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Impressions

The Dawn of The Digital Drink

The Dawn of The Digital Drink

Once the first wave of bars and restaurants began to shutter their doors mid-March, at the start of what would become a months-long period of social distancing, the thought occurred to us, “But where will we gather?”

It’s a question we’ve continued to ask ourselves as feelings of loneliness set in, as the LA Times makes predictions like,

"Make a list of your top 10 restaurants that you would hate to see close and support them at this time. Because 75 percent of them may eventually close."

It’s a startling statistic, and one that has forced us to consider what the world would look like without the dive bars and mom and pop shops and Sunday breakfast spots we know and love. With patronage out of the question, we are supporting these brick and mortar shops and stops we used to frequent in a new, very online way. We’re following along on their Instagram stories for new-to-us market offerings and to-go cocktails, making donations in an effort to support waitstaffs, even personally checking in on the teams of our nearest and dearest spots.

It seems that just as the premise of the IRL dining experience was wiped clean, we have been presented with an ever-expanding list of ways to engage with our local food and drink purveyors.

The same is true within our social circles. We are adapting to the current climate at a staggering rate, and this immense change can be felt most in the ways we are connecting with each other. Under quarantine, we have turned to technology to find community in ways we haven’t since the days of blogs and forums and AIM. In this new normal, we spend our Friday nights on Zoom happy hours clinking glasses with no one. We watch Alison Roman dole out cooking tips and chop shallots on Instagram Live, tuning in at set times like we did back when we still watched cable TV. We are, in small but significant ways, using the digital landscape again as a tool for connection as opposed to self-promotion.

It’s rare that change looks like reverting back to old ways of doing things. But alas, here we are–searching for ways to communicate with each other online in the same ways we did when the Internet was new and the words “influencer marketing” were still lightyears away.

In a Zoom happy hour I attended the other week, someone posed the question to the 15-person group, “What are the small things you’re delighting in now?” Answers varied, but several pointed to a shared truth–people are connecting with friends, family members, and yes, even strangers, online in ways they would have never done pre-pandemic. I listened to stories of foregone friendships being revitalized, deep-seated sibling rivalries resolving themselves, strangers striking up real conversation on dating apps without any intent of meeting up in-person. Even friends I was already speaking with on a weekly basis have become daily fixtures in my quarantine life.

It seems that being relegated to communicating via screens alone has spurred people to communicate even more. In the absence of communal spaces, we have transformed the internet into our own dive bar, mom and pop shop, and Sunday breakfast spot, partaking in happy hours and virtual brunches with a regularity that rivals the lives we led pre-pandemic. The social rituals we once turned to for comfort in the “old world” have followed us into our homes and onto our screens. Happy hour has not been postponed–our meeting places have simply become digitized.

It may seem like a cheap substitute at first glance, gathering around our computer screens for a drink as opposed to the bar down the street. But truth be told, it’s something we have already been doing for quite some time now. In an increasingly global world, we lean on technology as a way to connect across cities, states, time zones. Long distance friendships and relationships have thrived and survived under this model. Searching for connection through our screens is not a particularly novel idea–it’s just that our desires to connect have been heightened and our traditional means to connect have been erased.

When this is all over, I’m sure we will return to our posts at the bars and restaurants where we once gathered, or at least what is left of them. IRL nights out will resume. We’ll revert, in some ways, to the lives we led pre-pandemic. But we’ll return with a newfound understanding that the ways we connect with each other and the restaurants and bars we patronize are less limited than we thought. Happy hour–or at least the connection to people and places it provides us with–is withstanding of circumstance.

How I Get Undone: Caitlin Zenisek

How I Get Undone: Caitlin Zenisek

We are constantly bombarded with productivity hacks – tips and tricks on how to cross everything off our to-do lists while also being a person/partner/colleague/parent. Here at AMASS, though, we are far more interested in how people get undone. We want to know the nightly rituals that happen after 5PM, from the cocktails drunk to the books read. To us, it’s those small moments behind the scenes that really count, because in them lies a glimpse into who we want to be.

To kick things off, we asked AMASS’ LA-based Marketing Coordinator, Caitlin Zenisek, to share the ways she’s taking her pleasure seriously off the clock.

With quarantine in place, how has your evening routine changed?

