Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What I've Learned: Year Two


Around this time last year I did a retrospective-ish list of stuff I'd learned during my first year of using the web to foist my booze-centric thoughts and pictures on an unwitting public. I figure if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

What I’ve Learned in my Second Year of Boozeblogging

~ Make your own syrups. It’s easier than you think and totally worth it.

~ I’m still surprised (and pleased) when people leave comments- especially people I don’t know personally. I just assume the only people who visit this site are the same seven booze nerds.

~ I like to use unpopular ingredients. I take it as a personal challenge to find some way to make them work in a drink. The more hopeless an ingredient appears, the stronger my compulsion to use it. Sick, I know.

~ Tovolo ice cube trays are a great investment. Please disregard the people who claim they are difficult to use. Yes, it takes *slightly* more time to remove the cubes than from a rigid plastic tray, but c’mon folks- anything worthwhile requires a little effort.

~ The first rule of Fight Club Liquors is: do not talk about Fight Club Liquors.

~ Even though Thursday Drink Night is big-time fun by yourself, it’s even more so if you can get several booze nerds in the same place for it. Not only does it help distribute the workload, but the conversation is priceless.

~ Apparently if you live in Sweden you have access to an unholy variety of rum.

~ Since starting this site 2 years ago, I’ve been asked to do the same sort of thing I do here for a magazine and a newsletter. I certainly appreciate the opportunities, but now I’m gripped by the question of whether people like articles about booze better when they’re accompanied by a cartoon…or whether they like cartoons better when accompanied by an article about booze.

~ A good channel knife makes all the difference

~ Boozeblogging may cause bottles of liquor to show up frequently and unexpectedly at your front door. I now know my UPS man very well.

~ Various vintages of Mr. Boston’s bar guides can be found for pennies at flea markets and similar venues. Even if you don’t like the recipes, they’re a great way to get a sense of drinking trends throughout the years.

~ I had a Bloody Mary in New Orleans that was so good I want to go back almost solely to have another one.

~ Some brand reps at trade shows are great and some are awful. For every friendly, knowledgeable outgoing rep there seems to be one who could care less. Hint: If you want me to be interested in your product, then YOU should appear to be interested in your product. If you ‘re trying to promote your stuff with no information whatsoever and are clearly unable (or unwilling) to answer even rudimentary questions, then you’re not really putting your best foot forward. And behaving as though you’d rather be anywhere else doing anything else and not even having a business card isn’t going to leave me with a terribly positive view of your product.

~ Steel juicers are better than cast aluminum ones.

~ If you’re a drink geek, you owe it to yourself to attend Tales of the Cocktail. If nothing else, you’ll meet several other people who are just as concerned about the coarseness of their crushed ice as you are.

~ This time last year, I characterized my fellow boozebloggers as unbelievably friendly, generous and encouraging. They continue to be exactly those things, and having met many of them in person since then, I’m glad to know them. I hope they’ll all still be here this time next year.

~ It would be a hell of a lot easier if I just took photos of the drinks.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hauling Hooch


I periodically have to move part of my liquor stash from point A to B. Sometimes it’s just a few bottles, sometimes it’s significantly more (Thursday Drink Night anyone?). In either case, I’ve used several methods to drag heaps of glass & liquid around, with the goal of having it all arrive intact.

So I decided to list the ways I’ve lugged booze and try to break down their relative merits and disadvantages. I wanted to do this for three reasons:

1) To toss out options to anyone who needs to move their booze from time to time.

2) To solicit ideas and find out what YOU use.

3) I really wanted to draw a picture of a milk crate.

Note: For purposes of this this comparison, we’re talking about standard-shaped 750 ml bottles, not goofy-ass ones like Patron and Galliano come in. I’m also assuming that you will be using a car to schlep this stuff- I have not factored in bus, train, skateboard, Segway, Rascal, golf cart or motorcycle/bicycle travel.


Milk Crate

Construction: Heavy plastic
Cost: Free (if you steal it). Price varies if purchased.
Capacity: Approx. 14
Availability: Widespread. Can be found in the wild or bought.
Pros: Virtually indestructible. Stable during transit. Convenient handles. Can be used as furniture at destination.
Cons: Moderately heavy when full. No inherent feature to prevent bottles clanking against each other.

