‘Tis the season. Football season, that is. One of the best experiences of partaking in pigskin culture is tailgating, a whole day, or longer, engaged in fraternizing with friends, family, fans, and strangers over a spread that would put a Thanksgiving meal to shame. BBQ grills usually are in abundance and high regard in this outdoor cornucopia, used to bring glorious recipes to life and spur your favorite team to victory.
One thing about eating is you have to wash it down with something. The Congenial Hour tries to highlight the liquid aspect of this relationship by showing how to “savor”, not just wash. So if you’re going to have wonderful tailgating fare, how about bringing some good grapes along for the game? Nothing brings people together like sharing a bottle of wine, and this article shows how to boost the conviviality under your tailgate tent.
Though quite the refined gentleman, the man most commonly known as Andre Benjamin (as well as 3000, Ice Cold, Possum Aloysius Jenkins, Cupid Valentino, and Benjamin Andre, among others) knows how to get down with a cocktail or two. But to share one with him, you’d best be on your p’s & q’s — that stands for Pinots and Qualitatswein, by the way, not pints and quarts….
“Then go grab the finest wine and drink it like we know which grape and which region it came from, as if we can name ‘em/
Hint hint, it ain’t, um, Welch’s.
Hell, just fell three thousand more degrees cooler/
Ya’ll can’t measure my worth, but when you try, you’ll need a ruler made by all the Greek gods…” — “Sixteen”, by Rick Ross feat. Andre 3000
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!
How do you envision the drinking culture on your special day?
Do you see a formal occasion, with pre-established pours of the finest still and sparkling grapes on earth into exquisite crystal goblets and flutes, circulated throughout the room on silver platters? Do you value formal toasts, synchronized by everyone in the room? Should everyone be on their best, rehearsed behavior?
Or would you prefer an occasion with loose morals, a free-for-all that starts at the open bar and continues in the middle of the dance floor — leaving all in the room aghast at what happens when best buds attack and BFF’s collide? Should there be shots all around, to whomever is still standing, until the cows come home? Would it be the icing on the proverbial wedding cake to have a contest between the parents of the bride and groom to see who can finish an Irish Car Bomb the fastest?
Please, for the sakes of all that is good…let’s envision a middle ground. What about an environment that reflects the congeniality of the best drinking places? Informal but with expected decorum, filled with acceptable offerings pleasing to all, quick-shifting with conversations, introductions, and sharing of experiences. Where banquet tables don’t act as barriers and no not-with-my-Mom-here’s to worry about. Wouldn’t that be a special day?
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….
What happened to dinner parties? Do they still take place — formally, informally, or both?
The dinner party seems to have gone through many changes over the years. While it was a chance to share martinis and discuss business and personal during the 50s, it’s been
Have you had a dinner party lately? Did it have a theme or was it an informal gathering of friends? Was it possibly a night to welcome people into your home, and share with them certain offerings you’ve had in mind for a while?
How did your guests come dressed — after-work casual, in cocktail attire, or formal? Did you have a script for the evening or just let the conversation and activity flow?
Here’s to hoping your next, or first, dinner party is a congenial affair. Bon appetit and cheers!
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.
There’s no limit to the amount of joyous occasions that bring people together. We gather together for all type of celebrations — birthdays, meetups of long-lost friends, bridal/wedding showers, starting/leaving a job, and many more. And while the guest of honor is always showered with congeniality, there’s another congenial issue that deserves discussion.
We often choose to break bread for these gatherings, holding them at any number of restaurants. The cuisine is diverse, as well as the drinking tastes of the guests. Should this issue be broached by taking the communal route — bottles of wine for the table? Or should everyone take their own path to imbibing? There are certain protocols of kinmanship that exist for sharing drinks, but when you’re one of 15, what can you do? Go along for the ride or go down with the ship? Should you bear the brunt of the sweet red that was chosen, or take part in the dessert white that was chosen in seemingly bad taste? Even worse, if you’re an advocate for temperance, a teetotaler to the core, do you agree with your best brohams adding drinks you didn’t have onto your tab? You came to break bread, not break bottles — what if your final bill jumps from $30 to $60? Is it all in honor to the favorite chum of all? That’s quite a steep jump.
We should all aim for an individual route, relying on our personal styles and what we appreciate most about imbibing. But you can’t prevent 14 other people from enjoying the event, in addition to pissing off the person of honor. Oh, what a quandary — is the glass really half full or half empty?
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.
Le Corbusier once noted that architects can have success in obtaining projects by “drinking the right cocktail to secure the commission.” While tales have been told of some architects’ failures at winning over the crowd at a dinner party, one architect that may be a step ahead is Michael Graves. I mean, when you can design a knockout cocktail set, you’re already ahead of the curve!
Graves has a knack of designing products with a touch of whimsy, harkening back to his post-modern design background. That leads to him reconsidering design, history, or culture when he makes a reference — bringing a new perspective to the conversation for a new audience. Whether through architecture by putting new clothes on the classical emperor with the Portland Building, or putting on a product design hat to create a mash-up of drinking styles for the mixologist and sommelier, Graves has set his own standard for interdisciplinary creation, turning design on its head.