I think everyone is adjusting to a much slower pace of life in general right now, which is weird and bizarre but also a blessing. I’ve tried to take this as an opportunity to reflect the extra space and time we have on our hands back into myself. I’ve been cooking much more, which has always been very therapeutic for me, experimenting with fun cocktails and working my way through our wine supply, and checking in with friends and family. Before bed, I’ve dedicated much more time than I’d like to share to a pretty indulgent skin care routine, and I’m attempting to journal or meditate – even if it’s just five minutes – to really unwind and quiet my mind. I’m not quarantining alone, so giving myself a little pocket of time completely to myself every evening is vital - you can’t water flowers from an empty bucket, right?

What are you normally up to after working hours?

When I leave the office, if I don’t have an event or happy hour, I’m usually heading to dinner with my boyfriend or friends, or home to chill tf out. Making sure I allow myself to turn off after work is super important to me – whether I’m doing something active, creative, or mindless, my “after hours” time gives me the balance I need. I love being social and am such a foodie, so going out with friends and trying new restaurants is my jam, but I also can’t resist curling up on the couch with a glass of wine, ordering in (Vietnamese is my favorite), and binging Netflix. Totally depends on my mood!

What are the rituals you practice to decompress and take care of yourself after a particularly stressful day?

Exercising regularly has always been the most effective and reliable way to manage my stress and anxiety. I usually run in the mornings, when LA is still quiet and I can get some fresh air, to start my day on a positive and productive note. But if I’m really needing some TLC after work, nothing calms me down like a hot yoga class. By the time I’m home, I’m already so relaxed, I’ll light a candle (I love the AMASS Mateo candle) or burn some incense, take a long shower, tidy up my apartment (also super therapeutic for me), and then read before bed. These are the days I really try to leave my phone out of sight, so I’m not tempted to mindlessly scroll through social media! That part can be hard but makes a world of difference.

It's 7 PM, you're in PJ's on the couch—what are you drinking? Watching or reading? Eating?

If I’m not having an AMASS martini, I’m drinking a glass of skin contact white wine - the funkier the better. As of late, I’m either watching Ozark, Tiger King (because you can’t not), or any of the Oscar nom films I haven’t seen yet. I’m slowly working my way through Sapiens, which I will finish before quarantine is over. And if we’re really getting cozy, I’m probably waiting on delivery from Nong La or Night + Market.

Are there any at-home hobbies you've picked up or are hoping to try with all this newfound time on your hands?

I’ve been crocheting for years – my grandma taught me how when I was little – so I’ve finally had some free time to sit and work on a few projects I’ve had sitting around. I just finished a giant cardigan that conveniently feels like a blanket – perfect for wrapping up and snuggling in during this time. My grandma, who also happens to be a huge fan of an AMASS martini, has been calling to check on my work –  it’s really nice to have that family connection tied in as well :)

Meet Master Distiller Morgan McLachlan

Meet Master Distiller Morgan McLachlan

Morgan McLachlan grew up on the side of a mountain in Vancouver, a place so beautiful that when she visited Yosemite for the first time years ago she thought to herself, “Oh, this is just like where I grew up.” She spent most of her days under her grandparents’ watch, playing and hiking in the forest, forging what would become a lifelong relationship with plants.

It’s a childhood straight from the storybooks, and one that makes perfect sense once you know where Morgan is now: distilling spirits from botanicals growing in her Echo Park backyard here in Los Angeles. The most striking of the plants growing in her yard? The California Bay Leaf, a plant more commonly found in Northern California that somehow made its way down the coast, into Morgan’s backyard, and eventually into a bottle of AMASS Dry Gin.

Before she got her start as a distiller, Morgan followed in her father’s footsteps working in the film and television industry as a camera operator. At just 17-years-old, Morgan was the youngest person at the time working in IATSE, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, and one of the only women. “It’s always interesting talking about gender issues if you just get into it by the numbers,” she says. “In IATSE, when I was in the union, it was five percent women.”

When she left the movie biz a decade later to pursue a career in distilling, she found herself yet again in the minority, although this time on her own terms. In 2012, Morgan co-founded The Spirit Guild, a DTLA-based distillery that specializes in making a variety of spirits from California’s diverse flora. Since founding the distillery, Morgan has helped build seven beverage brands, establishing herself as one of the leading independent distillers and, once again, one of the only women.

