Village Voice's 'Holiday Spirits': 5 December 2013 - New York City
'Holiday Spirits' allowed folks to sample a variety of liquors from small distilleries. There was near unlimited booze but not a lot of food.
Holiday SpiritsCity: Long Island City, NY
Venue: Studio Square
On the 80th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition, the Village Voice hosted its first 'Holiday Spirits' event, featuring well over 40 different spirits, cocktails and alcoholic infusions from more than twenty different distilleries, breweries and wineries. The only beer I saw was from Asahi but, for reference, the large list of attendees is here. Some people came dressed up as if they were from the Roaring '20s but there weren't a whole lot of people decked out in Winter-y/Christmas related apparel.
Thinking of what else 'Holiday Spirits' was lacking, let's get the major qualm out of the way. Though I didn't explicitly make a prediction in my preview, I thought the passed hor d'oeuvres was a bit ill-advised for this sophisticated event. I believe this was proved correct when, around 8 pm, I found myself standing near the kitchen exit with a throng of other people eagerly trying to grab small bites from the trays coming out. The food was barely making it ten feet from the kitchen before disappearing, though smartly, someone decided to send trays of food to the first floor, causing some distress for those who had waited a while and didn't get anything upstairs. It seemed like whole minutes passed before a single tray, with food for 10 or so, came out of the kitchen. And with over two hours to go before the end, the situation could only have gotten worse right? People needed to sop up some the alcohol they were imbibing. That sweet, delicious alcohol.
Fellow PopMatters writer Corey Beasley and I sampled several of the booze options. We started with the bottles from Breuckelen Distilling and their special cocktail, the "Suburban", before sampling Scorpion Mezcal's smoky agave spirits and their seasonal hot chocolate creation made with their Reposado. Beasley thought to ask about mezcal making process and we learned that all tequila is mezcal, not all mezcal is tequila and there are dozens of agave varieties that are used to make mezcal. Learning while drinking? Previously thought unpossible! Continuing to walk the floors while sampling three or more different batches from any given distillery easily made the event worthwhile on an $/alcohol consumed ratio. Another seasonal-themed mezcal offering from El Buho Mezcal was their "Night Owl" cocktail, which was nothing more than their mezcal with ginger beer, ice and some decorative cranberries. A high class drink that went down smooth.
Other distilleries were also offering seasonal, or desserty type foods which I hadn't expected. Dutch's Spirits had their "Fat Apple" cider which included their moonshine but hardly tasted of alcohol with its cinnamon and sugar flourishes. The best "dessert" though was at grocer, Whole Food's table. Their root liquor and poached peach sundae involved some warmed peaches with a healthy dollop of ice cream on top. I didn't ever find out what liquor it actually included but I did get at least three of the small cups throughout the night. It was delicious and probably made up more than 50% of the food I consumed during the event. Needless to say, I refrained from drinking as much as I might have otherwise liked. But that likely didn't stop many people.
I'd like to think 'Holiday Spirits' could improve if it returns, and that isn't too hard to imagine given how well the Voice's Choice Eats event went off the prior year. A food more food options, or even inviting trucks to park outside would be great. But on the booze side of things, everything was a-okay. We learned the best way to experience 'Holiday Spirits" wasn't to actually drink your weight in booze. It was to discover your new favorite small-batch distillery, to learn about and sample their spirits, meet their makers and support the growing craft market.