and ultimately took his life. The riots that followed his death were notably destructive; many areas have not been rebuilt to this day.
But riots did not begin with the bullets that took Dr. King’s life; race riots have occurred in the U.S. for centuries. One of the most damaging riots in the country occurred the summer before Dr. King was assassinated, in the urban mecca of Detroit. It’s interesting to note how this disturbance has similarities to the unrest in London last year. An aggravated relationship between citizens and police was at its heart, and after being precipitated by a police raid on a “blind pig” — speakeasy in more modern terms — many people were left dead, injured, or with damaged property.
“We went into the store, got some wine and some whiskey. Then I went to another store and got me some new shoes, and I got a coat out of another store. Just like that, I just walked in and got ‘em. It was both black and white getting stuff out of the stores. There was no difference at all. We were just getting anything and whatever we wanted. Then I went home and got really drunk.” — from interview of White resident of Briggs neighborhood in Detroit
Some citizens in particular took advantage of the situation for their own gain but were shot dead instead of arrested for their actions. One man was shot as he attempted a break-in at the “Hobby Bar” near his home; two men were shot as they broke into a liquor store, one of them 14 times; and another was left dead in an alley as he loaded a box with liquor. No one was held criminally liable for any of the murders.
There is much to be thankful for; life free of police brutality shouldn’t be something we should “wish” for, it should be a given. But thanks to the efforts of Dr. King and others for bringing attention to the urban condition, and hopes that it will continue to improve.
Beer and a shot is an incredibly flexible combination in drinking culture. The various manifestations with different spirits show the ability of the pairing to adapt to different cultural identities and ethnic environments.
How many people have chased their shots of Don Julio on Cinco de Mayo with a couple Coronas? Seen that guy at the Irish pub sessioning pints of his favorite ale with shots of Jameson? What about your friend celebrating his birthday with the all-American pairing of Jim Beam and Budweiser?
A new combo in hip hop is looking to establish their mark on the time-honored tradition of strong teamwork. Timeless Truth, two MC’s from Queens, NYC of Dominican Heritage, are putting their bid in to sit with other dynamic duos like EPMD, Run-DMC, and Mobb Deep. To really put their stamp on the game, they use a combination of their heritage, the Dominican pairing of Brugal Rum and Presidente Beer. The EP photo even has the signature netting found on the Brugal bottle — definitely official. One congenial combo begets another. Cheers!
It’s good to get back to that ol’ thang again. It used to be that a rapper would need beef to push albums, because their talent was that questionable, or they just needed a whole lot of manufactured attention. But when you get MC’s the caliber of Common and Drake, well it’s a whole ‘nother story. Their quality of music has put them at the highest points of the game, so to hear Common throw out the first overture, “He opened his mouth and said some things…if that’s what he want, say it!” And further, “It’s just about MC’n, and once you step in there, you in the ring, baby!” You know what that means — LET’S PLAY THE FEUD!!
There is no better arena or forum to hold this battle than The Congenial Hour. While I hold hometown ties to Chicago, I’m big fans of both Common AND Drake. So without any further ado, one more time, *Michael Buffer voice* LET’S GET READY TO RUUUUUMMMMBBBBBLLLLLLLLEEEEEEE!!!!!
*both rappers come together and touch mics*
Drake — “Drink up, cuz everyone here is good tonight/Except for the n****s I came with, they good for LIFE.” — Lyrics from “Thank Me Now”
Common — “Come from a tribe of bums, hooked on [El Cordon] Negro and Mumm’s/Had to halt with the, malt liquor/Cause off the malt liquor, I fought n****s, now my speech and thoughts quicker.” — Lyrics from “Resurrection”
Judges: Drake takes the round for better drinking amongst all the #crewlove.
Drake, his given middle name, shares the same name with a brand of sherries. His surname is the same as a brand of port that I enjoy. There is a type of beer termed California common beer, which includes Anchor Steam Beer, one of the few beers I’ve ever tasted.
Judges: Round goes to Drake. Fortified wines FTW.
Judges: Common. Nas said dark > clear.
Judges: Common might win this round if Carrie Nation was one of the judges, but around these parts? Drizzy takes another one.
That Drake t-shirt also comes in white.