On why more women aren’t distillers, Morgan theorizes that most women are probably too intelligent for the job. “You’re basically a janitor,” she explains, citing the hours of cleaning and back-breaking labor as one of the reasons the industry has remained so male-dominated.

Morgan, though, is an exception to her own theory, proving that women–even and perhaps especially intelligent women–have a place in distilling. Growing up in British Columbia, Morgan knew what every plant was–which ones were poisonous, which were edible, the conditions they grew best in. So when she moved to Los Angeles over a decade ago, she sought to learn as much as she could about Southern California flora, striving to become a resident expert on the region’s lush terroir.

Morgan’s partner at the time came from an old California ranching family dating back to the 1860s, and Morgan’s knowledge of the area’s agriculture blossomed from that tie. She started experimenting with various botanicals, including citrus, something she thought couldn’t be distilled because she had never seen it done before. She went on to distill the first gin and vodka from clementines, an innovation that came from the simple question: “What would a spirit distilled in Southern California be made from?”

Unlike other distillers that prioritize experimentation above all else, Morgan knows that innovation can only follow knowledge. Distilling, much like filmmaking, relies heavily on craft, a now overused descriptor in the alcohol world that nonetheless remains the most precise, as it encompasses both technical skill and artistry. Morgan elucidates on the matter,

“You can be a really good technical distiller where the spirits you’re making are missing a certain je ne sais quoi. And then you can be a very artistic distiller, but if you don’t know the techniques or the traditions… you can make a very sloppy product… It’s sort of like art. You learn how to draw and then from there, once you know the aesthetic rules, if you break the rules you’re breaking them intentionally.”

Morgan certainly knows how to break the rules–she’s been doing it since she first started working in movies at 17. But she also understands that distilling tradition is rooted in historical context. Take bourbon, for example. Back in 1938, the Coopers Union Lobby prohibited the reusing of barrels in the production of bourbon in an effort to create jobs and spur the lagging timber industry. Now, nearly a century after the law was first put in place, we’ve become accustomed to the taste of New American, charred oak barrel bourbon. To discard the rules surrounding the production of bourbon would be to disrupt the unique, now-expected flavor of the liquor.

Trace back to the origins of most modern spirits and you’ll find a similar trajectory. What we eat and drink are reflective of the times before us, but also the times we live in now. And in order to be a thoughtful distiller, it’s important to understand the symbiotic relationship between what we make and who we are, not as individuals but as a collective.

Morgan is deeply concerned with this relationship, as is evidenced by her near encyclopedic knowledge on the history of distilling. And luckily for her, the times we live in now are a beautiful place to be on the spirits front. We’ve entered into an era of thoughtful consumption, with consumers caring deeply about what they’re putting into their bodies. The decentralization of distilling away from large industrial practices has freed makers from rigid spirits categories and allowed for unprecedented creativity and innovation. Our drinking traditions are evolving with our culture and taking us to places no one has thought to go before. The lines between non-alcoholic, low-alc, and traditional spirits are being blurred, giving consumers of all kinds an opportunity to connect.

That ability to connect over food and drink is what entices Morgan most. She tells me, “My family is Scottish, so we’re lucky if we get black pepper on our roast beef, maybe some horseradish [laughs]. If you look at the history of the spice trade, spices and botanicals were really the first thing people knew of other cultures. I think in general, food and beverage is a calling card of culture and is something everyone can appreciate and connect over.”

AMASS–a word that simply means “to gather”–celebrates the power drink has to bring people of all walks of life together. Here in Los Angeles, a multicultural city with a recently booming food and beverage scene, this rings especially true. So much of AMASS Dry Gin, AMASS’s premiere product and Morgan’s personal brainchild, is inspired by the natural terroir and diverse cultural landscape of LA. The city is felt in the spirit’s indigineous botanicals like California Bay and Cascara Sagrada, as well as in the worldy, vibrant flavors of hibiscus and cardamom. It’s not difficult to see the influence of place–it’s also not difficult to see the influence of Morgan.

Morgan never thought she’d become a distiller, nor did she ever think she’d live in Los Angeles. She tells me that on one trip to LA in her 20s, she met with a corporate psychic at 21st Century Fox, where her step-mother worked at the time. It was the early 2000s, and Morgan had big plans to move to Berlin and play in an art-rock band (on the keyboard, naturally), to which the psychic told her, “Oh honey, you’re not moving to Berlin. You’re moving to Los Angeles.” Morgan quickly disregarded the prediction: “I thought, well that’s funny, because I hate Los Angeles.” Within a few years, she was living here, sleeping on a friend’s couch, and attending parties in the Hills.  It’s a classic story of “little did she know…”, but I’d argue that it’s more than that–it’s a story of Morgan and her ongoing capacity to change, like a snake in the habit of shedding skins.

