A Bourbon to Call My Own

The Research

A few months ago, I decided to add to my growing list of vices by delving into the world of whiskey. Those who know me best know that wine is my passion and mixed drinks are my occasional side piece.

Why bourbon? Because I’m a “Zagger” by nature. When others zig, I tend to zag. My good friend David is a Scotch drinker and an enthusiastic one at that. The more expensive the Scotch, the more excitedly his tail wags. I tasted a few glasses of Scotch with him and I think they were pretty good. Think – because I really had no idea what I was tasting, what I should have been looking for, or what the standard flavor profile should be.

So when I decided to “zag” my way to bourbon, I had to know what I was getting into. The research started in earnest right off the bat. The first decision was to concentrate on Kentucky bourbon because of its historic lore and the fact that it is a truly American spirit.

Next I wanted to learn what differentiated bourbon from other whiskies like Scotch, Irish and Canadian whiskey. Here’s where YouTube became one of the greatest developments in the history of man. You can learn about ANYTHING on YouTube. Knowing the differentiators like ingredients, mash bills, aging process and time spent in the barrels helped me gain an understanding of what I should be looking for in flavor profiles like sweet corn, smoke, baking spices, burnt sugar etc.

Armed with a basic understanding of distilling process, technique, and flavors, I conducted some public polling via social media to find out what my friends and acquaintances were drinking. Bourbon heads are all too eager to welcome you down a path of debauchery so the responses came pouring in. Dr Fred G gave a shoutout to Makers Mark as did Kerry O. Two women chimed in; Michelle, suggested Larceny and Leigh proffered Woodford Reserve. Cousin Ian put a plug in for Knobb Creek. But responding to a Facebook post wasn’t personal enough for my buddy Matt H. He needed to chat by phone. The excitement and enthusiasm heard in his voice for my decision to cause further damage to my liver was…disturbing to say the least. It was as if a child were taking his first steps. Matt threw Makers Mark, Blanton’s, Woodford Reserve, Knobb Creek and many others my way.

I pondered all of the recommendations and, after careful consideration, made the most beginner move that I could. A flavored bourbon: Knobb Creek Smoked Maple. LOL! It’s laughable today but enjoyable at the time. I had enjoyed smoked maple Manhattans at a local restaurant so I thought…why not?

Eventually, I ditched the training wheels and watched several more YouTube videos to further my education. A favorite channel emerged in It’s Bourbon Night. I learned a ton from the channel’s two hosts.

I declared a mission: Find YOUR bourbon, Joe Lee. Find your “go-to” “Steady Eddie” everyday sipper. Over a two month period, and to my wife’s dismay, I purchased a bottle of Kentucky Straight Bourbon per week in an effort to find MY bourbon. Because a man without a bourbon to call his own is just a simple man.

The Bourbons

I purchased 10 bourbons: Woodford Reserve, Four Roses Single Barrel, Eagle Rare, Evan Williams Single Barrel, Rowan’s Creek, Willett Pot Still Reserve, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, Buffalo Trace, Booker’s Small Batch, and Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. I tasted another 3 in restaurants and bars: Maker’s Mark, Basil Hayden’s, and Old Forrester 1920.

What I like

I like a somewhat balanced bourbon with stronger notes of sweet corn, coffee, caramel, butterscotch, and hints of tobacco leaf, cinnamon, dark fruit, wood, and floral notes. I’m not big on the more peppery profile that bourbons with higher rye content in the mash bill offer. Slightly higher rye is ok. And bourbons that are too well balanced where flavors that I enjoy don’t shine are a little too boring for me (like Woodford Reserve). The alcohol content sweet spot for me is between 90-100 proof.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

Before I get to the ranking of my top 4, I should say that a key criteria for determining MY bourbon is accessibility. That is, when I want it…when I need it…can I get it. For that reason alone, Buffalo Trace, an affordable, damn fine bourbon did not make the list. Damn it! It took more than a month of searching until I was able to get my hands on a bottle. They fly off of the shelf so quickly and Buffalo Trace is very discerning when it comes to distribution. So fresh off a tasting today, here are the 5 bourbons that occupy my top 4 and they are pictured with the music that I am most likely to listen to while drinking them.

