The Glass Half Full

It has now been a week since the transition from being a control state to an open market began its final phase.  The retail side of the market made its switch to private operation.  There was excitement, angst, confusion, and anticipation as the first day of sales came along.  Consumers had a whole new reality to suddenly live with.  As with many things, there are good and bad aspects to it all.  (Full disclosure, I am a partner in a distributor here in Washington, take that as you will, but I try not to let it cloud my judgment.)

Convenience has increased as you can now get your groceries and booze in one place.  Several retailers are working hard at increasing selection, and already there are bottles on the shelves that were never before seen in Washington.  Everyone in those stores is scrambling to learn as fast as they can about all that’s on their shelves, and they’ve hired on all of the staffers and managers who really cared from the state stores.

So what’s the downside?  Well, the vast majority of stores only have a tiny selection so far.  Most distributors are having problems with supplying all of their customers with everything that they are asking for, as no one could properly predict demand, and some distributors are still not close to being fully organized.  However, the really big issue so far has been pricing to the consumer.

The most frustration felt by anyone so far yet has been on the part of the everyday consumer who walks into a store and wants to buy a bottle of liquor. Prices on shelves don’t reflect all of the hideously high taxes that we have saddled ourselves with here.  20.5% liquor sales tax and a $3.77 litre tax are what then get added to the price shown on the self.  Why not just show that on the shelf tag?  Well, the simplest argument is that nothing else in a store has tax added to the price already on the shelf tag.  Why treat liquor any differently?

This has left consumers to try and do the math in their heads to figure out what the final price will be.  After all, with rates like those it’s not an insignificant amount of money that gets added on.  The fact that the state used to include those taxes in their price tags is more a reflection of the fact that they only sold liquor in their stores and had nothing else there to confuse the issue.

In all of this though consumers are left to ask, weren’t we promised lower prices to go with the convenience, and eventual larger selections?  Well, that was certainly a hope, and in reality would not have been outside the realm of possibility were it not for one sticky little proviso that seems to have been lost in all of the discussions.  Contained within the initiative to privatize liquor was a “fee” that added on 27% to the cost of liquor.  This “fee” was intended to make up extra revenue for the state over and above the liquor taxes.  It is made up of a 10% “fee” that distributors must pay to the state and a 17% “fee” that retailers must pay to the state.  These aren’t exactly numbers that can just be easily absorbed as has been suggested by several of those who read that far in.  The worst part is, for those who did read that far even fewer realise that the sunset clause on those fees that will cut them in half in 2 years only applies to distributors.  Retailers must continue to charge 17% in perpetuity.

So is this a rousing success so far?  No, but I think given time and the inevitable revolts among the electorate of Washington to roll back taxes in the next year or so there will be a balance struck and many of the promises and assumptions that were made will come to fruition.  Until then, buckle up and ask yourself is the glass full?

The Glass Half Full

Photo courtesy of Cayusa via Flickr

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The Brilliant Math of Jenny Adams and Drinking in Airports

My friend Jenny Adams, the most deadly of all Jenns, once posted a brilliant piece of logic on Facebook.  She defined the odds of our particular tribe of travelling boozehounds running into each other and plying each other with drinks using the tools and extras that we seem to always carry.  It was a set of odds approaching unity.  It was kind of amazing.  However, failing that kind of happy serendipity how about sliding up to an airport bar and getting a drink?

I spend a lot of time in airports, running to airplanes, getting patted down, and hanging out in airport bars.  Airports aren’t exactly a haven of great cocktails – though there was a really wonderful bartender at JFK in T5 who went above and beyond and went scavenging for ingredients to make me a rum milk punch last year.  However, over the last year or so and in talking to other booze travellers a list of go to drinks has emerged that you can get anywhere and any time that you can assure yourself are pretty much impossible to make badly.  After all when your flight has been delayed again, or you find yourself stranded by the Oh God of Missed Connections you really need a drink.

