Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category
Tuesday, January 19th, 2010
The slogan of Buckfast tonic wine, made by Benedictine monks of Buckfast Abbey in Devon, UK, once read, “Three small glasses a day, for good health and lively blood.” Now, as the culture of consumption continues to grow out of control among the British youth, the brand has received a new unofficial slogan: “Buckfast, made by monks for drunks.”
This rather crude name (really one of many that also includes nicknames like “commotion lotion”) entails a variety of things. Buckfast, selling at a mere £5.49, could be likened to many of the less expensive brands of wine on the market here in America that, due to having a fruity taste and higher alcohol content than beer and malt beverages can provide, become popular among inexperienced younger drinkers. However, there is concern growing among experts who, upon analyzing statistics that pertain to alcohol-related violence and criminal activity, have noticed a startling consistency that links to Buckfast consumption.
The British Daily Mail reports that “research at Polmont offenders’ institution in West Lothian reveals that more than 40 per cent of those who had consumed alcohol immediately before committing their crime had been drinking Buckfast.” The report continues, “But sales of the drink… have soared to £37 million in the past five years, with Scots spending more than £50,000 a day on it.”
Accepted at face value, the information presented in this study seems to make an obvious association between the consumption of the Buckfast brand and crimes being committed. However, why are other important factors involved, namely the age groups of those committing the crimes, not included as well? The fault in this argument becomes far more apparent once we delve deeper into the cultural factors which, as is so often the case, aren’t being well represented.
Monday, January 18th, 2010
By Christopher McCollum
It was reported several months ago that the producer of Captain Morgan Rum, Diageo PLC (NYSE: DEO), was going to be getting a new factory in the U.S. Virgin Islands, along with $2.7B USD in tax credits and benefits over the next 30 years, which sparked a bit of controversy as they are a British owned company. With this struck deal, Diageo will be moving the Captain Morgan operations from Puerto Rico, where they’ve been operating for generations, to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, while potentially putting the rum culture in jeopardy.
Puerto Rican representatives claim that this business move will cost Puerto Rico about $120M annually in lost tax revenue, which at this point in time is an even harder pill to swallow than in the past. In March of 2009, Puerto Rico’s governor, Luis Fortuno, declared that the government there is bankrupt, with a deficit of more than $3B USD, making it the highest deficit-per-capita in the United States. Over the ensuing months, there have been plans implemented to lay off potentially 30,000 government workers, and to slash salaries across the board in an effort to save money. Union protests have been going on all over San Juan’s financial districts, and the unemployment rate on the Island of Enchantment will soar to potentially 17%.
Saturday, December 19th, 2009
By Christopher McCollum
Two evenings ago, Micah Hanks and myself were spending the evening interviewing brewers, and tasting beer. The following morning, there were 6 inches of snow on the ground. While we had seen the forecast that called for several inches of snow, we figured that, like usual with mountain weather reports, it was grossly over-exaggerated. Little did we know, we would receive what would become known within hours as the worst winter storm of the decade in this part of the country, and we would receive some 11 to 17 inches of snow in Asheville, within a 20 hour period.
As the afternoon went by at my house, one tree came crashing down in the backyard, missing the house by no more than 4 or 5 feet.
This led to a frantic next couple hours, with my roommate and I doing our best to knock snow off the lower branches of trees, trying to keep them from snapping and causing potential damage to the house. These frantic efforts relieved the stress on the trees and they rose back up to the sky, with hundreds of pounds of snow dropping to the ground, down our sleeves, and down the open collars of our coats. But fortunately, our power stayed on, even though thousands around the city were already flickering out.
We stayed inside, ate ham sandwiches and drank some beer, until 11:15pm. Right after the basketball game we were watching ended, the power finally flickered once and died, for the rest of the night. After gathering all the flashlights together, lighting some well placed candles, and watching the eerie scene out the window, of a bright snowscape that breathed beauty.
