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5 O’Clock Somewhere

Drinking the World Every Afternoon

The Rare Story in Which an Impromptu Beatles Serenade Doesn’t Fill One with Rage

Nov.16.17

The Rare Story in Which an Impromptu Beatles Serenade Doesn’t Fill One with Rage

by Anuj Juna

Beer in Kalimpong

He strums the guitar, eyes closed, and I watch this silver-haired old man bring the past alive. It’s an old Beatles number, and he hums just the way George would. The glass of beer is cold in my hands, and in a day or two I will be leaving the West Bengal mountain town of Kalimpong and riding my bike into Bhutan, where I will run out of money and make new friends.

But right now, Binod Onkle (the local pronunciation of “uncle”) has me mesmerized. His eyes are still closed, and the first few words of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” linger in the air. It’s not hard to picture a younger Binod, crooning on a stage, getting thrown out of boarding school, raising havoc in bars, falling in love, and falling out of love.

It was fitting that our meeting was so unplanned. With a bike that needed repairs, I had planned to spend a few days in Kalimpong. In the end, I spent close to two weeks there, most nights at Cloud Nine, Binod Uncle’s hotel.

During dinner at Cloud Nine, he would join me at the table, sharing wildly inappropriate stories with a poker face and twinkling eyes. Bottle of beer in hand, he would take a deep swig now and then, slipping into his memories. Nothing was out of bounds in our conversations, and the candor was wonderful.

He had an animated way of speaking, his hands moving around as the words rushed out. Every so often he would deliver a punchline without changing his expression, and there would be a few seconds of silence as I processed what I had just heard. Then, laughter, more laughter, and beer.

One night, he bought me a beer, impishly telling me that one of his guests had paid up, and he “had made a little money today.” That night, he picked up the guitar and began strumming away.

The morning I finally left Kalimpong, he waved goodbye from the hotel door. When I turned one final time, he gave a sharp, little salute.

Months later, I would remember his twinkling eyes and that salute. When I heard of the civil unrest in the hills, it was Binod Uncle I thought of first. A crooning rock star, with a guitar in his hands, and a bottle of beer never too far away.

A Totally Avoidable Error in Drink Selection at an Italian Food Fair

Nov.15.17

A Totally Avoidable Error in Drink Selection at an Italian Food Fair

by Prathap Nair

Licorice mojito in Cesena

After overdosing on golden deep-fried arancinis and hearty, brown-spotted piadena stuffed with prosciutto and squacquerone cheese at a street food fair in Cesena, my drowsy gaze lands on a makeshift stall. I’ve just had a couple of plastic glasses of the local Sangiovese wine with which I could easily see myself becoming best friends, but when I spotted the licorice mojito, it stirred some memories.

Until I found this stall, I was under the impression that licorice was mostly a Scandinavian thing. In Denmark, licorice is introduced into beer, ice cream, chocolate, mints, fudge, and candy. When I visited Aarhus last year, my friend and his family force-fed me so many licorice-flavored sweets that my memories of Danish Christmas are now tainted with a strong licorice scent.

“To be fair, I haven’t given licorice a chance,” my partner says, jolting me back from my brief reverie. “Well, now is the time,” I say, emboldened by his vote of confidence. We buy a disposable plastic glass and decide to split the drink. This was fortunate.

Elbowing out of the crowd, we walk into a tiny, unpeopled piazza with tall mustard-colored buildings that close down on us. A sense of suffocation sweeps over us. Yet as my partner’s face grows unpleasant and he scrunches up his eyebrows, I deduce it’s the mojito. But it’s more than that.

“This reminds me of Wasai (in Mumbai) where my mom used to leave me with my extended family before going to work, when I was a kid. It’s depressing, let’s get out of here,” he says with a sense of urgency.

I sip the coffee-brown slush and realize even the heavy dose of alcohol couldn’t tame the assaulting flavor of licorice, an overbearing syrupy note with salty undertones.

The piazza is empty, save for a few restaurants waiting for their last-minute customers before they close for lunch and a food delivery guy fastening his delivery cartons around his bike’s pillion. A middle-aged woman eyeballs us suspiciously as she parks her bike.

We stir the plastic straw as the ice cubes release more water into the coffee-brown slush. It’s a beautiful, sunny day in Cesena. The after-kick from the alcohol stirs our memories and our consciousness slowly but steadily blurs. We silently meditate on the small failures of our travels, and decide to flavor-code each one of them as the plastic glass of licorice mojito passes back and forth between our hands.

We’ll Skip the Long Religious Hike But That Donkey Driver Sounds Like Quality People

Nov.14.17

We’ll Skip the Long Religious Hike But That Donkey Driver Sounds Like Quality People

by Kim Green

Red wine in Ponferrada

“Our position ist here,” said Martin the German policeman, pointing to a screenshot map of Ponferrada—a town best known for its 12th-century Templar castle, in the Bierzo region of northwestern Spain.

We teased Martin for his orderliness: his rucksack contents were meticulously sub-bagged and labeled in three languages. But we appreciated his geographical exactitude. He led us straight to a little grocery store attached to a Shell station, where we provisioned for 15.

When a tribe of pilgrims comes together on the Camino de Santiago, everyone specializes; odd talents rise to the surface. My husband Hal sang and cooked; I did rudimentary translating and was best known for an ability to speed-pee without dropping the pack. Martin navigated and performed acts of gallantry: he once backtracked several kilometers to shoulder an
injured Swiss friend’s pack as she limped into Santo Domingo de la Calzada, a town best known for a poultry-related miracle.

Frida the Swede instigated wine drinking and merriment, and on one occasion, ministered to a friend laid low by wine drinking and merriment—the same Swiss pilgrim previously rescued by Martin. Providing opportunities for would-be rescuers was her specialty.

In the Ponferrada hostel kitchen, Frida took charge of pasta sauce-making; Heinrich, a cheerful German in a felt “Wander Hut” hiking hat, prepared salads, and I assembled tapas platters: sautéed mushrooms, cured meats, soft cheeses, and membrillo (quince paste). As we worked, we chefs sipped from a private stash of Mencía, a fruity varietal from the Bierzo.

After dinner, Frida and I headed outside with our second bottle of Mencía. In the courtyard, we met Ginés, an arriero—a person who transports goods by pack animal—who was walking from Bilbao to Santiago de Compostela and back with his burro, Marina, and a small dog named Escoti.

I’d previously learned the word arriero because of a Basque sandwich. At a town festival in Navarra, hundreds of miles back east, I ate a bocadillo piled high with Lajoarriero—literally, “muleskinner’s garlic.” It was a delicious dish I hoped to see more of, made from cod, garlic, tomato, and pepper, created long ago by Basque pack-mule drivers as a way to enliven the preserved salt cod they carried.

Now, here was a real live muleteer-peregrino. His dog sometimes, but not always, rode on the burro’s back. Ginés demonstrated this for us, setting Escoti delicately upon Marina with a blast of laughter.

Ginés the muleskinner sometimes, if not always, preferred his wine from a bota—a traditional leather canteen-bag. It is capable of dispensing any kind of liquid, but why would it? Spanish wine is delicious, and is often cheaper than bottled water—especially if you’re not married to any specific varietal. Ginés was not.

Bota-drinking lessons were Ginés’s specialty. He took charge of demonstrating proper bota usage to Frida and me: Open wide. Squeeze the bota. Aim haphazardly and from a great distance. Prepare for impact. Repeat.

We passed the wineskin around as Hal and the mule-driving bilbaíno sang “Adiós Muchachos,” an Argentine tango Hal’s mother taught him when he was little. “I love my burro!” announced Ginés when the song was over, a moment before the beast stomped his foot. “Joder, puta!” he shouted. (No translation needed.)

There Are No Polite Canadians When it Comes to Grape-Stomping Glory

Nov.13.17

There Are No Polite Canadians When it Comes to Grape-Stomping Glory

by Christina Newberry

Wine in Oliver, B.C.

As the grapes squish between my toes, I feel two things: slightly cold and very sticky. But mostly, I’m worried about the clock.

This is not exactly old-school winemaking, in which stompers tread slowly and carefully to avoid crushing the seeds, which can ruin the taste of the finished wine. It’s more like an episode of I Love Lucy.

I’m well past my ankles in a barrel of grapes, to be sure, but not at a winery. I’m on an outdoor stage in Oliver, Canada, with an orange feather boa wrapped around my neck as I stomp for glory, racing against time. The challenge? To coax as much juice from these grapes as possible in five raucous minutes, alternating with two other team members to stomp the grapes, catch the juice in a jug, and run it over to our team bucket. The music is blaring, the crowd is cheering, and the team of grandmotherly types next to us is bending the rules.

The competition at the Festival of the Grape is fierce—no polite Canadians here. My team pumps out 22 pounds of juice in the first round, ranking us second going into the final heat. But thanks to a few sneaky moves from the ladies next door, we fall to third in the finals—out-squishing 21 other teams.
None of this juice will be used for wine, of course—there are too many grimy feet involved for that (never mind the poor technique). It’s destined instead for the compost pile.

The wineries in this region—like most modern winemakers—use machines to crush the majority of their grapes, so being a prize-winning grape stomper gives me no inside knowledge of Oliver’s wine production. Still, with the competition over, I’m ready for some first-hand research into how the local wines taste.

I’m mentally sipping my first glass of full-bodied red when a bunch of grapes hits me square in the face. It’s the start of a good-natured grape fight, and you can guess who’s doing most of the throwing. When a particularly ripe bunch gets me right in the eye, I can’t help laughing despite the sting. I can only hope the sweet juice dribbling into my mouth hasn’t touched too many feet.

Plan Your Day Around the Afternoon Booze Harvest

Nov.09.17

Plan Your Day Around the Afternoon Booze Harvest

by Lindsay Gasik

Coconut Toddy in Malaysia

The old climber is dozing on a wooden bench, shirtless and shoeless, under a tin-roof shack surrounded by coconut trees. I can’t tell if he’s tired, too hot, or has been excessively rehydrating. Fat flies make his mustache twitch. A hefty, middle-aged man passes a bowl of deep-red wild boar curry over his head to a friend. They notice us getting out of the car, lift their glasses, and with the friendliest of Indian head-waggles, chug.

It’s a hot afternoon in April and I’m beyond parched. With little rain, temperatures in Malaysia have soared to roasting. My last grown-up beverage was four months ago in the United States, over an annual rendition of New Year’s Tipsy Scrabble. I could drink anytime I wanted—I’m older than 21 and not Muslim—but I fear the cheap local spirit, arrack, and am not about to pay the exorbitant government tax on beer, wine, and liquors. Local coconut toddy, only 3 ringgit a glass, is delicious, effective, and probably healthy. Over the past 16 Friday afternoons, I’ve only wished it was easier to find.

The barman emerges from the shed, wiping an assortment of beer-branded tumblers with an old rag. He recognizes me and head-waggles a greeting, his tidy white mustache and balding rim of hair shining paly against his dark skin. He sets the tumblers on a scratched metal table and nudges the skinny climber awake. Rubbing his face, he grabs a belt with the tools of his trade—a knife and a plastic bottle—and stalks toward the nearest tree. I’m gleeful. I’ve timed my visit perfectly for the afternoon’s alcoholic harvest.

The climber shimmies up the tree and removes a pot taped to the stem of what was a flower cluster, but is now a gaping wound oozing thin, sweet sap that, in this demented heat, turns quickly to alcohol. The alcohol content is unregulated—it ranges anywhere from 2 to 7 percent ABV, like a strong beer, depending on how hot the day is and how long the sap is left to ferment. When it’s cloudy and cool, the toddy stays sweet and bubbly like a kombucha tea. When it rains, the pots fill with water and the harvest is spoiled. On days like today, one sour sip of the morning’s harvest is strong enough to make my head buzz. I wait for the fresh, sweeter stuff, straight out of the tree.

“How do you know this place?” asks one of the men eating curry. There are no signs. This toddy bar sits on the third dirt road past the red restaurant, in a quiet row of small farms inhabited by Indian-Malays, an ethnic minority of mostly Hindus who comprise 7 percent of Malaysia’s population. I suspect that, like most toddy shacks, this one is unlabeled and tucked out of sight on purpose to avoid the Muslim-led government’s increasingly strict governance of alcohol production. It’s very unlikely that my Western friends and I would have found this place on our own.

“Local friends,” I reply.

On the ground, the climber hands over a full plastic jug and stretches back out in the shade. The barman pours the whitish-clear liquid, disturbingly like diluted bleach, through a sieve and directly into my glass, flicking aside debris and dead insects. Ignoring my squeamishness, I clink glasses with the two guys, their fingers stained red with curry. The liquid is like a sugared bread roll, yeasty and still warm from all that sun.

I hand my car keys to a friend who has more body weight than I do and settle onto the bench to drink.

“There was No TV and No Women, So We Drank.”

Nov.08.17

“There was No TV and No Women, So We Drank.”

by Alec Jacobson

Amari in the Italian Alps

Generations of Pedranzinis have herded cows through the Italian Alps, moving them from their winter barn on the valley floor in Bormio up to their high summer pastures near the base of the Forni glacier, following the best seasonal grasses and herbs. I was working on a story about cheese in the region and drove up to visit their summer cottage just as they were closing it down at the end of the season.

Outside, in the pastures around us, snow was spinning through the Italian Alps. But inside, as we warmed ourselves by the fire and snacked on fresh cheese and hearty rye bread, Sara Pedranzini poured out little tastes of alpine summer. First, I sipped a splash from a bottle hand-labeled ‘genepi,’ savoring the rich drink made from wormwood. Then ‘teneda,’ a gentler floral draught of yarrow. Sara poured herself a touch of raspberry grappa, laughing as she explained that her 18-year-old cousins were to blame for the sticky, sweet experiment.

There’s a rich tradition of digestivo in Italy to sooth stomachs and wind down long meals. And, for that, many reach for an amaro, a bitter draught that varies around the country, derived from local herbs, fruits, barks, and spices macerated in strong, neutral alcohol, and then brought down to low, sip-able proof. All variations trace their origin to medicine; your first amaro can taste a bit like your first cough syrup, but your second sip will pull out a vast range of terroir: orange and caramel-tasting Del Cappo in Calabria, punchy and profoundly bitter Elisir Novasalus in Trento, Fernet Branca in Milan, or the silky smooth, juniper and rhubarb-tasting Braulio from Bormio, where the Pedranzinis live.

Journalists and sommeliers in the U.S. talk in hushed, reverent tones about their favorite bottles that they have smuggled home in their suitcases. Most amaro are shrouded in a dose of mystery, tracing their origins to a recipe gifted from a monk, like Averna, or to a virtuoso pharmacist grandfather, like Cappelletti. Recipes are often kept a secret to add to the myth, with brands revealing a few core botanicals but alluding to long lists of hidden ingredients that are expertly blended behind-the-scenes to achieve maximum balance and digestion.

But, drinking with the Pedranzinis, entirely removed from careful branding, stripped of tasting notes, and far away from the nearest reviewer, I experienced a much purer understanding of amari. The family grazes their cows on alpine herbs to sweeten the milk and make excellent cheese. They turn the same herbs into drinks to pass the time. There is no mystery in the process: the amari taste good and they can get you tipsy.

“They drink more here than in other regions,” said Sara’s uncle, Andrea, sitting back in his chair by the fire. “When I was young and worked in the high pastures, there was no TV and no women, so we drank.”

How to Join Rwanda’s Breakfast Drinking Club

Nov.07.17

How to Join Rwanda’s Breakfast Drinking Club

by Justin Fornal

Ikigage in Rwanda

Ikigage is a homemade Rwandan beer brewed from the sorghum grain. I had been obsessing over it since seeing some old pictures showing large groups of men and women crowded around canoe-sized wooded troughs sipping the fermented beverage through long cane straws.

My friend Fabrice folds his flip phone and looks at me with gentle disappointment.

“There is a problem. The lady is all sold out for the day.”

“Sold out? It isn’t even 11 a.m. yet.”

Fabrice stares into the distance, “The people who are drinking this have it for breakfast. Tomorrow you will have to start drinking early.”

That night I sat awake in bed imagining my morning bender around the sorghum-drinking trough. Would I be expected to bring my own straw?

We arrive around 9 a.m. and are met on the street by the owner and head brewer, Dorocele. She is tall, warm, and cautious.

Upon entering her living room we are met by the confused gaze of the club’s ten morning regulars. I am surprised to see that there is no massive wooden trough; everyone is drinking from their own containers, which include coffee mugs, gourds, and large plastic jugs that once held cooking oil.

I offer thanks for the invitation, handing Dorocele a small bottle of my homemade birch sap beer and a stack of Bronx Beer Hall coasters. Fabrice explains that I brew alcohol as well. Dorocele shows genuine intrigue and hands me a large gourd filled with ikigage. As I settle into an old crumbling couch between two morning revelers, I can see the foaming sorghum paste bubbling through the neck of the calabash. I stab a long plastic straw deep into the urn and take a long, slow pull. A kombucha tang awakens my tongue, followed by an oaty richness, finished with a mild bite of ethanol.

I can feel everyone in the room watching and awaiting my reaction. Wanting to compliment my host and show my respect to the regulars, I decide to clear the gourd in one go. I close my eyes and continue to drink. The gourd seems bottomless. All present parties seem concerned that I am attempting to drink the entire contents. As I continue to straw chug the stiff porridge, I hope I haven’t broken some age-old club etiquette. Was I expected to share? Too late for that. I clear the gourd with a loud slurp and yell out,

“Ikigage!”

The room erupts in laughter and clapping. One of the men sitting next to me hands over a large rubber cooking oil tub full of ikigage expecting to see a repeat performance.

Two others consult Fabrice, who then looks to me.

“Everyone wants to know if you will join the ikigage club.”

“What do I have to do?”

“Nothing. You have already done it.”

Photo by: Antoshananarivo

How to Stop Worrying and Love Tequila

Nov.06.17

How to Stop Worrying and Love Tequila

by Alec Jacobson

Batangas in Tequila

As a cool evening fell over Tequila’s central square, kids kicked soccer balls, old couples chatted on benches and I sipped a horchata in the corner, considering the limited options left to me following an afternoon of failure.

I was working on a story about the agave market and had spent weeks talking with industry experts and analyzing historic trends, but I wanted to put agave farmers at the center of the conversation and so I had given myself a day and a half in Tequila to interview and photograph a few of them. I had a list of contacts going in and a few strategies to round up more. I had imagined dropping my bags and running off into vast fields of agave tequilana to take photos in the golden evening light, but instead I was spinning my wheels.

I had been having good conversations and had learned interesting things, but I wasn’t shooting good pictures and I hadn’t found the characters to put at the center of my narrative. I needed agave farmers.

Clayton Szczech, industry expert and owner of La Cata bar, suggested that I might just bump into one at another bar: La Capilla. “It’s a small town,” he said.

As I pushed my way through a crowd towards the bartenders, Clayton’s prediction seemed entirely reasonable. The place was a dive, but with bright, local vibes. Old friends and new lovers out on a Friday night, drinking shots straight from the bottle. A single guitar player belted from the corner and the room swayed to the tune.

The bartop was littered with spent bottles of Coke, fresh limes, and tequila, and the bartenders hammered out one plastic cup after another of their signature drink: the batanga.

I gestured for one, sat, sipped and started taking pictures. Some consider the bar to be one of the best in the world, stripped down to the simplest possible ingredients of the ultimate neighborhood joint. A few mementoes, a couple of posters, just clean enough.

It took less than five minutes, but a group pushed over and introduced themselves. Luis Angel, Andrea, and Maricio, a farmer and heir to an agave dynasty.

We drank, we danced, we drank more and we made plans to meet at 10 the next morning: late enough to sleep at least a little. The bartenders handed out rounds of free drinks, the music turned up and a few guy calling themselves hotas—“the hot gays!” they teased—friended me on Facebook and asked when they could see their photos, and a local party girl pulled me off to the next bar.

I had spent the day feeling like the outsider I was and worrying that the story wouldn’t come together, but suddenly I had friends and a plan.

I never saw my three amigos again, but the night—tequila mixed with equal parts welcoming and luck—nudged me back on track.

Long Live Vienna’s Central Cemetery

Nov.02.17

Long Live Vienna’s Central Cemetery

by Alexa van Sickle

Glühwein in Simmering

According to an old Viennese joke, the city’s Central Cemetery is half the size of Zürich, but twice as fun.

It is huge. It contains 330,000 tombs, and a deceased population almost double that of Vienna’s living residents. But central, it’s not: it’s on Vienna’s southern edge, sprawled between a flat industrial quarter and the airport. Nothing says eternal peace like the dulcet tones of the 6:10 a.m. Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt.

When it opened in 1875, no one went there because its location was so inconvenient, and if it’s one thing the Viennese can’t abide, it’s inconvenience. So the authorities tried to lure visitors by beefing up the cemetery’s population of notable bodies: Beethoven and Schubert were wrested from their original resting places and rehoused in a special VIP section.

Now, there are many reasons to come here. In addition to Austrian luminaries, there is a fancy cafe. Visitors can actually drive their cars through its main arteries to get to their deceased loved ones, and tourists can hop on horse-drawn carriage rides. The cemetery appeared (twice) in The Third Man. It boasts the world’s first museum devoted to death and burial. (In Vienna’s empire heyday, holding elaborate funerals and leaving a beautiful corpse behind were the ultimate #lifegoals.) They say Vienna is obsessed with death, but I can never tell if it’s death that Vienna is obsessed with, or the past.

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I grew up in Vienna, yet this is my first time here. (Did I mention it’s inconvenient? Also, the relatives of mine interred in Austrian soil—my Canadian grandfather and his brother—are at another of the city’s 46 cemeteries.)

I park outside of gate 2, one of the largest of the cemetery’s 11 gates, which is buzzing like a theme-park entrance. The sharp smell of Kremser mustard wafts from a small cluster of food stands serving cheese-laced sausages, roast chestnuts, sliced potatoes, beer, Glühwein, and liter bottles of Sturm (a seasonal fermented grape juice that is almost wine). Two smiling soldiers stand by a boom barrier letting cars in one-by-one. It all looks like a friendly border to another country. I suppose it kind of is.

I walk up through a wide boulevard towards the Charles Borromeo church at the center to get my bearings. It’s hard not to compare this miniature city to ‘real’ cities; the layout of tombs and graves is both ornate and ordered, much like Vienna itself. It has districts and neighborhoods, bus stops, and even a forest. It is undeniably beautiful, but lacks the chaotic intimacy of Paris’s Pere Lachaise cemetery. There is something almost Soviet about the wide spaces around the grand, central crypt. But then, its tree-lined boulevards look like fall in New York’s Central Park.

We are all equal in death, they say, but the cemetery is stratified into sections of honor and pomp. Austria’s arts-and-culture VIPs have whimsical, thematic headstone art, breaking up the Catholic schemes of sensible marble, crucifixes, and Jesus in repose. Composer Udo Jürgens rests under a life-size, marble grand piano, a single black rose on top. Architect Harry Glück has a statue of his faithful bull terrier, Paula. Hedy Lamarr (born in Vienna in 1914) is commemorated by a series of vertical steel rods that, from the right angle, make up an image of her face. (Before her 1940s Hollywood career, Lamarr was famous here for running nude through the Vienna Woods in the 1933 Czech film, Ecstasy. Oddly, her epitaph omits this fact.)

2EDE3D42-5140-46C1-9E77-2BF956B51325Austrian-Swiss composer Udo Jürgens’ plot: a piano under a cloth of marble

As is also true of the city, the cemetery’s rock stars are the classical composers. The rehoused Beethoven and Franz Schubert have intricate marble sculptures; cherubs waltz across Johann Strauss’s marker. Well-wishers seem to bring steady offerings of candles and wreaths. Also nearby: Antonio Salieri (yes, he was a real person) and the returned ashes of Arnold Schoenberg—the Jewish expressionist composer whose music the Nazis deemed “degenerate” and who had to flee to America.

Here, too, Vienna’s high culture and its low politics are jarringly close. Near the musicians’ quarter is a spare memorial built for victims of Austria’s Nazi “occupation,” as the somber plaque puts it, employing Austria’s defensive blind spot for its own involvement. From this plot—a spartan flowerbed—I can still see the dome of the cemetery’s art nouveau church, a memorial to Dr. Karl Lueger, whose crypt lies below the high altar. Lueger was Vienna’s mayor from 1897-1910; his populist, anti-Semitic politics are regarded as a model for Hitler’s own.

But the best of Vienna is also built into the cemetery’s foundations. It’s always been a more multicultural city than those who longed to make Austria Germany again could ever admit. This cemetery was planned as an inter-faith resting place, making space for Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim burials back when having “mixed” hallowed ground near the city’s Catholics was still scandalous. (And people were scandalized.) These days, it’s the more the merrier; Austria’s first Buddhist cemetery opened here in 2005.

As the light starts to fade, people start to drift from the cemetery’s labyrinthine alleys back towards the gates. Back at gate 2, the soldiers are having a Sturm break. I order a sickly-sweet Glühwein to warm my hands from the wind. People start to fill the tables around me, and it all feels like a small, pre-season Christmas market. A crawling line of cars has formed to leave the cemetery. One driver honks sharply at the car nosing cautiously in front, cutting through the convivial buzz.

Na seawas!” says the woman next to me, looking up from her roast potato slices. “This isn’t the goddamn race track!”

It’s a long drive back to the land of the living.

Tired of Trumpism, Prague edition

Oct.27.17

Tired of Trumpism, Prague edition

by Karin Kempf

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Becherovka in Prague
 
As I sip my chilled Becherovka—a herbal Czech digestif similar to Jägermeister but not, usually, consumed in a session of rowdy shots—after another long day, my thoughts turn from tired, whiny children; endless dirty dishes; and laundry to another type of chaos and mess—one that doesn’t include sticky-handed hugs to sweeten the deal.
 
Another round of Czech parliamentary elections has come and gone, and the Czechs have jumped on the dubious “populist” bandwagon with their own collection of brow-raising candidates.
 
We have Andrej Babis, the billionaire businessman with questionable enterprises who has been described as a cross between Berlusconi and Trump. The front man of the victorious ANO party (an acronym for “dissatisfied citizens taking action” in Czech), Babis is currently under investigation for corruption, because a sizeable portion of some hefty EU subsidies the Czech Republic received during his tenure as minister of finance just happened to fatten up his own business interests.
 
There are probably other reasons for the probe, but that one strikes me as the biggest red flag. Babis was deposed as minister of finance only to campaign as head of the ANO party in last week’s elections. He is also known for responding to requests to disclose his financial information with—loosely translated—“Like, I’m sorry, but my earnings are none of your business,” which amuses many Czechs, and horrifies others. Sound familiar?
 
After watching the Trump circus evolve and devolve across the pond, it seems to me that the trend for flouting archaic values such as good-willed transparency or boring political ethics is contagious. And I have had the dubious honor of experiencing this phenomenon first-hand in not just one, but two elections. I was born to Czech immigrant parents in the United States, but came over to live in the Czech Republic in my early 20s, and except for five years back in Pennsylvania, I have lived here ever since. I am now based in Prague with my American husband (whom I imported from the U.S.) and our two young children.
 
In the Czech version, too, there was a disturbingly familiar disregard for facts. The Freedom and Direct Democracy party, led by Tomio Okamura, a Korean-Japanese-Czech businessman-turned-politician, got an electoral boost too. He ran on a radical anti-refugee, anti-immigrant platform, with his campaign billboards declaring: “No to Islam! No to Terrorists!” (This, in a country where Muslims make up less than 0.2 percent of the population, many of them brought in by multinational corporations as part of a skilled workforce.) But xenophobia is a strong brew, and it helped Okamura’s party net fourth place.

The center-right Civic Democrats placed a distant second; the rest of the votes were scattered among an array of newer, upstart parties, including the anti-establishment, anti-EU Pirate Party, which placed third. The fractured vote helped Andrej Babis secure a landslide.
 
Why did our Berlusconi/Trump hybrid sweep the elections, with 29.6 percent of the vote? Perhaps because the overlooked, underappreciated, hard-working folk decided to go for the wildcard, outspoken outsider, who had somehow given them hope for a better future. Have we grown so jaded that the used-car salesman’s spiel seems plausible? Or do we believe that an underdog outsider will save the day?
 
Some people argue that in the long run, this electoral experiment will shake up the system in a way that—once the dust has settled—will leave us better off. Tossing back the rest of my nightcap, I sincerely hope they will be proven right.
 
The big question is, what will “better off” look like? Will it be a country whose government, economy, and citizenry are all in a functioning, stable, and ultimately happier place? Or will it simply mean older and wiser, grateful to have survived an ill-advised experiment? Or will it mean limping along in social and political chaos as we raise a glass stoically and say “Na zdravi”—to health?
 
We’ll see. In the meantime, Na zdravi!

The Essential Fuel for Evenings in Taiwan

Oct.23.17

The Essential Fuel for Evenings in Taiwan

by Selena Hoy

Boba in Taipei

Evening is descending on Ximending, and the food hawkers jostle for position, their pushcarts lined up along the curb. Each one is peddling a single kind of snack, made fresh before your eyes.

There are hot Yiling onion pies, the size of a child’s palm, golden crisp and sizzling on the grill. There’s stinky tofu, deep-fried and topped with pickled veg, its distinctive pungent funk attracting some and repelling others. The green scallion pancakes, cong zhua bing, large and flat and folded several times, come plain or with fillings.

Ximending, in Taipei’s Wanhua district, is vibrant with youth. Students flock here, their glowing faces bathed in pink neon. Music blares out of shops, and fashion stores stand cheek-to-jowl with massage parlors, the services and prices written on the window in red script. Two fat cats mind a suit shop in Wuchang Street, dispassionately observing customers and passersby. A large banner on Hanzhong Street reads “Taiwan Independence–NOT Chinese Taipei.” Teenagers are pinging off the edges of the alleys, zigzagging back and forth in a flood of frenetic energy, fueled by chewy, sugary tea and juice drinks.

The kids in Taiwan have been slurping and chewing boba tea (also called bubble tea, tapioca tea, pearl milk tea, or 珍珠奶茶 in Taiwanese) for a few decades. It first emerged in the 1980s, probably in Taichung or Tainan, and has been a staple drink ever since.

Even though it started out simple, with black tea, sweetened condensed milk, and a dose of small tapioca pearls, boba tea now comes in a dizzying variety of flavors and incarnations: fruit flavors or coffee; personalized levels of sugar and ice; large tapioca pearls or small, or grass jelly, sago, coconut jelly, or chia seeds instead.

My jam is taro milk tea with large black tapioca pearls, the lavender mixture thick and slightly chalky with tuber starch. I place my order with an efficient, friendly cashier (half sugar, little ice) and then melt into the crowd of people also waiting for their hit. She scoops a ladleful of pearls into my drink, then runs the cup through a machine that seals it with a plastic film festooned with colorful cartoon characters. She flips it upside down once to check the seal, then hands it to me.

Mourning the Death of a Muckraker in Malta

Oct.20.17

Mourning the Death of a Muckraker in Malta

by Steven Bonello

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Beer in Marsascala

In Malta, everyone will probably remember where they were when they heard that investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated. She was killed on Monday, shortly after leaving home, when her white Peugeot 108 exploded. Her son, Matthew, was still at home; he heard the explosion and tried to save her. She was 53.

I was at a pub in the resort town of Marsascala, enjoying a pint of Kilkenny with a journalist friend. We were just at that moment discussing Caruana Galizia when I got a call from my wife telling me that friends were messaging her with the news. I didn’t believe it; I told her it couldn’t be true. But after putting my phone down, I overheard snippets of conversation from the next table, stuff like: “if you live by the sword…” I knew then that it was true. When my shocked friend confirmed the news on her smartphone, it was just a formality.

I first met Caruana Galizia 26 years ago, when I wrote her a letter asking her whether she would write a short note for my second personal exhibition of drawings. That led to her introducing me to newspaper cartooning, something I’ve done ever since. Incredibly, for a small place like Malta, I had only run into her once since then—about two months ago at a local trattoria.

Caruana Galizia was both lionized and hated in polarized Malta. She was a merciless critic of Malta’s ruling Labour government, in particular the two government personalities involved in the Panama Papers scandal, both of whom refused to step down, and both of whom enjoyed the continued support of the prime minister, Joseph Muscat. But she was also scathing about Malta’s main opposition party, and its new leader in particular, whom she accused of having financial links to a brothel in London’s Soho.

The current Labour government was re-elected earlier this year after a snap election, called as a vote of confidence after Caruana Galizia published stories about the prime minister’s wife taking kickbacks from Azerbaijan’s ruling family and stashing the cash in a secret Panama account.

Under this government, Malta has experienced rapid growth. A building boom has been fuelled by skyrocketing rental rates and the need to accommodate an influx of foreign workers. The other side of that coin has been a withering of national institutions, scandals involving government ministers, shady deals with Azerbaijan, and the sale of Maltese passports under the so-called Individual Investor Program, while Malta-born citizens are denied the right to know who their new compatriots are.

This is the first time a journalist has been assassinated on the island. Malta is in shock. The nature of the assassination was brutal, even for Malta, where car-bomb murders happen from time to time.

DCG_last_words_(1)The last words Caruana Galizia wrote on her blog before she was killed have been spray-painted on a wall in Malta.

Most friends I have been talking to are confused, and still can’t quite believe it. The assassination was no doubt a professional job, perhaps pointing to hired, imported hitmen. The motive is still unclear. Caruana Galizia had made many enemies over the years, but the general feeling is that no Maltese would really have gone this far. People are speculating that the murder might have been ordered from outside. There are whispers that she was about to break new stories involving international crime rings.

All this is happening in a vacuum. Information about the murder has been scant, and in the days after Malta’s highest-profile assassination, the Commissioner of Police—regarded by many as an incompetent stooge—was notable only for his silence on the matter. The police finally called a press conference on Thursday evening, but answered no questions. The prime minister has gone on record to say the FBI and Dutch experts will be joining local investigating forces, which only reinforces the locals’ poor perception of the police. A police sergeant’s Facebook post celebrating her death hasn’t helped.

There is also a feeling that, as with other brutal crimes in Malta, this one will remain unsolved, and forgotten after the international spotlight moves away.