Since co-founding AMASS with CEO Mark Thomas Lynn in 2018, Morgan’s role has shifted several times over. Now AMASS’s Chief Product Officer and Master Distiller, Morgan is still in the business of distilling and developing spirits, but she now oversees larger business operations as well. It’s not an entirely new realm for her to inhabit–she learned the ins and outs of how to run a business when she first founded the Spirit Guild nearly a decade ago. Outside of the office, Morgan’s life is similarly in flux–she is expecting her first child this spring, to which she says,

“I don’t know what you’re supposed to do when you’re pregnant, but I’m just going to keep working.”

When I ask her about the new direction her life and career are taking, she responds earnestly, “I’m just really excited to do everything all the time.” And that’s the truth of it. It’s not that Morgan is striving to be the best–she knows better than to strive for such empty aspirations. Rather, it’s that she wants to be the most thoughtful distiller she can be.

Distilling, at its core, is about taking simple ingredients–herbs, spices, fruit–and transforming them into a conduit for the senses. And if there’s anyone well-suited for that job, it’s Morgan. She’s read all the books. She’s learned the hard lessons. And perhaps most importantly, she delights in creating quotidian pleasures through drink. It’s a passion that does not seem to be fading, even as AMASS continues to evolve. Morgan is currently in the process of developing an aperitivo, the brand’s first foray into the low-alc space. More products–including, eventually, a non-alcoholic one, as well as a line of botanic hand washes and lotions–are set to follow. Such tremendous change could overwhelm some, but Morgan remains nonplussed. In fact, it seems that this ongoing change is what excites her most, as in it lies the possibility to transform the way we connect.

Photos by Cara Robbins

Finding Ritual In The Age of Corona

Finding Ritual In The Age of Corona

We’re several weeks into quarantine, which means my supply of clean sweatpants is running low, tensions between family members are running high, and I’ve been drinking… a lot. I’m not the only one–in a New York Times article published last week, it was reported that Drizly, an alcohol-delivery service, has had its sales increase by 50 percent since news of COVID-19 began to spread.

I’ve seen similar trends within my immediate social circle–on a FaceTime call with a friend last week, we commiserated over our newfound lifestyle, with meal and drink time acting as an anchor for the otherwise mindless passing of days. I flipped the camera to display my ever-diminishing array of booze, an assortment of wine and liquor that had begun to overtake my rather large dining room table. An even more dismal sight was to be found in my recycling bin, which overfloweth with discarded bottles of pinot.

Pre-quarantine, I was maxxing out at 2–3 drinks per week–a glass of wine with dinner here, an after-work cocktail with a friend there. But about a week into work-from-home life, the ratio of days passed to drinks drank was inching closer to 1:1. It’s not that I was drinking as a way to dull the senses–although, yes, if there was ever a time to crave distraction, now was it. More than that though, I was reaching for a glass as a way to mark the hazy line between afternoon and night, work and play, weekday and weekend.

It’s something we do habitually–after hard days and in celebration of good ones, we drink to commemorate and signify a moment. It’s why happy hours exist, after all (which you can read more about here). If you want to and are able to, pouring a drink is not the worst way to maintain some semblance of normalcy during an unprecedented global pandemic. But there are other rituals to practice to stay sane (and safe) that don’t involve another trip to the liquor store…

1. Set the light

When you’re sitting in the same room day in and day out, mood lighting matters. Open up your blinds during the day and burn candles at night to keep the distinction between on and off crystal clear.

2. Put a pot on to boil

Whether you’re making pasta or a cup of tea, there is something about the gentle simmer and eventual bubbling of a pot of water that has the power to soothe. It’s a ritual I’ve found myself retreating to on days when it’s comfort I’m craving most.

3. Play some tunes

Instead of pouring a glass at the end of the day, put on a record or strum on a guitar. The effect is similar so long as you opt for smooth and easy music.

