Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category
Saturday, August 1st, 2009
The vodka tonic is one of the simplest, yet demanded drinks at the social bar. Depending on the bartender, the typical vodka tonic will either be made with one part each of vodka and tonic, or one part vodka and three parts tonic. And then, the final deft touch to give it a special taste: A generous lime wedge. The drinker will then, depending on his or her preference, do the deed at the bar, or take it back to their table and have a seat before commencing with the sacred ritual of lime squeezing. This is something that I have done countless times since I started drinking vodka tonics, shortly after my 21st birthday some time back. I never gave it much of a thought, aside from the fact that I considered it an average drink, and by no means one of my top 5 favorite cocktails(coincidentally, subject for a possible feature article). The reason I would order them was that they were quick, easy, cheap, and impossible to mess up. There is also the fact that certain bars in this area have vodka specials once or twice a week, where they can be ordered at half price. That is certainly a good option for anyone who is either on a budget, or loves vodka.
Getting back to the matter at hand; The vodka tonic was an average drink at a cheap price that was quick to obtain from a busy bartender. My view on the beverage was changed this past May, however, when I went on a cruise through the Caribbean with several close friends. One morning(shameless, I know. But it’s a Caribbean cruise!), we were sitting at one of the bars closest to the swimming pool on the sun deck, and we were ordering drinks. I was last in line, and just before me, my dear friend Lauren ordered the vodka tonic. I decided right then and there that I probably would as well, even though the Mimosa was sounding delicious. But then my mind was blown when she added an instruction for the drink: “No lime. Lemon, please.”
This startled me yet sounded oddly thrilling, so I added the same instruction to my drink, while she informed me that she always orders them that way because she prefers the taste of lemon over lime. I commenced with the fruit squeezing and stirring ritual, then took a sip. I quickly concurred with her assessment, that the lemon did indeed add a better flavor to the otherwise bland drink. While I appreciate a good lime in my summer lagers, I have found that I definitely prefer the strong sour taste of a lemon in my vodka tonic, rather than the metallic sweetness of a lime. Break the mold and try it for yourself; Tell the bartender to hold the lime, please.
Thursday, July 30th, 2009
Back in June, Charlie Papazian, a well known and respected beer expert in the US of A, conducted an online poll to decide which city will be titled ‘Beer City, USA’
After more than 16,000 votes, there was more or less a tie for first, between Portland, Oregon and Asheville, North Carolina. Charlie opted to make both cities winners, and more or less decided on one being Beer City West Coast, and the other being Beer City East Coast. Now, I don’t know a whole lot of Portland beers, but I do know Rogue, and I find it to be rather delicious. On the other hand, being born and raised and currently still living in Asheville, I have the breweries here practically on speed-dial. The results of the poll were not really a surprise to me, as I have long considered Asheville to have the best beer in the world. I say with conviction to many of my Pub Crawl customers, that our primary micro-breweries here can go toe-to-toe with the best breweries in the world. These staples of Asheville beer-culture are as follows:
Highland Brewing Company – The original Asheville micro-brewery.
Pisgah Brewing Company – Maker of my favorite beer that I have ever tried, the Valdese Coffee Stout.
French Broad Brewing Company – Maker of one of the finest Porters I’ve tasted.
Asheville Brewing Company – Maker of my favorite Scottish ale.
Wedge Brewing Company – Maker of the only Pale Ale I drink, and my favorite Belgian Wit.
And those are just the ones within fifteen miles of downtown Asheville! We also have opening up here in the near future, Craggy Brewing Company and Lexington Avenue Brewery. I have tasted some Craggy concoctions, and have found them to be quite appealing in the true Asheville fashion.
But considering that this is the last day of July, the Charlie Papazian poll is old news. It is simply brought up because recently there was another poll, this one from Imbibe Magazine, to decide which city has the best craft beer in the country. Once again, Asheville and Portland came out on top, but this time, Asheville had more than triple the votes of Portland. Granted, there was not an incredibly high turn out for the vote, only 740 total.
Regardless, it shows that Asheville is gaining more and more notoriety as one of the premiere beer cities in the country, if not the world.
