Monday, November 26, 2012

Hey, Naughty! Get on the Nice List.
 Who has time for holiday baking? Perhaps more importantly, who has time and the necessary skill set to turn out a variety of beautiful, delicious cookies that will make your friends and family taste the love in every bite? You do.

This is not a pep talk, this is a call to action. A call to action that is going to make you look and feel good.  You'll love the expressions on your friends' and family's faces when you present them with a gorgeous display of delightful confection, and you'll feel even better when you remember that every penny you spent went straight to an organization that is fighting childrens' cancer.

The MKEfoodies have been together for a few years now, and their members all love food.  They are self-professed "food geeks," and if I know one thing about geeks it's this: if you want something done right, get somebody who is as passionate as they are knowledgeable --in short: get a geek. They have teamed up with Cookies for Kids' Cancer to host a bake sale, dreaming of a day when a child's diagnosis of cancer is a manageable inconvenience instead of a bottomless terror. You can help.

It bears repeating: You can help. Come to the bake sale. Buy your holiday cookies this year. OXO, makers of fine kitchen utensils, will match every dollar you spend.  The Glad Corporation will donate $1 for every cookie sold. Get yourself on the nice list, and build a better world.

The event will be held Saturday, December 8 from 12-4pm at the Historic Pabst Brewery, located at 901 W. Juneau Avenue in Milwaukee. For more information, click here.

Let's make this holiday season warmer, knowing we're helping children lead better and longer lives and let us fill each moment with love and gratitude.

Thank you all!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I Hope It Isn't True...

Please, let this be a ploy to sell coasters, I thought. There I was at the gym, reading Cosmoplitan as innocently as it is possible to read a magazine whose cover is plastered with 25 Ways to Kiss Your Man and 8 New Sexual Positions.  I turned the page and saw the word "bartender."

When you're a bartender and somebody says "bartender," you turn toward the word. For me, it's the same with the word in print. I stopped to read an article that is so despicable it is probably true, even though I hope with all my heart it isn't.

Apparently, there is an increasing incidence of bartenders who, for a cash fee, will drug female bar patrons so that their dates can more easily sexually assault them.  Take a minute and let that sink in, because it turned my blood cold. One of the bartenders quoted said he was offered $30 to slip drugs into a woman's drink, accepted the money as though he were playing along, then told her what had happened, gave her the money and had her date ejected.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Or is it? I cannot find any mention of any particular case involving a rape victim who was drugged by any bartender as a service to his or her guest. I don't want to diminish the suffering of any woman who has been victimized in this way, but at the same time I know as well as you do that anecdotes are not evidence.  It bears repeating that I do not in any way wish to diminish the suffering of any woman who has been victimized in this way, because what I'm about to say may seem like the converse. But it isn't.

What short-sighted bartender would risk their reputation for such a paltry sum? What rotten human being would be an accomplice to rape?  Of course it is possible that this actually happens; there are scoundrels in every profession. Yet, there is no record of any bartender having done this, no proof of the existence of this crime except the anecdotal victims' conclusion that "[i]t must have been the bartender because no one else handled my drink," though by all accounts it is possible to commit this crime in less time than it takes to look at a text or visually scan the room.   The article quotes a representative from Project GHB, yet nothing on their website suggests that the danger of a Rape Accomplice is of any concern to them.  So, what are we to deduce?

Of course we should deduce that the world can be a dangerous place and that drinking is always better done with your close friends.  Certainly all females should remain in control of their cocktails and their intoxication. If you want to get bombed, stay home. I don't care who you are, if you're wasted, I don't want to see you.  And even if you don't get G'd, there's still the sticky wicket of getting home in one piece.

I made another observation, however, in researching this article. There are things for sale that are designed to protect women from the cads who would conspire to make us think less of men. Many things. How better to generate interest in your product than to amplify the need for it?  Israeli scientists have developed a device that looks like a straw and is imbued with chemicals that will react to some, though not all, of the sedatives rapists prefer. This product is still in development, but the presence of bad drugs causes a red light to illuminate their presence.  The guys in Tel Aviv are sure investors are coming soon.  Drink Safe Tech is selling a coaster that operates on the same premise, only in this case, droplets of a cocktail will change the appearance of the test area of the coeaster. You can also buy a lipgloss that comes with test strips, and many other products. According to another website, "Date Rape Drugs (are) now being used in business, hotels, parties, restaurants, bars and college campuses everywhere."  I'm not saying they ARE using fear to drive sales, but I'm certainly not saying they aren't. 

Are these products necessary? Probably in some circumstances. Is it possible to avoid every danger? Unfortunately, no. In truth, probably one drink in million or more is adulterated, but when it happens, it is life-changing... I know.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

More on the Future, Behind the Bar

Last week, we talked about the future of cocktails, and this week we will continue this topic. For last week's column, I consulted reports by experts in our industry to see what they think is coming down the line. You've been reading Fun Behind Bars, and you're read me say it so much you can probably say it with me: The Bar Follows the Kitchen. You know this means that the trends in food show up in the bar.  It follows that if we study what's next for food, we can predict our own future. So this week I'm reporting on trends for the kitchen, because you know that we'll be seeing them soon.  I'll be borrowing a few predictions, based on an article about the future of food from the 25th anniversary edition on Cooking Light magazine.

 Welcome to the Golden Age of American Food, they say, and the article describes things that are already happening in your mouth, and if they aren't -- they will soon!. Okay, excessively salacious, but they are happening on farms and in retailers... aaaaaand in your mouth. According to their research, popular opinion and science-in-general, the American diet is an abomination of chemicals, pretty produce that lacks nutrition, and high frustose corn syrup.  What's to come, however, is fresher, better-raised and more delicious. What does that mean for the bar? We will choose our ingredients more thoughtfully, and so will our suppliers. Here are some organic spirits to try, plus an organic tonic.. 

One trend we're watching, and supporting, is going lighter.  This means lighter with calories and easier on the alcohol - sometimes this means we drink better, not more. Sometimes this means we drink lighter-proof beverages like Bethenny Frankel's Skinnygirl line of beverage alcohol. Sometimes we keep the APV, but use lower-calorie mixers like zero-calorie water-additive powders like Crystal Light to fake a margarita on the deck while the kids play and the men barbecue.

The author of the Cooking Light piece describes a surreal experience in the grocery, stunned by the variety and the seemingly-incomprehensible claims on the packaging.  Sound familiar?  To paraphrase a famous quotation, if you're not baffled, you're not paying attention.  There are probably even more crazy flavors of vodka in a decent-sized liquor store than there are sugary cereals on Aisle 6.  It's not just wine's terroir anymore - it's the terroir of the hops, yeast and water. It;'s not just filtered, it's filtered through diamonds.  It's important for the marketers to have a message that hasn't been played to death by other companies, so every new product comes with a novel narrative.  One that plays the best, these days, is that everything comes from right where we are.   Cooking Light's food-trend article really focuses on the importance of eating local.  I've talked about this before, in relation to drinking local, and even staged a cocktail contest to highlight the many products Wisconsin's entrepreneurs are making for us, so what we're going to see is really just a continuation of our present trajectory.  Wisconsin is known as a beer-producer, but Great Lakes Distillery changed the game and now leads the way for brands like Rokker, 44th Parallel, Pie Liqueurs and more.  We're even in the wine game, and not just in Door County; Pieper Porch Winery in Mukwonago is producing award-winning wines right in the heart of the state.

What did we learn?  We learned that there really is no shocking trend to brace for; what's next is an expansion of what we're already doing.  Find new ways to use what's local, and as always, enjoy beverage alcohol safely so you can enjoy it for years to come!