Saturday, December 5, 2020

Repeal Day 2020: Repeal Day Recap and Resolutions

On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution repealing Prohibition was passed.  Eighty some-odd years later, the anniversary of this momentous occasion continues to serve as inspiration for the three gents behind A&T to actually post some thoughts. Today, the guys catch each other up on their year and talk about plans for the year ahead.

2020. What a year. What a spectacular, dumpster fire, Rob-Schneider-feature-film, worst-Old-Fashioned-you-ever-did-see of a year. It wasn't all bad, of course. Stanley Tucci spread the gospel of the Negroni (or ruined the drink forever... 2020 encapsulated in a viral moment). The US took one big step back from the brink. And... ummm... yeah, that was it. 2020 was the worst.

That said, on the A&T front things weren't all bad. Pablo brought a new Paldao into the world. David wrapped up his first year in his new day job and remodeled his bathroom (talk about an overachiever). John successfully navigated the weirdest transfer season of all time and got his family - dog included - safely to its new home in Baku. Oh, and all things cocktails, of course. There were drinks to be had.

In honor of Repeal Day this year, the guys thought they'd get together for a drink - virtually, of course -  to recap the year gone by and discuss some resolutions for the year ahead. 

John: Howzit?! Wait, that's not right anymore. Neceseniz? That's Azerbaijani for "how are you?" What are you drinking?

David: Oof... hangin' in there. The new bathroom definitely helps! Rain-head showers, gotta love 'em. Drink-wise, it's been less experimentation and more classics... sort of the cocktail version of comfort food, I think. 

Pablo: I don’t even know anymore... I definitely drank more than usual. I stayed true to Negronis, martinis, and Old Fashioneds (oh my!), of course, but more so I experimented with new spirits, from Virginia in particular and bitters, trying to do my small part to support local and craft distillers. But an interesting gift I received from an In friend was Escubac, which has great fall notes like raisins but also a light and easy drinker.

John: Negronis, Martinis and Old Fashioneds... that's a trilogy I could get behind, and indeed I consumed a fair amount of those throughout 2020. As I write I'm riffing with a local Azerbaijani "Konyaki" (i.e. Cognac) from Tovuz, some Suze, a bit of Lillet, and a couple of dashes of bitters. It's hitting the spot... the Konyaki is pretty mellow, and the Suze, Lillet, and bitters add some sweetness, floral notes, and of course a bitterness.

David: Negronis, Martinis, Old Fashioneds and Manhattans - can't forget the Manhattans in a classic line-up... comfort food!

Alright, quick recap time. What did everyone get up to this year?

Pablo: Like you mentioned John, fresh into the new year, Amanda and I welcomed our second son, Gabriel, into the world. I’m pretty sure that shortly thereafter, before it hit the news waves, I had Covid-19 (before it was trendy) and still feel the lingering effects today; I didn’t get tested since I didn’t know it was a thing. On the plus side of spending all this time at home I saw my son’s first laugh, first crawl... and while our vacation plans didn’t pan out we spent a lot of time outdoors and did manage a few getaways. We also had a shed built, most of which will be dedicated to being a bar so I did some work there but still have a bit more to go to finish.

Behind the bar, so to speak, I created some new bitters and tried various concoctions in an effort to use up bottles and limit liquor store runs. Some of the more interesting bitters are the fir tip and Nocino-style black walnut. Not everything was a home rum but there were definitely some winners that made it up on Instagram. 

The holidays this year have been different, too, of course. But our Christmas tree is up and spirits are high (and flowing) and we’re hopeful for a better year with social gatherings that aren’t socially distanced. I can’t imagine it being any worse.

David: The earlier part of the year actually started out drinking a lot less, since I was deployed - with said day-job - to a dry country in the Middle East. Since we all got ordered out of the pool and evacuated back home in the Spring, however, I've been back here in VA... most of the intervening time has passed in a blur, punctuated by going to protests (heavily masked, of course), because I've still been working from here on the time zone for that region, so it's been a LOT of overtime, starting at oh-dark-hundred. Feh. "Day-drinking" is far less fun when three in the afternoon is at the end of a 12-hour workday. 

My wife kindly refrained from murdering me despite all that, so that's cool!

I guess this year has really been one of thankfulness, though. Despite that ongoing dumpster-fire aspect, we've come through it thus far (knock wood), while so many - too many - haven't. I'm thankful for that. I'm employed, and so many aren't - I'm thankful for that as well, and doing what I can to help the ones in need (The United Sommeliers Foundation for example... near and dear to my heart as a sommelier, donations here will go to somms who've lost jobs and wages due to the pandemic).