After we heard the horrible news, we finished our drinks in a hurry and, perhaps unforgivably, failed to toast the memory of a very brave woman. All I remember saying to my journalist friend was: “Fuck! And I have to do a cartoon about this next Sunday?”

#Resist in Virginia, with Love and Proper Beer

Oct.19.17

#Resist in Virginia, with Love and Proper Beer

by Alex Court

Imperial IPA in Virginia

“By the power invested in me by absolutely nobody I declare you husband and wife!”

Once those words left my lips I breathed a quiet sigh of relief. I’m no priest, but in a last-minute reshuffle I had been asked to preside over the ceremony of a couple of very good friends in the heavy Virginia heat, and I needed a congratulatory drink to calm the nerves.

Slipping past the international crowd that had assembled for the special occasion, I reached the bar and spotted a beer I’d never heard of: Dogfish Head 120 Minute.

Hoppy and tasty and cold, it hit my lips and I realized why the couple had selected this beverage to get the party started. An American bride of Ghanaian and Filipino heritage was marrying a British chap from Sheffield, a city well-known for “proper” beer.

Orange, Virginia was the venue they had chosen well in advance, and they had invited people with all kinds of cultural backgrounds. Everything had been planned before August, when white supremacists marched just 30 miles away in Charlottesville, Virginia carrying torches and chanting “You will not replace us.”

As I swigged back that bottle of beer the alcohol helped me relax. The speech I had just delivered mentioned the importance of celebrating multicultural and interracial love, and the importance of doing this now, in Virginia.

Finding the right words had not been easy for a white British bloke like me, partial to avoiding all kinds of conflict, but my wife—who is American and black—helped me find them.

As I asked the barman for a second beer, the mother of the bride thanked me for the kind words I had said about her daughter and son-in-law and promptly dragged me to a photo shoot.

Arranging couples in front of the camera, the photographer wanted one of the bride and groom and my wife and I. Four people—two black ladies and two white chaps—smiling wide on the steps of a glorious homestead.

We were not putting our bodies on the line at a rally against white supremacists, but as the camera snapped away, I thought perhaps we were protesting against hate in our own little way.

Absinthe, Meet Tropical Slushie Cocktail

Oct.18.17

Absinthe, Meet Tropical Slushie Cocktail

by Anna Hiatt

Cocktails in St Augustine

Down the bar from us sat a 20-something couple. She’d ordered what looked like an adult shaved ice. Taking picture after picture, she said with a laugh, “I don’t want to drink it.”

What’d she order, I asked the bartender. A Cabana Boy. The bartender took a banana leaf and deftly looped it in a circle, placed it in the glass, and began to fill the lowball with shaved ice—just like the shaved ice we’d had at the beach the day before. It had been soaked with almost sickly sweet passionfruit and mango syrup. Sickly sweet, but delicious, just enough to cut through St. Augustine’s midday heat. She spritzed the shaved ice with absinthe from what looked like a perfume bottle and set the drink in front of me.

I sipped my Cabana Boy and wondered if I should have passed on the second cocktail. I asked the bartender about the incoming hurricane. “People love to panic,” she said calmly. Last hurricane, a second bartender told me, he’d taken shelter at the bar; nothing would bring down the Ice Plant, a former ice factory. The plant was chilled as though the building still stored blocks of ice. I shivered, hunched on my bar stool, did the tipsy calculus, and decided to drink faster. The longer I let it sit, the more the shaved ice would melt, the more I’d have to drink, the longer I’d have to stay in the cold. Let’s get out of here, I motioned, back into the warm night.

The next morning, the pressure had changed. Pea-soup air. Hurricane Irma was coming. We ducked into Catch 27 in downtown St. Augustine for blackened snapper sandwiches and blackened snapper tacos and beers.

We left the restaurant to do one more drive through the city. The storm was coming in from the south: it was still a Category 5 and hadn’t yet torn up St. Martin’s. St. Augustine had quieted after Labor Day weekend, and in the days before Irma. Windows were boarded up, or being boarded up; I wondered if the Ice Plant’s bartenders would take refuge in the old ice factory. We admired a boat moored in the Matanzas River that runs along downtown.

A few days later, after we’d flown out, Hurricane Irma moved in. From my apartment in New York, I watched video footage from St. Augustine and scanned Instagram for evidence of the storm, and what it had done to our little paradise. The streets along the water flooded, though the water quickly receded; the remaining boats in the Matanzas River rocked hard. I couldn’t see ours, and I wondered when, or if, it had been moved. Our oasis momentarily disturbed, but still filled with stubborn Floridians.

The Ice Plant
110 Riberia Street St. Augustine, FL 32084
Cabana Boy: $12

Photo: Mallory Brooks for VISIT FLORIDA

Remember, People: Do Not Get in the Car with the Self-Professed Bad Man

Oct.17.17

Remember, People: Do Not Get in the Car with the Self-Professed Bad Man

by Michael Standaert

Beer in Ngapali Beach

Last year, long before the current wave of terrible violence began, I was in Ngapali Beach, a white-sand, beach-resort town in Rakhine State, having drinks with Sara—a hotel manager—and a local artist.

Our conversation got around to the “troubles” a few years ago. After news spread that Rohingya Muslims had raped a Rakhine girl, a Buddhist, violence ensued. As a result, tens of thousands of Rohingya had been moved to camps to the north of Ngapali Beach, around Sittwe.

Sara told me that during that time, right in front of where we were now sitting on the beach—where boys had been playing soccer just an hour before—a large group of local men had emerged from the shadows into the light from the bar, machetes in hand. They’d heard that “two boats with Muslims” were out there on water, and said if they came ashore they were going to kill them.

Sara finished her white wine and the local artist left after downing his lassi, and I was alone with the last of several caipirinhas. The bar keep made them strong and rummy, squeezed in several small limes and added brown sugar, on the right side of sweet.

There was still a little light, so I walked south down the beach to a clump of restaurants and ordered a local beer. A European couple, the only other customers, left after tiring of a slightly drunk local who was talking to them, wanting to take them to a disco. Each time he said disco, he’d wiggle his hips and shake his arms. Being alone after they left, I attracted the man, who sat down close to me and ordered a beer.

His name was Momo, he said. “I’m a bad man. Bad man. But good father. I own that restaurant there,” he gestured across the road, now dark. “I provide for my family. Take care of my parents, my wife’s parents.” But he was still a bad man, he laughed, because he liked disco.

I didn’t feel like walking back to the hotel, so decided to check the place out. We passed my hotel and about a half-kilometer on, took a left down a dark road into jungle. I could see neon and Christmas lights strung around a large wooden building. I asked if this was a disco, as he called it before. “KTV,” he said.

I decided I didn’t like the vibe of the place. It stank of mildew. Sweat. I stayed close to the door, which was still slightly ajar. He was talking with the doormen, asking about “girls, I want girls.” I could tell they were wary of having a foreigner in here while Momo was trying to line up KTV girls. The doormen were shaking their heads. I grabbed Momo and said, let’s go, some other time. He tried to tell me there are other places, but I convinced him to drop me off at my hotel.

“I’m a bad man,” he said as I shook his hand. He drove off, steady, not a swerve.

The Three Things You Must Do in Veracruz

Oct.16.17

The Three Things You Must Do in Veracruz

by Martina Žoldoš

Lechero in Veracruz

They say there are three things one must experience when visiting the port of Veracruz: the aquarium, the biggest in Latin America; live street music and dancing; and lechero, the famous coffee, served in the 200-year-old Gran Cafe de la Parroquia.

It’s was a typical Saturday noon, hot and humid, and visiting the aquarium seemed the smartest thing to do. We got badly sunburned the day before, so the beach was out of the question. Besides, cooling off in an air-conditioned space and admiring sharks, barracudas, rays, yellowfin tuna meant killing two birds with one stone: my daughter had been daydreaming about sharks since we first mentioned the possibility of taking a short trip to Veracruz.

After visiting the aquarium it was time for a big dose of caffeine, so we headed to Gran Café de la Parroquia, the original one, in front of the main dock. In the last few years, the city has witnessed an invasion of modern replicas of this café that lack both history and soul. I superstitiously avoided them, although this meant I almost always had to line up for a free table in the old one.

Ordering and serving lechero is a special process. One waiter brings you a strong espresso in a glass (not a cup). Then, you have to knock a glass with a spoon to call another waiter, who fills your glass with a stream of milk as he holds the pot several feet it. The origins of this peculiar way of serving the milk are a mystery, but the origins of knocking the glass with a spoon are well-known.

Back in the late 19th century, a streetcar passed by Emparan and 5 de Mayo streets every morning at 6 a.m. As the streetcar approached the café, the driver rang the bell to announce his arrival. The owner would order one of the waiters to run out and deliver the coffee, without the driver ever having to stop. This routine went on for many years, until one morning the bell didn’t ring: the driver had passed away. When the word spread that he had died, patrons and waiters of La Gran Parroquia stood up and knocked their glasses and cups with spoons to commemorate the driver and his long coffee habit.

As I was sharing this story with my parents, who were visiting the café for the first time, a woman in a traditional, colorful dress with a wooden board in her hands and a man with a guitar stepped in. The tune of La Bamba and the woman’s tapping began to fill the room.

Aquarium, lechero, and live son jarocho, all in one day.

Let’s Drink to One Last Fascist-Free Weekend

Oct.13.17

Let’s Drink to One Last Fascist-Free Weekend

by Alexa van Sickle

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Sekt in Vienna

The new delicatessen on the corner seems to sell pasta, condiments, wine, and not much else. But they have a couple of metal tables set outside, and it’s an unseasonably warm day in Vienna, pushing 70 degrees Fahrenheit in mid-October. There are 72 hours left before Austria’s snap national election. It was called in the Spring, when the lumbering governing coalition of the center-left SPÖ and the center-right ÖVP—which has governed almost non-stop since the end of World War II—collapsed.

I settle at a table with a sekt—Austrian sparkling wine. Just across the street is a poster for the “new” ÖVP—currently leading the polls, rejuvenated by its new leader (and after Monday, perhaps Austria’s youngest-ever chancellor) Sebastian Kurz, the 31-year-old foreign minister. Kurz has been dubbed the “Wunderwuzzi”—a backhanded compliment that marries the terms “Wunderkind” and “toddler.”

These campaign posters, which are now all over the place, invite mild defacement. “Now. Or Never.” Kurz says on one. (Someone scrawled “Never” on Kurz’s forehead.)

The SPÖ’s campaign against Kurz was dirty, breaking a long-held taboo against negative campaigning here. Austria has not escaped our brave new world’s tide of political farce, and this scandal has it all: Facebook, George Soros-linked anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, shady political strategists, bribery. To recap: the SPÖ is accused of being responsible for a Facebook campaign smearing Sebastian Kurz—with pages claiming he was part of a “dubious” George Soros-funded political network and accusing him of having a secret plan to increase immigration from Islamic countries.

The news magazine Profil claimed that the sites were run by Tal Silberstein, an Israeli strategist whom the SPÖ chancellor, Christian Kern, had hired to mastermind his campaign. Silberstein, a negative campaign guru of sorts, was fired in August in connection with a money-laundering scandal in Israel, but Profil say his team continued to run the pages. In another twist, Peter Puller, who worked on the SPÖ campaign with Silberstein, claims the ÖVP once offered him 100,000 Euros to switch sides. The ÖVP denies this and is threatening to sue.

The new dirty campaign notwithstanding, the worst part of all this is that the SPÖ’s mess could well end up giving the far-right, proudly xenophobic Freedom Party (FPÖ) a larger piece of the electoral pie. The FPÖ and the SPÖ are jostling for second place with around 25 percent of the vote each. The most likely outcome of Monday’s poll is that that the FPÖ will enter a governing coalition with the ÖVP.

This is what happened 17 years ago. I remember the night when the “Blue-Black” coalition was announced: it was Feb. 19, 2000, five months after the election. A friend and I stumbled into the 150,000 people in Vienna protesting the FPÖ entering government. (We were teenagers. We had spent the evening getting my friend’s hair dyed purple and turquoise.)

Back then, the FPÖ’s rat-like but charismatic leader, Jörg Haider—who died in a car crash exactly nine years ago this week—had brought his party back from the political wilderness by campaigning on an anti-immigration ticket, despite Austria having the second-lowest immigration in the European Union. This time around, Austria has taken in one percent of its population in refugees—that’s more than Germany, proportionally—and Heinz-Christian Strache, the FPÖ’s leader (who was once arrested at a mock Hitler Youth march) has amped up the party’s xenophobic and nationalist flavor. A winning combination.

The SPÖ broke another long-held taboo this year—the 31-year, self-imposed ban on governing with the FPÖ—apparently because the party has cleaned up its act. In the months leading up to this week, it has not ruled out entering a coalition with the FPÖ.

The FPÖ has been increasing its vote share over the years, even in more liberal Vienna. This week, I saw people eagerly taking FPÖ pens and pamphlets from volunteers at my local U-bahn station. I scowled and shook my head to signal my disapproval of all this as I took cell phone snaps of a poster on which an airbrushed Strache stated “Islamization has to be stopped,” while on a bench mere feet away a young woman in a hijab scrolled through her phone.

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Outside the confines of right-wing Burschenschaften—the secretive fraternities to which many of the FPÖ’s top brass are linked—and beyond explicit anti-foreigner soundbites, far-right politicians have a few other gambits: celebrating the 333rd anniversary of defeating the Ottomans after the siege of Vienna, to show the importance of “defending Western civilization”; reviving the pan-German nationalism—the notion that Austria belongs to German territory and culture—that the party had dropped under Haider’s leadership; liberal use of the word Heimat—the term for both a homeland and cultural identity that, to some, still carries an unsavory soil-and-blood charge. And, of course, wearing blue cornflowers, which were once associated with the Nazis.

The party says it has moved past its past. (It was founded by a former SS officer.) Apparently that’s enough for lots of people to vote for them. But only last week, the party had to suspend a member who allegedly did a “Heil Hitler” salute at a meeting in Styria province. They also recently had to expel a high-ranking party operative in Tyrol, who had displayed Nazi paraphernalia in the back of his pharmacy. Austria’s Mauthausen Komitee, a research group named for the Nazi concentration camp east of Linz, published an information booklet this year detailing 60 cases of Nazi-related incidents involving FPÖ members. As the booklet’s title notes, that’s a whole lot of isolated cases.

Still, there are 72 hours left before these people might have a seat at the table. It’s Friday, it’s sunny, and the FPÖ is not in charge, for one more weekend at least. Let’s drink some sparkling wine to that.

Sometimes You Just Have to Get on a Flight to Frankfurt and Drink Japanese Fruit Drowned in French Brandy

Oct.12.17

Sometimes You Just Have to Get on a Flight to Frankfurt and Drink Japanese Fruit Drowned in French Brandy

by Deborah Wei

Mispelchen in Frankfurt

Because my siblings and I have always been very close, people are sometimes surprised when I tell them my sister now lives in Germany. We chat on a daily basis, so most days she feels no farther away than my brother does in Wisconsin. But there are limits to how much you can shrink the distance between you and your favorite people. Sometimes you just have to get on a flight to Frankfurt.

My brother, my husband, and I all flew in one week in August and crowded happily into my sister’s apartment. We tagged along with her to the grocery store and the neighborhood bakery that first morning, entertained by the mundane things that feel novel to travelers. I quietly marveled watching her bustle about in fluent German, a language that is hers but not ours.

That night, we went out to a neighborhood Apfelwein (apple wine) tavern. In a garden tucked between apartments, a small crowd ranging from boisterous 20-somethings to graying regulars lingered over Apfelwein and plates of handkäse, a local cheese. The atmosphere was convivial, everyone happy to be outdoors in the short central European summer.

We sat at one of the long tables and ordered a round of Apfelwein, served in a traditional blue-patterned jug called a bembel. Though we had been warned that apple wine was an acquired taste, I liked its vinegar sharpness. We talked German and American politics and laughed over stupid inside jokes.

We had drained our glasses and were about to call it a night when the server appeared with a bonus round—my sister’s boyfriend had ordered us a surprise. Snifters of apple brandy appeared on the table with an apricot-like fruit speared on toothpicks and soaking in the liquor. We raised our toothpicks with their wobbling fruits in a toast (“Prost!”) before taking a bite and a sip. The sweetness of the fruit and the warmth of the brandy was the perfect contrast to the sting of apple wine.

Internet sleuthing later informed me that this was mispelchen, a popular digestif in Apfelwein taverns. Calvados is served with the medlar fruit, sometimes translated as the adorable “little apple.” But medlars are not apples. And mispelchen is not even made with the true medlar native to Europe. No, Frankfurt’s mispelchen is actually the “Japanese medlar”—a loquat. The loquat somehow made its way from China to Spain to Germany, where it partnered up with a French spirit to make mispelchen. It pleased me to learn that this local favorite is in fact a heady dose of multiculturalism. Not unlike the American children of Taiwanese immigrants getting tipsy in Germany.

On our last night in Frankfurt, we went back to the same Apfelwein garden. Another round of mispelchen appeared after we emptied a bembel or two. This time, the mispelchen was not a nightcap. The lush burn of the fruit and brandy fueled us on to another bar, and then another, to stretch out the hours we had left together.

You Had Us at Hormonal and Super-Athletic

Oct.11.17

You Had Us at Hormonal and Super-Athletic

by Kelsey Menzel

White wine in Serbia

Your first thought when you hear “Serbia” probably isn’t wine. Maybe it’s Yugoslavia. Or Nikola Tesla. Or neither.

A member of a a British university’s basketball team tells me that, at first, he thought he was packing for Siberia. “And I was like, isn’t that cold?” he says. I nod and sip my dry white blend. I am surprised to be sharing my once-cozy hotel in Belgrade with him and his nine teammates, who are here for a pre-season tournament. I hadn’t planned on sharing my two bottles of white wine with a group of hormonal and super-athletic 18-to-22-year-olds, but here we are.

Serbia loves wine, and the local wine industry is booming right now. Small family vineyards thrived for hundreds of years, up until the communist era, when winemaking was controlled under large, state-owned cooperatives. While some favored family wineries were allowed to remain open during the 60-year period, many were forced to halt production. Starting in the 2000s, though, the economy grew stronger and local, family-run wineries began to reemerge. This was good news for Serbia—and for any visiting tourist who likes a glass of white or red alongside a fascinating history lesson. One winery in particular, just a few hours away from Belgrade by bus, had its vineyards totally destroyed after World War II. After a 40-year hiatus, they’re back.

Intrigued by this story of exile and renewal, my friend and I took a day trip from the capital city in search of these hundred-acre vineyards. We planned to walk through the town of Topola on to the nearby winery, maximizing the shrinking hours of fall daylight before heading back to Belgrade on the last night bus home.

Topola was blanketed in damp orange leaves and the muted, friendly sounds of small-town commerce when we arrived. There was a bread shop, a locals’ bar—closed, at 2 p.m.—and a pizza joint. Bone-white orthodox churches sprinkled the landscape, and we could see vineyards in the distance.

We took a brief, self-guided tour through town and ended at the winery. With hundreds of acres of thriving grapes set behind a sprawling, sterile central headquarters of production, it doesn’t feel much like the quaint little winery I had pictured. There was also a 13-minute promotional video.

But in the tasting section, stern portraits of past generations watched from their places on the walls, and a warm fire crackled in a corner. Looking out at the vines soaking up the last of the day’s sun, it wasn’t hard to imagine drinking from an old family recipe, passed down for hundreds of years and finally brought back to life after a long hiatus. My wine was light, dry, and storied. So we smiled, finished our tasting, and took several bottles home to share with the basketball team, who were just finishing up their Saturday night game.

Can We Also Get Drunk With This Badass Centenarian Female USSR Combat Aviator Pls?

Oct.10.17

Can We Also Get Drunk With This Badass Centenarian Female USSR Combat Aviator Pls?

by Kim Green

Georgian wine in Moscow

One afternoon more than a decade ago, in a shabby Moscow suburb, an 89-year-old war hero named Anna passed me a canteen of vodka. “It’s homemade!” she declared. “Just like my post-flight rations during the war.”

“Just like tank fuel,” my husband Hal said, grimacing. I translated; Yegorova laughed. “Ya pyanaya!” she grinned. “I’m drunk!” As were we all.

I’d traveled to Moscow to meet Anna Timofeyeva-Yegorova, hear her war stories, and sign an agreement to co-translate and edit her memoir. Yegorova joined the Red Air Force after Germany invaded the USSR. She flew combat missions in the Ilyushin-2 “Sturmovik” attack plane, and in August of 1944, she was shot down near Warsaw and captured by Nazis.

Sunlight streamed into her tiny dining room, where she’d laid out a spread of zakuski—small portions of olives, cured fish, pickles, and pork skewers—for me, Hal, and my fellow translator, Margarita. We sipped sweet Georgian wine as Yegorova recalled her missions and internment, paged through black-and-white photos of warbirds and comrades-in-arms, and showed us her combat medals.

Then she described what happened after her camp was liberated: Soviet troops turned her over to SMERSH, a military counterintelligence service (and portmanteau of the words “Death to Spies”). SMERSH operatives interrogated her for ten days, accused her of treason, and called her a “Fascist bitch”—all for the “crime” of being a POW. That afternoon, in her sun-washed apartment, she wept at the memory of that betrayal. We drank to her sacrifice, and the many forms it took.

Yegorova would have been anywhere from 99 to 101 this September. Sources cite conflicting birthdates, so let’s just call her 100. She was a child of the revolution, who helped build the Moscow Metro and learned to fly in a youth air club before the war.

Yegorova outlived the USSR, which definitely would have turned 100 this autumn. She loved her Rodina (“motherland”) with an ambivalent fervor. It was home, the place she’d fought for, and a nation that, for whatever reason, let women become combat aviators. But the USSR betrayed her sacrifice: they declared her politically suspect and rescinded her decorations for heroism. In 1965, Khrushchev “rehabilitated” her and awarded her the Hero of the Soviet Union title. But the pain of that earlier treachery never left her.

Her memoir tells the story of an ambivalent patriot, her outrage forever at war with a stubborn reverence for the old Soviet pieties. The false idols Yegorova once believed in began to fall in 1991, the year I first visited Moscow. Finally, we’re toppling our own here in the US—especially in the American South, where I’ve lived for most of my life. More than ever, I’m finding the more sanctimonious, flag-waving varieties of patriotism highly suspect. No matter where you’re from, patriotism is (and should be) complicated, ambivalent, and full of searching questions. Let’s drink to that.

The Silver Fox Lounge Revisited

Oct.03.17

The Silver Fox Lounge Revisited

by Alexa van Sickle

Beer in San Diego

The first time I heard about the Silver Fox Lounge was in New York in 2011. Someone was wearing the t-shirt at a Webster Hall gig. I smiled at the name but I thought it wasn’t a real bar, just a joke t-shirt, the kind you might get at Urban Outfitters.

Then a few years later, I spent two weeks in San Diego for physiotherapy. I knew no one. The personalities of San Francisco and Los Angeles were known quantities to me. San Diego was a blank slate.

I got a basement-room Airbnb in Pacific Beach. Early on, I discovered that the Silver Fox Lounge was real. The bar was down some steps, a pocket of darkness away from the bright sunshine out on busy Garnet Street. It had two pool tables and a jukebox. You can bring in your own food. It opens daily at 6 a.m., and has every day since 1975. (And I’m always amused that even the diviest of bars has a line of merchandise: there were many styles of Silver Fox Lounge t-shirts for sale.)

But the Silver Fox and I got off to a bad start. I asked for a Pacifico; they asked me for ID. My California driving license had expired the month before, they found my UK license suspect, I didn’t have my passport on me because, well, I hadn’t expected to fly anywhere when I left the house in flip-flops and shorts. I turned on my heel and vowed never to return.

But I sheepishly returned soon after, fleeing the bro-ey, beer-bucket bars of Pacific Beach and its Spring Break vibe. Also, the Silver Fox was walking distance to where I was staying, in a town where even getting coffee required a car trip.

My days in San Diego passed in a blur of physio appointments, endless driving, many mediocre tacos and some great ones. (The best ones are the hardest to get to.) In the afternoons and evenings I worked, and watched the baseball playoffs in the Silver Fox.

I never quite figured out San Diego’s personality. But I have this handful of memories: My physiotherapist shared a building with a urologist, and some thoughtful soul from next door’s office had put some leftovers of a penis-shaped cake from a staff birthday in our waiting room. I drove to Jacumbah to see the U.S.-Mexico border wall—a surreal, curving line of vertical rusty columns bisecting the desert landscape. I walked up close to it, but felt like I was being watched. On the highway back to San Diego, border police and dogs checked my car for human cargo. One weekend, a friend and I went to the zoo. I was wearing a shirt with a faint photo print of Salvador Dali’s “In Voluptas Mors”—the image of a skull, made up of posing human bodies. If you really squinted, you could maybe identify a human buttock. At the ticket counter, they implied it was obscene and made me turn it inside out before allowing me admission into what is essentially a gallery of bare-assed primates. Go figure.

And towards the end of my stay, I watched that insane Blue Jays-Rangers playoff game—with Jose Bautista’s game-winning home run and the bat-flip that spawned a thousand tattoos—with a group of indifferent drinkers in the Silver Fox Lounge.

I recently came back to San Diego, and stopped by the Silver Fox Lounge for old times’ sake. I ordered a Pacifico. And this time, I bought a t-shirt.

The Silver Fox Lounge
1833 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109
Opening hours: 6 a.m-2 a.m.
Pacifico: $4

Making Wine in Strange Places is a Thing, Thankfully

Oct.02.17

Making Wine in Strange Places is a Thing, Thankfully

by Jackie Bryant

Wine in Hawaii

When I heard we’d be going to a winery on the slopes of a volcano, at first it didn’t sound that strange. Some of Italy’s best wines are made from grapes grown on volcanoes. Then I remembered I was on Hawaii island, which, as far as I can remember, isn’t a hotbed for fermented grape juice.

Still, making wine in strange places seems to be a thing. Somewhere off the beaten path all over the planet, you’ll find someone making wine if the climate is right. Volcano Winery sits 4,000 feet above sea level. It’s on the north side of the Kilauea volcano, which is erupting as I write and has been for the last 34 years: the world’s longest continual eruption. Next stop up from the vines is a crater with a churning lava lake. Downstream is an active lava flow that empties into the ocean, giving the island an extra 15 acres a year.

Thanks to its location, the winery is an unusual outpost. Beyond making grape wine, it also produces a variety of fruit wines made from crops on-property or from around the island. The tasting is a structured affair: you line up with lots of people you don’t know, thrust your plastic glass in front of you and quickly sip. Repeat for each selection. It was impersonal and the wines were just okay, but my mood improved when they offered a wine made from local macadamia nuts. Served chilled and infused with estate-grown black tea, it tasted like a fragrant mead or an alcoholic iced tea. Either way, it was great. I had two glasses.

After a dinner of Hawaiian barbecue, we were invited to tour the property, where tea trees and vines criss-crossed the mountainside. A stroll through the vineyard revealed lava tubes and craters, which was a new feature for me, as far as visiting wineries was concerned. Overhead, the volcano’s caldera loomed large and its peak was flanked by clouds.

While leaving the winery, I tucked a bottle of their honey-and-tea wine into my bag. The sun set soon after and the bus I was in headed upwards, where we’d go into the crater and see if we could spot the lava. The visitor center was extremely crowded. Though I usually hate crowds, it was comforting to see people from all over the globe basking in nature’s beauty and fury together. It made me wonder what business we humans have messing with each other when the earth can shoot fire and gas at us whenever she likes.

The lava lake was higher than normal that night, my guide told me, adding that we were extremely lucky to see it gurgling and spitting upwards. So, I decided to toast myself, as none of the strangers around me were keen to accept a swig of tea wine from a friendly unknown. I took a sip and thanked Pele, the Hawaiian fire goddess, for letting us all commune at her home, and for the wine.

Czech Garlic Bread is the Best Garlic Bread

Sep.26.17

Czech Garlic Bread is the Best Garlic Bread

by Alexa van Sickle

Topinky in Prague

Every year in April, the small Czech city of Pardubice hosts a small, friendly co-ed softball tournament. Teams come from Czechia, Germany, Belgium, and the U.K.—our team, a ragtag collection of players from various teams in London’s considerable number of softball leagues, a large but close-knit community boosted by thousands of expats from the world’s baseball and softball nations.

The Czechs, too, have a robust softball scene. Pardubice, 60 miles east of Prague with a population of 90,000, has several local teams. (The tournament is organized by a team called Wayne’s World, because their captain is named Wayne, naturally.) Pardubice is a factory-heavy city famous for its gingerbread. It’s not exactly buzzing, but after several tours there, we’ve gradually discovered some things: a very happening Irish bar and a wonderfully cheesy night club called Excalibur.

Back in London, weekend summer softball tournaments are pretty much a day-drinking endurance exercise, with team coolers of beer cracked open for 10 a.m. game times, so a weekend in Czechia would be no different. We dutifully started racking up the glasses of Pilsner soon as we arrived (and at just one pound each, we all agreed, it would be rude not to).

After the tournament, some of us spent a few more days in Prague. The beer was excellent and plentiful, the food was consistently delicious—but the real highlight was the humble topinky, a common starter dish or beer snack in Prague’s unpretentious beer taverns. A staple garlic bread, it’s just those flat, oval slices of rye bread (and it really should be rye or brown bread) fried in oil, then served with chunks of peeled garlic clove to grate/rub into the bread’s rough, toasted surface while it’s still hot. It was crunchy and addictive, and tasted not unlike the Hungarian langos, but was far less greasy. I liked the sharpness of the just-smashed garlic paired with the wash of cold, watery beer.

Topinky was a revelation. Where had this simple but genius snack been all my life, growing up in Vienna, just 180 miles west along the Danube river? Why did the Austrians not have the good sense to adopt this way of making garlic bread when the Austro-Hungarian Empire stretched across Bohemia?

In an act of carb-pairing heroism, for a final meal, we went to one of the countless beer taverns just to order a few plates of topinky to go with our last heavy glasses of Pilsner. Now, it’s the only way I make garlic bread.

Photo by: Geolina163/Wikipedia Commons

Literally Drinking Under the Table in Guatemala

Sep.25.17

Literally Drinking Under the Table in Guatemala

by Karen Gardner

Beer in Tilapita

I shaped masa into perfect spheres, squishing the dough between pieces of plastic in a tortilla press. The thin tortillas would be cooked fast and hot. Small fish we bought off a boat were frying in oil as tomatoes and cucumbers were sliced and drizzled with a lime. Three toddlers wove around our legs, finally starting to tire after the long day we’d had.

My friend Natascha and I had traveled by bus to Tilapita, a tiny group of houses in the sand on the Pacific coast of Guatemala, across a river by boat from the small town of Tilapa. The first night we were playing in the waves and met four young women between the ages of 15 and 25. The six of us glommed onto each other immediately, following their 17-year-old gregarious de-facto leader to church and then a bar, sitting outside and spying on her crush, then meeting the next morning to see the town. We borrowed a boat and rowed through the swamp, docking by the river and jumping in the calm water close to its banks to swim. Snacking on chips and soda, we walked to the ocean, exploring the shore and playing soccer in the local school’s field in the late afternoon. The six of us had an intimacy that was both exciting and spotty. We had talked for hours—about relationships and dreams and school and work—but had known each other for just a day.

Natascha and I had to head back inland the next morning, so this dinner was goodbye. I brought cold, cheap beer: the perfect supplement to fried fish. My friend immediately hid the beer under the table. Her husband, stepping out of the house, said we’d better not be drinking that.

He left, I apologized quietly, and we all returned to cooking. Their kitchen was outside, with a thatched roof, sandy floor, and a salty breeze coming in from the water. As we cooked, people walked by, family members and friends of our hosts, joking and talking, admiring the feast we had prepared. When I finally finished the tortillas, we sat around the table, picking bones out of the fish and placing its white meat in the hot tortillas, sprinkling salsa and lime on top. We each cradled a beer between our knees, hidden beneath the tablecloth and sweating through the bottles in the hot night. We snuck sips as darkness fell, neighbors becoming more sparse, the aforementioned crush of our teenage friend coming by to flirt. He left and we argued about whether he was good enough for her. We toasted under the table, to fast friendship and to women, awkwardly trying to clink bottles without being able to see them. Laughing, we were a little drunk and a little sad.

Drinking Through America’s Global Decline at the World Cup for IR Nerds

Sep.22.17

Drinking Through America’s Global Decline at the World Cup for IR Nerds

by Anonymous

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Beer in New York City

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)—the World Cup for IR nerds and New York City’s annual gridlocked, diplomatic, securitized circus of oft-cursed proportions—kicked off its high-level week on Monday. Hundreds of heads of state made their way to midtown Manhattan to deliver important foreign policy speeches and address the most pressing international issues of the moment.

As helicopters of various types buzzed overhead and roadblocks and checkpoints went up to protect the assembled world leaders, diplomats, journalists, celebrity ambassadors, and protesters that joined the fray, everybody braced themselves for Donald Trump’s maiden UNGA visit.

I’ve worked on public diplomacy issues at the UN for more than a decade now, but never experienced an UNGA like this. I’m sitting in a nearby bar having some beers, and trying to decompress from what I’ve seen over the past few days.

The week started off well, encouraging even, as a subdued Trump—after immediately mentioning one of his real estate deals—managed to read some words off a page without insulting anyone or causing any diplomatic incidents during a brief Monday high-level session on UN reform.

Alongside UN Secretary-General António Guterres there were smiles and compliments. For a brief moment, there was a sense that Trump’s presence, his proposed USD $19 billion budget cuts to the UN and wholesale attacks on the UN’s raison d’être of peace through multilateral diplomacy might not be as bad as originally feared, or cause the wholesale embarrassment of the United States on the biggest global stage.

This sense was wrong.

When Trump took the podium on Tuesday morning, he unleashed a contradictory and belligerent speech that will be talked about for all of the wrong reasons at the UN for years to come. He threatened to “totally destroy North Korea,” a clear war crime. He advanced regime change in Iran and Venezuela after rambling repetitiously about state sovereignty. Unlike nearly every other world leader, he said nothing about climate change.