#4 Tie Bookers Small Batch and Willett Pot Still Reserve

I enjoy these bottles equally but for very different reasons. Each is a very different experience. The Booker’s is small batch, cask strength and, therefore by bourbon making standard, high in alcohol content. At 129.7 proof, this is rocket fuel in a bourbon bottle. Kentucky hugs for days. It’s a viscous experience with caramel, oak, vanilla & baking spice notes. I have to drink this with a block of ice and something gritty like The Black Keys on the turntable. And honestly, I can only have one glass. On the other side, the Willett is smooth with brown sugar, molasses, and coffee notes. At 94 proof, I enjoy it neat with classic jazz, mellow Aretha Franklin. This is more of an everyday sipper for me while the Booker’s requires a special mood.

#3 Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

Double Oaked means that the bourbon was aged twice in charred oak barrels for a darker appearance and smokier flavor. It’s full-bodied with hazelnut, caramel, and fruit notes. It has a sweet and woody finish. Its 90.4 proof allows me to enjoy neat with something smokey and bluesy like Nina Simone. I could drink this every day.

#2 Four Roses Single Barrel

While I don’t typically like bourbons with high rye mash bills, I do enjoy the slight peppery experience that Four Roses SB offers. At 60% corn and 35% rye, the rye doesn’t overpower the sweet notes that I enjoy. This was probably the 2nd or 3rd bourbon that I purchased so it’s been King of the Hill for quite some time. Single barrel production means that each bottling comes from a single barrel and, therefore, will offer slightly different experiences with each bottle. I like little surprises. Tasting notes include sweet corn, cherry, brown sugar, and vanilla. It’s spicy like Solange, unpredictable like Solange, and sweet like Solange. At 100 proof, I can enjoy neat or with an ice ball depending on how rough my work day was.

#1 Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr Small Batch

One taste of the Colonel and I was hooked on the vanilla, sweet corn, cherry tobacco, and chocolate notes with a long enjoyable finish. Bottled in Bond means that the bourbon was distilled in 1 season and aged at least 4 years. The “small batch” production adds some unique characteristics in that the flavors are concentrated from a small selection of warehouse barrels. This bourbon is 100 proof and I always drink it neat. You can find me drinking this to something groovy that puts me in my feels like Al Green. The pepper isn’t out front and it has less burn than the Four Roses which is why the Colonel enjoys my top spot for now.

I’m looking forward to tasting more to see if E.H. Taylor will remain my go-to bourbon. I’ll give my liver a break for a while, though.

If you have a favorite bourbon that you think I should try, I’m all ears. I’ll also entertain your arguments if you think Scotch is the more desirable whiskey to imbibe.

Cheers!

Death and Wood: An East-Coast Urbanite’s Foray in the Mid-West


Ahhh…the mid-west. I’ve been here thrice before but the visits were to major urban areas like Kansas City and Denver, and a more culturally diverse college town in Greeley, CO. But this is my first time in the sparsely populated heartland.

I made the trip to visit my dad and his wife, Erika, in Bloomfield, Nebraska where they relocated to some years ago. I got my first taste of mid-west flavor while people watching as I awaited my flight to Sioux Falls, SD in Chicago Ohare airport the day after the Cubs won the World Series. If I had a dollar for every dude that I saw sporting “dad jeans” and hiking shoes, I’d be Mark Zuckerberg rich.

Big agriculture is the name of the game in Nebraska. The landscape is gold and tan hued peppered with brown and black cows and accented with sprinkles of modernity in the form of giant white propellers.

 

Dry fields stretch as far as the eye can see and trees are small islands of green that pool around homes or separate property lines. It would be fair to say that I did not come across a true forrest the entire time that I visited.  And it is dusty. Extremely dusty. Tractors kick up clouds of dust so thick that it lingers still in the air if the wind isn’t blowing and the cutting down of end-of-season crops delivers pestilence to the doorstep of man. The flies, beetles and grasshoppers overwhelmed me. Acreages and acreages of trees and grassy plains displaced by crops of corn grown to fuel ethanol production and grazing cattle to satisfy Americas demand for beef unveils miles of barren vista. A sad sight for my urban eyes.