Allow me to digress for a moment.  Terry Pratchett, the author of the Discworld series once invented the Oh God of Hangovers. His reasoning for having it being an Oh God was that whenever you have a hangover you invariably say “oh god.”  Thus a deity of whatever scale, whose purview is made up of things that are not exactly desirable to encounter will almost always elicit cries of “oh god” or similar sentiments. Therefore, if such a deity were to exist, would it not make sense to call them an oh god instead of a god? Anyhow, tangent over, back to the matter at hand.

What can you rely on to slake your thirst, while away the hours, and please the palate?  What drinks will sooth your dire needs for anaesthesia and drive away the ennui of the halls of transportation?  Most importantly, what can you get anywhere that will be tasty and satisfying, well at least not bad.

Bloody Mary, Red Snapper, Bloody Caesar, Bloody Maria

Maximilien 06

It’s pretty hard to screw up a Bloody Whatever, even ones made with a boring pre-mix can be easily doctored with that bottle of Tabasco and Worcestershire at the bar.  Even without those options, it’s pretty hard to have a bad Bloody Whatever.  Varying it up by adding gin to make it a Red Snapper, or tequila for a Bloody Maria help to keep it from getting monotonous and add options to the list.  I won’t deny that a really great Bloody Mary is a wonderful experience.  It is blessed to be like cold pizza for breakfast, you have to actively try to make a bad one in order to not be somewhat satisfying.

Gin and Tonic

No matter your views on colonialism, mercantilism, chartered companies, and empire, Great Britain left a few legacies that we can all savour to this day.  In order to combat malaria, scurvy, keep crews of their ships complacent, and any other myriad maladies that might befall them in the Fever Islands as the West Indies were sometimes known, Africa, and the Indian Sub-Continent, various spirituous beverages became commonplace and made the taking of medicine easier.  One of these was the gin and tonic.  Three ingredients, that’s it.  Absolutely impossible to screw up, refreshing, and crisp.  The gin and tonic is a tribute to simplicity and its benefits.  Even when you have nothing but gun tonic and slightly aged lime wedges, it still does the trick. Continue reading

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The Seven Deadly Jenns: Ninja Squirrel

Here we are at the end of the list. I’m not sure if I’ve saved the most deadly for last.  Any of the ladies listed so far would be more than adequate to put a serious hurting on anyone.  These last two though, there’s a certain something that makes them just seem a it more dangerous.  I’m not sure if it’s their charm, sneakiness, or mesmerizing ways that will cause a fall down the rabbit hole faster and further than the others but there is an element of doom here that just seems to give them a bit of a push.

Jenn Colliau – Ninja

It seem that whereever you turn on the west coast if you’re doing anything spiritous she’s there.   Either smiling behind the bar, running the show behind the bar, or providing her fabulous syrups to make the drinks that much tastier and therefore even easier to suck down way too many of, she turns up all the time.  Not even in an announced way.  There you’ll be walking blithely into an event and you’ll catch glimpse out of the corner of your eye.  Suspicions aroused you go in search and yup, there she is.  Doing the opposite of ninja vanish, she ninja appears, but instead of throwing stars maybe you need some coconut cream, or pineapple gomme syrup, and there it is, ready to make everyone in the room go veering off the path of sobriety.

What are these?  Oh they’re vitamins, I swear.

 

Jenny Adams – Unicorn Squirrel

Jenny Adams was the inspiration for this series, southern belle, writer, and magic.  Oh and by the way, she’s one of those people you just refer to by her full name always.  She’s persistent and her magic makes all things seem reasonable and just a fun idea.  Jenny Adams will also do you the courtesy of squirreling out with you and transform both of you into hot messes. (Note to self, write post about squirrels)

Seriously, Agave + Jenny Adams  = ow my head.  Everything just seems like a good idea when Jenny Adams proposes it.  If I can recall correctly this is how a typical conversation goes with Jenny Adams.

“Here have some mezcal”

“Have another mezcal”

“Where’s your mezcal?”