At around midnight, we finally decided that since we weren’t going to be going to sleep that early, we might as well make some cocktails. So we did it in the style of Culture of Spirits, with cutting boards, oranges, limes, lemons, tequila, bourbon, and vodka.
Friday, December 11th, 2009
Dr. Gonzo imbibes at the bar, as played by Micah A. Hanks
By Micah Hanks
It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke: a journalist, a Bluegrass singer, and a Presbyterian minister walk into a bar; but sadly, there’s no punch line to this strange set of circumstances.
It was in the summer of 2006 while visiting the great state of Montana that I was taken to one of the strangest Tiki bars I’ve ever visited. Nestled in the mountain town of Great Falls at an altitude of about 5,000 feet, my comrade Tom Godleski and I were taken by our guide, Pastor Tim, to The Sip-N-Dip Lounge.
Few bars have any real claim to fame; the Sip-N-Dip, on the other hand, has several. With an illuminated swim tank visible through reinforced glass windows behind the bar, beautiful gals dressed as mermaids swim around and interact with the bartenders on weekends. In fact, after her success appearing alongside Tom Hanks in Ron Howard’s 1984 flick Splash, Darryl Hannah even donned a mermaid costume and swam around in the tank during a visit to the famous watering hole.
Keep in mind that when I say famous, I mean famous. In its April 2003 issue, GQ Magazine voted the Sip-N-Dip Lounge as the “Number One Bar on Earth.” ‘Nuff said!
Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
By Micah Hanks
EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM GUINNESS
Well, in all honesty, it couldn’t be any further from being Guinness without being from Zeta II Reticuli (or Ireland, perhaps). However, the country that concocted the brew in question does share an affinity for making whisky just like the Irish… what in this world–or in space, for that matter–could we be talking about? Read on, ye guzzlers of galactic grog…
Monday, December 7th, 2009
By Micah Hanks
Andre Terrail, third-generation owner of the famous La Tour d'Argent
The La Tour d’Argent restaurant in Paris plans to auction 18,000 bottles of its finest vintage wines, featuring Cognac, Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux, and a variety of other treats to be gathered up by collectors and enthusiasts.
The BBC reported today that close to 1m euros is expected to be raised by the sale, which La Tour d’Argent hopes will help “renew the cellar’s contents and ensure the restaurant keeps its multiple Michelin stars.” Upholding a rigorous claim to their quality and class, the restaurant’s website shares the following about the operation:
Every “Tower” has its legend and, as you can imagine, ours is no exception. Throughout all the vicissitudes of history, for close on a century the Tour d’Argent has maintained its almost sacred attachment to tradition and honor. Indeed, the venerable age of the building and the authentic anecdotes surrounding it count much less than the extraordinary enthusiasm of André Terrail, after him, his son Claude and now, again, André. Time and people may pass and fashions may change, but the table is always set at the Tour d’Argent.
Thursday, November 26th, 2009
By Christopher McCollum
From those of us at Culture of Spirits, to those of us in the United States of America, we send you our warmest greetings and well wishes, hoping that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! This Holiday time of year is one for celebration, coming together, putting the past year into perspective and looking forward to new challenges and experiences in the coming one. It’s a time to honor traditions and set aside work for a few days, to fully remember why your loved ones are called as such.
Seeing how my family does not start The Feast until late dinner time, giving plenty of time for afternoon football snacks and fulfillment to wear off, it means that I have time to give thanks in the way that only a Cultured lover of Spirits can!
- Culture of Spirits and Micah A. Hanks: My best friend, and impeccably cultured gentleman who sports the best suits, the suavest shoes, and is the best bartender I know. Inviting me on to write for Culture of Spirits has been one of the most pleasing moments of my year, and I am immensely thankful for now being involved in an organization that truly warms my cackles. Doing research for Culture is the most fun I’ve ever had writing, and truly blows those college writing assignments out of the water.