Bloomfield is a town with a population of 1,126 and it is what you would expect of a small Mid-western town. The pace is slow, the people are friendly, and the opportunities for fun and employment are scarce. Quaint is the adjective I used most often to describe the place. The convenience store owner, the real estate agent, and newspaper publisher that I met were all so friendly and accommodating. And they all seemed to have a great deal of respect for my dad and Erika.


Trips like these are often moments of self-discovery for me. The things that I frequently complain about, like crowds and traffic, are among the things that I miss the most about the east. You can drive for miles without seeing another car and move about the day missing human interaction as long stretches of road separate residential properties. The isolation is as depressing as the failing economy here.

The emerald green of the east with its tree covered hills, sparkling lakes, and massive traffic jams call to the urbanite in me. There are many reasons why the left and right coasts are so heavily populated. Buzzing restaurants, live music, walkable cities and communities, public art, the diversity of life itself…these things matter to many.  And yet there were some pleasurable discoveries and experiences in Nebraska. I ate an elk burger full of flavor. I shot a gun in an open field without fear of disturbing the neighbors or risk of being shot by the police for possession of a weapon. I discovered a winery that rivaled many on the Seneca Lake wine trail. These things I will long remember.  Still, my values won’t play well out here. A pair of Ferragamo shoes would be as useless as tits on a bull as they say.

My dad is nearing 78 and is as obdurate as you would expect a 78 year-old to be. He and his wife have settled in nicely in Nebraska and have become an integral part of the social fabric of Bloomfield. I amused myself, during this visit, with his obsession with wood and death. Not long ago they lived on a farm and partially heated their home by burning firewood. During this period, he collected a lot of fire wood. And although that is no longer the case, his tour of the area included areas where he collected the fire wood. Private property where he was given permission (and sometimes not) to remove fallen trees. A drive by of the old farm house revealed where he chopped the tonnage of wood collected over time.  Passing other homes I learned of the families fates including who died. Collecting and burning wood was a significant part of his life for such a long time that he now suffers from “wood envy”. He showed me properties where the homeowners had enviable stacks of wood. Piles of wood gathered in anticipation of the winter to come. The irony of a man’s obsession with collecting wood in a woodless land was not lost on me.

I am happy that they have settled into a place that they can call home. A place where neighborly connections are meaningful even in a place where people are scattered like sand in the wind. This place is good for them. It was a pleasure visiting the two of them, but the east calls to me now…and I must answer.

Work, Life, Tech Balance

Today I finally did it. I misplaced my smartphone and I was lost in space without it. My family found great amusement in the fact, but I did not. I first discovered Biggie (the name of my iPhone6 Plus) missing when I dropped by Starbucks for an oatmeal and latte. Standing in line, I reached into my pocket to retrieve my device and my hand emerged covered in lint sans phone. Panicked, I dashed to my car thinking I left Biggie sitting on the seat with the doors unlocked only to find that the phone was not there. Then I remembered that, in my impetuous exit, I left the phone charging on my nightstand next to the bed. I grieved. Boy did I grieve.

Me and Biggie
Me and Biggie

I struggled to scrape together enough cash from the car to afford an oatmeal (no latte) and knowing that I had a $23 balance on my Starbucks app sent me into a momentary depression. I wanted that  grande triple-shot Cinnamon Dolce latte.

The thought of traversing the entire day without my phone delivered chills up and down my spine; while the thought of challenging my family’s proclamation that I am addicted to my phone gave me the energy and the courage to head to the office with Biggie left at home.

Friends…it was a rough day. When I wasn’t working on my office computer or handwriting notes, my hands were confused. They seemed to wander aimlessly to my pockets or rested on my head, hips and chin. You see, I love my phone. Not in a weird object sexuality disorder kind of way. It’s a far different situation than the dude caught on video sticking his pecker into the exhaust pipe of his car. No my friends; my phone keeps me connected and aids in being productive. I talk to it and it to me. It is my window on the world.

I nearly missed an appointment because I wasn’t near my computer to receive the appointment reminder. During that appointment, I was concerned that I couldn’t be reached by the office or my family. Most of my communication during the day is via text message or Face Time.

I had no mobile access to Face Book, Twitter, Instagram or any other network. I couldn’t  even take a selfie. I grew concerned that Biggie was cold and alone. I worried that I was ruining the battery life by having it charging all day.