It was “American carnage” but for a global audience. It was “Axis of Evil” on performance-enhancing drugs. It was an absolute disgrace.

Meanwhile, across First Avenue, in a space that has become affectionately known this time of year as Protest Park, anti-Zionist Rabbis from Brooklyn protested the state of Israel; Togolese expatriates railed against monarchy; Egyptians hoisted posters depicting General Sisi as an American marionette; Falun Dafa members calmly executed tai chi postures in defiance of China; a group of activists denounced “colonialism from Puerto Rico to Palestine”; and dozens of green-clad Dominicans—who brought a bachata-blasting boombox—demanded accountability from government corruption.

On Wednesday afternoon, Trump bundled through a meeting with African leaders where he gave a shout out to Nambia, a country that doesn’t actually exist (and lacks the strong leadership of neighboring Zamunda).

And, in a tone-deaf throwback to the golden days of colonialism, bragged about his “many friends” going to Africa “to get rich.”

By Wednesday night, drinking was definitely in order. So I found myself contemplating the sharp decline of American soft power, and this country’s place in an increasingly volatile world, alongside a colleague from the UN Department of Political Affairs. We commiserated on the insanity of UN Week and Trump’s dark, disastrous visit over some much-needed beers in a firefighter dive bar a few blocks from the UN.

As the flashing red lights of the heavily armed security details of various departing leaders illuminated Second Avenue, my colleague told me that her department was equally disturbed by Trump’s speech, but at the same time, not entirely surprised.

“No one expected too much from him; but they were still shocked by what he said about North Korea.”

At this point, not many people at the UN, or in the world, see the United States as a constructive, or even credible, player on the global stage.
An America First policy that shuns multilateralism and actively advocates discord, division, and conflict has seemingly erased any goodwill Obama’s State Department may have built at the UN after eight calamitous Bush years. The US is now totally isolated on climate change, on Iran, and is doing its best to usurp North Korea as the main threat to peace and security in northeast Asia.

I took another sip of ale, came to the demoralizing realization that there will be three, or possibly seven, more Trump-at-the-UN visits, and immediately ordered another round.

Everyone Should Have a “Palm Wine Guy”

Sep.20.17

Everyone Should Have a “Palm Wine Guy”

by Mel Bailey

Palm Wine in Senegal

As we walked along the only paved road that ran parallel to the river in search of “the palm wine guy,” the haze from the sweltering spring day in southern Senegal blurred the faces of the women working in the wheat fields either side of us.

Locals in Ziguinchor’s city center told my friend, Ousmane, and I that we had to try palm wine while in Casamance, and that the best came from a guy in Boutoute, a village a little over two miles away. So we walked. We turned off the paved road and walked down the dirt path past the crocodile swamp toward the forest of palm, mango, and lemon trees. The forest was thick, dark, and moist underfoot as we trudged forward under the shadow of palms and the buzzing of horse-flies and bees.

The few villagers we met along the way directed us to the front door of a one-story, mud-brick dwelling—the home of Jean-Paul Badji, the man behind the palm wine. We told him what we were after, and with a sweet smile spread across his aging face, he pulled out a two-gallon jerry can and two aluminum cups and offered us a drink.

The wine was warm and sweet on my tongue, with a bit of tang. I watched the white, frothy liquid—which the local Jola people call Boulouk—slowly disappear from my cup.

Newly tapped palm wine has no real alcohol content, but after about an hour of fermenting, it turns into wine with 4 percent ABV. It left us feeling a slight buzz. The longer the wine ferments, the stronger it becomes—reaching its maximum proof of 40 percent ABV before it turns to vinegar.

Excited by our discovery and also wanting a decent stock for the evening, we asked for some for the road. Jean-Paul told us we had just finished the last of his morning stock, but that we could accompany him on his afternoon route to collect the last batch of the day.

Boulouk seeps out of the hole created by cutting away the three-pound clusters of crimson fruit kernels that grow near the top of the African oil palm. The trees can grow up to 100 feet tall, which makes obtaining the palm wine no easy task. Nonetheless, locals say their ancestors have been climbing palm trees and drinking their wine for thousands of years.

That night under the stars, we gathered with Jean-Paul’s family of 13 and his neighbors at the path’s crossroads outside the forest, and drank palm wine while we shared stories by the fire. By night, the wine was stronger, spurring laughter from all of us. It was a great way to toast to the night after a long day. Because the ingredients are just tree sap, we didn’t have to worry about a hangover in the morning.

All Stories Must Come to An End, But You Can Take the Wine With You

Sep.19.17

All Stories Must Come to An End, But You Can Take the Wine With You

by Zamira Kristina Skalkottas

Robola in Kefalonia

Every island has a story to tell. In the Greek archipelago, every rock in the water, no matter how big or small, speaks with its own voice. Kefalonia is like that—a rock with a very strong sense of identity.

I had come to see an old friend, and I was amazed. We’d barely struck up a friendship in California when he seemed to drop off the face of the earth, hit by dual crises of health and money. Months passed, and he began to resurface. Now a repatriated Greek, he seems to walk around in a spotlight, a celebrity on his land, his beautiful dog, John Lennon, in tow. As he took me on a tour of his village, the “Beverly Hills” of Kefalonia, which is also his family name, “Yia sous” (hellos) rang out everywhere.

Here, a wealthy ship-owner and former lover of Maria Callas (who later lost out to Onassis) rebuilt all the homes after the devastating 1953 earthquake. They are big stucco affairs, all blooming roses and wide terraces. This new California-ish posh quality is not at all what I expected from a Greek island village.

The next evening we gathered with friends and family for a huge spread of hand-cut fries, burgers, bacon, onion marmalade, and blue cheese. The wine was a local white, made from the Robola grape, and rang little bells on my palate. I was amazed again—by the caliber of the chefs, the food, the
wine.

I wanted to learn more and headed to the Robola Cooperative, up a serpentine mountain road next to a monastery in Omala Valley. Here, 85 percent of the island’s wine is produced. I tried three wines, leaving the best for last, the San Gerasimo, which is fermented in stainless steel. This was just as bright and perky as the others, but lingered, trailing scarves of honeysuckle and pineapple.

That night, we met on my friend’s veranda. There were blanched almonds, fresh kefalotiri cheese, and olives. An open bottle of the Robola. We drank from teacups, gin glasses, and mugs, and ate from a communal pot of tortellini. I was sitting in a rocker, leaning back, looking for a meteor shower that never happened. It didn’t matter. The sky was still a siren song, deep with thousands of light pinpricks.

We opened a second bottle. The wine kept playing its chimes, enlivening the conversation. My friend regaled us with stories of working in a pizza parlor back in the day, turning heads with his old-time Vespa, and yearly trips to Italy. Everyone, all of these Kefalonian Californians, had stories of Italy. There is a longstanding connection between the island and Italy, a former “protector” of Kefalonia.

My friend’s cousin walked me back to my hotel, the only one in the village. It was so quiet, even the cicadas seem to have fallen asleep. Up on Mount Ainos, the grapes were turning sun into sugar, some on 100-year-old un-grafted vines.

Every island has a story to tell, and all stories must come to an end. But the Robola came home with me on the plane.

It Took a Catastrophe to Remind the Mainland U.S. That We Are Also Americans, FFS

Sep.15.17

It Took a Catastrophe to Remind the Mainland U.S. That We Are Also Americans, FFS

by Peter Bailey

Shots of rum in St. Thomas

The night before Hurricane Irma arrived here on St. Thomas, I exchanged texts with a friend in Anguilla, asking her if I should be worried. I was expecting just a bit of wind and rain, nothing life-altering.

My phone’s signal faded before she could share the full scope of the madness I was about to encounter.

In a few hours I found myself dodging flying debris alongside my brother as we carried my wheelchair-bound, 80-year-old father to safety in an experience I’ll describe as nothing short of hell. The wind sucked a lady out of her window, hurling her to her death, while shattered glass slit the throat of a man who bled to death in front of his wife. An electrician was electrocuted while working on a downed power line. With our hospital decimated, patients have been airlifted to Puerto Rico and beyond.

In Irma’s aftermath, one American transplant, sitting comfortably on her boat over on St. John, lamented in People magazine about “the overwhelming smell of death in the air” instead of offering aid to those who now need so much of it.

It’s not the first time people here have felt alienated from our mainland counterparts. I’m heartbroken it took this devastation for the world, and, most importantly, our neighbors to the north, to take notice: to finally realize we in the U.S. Virgin Islands are Americans, too.

Living on the U.S. mainland, I explained time and time again that I’m a U.S. citizen. My first year at the University of Delaware, a state trooper called for back up when he saw my U.S. Virgin Islands license after a routine traffic stop, asking where St. Thomas was and accusing Caribbean immigrants of bringing drugs to his beloved country.

I emphatically repeated: “I’m a U.S. citizen.”

Well, not quite.

When I voted for President Barack Obama in 2008, I had been waiting for years to vote for an American president. Although we are U.S. citizens, Virgin Islanders have to become a resident of the state we live in to be able to vote for president. Since I reside in Miami, my vote counted as a Floridian and not as a Virgin Islander.

On the other hand, our status as a territory has led to an uneasy and awkward relationship with our Caribbean neighbors, who see us as having no true identity, but also grudgingly envy our U.S. citizenship, however second-class.

We’re basically a glorified colony of the United States, a country that celebrates its crusade against tyranny far and wide.

Purchased from Denmark in 1917 to protect the U.S. mainland from European incursions, our second-class status and the ignorance that reinforces it isn’t exclusive to that unruly cop who pulled me over many years ago. It also permeates mainstream media.

Like the media coverage preceding Hurricane Marilyn in 1995, most media outlets all but ignored the islands before Irma wreaked historic havoc upon us. My family and I sat their dumbfounded switching between network news channels in the lead-up to the storm. It was as if we didn’t exist.

In the fleeting moments when the U.S. Virgin Islands were mentioned, reporters painted a scene taken from an episode of Gilligan’s Island:

“American tourists on the U.S. territory are being cautioned to hunker down.”

Hmmmm. No mention of the estimated 100,000 Virgin Islanders who reside between St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John, and Water Island. “Locals,” as we’re called, with a tinge of condescension.

Now seeing those same tourists and U.S. mainland transplants depending on us “locals” for their survival during this catastrophe is a sight to see. Our paradise now resembles the backdrop of an apocalyptic film: crumbled houses, never-ending food lines, and a procession of military trucks blaring admonishments at residents to get back home. With trees uprooted and stripped of their leaves, our once lush, green forest looks skeletal.

With no electricity, running water, or internet access, life after the storm is taxing indeed. I’ve even stared at a few of the stray chickens perusing the island and wondered just what they might taste like roasting over the coal pot I’m using to heat up my canned meals. Those roosters, crowing all hours of the day, are a nuisance anyhow. Before my daydream turns deadly, the animal lover in me snaps back to reality. Another meal of beans over rice it is, followed by a shot of Cruzan raspberry flavored rum right before bed.

As a community facing a catastrophe that threatened to completely wipe us out, I’m inspired by our resolve as we band together to restore what Irma stole.

There’s been some benefit in being disconnected from our American counterparts to the north. The sense of entitlement and bigotry that rips at the fabric of the mainland isn’t found here. We see human first and color a distant last. Now that we Virgin Islanders have been forced into the national psyche, the rest of America stands to gain from the lessons our tiny island has to offer.

Photo by: Sam Howzit

The Familiar Shame of Ordering a Foster’s in a Real Ale Pub

Sep.12.17

The Familiar Shame of Ordering a Foster’s in a Real Ale Pub

by Steele Rudd

Ale in Oxford

The heart of scholarship in the Anglophone world, Oxford is host to the oldest and probably most renowned English-speaking university. For a thousand years, philosophers, scientists, literary types, and politicians have spent their formative years here, learning and researching and crafting ideas that have helped define the progress of the human species.

Inevitably, that involves drinking. And along with a millennium of scholarship comes a millennium of misbehavior. At the Turf Tavern—a hideaway watering hole that dates back to the 14th century—a blackboard hung up on the ancient stonework in the beer garden celebrates the spot where Bill Clinton did not inhale. Another commemorates the 1963 achievement of a Rhodes Scholar named Robert Hawke, who set a world record for downing a yard-glass of ale in 11 seconds. Impressive enough in itself, Bob would later cap this with the secondary feat of becoming prime minister of Australia.

In other ways the Turf is commonplace enough; a fairly typical English pub given its age and pedigree. The menu is unsurprising; sausage rolls and Scotch eggs and burgers and pulled-pork nachos. And on the day I visit, the clientele is representative of Oxford in the late summer: plenty of German families, American backpackers, Chinese retirees, English road-trippers, and a smattering of town-and-gown (locals and academics).

But if the nature of a pub is home away from home, that’s doubly true for an English pub. Whether it’s your local down the road, a Wetherspoons on the Orkney Islands, or an ancient tavern in Oxford, a good pub is familiar. On tap at the Turf you’ll find a drink common across the country—real ale.

Real ale, or cask ale, as it used to be known, differs in a couple of important ways from the beer that most of us drink today. Primarily, it’s brewed in the cask in which it’s served. That means it continues to ferment even while it’s sitting in the pub. Secondly, it’s made using traditional ingredients and without added carbonation. For someone used to a beer that crackles like cola, real ale feels very flat on the tongue and sits heavily on the stomach.

Often, and particularly near to the end of the cask, a muddy sediment will rest at the bottom of the glass; a result of the absence of filtering and pasteurization that most beers go through.

At one stage in the 1970s, cask ale was so rare that a group of enthusiasts banded together to form a consumer campaign for its preservation. The successful relabeling of cask ale by the “Campaign for Real Ale” (CAMRA), alongside a more recent hipster-led interest in craft brewing, has led to a more than 250 percent growth in the number of cask ale breweries in the last 10 years.

I take my pint—a Cornish amber ale called Doom Bar—out the back; settle in, and take a sip. It’s turbid. It tastes familiar, but with more flavors, and also more muted, like a drink from a rainwater tank. If I’d grown up with it, I decide, real ale would certainly be my drop. But too accustomed now to the acrid flatus of a mass-produced lager, my next drink’s a shameful Foster’s.

A Successful Introduction to Indonesian Wine

Sep.11.17

A Successful Introduction to Indonesian Wine

by Iain Shaw

Wine in Ubud

In Ubud, we drank when the clouds came in. Every afternoon of my stay in the hub of traditional Balinese arts and crafts, the skies became overcast around 4 p.m. Like cigarette smoke weaving a singular sheet of haze across a crowded room, the clouds steadily drew in, blotting out the sun. The threat of an imminent downpour wasn’t always real, but often persuaded me to postpone more cultural pursuits. There was always tomorrow.

Most days, that first afternoon drink was an ice-cold Bintang, the Indonesian beer that seems to feature on every drink list in Bali. On one particular day, though, we drank Indonesian wine. Specifically, a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, created in Bali by local producers Plaga Wines. I had spotted it on the way out of a restaurant at lunch, and made a snap decision: this would be the bottle by which we would get to know—and judge—Indonesian wine.

I hadn’t expected to find locally produced wine in Indonesia, but there are good reasons a robust, if small, wine culture has grown up here in recent decades. First, many tourists—and there are many tourists in Bali alone—want to drink wine. However, high import duties on alcohol mean bloated retail prices on even the most ordinary imported wines. Since the early 90s, local entrepreneurs have been gradually plugging the gap in the market for affordable wines, and a number of wineries now produce their own vintages with locally grown grapes.

I was excited about trying the wine, and growing in confidence on its behalf. Of course, there was a chance—a chance one takes with all wine—that it would be irredeemable plonk. As the clouds thickened the sky into a uniform white, we retreated to our hotel, near Ubud’s Monkey Forest. We set up with our wine and glasses by the hotel pool. The poolside seemed a good place to drink the wine, in the shade of palm trees and bordered on two sides by the hotel’s bamboo exteriors.

We poured the wine, clinked glasses, and sipped. It was all over with the first taste. This was a good, solid wine, with deep, dark berry flavors that hung around through subsequent sips. It wasn’t the kind of wine to gulp, but soon enough I was on my second glass. I definitely wouldn’t be going for a swim.

Goddammit, Democracy is Dying in Darkness in Cambodia

Sep.08.17

Goddammit, Democracy is Dying in Darkness in Cambodia

by Sho Spaeth

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Warm beer in New York

The Cambodia Daily has been shut down, and I can’t think of a better way to mourn its passing than drinking several (ok, four) watery and warm beers.

I interned one summer at the Cambodia Daily 13 years ago, and it took me a couple weeks to understand how truly out of place I was. As a journalist’s kid, and as an expat who had grown up in India, I thought I understood journalism and its relationship to the small horrors of the developing world, but Phnom Penh and the Daily surprised me.

Phnom Pen was shocking: the decades-old bomb craters in the streets, getting propositioned at bars by little kids, the hollowed out, methed-up looks of the guys who taxied me around on mopeds. That doesn’t even cover the aura that emanates from the Tuol Sleng genocide memorial, as if the air itself doesn’t want to exist for what it’s witnessed. It’s the most depressing place I’ve ever been.

But everybody at the Daily seemed to find pleasure in their work, the hourly grind of putting out a daily paper. I’d only ever seen a magazine working from the inside at the time, and the pace of a daily paper was as exhilarating as it was bewildering. It almost seemed like a game, and while I could see the appeal, something didn’t click, because I thought about the job in purely transactional terms: they got paid to produce a paper. It didn’t even occur to me that there could be something more than the most mercenary motivation fueling their interest.

It wasn’t any one story that did it; it was a cumulative effect. One day, I tagged along with a reporter covering some horrific car crash, where a van carrying some absurd number of people—12, 15, 25—crashed headfirst into a bus made of wood, killing everyone in both vehicles. A day after the crash there was still a van’s length of blood smearing the road, a bloody diaper on the shoulder. Another day I helped translate a report on a landmark drug conviction, a drug smuggler sentenced to an unprecedented prison stay. It turned out the defendant didn’t speak Khmer and didn’t understand what he was being charged with, even as the sentence was being handed down and celebrated. One of the most memorable stories from that summer was when I accompanied two reporters looking into a triple murder. A guy and his three sons were gunned down in the middle of the night; it was claimed that they had been killed for practicing witchcraft. Turned out the guy had been in an open dispute with one of his neighbors, who almost certainly murdered him, and the local police were, for whatever reason—private grudge, laziness, disinterest—turning a blind eye.

All of which is to say the people at the Daily were doing good, necessary work: shining a spotlight on awful events, exposing deficiencies in the country’s moribund infrastructure, underlining injustices for anyone who was willing to see. It was an utterly humbling experience. I not only realized that I wasn’t cut out for reporting, I also understood I wasn’t worthy of serving these people coffee.

At a time when the president of the United States has taken to demonizing a news media that he only ever seems to watch on TV, the Cambodia Daily‘s shuttering due to some trumped up tax bill issued by Hun Sen’s dictatorial regime is a useful reminder that diligent journalists are working all across the world only so that important stories can be told. They write the stories that lead to the stories you ignore in the major papers; they work in countries you’d be hard pressed to find on a map; they cover events so far removed from your everyday life that they might as well be fiction. They do all this with no hope for fame or fortune; they labor on with little promise of making progress, shoveling shit up the steepest of hills; they work in the shadow of threats and reprisals; they work through the night even though they’ve been told their paper is no more. These people aren’t saints, they are merely good reporters, struggling to get to the heart of the matter, whatever the matter is.

I was lucky enough to watch some of these people work and see what that dedication looks like. I only wish I had half of their integrity, and that they could continue to do the work that Cambodia, and the world, so desperately needs.

The Endless Benefits of Living in French Wine Country

Sep.07.17

The Endless Benefits of Living in French Wine Country

by Anne E. McBride

Macvin in Rotalier

I stop cooking for a second and decide it’s time to open a bottle. My friends have just arrived from New York to spend a week in my dad’s house in Rotalier, in eastern France; the kitchen is loud and we are tired.

I’ve been here a few days already, and got a head-start on the wine tasting. The village has fewer than 200 inhabitants but six wine producers, including the world-renowned Jean-François Ganevat, whose vintages have become synonymous with Jura wines.

Bordering my home country, Switzerland, the Jura features green valleys where the milk of the cows that graze there will be turned into Comté, lakes favored by Dutch tourists in the summer, and alpine villages where not too long ago absinthe was still distilled secretly. And funky white wines, produced in both the ouillé (topped off) and sous voile (under a yeast cover, untopped) methods. The funkiest of all are oxidized and nutty, to the point of tasting deliciously musty.

My jet-lagged visitors need a jolt to make it through feeding their kids. This calls for Macvin, which they’ve never tasted before. Unique to the Jura, it’s a blend of must (the pressed grapes’ juice, skins, seeds, and stems) and aged marc from local grapes (chardonnay or savagnin for the white version, my favorite). Everything must come from the producer’s vineyards and be made on site before aging in wood barrels.

My old-school French dad once told me that opening a bottle of wine was a man’s job, but I’ve long made a feminist statement out of taking care of my thirsts. I plunge the cork screw through the wax seal.

“Let’s let it breathe a second,” I say, so we all stare out at the late July sky turning the vineyards around the house a mix of gold and pink, and try to think about something other than how good that first sip is going to feel. This vieux Macvin comes from the Ganevat tasting room just over the hill.

At long last, we drink: the syrupy liqueur tastes of dried fruits, pineapple, perhaps a little melon, too. Or is that apples? We don’t care much about descriptions; we’re happy to enjoy it in peace.

Macvin is most often served as an apéritif; at 17.5 percent ABV it’s strong enough that during family weekends, a bottle will reasonably last us for two apéros. But every night this week, Mihir and I will stay up drinking Macvin long after dinner is over. Thanks to some Jura magic, we’re never hungover.

There’s Always Something to Do If You’re Not Averse to Day Drinking

Sep.06.17

There’s Always Something to Do If You’re Not Averse to Day Drinking

by Lilly Warren

New Zealand Pale Ale in Moscow

Heavy, almost tropical late summer rain forced us to abandon our plans of meandering around Gorky Park. Still peaky from last night’s intake of Russian imperial stout, I feigned disappointment. It was my second-to-last day in Moscow, and as a first-time visitor, I had failed. Kremlin line—too long. Ostankino—turned away by grumbling guards for arriving late. Red Square—fenced off and full of scaffolding ahead of a military festival.

Antipodeans aren’t averse to day drinking. I needed only a gentle nudge from my friend Nikita to get us out of the downpour and into Vanya Nalyot, a craft beer bar hidden in the city’s former Red October compound. Now a red-brick maze of bars and galleries, the factory once churned out some of the Soviet Union’s most loved chocolate bars, including those bearing the ubiquitous face of Alyonka, a plump-cheeked girl wearing a floral shawl.

Nikita recommended we try a few from Salden’s, a craft brewery based in Tula. Hailing from a city better known for producing samovars and honey-laden gingerbread, they brew an aggressively creative range of beers, from Tomato Gose to Sour Ale with Sea Buckthorn.

Weeks of traveling had worn me down, and in a moment of rare patriotic weakness, a New Zealand Pale Ale appealed to me amid the Belgian Brune and Carrot Cream Ales. One mouthful and the fruity aftertaste of Rakau hops, likely grown in the sun-soaked tip of New Zealand’s South Island, buzzed in the back of my throat. My parents once spent a back-breaking summer there picking apples, an experience evidently tolerated only by downing huge jugs of lager at the local tavern.

It wasn’t the only taste of home I’d sipped in the Russian capital. On my first night, before heading to Red Square, we’d stopped for a drink at a slightly tacky bar on the Arbat. Suddenly the familiar faces of the All Blacks, New Zealand’s revered rugby team, grimaced at me mid-Haka from the label of a Russian-brewed American Pale Ale. Overly sweet for my tastes, I still chugged back the bottle in the name of diplomacy.

In Vanya’s, the hours started to bleed together. A French couple languidly played cards at the table next to us, while the barman’s bearded friends huddled around eating Chinese take-out. It felt like a lazy afternoon at a friend’s house rather than a bar walking distance from the Kremlin.

We drank a few more rounds, my growing hunger tempered by the smoky tang of chechil, an addictively salty Armenian string cheese. Popular in Russia as a bar snack, the chewy strands are reminiscent of dried squid.

Eventually, the rain faded to a mist and the tables around us emptied. Quiet filled the bar, signaling that uncomfortable lull between afternoon drinks and the start of the night session. I drained the warming remnants of my glass and we reluctantly headed outside, met by a bracing breeze flying off the Moskva. But we didn’t care. It wasn’t that far to the next bar.

A Rare Treat From Mexico, in Western India

Sep.05.17

A Rare Treat From Mexico, in Western India

by Chryselle D’Silva Dias

Avocado shakes in Mapusa

I’m in a tiny tea-shop in Mapusa, Goa, looking for a free table for our team of five women journalists from India, who are covering a women’s football tournament.

The chai shop, with its orange formica table and benches, is full of men with their afternoon tea and deep-fried snacks. The other writers flummox the waiter with orders of strong tea, not milky, a contrast to what most of the customers are having. I’ve never cared much for tea. Today, I’m on a quest to investigate a peculiar green drink that I’ve seen some people drinking.
Turns out it is one of this chai shop’s top-selling drinks: an avocado shake.

Originally from Mexico, avocados came to India only in the early 19th century. Also known as butterfruit for their consistency when ripe, they’re grown in some parts of India but are not widely seen or available. When they are, they are frightfully expensive, making it a fruit for the privileged. In this little corner of Goa, though, the drink is an unexpected way for the locals to taste an otherwise inaccessible fruit.

I’ve tasted avocados before, and love them. A former neighbor had a tree that bore abundant fruit, and she generously shared the bounty with our family. Because the fruit is so precious, you need the internet to teach you how to tell a ripe avocado from a raw one, so nothing gets wasted: pull the knob on the top of the fruit: a ripe one will give way easily and the color below will be a solid green.

Waiting for our drinks, the five of us talk about the ‘Discover Football’ tournament and our experiences writing about the sport and its people. The players here are from around India, some urban, but mostly rural girls from very humble homes. Many of them have never heard of avocados before, let alone tasted one.

A parade of white juicers lines a little window in front of the shop and churns out juices and shakes of different kinds. The soft avocado pulp is scooped into the juicer jar and blended with ice, sugar, and milk. Poured into what looks like a beer mug, the shake is a frightful green. Like many so-called nourishing smoothies, it looks worse than it tastes.

There’s a fair bit of sugar in my first one but I can still taste the smoothness of the fruit, just perfectly ripe. The sugar probably cancelled out the avocado’s health benefits, when I return to the little tea-shop I ask them to reduce the sugar, a request they are clearly not used to hearing.

With all the running around we are doing on and off the field for our foray into sports journalism, though, I figure that extra calories are the least of the hurdles that we will face. And with that thought, I raise another green glass to those making it possible for women to challenge stereotypes, get physical, and just have fun.

In Angola, We Like Our Electoral Fraud Refined and Sophisticated

Sep.01.17

In Angola, We Like Our Electoral Fraud Refined and Sophisticated

by Claudio Silva

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Cuca Preta in Luanda

Ballot-stuffing is so last decade. And so uncouth.

Here in Angola, we prefer our electoral fraud more refined, more sophisticated. Ballot-stuffing isn’t necessary when the incumbent’s party controls the media, the National Electoral Commission, and even the Supreme Court. Our institutions aren’t just weak—they’re a sham. After finally achieving peace from its long civil war in 2002, Angola hasn’t managed to hold truly free elections on any of the three occasions it has tried. In 2008, the opposition cried fraud after serious allegations of vote-rigging. The same happened in 2012. But then, they still took their seats in parliament.

Being in parliament in Angola is a big deal. It comes with salaries several hundred times the minimum wage in Angola, the latest Lexus SUVs, and the all-expenses-paid lifestyle so common to our legislators, who don’t actually do much in parliament besides sit in plush chairs and raise their hands from time to time so that it looks like they give a shit.

Do I sound angry? I am. Nothing a few mugs of cold Cuca Preta can’t fix, although I’m feeling particularly pessimistic. Cuca, the biggest of Angola’s many national beer companies, just released a new black beer that’s all the rage right now. If Angola had as many top-notch universities as it does beer companies, we’d probably be able to organize a free and fair election.

Angola went to the polls on Aug. 23 to select their new president and members of parliament. These elections were particularly special: for the first time in our post-civil war history, José Eduardo’s name wasn’t on the ballot. He’d been in power for 38 years. Instead, his all-powerful party, the MPLA, put resident stegosaurus and current Defense Minister João Lourenço on the ballot—a man with a belief system so old and rigid he could have been featured in Jurassic Park. Short on ideas, charisma, and a grasp on reality, the MPLA campaigned hard against a backdrop of economic recession in Angola, precipitated in part by a fall in oil prices, but mostly caused by rampant corruption, gross mismanagement, and the erosion of our nascent middle class.

Despite an obscene amount of propaganda on state television, as well as the usual dictatorship tactics—voter suppression, beating up people from rival political parties, and throwing pamphlets from a plane over Luanda reminding people of the horrors of civil war—millions of people came out to vote in a calm, orderly fashion. Many voted for the opposition parties, especially CASA-CE and UNITA.

But the day after the elections, the MPLA declared themselves winners with a qualified majority, even before the National Electoral Commission—commonly known as the CNE and mostly staffed by MPLA loyalists—gave its verdict. UNITA said, “Not so fast.” They were doing a parallel count and said the MPLA couldn’t possibly have enough votes for such a majority. A few hours later, the Commission echoed the MPLA and said they had close to 65 percent of the vote. Except that not a single Provincial Electoral Commission had sent their official results to their National counterpart.

In a further blow to its credibility, seven members of the CNE, all of them nominated by opposition parties, declared in a public press conference that they did not participate in any vote-counting and didn’t know how the CNE’s spokeswoman got the numbers she announced. Cue post-electoral crisis. Again. Many Angolans, usually stoic and unconcerned with matters of citizenship (the MPLA really hammered home the notion that asking for your rights is akin to clamoring for war), are fed up, and publicly venting their anger and disillusionment with their ruling party and institutions.

Nine days after the vote, we still don’t know who won Angola’s elections, and by what percentage. The opposition parties filed procedural challenges against the CNE and were promptly told to go screw themselves. They then filed a legal challenge with Angola’s Constitutional Court, who pretty much said the same thing as the CNE, but with a healthy dose of legalese bullshit.

I order another Cuca Preta. There’s no knowing when this will be over. And I don’t want to be this angry when it is.

Believe It Or Not, I Come Here for the Food

Aug.31.17

Believe It Or Not, I Come Here for the Food

by Ben Olmstead

Beer in Utica, NY

Despite the over-salted sauce, the chicken wings are crispy, like potato chips, and manage to hit the sweet spot of spiciness. Their partner in crime, the ice-cold beer known as Utica Club, or UC, cleanses the palate for the next round of heat.

Utica, New York, former home to the elite, was an important stop on both the railroad and Erie Canal before it was dealt the blow of being passed over by the construction of the New York State thruway during the Eisenhower era. Currently, it plays host to a large refugee community, who make up one out of four residents in the city.

The furniture in this bar dates from when the owners, Duke and Doris, purchased this former gas station. It’s all faded lime green accented with duct tape. Like a casino, this pub, and others like it, help you forget about the outside world. It’s just you, the beers and a sports game playing for eternity like 24-hour news.

Believe it or not, I come here for the food.

Inevitably I’m seated next to someone in a construction orange sweatshirt with their business’s name printed across the back. Something like Tim’s Towing in block letters with a 315 area code and number.

Occasionally, the outside world intrudes. My father and I, frequent co-pilots in nostalgia, spot a shirt that reads: “Finally Someone Who Has Balls, Vote Donald Trump!” Instantly, the protective wall between past and present is gone. It’s an awkward shirt not just for the mental image, but because Utica has communities of Bosnians, Somalians, and Burmese, to name a few.

Beyond questionable style choices, there is usually no mention of politics here. Patrons coexist and graze peacefully over wings and cheap beer. Its company slogan reads, “Always Say UC for Me!”

After living in Denver, with its craft beer scene, I appreciate this no-nonsense approach to winding down; the lack of Macbooks, and the simple bar fare.

UC is served in a can the color of decaf soda from the 90s, a sort of off-gold. The company claims it was the first beer officially sold after Prohibition. Almost one hundred years later, in Utica you can still get the beer for USD$13 for a 24-pack in stores, and as little as two dollars from the bar.

When I buy UC outside of Utica, it tastes of rainwater strained through sheep wool, possibly from sitting on the shelf for too long. In Utica, it’s perfect.

Finding the Perfect Cocktail and the Perfect Retirement Goals in One Day

Aug.30.17

Finding the Perfect Cocktail and the Perfect Retirement Goals in One Day

by Christina Newberry

A cocktail in Nice

I first spotted the curious restaurant while walking with my mom along the waterfront just north of Nice, France. Perched on a tiny rock pillar out in the sea, it was impossible to miss. But it was not a day for lingering, so we walked on, climbed up onto Mont Boron and then back down to the neighboring town of Villefranche-sur-Mer, striding past hillside homes and kitchen gardens, where chickens lounge away their days under the shade of olive and citrus trees.

I fell in love with those chickens, those homes, those trees. I snapped a selfie with a chicken over my shoulder and sent it to home to my husband saying I’d found my retirement plan, wink, wink.

A year later, he and I were hiking over Mont Boron ourselves—I had to take him to see the chickens. Again, we passed the mysterious pillar along our way. Some post-hike Googling revealed it to be an old high-dive platform, where adventurous Niçois youth used to fling themselves into the waves. We made a reservation to return to Le Plongeoir—“The Diving Board”—for lunch.
When we arrived, we were ushered into the main section of the restaurant, right on shore. It was too cold to sit out on the pillar, they said. But it would take more than a slight chill to keep us indoors in the south of France. As we anchored our napkins and menus against the wind, the manager, Christophe, braved the cold to offer us cocktails.

He lives up in those hills, he told us, where he plucks rosemary from his garden for the restaurant. They use it to infuse local citrus juice for Le Plongeoir’s signature cocktail—a take on the mimosa dubbed The One. Christophe may not be retired yet, but he’s living my retirement dream. And he was offering us a taste of that dream, served up in a couple of chilled glasses on his pillar in the sea.