The uses of milk crates aside from their intended purpose are legion. Chances are you have at least one in your house or apartment right now doing something other than holding milk. It’s also likely it technically belongs to a dairy company. I recommend *not* stealing these, but picking up inexpensive replicas which can be found at a variety of stores.

Milk crates are great for hauling liquor. They hold over a dozen bottles, have handles, stay put in your car, and are almost impossible to damage. They can also be lashed together (or to something else). Their primary flaw is that they allow bottles to bang around a bit, so you may need to rig up some method of cushioning them depending on how rough the ride will be.


Box From Liquor Store

Construction: Cardboard, staples, glue
Cost: free (around here they give ‘em away)
Capacity: 12 bottles
Availability: Plentiful
Pros: Can be easily repaired and/or reinforced with tape if necessary. Cardboard insert keeps bottles upright and slightly cushioned. Stable during transit. Recyclable.
Cons: Not waterproof. Often have no hand-slots.

These are hard to beat. They’re purpose-built, free, and disposable. Plus, there’s a virtually unlimited supply of them, provided you live near a liquor store. But before you use them, double-check that
a) they aren’t soggy, b) they’re in good shape. The main downfall of the liquor store box is that you usually need both hands to carry one, and they often don’t have handles.



Construction: Canvas, leather, metal
Cost: Varies (I got mine on sale for 8 bucks at Old Navy)
Capacity: Varies (mine holds about 6 bottles)
Availability: Common. Something similar can be found anywhere luggage is sold.
Pros: No-hands carry. Conceals contents.
Cons: Bottles lay on sides, resting against each other which may cause leakage & breakage.

The man-purse I use is a sturdy canvas satchel/messenger bag type thing. I‘ve carried liquor in it on several occasions, and it’s best when you’re only using it to lug 2 or 3 bottles at the most. More than that, and it gets pretty uncomfortable to have wrapped across your neck or shoulder for longer than a short walk. Plus, the bottles lie horizontally on top of each other which is less than ideal.

On the up side, it does have several side pockets which can hold smaller bottles of stuff like bitters, syrups, etc. The best feature is that you can have both hands free to carry something else…like more booze.


Wine Tote

Construction: Some kind of synthetic fabric
Cost: cheap (I got mine at Trader Joe’s for about a buck fifty)
Capacity: 6 bottles
Availability: Somewhat common. Can often be found at grocery stores that carry wine
Pros: Surprisingly strong. Sewn-in divider keeps bottles upright and slightly cushioned. One-handed carry. Fits in pocket when not being used.
Cons: May tip over in transit.

This a very handy item. It’s made of the same weird pseudo-cloth that reusable grocery bags are made of, and is pretty darn strong. If you’re carrying 6 or less bottles, this is a great option, although protection is minimal (in other words, don’t drop it). If you‘re carrying more than 6 bottles (like a case), you can use two and split the load and not have to juggle an unwieldy box.

The only flaw I’ve discovered is that it tends to tip in over the car, depending on how vigorously you drive. Use a seat belt or some other restraint to keep it upright in transit.


Bottle Shipper

Construction: Cardboard outer box, styrofoam or molded paper fiber insert, tape
Cost: free (if you re-use one that someone sent you).
Capacity: varies. Single and multiple unit shippers are available depending on manufacturer
Availability: Common (can be found in variety of shipping supply stores)
Pros: Superior protective capability. Conceals contents. Recyclable.
Cons: Bulky. Requires assembly/disassembly (though minimal). No handles

The bottle shipper’s best feature is also its Achilles heel. The thick, contoured inserts that keep bottles protected also take up a lot of space. I’ve only used a shipper once, and that was for a single bottle I really, really, didn’t want broken. They’re ideal for mailing booze, but not so great for hauling multiple bottles yourself- half your trunk will be occupied by packaging rather than bottles.

But if you want to be virtually 100% certain your giggle water doesn’t get destroyed, this is probably your best bet. The only better option I can think of is one of those snazzy, hard-sided, foam-padded cases that people use for camera equipment and the like. But I don’t have one of those, so testing will be delayed on that particular item.

Next time: wheelbarrow vs. shopping cart- which is better for transporting your passed-out buddy?