“This is silly”, I thought. So I capitulated and proceeded to take my daily walk across campus; soak in some sun and enjoy my lunch break outdoors. My wife Angela constantly says that I am “missing out on the world.” I paused on the Syracuse University Quad and took a seat on a bench next to Hendricks Chapel. There I sat in the world…bored to death. No news to read. No messages to respond to. No pictures to take. No status updates. My attempts to connect to the world around me were futile. I saw a squirrel carrying some nesting material. Ok…cute. I watched people walking across the Quad. Some snapped pictures of campus art and iconic buildings while others multitasked walking and texting. And others simply talked on their phones. I was the only one on the Quad without a phone. A colleague approached and asked, “Why do you look so vexed”?  Was it that apparent? I told her about Biggie and, in return, received a rather pathetic look. One of pity and bewilderment.

After work, the loss was noticeable in the car. No bluetooth connection phone. No bluetooth connection audio. A lonely commute.

I arrive at the gym and it it immediately dawns on me that I have no music for my workout. Unable to tune out the world around me, I was force to listen to the  bone-headed conversations of gym rats and, what’s worse, forced to listen to the local classic rock station being piped in on the YMCA’s audio system. Just not in the mood for Judas Priest.

Once home and reunited with Biggie, I was greeted with several missed calls, messages, notifications and reminders. It was if the entire day had passed me by.

I deny that I am tech addicted. There is an article a day written about detoxing from tech, tech addiction as a sign of depression, the ills of being tethered to tech, and other nonsensical b.s..  I see it as a necessary and essential part of being connected to my ever expanding digital world and an important tool in managing my work day. With my pocket computer, I can set the temperature in my home, check my retirement savings, send a kiss-face emoticon to my wife, manage my company’s social media, and check the latest political headlines in just a matter of minutes. Do I need better balance between work, life and technology? Probably.  But it’s not so bad when I can seamlessly attend to them all with one device.

Tonight, I’ll give Biggie a nice screen cleaning and put him to bed early. It’s been a rough day for the both of us.

Empty Nesting in Paradise 

   
With one child out of the house and the other at a 3 week residential camp, my wife, Angela, and I decided to give the empty nest a spin around the block. 

We put the dogs in boarding (not our favorite thing to do), packed our bags and headed to the sunny Carribean. The islands of Turks and Caicos to be exact. 

The flight from Syracuse to New York’s JFK was short and uneventful, albeit very early. You can imagine how early we had to get up to catch a 5:32 AM flight.   The flight from JFK to Providenciales was full if kids and a bit noisy. No problem because paradise awaits on the other end. 

We selected the Seven Stars Resort as our temporary abode. 

  

  
Seven Stars has spacious suites, two restaurants, a heated salt water pool, and lovely grounds with spectacular views of the ocean. 

  
A snorkeling excursion and a trip to Iguana Island was in order. These mini monsters moved in packs, waiting for tourist to drop some junk food. Naughty humans.

  
Favorite place to eat off property was Grace’s Cottage. A quaint little restaurant nestled among plush tropical foliage. The Safron Seafood Risotto was out of this world. Angela also enjoyed her sea bass. The chocolate soufflé was killer. A must-try if you plan to visit. 

  
The empty nester thing was pretty cool even if was just a dry run. Good bonding time and an opportunity to define who we are as a single couple. 

  

The Road to 50 – Who’s Joining Us

Turning50

 

Now that turning 50 has taken root in my thoughts, I can’t help but wonder who else is in the same boat as me.  Luckily, the advent and subsequent popularity of social media has created an unprecedented network of peers.  I can watch high school friends, childhood friends and family members age right along with me.  I can get all up in your personal business…and I do.  I can see who’s trying to keep fit, eat healthy, and evolve their personal style.  I could develop comprehensive peer-to-peer benchmark reports from Facebook data alone if I wanted to.  But you’re already in the boat with me.  It’s not terribly exciting data.  I’ve spoken with many of you and received your comments on the last post to know how you are handling the big 5-0.  So my mind has turned to more trivial matters.  Like who are my peers in Hollywood and media?  How are they holding up?  Are they aging gracefully or getting some custom maintenance?  If I were single and on the market, who could I dupe into going out with me?  How do I stack up physically with the dudes?  Let’s take a look at who will be joining us in Club 50 in 2015 and play a little Could I Date Her/Could I Take Him:

