Saturday, January 31, 2009

"Kiss & Tell" at Bushwick Country Club

Sitting at the table directly across from the brightly lit photo booth at Bushwick Country Club, I couldn't help thinking, "This whole bar must have been able to see everything..."

As part of my ongoing photo project "Kiss & Tell," I ask friends, acquaintances, and strangers to tell me the story of a memorable place they have had an intimate encounter.  My idea behind the project is that often the most memorable part is not the person you are with, but the space in which the act takes place.  Whenever possible, I take the storyteller back to the scene of the crime to hear their story and take a photograph.

This is how I found myself sharing a beer at Bushwick Country Club on Wednesday night listening to a friend (all storytellers remain anonymous) tell me one of the best stories I have heard in a while:

"He and I had slept together before.  We were at a friend's house nearby hanging out and drinking, of course.  As the night went on, we were getting closer and closer.  I was playing with his hair at one point.  We were supposed to come to this bar with a group of people, but we left early.  This was the same night I became a Country Club member.  If they still have that sign-in book, our names would be in there.  It was just he and I and one other guy who was a friend of his.  This guy sat at the end of the bar right next to where it all happened...

The bar wasn't crowded and since we were being loud and goofy, I knew the bartender noticed us.  So we go into the photo booth together.  I thought we were just going to take some pictures.  We start kissing before the first flash even goes off.  He must have had me pressed against the wall or something because in the strip of photos, you can only see the top of our heads in the first frame and the next three frames are empty.  I think he still has the strip of photographs.

The sexual tension was unbearable.  Then my pants were coming off.  It felt like I was alone with him in what, at the time, felt like a private enough space.  Then my underwear was off and on the floor outside the photo booth.  At that point, I realized I could hear people out in the bar saying, "ohh...her underwear..."  We had sex with me sitting on his lap facing him.  Fun.  Quick.  It was a break in the tension more than anything else. 

Afterwards, I made him go grab my underwear for me and heard the bar congratulating him.  I got dressed and came out.  You must have been able to see me naked right through that curtain.  Then the bartender said, "Looks like you just christened the photo booth."  And on the bar waiting for us were two shots of whiskey and two cigarettes."

More stories and photographs from "Kiss & Tell" are available on my website  If you have a story you'd like to share, please email me at  All photos by Sara Macel, 2009.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Derby Fizz Tasting

One of our more enjoyable tasks at the HCAR offices is cocktail tasting and testing. In the past this research has ranged from our house bartender’s own maple syrup spiked infusions, to rounds of Purple Titty Twisters, a demand often made while perusing the “shots” section of a fairly updated Mr. Boston’s Bartender’s Guide.

To bring a new life to the exploration, however, we were sent a tattered copy of Patrick Gavin Duffy's The Standard Bartender's Guide by our sponsor and superior, Colonel J.R. Harmon. The drinks within hearken back to days when Galliano flowed the streets like gold, and requesting a Wild Turkey Mist with a Twist, would not yank forth looks of disdain from your bartender. This is the inaugural article in a feature series recording our pursuits.

This week I had the pleasure of serving as bartender as we encountered the cocktails that contain, not just the egg white, but the whole egg.


1 1/2 ounces scotch whiskey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 whole egg
3 dashes curaçao or grenadine
3 or 4 ice cubes
Club soda

Tasting Roster:
The Masked Drinker
Faux-Bee June (your author)

Double B
Angel Tit
The Beej

Two drinks were mixed, but they were served in 8 2oz. rock glasses so that each taster could have their own experience. In the interest of transparency, it should be noted that the soda water was splashed over the top of each rocks glass.

As sumptuous as the actual drink looked, (cream colored and foamy, described by Mega as a “latte foam with a scotch flavor”) it indeed fell flat, as a number of tasters had suggested it might. In a word, repeated over and over, it was bland. A number of us felt that we would only drink this in a decade preceding the Second World War, or, more often, to be polite (although Mega, again, committed that she would drink it if it fell on someone else’s tab).

The Masked Drinker, who was most taken by the drink according to response from the group, said that it showed hints of vanilla and was “airy, almost marshmallowian [which is, of course, not a real word].” He did, however, mention that he was most likely to drink it while trying to impress someone, and that it would likely be improved by more whiskey, which reverberated well through the crowd, as no one felt like there was enough alcohol to classify it as an actual cocktail. (The Original Juicy thought that it would be best situated on the non-alcoholic section of a fancy cocktail menu).

The general blandness of the drink left everyone suggesting that it be more flavored, but agreement was scattered. While the MD and Juicy argued for more alcohol, Ladyboy thought something could be done to enhance the already existing vanilla taste by adding the similar and cutting down on the lemon. The Beej agreed that there should be “something with a little more zest”, while Double B and I suggested more sugar or cointreau. (Angel Tit had to admit that she disliked the drink so much, that she didn’t know where to begin improving it, but that under certain desperate situations, she could be tempted to drink anything. Even theDerby Fizz).