“You know what would be a great idea?  You should totally do the polar bear swim in an hour, but first you need more mezcal to keep you warm.”

Then while you freeze your ass off and feel  your hangover kick in Jenny Adams has written ten great articles and reloaded with agave.

You’re screwed, but you’re going to have fun.  See you at the pool.

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The Seven Deadly Jenns: There’s a Method to the Madness

Moving on to the next batch of deadly Jenns, these two are distinguished by a certain mania that they bring to everything.  Not that mania isn’t a good thing.  After all, we’d be awfully bored if everyone was normal, and I challenge anyone reading this to claim that they are entirely normal. I’m not going to believe you.  I’m not calling you a liar, you’re just deluded and look we’re back to not normal.  See?  You can’t escape it.  Just like you can’t escape this pair.

 

Jenn Corrao – The Planner

A walking party, she always has a plan, and it usually involves lots of stops on the road to inebriation.  You get caught up in her energy and you go willingly to your doom. As you go traipsing along you realise that there is a route planned for the day and none of it involves an off ramp to escape the madness that will be coming.  Following her from stop to stop, bar to bar, party to party, the endless cavalcade of intemperance makes for a long blur that replays in your head the next day in a totally hazy, slightly out of focus way, like your own personal home movie of destruction.

Come on, just one more stop.

 

Jennifer Contraveos -The Mania

There’s no hiding that glint in her eye. You’re going to be in trouble if she gets a hold of you.  She doesn’t bother hiding it, it just seems like such a great idea.  I don’t believe that the words that’s just way too crazy has ever meant anything to her.  Careening along at a manic pace you’re going to love your trip through the asylum.  Whether or not you come out at the other end is up to you.  As insane as the festivities may seem, your best bet of coming out at the other end is to embrace the lunacy and hold on for dear life and fantastic experiences.  If she makes it out you should too.  Probably

This way to the Egress… maybe

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The Seven Deadly Jenns: Subtlety and Grace

Today brings us two more of the Seven Deadly Jenns.  I paired these two together because of all seven of them these are the most innocent seeming.  With these two you won’t know what you have signed on for until the next morning, or afternoon.

Jenn Farrington – Personal Papparazzi.

Jenn will be there to fully encourage you in anything you come up with, and makes it always seem like your idea.  Then she documents it in beautiful photos that leave no chance of not incriminating yourself.  That goat?  Yeah, she got a picture of you with it.  She is he most unthreatening of the Jenns, or so it seems.   There’s no mad glint to her eyes, just a subtle slide down the path to mayhem and hepatic pain.  Everything is just fun and games after all, she exudes an aura of being so reasonable and she’d never lead you astray.  Then the camera flashes and you’re caught for posterity or ridicule, usually both. The evidence of your antics and folly following you as long as the electronic ether serves pictures to your friends, namely forever. That camera isn’t a warning either as it is almost permanently welded to her hand.  As a truly talented photographer you just think it’s there to document the mundane or take fantastic photos of the more normal things in life.  There’s just no knowing and that’s when she gets you.

Clic.  Damn!

 

Jennifer Boelts – Time Vortex

The most innocent seeming of the Jens, Jen Boelts seems like a mild mannered type.  She will sit there and claim that she just can’t hang with the really hardcore types.  Then hours later you realise that you’re still at the bar with her, with a steady procession of drinks having gone by and down your throat.  Seriously, there you’ll be having started in that bar stool while the sun was bright and there was so much ambition in your heart to get things done.  When your bladder finally snaps you out of the land of the lotus eaters you realise that it’s last call.  The many hours since you sat down have welded your buttocks to your seat and you have accomplished nothing at all save for having had a good time, and really, isn’t that better than actually being productive?

Sit down, look it’s still early you have plenty of time left……

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The Seven Deadly Jenns: Introduction and the First Jenn

Oh, for a muse of booze, that would descend

The dimmest dive bar in New Orleans

A Carousel for a stage, barmen to pour

Drunkards to behold, and antics to ensue!

