Friday, January 25, 2019

THE HOME BAR :: Henry Jeffreys

Contrary to my social media posts, I've never been a big drinker. Which is saying something, seeing as I'm half Australian and half Slovenian bootlegger and come from a long line of professional drinkers. While there aren't many alcohols I drink at present, I'm starting to learn and enjoy more because so many of the things I love surround booze (plus: politics). I am a super nerd for wood, tools, metal, bottles, interesting lighting, and beautiful glassware. I also find cocktails themselves things of artistic beauty. Their many colors (hell, even the variety of colors in bourbon alone), interplay with ice and garnish, all of it. I have always adored everything about drinking but the drinking.

For those reasons, and because I need a project not to go mental(er), I have decided to try three things on the booze front this year: (1) learn more (2) experiment and (3) build/create a home bar. When I got an advance copy of The Home Bar, I knew it was a perfect place to start my efforts. From a full room bar to a bar cart or simple tray, The Home Bar provides tips on usage, stocking (booze and tools), display, seating, sinks, lighting, the works.

It started out all about the photography. The ebook was gorgeous, as I imagine the final hardcover product to be. This a book I would display and flip through right off the coffee table (or bar cart). There are fabulous pictures of bars, cabinetry, lighting, bottles, bar tools, glasses, and drinks. These are balanced with just the right amount of exposition, broken into logical sections to help you work your way through what type of bar you might want/need and how to stock it with the necessary equipment.

The book is written by Henry Jeffreys, grandson of Paul Ricard, inventor of the popular French aperitif, Pernod (or Pernod Ricard, basically an anise-flavored pre-dinner quaff intended to stimulate appetite). As such, Jeffreys certainly has the chops to discuss booze and bars. In fact, he begins the book with an interesting history of bars and how they were impacted by Prohibition and other historical and social times. I was impatient to get to the "good stuff," but I enjoyed it.

My attitudes about drinking and bars differ fairly drastically from the author's, so your mileage may vary. I come from a different kind of booze royalty than Jeffreys and was somewhat put off by his idea that home bars "are essentially about showing off" and "impressing" guests. Back bars should be a "booze wonderland." Which I had no problem with until he followed that idea with "so that your guests gasp." Snooze. In my mind, there's nothing worse than a host who is more interested in making me gasp about the number of bottles on his shelf than pouring me a god damn drink, having great conversation and a good laugh.

To be fair, I must contrast this with the many times Jeffreys talks about bars being "about comfort," the various ranges of bar materials he discusses, how budget items are okay, and even encouraged, and his belief about a bar being set up in the "spirit of convivialite" (the genuine pleasure of sharing moments).

But even in the midst of a welcoming thought (going for a pop art look with a shag rug) he throws in a crap one ("not in bright orange") that immediately made me want to go out and buy an orange-AF shag rug because that would be awesome. Also, "if you're serious about cocktails you should be making your own ice." I am, sir, right in my very own freezer using those cool plastic half-moon trays that come with the vegan mochi I buy at Trader Joe's. You will get the flavor of green tea ice cream in your bourbon and you will LIKE IT. I'm all for deep-diving on cocktail minutiae, but don't tell someone they can't be "serious" about mixing unless they do x, y or z.

Jeffreys made me a bit testy at times, but don't let that dissuade you. This book is full of fantastic stocking and design ideas, and the photos on their own are worth the price of admission.


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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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