Judges: Sorry, Common. #wehadto
Drake — “What have I learned since getting richer?/I learned working with the negatives could make for better pictures/I learned Hennessy and enemies is one hell of a mixture.” — Lyrics from “HYFR”
Common — “Behind the V, I took my first shot of Henny/It hit me in the chest like when them marks shot Benji.” — Lyrics from “Reminding Me (of Sef)”
Judges: Common takes the round, and the battle over the better Hennessy lyric, for the nostalgia effect.
Drake is from Toronto b/w Memphis. Common is from Chicago.
Judges: Round goes to Big Illinois. We from the go and don’t stop. #ihadto
Drake’s home country is known for pretty good whisky — Canadian Club, Crown Royal, Windsor Canadian, Spicebox Whisky, among others. Common’s home city has produced Few Spirits, which makes a gin with hops, and Koval Distillery, which has a line of quality, organic whiskies and liqueurs.
Judges: Canada ain’t Bourbon Country. One more round to the home team!
Drake — “I need you right now, are you down to listen to me?/Too many drinks have been given to me…” — Lyrics from “Marvin’s Room”
Common — “They say signs of the end is near/I wonder can I walk a righteous path holding a beer…” — Lyrics from “Resurrection”
Judges: No one does introspective emo-rap like Drizzy.
Drake — “I’m trying to let go of the past/Should we make this one a double? You ain’t even got to ask, ahhh!/Cuz it’s hard to say no, say no…” — Lyrics from “We’ll Be Fine”
Common — “Get my drink on like a coaster.” — Lyrics from “Sweet”
Judges: Though that was the song that sparked this salvo between the two, no one has lyrics of drinking culture like Drake. And that line from Common was a bit meh.
Final Round 12:
Drake’s drinking partner, Lil’ Wayne, has been seen OFTEN with cups of that purple stuff — Sprite and cough syrup. Common’s drinking partner, Kanye West, was seen taking shots of the HennDog straight out the bottle — at an awards show.
Judges: Common’s wingman will drink you under the table.
And in a close decision, Common wins. What? Drake won more rounds? Hey, if you wanna win, you got to knock the guy out — don’t let it get to the scorecards. THIS IS HIP HOP!!
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!
….Prohibition. The Noble Experiment. The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Volstead Act. The day that made men cry — that is, unless they kept a tommy gun at the ready.
Prohibition is known as the period of time where it was illegal to produce and consume liquor. Feds running around to safehouses and using axes to crack open illegal barrels of whiskey and beer. Americans were forced to turn to household items, such as the sacred bathtub and pantyhose, to produce spirits undetected. As for the industry, countless breweries and distilleries went out of business, unable to transition to legal products profitable enough to keep their smokestacks churning. Drinking establishments, as was alluded to in the previous post, had to switch to serving products of the legal variety — ice cream and soda pop.
However, was everyone on either the legal/carbonated side or illegal/gangsterrific side of the law? Was there no happy medium? Indeed there was. The language of the Volstead Act prohibits “intoxicating liquors” — isn’t all liquor intoxicating? Not quite, according to Congress. Available for production was a defined amount of “non-intoxicating cider and fruit juice”, originally set to be no more than 0.5% ABV, but then extended, rendering home wine-making basically legal. But who really wanted to fiddle with grapes, just to arrive at a Pinot Noir that was the same color as a mass-produced Pinot Noir, but without any of the convenience or complexity. And all the 99p red in the world couldn’t make up for the lack of an ice cold beer or a nice jigger of brown, right? What’s a man to do?
