Monday, December 31, 2018

:: fred's top 10 cocktail moments of 2018 ::

In 2010, I was asked what my favorite drink 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, here is the 9th annual installment:

1. Favorite Drinking Moments.
I figured that I would start on the lighter side and think about my favorite moments in drinking -- not necessarily what was in the cup. The top one was closing up the bar at Our Fathers in Allston on New Years Eve and realizing that there was a small chance that I could catch a drink of my own on the way home. I messaged my old coworker Trevor who was at the Boathouse in Harvard Square which was just off my route home to see if there was a chance that I could reserve a beer, and I was granted the affirmative. The beer was Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale 2017 which was good, but the enjoyment of a beer and an old friend to ring in New Year's Eve albeit in another timezone was a great feeling. A close runner up was at the Wild Turkey Behind the Barrel event this past September where Cards Against Humanity and shots of Wild Turkey were a magic combination. Again, what was in the cup did not hurt, but the camaraderie made the moment special.
2. Got Press!
2018 was definitely a year where I got my words and drinks out there. This included my Espresso Mexicano Cocktail and Maraschino-laden Take the Long Way Home in PunchDrink, an Egg Nog in WhiskeyWash, my Monkey Gland-Jet Pilot mashup on the PeguBlog's Tiki Month, Queen- and Madonna-tribute drinks on the AlcoholProfesssor, and a mocktail on HealthLine's detox article. I also had my thoughts recorded on my favorite gins of the year on, my Swedish punsch cheat sheet on HausAlpenz, and catering side hustle gigs on SevenFifty.

3. Still Writing!
This past June marked the 10th anniversary of my writing for the Cocktail Virgin blog and the 12th year of writing about drinks in general. Overall, I ended the year with a touch over 380 posts, so a little more than a post per day. I also had a number of essays published on the USBG National site this year, and I have started republishing the collection on this blog for wider access. Ten of the early essays appear in the Boston Cocktails: Drunk & Told Book as well. Perhaps the most accessed post on the blog this year was the Mystic Marvel. Were people looking for the wonderful combination of brandy, apple brandy, Drambuie, and lime? Probably not, for the obscure 1934 drink name coincides with a Marvel character Mystique, and the blog post is one of the top hits on Google searches! While recipes made up the bulk of my posting, my top three posts were about bartending in general and not drinks themselves. These included, the Art of the Cut Off that I first published on the USBG site, my notes from the Active Bystander - Making Bars Safe class, and Balance in the Bartending Industry that captured Nectaly Mendoza and Giuseppe Gonzalez's down to earth message at Tiki By the Sea. I am also rounding out four and a half years on Instagram where I put up drinks around 2 weeks before the posts hit the blog. Follow along if you dare.
4. Found Solace in Loss.
One of the toughest moments of 2018 for me was the sudden downswing of my drinking buddy Foamy the Cat. The vet was able to drain the fluid around his lungs to give me the great gift of another 2 1/2 weeks with him, but it was time. I ended up re-reading my words last year as I put down MixologyMonday to rest to contemplate death. I also had the chance to give my cat an Irish wake for I attended a single pot still Irish whiskey event later that day. A few days later, I went through my Untappd beer app photos and found some great memories through the years of my friend who was always willing to hangout regardless of the hour. Until we meet again Foamy!