For my own part, I felt that the musty taste it brought forth was quite a bit off putting. I, as I mentioned, argued for more cointreau or sugar, which says a lot, because I categorically dislike drinks that have even the mildest hint of simple syrup sweet. As the bartender charged with making this drink as a one-off, one-try deal, I must say that I probably over served the soda water, which was added to each serving individually, and undoubtedly was far too much to allow the more subtle tastes to shine through, should they have had the power.

As a team, we hope that tasting off the beaten path cocktails helps us narrow down our palates, and perhaps, one day, try a cocktail that actually tastes good. In the meantime, this exercise offers a wonderful training experience for the HCAR office bartenders, and, as a good drinking experience should, a friendly atmosphere and lively discussion.

A toast to you all.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Masked Drinker's Guide to Drinking Alone

Few things in life have more potential for enjoyment than going out and having a few with your friends. Conversations blossom into epic riffs, wonderful stories, and fart jokes of majestic quality. But if you’re anything like me (and if you are, HIGH FIVE YOU RULE) then from time to time you want to be more or less alone. More or less in that, while sometimes you just want to be totally isolated in your apartment watching a M*A*S*H marathon for 14 hours straight (just, you know, for example), other times you want to get out of the apartment, be around people, but not with people.

And that’s where the beauty of drinking alone comes in. See, drinking alone needn’t be some bullshit Hollywood cliché of an unkempt man, down on his luck, sobbing into a dirty tumbler, all wrinkled faded suit, all tie with a stain on it, all remembering on what his ex-wife done to him. It can actually be a beautiful, chill way to spend an hour or eight. So here are some tips for you to read, enjoy, memorize, quote until they become tired, be ashamed of for a while, but then come to enjoy again at a later time.

Nerd Out! “Alone time” even when it’s in public, is often a time to indulge in your geekier, solitary pursuits. Drinking alone is a great time to catch up on some reading. This can be anything from finishing that damn trashy novel you just can’t put down (you know, the one with the mustachioed fellow with a large gun, and the cleavage-bearer holding onto his leg) to muddling your way through some sort of boring but necessary reading assignment (if you have to read something lame, at least you get to drink). Of course, some novels work better than others with booze. A nice glass of whisky makes Chandler even more hardboiled, but I wouldn’t suggest 5 Harvey Wallbangers while trying to get through Ulysses.

I’ve also found that a beer and a crossword puzzle can be a fine way to relax while not totally abandoning your cerebral cortex. Sure, maybe the old guy with the Bud in the corner might look at you askance but two words, fifteen letters for rolling with Will Shortz is “FUCKINGPARTYING” and don’t you forget it.

I like to write when drinking alone, too. You definitely have to walk a careful line, lest your handwriting turn to hieroglyphic and your content turn to “ha ha ha fart that is cool,” but it’s a good way to reward creative work done. “Hey, I finished an article for the blog, I get to finish my beer now, too!” Other creative pursuits might similarly benefit; I know after acquiring that perfect buzz, I find way more things to photograph. It just seems to flow more naturally.

Another good tip is almost cheating. Be friendly with bartenders. If you’re drinking alone and you know the bartender, you can get your alone time as you need it and chat him or her up when you feel like it. This, unless you’re some freak with the social skills of a five year old asshole (you know you’ve met or at least seen one, fucking whining about how he didn’t get the retarded piece of crap he wanted), will a) help you get in good with the bartender (never a bad thing) and b) maybe make you a new friend (shockingly hard in this city sometimes). So drink alone, but feel free to make friends while you do it.

Drinking alone can be used for reconnaissance as well. Maybe you’re wanting to have a party or a date (“Why You Don’t Bring Dates to Your Bar” is an article forthcoming from your truly here I BET YOU CANNOT WAIT TO FIND OUT THE SECRET REASONS WHY!) and you want to try somewhere new, but don’t necessarily want to walk in cold and have the place turn out to be a real shitshow. You should note that this is more fun if you refer to yourself by a code-name, write in a cipher, and wear fatigues or some sort of black ops outfit. Now’s the time to break out those night-vision goggles that uncle you used to think was cool but now scares you bought you for Christmas!

Drinking alone gets a bad rep sometimes, but if you think about it, it’s just the lame-os saying that. You know, the people that made toy guns become neon colored; the ones that don’t like it when you make gentle love to their furniture; the ones that go by their full name even when “Jimbo” is totally fun to say. Those guys can go fuck themselves. Treat yourself to a nice time and as my great-great-great-great-great grandfather the Lone Drinker always said, “Hi Ho Silver, another round!”

photo by the Masked Drinker

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ladyboy's Style Profiles: Barleywines

I'd like to congratulate our readers on surviving all winter holidays and New Years festivities, allowing themselves the opportunity to stare yet another hellish winter right in its cold black heart. By now seasonal effective disorder and cold-weather cardiovascular disease have undoubtedly clouded your thoughts and ravaged your already questionable health.