The German Version of Irish Coffee Does Not Mess Around

Aug.25.17

The German Version of Irish Coffee Does Not Mess Around

by Kalpana Sunder

Rüdesheimer coffee in the Rhine Valley

I am at the end of my dinner at the restaurant Gasthaus Winzerkeller, in the fairytale wine village of Rüdesheim, in Germany’s Rhine Valley. I have feasted on the German version of pizza, called Flammkuchen, and fruity Reisling wine from the region. I am just debating whether to have a dessert or coffee to lift myself out of the wine haze, when the waiter comes up to me and insists that I try the special Rüdesheimer coffee, a local brew with a kick. I succumb to the temptation and a little later, he comes up to the table with a tray laden with a special handleless cup and saucer, whipped cream, brandy, coffee, and sugar.

With great fanfare, he pours the Asbach Uralt brandy (40 percent ABV) into the cup, which holds three cubes of sugar, and sets it aflame, stirs the mixture together to caramelize it, then adds coffee (decaf, as I had wanted), a large dollop of whipped cream, and tops it up with dark chocolate shavings. He asks me to drink it through a straw.

At the first sip of the warm brandy/coffee concoction I am hooked. The fiery taste of the brandy and the bitterness of the coffee and dark chocolate is counter-balanced by the sweetness of the cream and sugar. As I sip the coffee, the chocolate dissolves in the cream into a delicious froth.

It all started in 1892, when Hugo Asbach came to the village from France, and wanted to make a brandy here that would compete with French cognacs. The Asbach brandy he created became one of Germany’s most popular spirits, and soon had a cult following. In 1957, a German TV host named Hans Karl Adam created the recipe for the Rudesheimer coffee on one of his shows, using Asbach brandy, cream, and coffee, which became a hit with coffee houses across the country. My waiter says that it was also created at a time when women did not drink in public, so the coffee was a discrete way for them to have a tipple.

Many call it the German version of Irish coffee. It also has its own cups, made by Villeroy and Boch, with red and white motifs of the Rhine Valley and a wide brim and tapering base.

“It’s important to have the Rüdesheimer coffee in these special cups, because they are sturdy enough to withstand the flaming brandy,” says the waiter.

As I sip on the potent coffee and look at the timbered buildings and the shining fairy lights, with a live band playing, it feels like all is right with the world. I am also glad that my hotel is just around the corner, because I don’t trust myself to navigate a street longer than that, feeling this high.

Photo by: Jacques Verlaeken

The Minty Appeal of Absinthe’s Forgotten Cousin

Aug.24.17

The Minty Appeal of Absinthe’s Forgotten Cousin

by Graham H. Cornwell

Génépi in France

Sure, the wine’s great, but when I’m in France, it’s all about the regional liqueur scenes. In Normandy and Brittany, it’s apple-based pommeau and Calvados. In the Gers region of the southwest, it’s floc and Armagnac, made from local vines. And a Mediterranean afternoon isn’t the same without an opaque glass of pastis, one little ice cube bobbing at the top. But in the Alps, I go for génépi, the rustic, often forgotten cousin of absinthe and Chartreuse.

The French Alps aren’t really wine country, which isn’t to say that they don’t produce anything good—simply that they don’t produce much, or much for which people travel very far. Driving the switchback roads of the mountains, I see billowing wheat fields. Walking along its high ridges, I see wild génépi lining the trails. So up here, I’m in the mood for beer and a cold herbal chaser. Local Alpine breweries combine the two into a génépi-infused beer, but I could never take the plunge for something that looked like the dregs of a keg cup the morning after St. Patty’s Day.

Nothing really distills the essence of a late evening in peak summer quite like génépi. First there’s the color, or colors: depending on production technique, génépi can be clear, amber, golden yellow, or as green as mouthwash. In other words, the hues of wheat fields, wildflowers, mountain meadows, lacy clouds, and the odd remnant of snow tucked in a rocky crevasse. My first sips remind me, too, of the temperamental changes in weather here. There’s the initial boozy heat followed quickly by a uniquely minty, herbal coolness that I’ve only ever tasted in wormwood. I like the macerated kinds best; seeing the herbs resting in the bottle only adds to the atmosphere. In general, I avoid the varieties that look like Scope. They taste like it, too, only you have to swallow.

If the génépi is served cold, I don’t notice its bite—reminiscent of its more famous cousin, absinthe. It’s syrupy, so it coats my mouth and lingers there a while. If only a summer in the Alps would, too.

When it Comes to Drinking Palm Moonshine, Timing is Everything

Aug.23.17

When it Comes to Drinking Palm Moonshine, Timing is Everything

by Smriti Daniel

Toddy in Sri Lanka

We find our toddy tavern down a dirt road in Mannar; a one-room structure with a grimy, shadowy interior and an uninspired beige exterior. The only building for miles, it blends in perfectly with its surroundings—parched paddy fields dotted with wandering cows in shades of brown and white.

When the owner, Kumar, hears we are here for fresh toddy, he re-ties his lungi, grabs a jerry can, and heads off into the fields. We follow. The Palmyra palm trees stand in a little clump of green. In Sri Lanka, toddy taken from the coconut tree is the norm, but here in the north, it is the Palmyra palm toddy that is most beloved.

Kumar’s assistant steps up to scale the tree. He places his feet into a closed loop made of cloth, and then bracing himself against the slender trunk, begins his ascent. At the top, he has some clay pots—or muddy—waiting for him.

During the season, he makes this climb every morning and evening to harvest fresh toddy. A few weeks ago, he began by cleaning up the crown of the tree by shearing off old leaves and fruit stalks. He bound the spathe with cloth, and bruised the tender embryo flowers within to help ease the flow of the sap. The end of that bleeding spathe was trimmed and inserted into the clay pot. For the next six months, the plant will pour forth its juices—known locally as kallu—into the muddy.

As we wait, Devan, who brought us here, turns to me and says: “The best way to drink toddy is actually to sit under the Palmyra tree in the morning.” He and his friends will gather under the shade of the arching palm, frying cuttlefish and crab to eat and drinking deep from bottles filled just minutes ago. Sometimes, they will take a dried cuttlefish, stuff it, and marinate it in chili before gently easing into a boiling pan of toddy, where they simmer it until the meat is tender. It is Devan’s idea of a perfect weekend.

Still, we are not doing so badly ourselves. As far as bars go, this one boasts a view. A flock of cranes scatter and take wing over the fields; the sky is a dazzling blue. It is the windy season. The breeze rushes through the shorn stalks of brown paddy, and sets the leaves in the trees rustling. (Imagine a dull roar like the ocean.)

After several minutes, Kumar brings over his haul. It’s in an old mineral-water bottle, which, when sawed in half, also works as a crude cup. We pay him 180 rupees (just over USD$1), and he hands over the bottle.

My first impression is dominated by a sweet, funky stink. On my tongue, the toddy fizzes lightly; cloudy-white, it tastes ripe and yeasty. We put away a whole bottle, and laugh as the edges of the world soften.

This is how Palmyra toddy is meant to be drunk: fresh, under the shadow of the tree itself. If stored, every hour changes its character. A rapid natural fermentation process creates alcohol. Let it ferment for hours, and you have wine; let it ferment for days and you will have a vinegar. Luckily, today, we timed it just right.

There’s Nothing Finer Than Finding A Damn Fine Cup of Coffee

Aug.22.17

There’s Nothing Finer Than Finding A Damn Fine Cup of Coffee

by Jane Kitagawa

Coffee in Tokyo

When I first stepped foot in Japan 20-odd years ago, I didn’t realize how my relationship with this country would be intertwined with coffee. A staunch coffee drinker from Melbourne, Australia, my days there were fueled by morning triple espressos; rich, milk-kissed lattés; and a local favorite, the flat white.

But when I first arrived in Japan, it took me a while to figure out the coffee scene, and while I was in my adjustment phase, I found it hard to find coffee I liked.

Desperate for the buzz of a bold ristretto, I scorned the weak and diluted cups of “American coffee” at Dotour, a coffee chain popular with salarymen and drinking on-the-go. I found myself in a similar situation at Mr. Donuts, where I tried unsuccessfully to find my own Twin Peaksdamn fine cup of coffee” experience.

As my Japanese skills developed, and I made more friends with tastes similar to my own, I discovered Japanese kissaten, or coffee salons. The coffee was not so different to what I’d previously rejected, but the music kissatens, in particular, drew me in. Small coffee houses with extensive classical or jazz music libraries for playing on top-shelf stereo systems, I recall the now-defunct Classic in Tokyo’s Nakano. Ordering “Blend Coffee,” the only such item on the menu, I remember sinking into a leather chaise. Slowly sipping my drink and savoring the music, Classic was a refuge from the loudness and non-stop madness of my Tokyo life. I started to adapt.

I left Japan for a while, but returned roughly ten years ago, my family circumstances very different. I discovered that Starbucks, copycat chains, and indie players had since entered Japan’s coffee shop market.

Japan’s so-called “third wave” of coffee means it’s now possible to find the types of drinks and coffee styles that I used to find back home. Even Melbourne coffee is a “thing”; I know of two establishments capitalizing on Australian-style coffee. (They’re not bad.)

After 5 p.m., I often end up at Beastie Coffee Club, my new favorite café, a kind of hybrid of a kissaten and a third-wave coffee shop. Some days I’ll have an espresso. Others, a nostalgic latté. If I want something local, I’ll order a milky ice coffee sweetened with Okinawan black sugar. Perhaps what appeals to me about the place is that its hybrid style corresponds to my experience of adjusting and adapting to coffee in Japan.

Photo: Courtesy of Chris Mollison

If A Wine-Colored Drink Turns Out Not to Be Wine, It Better Be Good

Aug.21.17

If A Wine-Colored Drink Turns Out Not to Be Wine, It Better Be Good

by Ranjini Rao

Kokum sherbet in Velas

It was a sweltering early summer day in Velas, Maharashtra, the kind that had us guzzling water by the gallon and yet feeling unquenched. The smell of the sea near our homestay, sulfurous and mossy, hung in the humid evening air. The kind hosts of our homestay welcomed us with warm smiles and a cool drink. The sight of rows of stainless steel glasses, some dented and wobbly, filled with an aromatic, reddish drink on a large wooden tray was puzzling. Was it wine? Was it Rooh Afza?

It was kokum sherbet, they informed us, and we took a hesitant first sip. The flavor was a cross between cranberry and plum, with mildly tangy and enticingly sweet undertones. It was so refreshing that we asked for many more servings. My daughter, whose idea of juice was limited to the odd Odwalla, the 365 range at Whole Foods, or homemade lemonade at best, wasn’t particularly ecstatic when she regarded the strange, wine-colored drink in a steel glass. It took more than gentle nudging to get her to take a sip, but once we’d crossed that bridge, she needed to be coaxed to stop after the third glass.

Kokum, of the mangosteen family, is a blackish-red super fruit, sour and delicious, similar to a few other fruits in India, such as jamun or star fruit. It is also known as the tamarind of the Malabar region. Having grown up in the south, and therefore more familiar with tamarind, I had only heard of kokum in passing and never encountered it. The many kokum recipes in Maharashtra were a novel treat. The tart and spicy sol kadi—kokum mixed with coconut—served as a curtain raiser to an elaborate meal and was soothing to the gullet. The side dishes and gravies infused with kokum extract had a distinct flavor, more complex compared to the sour, tamarind-infused ones on which I grew up.

During our stay at Velas, we had many more servings of the chilled, invigorating sherbet. We got up close with the kokum fruit, too, when a batch was sun-dried for in the backyard of our homestay. We bought a few packs from our hosts to bring home.

Forget Peanuts and Cracker Jack, Try Chicken and Cheese

Aug.18.17

Forget Peanuts and Cracker Jack, Try Chicken and Cheese

by Emily Ziemski

This week, we’re running a series on our favorite stadium eats from around the world.

Empanadas in the Dominican Republic

Merengue blasts from the loudspeakers dotted around the outskirts of the field while fans scream unabashedly at their favorite—and least favorite—players. Baseball in the Dominican Republic has a few unique elements. One is that all baseball fields feature natural grass—infield and outfield—never turf. Another is the food.

Some go for “La Bandera Dominicana”: a well-balanced meal of rice, red kidney beans, and stewed chicken, which literally translates to “the Dominican flag.” The beans, rice, and chicken are supposed to correspond to the red, white, and blue of the flag. (Some liberties are taken with the color of the chicken.) Others spectators forgo balancing this full plate and opt for a smaller, but no less tasty snack.

The ideal stadium snack shouldn’t just taste good—it should also be practical; easy to eat and also easy to hold. Like the empanada, a love letter to flaky, deep-fried pastry. In Santo Domingo, it’s foolish to show up to a baseball game without grabbing an empanada first. There’s nothing better than biting into a warm pastelito and savoring the small drop of grease that migrates from the paper bag onto your hand.

This one is pollo queso; chicken and cheese. Forget peanuts and cracker jack, this is a classic baseball pairing. And don’t forget to wash it down with El Presidente, the beloved local pilsner.

Photo by: Daniela Batya

A Salty, Meaty Snack for Watching Others Exert Themselves in Pursuit of Soccer Glory

Aug.17.17

A Salty, Meaty Snack for Watching Others Exert Themselves in Pursuit of Soccer Glory

by Emily Ziemski

This week, we’re running a series on our favorite stadium eats from around the world.

Pork Gyros in the Bahamas

There’s a lot of running happening on this beach, but it definitely isn’t Baywatch. Hundreds are gathered on blisteringly hot metal benches to watch one of the most impressive athletic feats of all—running barefoot on scorching sand in pursuit of soccer glory.

Witnessing all of this calorie-burning can work up an appetite, so it’s important to have a protein-heavy snack on hand. Enter the gyro—a salty, meaty, hearty nosh. A gyro isn’t necessarily the first thing you think of for suitable beach food, and it probably won’t help anyone feel beach-body ready. But it’s satisfying, which is of course much more important.

Beach soccer is only in its ninth recognized national federation year, but gyros have been a stadium food staple here since the late 1880s. Greek food became a mainstay of the Archipelago when immigrants came to the Bahamas to kick-start the sponge harvesting industry. By the early 1900s, the Greek settlers began opening their own restaurants.

The thin slices of perfectly cooked pork slide from the rotisserie like butter, and are placed in a soft, warm, charred pita along with tzatziki. Every bite is a perfect blend of charred meat and cool, creamy sauce. With the gentle breeze, it’s wise to tote a snack that’s easy to eat, and will be safe from wind and sand—such as the gyro, which comes neatly wrapped.

Photo by: Otishka Ferguson

The World Champion of Noodle Cups

Aug.16.17

The World Champion of Noodle Cups

by Emily Ziemski

This week, we’re running a series on our favorite stadium eats from around the world.

Jajang in Korea

Sporting matches come with a whole lot of nerves and stress. Perched at the edges of their seats, millions of viewers anxiously watch their teams vie for glory. That, on top of the stress drinking, probably leads to a lot of upset stomachs. But Daejeon Stadium in South Korea has the perfect food to combat those nerves.

Noodle cups aren’t anything novel. The Jajang noodle cup, upon first glance, looks like any other noodle product, wrapped in cellophane. The unassuming brown package advertises what looks to be a monochrome beef stew. But it delivers so much more.

Jajang is named after the savory black sauce used in a Chinese-Korean fusion dish called jajangmyeon. Jajangmyeon is made mostly of noodles and pork chunks. The Jajang noodle cup pulls from the jajangmyeon sauce, which is roast beans and caramel. It also has what the package promises to be “large” beef-flavored flakes.

As a connoisseur of cheap noodle packs, a.k.a. a grad student, I can confidently say this might just be the winner among stadium eats, clocking in at roughly USD$1.13 per pack. And it’s a far cry from the average chicken-flavored packets.

Setting itself apart from the rest by using a liquid base, instead of the usual packet of powder, the result is something that feels a little more homemade and a little less college dorm-made. The thick, wheat noodles cling to the sauce, creating the perfect bite every time. This hearty, saucy, slurpy treat is perfect for an evening game, when the sun has set and some of the heat has gone out of its residual glow.

These packets sell out like hotcakes in grocery stores, so the best place to snag one of these may actually be a soccer match.

Photo by: Issa Del Sol

So Much More Than Corn-on-the-Cob

Aug.15.17

So Much More Than Corn-on-the-Cob

by Emily Ziemski

This week, we’re running a series on our favorite stadium eats from around the world.

Esquites in Mexico

The number one sport in Mexico is association soccer—no surprise. There’s a deep love for fútbal in Mexico. During important matches, the country grinds to a halt as people crowd into stadiums to watch the games. The country is one of only six to qualify for every FIFA World Cup consecutively since 1994.

But, the real star inside these arenas is elote, or Mexican street corn.

Esquites, the portable version of elote, may be one of the most satisfying things that can be purchased in a cup. Roughly translated as “little corn cup” there’s nothing little about the pleasure that comes with a spoonful of Mexican street corn.

Corn is a staple in traditional Mexican cooking, but esquites is what to eat when cheering on your favorite team. Some esquites are boiled, the buttery-yellow kernels submerged in hot water until tender, but the best kind are roasted in a seasoned pan over an open flame until the kernels blister and char, usually accompanied by onions. Traditional esquites must use mature corn—not fresh or dried.

The warm corn is then coated in mayo and cotija cheese. A little gooey, a little melty, the dish is then topped off with a burst of lime juice and chili powder. Occasionally, fresh pequin chilis are used, but it’s simpler to use the powder for churning out mass amounts in stadiums.

Each mouthful is a burst of sunshine with bright citrus and warm, creamy mayo, with a little bit of a kick. The perfect thing to keep your mouth occupied when you’re not screaming at the referees.

Photo by: Enid Ayala

Nothing Says “Play Ball!” Like Hot Noodles

Aug.14.17

Nothing Says “Play Ball!” Like Hot Noodles

by Emily Ziemski

This week, we’re running a series on our favorite stadium eats from around the world.

Udon in Japan

The crack of a bat; the slurp of noodles. These are the sounds that fill baseball stadiums across Japan. Forget portable snacks; for baseball fans that flood the 12 NPB—Nippon Professional Baseball—stadiums throughout Japan, it’s all about one thing: a steaming bowl of udon.

Throughout the open arena, spectators balance brightly colored umbrellas and tiny bowls garnished with aonori—seaweed powder—and katsuobushi—fish flakes. Chants rise up over the bleachers and are thrown across the divide as fans root for their chosen team.

Others choose classic fare like gyoza, edamame, and bento boxes. And though you can get hamburgers and hot dogs, nothing says “Play Ball!” here like digging into a pot of hot noodles.

The stadium food may be a far cry from peanuts and hot dogs, but it still hits on the ideal trinity of summer junk food: chewy, salty, and umami. Udon, a classic Japanese street food, involves thick, buckwheat flour noodles, nori (seaweed), and crunchy vegetables like green onions that bring color to the beige tangle of noodles. Occasionally, a generous mayonnaise drizzle makes an appearance.

Some hybridized versions include stuffing the noodles into hot dog buns, and some even chop up hot dogs into the noodles as a meaty garnish. Perhaps the only downside to this savory dish is that tossing the coated noodles in outrage over a bad call or an opposing team’s run would involve quite the cleanup. Save your edamame shells for your unsportsmanlike conduct.

At Japan’s oldest ballpark, Meiji Jingu Stadium, you can bring your own food and drinks inside—but isn’t part of the whole sports experience paying exorbitant prices for refreshments? In true sports stadium fashion, a small, generic beer is still going to cost you an arm and a leg—roughly $10 USD.

Photo by: Kagawa YMG

The Appropriate Response to Triggered Snowflakes with Nuclear Codes

Aug.11.17

The Appropriate Response to Triggered Snowflakes with Nuclear Codes

by Phill Leon Guerrero

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Budweiser and tuba in Guam

It takes a lot for people on Guam to get collectively riled up. After all, the chill, can’t-be-bothered islander is a stereotype with good reason. But with the repeated threat of missile strikes against my tiny, Pacific home this week, people all over Guam were searching for a way to detox from the anxiety and stress.

My answer? The classic “kick back.” Take two to 20 friends, add alcohol, and feel the high blood pressure reduce with each round of laughter. The ritual isn’t lost on the group I manage to assemble late Friday afternoon. It’s been a long week. Tensions between Pyongyang and Washington—both led by triggered snowflakes with nuclear codes—have escalated over the past several days at a faster rate than ever before. After President Donald Trump’s now infamous “fire and fury” threat, North Korea said it was readying a plan—subject to review—to launch four missiles that would reach the waters off Guam.

Budweiser and Bud Light are the only beers I buy today. I intend to cut this American beer stash with a traditional coconut wine called tuba; an extra dramatic touch to the last-minute session.

The handful of guests that can make it arrive over the course of a half hour.

“So why are we drinking?” Morgan, a local musician asks.

I explain to her that I had basically been asked to get sloshed and rant about North Korea.

“Is it sad that I’m not taking this threat seriously at all?” she says. “The whole thing is fucking stupid to me.”

We shotgun a beer while we wait for the others to arrive. Our discussion drifts to the week’s media attention, which put Guam in a rare international spotlight.

Morgan’s friend, she tells me, sent her the front pages of Reddit when Guam was mentioned: brown tree snakes and a Catholic sex abuse scandal. She, like a lot of residents, are sensitive to how the media portrays the island.

A few more people arrive, and we begin to complain about Guam’s (justifiable) reputation as primarily a military fortress. That in 2017, the media still only counts military personnel and their families as American lives in jeopardy. About the U.S. senators who have pushed for war, because Guam is so far away from “home” territory.

That’s when we start cutting the beer with tuba. It’s a pre-World War II product I drink only when I feel particularly nationalistic.

It hits the spot. Slowly but surely the conversation shifts from whether the presence of the military makes us more or less of a target, towards local gossip and conspiracy theories about the sudden reappearance of a certain 90s local celebrity (who is now a military contractor) and whether it might be connected to this week’s war games. Geopolitics gives way to discussions about our endangered native language. The recounting of news is slowly phased out in favor of stories about our grandparents and our history.

Perhaps it’s a sign that Morgan has it right. The possibility of getting caught in a nuclear war isn’t that serious, for now. Otherwise, would we be able to joke like this?

The sun sets and our normal schedules kick in. Kids need to be checked. Gigs are fast approaching.

And just after the last person leaves, I allow myself to check Facebook. A live video of Governor Eddie Calvo speaking to reporters (local, national, and international) was the first thing on my timeline. He was announcing daily security briefs. He seemed to on board with the president’s “fire and fury” routine.

I turn, and see that the gallon of tuba still has about a quarter left, and chug it. Then I shotgun another beer, and start looking for the next kick back.

Photo by: 白士 李

Rules of Engagement for Firewater Consumption

Aug.08.17

Rules of Engagement for Firewater Consumption

by Jake Emen

Aguardiente in Medellín

The night starts innocently enough. I’m supposed to meet a group for dinner, two nights before a good friend’s wedding in Colombia. I haven’t seen my friend Sacha, his brother Martin—who’s also a friend—or their significant others in two years. But no way was I not flying to Medellín for this wedding.

And without knowing anything beyond the fact that we have a large reservation at a restaurant, I’ve assumed that I’ll be meeting grandparents and aunts and uncles and in-laws at a casual sit-down meal. I’ve assumed incorrectly.

Without any advance notice, it’s actually my friend’s bachelor party, a Medellín finale prior to his big day. This is explained to me after I suggest we wait to order drinks until “the girls arrive.” The girls are not, in fact, arriving. Apparently everyone else knew, the information was just never passed along to me.

I speak embarrassingly little Spanish. Even my Irish-French-Canadian friends can best me tonight, thanks to their Colombian wives. But there’s only one word I need to know this evening: aguardiente.

Good old Colombian firewater. Specifically, the ubiquitous anise-flavored Aguardiente Antioqueño, bottled at 29 percent ABV, and available in either the sugary red-capped edition, or the blue label sin azúcar.

I’ve had aguardiente before, but never really had it. As in, I never sat down with the sole purpose of drinking nothing but aguardiente until something reaches its breaking point—my wallet, my good sense, my consciousness, whatever the case may be.

As the group gathers, and I do end up meeting family members – brothers and cousins and husbands of sisters and friends—the rules of engagement are laid out for me. Most typically, a bottle is purchased for the table or group, along with a few small bottles of water or soda to chase it down.

There are no mixed drinks. There is no sipping. Aguardiente is all about shots, period. And if one person takes a shot, everybody takes a shot. If one person raises a toast, your shot glass better be filled and raised, ready to go.

I’m nothing if not game for a drinking challenge, so rather than taking the half measures of ordering individual shots or half bottles, I suggest we get the ball rolling the right way, with a full bottle. It was the first of four full bottles. Or was it five? Six? I can tell you definitively that I personally consumed more than a dozen shots. Undoubtedly, things were hazy by the time of my 3 a.m. departure back to the hotel.

The price was paid in full the next morning. We vowed to avoid aguardiente at all costs during the wedding itself. (These vows were promptly and repeatedly broken.)

Comparing an Italian Digestif to Fireball Is Not the Way to Sell It

Aug.07.17

Comparing an Italian Digestif to Fireball Is Not the Way to Sell It

by Giancarlo Buonomo

Amaro del capo in Rome

Tyler and I were sitting outside at Bar San Calisto one early June evening. We had grabbed a pizza for dinner and needed to sit and digest. He pulled a pouch of Pueblo tobacco out of his checked shirt and fluidly rolled a cigarette. I asked him to roll me one while I went to get us a drink.

“What do you want, a beer?”

“An amaro del capo. Get yourself one, too.”

I went inside, where Marcello the proprietor was perched over his register like a goblin. He gave me my receipt and change from a five-euro bill. At the bar counter, the Action Bronson-looking barman retrieved a squat bottle from the fridge and poured out two viscous, mahogany shots.

Back outside, I handed Tyler the shot and accepted my smoke. I held the shot up to the fluorescent light from the bar sign, examining it like a diamond, and then took the first sip. I normally don’t enjoy amari — Italian liqueurs meant as after-dinner digestives. Amaro del Capo pleasantly reminded me of Fireball, even though the main flavorings are actually anise, juniper, hyssop, and mint.

I looked out at the small, scruffy piazza that gives the bar its name. Bar San Calisto is one the oldest, most popular bars in the city. Although the neighborhood, Trastevere, seems to get more and more touristy and flashy every summer, nothing about this little bar seems to change.

There’s nothing so special about it. Beer by the bottle, decent coffee, cheap spritzes and amari in plastic glasses. But crowds of people show up every night to carry those glasses out into the piazza, or the neighboring piazza, or down the street to who knows where. You could bring anyone there.

A humming crowd was already gathering when we finished our glasses and went back inside for another round. I swirled some capo around my mouth, savoring the warmth, before speaking.

“You know how in 1920s Paris all those guys, those writers and artists, would just hang around cafes all day, drinking and talking?

“Yeah.”

“If I ever write a book about my years in Rome, trying to make it as a journalist, I think Bar San Calisto is going to be that cafe. Young me, my archaeologist friend, smoking and drinking an Italian digestif and talking.”

“For sure, man,” he replied with an affectionate laugh.

My Paris remark was a bit superficial, I thought on the walk home. But what I was trying to say was this: the fear of missing out is one thing, but the fear that we’re failing to create the memories that will sustain us 40 years later is something much worse. Our evening at Bar San Calisto—amaro del capo, a few cigarettes, some conversation—hadn’t been different than the other patrons’. But it was one of those rare moments. I knew that 40 years later, my memory of it would be even more pleasurable than the moment itself.

Skulduggery, Slogans, Spin, and, Just Maybe, a Revolution

Aug.04.17

Skulduggery, Slogans, Spin, and, Just Maybe, a Revolution

by Barbara Wanjala

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Drinking in Nairobi

Outside temperatures in Nairobi have plummeted, but the political mercury is rising fast as Election Day approaches. Ballot papers have landed and final campaigns are underway; the country is waiting with bated breath to see which way the pendulum will fall.

The election pits incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, hoping to secure a second five-year term, against opposition leader and long-time rival Raila Odinga. (There are also other contenders.) The polls are close. The threat of violence—and the echo of 2007’s election crisis—looms over the proceedings.

Some time last year, in the course of my quest for literary immortality, I found myself in an upmarket watering hole in leafy suburbia in the company of some distinguished Kenyan gentlemen. One was ex-Alliance, another was ex-St Mary’s, those bastions of academic excellence that prepare the nation’s finest young minds for future leadership. Fine malt whisky flowed freely; book recommendations for my intellectual uplift were made: Dostoyevsky and Nabokov. The nervous waiter mixed up the bills and this really upset one of the gentlemen, who said: “These are what we call lumpen.” He then turned to the waiter and said forcefully, “You are a LUMPEN!” To my eternal disgrace, I said nothing. It is unlikely that I will breathe in that rarefied air again after this, but so what. To hell with “access.” To hell with self-serving ambition. May the bridges I burn light my way.

I’ve been thinking about the nameless and faceless masses trampled underfoot in the mad scramble for power, the nebulous “lumpen” sacrificed at the altar of political expediency. The marginalized and invisible Kenyans whose stories never make the news. People like S. Mutwali, a resident in Marakwet East, who wants the government to bring security to the area “so that I can be a Kenyan like others”, he said.

Politicos, pollsters, and pundits of all stripes have been hogging the airwaves. Amidst the skulduggery, slogans, and spin, I’ve been struggling to look beyond the demagoguery to see how the issues that Wanjiku—the common woman—cares about are being addressed. The alienation between Wanjiku and the ruling class is evident. The groundswell of discontent came to the fore over the price of unga, maize flour that is used to make ugali, Kenya’s staple, the rising high cost of living just one of a string of broken election promises.

One astute commentator, Wamugunda Wakimani, in an incisive examination of Kenyan leadership, once wrote that a fellow who has never travelled in a matatu, used a pit latrine, lived without water, gone barefoot, or dealt with a jigger may not truly understand Kenyans. He wrote also that a people’s revolution would entail getting Kenyans to understand that money, genetic heritage, and tribal affiliation are not what makes a leader.

The political and economic elite exist in a different realm, they literally hover above—in their choppers, the ultimate status symbol. Politics is seen as a path to power and personal enrichment, instead of social and economic development for all. But a friend tells me that Wanjiku has “chanuka’d”—smartened up: she will accept handouts indiscriminately, but when Election Day comes, she will take her outrage to the ballot.

The Nairobi proletariat is getting ready to head home, i.e. upcountry, some to vote in the rural constituencies where they are registered, some to be close to family in case things go south. The contested elections of 2007—and their bloody aftermath—remain in the collective consciousness, and justice for those killed back then is yet to be served.

Voting takes place on Tuesday, and results are due to be announced on Wednesday morning. My fervent hope is for the peaceful triumph of the people’s will—that the “lumpen” strikes back.

Photo by: Ninara

It Was Only a Matter of Time Before Vietnam Came Up With Pho Craft Beer

Aug.03.17

It Was Only a Matter of Time Before Vietnam Came Up With Pho Craft Beer

by Iain Shaw

Beer in Hanoi

The driver drew the taxi to a standstill, pointing through the right-side window to say, “There it is.” I nodded. We had successfully hauled ourselves from Hanoi’s Old Quarter to Quang An Flower Market, on the edge of Hanoi’s West Lake neighborhood. The market was a stepping stone, an obvious landmark to point out to a cab driver on the map, on the way to Tay Ho Tiki Company.

On a night menaced intermittently by heavy showers, flower market vendors were setting up for the all-night shift. Leaving the roadside, we shuffled past motorbikes captained by gaunt young men, flowers bundled high and secured on the back. Below the hum of a hundred engines, ladies laughed as they set up their stalls, and we passed a banh mi seller toasting baguettes, the scent of warm bread cutting through the damp air.

About 330 feet along the road, Tay Ho Tiki Company was cool and quiet, a welcome break from the Old Quarter’s hectic nightlife. We had come looking for cocktails, working off an assumption that Hanoi bartenders are blessed with some of the best raw materials in the world. To walk around this city is to swoon over the scents of fresh fruit, herbs, and spices—lemongrass, lime, Vietnamese basil.

We came for cocktails, but the beer list caught my eye. “No,” I reminded myself, “You don’t always need to try the craft beer just because it was brewed locally and has a clever pun for a name.” But what if one of them is a pho beer?

I put this internal debate on hold, temporarily, and we settled on a couple of cocktails. One of the house creations, The Spice Route, combined a 12-year-old Jamaican rum and pineapple caramelized with a mix of nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla bean, and star anise, the package rounded off with lime and black walnut bitters.

We sipped and chatted on and off with the owners, a Canadian-Australian couple. They told us about the joys and travails of bar ownership in Hanoi— having a dream, making it happen, renovating and reopening after being briefly threatened with eviction. The bar was quiet otherwise. Rain now pounded the pavement outside. Yeah, we needed another drink.

As I began to order up another cocktail, the waitress cut me off. Did we want to try that Hanoi-brewed Bia Pho? The intrigue was too much. I had to take a chance on a drink that would, at worst, taste like beer.

In fact, the Bia Pho was excellent. As an idea scrawled on a coaster, a pho-inspired ale must have read like craft beer jumping the shark off the Vietnamese coast. Somehow, Bia Pho turned out as a finely-balanced brew, bringing flavor from cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, star anise, and coriander seeds. A spicy aftertaste from a slight dose of chili provided the perfect finish to a bold experiment.

So did it taste like actual pho? It did, at least as much as I wanted it to. But as I savored my pho-inspired craft ale, a delightful discovery in a city of relentlessly great food and drink, the comparison had ceased to matter.

Pretty Sure Most Alpine Lake Vistas Are Fairly Similar

Aug.02.17

Pretty Sure Most Alpine Lake Vistas Are Fairly Similar

by Matthew Levine

Lager in Switzerland

At the entrance to many a rooftop bar, you’re bound to come face-to-face with a huffy bouncer. But, turning the corner of a grass-lined path on Ebenalp, the northernmost summit of the Appenzeller mountains, to Berggasthaus Aescher-Wildkirchli, we encounter a more adorable than intimidating gatekeeper. Only three feet tall, complete with a flowing mane and four stumpy legs, a jet-black pony on his lunch break is the only obstacle between us and the bar. Fortunately, he lets us pass to Aescher.