4. Read poetry aloud

When spoken, a poem can feel something like a prayer. Read to yourself, read to someone you love–read because the news is loud and the rest of the world feels a little too quiet right now.

5. Stretch, breathe

Get back in your body by touching your toes. It’s simple, but taking the time to slow down your breath and stretch your limbs can transport you to a calmer place.

6. Preserve your perishables

Make an afternoon out of pickling veggies and sauerkraut. It’s a meditative practice that’s good for salvaging any farmer’s market treasures you have hanging out in your crisper drawer.

7. Take sunset walks

With social distancing in mind, take walks down the side streets you don’t typically trek at the end of the workday.

8. Bubble a bath

Baths are the perfect way to escape–from your screens, from your roommate, from the messy corners of your home. Low light and soft sounds are key here.

9. Mindlessly play

Whether it’s watching Youtube videos or going deep into an Animal Crossing rabbit hole, give yourself permission to delight in the mindless pleasures you typically chide yourself for. In a time where so much of our headspace is being taken up by worry, granting yourself simple comforts is an essential practice.

A Letter From The AMASS Team On COVID-19

A Letter From The AMASS Team On COVID-19

In light of the ongoing spread of COVID-19, we have asked our team to practice social distancing and work remotely in an effort to protect the vulnerable and immunocompromised. While it pains us to see our industry navigate through these tough times, our first priority is the safety of our community.

Over the past year and a half, our crew of bartenders has stood steadfastly by AMASS. We understand that we wouldn’t be here without their ongoing support, and are committed to doing everything in our power to gather, create, and share resources to help mobilize the movers and shakers that make up this industry.

In March, we donated 10% of the proceeds of our botanic hand sanitizer to the United States Bartenders Guild Emergency Grants Program to assist bartenders whose livelihoods have been compromised by the sudden closures of bars and restaurants. We are now donating a portion of our hand sanitizer production to healthcare professionals on the front lines and nonprofit organizations working to protect and support at-risk populations nationwide.

AMASS means “to gather together,” and we’re grateful there are so many ways to do this digitally. As the situation continues to evolve, we’ll be providing important updates here as well as rolling out tips and tricks on how to shake up cocktails at home from our community of bartenders. In the meantime, we’ve listed some ways to support your local bars and restaurants below.

Now more than ever, we’re inspired and moved by the tenacity and generosity of this community. Thank you for being here–we're wishing that you and your loved ones remain safe and healthy.

How You Can Help

  • Purchase gift cards when available to be used once the crisis abates
  • Continue ordering from your favorite restaurants online and opting for no-contact delivery or pickup
  • Call your local bars and restaurants and ask to buy their perishable items
  • Donate when and if you can to supplement payroll for the servers, hosts, and bartenders that make up this community
  • Call your Representative and Senators and demand that employees in the hospitality sector (and small businesses in general) are part of the federal stimulus plan. You can be connected to the capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121
  • Buy merch and products (like jam, coffee, and hot sauce) from the restaurants you love


Cheers,

Team Amass

The Ultimate Cocktail Forecast of 2020

The Ultimate Cocktail Forecast of 2020

The 2010s were a decade of excess capped off with surprising thoughtfulness. They were a decade of canned concoctions and boozy brunches. They were, in a word, boundless. And as sad as we were to bid them farewell, we’re also thrilled to see more mindful trends make their way into the spotlight. So I talked with Robby Nelson, AMASS’ East Coast Sales Director and cocktail whiz whose personal resume reads like a who’s who of the New York food and beverage scene. Before joining the AMASS team, Robby served as the General Manager at Momofuku’s East Village bar, Booker and Dax, bartended at The Long Island Bar under Toby Cecchini, the much-lauded creator of the legendary Cosmopolitan, and worked at Pernod-Ricard first as the Brand Ambassador for Plymouth Gin and later as a Key Account Manager. Suffice it to say, Robby knows a thing or two about cocktails. So it should come as no surprise that when I asked him to share his bold predictions for the drink trends of 2020, he did not disappoint.

No Proof Cocktails

I have definitely noticed more and more bars/restaurants offering "No Proof" cocktails and devoting a section of their menu to them, not to mention taking the time during menu development to create some delicious drinks. Seedlip is, of course, a brand that I see more and more of, but bars have also been incredibly creative when developing non-alcoholic cocktails. For instance, Existing Conditions, which is over a year old now, launched with some truly incredible No Proof cocktails, employing all of their "scientific" and "molecular" techniques (I put those in quotes because they hate the term molecular, and probably wouldn't like scientific much either).