Friends, these are lousy times and the majority of you will surely continue to suffer. If, however, there are any among you who will dismiss all preconceptions of fermented malt beverages and invite astronomical original gravities and blasphemous levels of international bitterness units into your hearts, I can offer you a little sustenance in these dark times and some recourse against the cold.

The gift I share is no miracle of these modern times, like the vibrating USB bathrobe or the furby. This gift was contrived in antiquity, either by dwarves or gnomes, a drink that will lift the spirits of you and your brethren and revitalize you until you are supremely drunk. Know that I offer you no simple magic when I offer you Barleywine.

I will now reveal the nature of this beverage by way of a tea analogy for those of you not familiar with historical brewing processes.

Consider a blend of fine teas is steeped to perfection at the bidding of an individual rich and powerful beyond comprehension. The result is a beverage as fulfilling and as finely nuanced as the raw ingredients are capable of producing. After this tea has been whisked away for the masters consumption, the tea leaves are steeped once again and this weakened, inferior tea is served to the delight of ordinary hardscrabble people.

This heirarchal production system describes the medieval Parti-Gyle brewing style, where the brewer mashes and re-mashes the same grain, and the runnings from the two mashes are collected in separate vessels and fermented to form two very distinct beers. A strong beer or Barleywine is typically produced from the runnings of the first mash, while the second runnings produce a relatively easy drinking and unremarkable ordinary bitter or small beer.

It is not my intention to degrade the or persecute these ordinary beers. In a pinch it is better to drink weak but otherwise pleasant tea than scuzzy, brackish water tainted by sewage. All I am saying is that it is January and any drink could be your last. Consider this friends. Prepare for each day as you'd prepare for the birth of your first child or minutes before inpatient surgery. Drink the strongest and the most complex. Drink the finest and drink lots of it.
Whether you know it or not, you deserve the libation of the so-called better man.

When that first sip of Barleywine passes your lips you will know that if ever you were going to drink tea, instead of just expressing huffy opinions about how lame tea drinking is, this is exactly the kind of tea you would be drinking.

Hopefully by now your curiosity is sufficient to send you running from your desks to pursue beers malty and true. Because I have drunk Barelywine and it has given me wisdom, I also understand that a few of you probably have some questions that you want answered before you risk your life in the cold. Principally, how does Barleywine taste?

Barleywines will typically be described as adhering to one of two stylistic profiles, English and American. If you are familiar with the differences between other types of English and American ale styles, you will recongnize a familar set of distinctions between the two. For those of you who aren't quite sure how to make this distinguishment, a comparison of the two countries native Barelwines will emphasize their inherntly different takes on the principles of ale construction.

English Barleywines often feature a complex layering of balanced and intricate malt flavors. These ales are incredibly robust and sophisticated, with hop use generally more focused on acieving balance than dominance. The sweetness of the malt is very often complimented by toasty and nutty charachter, along with a distinct fruity prescence, which reflects the yeast strain and fermentation conditions. English versions tend to be darker in appearance than their American counteparts, ranging from amber to dark brown, although the color of both styles reflect the enourmous quantities of malt used.

American Barelywines move the balance away from the malt end of the spectrum. These ales are a showcase of native hop flavors and noticable citrus-like aromas. Amarillo and Cascade are among the extremely popular American hop varieties that lend their character to these beers. Malt plays a supporting role in these ales, providing deep and complex carmelly, bready malt flavors.

Both styles may give the impression of being intoxicatingly strong, though hot, solvently alchohol aramos or flavors are considered flaws. Both styles will way in at between 8-12% ABV.

By now you are surely entranced, willing to voyage to the ends of the earth if necessary, all for the oppurtunity to raise this truly benevolent nectar to your lips. Fortunately, recent diversification of our national beer palate has begun to affect greater distribution radiuses and wider availability of Barleywines and other strong and aged beers, such a voyage will be not be necessary.

Many of you will prefer to sift through this ale's layered sophistication garbed your favorite smoking jacket, in the company of your most excellent foxhound, the two of you reclining before of a crackling hearth under the watchful eye of a taxidermy cheetah. To you I recommend taking advantage of local retailers, who are likely have a few bottles of the good stuff carefully tucked away behind six packs of those ever-so-precious Pabst Brewing products this time of year. Barelywines may be particularly sought at well-stocked specialty beer stores, supermarkets that sell single 22 oz bottles of craft beers, and at bodegas recently restyled as gourmet-type shops.

Be sure to examine prospective bottles carefully, not all Barelywines will be overtly labeled. If you want to get the booty you've got to read the treasure map.

If you'd rather explore your snifter or wine glass (traditional Bareleywine serving vessels) while ruminating about good times with old pals, a fair percentage of beer bars and brewpubs offer Barleywines and strong ales, either on draft or bottled. As in the retail sphere, a little detective work may be required; suspect taps may be labeled as Old Ales, Old Strong Ales, Old Stock Ales, or Vintage Ales. Relative to most other available beers, Barleywines are OLD! Their names almost always indicate this, they're helping you find them.

I have to emphasize that for the rare and adventurous beer drinker, consultations with bartenders and establishment proprietor are extremely worthwhile.If you are willing to ask someone who knows more about their beer selection you will drink better beer, always.