5. Traveled a little.
It was not the biggest year for travel, but I still made it to two events thanks to my essay writing skill. In the Spring, I attended Tiki By the Sea in June where I learned about history, technique, hospitality, and self-health. I also attended Behind the Barrel at the Wild Turkey Distillery in September were I spent several days with 29 other bartender-campers and 3 awesome bartender-counselors soaking in the Bourbon lifestyle. History, family, philosophy, and food were all components here, plus a little skeet shooting to boot. I did get accepted to Portland Cocktail Week, but I sadly had to turn down that opportunity, so perhaps next year?
6. I read a lot this year: 60 books!
Normally, I read about 2 books a month for somewhere between 24-30 books per year, but I found myself reading more at home instead of going out as a ploy to save money and keep busy. And this was at a rate of 5-6 books per month for a year end total of 60! For best releases of the year that I read cover-to-cover, I would have to give it to Sother Teague's I'm Just Here For the Drinks and the Death & Co. crew's Cocktail Codex. For books not published this year that I adored, Gavin Weightman's The Frozen Water Trade about Frederic Tudor and friends bringing ice to the world, Helen Rothberg's The Perfect Mix: Everything I Know About Leadership I Learned as a Bartender which made me regret not bartending before going into a career-type job instead of the other way around, George Ade's The Old Time Saloon: Not Wet - Not Dry, Just History as an amazing piece of late Prohibition story telling about the pros and cons of the saloon and the Prohibition movement told with 1920s slang and plenty of color, Richard Erdoes' Saloons of the Old West with its colorful stories and how the saloon helped push the Temperance movement, Charles Maclean's Malt Whiskey as a great overview of history and styles, and Gregg Smith's Beer in America: The Early Years 1587-1840: Beer's Role in the Settling of America and the Birth of a Nation as an intriguing telling of American history from the beer perspective -- immigration, war, community, technology, and politics.

7. Still Bartending.
It was a year of change indeed on the job front. I helped open Our Fathers in Allston last November/December, and while I loved talking about gin and having access to 100 different labels, it was not paying the bills. Therefore, in March, I transitioned over to River Bar where I answered a call for help from my friend Geo who was the general manager. I spent the summer there, but after Geo and the other manager's departure, it soon became time to leave. I found work at Nahita when the beverage director contacted me. I have been working the main bar there as well as being the main bartender at the Fenix Speakeasy room in the back on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. One of my favorite photos of me this year was taken at Our Fathers. I had a couple who was overwhelmed by our 30+ gin drink menu, and to provide options, I mentioned that we had wine and beer ranging from IPAs to High Lifes. They got excited by the idea of High Life for one of their sisters was a beer snob. So I poured them an aperitif of a Highlife into a pair of Champagne flutes. Not only did it calm them down and allow them to slowly look over the menu as they sipped, it gave me joy since the 12 oz bottle perfectly filled two 6 oz flutes!
8. Created Some Drinks!
I'll just break up the 64 creations into superlatives:
• Best Name: The Sex Lives of Cannibals as a Jungle Bird-Mr. Bali Hai merge.
• Best Rescue of a Flabby Classic: I always found the Corpse Reviver #1 rather lame especially compared to #2. I took the same supercharge of the Vieux Carre that rescues the 1862 Saratoga to make the CR#1 into the Corpse Carre!
• Best Mashup: perhaps a tie between the Pegu Pilot and the Scorpion Ward which both take classics that fuse them to Tiki drinks.
• Winning Recipe: my Queen Anne's Revenge won the CocktailCourier competition and was sold by them as a kit this year. My Mai Tai Suissesse placed in the USBG Cocktail Classique sponsored by Lucid Absinthe, but alas, it was not a great time to travel to NYC to compete (for the honor of competing again).
• Best Drink Creation on the Fly: the Algiers Point one night at River Bar. A pair of cocktailians asked for something herbal like a Green Point, or perhaps something inspired by John Gertsen. So I thought, "Why not both?"
• Favorite Cocktail Conceived on a Walk Home: Up Jumped the Devil on National Artichoke Day.

9. Visited a lot of Brewery Tap Rooms!
Besides that, I also volunteered again to work the NERAX cask festival here in Boston. The tap rooms I visited in 2018 were: Winter Hill, Cambridge Brewing Co., Ragged Island, Proclamation, Abandoned Building, Drunken Rabbit, Democracy, Riverwalk, Barewolf, Sylvaticus, Mystic, Night Shift, Idle Hands, Turtle Swamp, Dorchester, Great North Aleworks, Long Blue Cat, Remnant, Castle Island, SoMe, Ground Effect, Medusa, True North, and Ipswich Ale.

10. The Tenth One is Always a Problem.
Despite a lot of transitions this year, it was a steady one in terms of productivity of drink creation, article and recipe posting, book reading, and the like. I have no clue what 2019 will bring for me other than seeing the bar world from the Bay Village in Boston through my job at Nahita. So let us raise a glass to 2018. Cheers and thanks for reading along this year!

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