The Martini

I also think the martini is having a bit of a moment. A lot of cocktail bars have a house martini or a martini variation on the cocktail menu. My friends recently opened a restaurant called Anton's in the West Village, and they serve a pre-batched, pre-diluted, and chilled martini, as well as a Manhattan, which are both simple and delicious. That's another trend, too–prepared cocktails that are made better by being made ahead of time. Existing Conditions has an old school vending machine with three different bottled cocktails that you get by requesting a token from the bartender that you then use on the vending machine as if you're getting a Coke.

Classic Cocktails on Restaurant Menus

I have also been noticing that a lot of restaurants have decided they don't need to have a list of bespoke, house cocktails. They're happy to serve a short list of classic cocktails and do them well, which I am so happy about.

Glassware

Glassware—that's the new arms race. Gone are the days where everyone used the same Libbey 5.5 oz coupe glass. Now anyone with a serious cocktail program selects their own glassware because they want it to be beautiful and unique. Which I also love because I'm a sucker for glassware.

Mini Martinis & Vermouth Service

I was never a big fan of doing shots of Fernet, which used to be what every bartender would serve every industry person who walked through the door. Thankfully, this has largely disappeared.  Now, bars/restaurants have their own unique ways of saying hello/goodbye to a visiting industry person.  For instance, Dante usually pours tiny martinis (because they have them prepared) or they'll do a small version of their vermouth service, which is dry vermouth, a splash of bubbles, and a frozen grape. [The drinks are] delicious and low proof, so you're not staggering out of the bar after a full-blown shot of full proof spirit.

Thoughtful Consumption

Along the lines of what I said above about shots, I think consumers are also drinking with more care and intention. They want to understand and appreciate what they're drinking, not necessarily get wasted. Don't get me wrong, people also do that, and frequently. But it's like with food, people want to eat/drink something they enjoy, they can learn about, talk about, take a cute picture of, and engage with on a deeper level than just being full/drunk.

Written by Nicole Carullo & Robby Nelson

The Buzzy (and Boozy!) Drinks That Defined The 2010s

The Buzzy (and Boozy!) Drinks That Defined The 2010s

What we order at a bar says a lot about us. Our drink orders provide a portal into what we desire, of course, but also how we desire to be seen. And while we all have our old standbys (like my friend who continues to order Cosmopolitans everywhere he goes no matter how uncool they have become), most of us are at least somewhat concerned in appearing in-the-know. That’s why we here at AMASS rounded up the trendiest drinks of the past decade, as a glimpse into the cocktails and beers and shots we ordered and drank in an attempt to seem cooler than we actually are.

2010: The Four Loko

The decade started out with a bang with the rise of the now-infamous Four Loko, a caffeinated alcoholic beverage responsible for many a forgotten night out. Once beloved among college students for its potency and almost concerningly low price point of 3 bucks a can, the caffeine-and-sugar-laden concoction has since been banned (fair), but its legacy forever lives on.

2011: Pabst Blue Ribbon

Unlike its fellow cheap beer counterparts, in its prime PBR was beloved not among bro-y frat stars, but among the beanie-clad, handlebar mustached hipsters of the early 2010s. It was the beer you drank if you were in a band, and although it quickly became outshined by the emerging craft beer scene, for a fading moment it reigned supreme.

2012: Whiskey

With the popularity of Don Draper came a short-lived but nonetheless memorable Americana phase. Many an old fashioned and whiskey sour were drunk and The Avett Brothers were played loudly and often. In the words of a not-so-American writer, it was the best of times and it was the worst of the times.

2013: Negronis

Back in 2013, Campari launched Negroni Week in an effort to 1) celebrate the cocktail, 2) raise money for charities around the world and 3) sell a lot of Campari. It worked, and the classic cocktail became the drink du jour. (Of course, we’re partial to an AMASS Negroni, which you can shake up at home with our recipe here.)

2014: Over-the-top-Brunch-Cocktails

The advent of Instagram brought Instagram-friendly cocktails, and none were more extra than the Bloody Mary. Stacked with everything from fried chicken to cocktail shrimp to cheeseburger sliders, these savory cocktails were a lesson in excess.

