What’s shakin, cocktail fans?
Welcome to Episode 246 of The Modern Bar Cart Podcast! I’m your host, Eric Kozlik
This week, I thought I might play around with a little short-format podcast as a way to encourage you to participate in our weekly Instagram polls, where we ask our cocktail community, hard-hitting mixological questions, and then share the results with you to let you know where you stand in relation to the rest of the herd.
I’ve honestly been thrilled with the response to these polls, and when it comes to social media platforms and their impact on my life recently, I can’t say I’ve been thrilled about all that much, so I figured I’d try to catch and bottle a little bit of this lightning live, on the podcast so that we can get even more of you following along and contributing to the conversation.
If you’re only an occasional or casual Instagram user, you might be thinking: “huh, I haven’t seen or heard anything about these polls.” And that’s okay. Honestly, Instagram would tell you it’s my fault for not obsessively posting and commenting every day. But the nice thing about algorithms made by humans is: they’re pretty transparent. So there’s a couple things you can do if you want to make sure you’re catching more of our weekly polls:
Over on our Instagram profile, you can:
- Tap the little bell Icon on the top right of our profile and turn on notifications for our posts and stories. That would get the job done right away.
- Or, under the “following” button beneath our profile, you can select “add to favorites,” which would probably spare you the push notifications, but ensure you’re seeing what we post,
- And finally, throwing us a few likes or comments is always a nice way to signal to our friendly algorithmic overlords that you’re truly interested in seeing what we put out to the world.
So all that’s a slightly long-winded way of saying: “We’d really love to keep growing these polls to make the data we gather and share even more robust. So if you’re feeling left out, please throw some hooks into our Instagram profile and make your voice heard.”
Boozy Collective Nouns
This week’s poll is gonna be a little different from the ones where I ask you a question and give you a few options to choose from. This one is more open-ended, requires a bit more creativity on your part, and I’m actually going to sweeten the deal by offering some sweet rewards for the best responses, so listen all the way to the end if you want to hear about those.
It all started with a conversation I overheard a couple weeks ago just walking along here in DC, minding my own business. There was this group of young people – “Youts,” as Joe Pesci would call em – probably in their mid-20s – and one guy goes to the rest of the group:
“Hey, did you know that a group of rats is called a ‘mischief,’? It’s like a murder of crows, but for rats.”
And my immediate thought was: If I turned a corner and saw the equivalent of a herd or a flock of rats, my gut reaction wouldn’t be – hey! Looks like they’re up to some mischief! That term just doesn’t seem serious enough. I mean…I know the term “plague” is already taken by locusts, but that seems more fitting than a “mischief” of rats.
The term for this kind of device is a “collective noun.” It’s a single word (like army or forest or school) that refers to a collection of individual things (like soldiers, or trees, or fish – and sometimes children, in the case of school).
In the animal world, some people have clearly had fun with these collective nouns, and there’s even a book from the 1400s called the Book of Saint Albans that lists them for occupations or roles, such as a “melody” of harpers, a “blast” of hunters, and a “diligence” of messengers.
So being that we humans have had time to play around with these fanciful collective nouns for well over 500 years now, I figured it was high time we assign some to spirits, cocktails, and those who make them. But because I’m turning this into a competition – a little playful crowdsourcing of ideas with prizes assigned for the best – I figured I’d give you a few thoughts on what makes a *good* collective noun.
One prime characteristic of these words seems to be that they hit on the feeling you get when you might happen to encounter them. A “murder” of crows is fitting because they’re freakin ominous creatures, and something’s usually dead when they all show up in a group. So “murder” is an excellent collective noun because it signifies both the occasion for a flock of crows gathering in one place and the generally morbid feeling you get when witnessing that.
I like a “melody” of harpers as a demonstration as well. Because imagine a group of harp people all show up in a room with their instruments. Do you think there’s any situation in which they’re NOT gonna try and play something? Of course not. So the term melody fits both the singular use case of someone who plays a harp, and the inevitable outcome when many of them should happen to get together.
In the end, a good collective noun pulls double- or triple-duty. It means something very obvious, but it also may have references to the implied group behavior of the nouns in question, or something that makes them unique or special.
Some Boozy Examples
Let me give you a couple booze examples that I’ve come up with, and then I’ll tell you about the rules of this little competition we’re running.
The first one that sprang to mind on the spirits side, as I pondered this question, was a “Paradise” of Brandy. On the face of it, you might be like…okay. I guess brandy is pretty tasty, but what does it have to do with paradise? Well, in Cognac, the part of the cellar that holds the oldest and rarest casks, the producer’s most jealously guarded eaux de vie and barrels, is called a paradis, which, of course, is French for Paradise. Pair this with the fact that what got Adam and Eve kicked out of Paradise in Genesis happened to be a FRUIT…and, well, I think you see where I’m going with a “paradise” of brandy.
Another one I thought up was a “Pearlescence of Mezcal,” since traditionally, Mezcaleros would shake their distillate and use the bubbles that appeared as a way to judge the proof. These bubbles are colloquially referred to as “Las Perlas,” meaning “pearls,” so I thought a “Pearlescence” of Mezcal was both relevant and beautiful sounding.
For similar reasons, you could also have an archipelago of rums, a comradery of vodka, and even a fiesta of Tequila.
On the cocktail front, I also had some decent luck thinking up collective nouns for mixed drinks. Try these on for size:
- An Apocalypse of Zombies (pretty scary, right?)
- A Flock of Junglebirds
- A Skyline of Manhattans (a little punny, but I kinda like it)
- (my favorite) A Detention of Paper Planes
So from here, I’m putting the ball in your court. Once this episode goes live, I’m calling on you to think up your best collective nouns for spirits, cocktails, or the people and places that serve them. That means anything about bars, bartenders, distilleries, distillers, and anything else in the booze world is fair game.
You can message us your ideas on Instagram, because that’s where we’re going to be posting about this little game, and it’s where we’ll tag you to give you credit for your ideas. You can share a post or story and tag us @modernbarcart so that we can blast it out on our Instagram stories as well. Or, you could take the quieter road by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any ideas you’d like to throw into the ring.
This competition will last for about a week – maybe a little less if responses start to taper off. And at the end, I’ll pick one winner and two runners up. The winner will receive two variety packs – a full 8 flavor set – of our Embitterment Bitters, which are great holiday gifts. And the two runners up will receive copies of The Essential Tasting Journal for Spirits and Cocktails.
A Bit of Creative Advice
I left a lot of low-hanging fruit for you guys – and partly, that’s a trap. What I’ll leave you with is a piece of advice that I learned while doing Improv in college, and it’s universally helpful when I’m trying to come up with creative ideas.
It’s a notion called “Drop 3,” and generally it refers to jokes or funny responses and the process you go through trying to think of them on stage during an improv performance.
The first idea you think of in a given situation? That’s the obvious joke. So forget that. If it’s obvious, it’s not all that funny. The second idea is usually the crutch joke – something that leans on farts or sex or profanity, but that doesn’t have the legs to be funny on its own. But the third idea you think of…that’s the one that required real originality on your part. That’s the joke that will bring down the house.
So don’t just slide into our DMs and be like:
“A Rickhouse of Bourbon!” Where’s my prize?
Well, fine. I get it. Bourbon is kept in a rickhouse and that is where you might expect to find a large collection of bourbon. But you haven’t captured any of the culture or the feeling or the flavor experience with that term. You haven’t answered the question that all great collective nouns hint at, which is:
How is this group greater than the sum of its parts?