Featuring prominently in Charlie’s poll is great, but winning in Imbibe, one of the leading print magazines in the country for the alcohol culture, is phenomenal. The next time I go out, I will be grabbing a local draft, and the toast will be to you, Asheville. Congratulations on being Beer City, USA. May you hold the title for many years to come.
Thursday, June 25th, 2009
Recently I was treated to a viewing of the new film Beer Ya’ll by Curt and Will Arledge. The film’s motto is “Beer. Rock & Roll. North Carolina” (trust me, this describes it very effectively) and details the July 2008 trip seven friends made across North Carolina to tour 27 microbreweries and brewpubs, ranging from the mountains to the coast in a seat-less cargo van. “Beer Y’all follows their nine days of hanging out with brewers, partying at rock shows, and drinking many, many beers as they celebrate friendship, music, and a Southern microbrewing explosion,” their website states. But fortunately for those interested in craft-brewing, there is quite a bit more “meat on the bone” with regard to the way this film portrays the cultural aspects of the fine art of brewing beer, and in addition to learning a lot, those who view this film stand to gain a bit of worldly perspective that has been growing in the mountains and foothills of NC for the last few decades.
Sunday, June 21st, 2009
Australia, as seen from a little higher up than your potential flight may take you.
Arguably, one of the most appealing things about being a frequent flier is the ability for one to enjoy cocktails while traveling without having to be concerned about getting DUIs and other nice law enforced punishments for imbibing prior to operating a vehicle. Of course, most airlines charge something akin to five bucks per pony bottle of spirits, in addition to whatever soft drink you may want to mix it with. However, this may not be the case for passengers en route to the land-down-under.
Up until recently, Qantas Airlines has been the only carrier to offer unlimited free alcoholic drinks on their flights from Los Angeles to Sydney route, since all other major US airlines have removed such services in years past. However, Delta airlines has now decided that following suite with the provision of free alcohol may help them garner attention from long-distance travelers, by offering free beer and wine on their flights.
Tuesday, March 17th, 2009
You may be an alcoholic if you talk to your beer... but what happens if it talks back? Creepy...
FOR YEARS, studies have claimed that the black cream of the Greenwood, Guinness stout, can actually be beneficial to one’s health. Researchers have found that antioxidant compounds in Guinness, similar to those found in certain fruits and vegetables, are responsible for health benefits that include strengthening the heart because of the way they slow down the deposit of harmful cholesterol on the artery walls.
Along these lines, you may be familiar with some of the artwork from the 1920s Guinness ad campaigns, in which colorful (sometimes rather odd) themes were used based on findings from market research. Perhaps most famous of all these was how people often told Guinness employees that they “felt good” after downing a pint (come on, who wouldn’t), thus birthing the popular slogan “Guinness is Good for You”. Later, Guinness was told to stop using the slogan, and since that time Diageo, the company that now manufactures Guinness, still will make no official health claims for the drink.
However, back in 2003 BBC News reported that a study performed around the time found a Guinness pint per day “may work as well as an aspirin to prevent heart clots that raise the risk of heart attacks.” Apparently, drinking lager beers does not yield all the same benefits, according to experts from the University of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin team tested the health-related benefits of stouts against lagers administering the brews to dogs who had narrowed arteries similar to those in heart disease (lucky dogs… no pun intended. This could hardly constitute poor treatment of animals in lab tests, eh?).
Wednesday, March 4th, 2009
If you live in New York, there will likely be an unprecedented challenge awaiting the thirsty barfly this Saint Patrick’s Day, aimed at setting a new world record in size and length of famed pub crawls.
My Goodness, My Guinness!
St. Patty’s “Luck of the Irish” Pub Crawl invites folks in the NYC metro to join them for three days of “wearing green and drinking cheap beer”, and though Guinness will be involved, it’s not the dark drink you might have hoped for. Being billed as “The World’s Largest Pub Crawl”, promoters are urging people to join them in breaking the current world record, details of which have been verified according to (you guessed it) The Guinness Book of World Records.
