Tag Archives: drinking

Sippin’ The ‘Gnac

“Each year, Cognac makes its mark with enthusiasm, style and confidence, and it’s wonderful to be taking part in this year’s edition.”
Jonathan Demme

Eighteen floors above street-level. Someone hands me a cocktail. I drink it. Then another. I don’t know what’s inside, but I drink it anyway. I hear music… syncopated beats aligned sonically with displaced dub. I see people… beautiful, elegant, hip to the groove. Out the corner of my eye, I think I spot a black Napoleon, with a multicultural harem of Josephines. I try to make sense of it all. Eighteen floors above street-level. This is not good…

I insisted on coming tonight, even brought along a friend of mine – a spunky Asian girl from Hong Kong named Loi Wing. But when the elevator doors opened and we stepped into the bar area, she vanished. No matter, I think to myself. I’ll have a drink and we’ll find our way back to one another. Strolling toward the bar, I notice a cool, yellow ripple to the bartender’s right; a batch of ready-made cocktails, waiting to be consumed. The bartender smiles, informs me those are the only drinks available tonight, and winks. Strange…

Grabbing the closest glass and taking a sip, I’m intrigued. Interesting taste, sharp with a hint of citrus, but not too acidic. I drink some more. The glass is small, and in a matter of minutes, I’ve emptied it. I’m drawn back to the bar and before I know it, I’m finishing up a second glass. I start to feel like a cross between Bruce Banner and Reed Richards, craving more to drink but knowing it will severely change my behaviour. I still don’t know what I’m drinking, the effects it’s having on my body, or who all these people are…

Beautiful people. I’m surrounded by them, in their bow ties, their stiletto heels, their faux-vintage cardigan sweaters, and their $200 fancy sneakers. Their conversations are dizzying, and I hear snippets from around the room flooding my ears:

“One sec, I have to post this to my Twitter…”
“What’s the name of that rapper who sings about Courvoisier?”
“Yeah… My blog gets about 700 hits a day… Hey, you want to get a drink somewhere after this?”
“Don’t they drink Sidecars on Mad Men? What do you mean you don’t know… ?”

I need some fresh air, and stumble toward a balcony door. Outside, I make the mistake of looking down onto the street below me. Eighteen floors above street level. Jesus Christ. I taste my stomach in the back of my throat. Hearing music inside, I peer through the windows and see bodies begin to tangle into one another, moving rhythmically. Except the beautiful people seem to have been replaced by the Great Emperor Napoleon, and a gaggle of girls grabbing at him. Napoleon is black, the girls are dark-skinned, light-skinned, Asian, all colours. There’s a man on stilts. What the hell is happening? What is in these drinks?

Before I guess at an answer, I’m plopped down at a table. Sitting surrounded by strangers, we stare at each other blankly, and then at the abundance of colours, textures, and flavours spread in front of us. Brown sugar, white sugar, raw sugar, salt, pepper, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, rosemary, mint, ginger, lemons, limes, blueberries, cherries, juices, sodas, and more. But once again, there is little time to make sense of the situation. I feel the effects of the drinks starting to wear off, and begin hoping for a return to some sense of normalcy and logic, when a series of vials are thrust under my nose, one after another. With the seemingly innocuous scents of maple, iris, and – most devious of all – ginger cookies, wafting through my nostrils and into my system, I’m overcome by sensation once again. Blinded to everything around me, I feel defeated by the urge to try more… taste more… experience more…

Let loose, I’m suddenly mixing ingredients in a frenzy. Flashes of Fantasia flicker in my mind as I create one unholy concoction after another. My hands have a mind of their own, and I feel like Being John Malkovich as I watch myself uncontrollably fall under the stupefying spell of this powerful beverage. Addicted to the feeling, I mix together Courvoisier, cherries, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Too many ingredients with the letter C, I think to myself. Scared, I add a dash of lemon juice. Before I’m done tasting, I’ve already moved on to my next experiment. Courvoisier and cucumber. Again, too many C ingredients. I’m even more scared now. This is not just a coincidence. Coincidence, I think to myself… Also starts with a C. Now, I panic. Are they controlling my mind? Is that why everything here tastes so good? Is that why I had imbibed so much more than I ever would have under normal circumstances? Is that why I couldn’t think straight? “WHAT HAVE YOU PEOPLE DONE TO ME!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. Everything stopped. The room grew silent. Uh oh, I thought… They’re on to me.