2015: Fireball

While Fireball first had a surge of popularity in 2012, it wasn’t until 2015 that the cinnamon-flavored whiskey became the top-selling liqueur in the United States (and the one countless college freshman would cite as the reason they can’t stomach the taste of cinnamon anymore).

2016: Frosé

The moment has passed, but the “frosé all day” tee shirts still remain. The unofficial white girl drink of 2016, frosé, or frozen rose, is like a grown-up slushie made with pink wine and fresh strawberries. It’s best drunk poolside, ideally with one of those pizza or donut-shaped pool floats nearby.

2017: Natural Wine

Natural wine, or wine that is made with fewer additives and sulfites, became popularized in France back in the ‘60s, but it took some time (over 50 years, to be exact) for the movement to gain traction stateside.  Made with the principle that “nothing is added and nothing is taken away,” natural wine’s growing popularity mirrored consumers’ growing concern about what they were putting into their bodies.

2018: The Aperol Spritz

Ah yes, the cocktail that spurred countless Instagram posts and a hotly-debated New York Times think piece. Aperol, the part sweet, part bitter Italian aperitivo, has been around since the ‘50s, but it wasn’t until an intense marketing campaign led by Campari that the drink became a stateside sensation. The buzz has since mellowed a bit, but expect to still see the orange-hued cocktail on your feed come June.

2019: Low ABV Alternatives

While consumers at the beginning of the decade were primarily concerned with how to get drunk fast (hence the popularity of Four Loko), we’ve since entered into an era of low ABV and more thoughtfully sourced ingredients. It’s why hard kombucha and mocktails (and yes, even White Claws) have hit their stride now, and is a trend we’ll continue to see as we bid the 2010s adieu.

How Pinochle and Pinot Brought a Family Together

How Pinochle and Pinot Brought a Family Together

After my grandmother died, my family went into a holding period. We boxed up the contents of her attic, sorted through troves of old photographs and jewelry, argued who among us would inherit her wedding ring. And then we retreated to our separate homes for a while, unsure of how or where to reconvene without this central matriarch.

In most cultures, the grandmother is the primary figurehead, the person through which all of the family recipes and traditions are passed through. She is the grounding force that keeps family returning home, for holidays and birthdays and funerals, no matter how far away everyone may live.

My grandmother was no exception to this. Her house was a place that felt warm, even in the dead of winter. Booze flowed plentifully there and food even more so. There were card games and cartoons, ‘Nilla wafers eaten at the kitchen counter. It smelled like...mothballs, and meatballs, and her. So when she died, it felt like the death of something much larger than a person.

But in the months that followed my grandmother’s passing, my aunt bought her house and moved in, replacing the decor but keeping a place for family to come and gather. So we did, slowly at first, uneasy to embrace my grandmother’s house as a place separate from her. Doing so felt something like betrayal. But over time, and out of simple necessity, we began showing up there for holidays, gifts and drinks and food in tow, ready, finally, to celebrate with each other.

On the first Christmas after my grandmother’s death, we pulled out a deck of cards and played Pinochle–my grandmother’s game–for the first time in a long time. My dad and his three sisters sat around the kitchen table and played under yellow light while I perched myself beside them, trying my best to learn a game in which the rules constantly seemed to be in flux. Snow piled outside as they drank freely, and I watched their grins grow bigger and bigger until their cheeks dappled red like the wine.

I don’t know if it was the booze or the game or the simple fact that we were together after a period of separation, but I noticed a shift in us that night. My dad brought out old tape recordings from when he and his sisters were kids, and we listened to the crackly voices of a much younger family. There were my dad and his sisters excitedly talking about school and sleepovers–kid things–and then there was my grandmother, her tongue sharp and biting, a looming figure even on tape.

It was a portal into a version of my family I did not recognize, or at least had not seen in quite some time, and I wanted to linger in their shared history for a while. We laughed a lot, listening to those tapes. I cried a little, too.

From that night forward, we were a family bound by alcohol and a deck of cards, these simple, human things that somehow allowed us to discover each other again. My grandmother’s old house became marked as a place where we could continue in her absence–I could keep trying and failing to learn the rules to Pinochle, the wine could keep flowing, and, most importantly, we could keep coming together again.

