Episode 080 - 2018 Year in Review

20118 Year in Review

What’s shakin, cocktail fans?

Welcome back to this special, year-end episode of The Modern Bar Cart Podcast!

This episode, we have two main goals:

  1. First, we want to very quickly give you a rundown of what we brought you in 2018, by the numbers.

  2. And then, to round out the year, we’d like to present a few of my favorite sound bytes that illustrate what we think are some of the best insights that our guests have brought us over the past 12 months. It’s a little mini “best-of episode,” and you’ll get some extra meta-commentary along the way.

Buf first, a year-end cocktail!

Featured Cocktail: The Champagne Cocktail

This episode’s featured cocktail is a simple one: the Champagne cocktail. And I bring it up now because it’s the cocktail I most often recommend to folks who really want to spice up their New Years Champagne toast.

To make a Champagne Cocktail, you’ll need:

  • 1 sugar cube (Domino’s works great)

  • 1 flute of Champagne

  • A good bottle of Lavender Bitters

Now, notice I didn’t mention any measurements here. That’s because this is about the simplest cocktail you’ll ever make, and it adapts well to glassware of different dimensions.

Let’s assume you’re making a tray of these to present to your guests for a New Year’s Eve toast. If that’s the case, you’ll need to drop a sugar cube into each Champagne flute, and saturate that sugar cube with lavender bitters, the same as if you were using aromatic bitters when making an old fashioned. Then, all you have to do is top up each glass with Champagne or some other dry, sparkling white wine, and serve.

The sugar cube acts as time-released flavor capsule for the lavender bitters, and it provides a beautiful, fizzing presence at the bottom of the glass. So if you have an extra couple bucks to spend on an easy, DIY New Year’s spectacle, I think you can’t really go wrong with a batch of Champagne Cocktails.

And of course, I have to plug our Embitterment Lavender Bitters here, which are absolutely perfect for a cocktail that begs for a little dash of spring in the depths of winter.

2018 By The Numbers

In 2018, we published a total of (including this one) 50 episodes - that’s pretty darn close to one per week.

And if you’re wondering, those 50 episodes contained over 2300 minutes of audio, for a total of over 37 hours of air time. So if anyone wants to take the Modern Bar Cart Podcast challenge, you can totally binge our 2018 episodes if you have a day and a half to spend with earbuds in.

More importantly, I want to talk downloads. This year, we received almost 20,000 downloads.

And to the NPRs, and the Gimlet Medias, and the Radiotopias out there...you know...those places where the rest of your podcasts come from...this might not be that big of a deal. They throw hundreds of thousands of dollars at their shows.

But for us, a small dedicated group of people who are here to provide extremely nutritious content, those 20,000 downloads mean more than you can imagine. It’s proof of growth, it’s proof that people are coming back week after week, and to all of those folks who have come up to me in person at events and told me how much you enjoy the show, it’s proof that we’re making a real difference in the lives of real listeners.

Eric’s Favorite Clips from 2018

We thoroughly enjoyed all of our guests this year, but there are just some clips that we kept returning to again and again. Here’s a selection of our favorites:

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Shanna Farrell on Pushing Comfort Zones

Starting off, we’ve got  a quick clip from my interview with Shanna Farrell, author of the book, Bay Area Cocktails. She has a super fun approach to New Year’s resolutions, and we just couldn’t resist sharing this sound byte with you as we approach 2019.

My New Year’s Resolution was to drink more gin, and it opened up a whole world to me.

The other thing we really like about this clip is how Shanna approaches comfort zones. It’s absolutely crucial to identify where the boundaries of your personal comfort zone lie when it comes to spirits & cocktails, and then work little by little to expand that zone as you travel through the world and sample new drinks. It’s the sign of an engaged mind, it’s the sign of a person with an adult relationship to alcohol, and that drive to learn is the mark of a more curious and interesting person. So all around, pushing your comfort zone just a little bit is a very good thing.

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Hakim Hamid on the Creative Process

Next up, we’ve got some thoughts from mixologist and Nocturne Bar Beverage Director Hakim Hamid on how he approaches the creative process when developing new and innovative cocktails. This is a slightly longer clip - and what we want you to listen for is how Hakim’s creative process is driven by a passion for flavor and a deep curiosity about cultures and ingredients.

The Teacher says 2+2=4, right? And then someone like me comes along and says, “well what about 8 divided by 2? Is there another way to get there?

Even if you can’t imagine going to sleep and dreaming about a cocktail that you’re working on, I think one thing we can all admire is slightly off-beat approach to cocktail design. Okay, 2+2=4, but what if I get the same answer by approaching things a different way? And is there something about the different approach that suddenly makes the end product more valuable?

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Mark Forsyth on Alcohol and Society

Next up, we have a clip from Mark Forsyth, author of A Short History of Drunkenness - and this was a conversation that I could have kept going for hours. It spans the entirety of human history, and we really dig into why and how humans drink the way we do.

At the end of that conversation, Eric posed a question to Mark that was maybe a bit unfair in that it required him to speak for everyone who has ever lived and consumed alcohol. We honestly had no clue how he’d respond, but his reply was simultaneously simple and mind-blowing.

“Humans can’t take much reality. We need something to take the edge off it.”

This gets into some of the more philosophical or existential questions we can ask about alcohol, and because we run a company dedicated to the pursuit of cocktails, we think we’re at least a little responsible for sorting out our own personal relationships to alcohol as a drug, and trying to present cocktails in a healthy way.

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Maggie Hoffman on Professional vs. Home Bartenders

Rounding things out, we have a clip from Maggie Hoffman, author of the extremely popular book, The One Bottle Cocktail. Maggie’s thoughts here are in response to a question about simplicity versus complexity in cocktails, and if there’s one little snippet we’ve quoted most from the podcast this year, it’s the last sentence of this clip.

“There’s never been a time where what’s happening at bars and what’s happening at your home cocktail hour have been more different.”

What this calls for is more and better conversations between home bartenders and the folks who call spirits and cocktails their primary vocation. Yes, we absolutely think that it’s on home enthusiasts to familiarize themselves with new ingredients or emerging methods of drink preparation, but we also think that the industry needs to come to the table more often and stake out time to educate folks about how they can do things better at home.

Our 2019 Plans

We are so grateful for all the listeners and guests who made 2018 the best year ever for The Modern Bar Cart Podcast! This coming year, we’re making a couple important investments:

  1. One is in continued audio quality improvement. We just picked up some great new gear, including a Zoom H6 mic for better mobile recording. We’re also budgeting to get ourselves into a studio space before the year is out.

  2. In addition, we’ll be continuing to spread out and locate the best guests in the U.S. and beyond. This starts with a lengthy podcasting journey to the West Coast in early 2019, so if you’re a west coast listener and you want to recommend guests or volunteer to appear personally on the show, please email podcast@modernbarcart.com.

  3. Finally, we’re going to start working, slowly but surely, to get more video content to pair with the podcast. We’ll start with a few experiments, and then hopefully, with a bit of luck and the right partners, we can come to you live on all those video mediums you love, including YouTube, Instagram TV, and Facebook live. Audio’s a great medium for communicating information, but sometimes it helps to see the drinks get made and develop a visual sense of your spirits and cocktails, so stay tuned for that as well.

That’s a wrap on 2018, so until next year, remember: Drink Responsibly, Experiment Boldly.