I calculated my dashing factor. If I ran top speed, I estimated being in the stairwell and on my way to freedom in under ten seconds. Would that be enough time? And what of the complimentary gift bags I noticed by the door? No, no time for that now. Must concentrate. With beads of sweat forming across my forehead, I surveyed the room. There was a small commotion at another one of the tables. Had someone else realized what was being done? Were they being subdued? My heart raced.

“Alright! We have a winner for the best mixed drink!”

A voice. Whose voice? God? I don’t know. Applause. Cheering. What’s happening? All the beautiful people are standing up, looking toward the small commotion. Glasses are raised. People are drinking more. Don’t they understand what this is doing to them? The music begins again. Beats. I’m disoriented. Loi Wing saunters up to me, and I am relieved to see she is OK. I try to ask where she’s been and what they’ve done to her, but she smiles wider than ever and drags me by the arm, back outside to the balcony.

The fresh air invigorates me, and I begin to feel sober at last. I revisit what I just experienced: the dizzying excitement, the blurry exhilaration, the energizing crowd. Loi Wing asks if I want something more to drink. “Oh hell yeah,” I reply, before losing myself again in a glass of Courvosier Exclusif.

Experienced The Girlfriend Experience With The Girlfriend

Most people pay anywhere from $300 to $3000 and more for a GFE, but I managed to snare one for free the other night. And it wasn’t just me; there were a few of us in on it. Too many to count, but upwards of 100 people seems like a safe bet. All of us… one of her. There were times when things got a little messy, and other times when all the action just stopped making sense. I’m pretty sure I saw at least one person pull out about half-way through and just leave. Personally, I think that’s a little rude. We were all there to have a good time and enjoy, so just take it like a man. Just because you don’t like what you’re experiencing is no reason to zip up and leave. (I think we all know that’s a blatant lie)

For the uninitiated, a GFE refers to a Girlfriend Experience. With an escort. Hence the cost and subsequent discretion. It’s one of many terms used to describe services offered by escorts. I’m sure you know them all, you pervert. As mentioned above, approximately 100 people came (no pun intended) to experience this particular GFE. Oh, the girl? Sasha Grey.

Sasha Grey

Well, to be precise, the girl’s name was Chelsea, and she was portrayed by Sasha Grey. In a movie. A movie called The Girlfriend Experience. I bet you didn’t see that coming. (Another pun… there’s no end to sexual puns is there? I’ll be sure to throw in a few more groaners as we thrust ahead.) (no pun intended) Anyway… Mongrel Media in Toronto presented the screening and while I was happy to have secured a few passes, this film did not induce MSOG. (look it up)

The Girlfriend Experience

The film is actually directed toward a mainstream audience, though after watching it I’m not entirely sure who Steven Soderbergh thinks is his audience. It’s not a porno, as Sasha Grey’s name may otherwise suggest, but the role doesn’t seem like much of a stretch for her. And I’m sure she’s been stretched plenty of times. (pun)

The film centers on several days in the life of an upscale escort in Manhattan, set against the backdrop of the 2008 U.S. election. You can insert your own “Sasha Grey could stimulate my economy any day!” jokes here. I’m above that sort of thing.

I won’t give too much away, nor could I even if I wanted to. Soderbergh has worked on such fine films as the Ocean’s trilogy (11, 12 and 13), Traffic, and the revolutionary sex, lies and videotape. Here, he crafts an interesting story but muddles it up through much of the movie. Jumping back and forth in time is a formidable cinematic device when used properly, but in The Girlfriend Experience, it only serves to confuse the viewer. Perhaps it’s meant to be more along the lines of Memento, making sense upon subsequent viewings and benefitting from the knowledge of what comes next. (pun) But I’m not going to give Soderbergh the credit here as I don’t believe that was his intention. Whatever his intention was, I’d certainly like to know, as would another 100 or so people in last night’s theatre, I’d suspect. My highly-informal survey of two other couples who attended the same screening confirmed those suspicions.