For over 170 years, Aescher, an oak tavern constructed into the mountain cliffside, has offered refuge to hikers looking for a place to rest and fuel before continuing their journey, regularly shuttling food and drink ingredients more than 8,000 feet up the mountain. Although the lodge no longer permits overnight stays, the tavern continues serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner to trekkers who traverse to the guesthouse, garbed in neon spandex and wielding walking poles—as well as the less active guests who take a cable car up to the top (my partner’s family and I fall under the latter category). In addition to the afternoon pick-me-up and gut-busting portions of rösti, a local specialty of potatoes blanketed with melted cheese, people come for the postcard views of emerald, snow-capped peaks, soundtracked by echoes of the roaming cows’ bells.

This afternoon, the tables are packed, with families of six fighting for the tables closest to the edge. Although we fail to grab a spot for the three of us, the middle-aged man who cut us off smiles sheepishly. Whether out of guilt or pride, he begins offering his advice on how and where to hike that day.

“After you head down, go to the right and you’ll come to this fantastic lake,” he says, as if it were a gem of a hidden find, describing in cinematic detail a body of water giving way to a wide-open view of the mountains. “You can’t miss it,” he adds.

When we finally find seats, we order our first round, including an Appenzeller Dunkel Lager for myself. I assume that somehow there’s a connection between the beer and our location. When our bottles arrive, the label depicts a stereotypical watercolor scene of Swiss locals in traditional garb, proudly swigging from pints of brew. But the scenery of a lake, surrounded by parting sides with a full view of a mountain in the background looks familiar. Could that be lake the guy described?

Amused at the not-so-secret status of the “secret” lake, I fuel myself with the rösti and down the malty brew.

At sunset, we arrive at Seealpsee, the lake to which the man referred, and sure enough, it looks a lot like the label on my beer bottle (although there’s no one in traditional attire around). It also looks a hell of a lot better in real life.

A Tiny Beer Is the Perfect Escape Hatch for Bad Bars and Bad Dates

Aug.01.17

A Tiny Beer Is the Perfect Escape Hatch for Bad Bars and Bad Dates

by Christina Newberry

Cañas in Madrid

I’d been in Madrid for a week, and I hadn’t yet fallen in love. With the city, I mean. I was there with my husband—and I fell in love with him more than 10 years ago. But this city, it just didn’t want to let us in.

We’d drunk plenty of cava and vermouth and full-bodied Spanish reds, nibbling away at olives and chips in tapas bars around town. But none of it quite fell into place until we enlisted professional help. As we pulled our stools up to a barrel table to begin our tapas education, we finally learned that in Madrid, life is measured out in tiny glasses of beer.

“The caña is the atom of social life in Madrid,” said Helena, our guide, as she handed us each a tiny glass. She said it almost in passing, as if this bit of knowledge was nothing, as if she had not just handed over a precious secret that would unlock Madrid’s doors.

A caña is precisely 200 milliliters of draught beer (about six ounces) poured with exacting technique and sold for a euro or two at virtually every tapas bar in town. Indeed, as we took our first sips, we noticed the barman filling tiny glass after tiny glass, letting the head just overflow and run down the sides, then tapping each glass on the counter to ensure that the faintest line of perfect froth stays in place until the last sip.

In truth, I’m not usually a beer fan. But this miniature chilled glass of pale, slightly bitter lager not only quenched my thirst but opened my heart. This was the moment when everything changed.

It seems strange now, to think of a tiny glass of beer as a secret code—a secret weapon, even—but this one gave us the gift of Madrid. As we came to think of our cañas not as drinks but as slices of time, my husband and I tossed our guidebook. We grew bold enough to wander into the most local of tapas bars, the ones packed shoulder-to-shoulder, with eye-burning fluorescent lights and mountains of napkins crumpled on the floor.

“Let’s just go for a caña,” one of us would say, knowing the bottom of that tiny glass would offer a perfect escape hatch after 15 minutes if the place just wasn’t a fit.

Madrileños take the same approach to first dates, Helena told us. Not sure you’ll like a potential suitor? Just go for a caña and where it leads.
While there are no guarantees in love, one thing is certain: Madrid is a city best romanced one caña at a time.

Which Self-Respecting Swiss Town Doesn’t Have a Secret Liqueur Recipe?

Jul.31.17

Which Self-Respecting Swiss Town Doesn’t Have a Secret Liqueur Recipe?

by Charukesi Ramadurai

Röteli in Chur

I shut my eyes to enjoy the sensation of the Röteli going down my throat. The flavors of the Swiss cherry liqueur are new to me, somewhat spicy, somewhat tart, and thoroughly delightful.

It is a warm summer evening in Chur, the capital of the Grisons or Graübunden canton in the eastern part of the country, and Switzerland’s oldest town. The dinner has been traditional, a true Grisons meal of maluns (fried potatoes scraps with applesauce and Alpine cheese), capuns sursilvans (stuffed cabbage rolls cooked in milk topped with cheese), and pizzoccheri nero (buckwheat noodles with vegetables, topped with foaming butter).

We have downed several glasses of Swiss wine already, but given the context of the meal, and the town, there is no other way to end the evening but with a glass of Röteli.

This potent cherry liqueur is typical to the Graübunden region, first concocted by the (genius, as anyone who has tried Röteli will heartily agree) Walser community of mountain folk. The original recipe is supposed to be a secret that locals used to (and apparently still) hold close to their hearts, with every family claiming to have the original and the best recipe, handed down the generations through word of mouth.

Luckily for us, we don’t have to go far seeking it. The good folk at the restaurant of the Romantik Hotel Stern, where we are having dinner, bring a bottle of the very popular Bündner Röteli to our table. As someone opens the lid, a bouquet of aromas—from slightly bitter almonds to cloying sweet pears floats—into the summer air.

The name Röteli comes from “rote Kirschen,” meaning red cherries. The liqueur is made of a combination of fruit schnapps, dried cherries, and various spices like vanilla, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon, all left to ferment together for a few months. The end result—much like wine—is much more delectable than it sounds.

In the olden days, Röteli was considered a traditional New Year’s Eve drink, when young men went from home to home, farm to farm, wishing other families well, accepting a glass (oh, if you insist) at each place. At the dinner table, as I take one more sip of this delicious but heady drink, I smile (and shudder) to think of the state in which those young men must have woken up in the next morning.

A few days later, in another Swiss city, I try Röteli ice cream for dessert; creamy and sweet, with just the slightest hint of cherry sourness. Not only does it taste like a slice of heaven, but it also leaves me with a mild high. How did I live so long without ever hearing about Röteli?

Showing Basic Decency, And Other Reasons to Take to the Streets in Poland And Beyond

Jul.28.17

Showing Basic Decency, And Other Reasons to Take to the Streets in Poland And Beyond

by Annabelle Chapman

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White wine in Warsaw

“The Poland that will emerge from this will be completely different to the one before,” said the stranger at the table next to mine, pouring wine from the carafe into my empty glass. “The one we knew will be gone forever.”

It was midnight and I had come in from the protest nearby. For the past week, tens of thousands of people across Poland had been protesting against a new law that would enable the right-wing government to sack the Supreme Court’s judges. Night after night, they had gathered outside the parliament, the presidential palace and the Supreme Court in Warsaw, the capital. Candles raised, they had sung the national anthem. The city was thrumming.

The stranger was twice my age, from a town in the east. I did not feel like talking. But I listened, curious to hear his take on the protests. Being a journalist, I’m used to listening.

Earlier that evening, I had stopped by the protest outside the house of Jarosław Kaczyński, the ruling party’s divisive leader. Protesters holding candles lit up the dark side-street. Dozens of policemen stood around, waiting. There was some confusion as to which house belongs to Kaczyński. Another correspondent, who had arrived earlier, had caught a glimpse of a cat inside one of the windows; possibly Kaczyński’s, who is known for his affinity for cats. In that spirit, one protester had brought along a pink cat balloon.

Back at the bar, the stranger was still talking politics. At some point, I excused myself, leaving my half-drunk glass behind. Walking home, I reflected on what he had said. One quote had stuck in my head: “People just want to show their decency, even though the protests can change little.”

He was wrong, it turned out. A day later, to everyone’s surprise, the Polish president announced that he would veto the law on the Supreme Court. It was a victory for the protesters, but only a partial one. Other controversial changes to the court system will be implemented. Poland’s judiciary remains at risk.

The following night, a fellow correspondent and I chanced upon an outdoor concert near the Palace of Culture, the Stalinist skyscraper that dominates the Warsaw skyline. Two violins, a cello, and a piano; later, a clarinet joined it. Under the colonnade, friends laughed and listened. A Pyrenean mountain dog wandered between our legs. It felt like summer. The situation in Poland remains fraught; it is unclear what will happen next. Still, this seems like a good place to stop.

Canadian Rum: It’s a Thing

Jul.27.17

Canadian Rum: It’s a Thing

by Dave Hazzan

Screech in Logy Bay

For decades, Newfoundlanders have had to endure being the butt of jokes across Canada. An example: “How do you know a Newfie’s been using your computer? The screen is covered in white-out.”

No one knows why the denizens of Canada’s 10th province are the butt of these jokes. It might be that Newfoundland is far enough away that physical retribution against smug Ontarians is too difficult. Or it could be poor-bashing against a province with persistently high unemployment, which loses thousands of young people every year to the rest of Canada’s more prosperous climes. (Another joke: What do you call someone from Halifax? A Newfie who ran out of money on the way to Toronto.)

I think it’s because Newfoundland has a booming culture of music, dialects, literature, cuisine, and deep history. As opposed to the rest of English-speaking Canada, which struggles to explain how The Kids in the Hall and Rush form part of a greater Canadian whole.

And Newfoundlanders have their own drink—Newfoundland Screech. A dark rum, it has hints of caramel, dark chocolate, and molasses, but most people don’t know that since it is usually slammed back with velocity.

Though it’s bottled in Newfoundland’s capital St. John’s, it’s made in Jamaica and sent over in barrels. The reason Newfoundlanders became rum drunks has to do with one of the more upsetting parts of British Colonial history.

In the 17th and 18th century, European slave ships plundered the west coast of Africa for slaves. Though there are no exact numbers, it’s estimated that 9 to 11 million souls landed alive in the Americas—this doesn’t include the millions who died at sea, so it’s probably closer to 20 million, the greatest theft of human beings in recorded history.

After dropping the slaves off in the Caribbean, the ships would purchase vast quantities of sugar from plantations, mostly in the form of molasses and rum. Much of that went back to Europe, but plenty was left on the North American east coast, including Newfoundland, where it was traded for salt cod.

This puts paid to a smug Canadian myth—that Canada never had slavery, unlike our barbaric American cousins. This is a wholesale lie. Canada not only had slaves, they profited enormously on the proceeds of slavery in the Caribbean.

But back to the people of Newfoundland. Screech, whatever its origins, is part of the Newfoundland fabric. They even have their own game they play on tourists, being “screeched in.” You go to a pub, they announce your name, you say a nonsense phrase, shoot the screech, kiss a codfish, and then become sworn in as an honorary Newfoundlander. (There are a few different nonsense phrases, but the most common involves the bartender asking, “Is you a screecher?” The answer is: “‘Deed I is me ol’ cock and long may your big jib draw.” It means, “Yes I am my friend, and good luck.”) Where possible, you kiss a fresh cod on the lips. If no fresh fish is available, a frozen one will have to do.

My friend Lauren shrugs when asked if Newfoundlanders consider this a part of their culture. “It’s a joke,” she says. “We’ve been the butt of your jokes for so long, it’s fun to play one on you.”

Photo by: Jo Turner

A Forgotten And Underrated Hungarian Grape

Jul.26.17

A Forgotten And Underrated Hungarian Grape

by Alia Akkam

Wine in Sopron

There are kangaroos in Hungary. Three of them—Shiraz, Sydney, and the baby, Peanut—reside behind a quaint farmhouse on the grounds of Pfneiszl’s vineyards in the equally picturesque city of Sopron. When taking a break from my late-afternoon tasting, and the artfully composed platters of bread, olives, and charcuterie that accompany the arc of glasses to visit the airy loo, through the window I catch a glimpse of these graceful marsupials cavorting in the backyard. I appreciate these playful yet elegant, organically made wines even more.

“They are easy-going animals,” Birgit Pfneisl tells me. The globe-trotting winemaker has worked harvests in Chile, Argentina, California, Italy, New Zealand, and Australia, and while living in the latter, she became fascinated by kangaroos, a bright spot in a place that she admits “wasn’t my best experience. My mind was already home.” How happy she was upon returning to Hungary, then, to read that her beloved kangaroos could also be found in Europe.

Sipping my way through Pfneiszl’s wines, from a perfect random-Tuesday-night-in-July rosé to the bold “Don’t Look Back in Anger” 2013 Kékfrankos—one of Hungary’s indigenous prized grapes—to the fittingly named “Kangaroo Jump” 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon to the exquisite red blend Távoli Világ, I listen to Birgit’s story of the progressive winery she runs with her sister Katrin, who oversees the company’s marketing and sales efforts. Like many a Hungarian tale, it is laced with history and politics.

Bilingual Sopron, located in the western part of Hungary, near Lake Fertő and minutes from Austria, has a beautiful, cobblestoned city center with street signs flaunting both Hungarian and German. First settled by Celts and Romans, it is the unlikely locale that helped along the demise of the Iron Curtain. In August 1989, the “Pan-European Picnic” symbolizing solidarity between the Austrians and Hungarians unfolded on the outskirts of Sopron, with the border opened for just three hours so residents could temporarily come and go freely. Yet when East Germans heard of this sliver of opportunity, those already camping out in Hungary came in droves to seek their coveted Western freedom. Three months later, the Berlin Wall fell.

Sopron is also one of Hungary’s (underrated) wine regions, and until the advent of Communism, when Birgit and Katrin’s grandparents fled to Austria, the family owned vineyards there. With the success of the Pfneisl (the z gets dropped outside of Hungary) estate run by the sisters’ father and his brothers in Austria, the Sopron grapes were forgotten—that is until 1993, when the family reclaimed their property. As a remarkable gift, it was granted to Katrin and Birgit, who showed off her first vintage in 2004.

“The land was always in our blood. Our playground was the vineyard and we were expected to help our parents,” says Birgit. “But as young teenagers, we didn’t like it so much. We’d rather go to the swimming pool. Later, I realized wine making was pretty cool.”

It Tastes Like Shit, But This Is What We Drink

Jul.24.17

It Tastes Like Shit, But This Is What We Drink

by Kristin Amico

Pelinkovac on the Dalmatian Islands

By the fifth day of clear skies, calm waters, electric-blue swimming holes, and fiery sunsets over the Adriatic, I questioned whether I chose the appropriate vacation. Initially, a week on a boat sailing the Croatian coast sounded perfect. The ideal way to soothe post-breakup blues, I thought. And it was perfect. The best week-long stretch of unblemished weather our captain had seen in years. That’s not what I needed. I longed for simply a wrinkle, the slightest tear, in the flawless façade to prove that the universe wasn’t mocking my misery.

Then on a small terrace bar on the Island of Vis, the most remote of all the Dalmatian islands, our captain Toni summoned the owner. The older gentleman who spoke no English returned minutes later with a tray of small glasses filled halfway with amber-hued liquor and garnished with lemon.

“It’s Pelinkovac. The most famous drink in Croatia,” Toni boasted.

The six of us, strangers just days ago, now cozy companions after living together on a small sailboat, raised our glasses for a toast. “živjeli.”

The youngest of the group slammed his glass down after the first sip. “This is the worst thing I’ve ever tasted,” he quipped while his face twisted as if in pain. At 22, I imagine there is much worse still ahead for him to taste.

I continued drinking. The astringent, herbaceous first notes gave way to hints of citrus and even a slight sweetness. It was strong, but not caustic. When I finished my glass, I threw back the remainder of my travel pal’s unfinished shot.

Pelinkovac dates back centuries. A concoction of wormwood and herbs from the Velebit mountains, its use was originally medicinal—a panacea predating prescriptions. Now it’s the drink of choice for the region.

Around us, locals of all stripes, from salty fisherman to Croatian women in impossibly high heels headed to the club, all put away an early-evening glass of the bitter liqueur.

D, the high-intensity guide who led us through the abandoned remains of the island earlier in the day sat down and took the last glass. In three or four gulps, it was gone. Curious about Pelinkovac’s appeal, I asked him why he drank it. He spoke as quickly as he drank. Born and raised on the island, which was closed to outsiders (foreign and domestic) until 1990, he didn’t mince words.

“Before dinner, after dinner, before going out, washed down with beer. You drink it always. It tastes like shit but this is what we drink.”

The rest of the group moved on to the crisp, Croatian white wine we had been sipping all week. It was smooth with a nose reminiscent of the nearby Adriatic. It went down easy.

I opted for one more glass of Pelinkovac. It was the bitter medicine I needed to balance out a week in paradise.

We Are Really Going to Need a Copy of This Trippy Japanese Doo-Wop Album

Jul.21.17

We Are Really Going to Need a Copy of This Trippy Japanese Doo-Wop Album

by Patrick J. Sauer

Scotch in Sapporo

After exiting the Norbesa, a rooftop ferris wheel on top of the 7th floor of a building in Sapporo, my wife and I wanted a drink. (Our six-year-old daughter Molly wanted to ride again. No chance, kid. Even though, pro tip, they sell beer for the rides.) In most countries, this would be easy. Head to the nearest bar. But Japan can be tricky that way, even in the home of the country’s oldest brand of beer. The night before, I’d been turned away from a Japanese-only private club, and I’d skipped out on the two hostess bars I wandered into, which require spending yen for a female companion to laugh at my terrible jokes she probably wouldn’t understand in the first place.

Well domo arigato, laissez les bons temps rouler, there it was, right smack in front of us. A little slice of New Orleans in Hokkaido. And as soon as we opened the door, the owner of Café Gloria, Toshikazu Oyamada, let us know everyone is welcome in his little Japanese ode to the Big Easy.

Café Gloria has plenty of New Orleans flourishes, like a Louis Armstrong statue (surrounded by empty Campbell’s soup cans because Toshi also digs Andy Warhol), red parlor lamps, and various jazz-playing figurines. And while he didn’t know how to make a Sazerac—might have been a language thing so I went with a Glenlivet rocks—Toshi does serve gumbo, but we were full of Genghis Khan, a local grilled mutton specialty, so we just stuck to the booze. And a ginger ale.

The music in Café Gloria was definitely of a New Orleans style, but not in the brassy vein of Rebirth that usually comes to mind. It was more in the Clarence “Frogman” Henry “Ain’t Got No Home” and Ernie K-Doe “Mother-in-Law” style. Toshi sat down with us to find out where we were from, the usual stuff, and really perked up as I was singing along to Dion’s “The Wanderer.” I told him I was raised on 1950s music. My mom grew up in Philadelphia when it still hosted American Bandstand and all those wonderful harmonious bands were the backbeat to my childhood. It’s a tradition we’ve carried on with Molly because 50s songs are short, easy to understand, and the most objectionable content is having to explain what a “thrill on Blueberry Hill” might entail.

Toshi excused himself, changed the music, and sat back down. He handed us a CD and wouldn’t you know it? We were sitting with the lead singer for the Fabulous Apollos, the “Doo-Wop Band From Sapporo City.” Formed in 1992, the band was particularly inspired by Earl “Speedo” Carroll, lead singer of the legendary Harlem group, The Cadillacs. The Fabulous Apollos got Speedo to be the introductory MC on their self-titled 2010 release and in the ultimate homage to the now deceased lead singer-cum-public school custodian, Toshi goes by “Earl” on stage.

The album, which of course we now own, is fantastic. It’s a wild mix of rockers and ballads, doo-wop and mambo, English and Japanese lyrics, horns and guitars, and a song entitled “The Sound of Otaru Dream Beach” which is exactly that, all delivered in under 3:00 a pop. The kid and I even jitterbugged a step or two. Close your eyes and it was like being inside Happy Days, assuming they gave the mic to Arnold instead of that damn Potsie.

We signed the concrete wall, gladly accepted the gift of a Get Hip Records showcase CD, and said oyasumi. Thanks to Toshi, we found our Nipponese thrill.

Nobody’s Itching for a Stiff Glass of Snake Wine at the End of a Long Day

Jul.20.17

Nobody’s Itching for a Stiff Glass of Snake Wine at the End of a Long Day

by Wes Grover

Rum in Saigon

It’s Friday night in Saigon and I’m at the WOO Social Bar. It’s chic, trendy —whatever you want to call it—and not exactly my style, but I’m here because of the man making drinks behind the bar: Roddy Battajon, enemy of my liver. To be more precise, I’m here to drink his rum, Rhum Belami, the first handcrafted cane spirit in Vietnam.

Deferring to his recommendation for a cocktail, he goes about muddling pineapple, burning a cinnamon stick and knifing off a few flakes into the glass, adding this and that, mixing in his dark rum and shaking it all up, garnished with rosemary. The artistry of it is a bit lost in my daze – I’ve sipped a few glasses of his gold rum before showing up – but the enjoyment of consumption is not. At first sweet and aromatic, the flavor takes a turn with traces of coffee and black pepper as it goes down, before ultimately leaving a smoky sensation in the throat and a warmth in the chest.

If you’ve been to Saigon, chances are the locally-made spirits you’re familiar with are such exotic elixirs as scorpion and snake wine. In my experience, the only reason to drink these is to say that you did, and when the novelty wears off nobody’s itching for a stiff glass of snake wine at the end of a long day. Unless, of course, you’re looking for an ancient antidote to boost your virility.

So when I heard a few weeks ago that there was a guy from Martinique making rum in his apartment here, I had to track him down and procure a bottle. In the name of journalism, I reached out to Roddy and arranged a time to visit his homemade lab and do some drinking.

This is when I realized he’s not just some madman making hooch in his bathtub, but has a nearby production facility and, amidst the rum lab that takes up a room of his home with various tinctures fermenting in glass vats, I learn that Roddy has in fact brought a family tradition to Vietnam.

Growing up in the Caribbean, his grandmother would craft the family rum, infusing local fruits and spices to the distillate, which she always made using fresh sugarcane juice and not molasses, as is the Martinique way. True to his roots, Roddy has amalgamated the technique observed during his youth with the flavors of Vietnam.

During my visit to his home, he first poured a glass of his dark batch and instructed me to give it a smell. I have a rather limited olfactory system ever since a concussion sustained several months back, but nonetheless picked up hints of cacao and coconut, black pepper from Phu Quoc Island, and Kopi Luwak coffee beans, though coming from Indonesia, the latter is among the few imported ingredients.

Smell test completed, I took a sip and rode the rollercoaster of flavors from sweet to smoky, without too much bite, leaving one warm and happy. Like a dessert that gets you drunk, except you can have it before, during, and after dinner.

Next, he asked how strong I think it is.

35 percent? I tried, given how easily it went down.

55 percent, he countered.

Yeah, this is going to be a problem.

Photo by: Romain Garrigue

Nothing Like Delicious Bar Snacks to Normalize Alcohol Consumption

Jul.19.17

Nothing Like Delicious Bar Snacks to Normalize Alcohol Consumption

by Dipti Kharude

Chakna in Mumbai

Growing up, my parents, with my younger sister and a 12-year-old me in tow, ritualistically followed up a seafront walk in our neighborhood with a visit to the restaurant and bar Sea Lord. This bar still knows my secrets, as do the bowls of complimentary chakna, or savory munchies, that accompany my drinks there.

I remember gin and tonic being my folks’ staple drink. After my parents placed their order, my sister and I squabbled over who would claim the first portion of the imminent cheeselings—petite and salty square cheese puffs. My impatient anticipation for the free snacks gave way to curiosity for conversations at adjacent tables, heaving with laughter and a sense of abandon. My otherwise coy mother, dressed in a sari, glass in hand, was a picture of defiance. Peopled by unaccompanied women, couples, families, and coworkers, the unshowy Sea Lord welcomed a middle-class crowd looking to drop their guard.

Over chakna came confessions and confidences. In this twilight period, bonds blossomed. Colleagues became friends. Even the most reticent ones grew bold, calling out to the waiting staff, “Boss zara chakna lana” (Please bring more chakna to the table). There was no shame in asking for more; it was your inalienable right as a regular. These dry pre-appetizers boasted enough starch to stave off hunger while lining the stomach for more drinking.

I would scoop up a handful of salted white peanuts, and the bowls would be promptly replenished like magical chalices. Though the literal meaning of the term chakna is “to taste,” the act of incessant nibbling was like freezing time—delaying dinnertime, prolonging the moment.

After working through a mound of roasted chickpeas, the lightly spiced, fried squiggles made of soya powder, tapioca starch, and black gram flour were next. Despite mild warnings from the parents about making a full meal out of chakna, I regularly rounded off my one-course dinner with symmetrical streaks of cucumber slathered with agreeably sour chaat masala, a blend of spices like black salt, chili powder, dry mango powder, and cumin seeds.

A year ago, I moved back to this neighborhood that I had called home for more than 20 years after a long stint outside it. One evening, when I sought a momentary salve for my exhaustion, I reached out to my comfort food in Sea Lord. I almost abandoned my drink when I was reunited with the crunch of the peanuts. The decor of the place stood resolutely unchanged. People still did not bother to photograph their food.

In a city where the nightlife is swiftly being shaped by Instagram-fueled, mercurial dining habits, the existence of this place that normalized alcohol consumption for me is reassuring. This untrendy neighborhood bar is once again a place of provisional peace, where the spread of chakna continues to spark the same joy.

Celebrating García Márquez and Underwhelming Lager

Jul.18.17

Celebrating García Márquez and Underwhelming Lager

by Barbara Wanjala

Beer in Aracataca

I found some Colombian pesos in my wallet recently. I should have changed the money in Bogotá, as it is unlikely that I will be able to change it here in Nairobi. Nevertheless, the weathered green bill bearing José Asunción Silva’s bearded countenance and piercing stare is a nice souvenir to have.
How to describe my literary sojourn? Estupendo. Take for example Aracataca, the town where Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez was born.

Because it was the 50th anniversary of the publication of his classic, One Hundred Years of Solitude, the book was our guide during our fellowship—the theme of which was the interplay between journalism and literature. Aracataca, the inspiration behind the town of Macondo in One Hundred Years of Solitude, taught me that the world is a place of endless inspiration and infinite possibility.

Aracataca is a sweltering town on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Mangoes hang from trees by the railway station as train carriages file past. Townspeople get around on motorcycles or sit out on their porches, staring at strangers with curiosity. Dogs of varying breeds and sizes populate the clean, wide streets. Doors stay open into the night. At the nearby museum, on a wall bearing Gabo’s likeness and numerous signatures, one visitor has written, “A Aracataca, pueblo immortal” (Aracataca, the immortal town) and another, “Macondo existe en mi corazón.” (Macondo exists in my heart.)

We sat down for lunch at the Ristorante Gabo & Leo Matiz, named for the writer and the photographer who created of the country’s most iconic photo, Pavo real del Mar. I learned new Spanish words during my time in Colombia, things with which to imbue my journalism: sensacin, impacto, rareza, agilidad. But also words like cataquero, which describes someone from Aracataca. We ate an assortment of meals there over the course of two days: rice, fish, plantains, cassava, banana, cheese, arepas. Tropical fare all washed down with bottles of Club Colombia. It’s an underwhelming pale lager but I grew very attached to it, ordering a dorada at Bogota’s El Dorado airport as I waited for my flight to Amsterdam.

These days I watch the images from this distant yet now familiar land on my screen with great interest: Venezuelans crossing into Cucuta, social unrest in the predominantly Afro-Colombian city of Buenaventura, FARC’s demobilization. I muse about how a book opened up a new world to me, and I plot ways to return.

On Bastille Day, the Perfectly Aloof French Dismissal of an Utter Fool

Jul.14.17

On Bastille Day, the Perfectly Aloof French Dismissal of an Utter Fool

by Robert Kelley Ayala

Bordeaux Red in Paris

It’s Bastille Day Eve here in Paris, and… he’s here. “He” being the (I still can’t believe I’m typing these words) President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump. Yes, that basic reality-TV-show clown. Time for a glass of wine.

I’ve lived here with my girlfriend for more than six and a half years now, and one advantage to living in Paris is that as two Americans can almost live our lives without thinking about Trump. Yes, it usually crosses our minds at least once a day, but it’s not forced upon us by our workplace or local restaurants blasting cable news from morning until night.

And then we had our own election in France, which went really well. The extreme-right-winger lost in humiliating fashion, and we feel pretty safe from the broader nativist trend sweeping the globe. So we don’t feel the daily crush of it. Honestly, escape from the daily crush of U.S. politics is one of the main reasons I moved here in the first place.

After Trump got elected, there were some protests here in Paris. They were significant, but not so much so that anyone paid attention. Although American ex-pats made up a majority of the crowds, it was the French protesters who ran the show. They have much more experience in protesting. We had a few chants, but they had dozens. France has a much broader and deeper culture of protesting than we do in the U.S. I’ve seen protests here in Paris made up almost entirely of little schoolchildren. Meanwhile, our students pledge allegiance to a flag every single morning! It took living in Europe for me to appreciate just how insanely fascist a ritual that is.

Which is to say, I expected French people to prevent this visit from happening. Press accounts suggest that Trump has at least twice postponed a visit to the U.K. because of the fear of massive protests dominating the media coverage. And the U.K. has nothing on France when it comes to street protests, right? So, given the circumstances, it seemed to follow that the French people would threaten to mount such an overwhelming demonstration that Trump would be forced to cancel his trip.

But they didn’t, and he came. He’s here. And, honestly, I’m feeling a little resentful towards the French. I suspect that they’re not protesting because it’s a holiday weekend, and their summer vacation plans take precedence over demonstrating against the biggest threat to world peace and global survival yet. Bastille Day falls on a Friday this year, so everyone’s booked long weekends in Burgundy or Normandy or the Riviera, and nobody, no matter how much they hate Trump, would want to give up their holiday weekend. It’s disappointing.

That disappointment, though, fades away after some drunken reasoning. Maybe the French aren’t so motivated to take to the streets because they don’t perceive Trump to be all that much of a threat. Maybe it’s become clear to them that Trump’s utter incompetence is going to prevent him from doing anything truly terrible. And maybe they’ve determined there’s about a 50 percent chance of most U.S. presidents starting a war, and that governmental attitudes ranging from hostility to indifference towards the poor, ethnic minorities, the disabled, LGBTQ communities, and other marginlized groups are the norm. Maybe they know better what the U.S. is than we progressives do ourselves. Because we are blinded by our own patriotism, we don’t see that Trump and his worldview have always been deeply ingrained in the American culture, and they will be until we stop denying it and admit it and actually do something about it.

What I’m trying to say is that the French might not be going all Hamburg-during-the-G20-summit in Paris on account of Trump’s visit, but maybe that’s because Trump isn’t as far outside of the American norm as we naive, patriotic Americans could ever really admit. His pretending-to-be-a-billionaire ass just isn’t worth passing on a few glasses of crisp rosé and the charms of southern France. It’s a perfectly aloof French dismissal of the fool.

By the way, it was a 2015 Chateau Haut-Mondain that fueled the above blabber. Purchased from a supermarket. Not usually the best place to get wine, but our tiny stash is down to only really nice bottles at home, and I got home too late to go to any of the quality wine shops on my street. The trick I use when I have to buy wine at the supermarket is to find a bottle that says mis en bouteille au château. This means it was bottled on the premises of the vineyards. By no means does it guarantee high quality, but it usually saves you from the worst of the bad bottles, the mega-industrial alcoholic grape juice industry. Tonight, I drink. Tomorrow, I protest.

Is a Well-Behaved, Polite Beer Festival Even a Beer Festival?

Jul.13.17

Is a Well-Behaved, Polite Beer Festival Even a Beer Festival?

by Dave Hazzan

Tiramisu Stout in Delft

It was the Netherlands Beer Festival in Delft.

It was unique because it was warm and sunny, as opposed to the usual Dutch weather, which involves rain, wind, rain, foul tempers, and more rain. Today, the forecast called for good cheer and alcohol-induced sunstroke.

The festival works like this. You pay four and a half euros for a wristband and a tiny glass, about 150 ml, with the words Nederlandse Bieren Festival emblazoned across it, yours to keep for the next time you’re doing shots of beer. Then you pay for tokens, two euros each, which are valid for one tasting of any of the beers.

I had never been to a beer festival like this. The ones I was used to were in East Asia, where they unleash thousands of people, locals and barbarians alike, upon the stands, to throw their won/yen/yuan at the flummoxed servers while barking their orders. “PALE ALE! STOUT! RASPBERRY IPA! THE MANGO-FLAVORED SHIT!”

You then rest on the concrete for 15 minutes, fry in the sun and drink, and then get back in line before your cup is half-empty, so as not to end up empty-handed. By dinnertime everyone is fire-engine red with sunburn and the bathrooms at the subway station are a Class 1A Health Hazard.

Here in historic Delft, there is none of that. The cobblestone streets remain cute and pristine. The locals are well-behaved and polite. The 12 breweries present are all staffed by the uber-chill, who are happy to pour you a glass and thank you for choosing Kaapse, Ciderhuis, or Emelise brewing.

The choices certainly are odd. You need some kind of beer-taster’s super-palate to figure out all the hints and nodes in the Gwynt Y Ddraeg Cloudy Scrupy, the Bertus Imperial Brown Ale Merlot, the Disco Bitch Gin & Tonic IPA, or the Cock of the Rock Chicha Morada Infused.

What vintage was the Kompaan 45 Cognac BA Porter aged in? What relationship does Name & No. 1 Dutch Pancake Pale Ale have with actual pancakes? And above all, how is the Zwarte Zee Imperial Oyster Stout related to our black-shelled friends–are they ground in the hops, added to the water, or pressed into the finished product?

The only way to get any idea is to try them all. That’s why they give you such a little glass. Another reason you get little glasses is because the average alcohol content for each of these beers hovers around 7.5 percent ABV.