Is he an architect? A glassware aficionado? What about a graphic design specialist, or a vanguard of universal design? It doesn’t matter — you know it when you see it, and Graves’ products truly give you a congenial feeling.
“…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.
In Tuesday’s post, I mentioned that if you just, “live life, everything will fall into place.” I don’t always fly by the seat of my pants, but sometimes I go off of what inspires me. Something that has just come across my visage. Something I just discussed with someone.
When you have a daily blog, you have to take advantage of those opportunities. So while I had an idea what I was going to post for today, I instead decided to slam on the brakes and take the sharp right to Spontaneous Topic Blvd. An article I read commented on the rise of Moscato sales in the US, as spurred by that nebulous and unnamed group — the “urban” community. Artists and songs in the genres of R&B and hip hop were attested to the rise, as their lyrics were a bit more sec than brut. The good people at The Congenial Hour have previously commented on hip hop’s influence on cognac, but here’s another spirit that seems to be trending. But why? And why would that influence even be possible — do people really listen to these big money artists when it comes to what $7 wine to purchase??
Let’s see if I can play a bit of Sherlock Xenophon here. For whatever “urban” legend or unfounded reason that people say African Americans mainly drink cognac (which I’ll touch upon in a future blog post), the truth is that cognac, whether Hennessy, Courvoisier, Remy Martin or another, has a significant market share within the culture. So when rappers started pushing more cognac in their songs, and Busta released “Pass the Courvoisier”, the connection was believable and a bit to be expected. On the other side of the palate, if you’re going to get many — not all — women to drink something, and especially wine, it should probably be sweeter than drier. This flavor profile combined with the push in champagne by hip hop artists, too numerous to count by now, as the connection of bubbles and hip hop go back to EARLY days. But let’s say that all these youngsters are going to the club, and can’t purchase that bottle of Ace of Spades that Jay-Z told them to buy when they left their car, but they still want to pop bottles in the club like T.I. and Drake said — what’s their option? Parade around the club with a bottle of wine, but sweet enough for them to pass around to unsuspecting and indiscriminating women.
Voila. Sherlock Xenophon has done it again! With no hands! *pause*
….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*
December 1st is notable for many things. Besides being the anniversary of the Brazilian royal crowning of Peter I, the first serving of Dr. Pepper, and Honest Abe stating to the Union that he was actually serious ten weeks prior, it signals something else in contemporary culture.
The first possible day for an office holiday party. *sounds the party favors*
But before we go into all the ways to run up management’s overhead on a classy, baller *ss spread with cheeses you’ve never even seen before, let’s discuss the topic of imbibing in this quasi-office environment. While it’s not quite “drinking on the job”, how you conduct yourself around your colleagues will not be easily forgotten.
Personal and professional conduct traditionally has maintained a “church and state” relationship. That has waned in recent years with the proliferation of social media. Though your supervisor saw you leave the office looking like Clark Kent, after a day of crunching numbers and generating proposals, he didn’t have to be there to watch the Superman-like task of taking 20 shots of tequila in one night — all the Facebook status updates and Twitpics gave you away. The office party is even more pervasive — everything happens within the same environment with the same people you see the most every day! How can you escape that? One simple answer: don’t break your face.
Heard how the most interesting man in the world has a “game face that would break an average man’s jaw?” You don’t quite need to be at that level. But don’t be like your six-year old nephew on Christmas morning when the wine first comes out. What do sports veterans tell the rookies? “Act like you’ve been here before.” We’ve all had a drink before, don’t act like your pinot grigio tastes better because the Boss paid for the grapes. Acting cheap, freeloading, or feeling like you’re entitled to the provisions isn’t the best way to build respect or garner acclaim. Bring up stories that fit the occasion — places you’ve been where you’ve had similar offerings or bits of spirits education that make people say “Hmmmmm….I didn’t know that!!” That’s what people will remember.
Everyone wants to be around the “life of the party”. No one wants to be around anyone that is too picky to enjoy the restaurant chosen, too vain to notice anyone else, or too self-absorbed to talk about anything other than the usual shop talk. The effects of liquor are another issue entirely — though we’ve seen them countless times in the club, we don’t want to hang around the crying drunk, the angry drunk, or the sloppy drunk, just because we can’t necessarily escape them at the time. And best believe, that’s one of the easiest ways to end up at the top of “New Business” on the next day’s Water Cooler Meeting. We want to hang around the person whose conversation gets a little deeper with added spirits, whose jokes get a bit more jovial throughout the event. The ratio of spirits to camaraderie should be a direct relationship — that’s how you build office culture and have that talk you’ve been waiting for with Mr. Bigwig himself.
So take it easy this holiday season. Enjoy yourself, impress others, and be fond of making new contacts — the essence of staying congenial.