Sasha Grey is getting a lot of buzz over her role in the movie as Chelsea. While she does an admirable job, it would have been more impressive had the role called for more depth. She’s at the top of her game as an escort in New York City, has a successful and long-term relationship with a decent guy, lives in a posh condo and has money to burn on designer clothes, expensive haircuts, a car service and a personal trainer. Good thing, as most scenes consist of her eating, drinking or fucking. Not a bad lifestyle.


As the economy tumbles into disarray, Chelsea and her boyfriend are forced to rethink their priorities, each having financial decisions to make affecting their respective futures. But while her boy seems to be trying to get ahead in his game to better provide for both of them (he’s a personal trainer… those guys aren’t dicks at all…), she begins to blur the lines between her profession and her personal life. When she seemingly stops caring about one, the other suffers as well.  It’s not long before a few bad decisions come back to bite her in the ass. (Greek) Though she’s probably used to that sort of thing. (I think biting costs extra.)

The film certainly has its moments and characters. Chelsea’s boyfriend seems like a great guy at first, caring, sweet and supportive of her line of work. By the end of the film though, he has become needy, controlling, insecure and a little reminiscent of George Costanza. Chelsea herself is cold, emotionless and dull. It was also pointed out to me that she would often wear the same outfit on her “dates”. The scene involving an online escort reviewer is realistically sleazy (who doesn’t know a guy like that? Come on…), and the final scene of the movie is unintentionally hilarious. I wish I could give it away, but all I’ll say is it involves Chelsea on the job with a Hassidic Jew. That last scene actually made me wonder if Hassidic Jews have sex with their kipas on. Extra protection?

George Costanza

While I left the theatre with the feeling that nothing in the film had been resolved, I did kind of enjoy that aspect. That’s life isn’t it? There’s never really any resolutions… just stop-gap solutions until the next problem breaks. Maybe Steven Soderbergh made the film a little too realistic for some viewers. Maybe he just could have been a little less art-house and made a little more sense. Maybe that’s what he intended. Maybe that’s not really what people want. Maybe I just wrote a review for a movie I never really intended to write a review about.

On a personal note, I saw the movie with my lovely girlfriend who pointed out to me that one of the hotels that hosts Chelsea and her clients is New York’s Gild Hall on Wall St. Coincidentally, the girlfriend and I had some experiences of our own at Gild Hall earlier this year. I recommend the place, as would Chelsea I’m sure.

Ketel One Vodka: They Misspelled Kettle But I Drank For Free So I Don’t Really Care.

A little while back I was invited to a vodka tasting. I won’t get into the details but here’s the abridged version:

“Do you want to come to a vodka tasting?”
“… Yes. Yes I do.”

Except I was online so there was no real interaction like that. But you get the idea.

And so I was instructed to meet at a restaurant called Kultura, which happened to be around the corner from my office. “It’s on King St, just past Jarvis,” a friend of mine had told me. I walked over onto King St and crossed Jarvis, but couldn’t find the place. I walked back and still couldn’t find the place. I tried a third time. After about 20 minutes of fruitless back-and-forth walking I called my friend to make sure I had the right directions.

“I can’t find this place,” I lamented.

“Oh,” she says, “there’s no name on the front. Just look for a set of double-doors next to a big window.”

Great. Thanks. How am I expected to find someplace I’ve never been before if there’s no real way of finding this place? And for fuck’s sake… put your goddamn restaurant name on the front somewhere you pretentious bastards. But I digress.

I walked inside and upstairs to the third floor where I was greeted by a small girl holding a clipboard with my name on it. Crazy. I checked in and received a ticket good for one free drink. Surveying the room as I walked to hang up my coat, I noticed there weren’t many people up there.

Three tables had been set up, parallel to one another but slightly staggered and on an angle. Each table had seats for about eight people and each place had its own setting with a glass of water on the side and three tall glasses with a shot each of Absolut, Grey Goose and Ketel One vodka. In addition, there was a plate of fancy crackers with mango chutney dip and some documents about Ketel One lying on the table.

