Mixology Monday: Irish Goodbye

mxmologoNearly 11 years ago, Paul Clarke — now editor of Imbibe magazine, but then just a guy in Seattle — came up with an idea called Mixology Monday. Based on round robins such as Wine Blogger Wednesday, Tomatillo Tuesday, and Fenugreek Friday, Paul came up with the idea of hosting a themed round-robin for the then-nascent cocktail-blog community. Back in 2006, there weren’t many of us.

In 2006, Jen worked in midtown Manhattan, and I was either still laboring in the Bronx or just starting a job in Union Square. We lived in Bushwick, we cooked elaborate meals every night, and we frequently took the train to the bus to get to LeNell’s in Red Hook, to talk good booze with a good friend and try out some new bottles.

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Since then, we’ve lived in Rhode Island, very briefly in Massachusetts, back in Brooklyn, and now in Virginia. And we now also have two tiny humans who follow us around everywhere.

Paul long ago found himself too busy to carry on the project, but happily, Fred Yarm was willing to take it on, and he’s stewarded it quite well since Paul moved on. I seldom contribute, but I always read, and this month, Fred chooses the Irish Wake as his theme.

I’ve been fascinated to watch my fellow drinks-scribes over these many years since MxMo launched. Some of us have gone on to literary achievements, writing for magazines, newspapers, and web sites. We’ve even seen a few book deals come out of this pursuit. (Ahem, ahem.)

Some among us have left pundit circles altogether and become bartenders or even bar owners. I know people all over the country who have tended bar for the first time after writing about cocktails on the Internrdz.

I tried this once. It seems my talents are literary, which is just fine with me. I can’t complain; the job has taken me to Guadalajara and the tequila highlands, Barcelona, and the American-whiskey heartlands of Kentucky and Tennessee. I’ve signed books in San Francisco and had Sazeracs on a carousel in New Orleans.

Some of my friends in this community have understandably concluded that alcohol is a poison, and they’ve chosen to leave it behind. I admire that. I’m rethinking my drinking habits; though I don’t currently intend to stop drinking altogether, it’s never a bad idea to drink less often and in less quantity.

I still find the industry fascinating — too fascinating, in fact, to leave behind. I pull at a lot of threads during the day as I read Facebook, follow blogs, read industry magazines, and talk to people in the business, and there’s always something going on that I want to know more about.

One thread that currently interests me is the dramatic increase in Irish-whiskey distilleries over these past 11 years. When I started this hobby-turned-career, there were three, and now there are apparently sixteen. Whiskey as a category continues to gain strength, and Irish whiskey especially is surging. It’s easy to understand why; Irish whiskey is easy to drink, and it’s always been popular among young people, and especially women.

I have a project in mind, one where I research these sixteen distilleries, and try to find out how far along they are in producing their own stuff. Some of them have product in the marketplace even though they haven’t been open long enough to sell whiskey they’ve produced and aged themselves. Clearly, they’re sourcing product from other distilleries, and I want to know more about that. How do these distilleries plan to stand out from each other? What yarns to they plan to spin about their products?

I read more often these days than I write. I find it far more challenging to have one 3-year-old at home during the day than I did to have one 3-year-old and one 1-year-old, and so my writing right now is limited, and so every time I start working on this idea, my daughter tells me she’s licking the wall or I find her painting the cat.

Blogging about cocktails and spirits was my first gig, and although it paid … well, shit, it paid as well as Huffington Post pays, so never mind the pay. I wrote in this space to force myself to learn more about a subject that fascinated me, and to take what I learned and help others understand it too.

I haven’t participated in Mixology Monday in … oh, hell, nearly six years. But the theme of this month’s Mixology Monday is Irish whiskey, and the Irish wake, the mourning process for seeing loved ones depart these flawed bodies.

What I’ve written here isn’t what Mixology Monday is traditionally about–posting cocktail recipes and taking cool photos of tasty drinks. But this is the elegy I’ve chosen to recite over its casket. Thank you, Paul, for starting this journey, and thank you, Fred, for shepherding it on. And good bye, Mixology Monday. You were a great friend.

May flights of angel share see thee to thy rest.