Baltimore native son Muggsy Bogues turns 50 in January
Baltimore native son Muggsy Bogues turns 50 in January

Baltimore native sun Muggsy Bogues turns 50 in January.  Muggsy and his Dunbar High teammates stole plenty of joy from us Walbrook Warriors.  I thought we had a pretty good team back then but we could never get past the Poets.  I’m not quite sure what he is doing with himself these days, but Muggsy is looking older than 50.  I expect more from a former athlete.  Could I take him?  Physically, I think I can take Muggsy if I can keep him from going low.  At 5’3″, if he gets me around the ankles, I’m done for.

Diane Lane turns 50 in January
Diane Lane turns 50 in January

Actress Diane Lane hits 50 in January.  She is still in great shape and doesn’t appear to have augmented anything.  But what do I know.  Could I date her?  I think so.  I’m charming, well traveled (in the eastern United States), and she looks like she might enjoy a glass of fine wine, something that I’m great at pretending to know a little something about.

Sarah Jessica Parker turns 50 in March
Sarah Jessica Parker turns 50 in March

The star of Sex in the City will reach the half century mark in March.  Always the style icon, SJP keeps it together.  She must eat like a bird and train like an athlete to keep that shape.  Could I date her?  Probably.  She’s married to Matthew Broderick…what more do I need to say?

Iron Man's 50th is in April
Iron Man’s 50th is in April

I wish I could turn 50 like Robert Downey Jr.  I admire his style.  Always dapper.  And some killer eye-wear!  The one-time drug abusing bad boy of Hollywood has really turned his life and career around and I respect that. And he is in fantastic shape.  Could I take him?  Doubtful.  He’s probably learned some fight techniques during his Iron Man training that my Cherry Hill, Baltimore hustle, Bruce Lee movie osmosis thing can’t keep up with.  Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t give it my best shot.

Dang Gina! turns 50 in April
Dang Gina! turns 50 in April

Comedic genius Martin Lawrence joins our club in April as well.  From stand-up comedy to television to box office Hollywood hits, Martin Lawrence has experienced great success.  I don’t think I ever admired his fashion style though.  Nothing wrong with it.  I just prefer a more classic look.  Can I take him?  Yes.  Looks like success has made ol’ Marty Mar a little soft.  Plus, when has a comedian ever scared you?  I could take him while even having consumed a couple of Vesper martinis.

The CNN anchor is 50 in May
The CNN anchor is 50 in May

CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield is beautiful, stylish, and appears to be defying age.  Qualities that you need if you are going to have longevity in television broadcasting.  Let’s be honest, no one at Syracuse University cares about what I look like sitting behind my desk or behind a radio microphone.  The pressure on women it the television broadcast industry is palpable so she has to stay on top of it.  Could I date her?  Yes.  I just need an “in”.  Broadcast media is my “in”.  After a couple glasses of wine and a lengthy discussion on digital disruption of traditional broadcast media…BAM!…she won’t know what hit her.

The Walking Dead's Carol is 50 three days after me in May
The Walking Dead’s Carol is 50 three days after me in May

Melissa McBride, one of the stars of AMC’s The Walking Dead, will turn 50 three days after I do in May.  She’s in great shape and I love how she rocks the salt and pepper pixie cut.  It is most likely for TWD show but you get an idea of what she would look like if she decided to maintain a natural look.  Much like the way actress Jamie Lee Curtis did and does.  Could I date her?  Probably not.  I’m such a huge fan of the show that I would most likely trip over my words, geek out during a meeting, and mistakenly refer to her as Carol.  Immediate turn off don’t you think?

Dwayne Wayne joins the club in July
Dwayne Wayne joins the club in July

Kadeem Hardison, AKA Dwayne Wayne, is another of our contemporaries.  He turns 50 in July.  Over the years, the kid with the flip-up sunglasses has experienced some significant shifts in weight.  He’s rocking a natural salt & pepper look like us average Joes.  His personal style says that he maintains a deep connection to his hometown, Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.  I can respect that.  Can I take him?  Yup.  Dwayne Wayne is looking a little soft these days.  Plus, he’s tall at 5’11”.  If I can get down around his ankles… game over.