- Our readers: With you guys, gals, and other possible entities, none of this would be possible. Watching web traffic statistics can be either a very enjoyable or very frustrating experience, but with the dedication of our beloved readers, you make it as enjoyable as I can imagine. With your support, the masses shall be Cultured and no longer will we be forced into ordering a second-rate Old Fashioned, or watching the bartender pull out a recipe book in confusion as we order an Americana.
- Quality Bourbon: It has been the year of Bourbon, in the spirit realm of Culture of Spirits. I have tried out more brands and styles of Bourbon than I even knew existed last year, and while not all have been enjoyable, it is truly rewarding to find that delectable Kentucky nectar, and then enjoy it straight up, on the rocks, in an Old Fashioned, a Manhattan, or a good ol’ Whiskey Sour.
- Quality Beer: While it may have been the year of Bourbon as far as spirits go, I can not forgot or not be thankful for my staple, which is of course beer. But wait! Not just any beer. Good Beer. The kind that you gingerly lower your nose to and inhale the organic aroma, and take a pleasurable first sip that causes you look over to your companion, raise your eyebrows, and make a toast. While that is a slight exaggeration, there is mostly truth to it. Thank you Sierra Nevada, Rogue, New Belgium, Wedge, Pisgah, and every other brewery that takes quality to the next level, and raises the bar for generations of micro-brewers to come.
- Last but not least, I issue a hearty thanks to everyone around the world who will not let the sentiment of prohibition make headway back into our culture.
Have a happy Holiday, America! This one’s for you! Cheers!
Wednesday, November 18th, 2009
By Micah Hanks
“I personally think they must have been left there by mistake, because it’s hard to believe two crates would have been left under the hut without drinking them,” remarks Al Fastier. Program Manager of the Antarctic Heritage Trust, Fastier oversees the organization, which is responsible for the care of the expedition bases associated with the first explorers of the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. Among these explorers–and perhaps most famous among his peers–was Sir Ernest Shackleton. Now, ninety years after one of the huts occupied by Shackleton was abandoned, a long forgotten gift he left behind is being unearthed: two crates of a now-extinct blend of McKinlay scotch whisky.
Three wooden huts still stand along the desolate and rocky terrain of Cape Evans on the west side of Ross Island, forming the north side of the entrance to Erebus Bay. It was here that Shackleton and his men would warm themselves by fires fed with blubber of seals they killed, and many of their belongings, tools, and even boxes of their food remain on the walls as they had been when they left. Outside Shackleton’s hut lay a dog’s remains, left where it had been shot as the men evacuated the area with haste in 1917.
Sunday, November 8th, 2009
By Christopher McCollum
Halloween and the days preceding it is the busiest time of year for me, and as such, my energy was sapped to the point that I actually developed a mild cold and then a less-mild fever, in rapid succession. The weather was awful, I was outside for most of it, and eventually it wore me out so much that I felt like just crawling up in a ball under my covers on my luxuriously soft bed, and simply hiding away from the world for a couple of days. That is precisely what I did, and after getting a little bit of video game time in on my Xbox 360, I recuperated fully and I am now back to swinging for the fences, so to speak. Here’s what’s on my mind today, as I allow it to become re-immersed in the sophisticated culture that we value so highly.
Wednesday, October 28th, 2009
By Micah Hanks
Recently, Culture of Spirits contributor Chris McCollum gave us a shake down on the best black shooters available among premium vodkas for this Halloween season. Chiefly, the English Blavod is one of the more popular varieties made available here in parts of the states, although according to McCollum this particular brand is becoming a bit more difficult to obtain. There are a few others however, ranging from dark berry and licorice-infused liqueurs, to those like Blavod which use a blend of herbs and spices (or sometimes just food coloring) to draw their otherwise neutral spirits to the dark side.
Halloween is right around the corner, and many people are looking for specialty drinks they can use to drain the light out of Halloween night. Thus, in addition to having a look at the original article Chris contributed, below are a few more varieties and links to sites where they can be purchased.