NARRATED BY MODERN BAR CART CEO, ERIC KOZLIK
What’s shakin, cocktail fans?
Welcome to Episode 198 of The Modern Bar Cart Podcast!
If you tuned into our 2021 Second Half Preview episode, you may recall that I mentioned a concept called Epicureanism, which is doubtless something you’ve heard of, but it just so happens to be a largely misunderstood term, and that is one of the things I’m hoping we can rectify here today.
There are many different philosophies and schools of thought out there that have something to say about how we should be living our lives – or how to achieve and maintain “the good life.” There’s no question that spirits and cocktails are an integral part of that “good life,” so much so that someone who spends time and money optimizing for quality food and drink is known as a “Bon Vivant,” which is French for someone who “lives well.” When times are good and living is easy, it seems like pretty much anyone can find a little time or money to enjoy even just the smallest sliver of that good life, but when times are bad – let’s say, during a pandemic when our favorite bars and restaurants are closed or crippled – living well might seem like a real challenge. This is where learning a little bit about Epicurean philosophy can act as a sort of remedy for troubled times.
What We’ll Cover
I’ll begin by explaining who Epicurus was and what ideas he developed and spread throughout the Hellenistic world beginning in the 300s BCE – basically, what Epicureanism was before the term got slandered and slightly bastardized.
Then I’ll walk you through some of the important differences between Epicureanism and another philosophy called Stoicism, which has sort of taken our popular consciousness by storm in its greatly dumbed down format, which I refer to as “Broicism.” Lots of buzz around Stoicism lately.
And finally I’ll talk about why Epicureanism is useful — not only in our pursuit of sensory pleasures, but also more generally why it’s a tremendously attractive lens through which to view the strange and stressful world that we’re all experiencing in the here and now.
Along the way, there are some important things to cover in the realms of physics, ethics, and even politics, so please trust that I’m going to be as impartial a describer of Epicureanism and Stoicism as I possibly can be, but also know that I think Epicureanism really is the more attractive of the two philosophies, so understand that this is a bit of a sales pitch, and feel free to draw your own conclusions after you consider the evidence I present.
Why Epicureanism Matters Today
Spirits and cocktails didn’t really exist at the time when Epicurus first lectured in his “Garden” in Athens. They had some wine, mead, and beer, maybe some psychedelics used in religious ceremonies, and certainly more basic, rustic food than is available today. So in part, it’s presumptuous to assume what these ancient philosophers might have said about our fancy drinks. Would Marcus Aurelius have enjoyed a Manhattan? Dunno. Would Nero have enjoyed a Negroni? Almost definitely, but that’s not the point.
This episode is designed to give you a zoomed out way of looking at the world in general, and it happens to be a way of looking at the world that is very sympathetic to a hobby or a profession that involves spirits and cocktails. Think about the temperance movement, Prohibition, the hamfisted 3 Tier system and alcohol control states that many of us have to deal with on a daily basis. The mere existence of these institutions suggests we live in a world that isn’t so sympathetic to a life embellished within reason by sensory pleasures. So the primary value in understanding Epicureanism isn’t in learning to somehow better engage in hedonistic behavior (how to be MORE over-the-top with your consumption), but rather to understand your pursuit of flavor in a way that can give it more meaning, intention, and fulfilment. And hopefully, armed with some of this knowledge, if anyone ever hassles you about the value of your fancy drinks, at least you’ll be armed with some fun Greek words that might unseat them from their high, dry Stoic horse.
With that, let’s jump into this crash course on Epicureanism.