Some are so high it seems like they were made on a dare. The Bertus Imperial Brown Ale Merlot is 11.5 percent. The Oh Buurman… American Barley Wine is 11.8 percent. And the Angel of Haarlem Sour BA Wild Turkey is a completely irresponsible 13 percent.

In the end, I found my favorite. The Tiramisu Stout, mysteriously unlisted on the tasting card, did taste of tiramisu. Thick, creamy, chocolatey, and boozy. A winner to go with the sunstroke.

Photo by: Jo Turner

A Solid Sarajevo Bar Option For the Brandy Inclined

Jul.12.17

A Solid Sarajevo Bar Option For the Brandy Inclined

by Kate Bartlett

Rakija in Sarajevo

It’s 10 p.m. on a Monday in Sarajevo. Down a dark, cobbled street at Kino Bosna, things are just gearing up.

It may be Ramadan in this Muslim-majority city—an old crossroads of civilizations that retains a heady mix of European and Ottoman influence—but the rakija is flowing.

The dilapidated bar’s clientele—students, artistic types, and a few aged bohemians—are downing vast quantities of the Balkan brandy in preparation for another night of live Bosnian folk music, all mournful vocals, guitars, and gypsy accordion.

Before the collapse of Yugoslavia, the cinema, built in the 1920s and the first in Sarajevo, showed everything from classics to blue movies. It kept holding screenings even through the war in the 1990s, although when the city was under siege it was regularly hit by shelling.

With a range of cinemas available in the city’s malls post-war, the old building was converted into a bar and music venue. The cavernous hall has been stripped of its cinema seats, but its peeling walls still have black and white pictures of silver screen stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando, and are strung with old reels of film. Most of the décor, though, is hidden behind the swathes of heavy cigarette smoke—in much of the Balkans, people still light up indoors.

As the band makes its way to each table of drinkers, rakija-fuelled excitement builds and patrons get to their feet, clapping along with the music and twirling wildly. Quite a few know the lyrics of the sevdalinkas, or Bosnian folk songs, and join in heartily.

The bar, which must boast one of the grubbiest toilets in Sarajevo, is a no-frills venue with a menu mainly limited to beer and rakija, which—to the untrained palate—is often indistinguishable from methanol.

As I wait at the bar, a man in his 60s—significantly older than the majority of patrons—offers to buy me my tipple of choice. This is communicated mainly through sign language, because he has no English and my Bosnian is limited to greetings and obscenities. I offer a greeting.

Our rakijas arrive and we clink the shot glasses, “Živjeli!” My drink sends a wave of warmth up into my cheeks and down into my chest.

Rakija is made from plums, and many Bosnians take pride in distilling their own, believing it can treat ailments from poor digestion to flu. Quite a few people here even start the day with a shot of it along with their espresso.

Rakija comes in many flavors, like pine, elderflower, pomegranate, honey and herb, but my favorite is the visnje—sour cherry. This ruby-colored version is more sippable than other variations, and sweeter, but, judging from my headache the morning after, just as potent.

An Icy, Sober Death Is No Way to Go

Jul.11.17

An Icy, Sober Death Is No Way to Go

by Dave Hazzan

Brennivin in Heimaey

The flight to Heimaey is a deeply unpleasant experience.

About four nautical miles south of mainland Iceland, Heimaey is Iceland’s largest inhabited island, and the only inhabited island in the Vestmannaeyjar Archipelago. It’s a stunning place of green grass, black lava fields, dormant volcanoes, and a little town of 4500 souls. It also gets eight million puffins a year, including Toti, the resident mascot at the aquarium. It’s all very cute and bucolic.

But the flight here is a 25-minute experience that will send the most stringent atheist straight into the arms of Jesus.

When I asked if it was O.K. to bring water on the flight, the lady at the desk said, “Of course,” which was a pleasant surprise. It turns out it’s O.K. to bring an AK-47 on the flight, since there is literally no security. No one in their right mind would hijack this thing.

It’s a tiny plane—don’t ask me what kind—but holds about 15 passengers, though there were only six on our 7:15 out of Reykjavik Domestic. It also looks and sounds like it’s held together with duct tape and chewing gum.

It was clear going up, but the weather in Iceland can change in seconds. By the time we had reached some sort of altitude, the rain and wind began, and the plane began to rock, tilt, and fall. We were offered no assurance this was normal, or that everything was fine. The only staff on the flight, except for the pilot, was a dude in an orange vest who spat out commands in Icelandic. “Get on!” “Sit down!” “Buckle up!” “Shut up!” (I think that’s what he was saying; I have no way of knowing.)

I guess everything was O.K., because while my wife and I were shitting our pants, everyone else around us looked like all was normal. One lady flipped through a magazine. A guy readied songs on his iPod. Naturally, there was no drinks cart, and I wondered if it would be cool to crack open my bottle of Brennivin.

Brennivin is the national liquor of Iceland. A type of aquavit flavored with caraway seeds, it’s sometimes called “The Black Death.” I don’t know why. The real black death would be plunging 5000 feet into the North Atlantic Ocean without a drink in me.

I reached into my bag, which was resting between my legs. (None of this pansy-ass “bags under the seat in front of you, please,” on this flight. You put the bag wherever it will fit.) But I was disappointed.

Assuming there would be no liquids allowed on board, I had checked the Brennivin. Though I imagine it can’t be too hard to access your checked luggage in the back of the plane, I wasn’t about to unbuckle my belt and be sent hurtling through the plane. No, my nerves would have to wait.

In the end, we landed without incident, and when we arrived at the hotel, the Brennivin was there, ready. I had a long, clean shot of it.

Photo by: Jo Turner

The Goan Way of Life Can Be Yours For The Price of A Bottle of Rum

Jul.10.17

The Goan Way of Life Can Be Yours For The Price of A Bottle of Rum

by Rohit Inani

Cabo in Goa

On a beautiful, warm, and sweet April night, we sat on plastic chairs set on a wooden porch in a small village by the Arabian Sea. Drinking straight from the bottle, we talked about how quickly time seemed to be passing these days.

It was dark outside on the beach, and a strong wind blew sand in our faces, and once or twice, we could see the distant flash of a camera. For some time, we sat in silence and took turns drinking from the bottle.

In the south of Goa, days are wildly humid in summer, and even though nights are cooler, you can’t escape the heat and you have to run to the nearest bar for a cold beer. Or in our case, cabo. We emptied bottle after bottle of it—a local liqueur made with a perfect blend of white rum with 100 percent natural coconut extract—drinking it neat from the bottle in the afternoons, and filling up hip flasks for the evenings.

Cabo is made by the descendants of Alexio Diniz, who in the late 1800s began distilling feni—the Goan craft spirit distilled from cashew fruits —in the southern village of Quepam. The Diniz family still runs a boutique distillery out of the same house where Alexio Diniz made feni in the 19th century.

Goa, for many years an idyll, is now marred by mining projects, pollution, and rapid development. Most of northern Goa’s beaches and roadsides are a hodgepodge of plastic bags and broken beer bottles. Too many people. Too many clubs. Bad music blaring out of the bars and pouring onto the streets.
But, in the south of Goa, a lush band of coconut plantations, a touch of biodiversity, and spotless beaches retain some of Goa’s once-wondrous charm.

I went inside to fetch our last bottle of cabo. Closing the door behind me, I unscrewed the bottle, hovering the tip of my nose over it a few times over before taking a long sip. I passed it around to G. She held the bottle in her hands for a long time without drinking. I grabbed the bottle from her and drank, marveling at the sweet-bodied and sharp coconut taste that persists long after drinking it down.

Goa has long been associated with the concept of sussegad, a way of life rooted in its colonial history, meaning “a lazy enjoyment of life to the fullest.” To experience sussegad, all you need is a few bottles of cabo.

Watching Two Mentally Unstable Bullies Posture With Globe-Killing Slingshots

Jul.07.17

Watching Two Mentally Unstable Bullies Posture With Globe-Killing Slingshots

by Billeen Carlson

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Vodka in Alaska

I hunched over the edge of the bar, questioning my life choices in a line of other regulars who were probably doing the same. Have I spent my time in this world wisely? Do I have any regrets?

On Independence Day, North Korea claimed it tested a missile that experts said put the United States—specifically, Alaska—within firing range. HLN’s barrage of Trump tweets and images of a beaming Kim Jong-un rotated on an ancient television perched on a cabinet high enough to give me a crick in my neck. Looking down at a grimacingly strong Cape Cod cocktail gave me some relief.

Locals know, and visitors quickly realize, that at Homer, Alaska’s “World Famous” Salty Dawg Saloon, beer comes in 20-ounce cans and mixer is basically garnish. It is not unusual to see otherwise respectable-appearing individuals stagger out of the bar in the middle of the day looking a shade of green that has little to do with sea travel.

Having the luxury of being able to appear less than respectable at 2 o’clock on a Monday afternoon, I stabbed at the ice in my cocktail and wondered if the rail vodka or a creeping horror I hadn’t felt since adolescence was going to win the battle over my autonomic system. Here I sat, watching two mentally unstable bullies posture with globe-killing slingshots sticking out of their back pockets.

Scrape away Homer’s encrusted layer of gift shops and art galleries, and you find the rough wooden planking of the original commercial fishing village. Much of Homer’s settlers are taciturn fishermen of Scandinavian descent who migrated up the west coast from Washington and Oregon.

Homer was dubbed Alaska’s “Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea” in the 1970s by an honest-to-god guru, Brother Asaiah Bates, who was the leader of an honest-to-god commune, The Barefooters, living “off-grid” before there was such a term.

In the early 80s, at the height of the Cold War, the population of Homer voted to make itself a Nuclear Free Zone. A toothless resolution by a small-town City Council holding most of its meetings on bar stools didn’t mean much in the grand political scheme of things during the epically strained political climate of the day. For Homer residents, however, the sentiment was particularly on point.

Homer sits on a deep-water harbor that remains ice-free all year at the top of the Pacific Ocean. During World War II, the Army Corps of Engineers built Homer’s harbor, along with a radar installation to defend against the Japanese who were occupying territory 1500 miles out on the Aleutian Chain and headed toward the mainland. Quaint little Homer is, in other words, a militarily strategic location.

As a child, I would peer into the waters of Cook Inlet, stretched below our home that sat on a high bluff, trying to see the submarines, ours and Soviet, that were purportedly playing nuclear hide-and-seek in the deep and narrow channel. Every night the local news reported on games of tag that our fighters from Elemendorf Air Force Base were playing with Russian “Bears” over Alaskan air space. Our elementary school practiced duck and cover air-raid drills where our little bodies would cram under desks and tables and pretend that it would make a difference in the event of a nuclear strike. The Cold War was a concrete reality for us, even in the late 80s, and I was fairly certain I wouldn’t grow up.

I grew up at the end of the Cold War. Gorbachev was practicing glasnost and Yeltsin was waving red, white, and blue Russian Federation flags from Soviet tanks. Despite my childhood fears, there was a glimmer of hope on my horizon. But I know now, between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, how my grandparents felt, looking over the waters of the Gulf of Alaska, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I wept when the Berlin Wall came down. I was 13. The Cold War was officially over. I’d live to take my first legal drink.

Despite the fog of cheap Russian vodka and panic (they’d apparently signed a mutual aid agreement), I didn’t have the luxury of weeping for joy or fear now. I am old, and the other fishermen were watching. Instead, I did what we do nowadays and took out my phone. I drafted a quick text message (“RESIST”) to my Republican congressional delegates in Washington, urging them to put a leash on their president, made some questionable retweets, and then called a cab.

Yeah, Why Aren’t Vodka Shots With Unripe Mango Juice Already a Thing?

Jul.06.17

Yeah, Why Aren’t Vodka Shots With Unripe Mango Juice Already a Thing?

by Shirin Mehrotra

Mango juice in Konkan

Aam meethe hon aur bohot hon.” Mangoes should be sweet and plentiful. So said the legendary Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib.

As someone who spent entire summers on her grandparents’ farm feasting on freshly plucked mangoes for dinner, I would say I completely relate to Ghalib’s sentiments. But my love for sweet mangoes does not dilute my fondness for the unripe ones.

Ripe mangoes leave you with sweet longing after only a few months, but the sour kairis (unripe mangoes) turn into pickles and chutneys that keep you company at meals through the year. The salted slices of unripe mangoes that my mother would keep in the sun to be dried for pickles became my late-afternoon snack. The enticing jars of mango pickles kept out of our reach were the first lesson in teamwork for my sister and I. As she daringly climbed up the shelves to steal a few slices, I was assigned the duty of doorkeeper.

And then there was mango panna—India’s answer to lemonade. This sweet, sour, and salty drink, made with kairis, was a mainstay in the kitchen, the key to fighting the killer heatwave of northern India. We would drink one before leaving the house and drink another after returning.
We had a concentrate sitting in the refrigerator at all times. The boiled mangoes would be pulped and mixed with pudina (mint leaves), sugar, rock salt, and cumin powder. This concentrate, with water poured on top, worked as an instant cooler.

In my adult life, these mixes became more age-appropriate. As a teen all I could do was top the concentrate with soda instead of water, but as an adult I could take the liberty of adding a shot of vodka, wondering why kairi panna and vodka shots weren’t already a thing.

In Mumbai, the recipe for panna is a little different. The sour-and-savory drink is sweeter, like a sherbet. The flavor changes, but the cooling effect remains the same. Last year, during a trip to the Konkan region of Maharashtra, I came across an aam panna recipe completely different from what I grew up drinking. The Konkanastha Brahmins—a community in this region—grate the mango instead of boiling and pulping it, and blend it with saunf (fennel) and sugar. There’s a raw taste to this version, taken a few notches up by the sharp taste of saunf.

A glass of aam panna will protect you from the heatwave, aid digestion, and cool you down. To me, aam panna is a superhero of drinks.

A Night of Cheap Vodka in the Land of Soju

Jul.05.17

A Night of Cheap Vodka in the Land of Soju

by Mitchell Blatt and Pato Rincon

Vodka in Seoul

On Friday nights in college towns across the United States, one is sure to find house parties, or bars full of collegiate youngsters getting down and unwinding at the end of a long week.

In Seoul, things are a little different. Seoul has a “private room” culture. Due to the lack of floor space in the typical Korean home, people will rent space by the hour, for specific purposes. For example, a PC bang is your standard internet café, with snacks and maybe even hot food on offer so that you don’t have to stop gaming. There are many other kinds of bang, including noraebang (karaoke room), DVD bang, and café bang (individual rooms in cafés).

When Korean students want to unwind (particularly at the semester’s end, as is the case all May and early June) in a more social setting, well-lubricated with alcohol, they will join in with a bunch of their friends and rent out an entire bar or club for the evening, and they will charge admission to recoup their losses.

One night we were wandering the streets of Sinchon, a university-laden part of Seoul. As we walked down the road full of bars and restaurants and noraebang, we noticed different colored ribbons taped to the road, marking the directions to various parties. Each color was for a different party, organized by a different group at a different university. Some of them included text in English and Korean: “Ehwa [University] Nursing.” We didn’t follow any of the arrows, but we let some girls hanging out at the front door of one of the clubs lead us down to a basement, where we took a seat at the bar and ordered Cass, one of the three ubiquitous local beers, in the midst of green and red lights and glowing Finlandia advertisements.

Most of the tables reserved for Ehwa students were set with Finlandia-labeled bottles of various vodka cocktails. Over at the bar, the fare was a little different. We could see a bartender mixing juice and vodka out of a bottle labeled “vodka” in big letters and “Barton” in small letters. Barton Brands is a major American distiller of whisky, gin, run, schnapps, tequila, and vodka. It’s part of the Sazerac Company, which also sells Fireball and Southern Comfort. Barton is the kind of vodka you’d find on the bottom shelf, the kind a cash-strapped college student would reach for without a thought.

We ordered two shots straight. When it went down, we had nothing to say of the flavor. The signage of the bottle had it right: it was simply vodka. So there we were in the land of soju, drinking a cheap American version of Russia’s national drink. Maybe Korean and American college parties aren’t so different after all.

Putting Milk in Turkish Coffee Is Completely Wrong

Jul.05.17

Putting Milk in Turkish Coffee Is Completely Wrong

by Martina Žoldoš

Coffee in Istanbul

I had come down with bronchitis on the Turkish coast two days before, so exploring the treasures of Istanbul in 100-degree weather was more ordeal than fun. The heat was unbearable, and the medicine I had been prescribed was taking its time to kick in. All I wanted was to sit in some shade, feel the breeze on my face, and do nothing.

As I daydreamed about the perfect rest spot, we saw an ancient cemetery with neat gravestones and bushy trees. The gate was open, so we entered, not so much to admire the architecture as to cool off. Then I heard distant chatter, a mixture of laughter and high tones, not the silent murmuring I expected to hear among the tombs. As we followed the sound, the gravestones started to thin out, replaced by trees and flowers. Folk music reached my ears and the smell of tobacco tickled my nostrils. We had stumbled upon a café, where people were enjoying tea, shisha, and chats in the company of the deceased. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

The place was formed out of one large terrace, without doors and windows, where ancient trees protected patrons from the burning sun. Apart from its unusual location, it was a typical café, with colorful carpets, low wooden tables, and no chairs. The mostly male clientele reclined on huge red pillows and sofas scattered around the tables. As we sat down, we received some quick, curious glances, probably because we looked out of place. It seemed like a place for locals.

We ordered Turkish coffee with milk. This is the way I used to prepare it at home in Slovenia: boil the water with sugar in a special pot, add two tablespoons of finely ground coffee, stir, and wait until the mixture starts to rise. Wait a little bit for the powder to sit, and serve—with milk.

Turns out, I’ve been doing it all wrong. The waiter repeated my order, somewhat incredulously.

“Turkish coffee with milk?”

“Yes, please.”

“We don’t serve Turkish coffee with milk.”

I asked him to bring me the coffee and a cup of milk separately, so that I could prepare it myself. He replied that Turkish coffee should never be mixed with milk, and that the only coffee you can drink with milk is instant coffee, which, incidentally, isn’t really coffee. I agreed to order the Turkish version.

The waiter returned in a better mood, with two small, steaming copper pots and some sugar cubes. As I sipped the dark liquid crowned with rich foam, I decided that I prefer a plain cup of strong Turkish coffee to a fake one with milk.

Always Go on the Mid-Traffic Jam Wine Run

Jun.29.17

Always Go on the Mid-Traffic Jam Wine Run

by Susan Ekpoh

Palm wine in Nigeria

Under normal circumstances, alcohol on a wellness getaway would be a no-no, or counterproductive—the odd glass of wine with dinner is perhaps the exception. However, palm wine, or palmy, as locals affectionately call it, is a staple and a healthy part of life at Agbokim—Nigeria’s renowned seven-cascade waterfalls.

We landed in Margaret Ekpo Airport, Calabar, a little later than scheduled, but nevertheless in high spirits. While waiting for luggage, clusters of passengers in yoga poses adorned the carousel area as they attempted to rid their bodies of plane fatigue. Bags in hand, we finally set off for Agbokim waterfalls for a few days to relax in the People’s Paradise, as they call Nigeria’s Cross River State.

But the road to paradise, they say, is rarely smooth: a gravel truck had fallen ahead, spilling its all its contents and creating a gridlock. Humidity-induced restlessness soon spread throughout our bus. Layers of sweat-soaked clothing were peeled off bodies seeking respite.

The driver, Mr. G, suggested some palmy. “Not the adulterated version full of saccharine, bottled and sold in the big cites,” he scoffed. I opted to go with him—anything to get blood flowing through my legs again. Our search led us through muddy paths to a beer joint, housed in a thatched open hut with bamboo tables, where the palm wine sat proudly in a calabash. Mr. G and I were served the palm wine in a wooden gourd. He took the first sip, because he is older, then passed it on to me, eagerly watching, awaiting my approval. It had a sweet taste, accompanied by a sour one, replacing my nerves with a buzz. Smiling at Mr. G in approval, I eyed the cloudy whitish liquid settled at the bottom of the gourd.

“This one is freshly tapped,” the matron boasted in Efik, the local language. Tapping is done by skilled men who climb up palm trees, sometimes 50 feet high, multiple times a day. They use a machete to cut divots up the trunk, which serve as slots for both feet. The wine is extracted in sap form from a hole drilled into the trunk of the tree. No two batches are the same; the tapped liquid continually changes over the course of the day.

The group on the hot bus was more excited about the palm wine than about my safe return. Shortly after the bottles were passed around, the restless sighs faded. I slowly dozed off myself, dreaming of the weekend to come as the palm wine settled in my stomach.

We heard the waterfalls before we saw them. The thunderous voice of each cascade tumbling off the cliff began to wake us from our peaceful slumber. Even the air was different—fresh and clean, draped by mist rising from the torrent below. We were here at last, barely realizing six hours had gone by.

Potentially the World’s Least-Fun Beach Beer

Jun.28.17

Potentially the World’s Least-Fun Beach Beer

by Julian Hattem

Heineken in Cox’s Bazar

Outside, the Indian Ocean was the temperature of bath water, lapping gently at the shore. The dull murmur of the waves was barely audible above the incessant horns of passing rickshaws and motorized three-wheelers scooting through Cox’s Bazar, a burgeoning tourist town in Bangladesh’s southeast corner. The beach runs unbroken for 75 miles, allegedly the longest in the world, and in the evening the sun dips gently into the Bay of Bengal.

But I was inside, at a hotel across the street, through the lobby and behind two unmarked doors in a dimly lit room reminiscent of my grandparents’ basement. Lounge chairs surrounded a few low-lying wooden tables, but I was alone. A single recessed lightbulb shone over one corner of a bar top, reflecting dully in the wine glasses and champagne flutes hung stem-up over the bar.

I came here to get a beer.

Bangladesh is a mostly Muslim country, and alcohol is more or less illegal nationwide. But hotels and clubs that serve foreigners can sometimes obtain special government licenses to sell liquor. In Cox’s Bazar, alcohol is relegated to a few dark corners such as this one, advertised mostly by word-of-mouth to tourists.

Once I found my way inside, the bartender looked me up and down before pouring a cold, six-dollar glass of Heineken. We sat in silence, the mechanical hum of the air conditioner providing the only soundtrack.

For now, Cox’s Bazar mostly attracts domestic tourists from elsewhere in Bangladesh. Locals say business is booming, and the scores of skeletal half-finished hotels under construction suggest that optimism for growth is high. Plans are underway to expand the local airport and bring in international flights. There’s no reason why Cox’s Bazar couldn’t compete with the world-renowned beaches in Thailand or Vietnam, locals claim.

But much of that expected growth is likely to come from foreigners, especially Europeans and Asians looking for a reasonably priced holiday without the crowds of bigger beach resorts. To attract them, local hoteliers acknowledge, the government will have to loosen its anti-liquor laws. Foreign tourists want to throw back a couple cold ones at a beach-side cafe or nightclub, they note, not sit in silence in an unmarked room deep in the bowels of their hotel.

In the meantime, Cox’s Bazar is better known for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who live in poverty on its outskirts, in flimsy huts and collections of muddy camps. A Muslim minority group from neighboring Myanmar, the Rohingya have been forced out by Buddhist nationalists in their home country and struggle to build their life anew in Bangladesh. Many locals distrust the refugees, claiming that they are criminals who degrade their country’s reputation and smuggle meth across the border.

One overpriced beer in a dark hotel bar was enough for me. I downed it quickly, paid up and left, passing back into the glaring florescent lights of the lobby on my way out. The bartender locked the door behind me.


Julian Hattem’s reporting in Bangladesh is being supported by the International Reporting Project.

Mastering the Magic Words For Cheap Beer

Jun.27.17

Mastering the Magic Words For Cheap Beer

by Russ Rowlands

Presidente in the Dominican Republic

“Dame una fria.” Gimme a cold one.

“Uno cien, amigo.”

“Gracias.”

I smiled and put a 100-peso bill on the counter, grabbing the ice-crusted bottle of Presidente pilsner.

Much power is invested in that little phrase, dame una fria. A Dominican friend told me about its significance on my visit to Buena Vista, in the Central Range mountains.

“Only Americanos say una cerveza,” Emmanuel explained.

A medium-sized bottle of Presidente should cost 100 pesos (just over US$2), as advertised on every bottle cap, but at most shops I was paying anything from 110 to 140 pesos. Emmanuel told me that if you look like an Americano, and sound like an Americano, then you can afford Americano pricing, and the clerk will add whatever ‘tax’ on top of the 100 pesos that he thinks you’ll pay without causing a stink.

“You don’t look like an Americano,” Emmanuel said, shrugging, “so you might as well not sound like one.” It was a good piece of advice.

A month later in Santo Domingo, the capital, someone recommended that I check out the ruins of San Francisco monastery, specifically by night, on a Sunday. San Francisco is an impressive pile of red-brick rubble that makes up part of Santo Domingo’s World Heritage Site within the Zona Colonial historical district.

I had already explored the Zona by day, soaking up 500 years of colonial history, contentedly sipping frosty Presidentes from a paper bag. Languid groups of tourists snapped photos while locals wisely went about their business indoors, out of the sun

But following the recommendation, I experienced a different side of the Zona as I set out to find the ruins of San Francisco one Sunday night. Every corner was thronged with jubilant Dominicans, chatting in circles on plastic chairs or standing around food carts waiting for steaming empanadas. I could hear a live band over the happy cacophony of the crowd, the rumbling bass undoubtedly doing damage to centuries-old mortar. A few tourists drifted through the streets, but the celebration was clearly not some pony show staged for visitors.

The press of sweaty bodies got tighter and tighter as I approached the ruins.
People were accommodating, happy to move out of the way if possible, but by the time I reached the last block I could have easily crowd-surfed my way to the front.

Colorful spotlights lit a stage in front of the massive, half-crumbled nave of the monastery. A brassy, 12-piece salsa band was blasting a high-pace tune at the crowd, who sang along as they danced on a platform built over the ragged old cobbles of the street. Food vendors hawking homemade tostones wandered through the plaza, which was book-ended with bright green Presidente tents. I pushed my way into a tent.

“Dame una fria!”

A Story About Love and Hops, from Scotland to Ghana

Jun.26.17

A Story About Love and Hops, from Scotland to Ghana

by Stacey Knott

IPA in Accra

Almost five years ago, I poured a pint of Scotland’s Black Isle Blonde for a Ghanaian chef who came into the bar I worked at in Edinburgh. We bonded over our love of the beer, and he told me all about his country, which I was, coincidentally, about to visit.

This new favorite customer of mine, named John, raved about the hospitality of his fellow-Ghanaians, and how much I’d love it there, promising to connect me with his friends and family.

Fast-forward to June 2017, the chef and I are married, living in Ghana’s capital, Accra, and we’ve found something to rival that Scottish beer we both miss so much.

It’s a hot afternoon, and after being stuck in the usual Accra traffic, we turn down a pothole-riddled, dusty road on the outskirts of this sprawling city to meet brewer Clement Djameh, the owner of Ghana’s only microbrewery. Before we begin our personal tour of the Inland Microbrewery, which takes up part of the bottom floor of a residential house, Clement points out a small crop of sorghum growing outside.

It’s this grain that makes up his beers—it thrives in semi-arid regions—like Ghana’s impoverished northern region.

Clement wanted to use it in his beer to help farmers in Ghana, taking it from a subsistence crop to industrial use. His beers are brewed with 100 percent malted sorghum instead of the usual imported malted barley, commonly found in beers here and across the globe.

He sells his beers for private functions in Ghana, where people buy it by the keg and rent the equipment to serve it, including the dispenser and fridges.

With the tour over and the blazing sun setting on another day, we step outside and, with Oladapo Loto, a visiting brewer from Nigeria, we taste one of these sorghum brews.

Cool glasses of Clement’s IPA are handed out. The foaming top recedes and as John and I take that first sip, his eyes widen.“Whoa, this is so good. This reminds me of that Black Isle Blonde,” he says.

The IPA is smooth and full-bodied. It’s a golden caramel color and doesn’t have the harshness I often find with the local, commercial beers here in Ghana.

While we savor the brew, we talk politics, economics, and corruption—the usual fodder for a Thursday evening. Oladapo and Clement tell us about the 24/7 obsession commercial brewing becomes. But microbrewing gives Clement more freedom.

Interestingly, there’s nothing like this in Nigeria, Oladapo tells us.

“If it was in Nigeria, by now it would have exploded,” he says, to a chorus of “Then start one!”

After visiting Clement’s, he might just do that.

Sitting Outside of Mosul, Waiting for the Sugar to Settle

Jun.22.17

Sitting Outside of Mosul, Waiting for the Sugar to Settle

by Anthony Elghossain

Tea in the Nineveh Plains

The men stir their tea. They speak, stare, and listen. Then, they stir some more.

Some strangers—now fellow-travelers and, indeed, friends—and I have been traipsing around the Nineveh Plains all day. We’re on our way to Mosul. The Western journalists among us are covering the final act in the war to liberate the city, but I’m just here to understand how certain minority factions are positioning themselves for the politics of peace.

The exhilaration of the first few hours have faded, and I’m bored again. “Research” gets repetitive. Race down a road, wait at a checkpoint, sit in a circle, stir the tea, and listen to men with guns. Race up another road, wait at a checkpoint, sit in a square, stir the tea, and listen to more men with guns plot the future—without moving past the past.

I want to drink the tea. But I let it sit there, on a rickety table. They’ve brewed a pot of loose Assam tea: black tea, boiling water, a stick of cinnamon—but no mint, sadly. These folks have heaped mounds of sugar into tiny glasses, and now they’re stirring and stirring, but not sipping. I wonder briefly if the tea is poisoned.

Perhaps Louis, an Iraqi Christian with a soft spot for Saddam and the old Ba‘ath regime, will take the first sip. But he keeps stirring—and speaking.

“Baghdad can guarantee autonomy,” he tells the militiamen gathered in a tin tent outside a village that was home to tens of thousands of Assyrian Christians, before ISIS took over. Various forces—a U.S.-led coalition, the Iraqi national army, Peshmerga, and the innocuously named “popular mobilization units”—cleared the area in October 2016. But folks have been slow to return. “You need to behave carefully over the next few months. Only Baghdad can give you what you want.”

Others aren’t so sure. “Jonathan,” a militiaman from the Shabak community, grimaces and confers quietly with a visiting lawmaker. A commander holds court. Meanwhile, a pair of prim UN staffers, with their pressed khakis and bleached shirts, take notes.

Across the tent, two Assyrians talk. I don’t speak Neo-Aramaic, but can tell they’re chatting about me: “Anthony,” “Lebanese-American,” “researcher,” and—to summarize—“what the fuck is he doing here?” A friend, who’s ushered me around Nineveh and Mosul, whispers: “Maronay”—meaning, Maronite, a largely Lebanese Christian sect. Surprisingly, the designation opens a door. The man smiles and asks me which of the rival Lebanese warlords I prefer.

I demur. He asks about the Mountain War of 1983. We’re outside of Mosul, where the man’s compatriots are fighting for their future, but he’s grilling me about Lebanon’s past.

“Don’t you have enough to worry about here?” I bite back, with a smile. He laughs.

I finally take a sip of my tea. Now I understand why no one is drinking it. This tea is as sweet as syrup. I add water, stir, and try again. I stir, clumsily, for an eternity. “You should let the sugar settle,” whispers a friend, “if you actually want to drink it.”

Too late. The commander’s watching. I keep stirring and begin to speak. “This is delicious, thank you.”

There Is No Period After the “St” in St Ives and Other Cornwall Stuff

Jun.21.17

There Is No Period After the “St” in St Ives and Other Cornwall Stuff

by Alessio Perrone

Cider in Cornwall

We had driven five hours from London to get to St Ives, on the western tip of Cornwall, England. On single-lane roads on which we were the only car, past cliffs looking over the Celtic Sea, under bridges with faded EU flags tied onto them, flapping in the wind—the last remnants of a referendum in which Cornwall voted overwhelmingly to leave.

In St Ives, we waited another 30 minutes to find a seat at the Sloop Inn, a small, crowded pub on the beach, established in 1312. St Ives is quiet; walk down its narrow alleys through the white houses, and you can even hear the wind blowing. But the Sloop Inn was noisy. Ale flowed, a busker played, a tourist took pictures of everything.

We ordered a local cloudy cider—a Rattlers Cyder, poured from a snake-shaped tap. Cornish cider isn’t much different from ciders you get elsewhere, just stronger. This one is fizzy and bitter.

We had just begun to taste it when Marshall arrived. A local man in his 20s, blonde, blue-eyed, with an incredibly round face and a blue hoodie.

“Mind if I sit with you, mate?” He’s had a few. “This is the best place in St Ives,” he said to nobody in particular. He started to ramble.

To Marshall, St Ives is the best place in the world: it has “the best” New Year’s celebrations, in which people dress up and head to the beach to watch fireworks (“Well, the best after London. And Edinburgh”); he thinks it has the best Cornish pasties, baked thick-crust pastries originally made for miners so they could eat their meals warm and with their hands (“Well, the best after the ones you get in the countryside”), and the best light to paint—a blade through your eyes when the sun is out.

“It is touristy, so you get all the shops and bars, but it doesn’t lose its Cornish identity, its character,” he said.

But it seems that Cornwall is changing. It’s still largely dependent on agriculture, but one by one, its sources of wealth have waned. Once, it relied on fishery and mining, but then, with foreign competition, those industries became unprofitable. Cornwall became one of the poorest areas in Britain. More recently, it has relied on tourism and EU subsidies. (Cornwall qualifies for poverty-related EU grants, but soon won’t be receiving those anymore.)

Tourism, though, doesn’t seem to be waning. In St Ives, the fishermen’s inns have given way to tourists’ residences and dozens of art galleries, as artists flocked here, lured by the light. Taverns have become bars and restaurants by the beach.

Some 45 minutes later, we still hadn’t had a chance to talk to each other. Marshall was telling us about an adventure he had in France with eight people in one car. Then he realized he’d finished his drink.

He mumbled something that must have meant “Nice to meet you and good-bye” and left us half-apologetically.

