Cocktail Chronicles: 52 Weeks of Cocktails
Ladies and gents, get ready, because it's about to be a helluva year. That's right, 52 weeks of cocktails. One new cocktail recipe (from yours truly) for every week of 2017. Am I hella excited? Hell yes! Am I nervous and overwhelmed? Hell yes. My 2017 "52 Weeks of Cocktails" is actually a two-part project. The last 3 years have really been about taking risks, trying new things, and taking new adventures. And this really is an extension of that. But this is about more than just making new cocktails. It's about deepening existing relationships, while forging new ones, learning from those both in my circle and beyond.
In addition to making 52 drinks this year, I'm also going to meet 52 people (or at least 52), some strangers, some locals, some foreigners, and others friends and acquaintances, for cocktails and what I'm dubbing, "Cocktail Chronicles." While every cocktail has a story, of more importance is that every person has a story, and a story that should be told. As I've so often written in the archives here, we are the authors of own stories. And these are the stories I want to hear, listen, and learn from.
The fact is that 2016 wasn't our greatest year. Many of our lives and worldviews were shaken to the core, even turned upside down. The story of ourselves, family, friends, and the world perhaps wasn't the story we thought we knew. And the story written for ourselves and the world perhaps wasn't the story we wanted written. And amidst that, as I look back at 2016, I find myself having missed opportunities to listen and learn from both my inner circle and the communities and cultures beyond it. So this is an opportunity to tell my own story, through what I'm creating, but more importantly, listening and learning from the stories of others. Leo Tolstoy is quoted as saying, "All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” For me, this project is both.
So here's the deal, each week I'm going to be making a new cocktail (no, they won't all be whiskey cocktails). As best as I can, they'll be new creations, though many will most certainly be adaptations and inspirations from other drinks (such as the first cocktail below). Simultaneously, I'll be meeting a new person each week at a cocktail bar to buy them a cocktail of their choosing, be it an Old Fashioned, bartender's choice, one of my own cocktail concoctions (when the bars have the ingredients), or something else. Please, no vodka and sodas (kidding, kind of). And the topic of conversation? Well naturally, it'll be around the question of, what's your story? So what is your story? And what story do you want to write for yourself, and more broadly, see the world write for itself.
But wait, there's more! Each of the 52 cocktails will be inspired by the people who I meet, and will be cocktails that I create for them. Mind....BLOWN! After meeting every person, I'll create a drink based on our meeting, pulling from our conversation and their likes and interests. Every drink has a story, and these, even more so.
Want to meet this year? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me a little bit more about yourself. First cocktail is on me. While most of these, by and large, will be taking place on the West Coast, I would like to do some of these while I'm traveling over the course of the next year. Other than that, I simply want this year to be about listening and learning from people of different cities, cultures, and ethnicities, while deepening my current relationships. Meanwhile, see below for cocktail number 1 of 51, as well as a few Not Frequently Asked Questions (NFAQs). Otherwise, subscribe or follow me on Instagram or Twitter (and follow the #52WeeksofCocktails hashtag) for the latest updates and cocktails.
NFAQs (Not Frequently Asked Questions)
- How do I sign up? Shoot me an email at email@example.com. Share a little bit about yourself, why this is of interest to you, and some social media profiles. I'll respond to those emails in which it looks like the worlds, location, and schedules align. Have fun with this. It's not a college entrance application, job interview, casting call, or date. It's two people having drinks and talking life.
- Spencer, is this a facade for wanting to get a girlfriend? Are these actually dates? Oh come on, give me a little credit here! Absolutely not, and in full disclosure, this wasn't even 100% my idea. Over the holidays, I had challenged my friend Beth, over at Recipe for Adventures, to consider doing 52 weeks of baking recipes (which she's doing, dubbed, #Baking WithBeth). So I decided to take my own advice, but do it for cocktails. But then, in a turn of events, when talking to my good cocktail-loving friend, Stephanie, she challenged me to expanding it to meeting 52 people, too, and then making cocktails for the people I met. Challenge accepted. And so Cocktail Chronicles, 52 Weeks of Cocktails, was born.
- If I meet for one of your Cocktail Chronicles, will I end up in a blog post, book, documentary, or Wes Anderson feature-length film? In honesty, I haven't thought beyond the first cocktail. However, being both the storyteller and entrepreneur that I am, I've most certainly thought about the business opportunities that could come from this, be it sponsorships, a cocktail book, my own bar, or something else. If I had my pick, however, it'd be a Wes Anderson or Michael Bay feature-length film (Transformers 7: Cocktails on Fire), but beggars can't be choosers. It's really just a great challenge and learning opportunity for 2017, and that's how I'm approaching it. But I want to be completely transparent with you. In short, no, I'm not doing this for a book or documentary. At the end of the day, I'm doing it because I like drinks, I like making drinks, and I like people.
- I only drink vodka, will you make me a version of a vodka and soda? No.
- I don't drink, can we still meet? Certainly. I understand and have a lot of respect for people who don't drink for one reason or another, despite societal expectations and pressures. I anticipate making at least one mocktail, which will likely also include a version that has some form of booze in it, too.
- Where do we have to live for these Cocktail Chronicles to take place? Since I'm based on the West Coast, and spend most of my time in Northern California and Northern Nevada, this is where the highest percentage of these meet-ups will be taking place. Nonetheless, being the traveler that I am, I'll be traveling frequently throughout the year, and would love to do some of these while traveling. Destinations like Antarctica and the North Pole are probably out of the question, unless you're paying for my transportation, but if it's a destination I'm visiting, potentially visiting, or within the vicinity of, then it's not out of the question.
- Will you be taking my photograph and using my name in blog posts? Yes. A major part of this project is documenting the experience, which I intend to do with writing, photography, and in some cases, video. If you're not comfortable with that, it's probably not a good fit. Nonetheless, I'm not sharing intimate details and photos about people's lives or stories, and as you may have noticed above, only use first names (unless it's a fellow writer/photographer friend) when referencing people here on my blog. Simply put, I want to share what I'm learning and the details of the cocktails I'm making. In other words, I won't write about that crazy night you had in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve.
- I own a cocktail bar, can I host you or get involved? Absolutely. My cocktail bar is my kitchen, so therefore I'm always looking for new spaces I can play with ingredients, make cocktails, and take photos at. Additionally, any participating bars I'll most definitely give some love both on social media and here on WTG. You can download my media kit here. Otherwise, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on my contact page and we'll chat.
- I'm a whiskey maker, can I send you whiskey? Of the things that I turn down, whiskey is not one. I'm always looking to expand my repertoire, as well as partner with spirit brands. Let's chat. Holla.
- 1.5 oz. bourbon
- .5 oz. Becherovka
- .25 oz. spiced simple syrup
- Dash of bitters
- Orange peel as garnish
Well I had to have some cocktail to roll out with before officially meeting people for Cocktail Chronicles, and it had to have a story. Well this is it. The inspiration for it actually came a few weeks ago before any of this was even born. Interestingly enough, I was on a first date. And I knew it was going to be a great date when we sat down at one of my favorite cocktail bars and was greeted by one of my favorite bartenders, Lorenzo, and he immediately says, "Shots!" Moments later he emerges with a bottle of Becherovka, which is an herbal bitter liqueur from the Czech Republic. Lorenzo initially described it as tasting like Christmas, before sharing what another bartender compared it too, which I won't repeat here because there may be kids reading. But if you could put winter into a bottle, this is it. I just imagine Santa walking into his house after a long night of delivering gifts on Christmas Eve, throwing his bag down by the fireplace, and pouring a shot of Becherovka and noshing on Snickerdoodles and peppermint bark.
While Becherovka is often enjoyed by itself, naturally, I thought it may make for a fun winter Old Fashioned. And I wasn't wrong. I first made a spiced simple syrup, which was equal parts sugar and water (brought to a boil), that I then steeped with cinnamon sticks, clove, and star of anise. After it had cooled down, I followed my traditional recipe for an Old Fashioned. I added the bourbon to a mixing glass with a couple pieces of ice and stirred for 10 seconds, before adding more ice and stirring. Lastly, I added the Becherovka, simple syrup, and dash of bitters, and stirred more. To serve, I strained it into a rocks glass over a big ice sphere (kind of like a snowball, yeah?) garnishing with an orange peel, and in this case, also a cherry. And voila, cocktail number one. Just 51 more cocktails to go.