If you've made it to the end of this article you are probably considerably weaker and prone to collapse than before you began. Get out there and drink that Barleywine, nothing else can help you now.

Alcohol is Permitted at Your Campsite Only

It wasn’t exactly camping, when Mr. June and I sat by our green log fire in the Virginia woods. In fact, although the cabin we’d rented was drafty and ten feet long on any side, we’d bought a space heater from the Target in town, and fashioned ourselves an almost cozy nook. Nevertheless, the January temperatures, and frustratingly low wattage electricity left us scrambling for bits of twig and paper to fortify the damp logs we’d bought in from the campground store. With a half pint of lighter fluid we’d crafted a suitable excuse for a campfire.

On our drive down to Virginia the day before, which happened to be a Sunday, I was hit with a mild Northerner panic – just short of Philly – that we would not be able to buy beer in our destination state on such an utterly holy day. Stella was procured in Pennsylvania, and we still had a bit left over, as it was nearing unbearable temperatures for cold beverages. I was wrong about the Sabbath, of course, and not only were we able to buy intoxicants, we found wine and beer under the very same roof and that the campground store that furnished us with firewood would happily supply us with Natty Ice, Bud Light or even Miller High Life. But this was a vacation, and a celebratory one at that, so we sought a decent place to eat, and perhaps a bottle of wine that surpassed the convenience store variety. Something delicious and warming to toast the new President.

The wine store, however, was discovered by accident. On vague recommendations we’d found dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant not far from a Friendly’s and a Hooters in a dreary strip mall. The parking lot was speckled with large, dusty Suburbans and the lights on the storefront between the restaurant and the wine store advertised a
C lifo nia Tan. But the windows were clean and large, the display cases offered something that looked palatable, and I had once and for all proclaimed that it was far too cold for me to be drinking beer either out doors or nearly out doors.

The anti-beer sentiment lasted only as long as it took us to walk to the back of the well-lit space and see fridge upon fridge upon shelf of unique and tempting brews. The selection rivaled both our favorite secret bodega and the high rent craft beer salons back home in Brooklyn. Mr. June wavered through the English Ales then ran his fingers over Old Engine Oil and Belhaven’s Wee Heavy before settling on an Orkney Skull Splitter, something he’d been wanting to try but never had run into in New York. I, for my part, went directly to the Stouts, and did not pause until my hand rested on the very first bottle it happened to bump. It was a Milk Stout from the Lancaster Brewery, and because we’d just driven though Pennsylvania, I took that as a good sign. And because I still dreaded the idea of drinking cold beer on a cold night, I padded off to the Spanish reds.

The wine selection was just as overwhelming as the beer, so in a generalized state of panic I scanned the racks for a familiar grey label, though it had been ages since it had appeared, to save me from making my uneducated wine mistakes. “My wine”, which had been highlighted on the wine list of a restaurant I once worked at and, over the years, had been nothing but a spectacular hit at parties, and a luscious, deep, fruity sensation for myself. But it had been a long time since I’d actually found it in New York, and the sight of it, for a decent mid-range price, nearly startled the Milk Stout out of me.

Back at the campsite, feeling content that the eve of the inauguration would not go improperly celebrated, I snapped open the staples on the brown paper bag, and unwrapped our bottles from the tissue paper. I poured the wine into blue plastic cups, took a sip, and with disappointment discovered that it was, in a word, bland. Mr. June agreed, and suggested that we leave it to air a bit, while sampling our beers. The Milk Stout seemed to have a wide variety of spicy flavors, or it might have, but my butt was sore from the pile of fire logs, and my fingertips kept going numb from holding the bottle, then, after an incident with the lighter fluid, we returned to our beers to find they had sat too long, and, of all things, were warm. The Skull Splitter tasted like tepid hop soup, and the Milk Stout had to be put out of its misery quickly.

The wine never opened, because there were no rooms that had been heated to the level of “room temperature” to be found, so it remained cold and one dimensional, and although we finished the bottle, it was in the style of great gulps, sometimes wishing there were a nice bottle of cola handy to cut the biting alcohol. How I longed for a pint of Jack Daniels, or even Ten High, something cheap an effective. Something Joe Six-Pack would keep around for a special occasion.

The remaining Stellas offered a bit of consolation, but by that point we agreed that, in the future, all imbibing around campfires would be as cheap and local as possible. It is, after all, camping. And drinking while camping is designed to make the cold less cold (even three ice cold cans will get you there), and the bugs less bitey, and the money last longer. There is nothing un-celebratory, or, for that matter, un-American, about a bottle of Budweiser. Unfortunately the campground store closed at 7pm.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Morning After, A Syrcls Brunch Review: Fada

Let’s face it, the last thing you want to do when you wake up from a long (and possibly regrettable) night out is to get out of bed & cook yourself something awesome to make yourself feel more human again. At least for people like me, who pretty much don’t cook at all, going out to brunch is pretty much your best friend. So that’s why I’m here: to share my tales of urban brunching— tales of caution, and/or tales of awesome.