Focusing on small pleasures has been very rewarding - I found more morel mushrooms during their brief season than I ever have before, and they were flippin' delicious. I've done a LOT of cooking, and finished another wine certification - specifically on French wines, this time, the French Wine Scholar program through the Wine Scholar Guild. 

Focusing on big pleasures, as well - I've been reminded on a daily basis that I enjoy my wife's company, which is awesome! I've also been reminded daily that for all the pressure the world's been under, it didn't come apart at the seams, much as it sometimes seemed it must. That's one of those things that seems self-evident when you say it out loud, but it occurs to us to say it out loud far less than it should. 

John: 2020 actually started off on a high note for me. In February I hosted the first of what was meant to be several in-person cocktail classes for members of the US Embassy community in Pretoria. That first class was intended as introduction for cocktail novices, and subsequent classes would build off of that. Then Covid struck and South Africa went into a hard lock down (with no gatherings or alcohol sales) from March through June. So, as much of the world did, we re-launched the classes in a virtual format. The biggest challenge was finding drinks that could work with a variety of bases (no bourbon, no worries - try a calvados!) and took advantage of available, non-alcoholic ingredients because of the alcohol prohibition. It served as a great opportunity to teach folks how to make different syrups (honey, ginger, cucumber) and utilize other fresh ingredients like mint and basil. The virtual format offered other advantages, too. We were able to host far more people (and expanded beyond the community in Pretoria) than I could have in person. We also got to bring in special guests like Peter, an awesome bartender out of Cape Town, our very own Pablo to lend some additional expertise.

The other big news was my family's move from Pretoria to Baku. We were originally scheduled to depart in June, but Covid cares not for schedules. We eventually made the move in early November and, while we're still waiting for our stuff to arrive, we're starting to feel at home in this amazing city. As in much of the world right now, Covid is really starting to spike again in Baku, so that has limited our ability to venture out and build our network. We're making do, though, and I'm starting up the cocktail classes again so hopefully we'll meet some good people that way.

Pablo: Coercing people into being your friend again, eh? Typical John move.

John: Gotta get people to socialize with me one way or another...

Pablo: ::shudder:: So gents, what's on the horizon for 2021?

David: Well, the year's going to start off with another deployment, but by the time that one's done, we may actually be able to move around again with something approaching normalcy. I'm looking forward to getting back overseas to a NON-dry country, and exploring the booze and wine scene... not to mention food. Food is important too. 

Otherwise, it's - with all of us, I know - finding more and better ways of incorporating said booze, wine and food into my life. I'm looking at doing a pop-up supper club at some point soon... working with you two fine fellers to pair a tasting menu with crafted cocktails as well as wine, for example. 

John: I'm excited to dive into the cocktail and liquor scene in Baku and see what there is to discover and learn. Opportunities may be limited until the cloud of covid has passed, but I'll ferret out what I can in the meantime. Aside from that, I'm really excited to get the online classes going again and, one day, transitioning back to in-person instruction. It's a great way for me to go back and revisit classic drinks as well as think about drink construction and theory, and then get to talk to other people that are excited to learn about it, too (and coerce people into being my friend, apparently). Lastly, and I know we say this every year, but I'm feeling motivated to start writing more and using this blog as an outlet for that. It's been a long year with a lot more home schooling than I care to remember, and it will be fun to stretch that muscle again.

Pablo: I’m probably going to keep on drinking; I rather like it. And I hope to be drinking in the pub shed—it’s got flooring and electricity so far; next steps are insulation, walls, and decorating with all the stuff my wife doesn’t allow in the house.

John: There are doomsday preppers, and then there are home drinking preppers. Love it.

David: How else do we expect to last through doomsday? Why on earth would anyone go through all that trouble and NOT make sure there was a Martini close at hand?

Pablo: I’m also dreaming big with hopes of a proper vacation. Maybe even getting out of the state!

The big goal, for all of us really, is getting our bitters out there. As you know we started our Alchemy and A Twist, LLC a couple of years ago to make and sell bitters, and we have cultivated a great relationship with local Falls Church Distillers. We’ve also started collaborating with event vendors. For this year I want to actually get our website up for our bitters, get them out there to folks, and partner more with local bars, restaurants, and distilleries to work with and support those businesses. 

Will we be able to retire off this? Not any time soon but if you have something you love to do and have fun doing, then take advantage of that. 

But if nothing else, there’ll be cocktails and dreams!


There you have it, cocktails and dreams! Thanks for stopping by, Dear Reader. We wish you a Happy Repeal Day, a joyful and safe holiday season, and a 2021 that has to better than 2020. See you on the flip side... cheers!

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