January 30, 2011 (Day 365) — Whisper
Wow… so this is it. Tonight marks exactly one year since I began this blog — a lark to entertain family and friends. Since then, I’ve had tens of thousands of visits to the site, hundreds of visits a day, made new connections, learned more about liquor and cocktails than I ever thought possible and made some great friendships through the experience.
I’ve probably spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about how I would handle my final cocktail of the project. The carnival barker in me wanted to have a huge to-do about the whole thing — video interviews, audio, music, maybe even try and distill my own liquor. Blow this whole goddamn thing right out of the water and make it something everyone would talk about for… well, 10 seconds at least.
Of course, in the constantly shifting and updating and whirling madness that is the Internet, nothing ever stays around for long and you end up getting tossed into the screaming vortex of LOLcats, viral videos, and pornography that makes you question your faith that there is a just and loving God. And Twitter. Twitter takes up a lot of time too.
So, I pondered and pondered. Flipped through countless cocktail books. Composed e-mails that I ended up scrapping. Started to dial phone numbers, but left the calls unmade. There was nothing I could really think to do. Nothing felt fitting. Right. Every idea I had seemed contrived and more than just a little bit hokey.
The making of quality cocktails is an art. That’s something I’ve learned over the past year. Chefs may get all the glory on television, but to me you’ll never find a more dedicated group of people than those in the mixology area. And, I’m not talking about someone pulling down a bartending job because they can’t get any other work and they have bills to pay. I mean people like Nathan Greene who has busted his ass to become something a cut above a standard bartender.
Comparing him to that nervous college student helming the bar at TGI Fridays would be akin to likening the line cook in the back of the same TGI Fridays to Mario Battalli. There’s a difference between holding a job down to pay the bills and something you truly consider a calling.
People like my man Josh Davis, who has been mentioned on this blog countless times.
This guy is one of the most inspirational people I’ve had the extreme pleasure to meet during my time as a cocktail writer. A proud father from Chi-town, working like a dog to move up the cocktail ranks in the Windy City, provide for his children and make a name for himself in the incredibly competitive cocktail culture.
People like Dee Brun.
This fabulous ball of energy from the Great White North (Canada, eh) is not only a published cocktail writer, but also the proud owner of a hella sassy iPhone app for Lady’s Night cocktails and girlfriend commiseration. While I’m not really equipped to accurately review the app (being as I have man-junk and all), my wife absolutely adores it. Dee takes the sensibility of quality mixology and adds her own dash of Sex and City style class.
People like Paul Tuennerman.
Mr. Cocktail, himself, from Tales of the Cocktail. This man was one of the first people I ever had the pleasure of meeting (“meeting”) after I began this little project. He suggested some cocktails I never would have looked twice at, including some suggestions for liquors that I had never tried. He has helped me expand my repertoire so that my home bar is better stocked than some actual bars.
People like Chris Martino.
Braving the ungodly heat and balls-shriveling cold of Washington, DC, Chris is another one of the mixologists has dedicated himself to trying something new every day and learning to make the best cocktails possible.
People like Ray Henderson.
A good friend of Josh Davis, mentioned above, Ray has been a great guy to connect with. This dude has an almost child-like excitement for the world of cocktails, taking classes, mixing it up and offering up the fun side to an industry that’s always in danger of disappearing up its own ass (see chefs as well).
People like Julie Niesen.
Julie is one of the most respect culinary bloggers in Cincinnati and the author of the blog “Wine Me, Dine Me Cincinnati.” She took up the mantle of amateur mixology around the same time as me, so she was always wiling to sit down and bandy ideas back and forth on the developing of cocktails in popular gastronomy and culinary circles.
This is only a small sampling of those that I’ve met, interviewed and become friends with. Countless others have popped up and offered advice, cocktail recipes and liquors to try.
Hell, at one point I even ended up bartending while in a dress, wig, makeup, and tiara.
When I first started this project, I made the comment that the purpose of cocktails is to bring people together. Great conversations and great friendships flow from a clean cocktail. That’s what this Website has done for me, created an even wider group of people that I can speak with, associate with, and a whole new slew of cocktails to bust out at cocktail parties.
So, what’s the best way to honor the past year? I will honor it by doing just what I’ve always done — making a cocktail, telling you guys about it and following it up with some sort of vaguely inappropriate joke.
In other words, what better tribute than business as usual?
Because it’s the last one of the project, I figured I’d make something sort of fancy, but also easy to make.
2 oz single-malt Scotch
2 oz sweet vermouth
2 oz dry vermouth
Mix in a chilled rocks glass and add cracked ice.
Ahhhhhh. A perfect end to a perfect year. Consider it a beefed-up, smokier version of the Manhattan. Very strong, but very well balanced. Another way to think of it is a Perfect Manhattan with scotch instead of rye or bourbon. As you can see it fulfills the main requirements of a cocktails — it tastes excellent and looks pretty.
As always, I offer a caveat with drinks like this — you really have to enjoy the smoky taste of scotch and wine-base of vermouth to appreciate this drink. If your preferred manner of drinking is with cream, sweetness and at least three dozen different colors of umbrellas stuck in your drink, this isn’t the drink for you. If you enjoy a nice tobacco pipe in a leather chair in a chill winter evening, then this is for you.
Just for the record, you’re also a prick. But, hey, why not embrace it? I have.
And that’s that. One year. Done and done. Three-hundred and sixty-five unique cocktails, every day without fail. Some said I couldn’t do it, some said my liver would curl up into the fetal position and cry for mercy. Neither happened. I want to thank my amazing wife and drink test subject, Jenn, and my incredibly badass stepson who supplied a good number of the non-alcoholic drinks on this site and has learned that the balancing of flavors can make a great drink — even before you can ever drink alcohol.
And that being said, an equally sincere thank you to each and every one of you who has ever expressed support — or even derision — of this project. It has been one hell of a ride. Take care of yourselves and one another.
— Mark Vierthaler