On this past 3-day holiday weekend, I had a cousin staying with me, a zillion birthdays (seriously, everyone’s parents must have been getting busy for reals in the spring!), and a Brooklyn Iron Chef competition (for which I had my roommate 80% make me a salad I passed off as entirely my own). It was exhausting, and I still needed to follow through with a brunch date I had made with Foxy, a friend I hadn’t seen since before the New Year. We both live in the northern part of Brooklyn, though she lives in Greenpoint and I live more towards the east, around Bushwick. I figured Fada-- a French place I had been to before and had their amazing fries and seriously, the best mussels I’ve had in NY-- conveniently located right off the Bedford stop on the L on Driggs, was the easiest solution.

I got there shortly before Foxy, about five minutes before one. The place was about half full, though there only appeared to be one waitress working. I sat down at the bar, which was nice so I wouldn’t have to crowd the entrance area. When Foxy arrived, we started to make our way to the waitress, when I was intercepted by some random lady asking me what the address to this place was. I have no idea why people always think I know where everything is, much less exact addresses of places. Foxy found a business card & gave it to her, which was probably a better solution than my answer of “Uhhhhh, I dunno, like, Driggs…” Then I realized after we were seated that the waitress and I were wearing similar outfits, and had similar coloring. I also frequently get mistaken for waitresses or retail “sales associates,” which is ironic, because I am probably the worst sales associate and/or waitress ever.

Anywho, Foxy and I are vegetarians. When I say I’m a vegetarian, I mean, I totally eat shellfish, fish, and occasionally turkey on Thanksgiving. So, yeah, I’m basically a fake-believe vegetarian. But Foxy is for real. Fada has a great brunch menu that I much prefer over nearby French places Juliette and Fabianne. Juliette is kind of limited, especially for vegetarians (even fake-believe ones!), and has way too much fried shit for my taste, and though Fabianne’s menu is pretty good and eclectic, it’s always crowded and you have to go up to the front to order. Barbaric, right? Ha. It is if you’re a lazy ass on the weekends (and weekdays, my roommate would argue) like me. Fada is also the best deal of those three, because it’s about $11 that includes OJ and coffee and/or tea with your brunch. Their Bloody Marys & Mimosas are $6, which is not too bad if you have all that other stuff too. Oh, and their tea comes in these gigantic saucer bowl things, which are cool because you get more hot water, but kind of annoying if you have a small table.

Foxy and I both ordered the Veggie Croque—which is melted gruyere & country bread, served with a green side salad. I feel like it strikes a good balance between healthy/fiber-y, and super indulgent. Does the cheese cancel the healthy out? Whatevs. It’s pretty good. Though, I had to really restrain myself from getting the mussels for the eighty billionth time. Since Fada is cuisine more from Marseilles, you can imagine the standard of mussels. Seriously. Amazing.

The only thing that kinda sucked about this experience was that because there was really only one girl there working, it took a while to get our food, and Foxy barely got coffee after asking no less than four times. Also, they only type of credit cards they take is American Express, which is weird. But luckily, they have an ATM inside.

Overall, I would say this place has good food, portions that really hit the spot without making you feel either still ravenous, nor overstuffed and disgusting. Plus, they keep you pretty hydrated with the amount of drinks included with the brunch, which is always good. It’s also pretty convenient if you live in the area, or want to meet up somewhere easily reachable by subway station location. And MUSSELS, MUSSELS, MUSSELS!! Did I mention that?


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rachel's Style Profile: Champagne

There are a couple notorious types of wine drinkers…

First you have “The Wine Snob.” This person is probably an elitist, vintage Bordeaux-sipping “connoisseur,” if you will. They probably have an extensive wine collection valued at an amount that could feed a small village. They probably own monogrammed decanters, and discuss wine with an air of self righteousness. They may also possibly wear ascots.

Then at the other end of the spectrum, you have “The Wino.” This person doesn’t care at all about vintages, varietals, etc. Bring on the box wine, the Yellowtail, and the 3 Buck Chuck. If its fermented grape juice of any sort—it’s good enough for them. Sadly, this person probably also drinks their wine with ice cubes floating in it.

Everyone else is somewhere in between. They drink wine because they enjoy drinking wine. They can appreciate a nice bottle of something when it comes around, but they won’t drop a week’s pay on it. They can also go to the local wine shop, find a $12 bottle, and be totally happy with it. They can talk about wine intelligently, without sounding like a pretentious asshole. They do not, however, drink White Zinfandel, the Kool-Aid of wine. (See “the Wino.”)

“What is the definition of a good wine? It should start and end with a smile.”

-William Sokolin

We at HCAR tend to agree, and we’ll be exploring the world of wine with this philosophy in mind. It’s never a bad idea to kick things off with a glass of champagne, so thus begins our first wine profile…


Champagne is composed of any combination of 3 grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. For Champagne to be called Champagne, it must be produced in the Champagne region of France. Anything else is technically a “sparkling wine.” Different regions may have different names for their own brands of sparkling wine, such as Cava in Spain, and Asti Spumanti in Italy.

