Thursday, December 31, 2020

:: fred's top 10 cocktail moments of 2020 ::

In 2010, I was asked what my favorite cocktail that year was, and I decided not only to start a list of my favorite drinks, but I decided to list the top moments of the previous 12 months. So to continue with the tradition (despite 2020 being what it was), here is the 11th annual installment:

1. I became a whiskey guardian.
Last year, I hinted that I had a new gig as a part time brand ambassador, but I did not give any details past it being a whiskey distillery and they found me. A year later, I can reveal that it is Angel's Envy, and I have been enjoying the position. The beginning of the year had me doing lots of activities in bars and restaurants (including hosting a killer post-Speed Rack after party at Silvertone), and we pivoted the program to reach out to liquor stores to do promotions, events, and videos as well as to home consumers through virtual events. I planned on doing this alongside bartending part time; however, just as I finished off my 7th year behind the stick, the pandemic knocked out that means of work. I have not returned due to the lack of positions, diminished earning potential, increased stress, and health concerns. Perhaps in 2021, I will find myself bartending again, but until that point, I will be focusing on American whiskeys.
2. Got more involved in the bartender's guild.
This year I continued on with my roll as secretary for the Boston chapter of the USBG. While it was not the most active year given safety concerns, we did have a few events in the beginning of the year and one in-person event once the quarantine began which was a kayaking on the Charles adventure. The rest were some cool virtual events such as our tour and tasting with Barr Hill. To assist with the pandemic issues themselves, I volunteered with the USBG charitable arm to help with the caseload. And finally, I joined the national educational committee and put in a number of hours to get education week off the ground; I also assembled the wrap-up slide show from the various chapters' social medias. I did get featured twice -- once in a chapter leader spotlight and the other was actually my cat Embury (photo of him below) as part of animal shelter appreciation month.

3. Learned how to shoot and edit videos.
The brand work really helped bolster my confidence speaking in front of groups, but it was the addition of video work that rounded off this skill set. The virtual age of quarantine extended my job description to include Zoom tastings, video shoots, and video editing to my repertoir. I began an Instagram-TV series of whiskey cocktails created here in Boston (13 episodes to date) with me providing backstory on the recipe, the bartender, and/or bar while making the drink. Also in that link is a video of me making whiskey-glazed maple walnut scones, so baking videos as well! I also did videos with stores such as the Boston Shaker and Ball Square Fine Wines. Moreover, I gave a few virtual talks and tastings, and the one at Julio's Liquors was recorded (that had an in-person aspect with 10 spectators behind plexiglass stations that were spread out in a large room).
4. I wrote some essays.
For my post-Speed Rack after party, the featured Angel's Envy menu item was not some fancy cocktail but a boilermaker where we donated money to a breast cancer charity that spoke to me, namely the Ellie Fund. Afterward, I wrote up a tribute to said beer-shot duo. When the lock down began, I penned an essay for the USBG site about how life's path is rarely a straight line; it was in the first week of things so forgive any optimism or naïveté. There was also an essay that should have been merely a mention in the "got press" section in this list, but the article's author trimmed my quote to fit his right wing agenda; therefore, I won't link to that article but instead to my treatise on hospitality versus activism that followed. Finally, during quarantine, I noticed that I began dipping into my collectors bottles -- whether old, rare, or meaningful to only me -- and I wondered if others were doing the same. I put the question out there but did not get many responses, so I wrote later wrote up what the pandemic and spirits collecting taught me about life.

5. Got press.
Despite the limitations, I did get a bit of press this year. The coolest one came out this past month where a recipe that I created at Russell House Tavern almost 6 years ago (that never made a menu and might not have been served to a guest) got noticed and picked up by Epicurious in this article with the recipe published separately here. I also had a recipe published in Distiller using Benedictine with a bonus quote about Drambuie. When the lockdown came on, I was quoted in the Weekly Dig about how the service industry was handling things. And finally, some of my recommendations found their way into Uproxx and related sites for late season IPAs, Fall beers, Scotches for Bourbon drinkers, Canadian whisky, tequila, Scotches (original question was favorite Highland), and triple IPAs.
6. I read a bit.
I started the year off with a solid pace but somewhere around June or July, I began to falter. In the end, I read 19 books with 16 in the beginning of the year and 3 over the second half. Some of my favorites were Charles Bukowski's On Drinking, Bernie Lubbers' Bourbon Whiskey: Our Native Spirit, Bob Holmes' Flavor, Rafe Bartholomew's Two and Two: McSorley's, My Dad, and Me, Hector Garcia's The Book of Ichigo Ichie: The Art of Making the Most of Every Moment, Lulu Miller's Why Fish Don't Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life, Lew Bryson's Whiskey Master Class, and Eric Alperin's Unvarnished.

7. I created some drinks!
Given that I did not work behind a bar or go out for cocktails for most of the year, I was a bit more productive at my home bar than usual. With Tiki drinks, I crafted the Shipwrecked, Who Killed Mr. Moonlight?, and the Doomscroller as my top three. For Sours, the Saidoka and Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea were probably my better two. And lastly, I did several bitter drinks with honorable mention going to The Elephant in the Room, Horror Hotel, Caveat Emptor, and The Kid with the Replaceable Head.
8. Visited brewery taprooms.
We tried to play it as safe as we could, and we found that brewery taprooms were good options (especially with recommendations of which ones were up on their protocols). Technically, beer gardens since all of them were outside. We finally got brave and ventured out starting in August to Lookout Farms which had a website-based ordering system and tables spaced out 15 feet apart in one of their fields. Some of the new ones that we made it to were Medusa's beer garden (down the street from the brewery), Faces Brewing Co., Cold Harbor Brewery, Backbeat Brewing Company, Timberyard Brewing Company, and Spicket River Brewery. We did not make it out to as many as previous years; with the need to buy food at each first round, we also limited our adventures to a single brewery instead of hitting 2-4 per adventure. Otherwise, much of my local beer appreciation happened at home either in my kitchen or in warmer months on our unit's deck on the second floor. That deck was a great escape where we watched the sun set and the bats flit around.

9. Traveled slightly.
Before the pandemic, I made it to New York City twice. There, I got to have beers at McSorley's (pictured above) where my dad drank in the late 60s when he went to nearby Cooper Union. There were cocktail adventures to Amor y Amargo, Pouring Ribbons, and Holiday Cocktail Lounge. I also made it to Louisville once for Angel's Envy training, and I got to visit some old and some new spots there. Unfortunately, my April trips to Louisville for the Angel's Envy national meeting for Whiskey Guardians and to Pittsburg for the USBG Northeast regional meeting got canceled. After that, I think the only time that I left Massachusetts was cutting through Rhode Island to get to another part of Massachusetts to visit a beer garden.

10. Really, you expect 10 good answers of what I got done during a pandemic?
The last one has historically been the hardest to answer. No, I was not energized enough to write a third cocktail book. Instead, we lived somewhat frugally and made use of our kitchen for most of our meals. We found a love of our deck to hang out on and even gussied it up with cafe string lights. Virtual drinking parties were also a thing with two major rituals springing up. One was Sazerac Sundays (pictured above) which lasted for several weeks, and the other one was Daiquiri Time Out which was every Monday and Friday for a little over two months. These were quite valuable as a way of socializing and not feeling alone, but soon Zoom fatigue set in, and the events trailed off. Who knows what next year will bring, but cheers and thanks for reading along this year!

1 comment:

Viscouse said...

You did good.
Sincerely, a fan.