Drinking | A Continuous Lean.

Why We Still Need True Dive Bars

Oct 23rd, 2014 | Categories: Americana, Cocktails, Drinking, Jake Gallagher, New York City | by Jake Gallagher

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By definition a dive bar has no definition.

If you ask someone to define a dive bar, their answer won’t be about a dive bar it will be about their dive bar. Whether it’s the drab basement bar where they first sucked down a one dollar High Life, or some one-light-bulb hole in the wall where they continue to drink away the post-work hours, everyone’s vision of a dive bar is inherently personal.

Emily Dickinson once wrote, “I can’t tell you, but you feel it.” I imagine Dickinson was describing love (or just as likely despair) with this line, but her sentiment is just as true for a dive bar. Yes, there’s a certain atmosphere that all dives share. The outdated decor, the dusty bottles, the stone-faced bartender, the stench of stale domestic beers, a dirt cheap prices (often because the beer is just so damn bad.) We’re all familiar with these dive bar tropes, but what really makes a bar a dive is a feeling. It’s the sense that the world outside has disappeared, and for however long you sit on that raggedy polyester stool everything else can wait. It’s just you, a sweating bottle of beer, and your compatriots. Even if those compatriots are just the thoughts in your head.





Revisiting McSorley’s Old Ale House

Oct 7th, 2014 | Categories: Drinking, History, Jake Gallagher, New York City | by Jake Gallagher

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As more and more of New York’s endearingly grimy dive bars are pushed out daily (R.I.P. Milady’s) to make room for whatever organic farm to table “bespoke ale experience,” is trending that month, the precious few hole-in-the-wall joints that we have left in this city must be treasured, least they end up out on the curb like a kicked keg. And no gritty saloon is more worthy of our admiration than McSorley’s, the self proclaimed “first Irish Tavern” in New York City.

With a tap list that includes just two options, a grimy straw floor, and an interior that hasn’t been altered since 1910, “McSorley’s Old Ale House” on 7th Street is where you go when you’ve had enough of the preening and pretension that runs rampant in downtown’s bar scene. “Light” and “dark” are the only words you’ll need to know at McSorley’s, as their minute mugs are exclusively filled with the soapy suds of their two in-house brews.





Saisons for Summer

Sep 9th, 2014 | Categories: Beer, Drinking, Jake Gallagher | by Jake Gallagher

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For every season a beer and a beer for every season.

Much the same way that gin becomes the potable du jour from mid-June on through early September, lighter beers have recently come to monopolize my fridge’s shelf space. These are not light beers in the sense that they bear the “light” (or worse “lite”) descriptor at the end of their names, rather they are brighter in all ways than the beers that I consume during the rest of the year. Simply put, Winter has stouts, summer has saisons. Of course, just because these ales are more airy does not mean that they are any less potent, in fact most saisons clock in around six to seven percent alcohol (although historically this figure was much lower.)





Dublin, Jameson and St. Patrick: The Classic Combination.

Mar 24th, 2014 | Categories: David Coggins, Drinking | by David Coggins

Ger the Cooper

Heading to Dublin with the good people of Jameson for the definitive Irish holiday rightfully makes you a bit nervous. It threatens to be too much of a good thing. Dublin, like New Orleans, has a powerful effect on the imbiber’s imagination. You suddenly hear yourself saying, Yes I’ll have a Guinness at 11am, and it feels perfectly natural. It recalls a line from a novel by the great Irish writer John Banville. Two men walk into a pub before it’s opened and one says innocently: “We were passing by and to our surprise discovered we had a thirst.”

By now, Jameson is so familiar that it’s easy to forget it was founded in 1780. When you wonder why these companies endure, look no further than Ger Buckley, their master cooper who’s worked there for decades. Coopers, of course, build barrels and casks (the original Kennedys—yes, those Kennedys—who immigrated to America were coopers). We watched Ger demonstrate how to assemble one of the barrels that ages the whiskey. It’s a demanding process that Ger made look easy, like an expert fly caster, but of course you know it’s not. The barrels are made of charred white oak from Kentucky, using the same essential technology the Romans invented two thousand years ago. Why change a good thing?

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Leinenkugel’s and the Case for Summer Beer.