After leaving my jacket, I strolled over to the bar to grab a drink. We had a choice of a Vodka martini (yes please) or a Cosmo (no please). I took my martini back to the table and sat down. One of the staffers there advised me on which seat to take and I was sitting at foot of the middle table, my back to the entrance. This would later prove to be an ill-advised seat as a presentation took place directly behind my back which I missed most of as I could only squirm enough to see the wall next to the presenter. Also, I ended up being in way too many pictures by accident since I was directly in front of that presenter.

Drink #1.

My table consisted of five other people: Casie whose name I just assumed would be spelled Casey because you know… that’s how it’s spelled, who was funky/bohemian/in-your-face/etc and who took a lot of pictures, Jeannie whose name I may have also spelled incorrectly and who works in the Social Work sector, her friend Elaine who runs a fashion blog in Toronto and is also involved in Social Work somehow, and two other people whose names I’d probably have spelled correctly had I remembered them. I’m pretty sure one was from Scarborough.

People started off by talking about their blogs and about blogging in general, which always makes me leery. I don’t particularly care for the word “blog” and I find the more it’s used, the more ridiculous it becomes. As such, the more one refers to oneself as a “blogger”, the more ridiculous they seem. It conjures up ideas of someone who sits at home all day on their computer writing to people they don’t know will actually read what’s been written, as if they have nothing better to do. (I realize the irony in my writing that, but for what it’s worth, I’m better than those people. Trust me.)

I won’t go into detail about what I said when asked about my blog, but I thought it was a pretty interesting concept.

Of the other two tables, one was about as busy as ours, and the other was full of Ketel One Vodka reps who had decided to take in the tasting. Little tip Ketel One: Not cool. You kind of lose your credibility when you send your cronies to oversee the marketing ploy that we so obviously know is a marketing ploy. Try and have some dignity. Also, it detracts from the feel of the event and also could influence people’s responses to your products. But I’m sure you already know that…

The presentation began and after a little history lesson on vodka in general and then specifically Ketel One, the tasting started.

Drinks #2, 3 and 4

We sniffed all three glasses to get a sense of the differences between the three vodkas. My nose was congested so I got nothing out of that. Then we tasted a little of each vodka before actually downing each shot.

Absolut: I never liked Absolut, though it’s drinkable. More so when free. But even more so when you’re 17 and it’s what your dad has at home.

Grey Goose: You know who drinks Grey Goose? Assholes. Someone sees a magazine ad about it being the #1 Vodka in the world in 2003 and they think that by ordering it at the bar they’re something special. Grey Goose burns and does not taste good (I’m being nice here) and the French should stick to making wine and losing wars. However, I will admit… you could do worse than free Grey Goose.

Ketel One: I had never tried Ketel One before and must admit I was impressed. Not just for the sake of this review either. It was surprisingly smooth and easy going. Not what I’d expected when I learned it was a Dutch vodka. There are many other substances I think of besides Vodka when I think of Holland and the Dutch.

Drinks #5, 6, 7

Since there were so few people at the tasting, I decided to continue my learning and did a second tasting on the shots at the empty seat next to me. Same verdict as above. But more fun this time.

Drink #8

As I downed my second shot of Ketel One, our super-enthusiastic host and presenter, Beth-Anne (I think) refilled my glass to make sure I got the full Ketel One experience.

Drink #9

At the end, we were given gift bags with bottles of Ketel One and mickeys of Grand Marnier as well as taxi chits and tickets for one more drink at the bar. Martini, please. Straight. No olive. Twist of lemon. He may be Bond but I’ll drink Daniel Craig under the table every time. That’s a challenge. Once he kicks Noel Gallagher’s ass he can come find me.

Anyway… Taxi beats Subway like Paper beats Rock and like Tyson beats Givens, so I  cabbed to the subway parking lot which held my car. I tipped the cabbie pretty well if I do say so myself (after all, it was on Ketel One) and gave him the mickey of Grand Marnier because he seemed like a nice guy. Besides, what better gift to give a professional driver who’s still on the clock than a bottle of booze?

All in all, an excellent night thanks to some weird asian girl who kept talking to me and thanks to Ketel One. I just hope I’ve mentioned their name enough times in this post that they’ll invite me back for the next one.