Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Punch Drunk

The 5 Lessons You Learn in a Bar

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 4:00 AM


Wait, don't turn the page. The thought of an entitled, clown-college-B.A.-degree-having, entirely self-serving 28-year-old nap aficionado handing down life lessons sickens me too. But don't you go flipping to whatever gratuitous pomposity we printed on the Back Page just yet. These aren't real-life lessons to take to heart or to take even remotely seriously — unless your life is really screwed up, like Bobbi Kristina Brown-and-her-stepbrother screwed up. If it's that bad, just hand me all of the good drugs in your purse and take a seat, you freak show, this is important.

Here are five things that I've consistently noticed through the years, from behind the bar, that have become gospel in my ever-changing, mostly negative view of society. (The only one I would absolutely take to heart is No. 5. Seriously. It's beyond the truth.)

1. Don't trust anything anyone says in a bar, ever.

Not even your sweet old grandmother. Bars are incubators for lies and the sooner you realize every word out of everyone's mouth is in some form a complete fabrication, the sooner you can relax. The bar is a fantasy world. This isn't a bad thing, either. Sure grandma, you slept with Stalin. Right, OK.

2. Bar owners are notoriously insecure, so they bought a bar and friends.

The exceptions are my current bosses and any of my yet-to-be-determined future bosses — who all are worldly, incredibly witty and grossly well-endowed. Handsome bon vivants, these guys.

3. Every person in the entire world is awkward.

I see so many weird, stilted — "You got it, Joben ... Laters on the menjay." — conversations and mannerisms in a bar. Hundreds, every night. Sit silently sometime and observe for yourself. The alcohol of course helps this and makes us comfortable in our own skin, but we're all still awkward as hell. No one is as cool as they think they seem, and I'm guilty of that syndrome all the time, every day. I'm a goofy bastard. Just look at me.

4. Politicians, especially of the city-local variety, are even more nauseating when they let their guard down.

It's easy to see why the general public has such a hate-hate relationship with our local politicos. Their fake sincerity and money- and time-wasting crusades to make smoking cigarettes within 100 yards of a dog park without a concealed weapon's permit on Mother's Day a federal offense and the asinine trips to get drunk with Donald Trump in New York City are vomit-inducing enough. Now stick them in a bar, ply them with bourbon and listen in. Total snake-oil-selling windbags who will smile in your face like some congenial grandfather and then try to shove a finger up the waitress' skirt. I'd name names but Evil Editorman says something about lawsuits or deportation or something. Come to the bar and I'll tell you some stories.

5. Anyone with chin-strap facial hair is an asshole.

No exceptions.

Fine, I suppose I'm pretty good at gratuitous pomposity also. You may now proceed to the Back Page.

Have a question for Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback? Email bartender@styleweekly.com. Jack also serves as co-host of 103.7-FM's "River Mornings with Melissa and Jack," weekdays from 6-9 a.m. On Twitter @Jackgoesforth.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Short Order

Trump throws an arm around Virginia.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Cheese to go: Gov. Bob and Maureen McDonnell flank Donald Trump for a showcase of Virginia food and wine, film and tourism at the Trump Tower in Manhattan April 10. - VIRGINIA TOURISM CORPORATION
  • Virginia Tourism Corporation
  • Cheese to go: Gov. Bob and Maureen McDonnell flank Donald Trump for a showcase of Virginia food and wine, film and tourism at the Trump Tower in Manhattan April 10.

Donald Trump, for once, didn't have to do the hard sell. The good stuff spoke for itself.

At a reception in the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York City, wines flowed, oysters glistened on the shell and a celebration of all things glamorous in Virginia swirled around a pink granite lobby smelling faintly of ham. Some 200 guests -- filmmakers, producers and media types -- have gathered April 10 at the invitation of Gov. Bob McDonnell, to hear a pitch for their hearts and their business.

It's all part of an economic development tour -- next stop Montreal -- to keep the focus on Virginia's emerging star power and not so much on its politics.