Claims to the present title have been made up until now by The Rich and Bennett Annual St. Patricks Day Pub Crawl based out of Charlotte, NC, which also claims to host the largest Pub Crawl in the World. Last year, the annual event hosted 3,581 “crawlers” on Saturday March 15th, 2008. Now, according to the website saintpattys.com, the new record-breaking event will take attendees on a trek spanning “over 5 Miles, 3 Days and 100 bars”.
Thursday, February 26th, 2009
Brian McDonald at the New York Times alcohol blog Proof recently shared some rather philosophical musings on drunken writers who have influenced him, and among them I found one of my many favorites: Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Below is an excerpt:
“Late one night Hunter S. Thompson sat by himself at a back table lighting shots of Bacardi 151 rum with his Zippo and firing them down the hatch. I don’t remember how many flaming shots he drank — but I do remember the last one. Something had gone horribly wrong with his technique. When I looked back at him he was on fire. Only the quick thinking of Carlo the waiter, who snatched a nearby tablecloth and used it to smother the blue flames, saved Dr. Thompson from escalating into a three-alarm blaze.”
The Rum Diary : A Novel
Among other vibrant literary names, McDonald also conjures Hemingway, as well as F. Scott Fitzgerald (another feller close to home in my repitoire). You can read the entire article by visiting the Times Web site.
Tuesday, February 24th, 2009
Some of the finest mixed drinks you could think of off the top of your head include wines as an ingredient, like Martinis or Manhattan cocktails, which both use vermouth, an aperitif wine. But what would you think of a drink that called for champagne… mixed with beer! As strange as it may sound to American audiences, the practice of mixing beer and ale with things like wine, champagne, brandy, and other spirits is not only a tradition; it is quite commonplace.
First up on our list of English beer cocktails is the Black Velvet, a hefty combination of champagne and stout (usually Guiness). I remember first stumbling across this beverage when it was ordered by James Bond at lunch during one of the early chapters of Diamonds Are Forever. According to English tradition, the stout is supposed to represent the lowly “common man”, whereas the champagne is indicative of “nobility”. Celebrated homebrewer Marty Nachel calls this comparison “a tired old stereotype” in his Beer For Dummies, but whatever the case may be, the legend persists. Along these same lines, a Brown Velvet is stout mixed with port wine (probably not as exciting as the crisp-carbonated Black Velvet, honestly). In Germany the recipe differs in that the beer used is schwarzbier, a dark lager, and an alternative name is used for the drink itself: “The Bismarck,” named after 19th century Minister-President of Prussia Otto von Bismarck.
Sunday, February 15th, 2009
Yet again, we see that another portion of the United States is reporting liquor sales on the rise, in spite of the looming recession:
Liquor Sales up in Idaho
According to Idaho resident and restaurant owner Dan Willie, “In a recession or in a so-called recession people tend to drink more, and that’s been historically true in the great depression… I don’t know if they are drinking to drown their sorrows or just spending more time in bars and restaurants.” Willie says the bar in his restaurant picked up sales in December, and has maintained steadily ever since.
Yet again, it appears that the business of wine, beer, and spirits may be the ultimate “recession-proof” industry.
Sunday, February 8th, 2009
The general consensus among true drink connoisseurs is (and always has been) that a fine cocktail beverage is a proper blend of a few flavors, not a muddling mixture of too many. Thus, according to such lore from the annals of fine mixology, many weekend barflies may be surprised to learn that one of today’s most popular beverages certainly wouldn’t be considered a “fine cocktail”; the drink in question is none other than the Long Island Iced Tea.
This beverage, since its creation in 1976, has grown to a position of immense popularity, especially among college-age drinkers traditionally around the time of spring break. Modern Drunkard magazine cites it as a beverage which “no matter how old you are, at some level, you’re still afraid your parents are going to catch you drinking,” due to its ability to mask that a cocktail is being consumed at all with its convenient resemblance to non-alcoholic iced tea. But be warned; however much it may look like iced tea, be reminded that it surely isn’t. Sporting a recipe that includes equal parts vodka, gin, tequila, rum and triple sec, the drink is typically higher in alcohol concentration that most beverages (around 28%), and thus has the effect of ridding one of their sobriety more quickly.