Our moment had gone. The busker had gone. The Inn was getting quieter, the wind chillier. The sun had disappeared behind the houses. We contemplated having another cider while we watched Marshall wobble away. Nah, not this time.

A Drink for Goa’s Hot Summer Nights and Torrential Rains

Jun.20.17

A Drink for Goa’s Hot Summer Nights and Torrential Rains

by Sonia Filinto

Urak in Goa

It was hot and humid. The monsoon season was still a few weeks away; just the right weather for downing a few pegs of urak.

Feni might be the more famous Goan brew, distilled from the cashew apple, but urak—the fruit’s first distillate—is the drink of choice for Goans in the summer months. Urak is distilled only from March to May, the cashew fruit-bearing season. It also has a short shelf life of four to five months. It has a fruity and mildly pungent aroma and flavor; it’s certainly an acquired taste. But it’s light and refreshing, and the cashew apple season coincides with the weather heating up, so it’s like the stars align to give Goans a drink to beat the heat.

One hot summer evening, a friend plugged in to the local bar scene suggested Joseph Bar. It’s an old hole-in-the-wall tavern in Fontainhas, the Latin Quarter in Goa’s capital, Panaji. Space is restricted, with patrons spilling into the narrow lane outside. The urak is excellent, so no one complains.

I happened to meet an acquaintance, who offered me his outdoor seat while my friend made himself comfortable on the curb. The waiter brought out our drinks. My friend drinks his urak with water, club soda, and a lime-flavored carbonated drink along with a sprinkling of salt and a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon. Old-timers like my father enjoy their urak the purists’ way—on the rocks or with water. I like both styles.

As I drank, a feeling of lightness took over—not to be confused with the alcohol-fueled light-headedness that feni might cause: urak is a milder brew. It absorbed all the tiredness from my day; I had been at work since 6 a.m. As the evening progressed, the conversations around us showed no signs of ending. The crowd—locals and tourists alike—spread across the road outside the bar.

The waiter brought us the last of the prawn rissois. I told him that he looked familiar. My instincts were correct: he had worked at Clube Nacional, a legendary old club and events venue in Panaji, which had for years been declining but still had a popular bar—until the building started to collapse and everything closed down. The waiter was himself somewhat legendary, both for his long tenure at Clube Nacional and for his knack for remembering his customers’ preferred drinks. After a few other gigs in between, he had ended up at Joseph Bar.

He promised to serve us hot snacks if we came in earlier the next day. I didn’t make it to Joseph Bar the next evening, but I will soon.

The Sahara, Johnny Cash, and Mint Tea Are a Surprisingly Good Combination

Jun.19.17

The Sahara, Johnny Cash, and Mint Tea Are a Surprisingly Good Combination

by Brian Fritz

Mint tea in the Sahara

We had been driving off-road through the Sahara near the Moroccan-Algerian border for what seemed like a day, but was probably closer to two hours.

Every bump along the landscape became more pronounced. The rattling of the truck grew louder, drowning out the odd yet satisfying mix of music—Johnny Cash, Enrique Iglesias and Sting—favored by our driver. The air in the truck was stagnant and humid—opening the windows was not an option unless you wanted a sand shower.

As bleak as it was inside the truck, outside did not appear much better. Whirling winds made seeing anything through the flying sand difficult. The only signs of life were a few roaming camels.

So you could imagine our joy when our driver told us there was an oasis up ahead—which turned out to be a small, mud-brick guesthouse.

We were greeted by three men in djellabas who sought shade on wobbly plastic chairs under a tree. On a table in the middle of them rested a familiar sight: a traditional Moroccan teapot. After exchanging salams, one of the men raised his glass to us and said, “tea?” In Morocco, greetings are synonymous with mint tea.

Mint tea—or “Moroccan whiskey”—is the official drink of Morocco. But it’s a bit of a misnomer—it’s actually green tea imported from China. The name comes from the bushel of fresh mint added to the teapot during the brewing process—along with an obscene amount of sugar. It’s alcohol-free, but it’s a sugar-spiked glass of deliciousness.

One of the men got up and hurried to find chairs for us. Another went into the guesthouse to retrieve two additional glasses. The last of the men went about making more tea.

When the tea finished brewing (and not a second earlier), we were each served a glass—poured high in the customary way of aerating the tea and creating foam at the top. The first sip revealed something different, though— the tea tasted stronger, less sugary than the tea we had drank in Marrakech.

“Not as much sugar?” I said while holding up my glass. The men laughed and one of them responded, “Berber whiskey!” The men told us proudly how the Berbers native to this area prefer their tea stronger, unlike the sugar-infused tea of the cities. We also learned they drink tea throughout the day as a way to quench their thirst in the desert heat.

We needed to get going before dark, so we finished our tea, said our goodbyes and continued our journey. Our bellies burned with Berber whiskey while Johnny Cash took us deeper into the desert.

Now Craving Mezcal Distilled Under a Raw, Skinless Chicken

Jun.15.17

Now Craving Mezcal Distilled Under a Raw, Skinless Chicken

by Allegra Ben-Amotz

Mezcal in Mexico City

Upon moving to Mexico City, my husband and I immediately set out to determine our happy-hour spot, a place to cut through the smog that stuck in the back of our throats and watch the brilliant, dusty sunset.

La Nacional is a casual mezcal bar, not hidden away, cramped, or trendy like some of the more written-about mezcalerias. They’re serious about the stuff: the menu is an intersecting web connecting agave varieties to over 100 mezcals. It’s easier to just tell your waiter what you’d like—something smoky, sweet, or smooth—and have them bring two or three bottles to sniff and approve before pouring.

We take every visitor to one of the outside tables to get a mezcal education and a front-row seat to the orchestra of the city’s street vendors: the clack clack clack of the man knocking metal canisters inside his closed fist to sell you electric shocks; the ghostly recording of a little girl’s voice pleading for pieces to be broken down for scrap metal; the high-pitched whistle of the camote vendor peddling roasted sweet potatoes and plantains.

When our friends Justin and Melanie come to visit, we sample smooth mezcal de pechuga, alternating it with sips of sour orange juice. Pechuga means breast in Spanish, and indeed, the finished liquor undergoes a third distillation underneath a raw, skinless chicken or turkey breast, with seasonal fruits, grains and nuts added to the mix. The vapors that emanate from the spirit cook the breast, and it imparts some of its savory flavor to balance the fruit’s sweetness and mellow the earthiness of the roasted agave. It’s less smoky than some of its counterparts, and tastes nothing like chicken.

We’re savoring our pechugas when we hear the piercing squeal of carbon escaping the metal pipe of the camote cart, like steam from a teapot, and I grab my wallet. “Be right back.”

The camote vendor opens the smoking drawer of his cart that sits above a flame, revealing skinned, melty bananas nestled together with roasted sweet potatoes. Sixty pesos for two potatoes, halved and thickly drizzled with condensed milk. I run back across the street and set our snacks down.

We dig in; the skin gives way to soft flesh. “This is perfectly cooked,” Justin remarks. “It tastes like Thanksgiving,” my husband says, and I nod, remembering my aunt’s marshmallow-topped side dish. The four of us are quiet for a minute, trading kisses of mezcal for bites of sweet potato, thinking of home.

If You Have to Have Ice In Your Whisky, Make it Antarctica Glacier Ice

Jun.14.17

If You Have to Have Ice In Your Whisky, Make it Antarctica Glacier Ice

by Lucy Sheriff

Whisky in Antarctica

In March, I boarded a ship to Antarctica to shoot a documentary on climate change. The Ocean Endeavor departed from Ushuaia, on the southernmost tip of Argentina, and sailed around West Antarctica for 10 days.

My fellow passengers were a strange mix of scientists, tourists, and climate-change campaigners. As I watched the ship fuel up in Ushuaia, I worried about my sea legs. The furthest I’d sailed so far was the ferry from Dover to Calais. Crossing the Drake Passage—the body of water between Cape Horn, Chile, and West Antarctica—has been described as similar to being inside a washing machine, as the rough waves of the Southern Ocean squeeze through the bottlenecked passage. But it was the only way through.

So, for two days, as the ship heaved up-and-down and side-to-side and my stomach followed suit, I told myself it was a small price to pay for visiting the driest, windiest, coldest place on earth. We finally reached calm waters, and Half Moon Island. Six days of landings on the South Shetland Islands followed. During our various trips from ship to island, which we made in tiny zodiac boats so we wouldn’t disturb the wildlife, the ship’s crew informed us that it was tradition to collect glacier ice from the sea. (Not for scientific reasons, but because it was nice to have glacier ice with your whisky.) We unfurled a small fishing net and hauled a nearby floating chunk onto the boat.

As the end of the trip approached, the return journey through the Drake Passage loomed. But before that, a rite of passage awaited: the Polar Plunge, for those who have made it to Antarctica by ship. All I had to do was jump from the boat into Antarctic waters. Without a wetsuit.

I was reluctant, but after some good-old peer pressure and the prospect of a post-plunge whisky I lined up, and dove headfirst into water so dark it resembled black ink. My body felt like it was being stuck by thousands of pins. When I surfaced, I took a gasp so big it felt like my lungs were bottomless. I clambered out and scuttled to the bar to meet my fellow plungers.

The Nautilus Bar was on the top deck, with almost-panoramic windows so you couldn’t forget you were drinking at the South Pole. It was busy. Fellow plungers in bathrobes toasted each other. And there, atop the counter on a plinth, was the glacier ice we’d fished out of the water, glistening under the light. It was about time to upgrade from my cranberry juice and test it out.

“Whisky, big. On the rocks.”

The barman duly chiseled a chunk off and plopped it in my tumbler. I took a sip. It was cold—and salty.

May Budapest’s Ruin Pubs Last Forever

Jun.13.17

May Budapest’s Ruin Pubs Last Forever

by Dave Hazzan

Beer in Budapest

The “ruin pub” is a Budapest institution, and the place to be any night of the week in the Hungarian capital.

The premise is simple, smart, and sometimes illegal. You take a piece of ground that is abandoned and falling apart. You fix it up (but not too much), open a bar, serve drinks, and watch the money roll in. The trend began sometime around 2001, and continues today. It’s like capitalist squatting.

Some of them, like Szimpla Kert and Instant, are enormous, stretched out over hundreds of square feet of prime Budapest land.

In Instant, there are about 20 different rooms—some have bands, some have DJs, some are quiet. There is foosball and table hockey, and long couches and furniture lifted from the Salvation Army. Upstairs, there are hostel rooms, though I don’t know who could sleep in this place.

The most popular place to be, at least when the weather is clear, is the courtyard open to the sky. There, table space is at a premium even when the other rooms are empty. Trees grow through the floor, tripping up drinkers.

Cheap flights from England combined with cheap liquor here means there are gaggles of young Brits all over Budapest’s party houses, ruin pubs included. Visit only the bars, and you’d think you were in Ibiza.

In the Instant courtyard, a British bachelor party is falling-down drunk and obnoxious. One guy keeps at me for a few minutes, like he wants to kick my ass. Perhaps I should be concerned—he’s young and buff, and I’m fat and 41.

But he has trouble finding his sea legs, and within five minutes he’s doing Sambuca shots with his buddies, who are holding each other up and singing Oasis. No, it’s not what’s on the stereo.

Szimpla Kert is the better of the ruin pubs, and not only for its lack of bachelor parties. The original ruin bar, it’s been in its present location since 2004. They say it’s the most winterized of them all, staying open all year and in all weather. It’s also the most fun, hosting a cosmopolitan mix of tourists young and old, and Hungarians.

In the courtyard sits a Trabant, East Germany’s famously unreliable signature automobile. Trees grow here too, some strung with hammocks, and are pleasant to lean on when you can’t get one of the tables, though we lucked out.

Beer is the preferred tipple, not least because it’s the cheapest. There is also a long cocktail list, and they pour a lot of shots. But plastic cups of beer are the best way to enjoy your time in the dilapidated courtyard, up against the Trabant, chatting with the world.

How these places stay open is unclear—obviously they’ve made an agreement with the city, who must know their worth to the Budapest tourist industry. May the ruins last forever.

Photo by: Jo Turner

Huh, They Have Hoegaarden in North Korea

Jun.12.17

Huh, They Have Hoegaarden in North Korea

by Rebecca High

Beer in Pyongyang

After my first afternoon in North Korea, happy hour had never sounded better.

I was there with a group of runners for the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon. Since we landed, it had been a whirlwind of tension and adrenaline, beginning with an intimidating airport security check. Then, we were shown some carefully curated sights in the capital from the confines of a bus, overseen by government-vetted guides. First up: a whistle-stop propaganda circuit of Pyongyang. We also visited the city’s (larger) knock-off of France’s Arc De Triomphe—a monument to Korea’s resistance to Japan—and some captured U.S. military vehicles.

We were allowed to take photos, but only of monuments and war trophies, not of the North Koreans in dark clothing we saw from our bus, cycling or working the fields by hand. We also paid tribute to massive bronze statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, Great Leader and Dear Leader, grandfather and father, respectively, to current leader Kim Jong-un. Citizens are required to lay flowers at their feet; guests are encouraged to do so, and some of our group did.

We finally headed to a restaurant on the second floor of a nondescript building, above an empty bowling alley. A long table had been set with mysterious fried meats, rice topped with ketchup, and small golden piles of egg salad. There were no other patrons. We were offered beer, and eagerly accepted. It was served cold in chilled mugs, and tasted delicious: a rice lager, but rich, both in flavor and color. Our guide called it Golden Lanes Microbrew, and explained that it was local, brewed in the bowling alley underneath the restaurant. (Of course, local in this case means it’s owned by the state.)

The beer was the highlight of the meal, and we ordered a second round, learning that the word for “cheers” in North Korea is different to the one in South Korea: “Chook-bae!” instead of “Geonbae!”

After dinner, the manager offered to open the bowling alley downstairs. We never saw where they brewed the beer, but under a life-sized photograph of Kim Jong-il, we put on those universally clownish bowling shoes while our guides distributed warm cans of random import beer: Heineken, Hoegaarden, Beer Hanoi.

“Where’s that local draught, the microbrew?” I asked. But the guides didn’t answer. Instead, they encouraged us to choose an import. I settled for a Heineken.

A Very Special U.K. Election Drunken Screed

Jun.09.17

A Very Special U.K. Election Drunken Screed

by Roads and Kingdoms

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For this special edition of our weekly Drunken Screed, we at Roads & Kingdoms asked some of our favorite Brits to have a drink or five and weigh in on the surprisingly exciting U.K. general election. Grab a pint and join us as we rant, rave, and revel over last night’s vote.

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My Whole Brain Feels Like a Bottle of Champagne
Moët & Chandon in South London
By Sam Kriss

I had forgotten, almost, what this kind of sheer joy felt like: the sheer, giddy, terrified pleasure seething through my skull, fizzy and corrosive, dissolving everything, un-concatenating my words, melting through my interior monologue, leaving every considered and conscious thought broken up like a thin layer of scum floating over fathomless, impenetrable happiness. This was how it felt when I first saw the exit poll in last night’s British election. My whole brain felt like a bottle of champagne.

Everyone I knew was loudly insisting that something positive could happen, while quietly expecting the worst. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party was surging in the polls, but the polls had been wrong so many times before, and his message of solidarity and kindness and tremulous impossible hope was facing the dread certainty of a Conservative landslide.

This whole election had been a hideous contrivance: Prime Minister Theresa May had spotted an opportunity to massively increase her hand and give electoral weight to her project—hard Brexit, pitiless social sadism, covert racism bulging monstrously into fully-fleshed being—and she took it. The rest of us were just passengers, mute and helpless. Those of us who believed in something better were about to be crushed. Our enemies, the vultures of common sense and political reality, were laughing in their low, hollow sky. I had expected to stay up until sunrise watching the BBC, alone, inconsolable, mourning a future that never had the chance to be born.

The experts were wrong. The projected result showed a substantial gain for Labour: not enough for them to form a government, but enough to destroy the Tory narrative of inevitability, enough to prove that socialism really isn’t a cultish fringe interest, but the only way forwards. Instead of staring heartbroken at a lonely screen, I found myself speeding in a taxi to the South London headquarters of Novara, an insurgent left-wing media outfit. This was not what was supposed to happen. This is not the report I expected to write.

The whole place was fizzing with terror and excitement. In the foyer, a small group of people—friends, writers, commentators, activists, people who had been on the leftward fringes of British politics for years, but were suddenly discovering that they were right all along—clustered around laptops, smoked frantic cigarettes by the doorway, popped open cans of Red Stripe. Every Tory defeat brought a chorus of roars and a flurry of joyous swearing. A few of us would occasionally bound up to the studio upstairs, to channel our wordless joy into sober political commentary for the all-night live stream. It was impossible: grins kept bursting out on our faces.

Eventually, long past midnight, a few of us went on a booze run, jumping around in the empty London streets between the bright abyssal glare of the all-night KFC and the sullen tenebrosity of shuttered warehouses and silent shops. We must have wandered miles, chasing 24-hour off-licences on Google Maps, before we found one; it felt like a Homeric voyage. When we found one, I impulsively grabbed two bottles of Moët & Chandon I couldn’t really afford. “What are you celebrating?” another shopper asked. She grinned. She knew the answer.

We’d done it. Finally, when dawn broke, the sky was entirely clear. A faint, shining, impossible blue flooded over the city, and I really believed that there would be no more low and drizzly days in London ever again.

*

Fuck You, Theresa May. Signed, A Citizen of Nowhere.
Butcombe Bitter in Brentford
By Alexa van Sickle

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I had a very modest hope for this election. All I wanted was for Theresa May—and the Tories who got us into this mess—to have a bloody good scare.

It’s what they deserved for their vile campaigning, amplified by the even more vile right-wing press, for being so cocky they didn’t bother providing costing details in their manifesto, and for May calling this snap election to strengthen her grip on power. (In case you’re wondering, Corbyn isn’t my guy either. Among other concerns I have, his anaemic support for the Remain campaign was, I believe, a big factor in the vote to leave the EU.)

I voted in the Borough of Hounslow, my sometimes-home in the U.K. The polling station, in the squat clubhouse on the edge of a 1970s housing development, was empty apart from myself and two election volunteers. Afterwards, just past noon, the Magpie and Crown, a small Georgian-façade pub on the high street, was slightly busier. But all the customers were solo: reading papers, working, or stroking their chins over pints of ale.

In some ways, I got what I wanted. The Tories are rattled in more ways than we could have hoped for only a month ago. But I can’t help thinking about how my expectations have lowered so much in just one year that I’ve learned to accept, and expect, only crumbs from the political universe.

Here’s another example: I hated her politics, but I wanted to give Theresa May the benefit of the doubt when she succeeded David Cameron when he resigned after the Brexit referendum. Friends who had worked under her in the civil service always said she was sharp; that she read all the materials in her red box; that she cared, that she did her homework. This sounded like a relatively good deal next to a certain orange-tinted bullshit purveyor, and even next to that consummate political dilettante, David Cameron, who made his government an extension of the Eton common room. Above all, I regarded May as a lucky escape from that monumental hypocrite, Boris Johnson—the original fake news merchant who shaped a generation of British EU-bashing as Brussels correspondent for The Torygraph by making up lies about EU directives on the straightness of bananas and the recycling of sex toys. (This illustrious journalism career was after he was fired from The Times for making up a quote, by the way.)

But it turns out, even asking only for a capable pair of hands was asking for the moon. The campaign revealed May is not capable at all. She seemed to have no vision. She repeated meaningless alliterative slogans—for several totally unrelated questions—like a string puppet. She lacked grace under fire. She also didn’t call out Trump when he attacked London Mayor Sadiq Khan after the London Bridge attacks. And of course, her policies read like a Daily Mail editor’s wet dream. They probably are.

I got what I wanted. But as poetic as this electoral drubbing feels, it comes with some unintended potential disasters. If somewhere down the line this Tory snafu ends up ushering Boris Johnson back within sniffing distance of the leadership—he’s no doubt already licking his lips—to me that will have been one of her worst misadventures.

Also, the morning after, my gleeful fog of Schadenfreude gave way to another rude realization. May said she called this election to secure a stronger mandate for Brexit talks, which are set to start in 10 days. She’s persevering with the same cliff-edge Brexit, it seems, but her now weaker hand bodes ill for the flexibility and diplomacy required for the task. She has already needlessly antagonized her European partners. She mindlessly repeats that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” She has never explained this gibberish, so allow me: she is laying the groundwork for walking away, so she can blame everything—everything unpopular her party ever does in the future—on the intransigent 27 EU states who (how dare they?) are presenting a united front.

She also says she wants to guarantee the rights of UK citizens in the EU, and those of EU citizens in the UK—but how can that happen if she walks? She is openly disdainful of what she calls “citizens of nowhere”: the people who might—for many different reasons, perhaps even because of something called freedom of movement—call more than one place home. She said we don’t know what citizenship is.

I am a citizen only of the UK. But I was born and raised in what is now an EU country. I have spent most of my life outside the UK. My lack of dual citizenship, which I never knew I would need, (thanks, Brexit!) could certainly cause me some problems later.

But these would pale in comparison to the problems May’s “no deal” would cause for the millions of EU nationals who have settled in the UK, some for decades. Restaurant workers, joiners, bankers, musicians, cleaners, doctors, nurses, students. Not to mention the Polish bartender at the Magpie and Crown who served me my cheeky half-pint of Butcombe Bitter ale—and that Romanian baker who hit one of the London Bridge terrorists on the head with a crate. The same goes for the millions of UK nationals living in the EU whose futures are unbearably uncertain. Many on both sides are already leaving, because May has refused all opportunities to guarantee they can stay.

She says these millions of people are a priority when she starts to negotiate Brexit later this month. I don’t believe her.

*

Jez We Can!
Sam Adams at Newark Airport
By Yasmin Khan

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I’m sitting in bar at Newark airport, sipping a pint of Samuel Adams that is far too cold. (I never did understand why the Yanks insist on serving me ale the temperature of ice cream, but that’s another rant, for another time). My plane has been delayed and for once I’ve never been happier to prop up the bar in dreary and dank airport whilst clicking refresh on my iPhone every 30 seconds. Why? Because the exit polls in the British election are in and Jeremy Corbyn, the 68-year-old socialist and pacifist from north London has managed to create the biggest political upset in British politics in decades. And I’m over-the-fucking-moon.

Corbyn’s vibrant election campaign went against all of the establishment’s rules and yet still managed to secure a whopping 40 percent of the national vote, the highest share of the Labour vote in 20 years. Voter turnout was high, particularly amongst the under 25s who came out in droves to support his radical platform of redistribution, investment in public services, and peace. Theresa May, the Tory gremlin who pushed an ugly agenda of selfishness and greed, lost her overall majority and the UK is heading for a hung parliament. I gulp down another beer and take a moment to glance up from my phone to smile manically at no one in particular. My cheeks are flushed pink and I have butterflies in the pit of my stomach as I realise I feel something I’ve not for years. Hope. The torture of it is almost unbearable.

A hung parliament? How could that be a cause for celebration. I know us Brits are known for downplaying success, but surely we should have been hoping for better that that, right? Not quite.

The outpouring of electoral support for Corybyn comes in the context of him having faced the most unrelenting barrage of criticism from every section of the mainstream media, as well as most of his (back-stabbing) parliamentary Labour Party. All of them insisted that Corbyn was utterly unelectable and have spent the last two years putting every ounce of their energy into trying to destroy him. They ridiculed and mocked, claiming he was too old school, too unpolished, a dinosaur from another time that wanted to take us back to the 70s. They derided his claims that young people wanted a different kind of politics, insisting instead that the youth were simply apathetic and lazy. They scoffed at the premise that the electorate would ever support a radical programme of higher taxation, change to the economic system, investment in public services, free education, affordable housing, a living wage, abolishing nuclear weapons. Well, guess what? Corbyn and his team put it out there and people loved it. So who’s having the last laugh now?

Disclaimer: I’ve known Jeremy Corbyn for 18 years. I first met him when I was student at Sheffield University when he came to speak about nuclear non-proliferation as a member of Labour CND, and when I moved to London and started getting involved in politics I campaigned alongside him in movements against the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, in solidarity with Palestine, and against the sale of arms trade to repressive regimes. When I worked for the charity INQUEST that supported families who had lost loved ones in police or prison custody, Jezza, as he is affectionately known, was our local MP and someone we could always call upon to support our work. In short, he was one of us. Never interested in the Westminster career politics circus, he spent his time as an MP diligently and vociferously campaigning on issues of principle, not giving a shit if he was unpopular as long as he took a stand on matters of moral and political conscience. He was principled and honest. Kind and fair. Committed to fighting for equality. And it that my friends, that makes this election result so extraordinary. Because it is those principles that have won.

Never again can the political classes say that a radical left-wing platform isn’t electorally viable. Never again can they say that it’s unrealistic. That young people don’t care about politics. Turns out, they really do, when there is a decent alternative to the status quo being offered. All around the world we are seeing election results that show ordinary people are fed up with our broken political and economic system and want radical change. The grip of the corporate media on elections has been lost and through social media we are seeing that alternative narratives can be shared and be successful. The rules of the game have changed.

I move onto the plane and onto the hard stuff. Gin for me. Vodka for my traveling companion. We raise a toast to another world being possible. I sink back into my seat, still smiling manically and relishing the fact that a new kind of politics has been born in the UK. A new movement has been created and I’m thrilled to have been part of it. A movement for the many, not the few.

*

A Craft Beer Socialist in a World Where the Bastards Don’t Always Win
Pale Ale in Tuscany
By Craig Ballinger

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The exit polls are in and I crack a big bottle. I’ve got 750 ml of the finest Italian Pale Ale to see me through this thing. The fireflies are out and the silhouette of a Tuscan mountain looms beautifully in the moonlight behind my laptop screen.

The 2017 general election is a big deal for me. I’ve been charmed by the outsider Jeremy Corbyn, a decent man in a dirty game. I’ve been given the most fragile of feelings: hope. The idea that in this age where all of capitalism’s failings are exposed, that someone can take the reins, lead people through the mess, and bring a party back into power that represents the majority of Britain, is a dangerous one.

This surprise election went weird when it seemed the Conservatives didn’t want to finish the fight they started. Prime Minister Theresa May announced she wouldn’t participate in any TV debates. The Labour party went into campaign mode, many taking on the fight of their lives.

Corbyn, the Labour leader and life-long back-bench MP, stepped up and sharpened up, despite being maligned by the press and personally attacked by the government and his own party. Nobody likes a socialist, apparently. He gave fine speeches, engaged with the public, and oversaw a manifesto that gave the British public some ideas of what a different style of government could offer. I even tracked Corbyn at a couple of events and had a chat to reaffirm my faith. I can confirm he’s a top guy.

When in government, the Labour party lost support over the invasion of Iraq and from shouldering the blame in the financial crisis. When Tony Blair’s Labour was messing up the Middle East, Corbyn was on the streets with the anti-war protesters.

I’m busy doing some bourgeois shit, or at least facilitating it. I’m out in Tuscany catering a flower school, drinking pale ale watching election results roll in, a full Craft Beer Socialist. The most local brewery in Lucca, Tuscany is Bruton, brewing big modern flavours in big bottles. I’m working on it like someone’s going to take it away.

The ruling Conservative party surprised us with a ‘snap’ election, an attempted power grab when the polls were in their favour. Now, their leader is weaker than ever, a disheveled bird knocked from her high perch. The Brexit mess is one of Conservative making, but it’s also one they don’t seem capable of handling.

The party of the rich are generally hard to take on. Britain’s biggest tabloids, the Sun and the Daily Mail, with a combined circulation of over three million, ran a desperate smear campaign full of hatred and Corbyn smiled throughout. Now, we’re facing one of the most incredible turnarounds in political history. A man hounded by the media, undermined by his own party, loathed by the establishment, has changed the debate and set British politics on an entirely new course.

The truly shocking part of this election period so far has been that it has seen two significant terrorist attacks, one in Manchester and the other in London. The tabloids were quick to take aim at Corbyn, levelling accusations that he’s a ‘terrorist sympathiser’ due to his past as an activist and peacemaker. He is a divisive character and marginal wins do not make divisions disappear. But the voter who turns to racism, to hatred, to extremes is also the voter that can be easily influenced, and shown that the world doesn’t have to be ruled by fear.

Big bottles are celebratory; they usually contain champagne. This is a just-perfect 5.5 percent pale, no fucking about. I’d take beer over any other drink, at any point. I’m going to sleep optimistic, despite knowing that I’ll get paid less for this as the pound slides. Such is the nature of an uncertain world. But it’s nice to feel like it’s one where the bastards aren’t always winning.

Never Stop Honing Your Skills at Sniffing Out Alcohol in Unexpected Places

Jun.08.17

Never Stop Honing Your Skills at Sniffing Out Alcohol in Unexpected Places

by Ying Tey Reinhardt

Beer on Hatta Island

Pulau Hatta—Hatta Island—is a little island that the Dutch once named Rozengain that sits in the Banda Sea.

Brutal wars raged here during the 16th-18th centuries. Part of the larger Maluku archipelago of Indonesia, the Banda Islands—then infamously known as the Spice Islands—are home to one of that era’s most prized and fought-over commodities: nutmeg and mace. The British, the Portuguese, and the Dutch all fought each other for monopoly of the islands, massacring thousands of Bandanese in the process. In those days, just a small amount of nutmeg in Europe could make a man wealthy beyond his imagination.

Now, Rozengain has been renamed Hatta after Indonesia’s first vice-president, who spent time in exile in Banda Neira, the main island of the Bandas. These islands are remote and a pain in the butt to get to—which is precisely why we chose to come here for our honeymoon.

My husband and I are sitting at the verandah of our bungalow at Sarah’s homestay, peeling mace from sun-dried nutmegs. Ominous skies hang low over the raging sea. It doesn’t look good. The rain hasn’t started yet but the sultry air tells us an onslaught is coming. We can smell it.

On the beach, middle-school kids—girls in black and white headscarves and boys in long sleeved, striped yellow jerseys and brown jogging bottoms, amble around.

Instinctively I pull my scarf and throw it around my bare shoulders. Hatta Island, while a little more touristy than before—where 30 or so foreigners fill up the few homestays available—is still a conservative island.

That’s why we were delighted when we found out there was beer. The other long-time residents of Sarah’s homestay had let us in on the secret. Outside the only shop that sells Bintang—the national beer of Indonesia—hangs a sign: “We sell cold drinks.” It’s the shop owner’s clever way to hint to travelers about their alcoholic treasure chest.

The first time we went there, we almost didn’t find it. The little shop was inconspicuous and dingy. The dusty shelves stocked toilet paper, travel-sized Dove and Pantene shampoos, brandless toothpaste, tiny packets of washing detergent, and local chocolate wafer-and-caramel bars called Beng Beng.

When we requested a ‘cold drink’, the lady behind the counter asked, “Big or small?” A Bintang can of 330ml cost 30,000 Rupiah ($2.25) while a 500ml bottle cost 50,000 Rupiah ($3.76). Expensive by Indonesian standards. It was cold too. It was a mystery how these Bintangs could still be cold when electricity only buzzes from 6 p.m. to midnight, powered by generators.

Eventually, we get bored of peeling mace. “Hey, how about some of those cold drinks?” I ask my husband.

Cold Beer Is Cold Beer, Just Drink It Already

Jun.07.17

Cold Beer Is Cold Beer, Just Drink It Already

by Efraín Villanueva

Costeñitas in Colombia

We arrive at La Popular in Barranquilla. The decoration, the chairs, the tables and, of course, the name of the bar, are meant to emulate the ambience of the traditional tiendas–-street corner stores that also serve beers. If it weren’t for their night-club-like prices and their location on the ground-floor terrace of a shiny new mall in one of the city’s most exclusive neighborhoods, they might have pulled it off.

My friend, El Flaco, asks us what we want to drink, but before we can reply he orders a bucket of Costeñitas.

“Just for starters,” he says.

Ever since I can remember, this brand has been marketed as a beer for women. It’s 4 percent ABV, but comes in small, green bottles, just 6 ounces. When I was a kid, my mom would drink no more than three whenever we went to the beach. But about four or five years ago, everybody on the north coast started drinking Costeñitas. I know El Flaco from high school—around 25 five years ago—and he has lived in Barranquilla his entire life. I figure he must know how this trend started.

“I don’t know. I just like it. I love the taste, it’s unlike any other.”

I take a very cold one from the bucket, let the water of the ice slide down the bottle. It’s been many years since the last time I had one. I take a sip, El Flaco is right: it tastes like no other. I remember why it was never my favorite. It’s like they tried a to combine bitterness and sweetness but failed to balance the two. At least it’s really cold. El Flaco and I await the opinion of my German fiancé.

“It tastes rusty,” Sabeth proclaims.

I take her bottle and clean its top with a napkin. With the warm weather it’s not unusual for the cap to rust a little. A Barranquillero knows that. She tries again and grimaces with disapproval.

“I’m not sure. It tastes like… I don’t know. It has a weak flavor. Also, the bottle looks like a lemonade bottle.”

For the next round, El Flaco sticks with Costeñita. I order Águila, a beer created in Barranquilla in 1913 that has been produced here ever since–the bestselling brand in the country. Sabeth orders a Golden Club Colombia, a stronger, premium version of Águila. All three brands are produced and distributed by the same company: Bavaria. There is no way of deciding which beer is the best, and as soon as the alcohol kicks in we forget all about it.

Should the Revolution Be Fun?

Jun.06.17

Should the Revolution Be Fun?

by Bhavya Dore

Beer in Paris

The black-clad cops crouched and walked backwards slowly, their faces shielded, their bodies taut in readiness. The first line of marchers approached them, a 30-foot distance between the two groups. It felt like watching one of those iconic protester-cop face-off pictures come alive.

On May 1, when thousands of people marched from the Place de la Republic to the Place de la Bastille in Paris, they were upholding a hoary tradition of protest. But given that the presidential election was later that week, this year’s march came with a topical twist: lambasting Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, the remaining candidates on the ballot. White vans slowly chugged alongside the slogan-shouting, placard-carrying men and women. One showed Le Pen as the devil, Macron as an alien. Another described them both as the plague.

A friend who had come to help translate as I wrote a story about the protesters stopped beside one of the slow-moving vehicles an hour after scurrying around talking to people.