Fine Virginia wines and foodstuffs; a reminder that Steven Spielberg shot there; a charismatic new (interim) tourism director, Rita McClenny; and a trifecta of Trumps put the steam into a two-hour lovefest that never strayed from decorous.

McDonnell and the first lady, showing more decolletage than usual, raise glasses of Kluge Blanc de Blanc to toast the jobs that come along with film, wine and tourism, and the commonwealth's desire to promote those industries around the world.

"We just shipped 7,000 bottles of wine to China," the governor says, "and if we can get them drunk enough maybe they'll forget the 13-trillion-dollar debt." (By the next morning, McDonnell was guesting on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," smiling and available in case a vice-presidential ticket invitation might be in the offing, as the journalists wondered.)

At the party's see-through podium, Trump deploys familiar phrases with his signature snarl and staccato timing. Maureen McDonnell "is a fantastic first lady"; the Commonwealth of Virginia "is just spectacular"; and Trump's holdings -- a golf club in Loudoun County and the Kluge vineyard near Charlottesville -- "are doing really, really well," he says. Trump's 28-year-old son, Eric, is charged with making sure that the Kluge vineyard, the largest vineyard east of the Mississippi, brings a proper return on investment. The Georgetown-educated Eric Trump flies in a few times a month to evaluate the business from an elaborate barn on the property. ("And I enjoy putting on some Carhartts," he says, improbably, of the farmer gear that's a million miles from the Italian leather of his shoes on this night.)

Standing at the back in a triple pearl necklace and grape-patterned suit, Patricia Kluge doesn't say much while she pours some of the best-regarded wines of her career. Guests might not notice the drama, but a poignant changing of the guard is in progress. In two weeks, Eric Trump plans to announce the first bottles on the Trump Winery label, and with that, the Kluge imprint will dissolve. While the once-wealthy Kluge is still involved in the business and the grapes may taste the same, the branding will be younger and bolder. Times change, and Virginia is ready to adapt, the pitch goes, and Eric Trump is a quite the polite, Virginia-loving exemplar. His brother, Donald Jr., mostly watches from the sidelines while the others shake hands and pose for pictures before being whisked away.

Elsewhere, along a sparkling array of bottles and fine stemware, winemaker Luca Paschina decants his prized Barboursville Octagon; heritage beef and country hams and tangy ribbons of salame and chunks of cheese promise excellence and deliver. Brie wrapped in watermelon, sea scallops on clouds of puree, petit verdot, and spiced, hand-painted chocolates all speak to the good life, the one that could get even better with higher sales.

With all the talk about local foods, it turns out that the biggest audience for Virginia's finest products isn't Virginians -- it's New Yorkers. The foods and wines on display at this party all have energetic sales reps in New York -- Olli Salumeria, King Family Vineyards, Edwards & Sons and an elite line-up of growers, taking their stuff to the best bars and kitchens and national magazines. Paschina visits chefs at the New York City restaurants carrying the Barboursville line, nudging along the relationships that are key to a higher profile, and works to put the product in the right hands and mouths.

Virginia is looking for love and opportunity in the land of plenty, and as McClenny urges the crowd, "Whatever it is that you do, you should do that in Virginia."

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Punch Drunk

Upward Mobility With Don Draper

Posted By on Tue, Apr 3, 2012 at 4:00 AM


The old fashioned is having a renaissance of sorts. At least that's the hope of Frank Blanton and his wife, Nancy, who write me about their two-year search for the cocktail done right in Richmond.

In no small part that's because of "Mad Men," which kicked off its season the other week with a flurry of booze, booze and some more booze.

Problem is, Blanton's getting a blank look from a few bartenders around town, he says: "Like a deer in the headlights wondering, 'Who drinks this these days?'" One bar had no oranges. Another didn't stock bitters. At a Short Pump chain the bartender had to consult a recipe book. "God's teeth!" Blanton writes. "Is this such an 'Old Fashioned' cocktail?"

