Searching for Fahrvergnügen

Remember that marketing slogan for Volkswagen? Fahrvergnügen meant the enjoyment of driving. But that seems to be fading, as a recent study show fewer adults are getting driver’s licenses (why bother when you have Uber, Lyft, and, in due time, “autonomous” vehicles?). A friend’s husband recently told me he couldn’t wait for driverless cars for his daughters—it’s so dangerous out there! But it’s always been dangerous on the roads. In the latest issue of the Weekly Standard, I argue for common sense, although it’s clear I’m not winning the argument.

Eating Oysters with Scalia

450px-Olympia_oysterThere’s nothing more annoying than an ostensible obituary that screams, “Hey, I knew him, too!” Actually there is something worse than that, which is the obit that’s more about the writer than the deceased. But when Justice Antonin Scalia died, I immediately thought back to the time he and I (and several others) judged a wine-and-oyster competition at the Old Ebbitt Grill. It was a night of Lucullan proportions. At a dinner later that evening, I remember thinking that across the table from me was one of the brightest minds in the country—and he may eat himself to death. Sadly, that sort of happened. In any event, you can find more at weeklystandard.com.

Photo by Feet wet.

Coffee Brake

CarsGettingCoffee-229I’ve lately become a fan of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, the web series hosted by Jerry Seinfeld. The comedians we see are almost always understated. They spend the time talking about honing their craft. For instance, in the episode with Jay Leno, the former Tonight Show host tells Seinfeld he used to sharpen his material by being the followup act to Richard Pryor back in the day. “Did I bomb? Most of the time. It just made me a stronger comic.” (And while the abrasive types like Howard Stern and Don Rickles are seen here in a more mellow state, it’s funny to see Leno drop the f-bomb.) The latest segment features Will Ferrell, who, among other things, admits “I have to work out just to look fat.” Also, he took stand-up lessons at a community college. There’s more at weeklystandard.com.

Photo credit: Eric Charbonneau & Crackle

McBride & Sinatra—Brand Ambassadors?

At weeklystandard.com I write of two interesting developments in the booze world: Brown-Forman is selling of Southern Comfort to Sazerac and the $379 bottles of Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Century have sold out. SoCo brought in Danny McBride to endorse the brand, but sales of this liqueur continue to sag. Will Sazerac keep on Kenny Powers? Meanwhile, you can’t land a better endorsement than the Chairman of the Board, who literally took Jack Daniel’s to his grave.

When Taco Town Shuts Down

800px-Chipotle_Mexican_GrillOn February 8, Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants across the country will be closed for lunch. Employees will get a pep talk and learn about better food-handling procedures. Better late than never: Since last summer, more than 500 people have gotten sick eating at Chipotle locations on both coasts. The culprits have been e. coli, salmonella, and norovirus. The stock has plunged as have same-store quarterly sales. A federal investigation is underway. And yet there are still many Chipotle devotees. You can read more at weeklystandard.com.

Photo by Octavio Ruiz Cervera

For AB InBev, It’s Miller Time

StLouisABPackaging_PlantI discuss the AB InBev-SABMiller merger at weeklystandard.com. Two things I left out: What does SAB stand for? South African Breweries. This is significant as it conveys the global extent of this potential multibillion-dollar merger. So even if the new company sheds Miller (which could end up with Molson Coors), it’ll still have plenty of brews around the world. Go to SABMiller to see just how many brands are in the mix. Second, I failed to mention that not only are fewer Americans drinking Budweiser, but also fewer Americans are drinking beer. The number of beer drinkers in this country continues to decline while the number of wine and spirits consumers continues to rise. Hence the thought that this merger is less about world domination than it is about survival.

Photo by Maksim

Did He Just Call Me ‘Kim’?

A funny thing happened on the way to the theater. Or maybe not so funny. My dad and I were going to purchase tickets for Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the Marquee Cinemas Orchard 10 in Toms River, NJ. It’s 2 in the afternoon and no one’s around. In fact, the box office is empty. We’re wondering where to buy tickets when a worker (white, male) at the concession stand says, “Tickets over here, Kim.” At which point I figure a coworker named Kim was going to come over and sell us tickets. No one comes over. So then he says it again to me: “Tickets over here, Kim.”

Keep in mind there’s no one else buying tickets at the moment. Just us. Not until I was back in the car did I think to myself, “So why did he say Kim? Was he calling me Kim?” To be fair, I’ve been mistaken for Korean before, but seriously? And what about all the Parks?

Over the years, I’ve heard all sorts of racial slurs, but Kim is 1a first. Sort of like Mick, I guess. And maybe I could have called him Mick or Mario or Fritz or who knows. I can’t tell—they all look the same!

A Nation of Boozers

freedomkegOver at the Washington Free Beacon, I review Susan Cheever’s latest work, Drinking in America: Our Secret History. It’s a mostly entertaining read on how American history has forever been entwined with alcohol—a love/hate relationship that began with the Pilgrims (lovers of beer) vs. the Puritans (guilt-ridden over intoxication). We drank more than anyone in the 1830s, including schoolchildren, and banned it in the 1920s. We’ve gone from beer to rum to whiskey to vodka, and perhaps we are now taking a step back from the colorless, odorless, flavorless edge. Cheever senses the national pendulum is swinging again toward regulation, but ultimately there is no fully going back. Thank God.

Image enhanced by Andrew Stiles of the Washington Free Beacon.

Singular Sensation

George Washington Distillery Shot_InsideEarlier this week I attended the launch of a new single malt from George Washington’s distillery in Mount Vernon. There were lots of Scots on hand and rightfully so: The barley used for the Distillers’ Reserve and Limited Edition came directly from Scotland. Three Scotch whisky distillers added their expertise to this three-year project. And of course the original distillery, completed in 1798, was founded by Washington’s farm manager James Anderson, a Scot. (Scotsmen would end up settling in Kentucky, where the limestone, lush greens, and sweet waters would combine to make our most-treasured bourbon.) My write-up can be found at weeklystandard.com.

(The photo above, courtesy of the Distilled Spirits Council, is of a barrel of rye, the standard whiskey for sale at the Mount Vernon gift shop but nowhere else. The single malts, 30 bottles in all, are going to charity.)