“Time for beer,” said Audrey decisively as we jogged up to one of the vans. Heinekens were procured for two euros apiece. We cracked the tabs open, and the beer hissed back.

That rather slowed down progress on the reporting front. A beer in one hand and a notebook in another is not a good look. Neither is it a practical one.

After a few bracing swigs I passed my can back to Audrey, who was once again thrust back into translation duties. I caught up with a member of the feminist group Femen. Normally their style is topless protesting; today, they were fully clothed and fully shod. Their vocal game was still very good. “Le Pen promotes xenophobia and homophobia and is totally not a feminist,” said Sophia Antoine, 38, an activist with the group.

Further ahead, firecrackers periodically ripped through the air. Every now and then, a cloudburst of color would erupt; little plumes of pink and orange.

A Sri Lankan group walked past, urgently drawing attention to the violence in their country. A band of refugees trudged on. Balloons bobbed through the moving sea of humanity and soapbox-style histrionics surfaced from time to time on the marching route. There were rainbow flags and French flags and Europe flags.

From somewhere there was music, and despite the grimness of the political sloganeering, no one was going home without a party. And what a well-lubricated party it was. As we walked through the marching route all the way up to the Bastille, the trash kept gathering on the streets: posters, placards and discarded cans of beer.

“The revolution has to be fun,” said Audrey, when we reached Bastille and surveyed the mess around us, “or the people won’t come.”

How Come Our Travel Disasters Never End in Unexpected Food Tours?

Jun.05.17

How Come Our Travel Disasters Never End in Unexpected Food Tours?

by Martina Žoldoš

Pasita in Puebla

First it was cemita, a huge round sandwich that Poblanos, inhabitants of Puebla, are so proud of. Then it was cremita, a vanilla pudding, in a place called California that resembled one of those U.S. restaurants from the 70s that I had only seen in movies. By the time we stopped in a candy shop to treat ourselves to coconut rolls, I was so full I didn’t want any more food for the rest of the day.

But my gastronomic tour wasn’t over yet. “You’re going to try the best drink of your life,” Dario assured me after my faint objection. My feet were burning and the sweat was starting to leave stains on my shirt but I followed him without a word. After all, he was my hero.

My trip to Puebla had not started well. About half an hour before arriving at the bus station, I started sending messages to the guy who was supposed to be my Couchsurf host. “Hello, Martina here, I’m about to arrive to Puebla.” No response. After the third message I knew things were not going to go smoothly. By the time I was dragging my backpack to the waiting hall, he had turned off his phone.

Without a clue of how to get the center and where to look for a room, I messaged Fernando, who had hosted me two weeks before in Merida, asking him for advice. And that’s when Fernando’s friend, Dario, entered the story. Dario invited me to stay in his home and showed me all the sights. La Pasita was definitely the strangest one so far.

We entered a small, dim place without windows, tables, or chairs. It was the oldest still-operating bar in the city, and served an invention that was more than a century old: raisin liquor. “Until today the recipe remains a secret,” Dario said. “There have been some attempts to copy the original drink, but they all resulted in failure.”

I leaned over the counter and stared at the chipped souvenirs and old bottles, while the owner, a grumpy old man, carelessly served us the brown liquid with a cube of goat cheese. Strong but sweet, the liquor went down smoothly. We ordered another one, and while Dario shared anecdotes from his childhood visits to the bar with his grandparents, I thought to myself that it was probably nostalgia that drove people to drink pasita.

A Sour Wine That Pairs Well with Sausages, Jet Lag, and Depressing Elections

Jun.01.17

A Sour Wine That Pairs Well with Sausages, Jet Lag, and Depressing Elections

by Jackie Bryant

Apfelwein in Frankfurt

It was the first round of the French elections, and I happened to be in the Schengen Zone—the 26 European nations without border controls between them—fresh off the plane from the United States. Frankfurt, Germany, to be precise. After chatting with people and getting through the requisite rounds of “Congratulations on your new president!”—which was funny, but also not funny—I sought out an apfelwein tavern to drink off the jet lag.

Specific to Frankfurt and its environs, the apple wine tradition was something I knew nothing about before arriving. Taverns are built in traditional Hessian style, meaning they could almost look like tourist traps in Frankfurt, a modern city with one of Europe’s only skylines. But they turn out to be anything but a touristy experience—though they can definitely be a trap if you find yourself in the right conversation.

Traditionally served out of a ceramic jug called a bembel and nowadays out of wine bottles, the wine is tart. It’s made from mainly Granny Smith or Bramley apples, and is not carbonated. It tastes like flat cider. It clocks in at around 4.5-7.0 percent ABV, making it a decent alternative to beer. Locals love the stuff, and it’s easy to see why. It pairs well with sausages, potatoes and the local specialty, Grüne Soße, which is an all-purpose, viscous green sauce made from various herbs and sour cream or creme fraiche. Heading to an apfelwein tavern is a classic happy-hour activity and, as it happens, I was looking for just such a thing to do.

The majority of the apfelwein taverns are in the hip neighborhood of Sachsenhausen, just across the river Main from the city’s business district. I ducked into one next to a British pub loudly playing “November Rain,” which seemed like a good omen. There was a solitary television, occupied by Frankfurters anxiously watching live commentary on the ongoing French election.

Everyone there said they were horrified by the resurgence of fascism-disguised-as-populism that reminded them of their country’s history. They acknowledged that Brexit could cause a surge of business for Frankfurt, but commented that Germany’s problems at home were big, maybe too big to be solved. They took in too many refugees, two people thought. Nobody knew what to do about the fact that the 63 percent of Turks living in Germany—many of whom have been there for three generations—voted “Yes” in Erdogan’s recent referendum stripping the Turkish government of many of its democratic institutions.

We drank long into the night, eventually forgetting about the ongoing vote count and focusing on more mundane matters, like impending nuclear war and the hopeful existence of Kompromat urine tapes. Eventually, someone gasped. We all looked at the TV, where the results flashed on the screen: a run-off between Le Pen and Macron, who were in a dead heat at 21.53 percent and 23.75 percent of the vote, respectively. Someone walked out of the tavern, letting a cold breeze cut across the bar. Nobody had anything to say—an atmosphere I remembered well from last November—and so we all settled up and went our separate ways.

The Only Thing Better than Cheap Chinese Food and Stupidly Cold Beer

May.31.17

The Only Thing Better than Cheap Chinese Food and Stupidly Cold Beer

by Clare Richardson

Tsingtao in Lisbon

The only thing better than a greasy plate of cheap Chinese food and a stupidly cold Tsingtao is the mission to track these items down.

In a city awash with dining options, secret Chinese restaurants have become a favorite among students and tourists craving a break from Lisbon’s cheese boards and green wine. This kind of restaurant, known as a chinês clandestino, slings wontons and fried rice for even lower prices than its less covert counterparts. Many are family businesses run out of apartment buildings, where customers eat right in the living room.

The directions I’d received from friends were vague: a certain building number on a block known for its Indian restaurants, but the name of the street forgotten. Or, around the back of a shopping mall and up a twisting alleyway. Just ask around, they said.

Determined to find a clandestine Chinese restaurant on a rainy night this spring, I followed a winding cobblestone path up a hill in the immigrant neighborhood of Martim Moniz. I imagined arriving at the base of a dark stairwell and whispering into an intercom my intention to suck down bowls of noodles.

Instead, I stumbled upon a small square with a cafe, and slyly asked the barman where the clandestino might be. “The Chinese?” he responded, tossing his head toward an unassuming doorway on the other side of the street.

There was no posted sign to confirm this tip, but the door was open. I walked inside and ascended a graffiti-covered staircase leading into vast room. Inside it was light—glaringly bright, in fact, under rows of fluorescent bulbs—and spacious. Two front-of-house staff navigated long, canteen-style tables, couriering plates of food from a hidden kitchen on another floor. I took my seat among a few dozen other diners, none over the age of 40. Hiding in plain sight, I thought, as I ordered my coveted one euro Tsingtao.

The place had all the trappings of a “high-quality” restaurant: blown-out photos of dishes framed on the walls, black-and-white panoramas of New York City with the taxi cabs printed in yellow, and Europe’s favorite napkins—those useless squares of waxy, white baking paper that repel liquid and stains.

To my left, a Portuguese guy and his Brazilian friend split a single plate of four euro noodles. After some coy smiles and winking, they offered me a joint. On my right, tourists jabbered in Spanish.

But just how clandestine was this place? I noted with some dismay that they had Wi-Fi advertised on a large piece of butcher paper on the wall. I logged in to check if the place was listed on Foursquare. It was.

Perhaps this wasn’t the most clandestine of places, but it was enough to whet my appetite for more of Lisbon’s ‘secret’ restaurants.

Lamenting a Missed Moment for Turkish Wine, and Turkey

May.30.17

Lamenting a Missed Moment for Turkish Wine, and Turkey

by Nicholas Bredie

Assyrian wine in Istanbul

When we lived in Istanbul, my wife and I called it “the Last Supper wine.” It had a print of the Da Vinci painting on the label, not as a proclamation of its particular genius but because it was a communion wine made by Assyrians outside the city of Mardin. You can’t talk about this wine’s terroir; you have to talk about its dirt. The wine tastes like the earth of Eastern Anatolia, and also of its history. The grapes are put in sacks, stomped, and left out in the sun to ferment. But unlike the bathtub rotgut made by expats in Saudi, the Assyrians have been making this wine in the same manner since before Jesus was born.

One of the last times we had this wine—officially known as Süryanı Şarabı Levy Matiat—was almost four years ago. It was the day after protests over Taksim Gezi Park had exploded and our neighborhood was littered with juiced lemons, a tear-gas countermeasure. We walked past a couple guys manning a steal dumpster lined with empty beer bottles, some perhaps being readied as Molotov Cocktails, to our beloved wine purveyor La Cave in the Cihangir neighborhood. The Patron, as we called the shop’s owner, was bemused by the chaos.

Even though there’d been a riot the night before, these were good times for the country. Liberal and conservative youth were united against the big-money interests who wanted to develop the park they occupied. At the same time, persecuted minorities like the Kurds were making political strides while a truce held in the country’s southeast, where the city of Mardin is located. We took the wine over to some friends, thinking we might discuss the unfolding political situation at the park, but we ended up talking about the state of Turkish wine instead.

As a whole, Turkish wines aren’t bad. Sure there are some kopek öldüren, or dog killers, as the Turks call them. But most Turkish wine with a cork in the bottle is pleasantly drinkable. The problem, as we and our friends agreed over our bottle of Levy Matiat, was that the wine industry stifled diversity. Big producers were mostly content to churn out whites from Thompson seedless and reds from the charming local combination of ‘ox-eye’ and ‘throat-closer’ grapes. But in that moment, a few Turkish vintners were trying to revive the Greek and Armenian wine traditions, and we were seeing Assyrian wine more than we had. It seemed that things were opening up, and the country as a whole was ready to come to terms with its complicated history as heir to the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire.

We were wrong. Things went in the other direction. You might still get a bottle of Levy Matiat in Istanbul. But just an hour south of the winery in Mardin is the town of Nusaybin. In the past year, Kurdish guerrillas and Turkish defense forces have leveled the place as they’ve fought over it, and the government has sentenced a painter to two years in prison for depicting the carnage. If I had some Assyrian wine now, it would be hard not to taste this bitter history in it as well.

A Shandy for the Wine-Lover’s Soul

May.25.17

A Shandy for the Wine-Lover’s Soul

by Charukesi Ramadurai

Tinto de Verano in Andalusia

It was lunchtime deep in the hills of Andalusia in the south of Spain and I was dying for something cold and refreshing. Naturally, sangria was the first thing that came to mind. But they had only red wine sangria at this tiny alfresco café in Ronda, and I could just see myself falling asleep—or wanting to—after a couple of glasses. And that tour of the bullring, one of Spain’s oldest, awaited.

As I vacillated, the waiter walked back into the café without waiting for my drink order. And then there he was, with a tall glass filled with something cold and pink. It was love at first sip for me; the Tinto de Verano had the perfect amount of booziness for a summer afternoon. I downed it in a few gulps and then asked for another.

Waiting for the food to arrive, I looked around to see glasses and pitchers of this drink on almost every table. The sun was climbing higher, the day was getting warmer. By the time we left, I was on a mellow high, combined with a mild sugar rush, ready to take on whatever Ronda had to offer.

Tinto de Verano means red wine of summer, and just as its name implies, is ideal for the scorcher months. It’s a wine spritzer served cold, equal parts red wine and sweetened lemon soda, sometimes with a slice of lemon. Yes, I can see purists purse their lips in disdain, even horror (ice in red wine!) but I am happy to leave them to their sniffing and swirling, as I continue to swig.

Tinto de Verano became my beverage of choice for that week-long drive through Andalusia. I began to think of it as the shandy for the wine-lover’s soul. One morning, I skipped my regular coffee for a glass of it during a 11 a.m. pit stop on the drive, and nobody raised an eyebrow.

Later, I read somewhere that the Tinto de Verano was born in Cordoba at the hands of a particularly creative pub owner, and soon became popular all over the country. Today, it is the drink that locals reach for in summer; ordering sangria marks you out as an outsider.

Back home to an Indian summer and the Spain holiday constantly in my mind, I reach out for that half bottle of red wine left over from a party and a bottle of Sprite.

Photo by: Arkangel

Is There Anywhere on Earth Where One Can Escape Craft Breweries These Days?

May.24.17

Is There Anywhere on Earth Where One Can Escape Craft Breweries These Days?

by Eli Meixler

Ale in Yangon

It’s a quarter to six in Yangon, and it’s finally getting cool enough to sit outside without sweating through my shirt. It’s April, the hottest month of the year, but the sun has mellowed into a fuzzy red orb and the mosquitoes have yet to marshal in earnest. There’s a breeze coming off the river, and the German-style Weizen in my hand is cold and sweet, with hints of honey and banana.

Two years ago, this warehouse-turned-brewery would have seemed like ill-fated venture: too much, too soon. But a lot has changed in Yangon recently. The streets are choked with traffic (steering wheel on the right), Uber has arrived, and the newest mall, with twin luxury condo towers, wouldn’t feel out of place in Bangkok or Singapore.

But not everything has changed. Since the earliest days of the military junta, the men in brass have kept a firm hold on brewing and distribution licenses. Despite dipping a toe in the tides of global trade, Myanmar’s thirst is still mostly slaked by the same few military-owned, watery rice lagers. The most common watering holes are curbside beer stations, where patrons pull up plastic stools, gesture at a waiter for a pint, and presumably try not to think about whose pockets they’re lining.

In a growing handful of upscale bars, foreign imports such as Singapore’s Tiger and Thailand’s Singha are starting to make an appearance alongside locally-brewed versions of international brands, which offer the same familiar swill behind a Heineken or Carlsberg label.

But tonight, I’ve abandoned my local beer stop to venture into North Dagon industrial zone, sit on the banks of Pazundaung creek and sip British and German-style ale. Burbrit (a portmanteau of Burma and Britain), Yangon’s new and only craft brewhouse, opened to nervous whispers earlier this year. How’d they get a license? Would it last? My fellow beer drinker takes a deep swallow of her Burma IPA, a rich, malty brew bursting with hops and floral notes.

Burbrit’s riverside patio, as well as the five varieties of ale, is a welcome respite from the congestion downtown, from the rising levels of air pollution and creeping disappointments in the democratically elected government. We sit in silence until our glasses are empty and order another round. The Irish Red Ale this time? Sure, why not.

Less Worried About the Blood Thinner Than the Bison Pee in This Vodka

May.23.17

Less Worried About the Blood Thinner Than the Bison Pee in This Vodka

by Cole Whitaker

Vodka in Poland

I had just finished a summer week at a winter resort teaching English to Polish business people outside of Wrocław, Poland and now, with the celebratory bonfire growing, it came time for my Polish students to teach me how to drink.

Vodka seems to be the only drink ever considered—the few beers on the end of the picnic table are ignored even by my fellow Americans. And Żubrówka Bison Grass the only vodka worth mentioning.

A couple of the English-learners have generously decided to show me and another native-speaker the ropes of Polish drinking. As any good teacher would, Emilia and Wojtek offer educational commentary while providing ample opportunities for hands-on learning, in the form of ceaseless refills from their stashes of vodka.

Emilia explains that real Żubrówka, the name bumbling off my lips before the drinking even starts, is produced only by the Polmos Białystok distillery, founded in 1928 in far northern Poland, and Wojtek, pointing at the bottle, cheerily adds: “This is not allowed in USA.” After some translation I learn that the liquor is outlawed—in its purest form—in the United States because it contains a natural chemical that acts as a blood thinner, which I deduce on my own translates to getting drunk fast.

The rye vodka is given its name, flavor, and slight tinge of color by filtering the vodka through the bison grasses native to the Białowieża forest of Poland, where the bison roam wild once again, having been hunted out of Europe in the early 20th century and successfully reintroduced in the 1950s. After the filtering process is complete and before the bottles are sealed, each one is decorated with the addition of a single slender strand of this mythical grass, which, according to Wojtek, “must be pissed on by real bison!” before being placed in the bottle.

I don’t have long to appreciate the earthy subtleties of the spirit itself, full of vanilla and almond flavors so rare for vodka, before everyone is drinking Apple Pie. While it’s been adopted and dressed up in bars around with the world, Szarlotka, as Emilia calls it here, is simple—Bison Grass
Vodka and apple juice. It tastes shockingly similar to sweet apple pie and goes down disconcertingly easy even as the vodka pours grow heavier and the apple juice pours grow lighter. I’m grateful for the slabs of bread, slathered thick with lard and topped with a pickle that my teachers hand to me regularly, to help keep me up for one more slice of Polish pie.

Tolerance, Tension, and Many Moscow Mules: A Dispatch from Beirut Pride

May.22.17

Tolerance, Tension, and Many Moscow Mules: A Dispatch from Beirut Pride

by Anthony Elghossein

Moscow Mules in Beirut

It’s 10:19 p.m. A woman honks her horn. (No reason.) A pack of young men, doubtlessly dreaming of conquests—or shawarma—guzzle beers outside of a store. In Mar Mikhael, a grimy district that has served as an enclave for Beirut’s pseudo-hipsters and garden-variety boozers since 2013, a familiar cacophony rises: beats, banter, horns, squealing tires, and roaring engines.

A crowd cheers. They’re at Radio Beirut—a bar, radio station, and performance venue—to celebrate Beirut Pride week, the first LGBT awareness campaign of this size and scope in the Arab world. An intrepid young man has scaled the balcony to hang the rainbow flag above the bar. Edging past a skeptical bouncer, I order an Almaza Draft—an unimaginative pilsner that means much to me emotionally, despite its generic taste. Comfort Brew.

This beer is weak. I order a Moscow Mule: vodka, ginger beer, and—in a Beirut twist—cucumber and basil instead of lime. Before I can take a sip, I spot Hadi Damian. He’s the frenetic, but friendly, Francophone who “initiated” Beirut Pride. “Are you having fun?” he checks, hugging me. “Alright, finish your drink. You’re coming with me.”

With his friend Danya, we race through half of the 23 bars flying the rainbow flag that night. At one bar, the flag seems to have gone missing. “It’s probably one of our younger folks,” Danya reassures me, though I’m more concerned about my next zesty beverage. “They’re all excited and keep asking about where they can buy a flag.” The flag causes some commotion at another bar. “The owner was incredibly helpful and supportive last night,” Danya explains, “but his staff, being macho men, huffed and puffed about it tonight.”

We careen down a nearby alley, stopping at another three bars—all owned by straight Lebanese men, all flying the flag and handing out bracelets. At Barclays, we order more Moscow Mules. Between asides on Paris, Seattle, and the merits of unisex fashion, Hadi explains that, “Beirut Pride is not a movement. It’s a platform. It’s collaborative, and is not affiliated with any political party or embassy. We don’t even take corporate money.”

That’s all great, though it sounds a tad rehearsed. Even so, people—gay, straight, Lebanese, foreign—must pursue self-fulfillment and self-expression under their state’s governing laws and society’s prevailing norms. Sure, Lebanese judges have sometimes interpreted laws progressively, but those laws, like Penal Code Article 534, which essentially criminalizes any sexual act that is deemed unnatural, make progress precarious—and subject to arbitrary and capricious courts.

Even in the Beirut bubble, far too many people—including activists, writers, and lawyers who should know better—often mistake consumerism, hedonism, escapism, or exhibitionism for liberalism. And they mistake separation for tolerance. Gathering in hedonistic hotspots, they put on liberal airs because, as my new-found friend “Q.I.” says, “they feel pressure to pretend like they’re open-minded. They want to drink and dance. But they’re not really liberal.”

S.P., the gay son of a Lebanese government official, chimed in: “Just look at the venues that agreed to host events, but cancelled under pressure, or for what they said were ‘commercial’ reasons. Garbage.” On May 14, under pressure for the League of Muslim Scholars, a hotel cancelled Beirut Pride’s launch—a full day of presentations and forums on LGBT issues and rights.

On the other hand, Beirutis enjoy and assert a robust sort of self-expression that just isn’t possible in most of the states and societies of the Middle East. Hundreds of people flooded Mar Mikhael—or turned up to events all week—to celebrate Beirut Pride. For all its faults, Beirut can be a tolerant place. It is, at least, a place that tolerates its tolerant spaces.

There’s No Un-Hearing This Scientist’s Explanation of Fermentation

May.17.17

There’s No Un-Hearing This Scientist’s Explanation of Fermentation

by Steele Rudd

Ginger Beer in Sydney

I’ve been to maybe half-a-dozen tastings in my life. A flight of whiskies at a Scottish distillery; a beer sampler at a brewery in Sydney; and a couple of cellar-door wine evenings.

Most of them have been shambolic affairs, although there’s a pattern to them. At first everyone’s a gourmand, sincere about the early vanillin note on this one and the woodruff aftertaste on that one. But after you’ve gone through 10 or 12 varieties of shiraz, it’s a bit different. Your teeth are redder than a betel addict’s, everything tastes like second-hand tea leaves, and you might as well have gone to the pub.

I’m hoping this one will be a little different, partly because it’s ginger beer on show tonight but mostly because my host is kind of a mad scientist. Dr. Cain is a microbiochemist with an alarmingly Biblical name and a sideline in brewing moonshine. (This ginger beer is not sweetened, carbonated soda, but the boozy kind, made from fermented ginger, yeast, and sugar.)

She’s agreed to talk me through her latest concoction. Apparently, there’s a connection between her day job and her beer job. “Being in the lab is very much like cooking,” she tells me, “and a lab protocol is kind of like a recipe.”

Except, of course, that home brewers are a less pedantic bunch than microbiochemists (without insult to either). “The first thing I did [when beginning to brew] was take a bunch of protocols, extract the relevant information, worked out the formulas and wrote my own.”

That kind of specificity doesn’t sound like my kind of fun, but I guess fun comes in different flavors—and I can’t argue with tonight’s. The good doctor cracks a bottle and decants it into a wide-bottomed glass like a brandy tumbler. The taste is definitely gingery without being overwhelmingly fiery; sweet but not sugary; sour but not in a scrunch-up-your-nose kind of way. There’s a very distinct flatness to it that I’m not used to, something syrupy that goes beyond the absence of carbonation. Another taster describes it as “not the teeth-fuzz variety of ginger beer.” It reminds me of nothing so much as a Spanish cider, and I could happily drink it all night.

“Being a microscientist,” Dr. Cain explains, “and being quite aware of sterility, winemaking is such an inexact process.” She uses the example of roasting lamb in an autoclave as illustration. She doesn’t agree that brewing is an art, calling that “flowery,” and is prosaic about fermentation. “When [the yeast] eat the sugar, they basically shit out the alcohol.” At this point I decide that Dr. Cain is the kind of brewer that puts the poetry in the bottle, not on the label.

When the ginger beer’s finished, we move on to wine (vermentino, a Sicilian white that’s been making headway in Australia) and the conversation spirals away. Dr. Cain tells me about Iberian grapes and Manuka honey; about the looming antibiotic apocalypse; about suicide genes in seedless fruit. We discuss transporting hazardous or delicate biosamples, and the cost involved; and enzymes that can slice themselves apart spontaneously or on command. It’s the most informative tasting that I’ve ever been to.

A Slice of Pure Manchester

May.16.17

A Slice of Pure Manchester

by Alec Herron

Bitter in Manchester

In 1819, sword-bearing cavalry charged a gathering of 80,000 political reform protesters on St. Peter’s Field, Manchester, killing 15 and maiming hundreds more.

The day, now commemorated as the Peterloo Massacre, would spur industrial unionism and inspire the creation of The Guardian newspaper.

Local legend has it that as thousands scattered the streets of Manchester in panic, one of the Peterloo wounded was carried into the Sir Ralph Abercomby pub, and lay dying on the bar.

Just shy of 200 years later, the Sir Ralph Abercromby has seen Manchester grow into the world’s greatest industrial city, survived a direct hit of incendiary Second World War bombs, watched the city fall into post-industrial rot and rise again to its current creative-industry led rebirth. It retains the countryside aura of a time when it sat on the edge of a burgeoning mill town.

At a circular oak table I sip a pumped bitter. The pub fills with Londoners-in-exile, there to watch their capital soccer rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in an FA Cup Semifinal on three plasma screens.

The walls are pure Manchester. Profiles of players from local side Manchester United are joined by a graffiti mural of the 2015 Stone Roses resurrection. In 2014, the Manchester United captain, Wayne Rooney, led the players’ Christmas party to the Sir Ralph Abercromby from an upmarket restaurant.

Now a pair of former United greats want to knock the pub down.
Gary Neville, known for his defensive prowess and astute decision-making, has transferred the skills that earned him captaincy of the England national team to the world of real estate. Along with Welsh winger Ryan Giggs, the pair have opened luxury hotels, upmarket nightclubs, and restaurants headed by Michelin-starred chefs.

Their latest project comprises two of the tallest towers in a predominantly low-rise city. Thirty-two stories of luxury apartments, ‘leisure space’ and a five-star hotel will be named after the patron saint of British police, St. Michael, alluding to the demolition of the Bootle Street Police Station next door. The pair have promised to retain the jobs lost from the Sir Ralph Abercromby, and will install the 1950s oak bar in an allocated ‘leisure space.’

But the pub’s locals have rallied on social media, and along with other citizens are voicing their complaints to the developers. Video visualizations show the towers imposing over the 19th-century Manchester Town Hall and surrounding Victorian and Georgian streets, underlining the opposition of Historic England, a British government heritage agency.

Neville announced that he has asked the local government council not to consider the St. Michael’s plans just yet, while they make “refinements to the project,” giving some hope to opponents of the plan.

Manchester recently bulldozed another early 19th-century boozer, the Smith’s Arms. That time, it was in a partnership between Manchester City Council and the Abu Dhabi royal family-owned Manchester City football club, Manchester United’s eternal rivals.

Intrinsically linked to radical politics, industry, and soccer, Manchester’s modern renaissance leaves a bitter taste, at a pub that carries all three in its heart.

Let’s Pick Garlic All Day and Drink Some Cherry Wine

May.15.17

Let’s Pick Garlic All Day and Drink Some Cherry Wine

by Chris Malloy

Visciolata in Italy

After sun-blasted days working the garlic harvest in a rural part of the Apennine Mountains in Le Marche, Italy, after hoeing bean plants or feeding pigs or husking barley or whatever we were doing that August, there was always visciolata.

“Christof!” the farm’s patriarch addressed me after my first day. Paolo was roughly 50, tan as a catcher’s mitt, short, and pure pazzo (crazy). “Have you ever tasted visciolata? NO!? You are in for A TREAT.”

The garlic was down the mountain in Paolo’s lowest field. With his blue tractor he dragged a blade through clay soil, freeing bulbs. For eight hours a day I followed with his sons and wife and others, lobbing garlic into the cart hitched to his ride. Sometimes he slit a bulb and we gave him shit.

Sometimes he pretended to fall asleep at the wheel as he careened down the slope. After a few lines of garlic we’d stop for a drink, looking across the expanse of low hinterlands down from Paolo’s fields at distant Mount Strega.

After work, after sausages made from his sheep and risotto flecked with zucchini from his field, after rivers of local Verdicchio wine, after the day had blazed out and the dusk had faded to deep night, it was time.

Vi-scio-la-ta. Cherry wine. The drink is legend in the western wilderness of Le Marche. Like so many Italian aperitivi and digestivi, visciolata occupies a zone somewhere between food, booze, and medicine. I have heard of vintners cutting visciolata with grape wine. Given the flavor of the visciolatas I tried, I’d be surprised if the bottles Paolo got from his neighbors were made from anything but 100 percent cherry.

Visciolata was poured at night. In the glass, the cherry wine is dark as liquid roses. Swirl it, and behold the surprisingly syrupy viscosity. The aroma of candied cherries and cinnamon and vanilla punches you in a distant part of the mind, in a zone of old travels and youthful dreams of the exotic and songs from past decades.

Stars burned over the mountain. Torches glowed around our outdoor table on nights we had a large crew done laboring on Paolo’s farm. A sip of visciolata melted the stress, but not the memory of the day’s work. The sweet, dusky cherry flavor had a narcotic effect. People savored their two fingers of cherry wine and relaxed, tired but happy, happy to be on Paolo’s farm and alive. People drank and joked. People watched the planets and shooting stars and galaxies. People slapped down briscola cards.

Cackling rang out from our clearing and through the mountains of Le Marche, black but for a few lighted farmhouses.

Listening to Strangers Fight About Politics While Drinking Alone Is Strangely Satisfying

May.12.17

Listening to Strangers Fight About Politics While Drinking Alone Is Strangely Satisfying

by Adee Braun

Suze in Paris

I had ordered a meal of two appetizers. “First the pumpkin soup, then the warm goat cheese salad?” the potbellied waiter repeated back to me, genuinely looking for direction in this new land of first-course dinners. “Yes, that’s it,” I assured him. I sat in the enclosed porch of a random Parisian cafe that was draped with string lights while the River Seine winked in the near distance. It was 5 p.m. and I was severely jet-lagged. All charm was lost on me.

As I ate, I flipped through that morning’s edition of Le Monde, which I had bought earlier when my phone battery was near death and I realized that eating dinner alone while staring at random people would not make me, or them, feel great. Page one featured the platinum-haired Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right party, the Front National. The French election, mere weeks away, was brewing in an eerily familiar way.

With my confusing but delicious dinner over, I ordered a glass of Suze—a gentian-based French aperitif. It came to me in a slim Collins glass stacked with three nuggets of ice. It was an inviting yellow, the color of French butter, and tasted like an uprooted lawn dusted with sugar.

Around the time I was down to one-nugget-and-a-half, I heard the hard “r”s of American English coming from a man whose back was turned to me a few tables down. His curly head betrayed the whispers of a balding crown. It took me a few minutes to realize that his dinner mate was speaking English as well. The words “political ideology” coated in a French accent burst from her corner several times. She was leaning in and gesticulating in a precise way. She seemed earnest and practical, like someone who bags her lunch each night before work.

The ice in my Suze began to melt under the robust space heaters, giving way to new flavors. Flowers and herbs now grew in the sugary lawn that was my drink.

I scanned the headlines of the latest election polls as my waiter went outside to shuck oysters for the bickering Franco-American pair. Two dozen half-shells later and the Franco-American pair was still going at it. I heard the word “Trump” a few more times from the American. More demonstrative pantomiming from the French contingent. I sipped my drink and decided that whatever they were arguing about, the European had a better perspective on fascism.

By now, the ice nuggets were nearly all melted, but my diluted Suze still had a bite.

Is There Anywhere in the World Hemingway Didn’t Drink?

May.10.17

Is There Anywhere in the World Hemingway Didn’t Drink?

by Russ Rowlands

Kalik Lager on North Bimini

The first section of my favorite book is called Bimini. Either I never noticed or the word simply hadn’t registered, despite my having re-read the book roughly every year for the past two decades. This becomes relevant, I promise.

I sat at a picnic table looking out at the azure Straights of Florida, appreciating the morning view from a random beach on the western edge of the Bahamas, on the island of North Bimini. We’d arrived by sailboat a few days prior but had, until that morning, been stuck in our marina as a severe storm blew through, frothing up the Straights into an angry green. Rains abated and calm restored, I’d ventured out in search of entertainment, something to salve the cabin fever of a half-week in a marina.

“Hey, skinny man,” called one of the locals clustered around a plastic table on a nearby patio. “Come over here and tell this woman that tattoos are perfectly safe and she’s crazy.”

I laughed and joined them. The woman was trying to tell their group that you can’t give blood after getting a tattoo; I did my best to set the record straight. We made a round of introductions and they asked about my various tattoos. I began telling stories, and the crowd laughed at the misadventures portrayed in my ink. Someone brought me a cold bottle of the local lager, Kalik, in an exemplary display of island hospitality.

“So what’s your favorite one then?” asked a less-skeptical woman, nodding to my tattoos.

I pushed up a sleeve and showed them the rolling lines of font that corkscrew up my left arm. “This is my favorite page from my favorite book, Islands in the Stream, by Hemingway.”

“What!?” Skeptical-lady wailed, arms thrown up in the air for emphasis.

“This here is the Island in the Stream, man, you know that?!”

I had not known that.

I had known that the book was set on one of the islands in the Bahamian chain but, being previously unfamiliar with the country, I’d never drawn a connection with the aforementioned section heading. It hadn’t seemed to matter what tropical rock Hemingway had been writing about.

Considering again the Straights, and the little towns dotting the east coast of the island, it was easy to see where the author had found his imagery for the novel. I could picture Hemingway swaggering down the late-night streets, drunk as a pirate between writing sessions, cursing, boozing and brawling whenever he thought he could win. Like a Winslow Homer painting, but with more daiquiris.

The friendly group of locals grew bored with my drifting reverie and drifted off themselves. It was just before 10 a.m., and another one of Hemingway’s quotes came to mind: “I nearly always drank beer for breakfast unless we were hunting lion.”

As I sat there with my Kalik, I wondered if the old curmudgeon himself had sat on that same beach, sipping a morning lager while thinking about writing. I was pretty sure there were no lions on Bimini.