The Ways We Celebrate (And Don't Celebrate) Thanksgiving

The Ways We Celebrate (And Don't Celebrate) Thanksgiving

There are a lot of reasons I love Thanksgiving. I love that the holiday spurs people to come together, gather around a table, and give thanks. I love eating pie and drinking wine and laying on the couch wearing sweatpants and socks while the Cowboys play on the television. I love the pride a family can have over a dish of sweet potatoes, how a bowl of cranberry sauce can be so much more than a bowl of cranberry sauce. It’s a day that aligns so strongly with my core values (family and food, namely) that I feel the temptation to ignore the rest. It’s easy to pretend Thanksgiving is devoid of problems when, up until pretty recently, there was little to no public discourse saying otherwise.

For a long time, the story of the first Thanksgiving has failed to acknowledge the very real story of colonization and massacre. It has glossed over the unpleasant realities and instead painted a picture of turkey and camaraderie, of a false friendship between the Pilgrims and the Native American people they displaced. And I feel a growing hesitancy to continue pretending that Thanksgiving is a day about coming together and holding hands when I can see, quite plainly now, all the ways it’s not that.

This growing hesitancy to celebrate Thanksgiving is a collective one, as evidenced by the general decline in young people taking part in holiday traditions. Even here at AMASS, with a team that loves nothing more than gathering together over food and drink, several members of our team have chosen to opt out of traditional Thanksgiving festivities, citing the holiday’s problematic history as the predominant reason. One member of our team spends the day making an assortment of dishes from all over the world, while another simply takes advantage of the time off work to visit her family in Northern California.

But for those of us who do celebrate, whether that be because of familial obligation or a genuine desire to spend a day giving thanks, how are we supposed to reconcile Thanksgiving’s gruesome history with our own passed-down traditions? And more importantly: is doing so even possible?

Having a day to gather with loved ones and reflect on what we’re thankful for is not, at its essence, a bad thing. In fact, it’s an essential practice, regardless of whether that moment of reflection takes place on the last Thursday of November or any other day. But if we are going to use Thanksgiving as a day to eat, drink, and give thanks with the people we love, it’s our responsibility to do so in a way that respects and acknowledges the pain felt by many in the Native community.

I’ve found through articles like this one and conversations with friends that there are actually many ways to acknowledge the problematic history of Thanksgiving. By remembering and talking about the first Thanksgiving as it really happened, taking the time to not only give thanks but to reflect on the lives lost, and donating to indigenous-rights organizations like these, we can work to reframe the narrative of Thanksgiving.

The Case Against Meal Prep

The Case Against Meal Prep

I grew up in a house where my dad cooked dinner almost every night. He worked full-time and the meals he made for us were not particularly groundbreaking (read: meatloaf was often on the menu). He did not plan elaborate grocery lists or shop from artisanal stores or cull recipes from cookbooks written by esteemed chefs. He just cooked, simply, with the intent of eating food that would curb both hunger and cravings, every day.

Most nights when I get home from work, I make myself a meal and pour myself a drink. It’s nothing revolutionary, but in a cultural moment where cooking often means an assembly-line-style Sunday meal prep, making a single, thoughtful meal on a Tuesday feels like a small act of rebellion.

Sometimes the word “make” means cutting up a rotisserie chicken and placing it atop some rice and arugula, but there is still something important happening there, even if what I’m doing could barely be considered cooking.

As I stand over my kitchen counter, alone, for likely the first time after a busy workday, I feel something like release. The term “self-care” is overplayed at this point, but that is, to some extent at least, what I’m talking about here–the process of slowing down my mind and my body and making something to nourish myself with.

It’s not about the drinking or eating itself though–it’s all of the chopping and pouring and simmering that leads up to it. Lately, I’ve been making risotto, a dish that, in its very design, forces me to slow down. In fact, besides butter and rice and wine, that it is all it really asks of me–to slow myself and pay attention, to taste and smell and stir. It asks me to notice when the onions have softened and mellowed, when the rice is soft but not yet mush.

It’s a level of care that I think we are tempted to rush through. And that is a warranted temptation–we are all tired and overworked and at the end of a likely stressful day, we want to avoid, at any cost, taking on an additional, attention-demanding task. It is far easier to toss a bunch of ingredients in the oven on Sunday and call it a day.

But the act of creating something to be savored on a more regular basis, whether that be a martini or macaroni and cheese, is work that is, simply put, worth it.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to take a long time. The act of doing it at all is enough.

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