Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Centennial Post

I've been sitting at home moost of the week trying to nurse myself back to health. The rains last week wreaked havoc with my sinuses and before I knew it I had a hell of a bronchial infection that would not go away. But it also gave me some time to figure out how I wanted to approach writing this. I certainly didn't expect to do one hundred posts. I also would have put this up sooner had I not spent the better part of the week coughing my throat raw, passing out on the couch watching Chaplin DVDs, and feeling decidedly non-virile. Either way I should have stayed home Monday night. Instead I made a major lapse in judgement in attending this "Absolut 25" party at Architectural Artifacts in Ravenswood. If I had simply stayed home I would've gotten better sooner, but I went because it was work-related (no, really) and essentially ripped my sore throat to shreds.

"Absolut 25" was essentially a celebration of Absolut Vodka's twenty-fifth anniversary in the Chicago market with an advance tasting of the new Absolut Raspberri. People in line waiting to enter were entertained by a Japanese taiko drum band, which, combined with the drag queen revue later in the evening, apparently filled the event's diversity needs. Upon walking into the building I took assessment of the 80,000 square-foot space and tried to gather my bearings.

There were six different colored bars in the space- one for each brand of Absolut vodka. In the middle of the main room was a stage/dance floor flooded with lights, dry ice smoke, dancers on pedestals in mirrored catsuits, and enough drum-and-bass to drop my testicles another three inches. Video displays from one of the balconies proclaimed with bold words the aphrodisiac qualities of Absolut vodka. Catwalks hung over the stage and led to another open bar stocked with other liquors from the Absolut Brands portfolio. This made me very happy as I was not looking forward to drinking Absolut all night. I immediately asked for a double Jim Beam Black on the rocks and investigated further.

An outdoor patio was highlighted by Absolut Bottle sculptures and two more bars. However, with in minutes of the opening a hard drizzle forced the closing of the patio. A final full open bar was located in the antique room of the space, along with an acid jazz band. I gravitated toward this bar the rest of the evening as it was the only place I could hear myself think. As the night progressed I couldn't even stay in this room for long as I have never seen such a blatant disregard for antiques in my life. Dumbasses were putting sweating cocktail glasses and ashing all over the tops of dining roomtables listed at $20,000. Whenever a fellow attendee or event official would place a napkin under these drinks, they'd go, "Huh?" and ball up the napkins for trash, leaving deep rings in these tables.

Within an hour the room was filled with liquor industry salespeople, bar industry types, trixies and chads, club kids, middle-aged habitues of Rush Street steakhouses and their scientifically enhanced trophy girlfriends. Were it not for the open bar I would've been strongly urged to torch the place for the cause of thinning the herd. Instead I bit my tongue, walked around looking for the marketing reps I came to make face time with, and switched to bottled water to maintain my senses.

Upon my first trip to the bathroom I found a guy with a shag haircut retouching his spiked hair and snorting some drugs off the sink simultaneously. And the fucker totally didn't offer to share. What are stoners being taught on their college campuses these days? I couldn't wash my hands after doing my business because this guy was hogging the sink with his coke. I stopped to look around as the dry ice fell to the stage in sheets. Most everyone was tanned beyond the point of actually being healthy, from the peeling red I carried to the unnatural orange glows of stick figure models, who were also wearing pink lipstick. I guess what was old is now new again.

With the midnight hour fast approaching and my throat on fire I headed to one of the bars for another bottled water. After achieving my goal I leaned against a wall next to some kid with a trucker hat who couldn't understand why the bars at this party didn't have Stoli. "I'd have a vodka tonic if they had some fucking Stoli, dude!" He grinned at me.

I was stunned briefly, thinking this was a joke. Determining by his continueed rant that he was not joking I asked him, "Why would a vodka brand stock one of its main competitors at a party where its celebrating itself?"

The guy brilliantly answered, "Huh?"

I asked again, "Why would you expect Stoli at a party thrown by Absolut?"

"I don't know. Just thought they'd have more choice, was all."

I shook my head, took a gulp of water and hollered with all the force my hoarse voice could muster over the dance music, "You're a fucking tool if you think that."

"Right. I don't think that's fucking cool, either," he replied.

"No. I said you're a fucking tool." That time it registered with him.

"Don't have to call me a tool, dude," he said.

I walked away, but not before telling him that there might ne some Ketel One at one of the bars.

Finally midnight came and with that the unveiling of Absolut Raspberri. After a demonstration by a trapeze artist I headed to the bar and asked for a shot with a splash of water. The bottle- basically a red frosted Absolut bottle- will stand out in bars around the city. As for the vodka itself I wasn't impressed. It reminded me of most of the absolut flavors - a bit too artificial and syrupy for my taste. The nose is too grain alcohol, as well. Still, like most flavored liquors these days it is going to be geared towards young drinkers with immature palates, so it'll sell very well mixed with lemon-lime soda or lemonade.

Shortly after, I ran into representatives from the liquor companies I deal with weekly, Absolut reps and their marketing arm. I lied to all of them except the liquor reps, said my goodbyes, and hailed a cab. As the driver sped down Lake Shore Drive I looked at the visual markers- the Drake hotel, the Hancock building, Museum Campus, Buckingham fountain, and I thought that it wasn't that long ago that the thought of a flavored vodka was anathema to a drinker. we were content with a vodka soda with a twist of lime and that was enough. Then one day some distiller made a citrus flavored vodka and opened the floodgates. Now we have everything from apple flavored vodkas to chocolate flavored rums and there's no end in sight. We even have citrus infusions in gins these days, which I find to be simply blasphemous.

There was a time when a drinker could pride himself on developing a palate for wines and spirits. But flavored vodkas changed all that. They're the new wine coolers, but they won't go away like Bartles and Jaymes or Zima or blue-cheese stuffed olives or the Pabst Blue Ribbon Phenomenon. I sometimes run out of breath detailing all the flavored vodkas I carry, then have to deal with the occasional snit when I don't have a certain flavored vodka. "What do you mean you don't carry Stoli vanilla? Stoli vanilla is excellent."

So now I have all the flavored vodkas and our martini menu listed on one sheet for people. I call it the "kiddie menu." Those who get the joke drink their martinis properly, just a hint of dry vermouth with a twist.

My name is Chuck Sudo and I approved this message.

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