There are 4 types of Champagne—Brut, which is the standard “dry” champagne, Extra-dry is ironically less dry than a Brut. Then you have Sec, which is sweet, and Demi-sec, which is even sweeter. Champagne can be white or pink. Pink Champagne is made by leaving the grape skins to ferment in the liquid for a short while, whereas they are completely eliminated in the normal process.

Champagne is classified as being Vintage or Non-Vintage. Vintage champagne means that all the grapes within the champagne were harvested during a single year. Vintage champagne must be aged for 3 years, and in any given year Vintage Champagne accounts for only about 10-15% of the total champagne produced. Non-Vintage champagne on the other hand, accounts for the remaining 85-90%. This type is composed of grapes from several different vintages, as opposed to a single harvest. Non-Vintage champagne tends to be much less expensive than its counterpart, and is referred to as “Classic Champagne,” because it was the only type made during the first 150 years of Champagne production.

And how did Champagne come about in the first place? Legend has it that in the mid 1600’s the Benedictine monk, Don Pierre Pérignon accidentally invented champagne when experimenting with different forms of fermentation. “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!” is the famous quote associated with the monk’s alleged discovery. Historians now credit English scientist, Christopher Merret with “inventing” champagne 30 years before Perignon. Perignon is credited, however, for refining the Méthode Champenoise, which is the secondary in-bottle fermentation process by which champagne is made.

The taste of Champagne varies widely depending on the maker, the soil, the age, and many other factors. Champagne can be sweet, dry, nutty, fruity, minerally, chalky, creamy---pretty much anything goes. When one hears the word “mousse” it refers to the appearance of the bubbles in the glass and the feeling that they leave on the palate.

And finally, a few random fun facts…

  • A quarter of all Champagne sold every year is sold in the week between Christmas and New Year’s
  • A cork can escape a bottle of sparkling wine at speeds of up to 40 mph.
  • Legend has it that the traditional shallow champagne glass was modeled after wax molds of Marie Antoinette’s breasts.
  • Champagne is traditionally used to christen ships on their maiden voyage by smashing a bottle over the ship’s hull. If the bottle doesn’t break, it is considered to be extremely bad luck.

~Happy Champagne drinking from HCAR~

Editor's note: Due to timing and technological complications it fell upon me, the Colonel, to place Rachel's writing upon the computer web. Fear not, the lovely redheaded oenophile and I are indeed separate entities, not some monstrous scientific abomination out of Victor Von Frankenstein's dream.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Syrcls's Top 10 Winter Bars

In no particular order:

1. Larry Lawrence— Though it sort of falls into the trap of those pseudo-speakeasy semi-hidden type set-ups, it’s not at all pretentious or trendy. The interior is all wood and brick (THE definitive formula for coziness, in case you want to get technical about it), I think they’re more memorable for their beers than cocktails (though maybe I’ve just never had a good one here), and though I like this bar for the winter, they do have a semi-see-through second level roof deck-type outside patio thing that is awesome for summer. It’s a rare thing that a bar gives you a cozy interior for the winter & yet something to look forward to for the summer.
Located on Grand St. in Williamsburg.

2. Harefield Road— One of the owners made all of the wooden furniture himself, and for me, this type of woodsy-Irish Pub-y décor is a slight variation on the epitome of winter coziness (see Larry Lawrence above). Really, if there’s one bar I think of when I want to get warm, have a beer or hot toddy, and not have to yell over loud ass music, but still listen to awesome music, this is it.
Located off Graham, on Metropolitan in Williamsburg.

3. The Room (SoHo)— When you get past the fact that almost everyone who goes here looks like an i-banker, it can be quite nice. I love the exposed brick & the comfy booths (though there is limited seating), it really is perfect for bringing a date or someone you’d really talk to. In the back, there’s even a little slide-y window thing connects to the bar so you don’t have to go around to the other side to order your drinks. They don’t have hard alcohol here, but they have both kinds of Delirium Tremens and a great selection of wine. It’s best to come here on a weekday to stake your claim in for a booth, and to avoid most of the collared shirt crowd that is most populous on the weekends.
Off Houston, on Sullivan, in Manhattan.

4. Home Sweet Home—Despite there being taxidermied animals as far as the eye can see, this is a great bar to either sit in a booth for a spell or dance it up. They usually play (at least when I’ve been there) good 50s & 60s stuff to dance to. I have a feeling Royal Oak took a cue from them, music-wise. True, it is the Lower East Side, but the crowd is mixed in a good way, and I always have a fun time here. Drinks are pretty reasonably priced, though I never get cellphone service because it’s downstairs. Though, honestly, you probably wouldn’t want to leave for whoever is calling you anyway.
On Chrystie off Delancey.

5. Sweet Ups— Velveteen paisley patterned walls, vinyl booths, and a blackberry bramble = possibly the best part about winter and living in “East Williamsburg.” This always also tends to be my formula for the end of a night. That blackberry bramble cocktail they make ALWAYS pushes me over the edge from being tipsy into drunken, screeching harpie shitshow land (just ask Erin or Ilan!). Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but these days, the bramble is my “beginning of the night” or “only drink of the night” drink. It’s so damn tasty and berry/winter appropriate that you forget how much goddamn gin & vodka are packed into that sucker. Fun fact: you can also get this drink at Royal Oak, though it’s not nearly as awesome in that environment.
On Graham & Grand.

6. Bar(n)— Part of the Flatbush Farm restaurant (which I’ve never eaten at officially), it seems to be THE birthday spot for my friends of South Brooklyn. Again, wood is a prominent feature here. I really love the assortment of beers they have here, especially that they have Schneider Weisse—a nice, light wheat beer that clocks in at slightly over a pint. Yes I inappropriately used the phrase “clocks in,” whatever. Anywho, it’s a nice spot for when you’re over in that area, and sometimes, late at night, it even turns into a dance party. Of course, the one time some weird Eurotrash dude wandered in there, and OF COURSE me & my friends were making fun of him, he just HAD to be the one to relentlessly urge me to dance with him. But, thankfully, I think that is generally a rare occurrence.
Located simultaneously on St. Marks, 6th Ave, and Flatbush Ave. somehow. That criss-crossy, non-gridded area frightens & confuses me like Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. But it’s worth it!

7. Scratcher-- This was one of the first bars I’d ever been to in NYC. Christina Ricci & Adam Goldberg frequent here, and yes, it can be a bit i-banker-y sometimes, BUT, the undergrounded-ness, Christmas lights, stuck-together seat-table things, secret table spots, and Nick Drake itunes prominence make this bar irresistible. I can almost think of no winter situation that cannot be applied to going to this bar—getting cozy with red wine on a date, reminiscing with old college friends with pints & pints of Boddingtons, or just watching the snow fall and writing in your journal (CHEESE!) with some Jameson. It can get pretty crowded sometimes, but I somehow always seem to have the perfect timing. So, either go with me, or develop your own stick-shift-clutch-type relationship with it.
Located on e5th between Bowery & 2nd in Manhattan.

8. Brass Monkey— All the fucking way on the WAYYY West side, it may seem inconvenient. But, not if you work in or around that weird Chelsea/Meatpacking/West Village border like I do. Honestly, if you find yourself in the area, it’s a total haven from all the horrendousity (so what if that’s not a word!?) of the Meatpacking. Here’s the thing— not only do they have an incredibly impressive selection of beers (not cheap though, mind you), but they have an insane amount of space, so it’s never really that crowded, and is ideal for larger groups. Oh, and did I mention the interior is entirely wood? Naturally.
Located on little W12th St, sort of under the right side of the West Side Hwy.

9. The Richardson— This is a recent discovery of mine, mostly because it’s pretty new. It has all the nice cocktail-y faux-speakeasy things about Hotel Delmano without the attitude (and without the me getting kicked out of it or acting inappropriately on more than one occasion, but let’s not get into that…) or pretension. AND they have tasty, tasty snacks. AND it’s a pretty huge space and semi-conveniently located near to the BQE and the Graham stop on the L, just past Daddy’s. Their Pimm’s Cups are better than Delmanos anyway. YES, you heard me! I said it! IN WRITING, no less. Why does it seem like I’m getting more & more belligerent in this post even though I’m stone cold sober? Whatevs.
Located on Graham & Richardson (duh).

10. Roebling Tea Room— So yes, this isn’t technically a bar, but I just decided to throw a curveball at’cha. Does the fun ever start? Sorry…anyway….I just think this is a nice alternative if you don’t necessarily feel like drinking, but don’t feel like restricting yourself so rigidly either. The space is humongous, and has a few couches for larger groups or laptop writing. They obvs have an insane selection of tea and tea-like drinks (coffee even!), but they also have a very inexpensive and pretty good house red, along with nice bottle & on draft beers. The best thing is the BAKED BRIE plate, though, with walnuts, greens, apples & whole grain bread. NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING beats that on a winter afternoon. Great, I’m hungry now.

Photos from internet.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Masked Drinker's Guide to Meeting Girls

When telling bar stories, there’s one question that I get more often than most any other, from both seasoned drinkers and teetotalers. I guess it’s a basic question and all but it was embarrassing and annoying the first time I heard it, and it doesn’t get any better from there. So I’m going to try to put it to rest for good, like when my dog went blind and kept bumping into shit.

The question being, “How do you meet girls in bars?”

Now, a little background is needed here. Now, this might shock you, but I have never once been voted People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive. Hell, I wasn’t even nominated! In fact, I barely made the top 100 Sexiest Humans Around list for the Dragon Magazine’s list two years ago. I’ll put it this way: I’m out of shape, I often reek of alcohol, and I have hair on my back. It’s the sort of combination that young women tease each other about one day dating (and sadly, often end up doing so).