Then should the Deadly Jenns, like themselves

Assume the port of the Sins, and at their heels,

Leash’d in like Furies, should luges, laybacks and slushies,

Crouch to be emptied down throats, laying waste to all.

 

Apologies to William Shakespeare, but the Seven Deadly Jenns seemed to need a better introduction than I could give on my own.  Who are the Seven Deadly Jenns and why name them thusly?  Well, these ladies all happen to be named Jenn in one way or another, whether Jenn, Jen, Jenny, Jenifer, and so on.  They are also every single one of them wonderful and amazing people, until the drinking starts.  Then, they’re still awesome, but now they are also deadly to your liver, your brain, your health, and sanity.

I have decided to put this guide together so that if you should encounter any of them you can either run screaming to or from them.  On the one hand your body will thank you, on the other your life will be the poorer, because no matter what these ladies represent something that is near and dear to my heart. Wait, is that my heart?  Hmmm, it might be my stomach. What’s that gurgly feeling when you can feel a craving for something but your stomach starts rebelling at the mere though of it?  Either way, these ladies represent some of what is best in the spirits and cocktail world, style, knowledge, panache, and an inability to take themselves too seriously.

 

Jennifer Morgenthaler Brooke – The Sniper

Yes, the sister of that Morgenthaler and recently made Joe Brooke one of the best and nicest gentlemen in the industry one of the luckiest as well.  She sits from afar and just waits for you to settle in and get comfortable at the bar. Then, wham!  Out of nowhere shots appear, and I’m not talking the “Yipee!  We got shots!”  Oh no, she uses her network of informants your own complacency to figure out exactly where you are, then figure out who’s working and then the batphone rings and your doom is sealed.  We’re talking about the wince inducing, head starts to hurt pre-emptively, sort of shots.  Of course she knows that none of us are ever going to turn them down, just curse her name, cheers her reach (I did that for you J. Mo), and slam them back.

Don’t let that innocent smile lure you into any false sense of security.  Behind those shades lies a calculating and far reaching lady, who strikes when least expected.  Watch out for her, but you won’t see her coming.

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Ante and Bottoms Up!

Every now and then I like to head off and play a couple hours of blackjack.  Besides the fact that I like the thrill of a good gamble and matching skills and statistical universes against each other casinos also have one very important thing.  Free drinks.  We all know the routine, sit at a table or machine and eventually you’ll be offered a free cocktail or beer. Lately though, I’ve also noticed that more casinos have added an option to pay a deeply discounted price for your drink in order to upgrade to a better spirit or microbrew.

It’s hard to beat free, but you know what, the longer I live and the longer I sell booze, I realise something.  Life’s for enjoying, and if I can make my life more enjoyable for a pretty nominal fee, I’m going to be pretty tempted.  Hell with tempted, seize the opportunity with both hands.  Now you may ask why not just stay home and play in an online casino and drink my own considerable stash of booze?  I like the interaction with other players.  I like being able to smack the idiot next to me who can’t play and is screwing it up for the table.  I also like the other temptations that casinos have added to their offerings to separate me from my money.

In the last few years, the addition of cigar and cocktail lounges with ambitious menus and programs have started to pop up.  Not just in Las Vegas either where every form of excess is lit up and put on display.  Regional and tribal casinos have realised that people like to enjoy themselves and once having made the decision to go to a casino why not make a night of it and go all out, especially if they’ve had good luck.  After all, they may have won it at the tables, but that cash doesn’t actually have to leave the building.

Consider the Petrossian Bar at the Bellagio, probably the first bar in Vegas where I felt that things were starting to turn around.  I can say that I have spent far more time at the Bellagio over the years because of that bar than I would otherwise have.  I think that this is a trend to be encouraged and I think I’m going to have to start compiling a serious list of casinos where the drinking experience has been elevated.  Time to ante up and order a drink.

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