Blanton rightfully turns to me for guidance. Now you might not surmise that the folks hunkered down at Style Weekly are dashing, suave or even remotely stylish or hip, but in fact we are all of those things. Our offices are very much like Sterling Draper Cooper Pryce in that we are very — very — in the know. The constant lying and drinking add to the overall effect.

Perhaps no one's ever mistaken Arts and Culture Editor Don Harrison for a Madison Avenue ad exec, but many would be surprised to know that he only wears three-piece suits a la Roger Sterling. And while we're not sure if he actually does any work, he's kept around for his acid tongue and scene-stealing one-liners. His corner of the office is nothing but a cloud of secondhand smoke and Aqua Velva. His eight-martini lunches are legendary within the Richmond media community.

Then you have Editor in Chief Jason Roop stalking around thinking he's the office Don Draper. Scowling, looking like he's about to walk through a wall at all times, having inter-office liaisons, blowing everyone's mind with every comment he drops in every meeting. The only differences are that none of these things is true of Roop and no one laughs at Don Draper.

But I digress.

Style's overwhelmingly retro-cool fashion sense and closet drinking habits aren't on trial here. What is on trial is your drinking habit, or lack of one.

I've harped on why you should drink up in this space before, and I don't mean that you should drink more, although I'm not one to judge. Drinking up means to drink quality, a real cocktail. Take a cue from the Blantons. Put down the fucking Red Bull and don't you dare put cranberry juice within 10 miles of that cocktail. What is it, your period?

And so if the old fashioned and its brethren are alive anywhere in this town, it's with fellow barkeep and pre-eminent Richmond mixologist Bobby Kruger, who tends bar at Bistro 27. I've enlisted him to create some "Mad Men"-inspired drinks to coincide with the new season of the best show on television. His recipes are in the sidebar.

Now I don't give a damn if this idea already has been done to death so shut your trap, clip these recipes out and drink like a man. If you must speak, think pithy. Not long-winded and droning as you tend to be. Lose that smile too. We're here to drink, not discuss last night's episode of "Golden Girls," Nancy.

That was so Draper of me.

Have a question for Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback? Email bartender@styleweekly.com. Jack also serves as co-host of 103.7-FM's "River Mornings with Melissa and Jack," weekdays from 6-9 a.m. On Twitter @Jackgoesforth.

Kruger's New Throwbacks

1. Mai Tai
Original Recipe by Trader Vic

2 ounces overproof rum (I like Wray & Nephew rum)
Juice from one fresh lime
1/2 ounce Patron Citronge
1/4 ounce cashew fruit purée
1/2 ounce orgeat syrup

Directions: Add all ingredients to an ice-filled shaker. Shake vigorously. Pour contents into a tumbler. Add a sprig of fresh mint. Orgeat is a sweet syrup made from almonds, sugar and rose water.

2. Manhattan
Original Recipe by Dr. Iain Marshall, though there's some debate to the veracity of that claim

2 ounces bourbon whiskey
1 ounce Cocchi Barolo Chinato
Dash of chocolate bitters
1 large, Chartreuse-soaked cherry

Directions: Add ingredients, minus the cherry, to an ice-filled shaker. Stir and then strain into a cocktail glass. Finish with the cherry — skewered, and not dropped into the drink. The Cocchi Barolo Chinato is amazing in this drink and truly surpasses what any vermouth brings to the table. Even Carpano Antica. The flavors of this variation are spice, chocolate, cherry, anise and oak.

3. Old-Fashioned
Popularized by Col. James E. Pepper

2 ounces rye whiskey (Old Overholt is a classic)
Several dashes Angostura Bitters
1 sugar cube
2 kumquats
Splash of club soda

Directions: Muddle bitters, kumquats and sugar in an empty highball glass. Add the whiskey and the splash of soda. Stir the drink. Top with a single, very large ice cube. Why the addition of kumquat? It adds a little mild acidity and also the fruity pulpiness to which consumers have grown accustomed during the last century.

Bartender Stephen Ogburn of Bistro 27 also contibuted to these recipes.

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