Go see the doctor, that’s what. In current times, we know of “medicinal marijuana” that allows pharmacists to prescribe narcotics to those who need it, without criminal penalty. In the decade or so of Prohibition, this was also the method used, as pharmacists would dole out “spirituous frumenti”, the medical term for whiskey:
“To persons who are druggists in good faith, to retail spirituous and vinous liquors at the drug store in quantities not less than a quart, the liquor not to be drunk on the premises or adjacent thereto, and to sell in quantities less than a quart, for medicinal purposes only, on the prescription of a regular practicing physician, $50…” — Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. J.W. Fowler
Now that seems right and just. If I need my medicine, law or no law, I should get my medicine! And who would fight over that right? Lawyers?? Of course. They already had their Constitutional Amendment, why not keep fighting? Well, you know what we say to those lawyers? This:
“Everyone has the right to follow an innocent calling without permission from the government. He may do so with his own whatsoever he pleases, so that he injure no one else…So, then, without governmental interference or consent, we say the farmer may till his soil. the merchant may buy and sell, the lawyer and the doctor practice their professions, and the druggist and pharmacist compound their medicines. And if, by reason of shysters and quacks, an injured people demand protection, or if, because ill-behaved druggists or pretended pharmacists debauch the public morals by dealing out intoxicating liquors and nostrums as beverages, yet the pursuit of these callings cannot be prohibited. The innocent and honest druggist cannot be restrained of his liberty by reason of the dishonest practices of others. His pursuit, being in itself harmless, and indeed useful, and capable of being conducted without harm to the public, cannot be prohibited….” — Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. J.W. Fowler
So with that, let’s raise a glass to this glorious Repeal Day. The anniversary of the right of Dr. Feelgood to prescribe you a fifth of brown. Or for you to just go pick one up from your favorite beverage depot. Or for your favorite barkeep to pour you two fingers of Old Forester, the only bourbon produced before, during, and after Prohibition, as it was used as spirituous frumenti. Any way you get your spirits, let’s celebrate the legality of it all. Cheers. *clink, clink*
Some people see that word and are clueless. Bless their hearts, for they know not what they do.
Others see the word and Italian violins start playing in their ears.
But what if bitters were…unavailable? Essentially non-existent? Unattainable? That can’t be life, right?
I went to a Valentine’s Day party last year, intending to try my hand at a champagne — cava in this case — cocktail. Since the party was themed a “murder mystery” party, I decided to purchase a bottle of Stirrings Blood Orange bitters. Get it? “Murder” mystery. “Blood” orange. I amaze myself sometimes. Needless to say, it was a crowd favorite.
But after the first one, I noticed that it didn’t pack that little punch I was expecting. I’d only put enough bitters in the cocktail to soak the sugar cube, so I decided to add a bit more to the second — not much of a difference. So after the ninth iteration, where I basically was having a bitters cocktail with a champagne float, I realized that I’d been hosed — the Stirrings brand had NO alcohol included! A terrible hoax to pull….and the real mystery for the party! Who killed the bitters, you ask? It was Mr. Stirrings in the kitchen with the jigger pony.
So after that night of drowning my sorrows akin to Shirley Temple, I decided that I would go purchase some REAL bitters, of the Angostura variety. Headed for my friendly neighborhood beverage depot, looked all along the shelf, and found nothing. A bit strange, but I was unbowed in my bitter quest. Went to another beverage depot — nothing. At this point, I started feeling like I was the victim of a really mean and spiteful joke. I headed across the street to a bar, and asked the friendly barkeep where the establishment buys their bitters. He told me the same beverage depot I’d been to, and I told him I found more Abominable Snowmen than Angostura Bitters there. He alerted me to another smaller store that might have them.
I headed over there, and told the proprietor of my seemingly-Herculean quest. He told me that I could stop looking — there had been a disagreement within the family, thus screwing up the shipment of Angostura to the States. It was supposedly resolved and business as usual, but there was no telling when more of their line of bitters would arrive. I fell out in despair at the thought of my champagne cocktail being bastardized any further, and picked up a bottle of Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Bitters, which have come through in the clutch since then. I have picked up a bottle of Angostura since that harsh winter of yesteryear, but I’ve never forgotten the feeling.
Is a search like this something only a staunch cocktail enthusiast would undertake? I was one step away from buying a St. Bernard, filling up his whiskey barrel with one of my favorite ryes, and setting out in search of the perfect Old Fashioned. Would a sneakerhead or fashionista try that hard, or just head to eBay for the next best thing? Would an auto enthusiast give up the search after one try, speeding off in his ‘68 GTO to the nearest Pep Boys for a common replacement? I hope I’m not alone in my support group.
“It is helpful to consider the built wall of the Seagram building together with Mies’s sketches for the sculptures…The sketches have a kind of hit-or-miss quality; they can be taken lightly, as if they were never meant to go into production, as if they had flowed from Mies’s ruminations over the famous cigar and whiskey in the leisure time still allowed to the social mandarin back in his Chicago apartment.” — The Presence of Mies by Detlef Mertins