Viola is 50 in August
Viola is 50 in August

No one’s spark is hotter than Viola Davis right now.  As she approaches 50 this coming August, her maturity as an actress positions her nicely for diverse roles.  She can take it from the matronly servant to the energetic power broker.  And she doesn’t look 50.  But you know what they say about it not cracking.  She has a beautiful smile and keeps the body tight.  Though my wife Angela says that she has never seen her in a wig that compliments her.  Looking good at 50 though.  Could I date her?  I don’t know.  She seems too serious.  I might come across to goofy and immature.  But if I can get her to sit with me on a park bench and talk about people as they walk by…I have a shot.

I know that I a lot these folks don’t keep regular schedules like we do and have plenty of time to work with personal trainers and have personal stylists, but they inspire me to enter my 50’s fit and in style.  Fit at 50.  That’s my goal.

 

The Road to 50 (Intro)

Road

 

Back in May of 2014, I wrote a somewhat humorous post on the angst of turning 49.  Some 8 months later, I now sit 119 days away from turning 50 and the angst is still very real.  Considering that most of my friends and associates are about the same age, this is a conversation that I have had on numerous occasions.  Inevitably, the “age is just a number” comment comes into play.  As does, “you are only as old as you feel.”  To which I say, “bullshit”!

Despite what nonsense people spout, 50 is not the new 40.  50 is 50 and it has a psychological impact on you whether you admit it or not.  My mind is too curious to carry on about my day, about my life as if nothing changes when that half-century mark hits.  I want to know what to expect both physically and emotionally in the months and years that follow.  I hope that, in understanding the possible impact, I am better able to deal with the change in life.  The Man Up blog will chronicle my journey of discovery and neuroticism, my thought process and emotional vicissitudes from today until May 20 (the 50 mark).  I hope you will join me and share your experiences as well.

50For a lot of men, the concern of aging isn’t out of fear of getting old.  It’s a fear of losing potency.  The image of ourselves that we hold on to is one of a strapping young, virile man with energy and stamina for days and it does not jibe with the image that we see in the mirror.  The number 50 is a marker.  A midlife marker that distorts our self-image.  We’ve likely lived more than half of our lives with key markers along the way: finishing school; getting that first career job, pair bonding, child rearing etc. Those markers are ones that we expect and plan for.  For many, at least for me, 50 represents the unknown.  How will my career wind down?  What will I do in retirement?  Can I retire the way I want?  Do I have enough resources?  Will I be alone?  When will I be alone?  When will I lose virility?  That thing about 50 being the new 40 is so untrue.  At 40, you still have relatively young children, a good 25 years or so of work ahead of you,  perhaps even another career move, and many more things to accomplish.  With 50, the window becomes shorter.  Younger, more talented people enter the workplace with highly developed skills.  Your years of experience in the new technology environment becomes less valued.  Technology itself begins to slip away from you.  Your music choices become more nostalgic.  People start calling you “sir”.  Dinner out starts at 6 o’clock.  You’re in bed by 9 p.m.  Multivitamins, Ensure and adult diapers are on the horizon.

50 one

 

50 represents change and, for men, change is not growth.  For men, change represents the loss of something.  In this case, the loss of time, the loss of virility, the loss of potency, the loss of effectiveness.  I feel like I can still walk up to a young Mike Tyson and kick his ass…in my mind.  But it doesn’t reconcile with my cracking bones, aching feet and arthritic knuckles.  Yeah, 50 is screwing with me.  I’m not going to lie.

For me, 50 is going to be a time of self-reflection.  From what will I derive satisfaction?  How can I be a better lover?  A better father?  A greater contributor to life, community, and business.  I will learn to live with a new reality.  Cope with the aches and pains and mood swings.

Quite a bleak outlook, I know.  I also know that we have advantages over our fathers and grandfathers before us.  We have better healthcare so we are living longer and healthier.  We have more tools in the tool box like the internet and access to research, studies and articles.  Greater income to do more things and acquire more shit.  We also have an openness and willingness to talk about how we feel and what we are going through with our partners and friends.