Jul 19th, 2013 | Categories: Beer, David Coggins, Drinking, Wisconsin | by David Coggins

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Nobody sets out to be what Kingsley Amis refers to as a “beer bore.” When you’re a teenager you don’t drone on about Belgian Lambics, how you only drink Kölsch in Cologne and mercifully you never utter the word “handcrafted.” No, when you’re eighteen you drink what’s available, familiar, cheap and geographically appropriate. And that’s as it should be.

For us, summers in Wisconsin meant Leinenkugel’s, which came, like Annie Hall, from nearby Chippewa Falls. The bottle declared that it’s “brewed by 73 people who care” which is reassuring. It’s been around since 1867 and has been run by many generations of Jacob Leinenkugel’s descendants, which is good. Then it was bought by an international conglomerate in 1988, which is not as good, but perhaps not surprising.

Even for those of use who are devoted wine drinkers, it remains a very fine beer. Well, perhaps not very fine, but certainly good enough. That’s one of the funny things about the beer you grow up with: Your associations are so strong that they can overwhelm your judgment about the taste. This comes into sharp relief when you try your friend’s favorite beer from Washington or Maine and hint that it’s subpar (perhaps over the years you have acquired a few habits of the beer bore). Your friend looks at you icily, as if you’ve insulted his mother’s cooking.





The Wine Trade: Carla Rzeszewski

May 1st, 2013 | Categories: David Coggins, Drinking, The Wine Trade, Wine | by David Coggins

Master of her domaine: Carla Rzeszewski in The John Dory. Photo by: Lauren Mowery

This is the first in a series about people working in the wine trade.

Carla Rzeszewski is the wine director across April Bloomfield’s irreverent restaurant empire: The Spotted Pig, The John Dory and The Breslin. Those are disparate restaurants require a wine guru who fits their impressive profile. Indeed, in addition to being, at various times, an actress, a bartender and a nude model. Rzeszewski is sharp, capable, profane, and a strong advocate of sherry. We spoke recently over a beer, of all things, at her local in the East Village.

David Coggins: It’s funny that you suggested meeting at a bar specializing in beer. Does that mean that when you’re not working you’re a beer drinker?

Carla Rzeszewski: When I’m not working or if I’m just relaxing with a book, it’s always with a beer, i’s never with a glass of wine.

DC: So you’re a believer in wine with food.

CR: For sure. They historically have gone together, and they’ve been nurtured together.

DC: So when wine is tasted officially and there’s no food—

CR: It’s a joke. Quiet wines, wallflower wines have a beauty and complexity all their own. They don’t stand out in a huge lineup. Other wines have a broader structure and bully their way to the front.

DC: Then how do you, as a director of a wine program, introduce people to these quieter wines, especially if they haven’t heard of them before?

CR: Well the Dory serves more delicate food. Whites, for the most part, and light, low-tannin reds. A lot of those whites are too acidic on their own and yet with the food it works perfectly. Like the razor clam ceviche works very well alongside a Pigato, or even a Sherry. They need food and when they have food they begin to sing. The other day at the Dory I had this clam I’d never seen before. It’s got excess levels of hemoglobin so it’s bloody. It’s pretty but sinister. Alongside this basic Chablis, you put them together and it’s awesome. But the Chablis on its own isn’t as exciting—it needs the food to wake up a bit.





Parma & Co. | Taking Prosciutto Very Seriously.

Jul 20th, 2012 | Categories: Drinking, Food, Italy, Milan | by Michael Williams

Wine, prosciutto, parmesan cheese, bread and a little pasta with basil and tomatoes. That is really all one could want for on a sunny afternoon in Italy.  There’s a salumeria called Parma & Co. that happens to be the perfect place to enjoy the tastes and pace of Brera, one of Milan’s most enjoyable neighborhoods. Brera is quaint and historic with a lot of great restaurants and shops. It’s more low key than some of Milan’s more happening neighborhoods, and is my favorite place to hang out while in Italy’s most stylish city.

The food at Parma & Co. is simple and delicious, very typical of Italy. The must have is the Prosciutto di Parma — the restaurant claims to have won some type of Italian cured meat award, something I don’t doubt actually exists. Regardless of its prosciutto bona fides, your author can confirm that Parma & Co. definitely worthy of a detour, some of your hard earned money and an opportunity at an enjoyable Italian lunch.