So it’s not like I walk around and shoot sex pheromones at every girl I see, waiting for them to fall on my crotch. But, by all accounts, I do OK. I date fairly frequently, tend not to have awful dry spells, and I even do meet girls in bars occasionally. So people that know me are reasonably surprised by this, so they tend to talk about it. Other, more tangential associates (read: other barflies) get wind of it and want to know “my secret.”

Well, it’s no secret, really. I haven’t perfected some insane manipulation scheme involving “conversation starters” and generally being the biggest douche in town. So you might understand my frustration when people take me for some sort of womanizing mastermind. I mean I guess there
's always some guy that thinks that there's some system to break, and THAT must be why he can't get a date. It's never his fault for not being charming enough or for having constant eye boogers or the poor girl just isn't interested. It's just because he never cracked the system. And the guys that think they have, simply have discovered that people with low self-esteem want attention, even from creeps.

So, here's the big plan, the big secret: don't go to bars to meet girls. Seriously, don't do it. It's lamer than a horse that's about to be shot. Now, I'm not admonishing you about the "low character" or some noxious bullshit about women you might meet there. You meet the same kind of girls in a bar that you would anywhere else, except it's just a bit more likely they enjoy a good drink as well. The emphasis is don't go to bars in order to meet women. Go to bars to have fun. Go with friends, go by yourself, but either way, go to have fun. Enjoyment of booze and friendly company are the only legitimate reasons to go to a bar (unless your tv's on the fritz and the game is on [or Project Runway's season finale for that matter]). If meeting girls is your motivation, guess what! You're going to fuck it up.

You'll either try some terrible line or nervously try making conversation, and the whole thing will be painfully obvious to everyone involved. And nobody wants that kind of bullshit going round. I have never, in my life, met a girl when the night started with that as my intention. I won't say this lesson was quick or easy to learn, but hopefully I can save you folks some pain.

"Oh, but Masked Drinker, how will I ever meet a girl then? And didn't you say that you've met girls in bars?"

Shut up, hypothetical reader, and let me continue to explain. I was saying that you should go out to a bar with your friends to have fun. Over time, I've realized that a man is never more attractive than when he's happy and joking with his pals (of any gender). If you want to attract women, be attractive to them. Hungry vultures and practiced bullshitters are not attractive to anyone you actually want to meet. But a charming, content guy with nary a care in the world? That's what you should aim for, really. And even if you don't end up accidentally attracting some girl, who the hell cares? You're having fun anyway talking about He-Man or Pete Rose or particle physics or Global knives or whatever else it is you might want to talk about.

Now, I'm not sure how this works for lesbians or gay guys, but I will say I've never been to a gay bar that wasn't basically the funnest place in the world. So hopefully that works out, too.

Anyway, the point is: drink up and have fun. That's all that matters in the end.

retarded photoshop by the Masked Drinker

A veritable box of communication

Welcome all to the happiest place on the internet. I, Colonel J.R. Harmon, was perusing this giant collection of nerds and pornography from my ancestral estate whose location I do not wish to reveal and it occurred to me that there was no real home, no central headquarters for that noblest of lifestyles, that of The Drinker. Sure, you’ll find dozens of oenophilic sites filled with the minutia of the grape. Indeed, dunder-headed youths of once-storied Greek associations might belabor to type rudimentary tales of their “keggers” and vomiting that would cause an actual Ancient to blush. And, yes, there are many sites of note that review various alcohols at varying degrees of competency. All this is true and most evident.

But I found nothing in my many wasted hours of searching on this infernal machine that truly was dedicated to the lifestyle of a real drinker. A gentleman or lady who knows exactly what he or she likes, and enjoys it like a true aficionado or, truly, an artist whose medium is imbibery. I quickly decided to found and fund an organization to rectify this. I don’t wish to sound impolite, but through hard work, good family, and years of penning men’s adventure novels, I have amassed no small amount of wealth. And rather than see it fall into the hands of my cultureless offspring or, worse, my even-more-spoiled grandchildren, I have poured it into the site you are now reading.

I purchased office space in Brooklyn, New York, no stranger to the love of liquor, as I had been advised struggling artists and writers paved the streets there like gold in the land of Oz. Lo, I was truly advised well, as I was flooded with a multitude of so-called talents from every corner of the globe, yet now residing in said borough. The selection process was harrowing; I do believe some lost not only their chance at artistic fulfillment but also their very minds. But in time, I selected a team the likes of which have not been seen since Clark Savage, Jr. and his companions.

In this group you will find experts in every field related to the true liquid of life and love. You have brewers, bartenders, trained palettes, esteemed debauchers, and more, all at the top of their respective games. So I hope you come to enjoy our discussions, articles, artwork, fiction, and whatever else it is you can put on a computer these days. (They have come a long way from helping us crack Kraut codes, so I suppose they deserve their current esteem in a way.) Feel free to electronically mail either myself or any member of our staff with comments, questions, or adoration.

It is already, and will continue to be a privilege to provide you with this tribute to one of life’s few true treasures.

Yours in truth and in time,
Col. J. R. Harmon, Ret.