In the weeks to come, I will dive deep into the abyss to discover what lies ahead for me over the next 10-15 years.  Perhaps I’ll learn a few things that will help me cope and better prepare or discover the secrets to juvenescence.  Or consider it all rejectamenta and just drink more wine.

If you’ve already crossed that marker, I’d love to hear about your experience.  If 50 is staring you in the face, I’d equally love to know your concerns, if any.

Until next time Hominids…keep it on the good foot!

Turnt Up Like James Bond

Bond2

Agent 007 James Bond is one of the coolest, stylish icons of masculine sophistication that we have ever encountered, no?  Ian Fleming’s character is the perfect representation of charm and wit paired with destructive ability.  Whether osculating with a Bond girl on a yacht or chasing bad guys in an Aston Martin, 007 did it with style and with a statement.

Fleming was intentional in creating signatures for Bond.  The Aston Martin.  The Walther PPK.  The martini.  Flemming knew that the audience would make the associations with Bond’s signatures that he wanted them to make.  A common understanding that Bond was a man of class and sophistication with a license to kill.

We’ve heard him say “shaken, not stirred” 50 times or more.  The martini was Bond’s signature drink.  Like Bond, the martini says elegant and strong.  Fleming went so far as to create a specific martini for Bond – the Vesper Martini – named after a character in the 1953 novel, and subsequent film, Casino Royale.  I’ll get into the Vesper in a minute.

Agree or disagree, I think what we choose to drink in social situations reveals something about us more than we would like to admit.  It makes a statement.  And what we choose to drink while socializing is as varied as the social occasions themselves.  There are literally thousands of drinks, cocktails, spirits and wines to choose from and it can be daunting.  So we fall back on what we know or try something from the bar menu.  Every man, who wants to make a statement, should have a signature drink.  A drink that makes a very intentional statement at that.

Scene from the movie Brown Sugar
Scene from the movie Brown Sugar

Remember the bar scene in the movie Brown Sugar when the main characters, Sid and Dre, ordered drinks for each other?  She orders him a Kettle One, straight, with a twist.  He ordered her a Perfect 10.  The writer wanted us to feel the repressed intimacy between the two characters and did so by having each know the other’s signature drink.  And those cocktails made statements about each.

What are you saying when you order a beer?  That you are down to earth?  A regular guy?  Does a craft beer suggest that you enjoy the finer things in life?  That you savor quality?  If you are in a bar in the dead of winter and order a margarita, does it say I wish I were in Cabo right now?  Do you order wine just to be safe?  Rare scotch to say that you are accomplished and worldly?  Does your drink suggest that you just got out of college or haven’t grown since those days? (hello Red Bull and Vodka).  Or are you indecisive and wishy-washy and just order what everyone else is having?

I’m not suggesting what you should drink or that you drink at all.  I am suggesting that you consider that your choice makes a statement and if you are going to make a statement, make it an intentional one.  For example, in a recent bartender blog, Jordan Catapano explains that a man who asks to see the wine list usually has interest in art, culture, and travel.  But if he orders the house varietal, he may need a bit more grooming.

Ingredients for a Vesper Martini
Ingredients for a Vesper Martini

My signature drink is the Vesper martini – James Bond style.  It is simply a variation on a classic martini which is my fall-back should the bar keep come up short on ingredients.  A signature drink like a classic martini says you know exactly what you like.  That you perhaps are discerning, particular and sophisticated with a slight hint of douche-baggery.

The Vesper Martini
The Vesper Martini

The Vesper Martini, described by James Bond in Casino Royale, is 3 ounces of London Dry Gin, 1 ounce of Vodka and a 1/2 ounce of Lillet (bianco).  Lillet is a dry vermouth made in France since the 1800’s.  It is made of wine, liqueurs, fruits and herbs and aged in oak. The Vesper is garnished with a lemon peel.  Given the 3 ounces of gin and 1 ounce of vodka, you can imagine that it is a potent drink.  Make no mistake, it’s a man’s drink.  And while one or two might suggest sophistication, 3 or more says you have a drinking problem.  So please be responsible with this signature.

Do you have a signature drink?  What do you think it says about you if anything?  I am a curious fellow so please do share.

If you are meeting friends for a drink, what are you likely to select: