Tag Archives: cocktails

Your not-so-secret admirer

It will probably come as no surprise that I read a lot. As a writer, I read to stay abreast of current events and to relax, but mainly to learn. Here’s the thing: I learn from almost everything I read. Even the Harry Potter series, which I’m currently rereading for the 324th time, teaches me something about the convergence of craft and content.

Like my social media feed, my media consumption usually revolves around cocktails, pictures and videos of puppies, and local news. After five years as a writer, many of the pieces that come across are writers and bloggers I’ve met. But there are many bloggers whose work I actively seek out and subscribe to.

Locally, the scene is unapologetically amazing. Some of these fantastic souls work so hard to elevate the scene that Beyoncé should watch out. These include:

  • Ed Bowser‘s cutting wit, comic book smarts, and humor make Soul In Stereo a must-read for me. Almost every entry I’ve read has made me laugh.
  • Mary-Berkley Gaines and I went to high school together, but I didn’t know her then. Now, her work on  The Beautiful Bodies of Birmingham Project spreads the radical body positivity message near and far.
  • Sara Glassman is my book dealer. As a bookseller and librarian, her book blog, Medusa’s Library, keeps me in books and news from the speculative fiction scene.
  • David Griner, the Digital managing editor for Adweek, is a friend and writing hero. I hope to one day write articles with the focus and speed with which he practices the craft.
  • Javacia Harris Bowser, the fearless founder of See Jane Write Birmingham is, of course, the first on my list. While the rest of us are sleeping, she’s working on her lesson plans for her classes at ASFA, freelance assignments, and businesses coaching plans.
  • Carla Jean Whitley gave me the chance that made me a writer. She was my first editor on a professional level, and helped to shape my work into something salable. Her professional work, along with her honest and cat-filled blog, Ink-Stained Life, has been an inspiration since I started this journey.

Though I’m far from a fashionista, I still read several local fashion blogs regularly. Recently, this has become even more important, as I took a position back in June as the coordinator of My Sister’s Closet, a secondhand boutique operated by our local YWCA chapter. Some of my favorite include:

  • Jeniese Hoisey, the badass babe behind the Jenesaisquoi Blog, is more glamorous than I can ever hope to be.
  • Alexis Barton of Same Chic Different Day, who I’m still convinced is too cool to be my friend.
  • Jennifer Dome King, whose Stellar Fashion & Fitness entries push me to embrace my body and work from where I am towards a fitness level that works for me.
  • Maacah Davis, who runs belladonnaa high fashion magazine that features models of color and diverse backgrounds. It’s gorgeous, and I can’t wait to see what else she’s able to do in the future.

I also read a lot about cocktails, but to ensure that this post isn’t 12,000 words long, I’ll list some of my favorite writers’ names:

This month, I’m attempting to blog my way forward by writing every day as part of Blog Like Crazy.

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Starting Fresh

Photo credit to Jessica Jack Wyrick

Photo credit to Jessica Jack Wyrick

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Last weekend, I came across the Mary Oliver poem that included that line, and it’s stuck with me. Since then, I’ve been hustling my freelance game harder than ever before. As a result, I’m calling September The Month of Just Doing It. So far, I’ve pitched two national publications and one regional one. I’ve requested an update from a private client, and scheduled an interview.

Even though I haven’t been blogging, I’ve been writing more than ever before on many of the same topics. Here’s a handy list of life updates:

  • I still love cocktails. My dream of writing for mental_floss has been a reality for almost a year, and my editor’s help in finding my voice in science writing has been invaluable. Read those posts here.
  • I’m exercising regularly. Not all of the written entries have been posted yet, but having Chris Conn as my personal trainer at Omega Life Fitness has pushed me to a new level of fitness. On to the next goal.
  • Rejection is OK. I’ve already had a pitch rejected from one national publication, but immediately pitched another. If my motivation to keep moving, working, failing and learning ever stops, I’m finished as a freelancer. For The Month of Just Doing It, I will continue to research and pitch new stories, even if they fail. I also entered a cocktail competition earlier this year and made it to the finals. I didn’t win, but did learn a lot from the process itself.
  • I’m engaged. Even before I was engaged, I was writing for Love Inc., a wedding publication dedicated to all love — equally. I’ve written about buying a wedding dress, getting engaged (in that order), and various industry trends.
  • I don’t like new things. As a writer, being change-averse is both silly and counter-productive. Without experiencing new things, you can’t develop new material for any medium. This weekend, Adam and I went to a marksmanship clinic. It was a new and thoroughly frustrating experience, but I can now hit a target with a damn fine grouping at 100 yds, and am a passable shot up to 400 yds. This winter, I’ll go hunting with Adam for the first time.
  • Bartending is still awesome. Writing and bartending are two of my passions, and getting to pursue them both concurrently is amazing. But both take hustle, hard work and energy. Over the next few months, I’ll be ramping up my networking on both fronts to see how I can move them forward.

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Coffee and cocktails

octane_coffee_logo

I work here.

As some of you may know, I work in a coffee shop that serves alcohol. That said, you won’t find Kahlua or Bailey’s on our shelves. We’re not trained to make hundreds and hundreds of shots that will get you white girl wasted. But we are nerds. Any of the denizens of coffee world can talk your ear off about our espresso beverages and coffee beans, and any of us bartenders comes with a huge repository of product and classic cocktail knowledge.

Despite my description, Octane doesn’t employ a cadre of fully functional (and well-coiffed) coffee- and booze-savvy robots. In the words of one of my coworkers, “We’re the nerds who finally get to be cool because we’re into coffee and cocktails.” We geek out on this stuff because it’s cool to us, not because of its newly christened place in popular culture. As a writer with a column on cocktail chemistry, I’m constantly looking to study parts of the drink making process that I haven’t examined before. Personally, as a perfectionist who studied under one of the best (thanks, Angel!), my technique can always use a little work.

It’s not perfect or truly glamorous work. In the past six months, I’ve lost weight from running around…and taken more time to recover from late nights. I might be young, but I don’t bounce back as quickly from sleep deprivation as I used to. On average, I drink less than I used to, mainly because my palate has evolved so that I can’t tolerate things I used to like a lot.

Over the past six months, I’ve learned a lot about how I like to live and work. After almost nine months of jobs I tolerated to pay the bills, not dreading waking up has been an amazingly positive change. It’s also made a huge difference to know that I want to learn more about everything I’m doing when I go home. My cocktail book collection is growing at a very steady pace and doesn’t appear to be stopping any time soon, and my home bar is getting stocked very slowly.

It’s been amazing to see what a change of work environment has done in six months. Needless to say, I’m really excited to see where it will take me next. Until then, I’ll be meeting the plethora of deadlines I have looming over the next two weeks.

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Happy birthday, See Clair Write!

Photo c/o Christian Smith on my first day at Octane.

My first day at Octane! Photo c/o Christian Smith.

It’s fitting that my blog’s birthday falls on the day where the Blog Like Crazy prompt is to talk about your beliefs. See Clair Write has become an outgrowth of those, and I love working to show them plainly.

For me, trust and belief go hand in hand. These internal markers are an excellent way to flesh out the relationships and conversations I have with others. As I’ve said before, I’m a compulsive list maker. Things as personal as beliefs are no different. Here are some random ones of mine:

  • Cocktails are cultural artifacts. Whether through their origins, backstories or associations, cocktails are a great way to connect with the bright — and sordid — moments in our collective history. In a contemporary setting, asking a bartender about a drink’s name can spark hours of discussion about their history (or the bar’s).
  • I’m a nerd. A huge, flaming, Doctor Who and Sherlock watching, China Mieville reading, football enjoying, drink mixing, cosplaying, music snobby nerd. I can talk for hours about all of these things. However, I’m also nerdy because I keep friends with a lot of people who are outside these fandoms because they have something to teach me and vice versa. It’s part of why I fell in love with Adam.
  • When I stop learning, I will die. Overdramatic statement? Maybe, but it’s pretty much the truth. Anytime I stop reading or research or writing for more than a day, I feel much less alive. I hadn’t realized how much I missed reading fiction until I read my friend Cecilia Dominic‘s book The Mountain Shadow in two days.
  • I judge our friendship through hugs. I love hugs. They’re a good barometer of how trusting and trustworthy an individual is. Though I understand that there’s a boundary of not forcing too much physical contact on someone, a bear hug will almost always go a longer ways than a side-hug-slash-pat-on-the-back.
  • Respect, respect, respect. Chances are that we don’t see eye to eye on everything and are unlikely to change each others’ minds on topics such as religion, politics, sex, etc. Judgment isn’t going to win over my heart and mind. If we can’t discuss them civilly or intellectually, we won’t discuss them at all.
  • Conversation is hugely important. Since the filter between my brain and mouth resembles a sieve, we’re probably going to end up talking about religion, politics, sex, etc. I’m always fascinated by others’ backgrounds and opinions…until they degenerate into proselytization or judgment. If it gets to that point, I’m out.

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Cocktail of the Hour: the Algonquin

Sometimes the most interesting lore about a cocktail only tangentially relates to the drink itself. Such is the case with the Algonquin. Named for its supposed birthplace, New York City’s Algonquin Hotel, this Prohibition era drink is more famous for its proximity to fame and wit.

During Prohibition, the Algonquin played host to a daily luncheon of the era’s intelligentsia. Called the Algonquin Round Table, this midday meeting of minds was attended by poet and critic Dorothy Parker, New Yorker magazine founder Harold Ross and others including Harpo Marx. However, most of the Round Table’s members were avowed highball drinkers, so it’s unlikely they ever consumed a drink named after their group.

Interestingly, several 1920s drinks were named Algonquin in a bid to cash in on the action. Save this whiskey-based beverage, no others survived to modernity. According to some sources, another contender involved Bénédictine, blackberry brandy and rum. I’ll pass.

Taste-wise, the Algonquin has a bit of a bite from the rye that helps to ease the first chill of fall. The whiskey also adds spicy notes balanced by the dryness of the vermouth, and the taste is rounded out by the tartness and sweetness of the pineapple juice.

Recipe:

2 dashes orange bitters

1 oz unsweetened pineapple juice

1 oz dry vermouth

2 oz rye whiskey

Combine ingredients and shake for 10-12 seconds or until combined. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

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An ordinary life

Behind the bar at Octane. Photo credit to Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark.

Behind the bar at Octane. Photo credit to Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark.

A year is a surprisingly long time. At the beginning of August last year, I was on the verge of starting my first non-temporary office job. I had never seriously considered a career as a freelance writer, personally blogged or mixed a classic cocktail.

After spending several months in a cubicle, I was restless, lethargic and generally miserable. Tutoring and freelancing were the only paid gigs that reflected what I’d learned during my time in school, so I focused my energy there. At a certain point, it was too much. I’m pretty good at pacing myself, but six hours of sleep couldn’t replenish the amount of energy burned each day.

Then I got an offer I couldn’t expect — a chance to learn the art of craft cocktails from one of my favorite bartenders in Birmingham. Two years’ experience writing about cocktails had given me a taste of the industry, but not the deeper knowledge I needed to cover the topic in depth. My full-time job wouldn’t accomodate this change, so I put in my two weeks’ notice.

Yes, I quit my job to tend bar. Yes, it may sound like a quarter life crisis. No, it was not a bad idea.

So far, it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I have learned how to properly stir/shake a cocktail, explain a bar’s worth of product and actually taste wine/beer/liqueur/liquor. Historical cocktail books became my reading materials, and my drink flashcards became a permanent fixture in my purse.

I love it. I love it all, and through it I’ve become part of the up-and-coming food and drink scene in Birmingham.

With my recent career and lifestyle changes, I’ve been considering splitting this blog into sections: writing, mixing and running. All three are topics I love, and each brings a part of my life into balance. However, the division into three separate blogs might be out of reach both financially and time-wise. For now, I will categorize posts based on these topics.

Today’s title comes from a yoga instructor’s discussion of the importance of an ordinary life. Obviously, my definition of ordinary has drastically changed over the past few months.

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