On purchasing booze

I use the term booze indiscriminately — affectionately — to describe anything with alcohol. There are many liquid options besides water and my favorites contain alcohol. I always say I’ll drink anything once and many things twice. Liquid science fascinates me; I’m writing this, drinking a vermouth bianco, and thinking about the friend who sold it to me. He happens to know the producer. As with many bottles, this particular vermouth came to me on his strong recommendation. This is how I learned the value of knowing the right place to buy booze

Having a place to buy booze is important. Familiarizing yourself with the layout, selection, and nuance of a store is invaluable. You’ll find yourself making decisions on your own terms, which is a great feeling. If you’re getting angsty in the aisle there’s a good chance you’re in an unfamiliar place and that leads to giving/opening bad bottles. There’s a lot of booze out there to dig through; not all of it is good. There are plenty of times when I walk out of a store with a bottle of something new and can only hope that it will be good, both subjectively and of objectively. If you’re floating in and out of your local package store with the same bottle in hand every time you leave; you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s great to have favorites, but you should also be venturing out. You don’t know everything — likely the salesperson doesn’t either — but you should give yourself the chance to at least learn that. Have a friend you can trade bottles with if you don’t like something that was recommended to you. That way you both end up knowing a bit more about your preferences and what is available. Never judge a beverage store by anything more than what is on the shelf and what the prices are. If you have a great guy who knows his stuff making the purchasing decisions you will have no problem finding something awesome to try. The friend I referred to earlier worked at Kroger, a chain grocery store on the east coast. Prior to this job he owned a well established importing company in Chicago, and he also happens to be Italian. You better believe that he could bring in great wine at an incredible price. He’s a believer in small producers, organic wines, and authenticity. That combination makes for great drinking.

If you need help, ask for it. Patronize the same stores and approach them from an informed perspective. If you have a general idea what you want, do some research on the category and find a few leads. If someone asks what you’re looking for you’ll have an idea. If they don’t have the bottle or can you are looking for, chances are good they’ll recommend something similar. One of my favorite questions to ask a sales rep is: “Do you guys have anything interesting that’s not on the shelf yet?” This question is a great way to get invited to small tastings or sometimes to be able to buy rarer alcohol that may be in a back room. Developing a relationship with someone where you buy your spirits is a great move. Over time they will pick up on your preferences or even know when to offer you something that might open your horizons. If you don’t yet ‘have a guy’ casual conversations can lead to a new favorite beverage or at least an experience. It’s a win-win because you both benefit from this interaction

Only True Coffee Lovers Drink Decaf

There is a pop-up going on right now by Swiss Water in New York. They offer caffeine free coffee in a variety of ways: cold brew, espresso and filter. They are providing community education about the Swiss Water process and coffee in general. Lastly, per their Facebook page they have

“Art by local NY-based artists including Dasic Fernández, David Pullman, Musketon, and Joe Doucet will be donated in support of Grounds for Health — a sustainable healthcare provider for women and families in coffee-growing communities.”

So they have partnered with local artists and are in some way supporting a healthcare initiative in coffee growing countries with this pop-up. Which, by the way, only runs 6 days.Awesome right? I think so too.

Although since learning about the pop-up few days ago, I’ve seen more than a few condescending articles (not to mention the comments/tweets) about the event, which really is probably just animosity for decaf coffee in general or at least a well rounded sense of not actually understanding.Which is a shame, since people who drink decaf coffee are the ones who drink coffee because they love it. 

An article in The Washington Post picked up the discussion and talked it over sufficiently. They never really say which side of the fence they are on. Though, since the article was timestamped at 3:57am I think it’s safe to say there was caffeinated coffee involved.

I won’t delve to deeply into comments and tweets other than saying that these individuals who protested loudly and said all sorts of funny things really just wanted to say something - wanted to be part of the action. We humans do that; we follow, and sometimes do so loudly and unnecessarily.

The outlets however are missing the greater story. The Washington Post, Eater, Jezebel, Quartz, Gothamist all jumped on the bandwagon to talk about how New Yorkers would never be swayed into drinking decaf; if not specifically, then they at least paraded a slew of tweets from people who were happy to form their opinions for them. Some also missed it with the images they included. A stock photo showing what appears to be a dirty Faema Emblema, a photo from a Blue Bottle siphon setup. Both showing the very thing that the pop-up isn’t; dirty, hip and caffeinated. A great description for much of the coffee scene that we see today.

The story that was right below their noses (especially if they took the time to attend a cupping) was the educational aspect; not just about coffee, but about health and community. The Swiss Water process was introduced in the late 1980’s as an alternate to more traditional decaffeination methods. Though it wasn’t the first water based decaffeination process, it is recognized as being the first one to do so without chemicals. Swiss Water has recently updated their website and information and if you drink decaf coffee, it’s a great site to check out to get a better idea of what you are drinking.

Coffee education is sparse in general. It’s not that it’s not available. It’s simply not pursued. A chance to drop into a pop-up for some free coffee and free coffee education should be loudly applauded.

I’m not in the know on the marketing efforts of Swiss Water but this strikes me as a wonderfully executed educational experience for the consumer. Despite the underwhelming reaction by some bloggers and tweets; their goal of educating people, at least getting people to think about the process of decaffeination hopefully shows to be a resounding success. I know that whoever is watching over their analytics account is sufficiently pleased with the results. I would hope so at least.

Health education is admirable at every level. I was not aware of Grounds for Health and after skimming their website, they seem to be on an amazing mission. One that will impact countless lives in coffee producing countries. We all talk about paying a decent price for coffee, but when you can go above and beyond and have impact in the coffee communities at a deeper level; that is the story my dear Jezebel.

Community focused initiatives should be encouraged and lauded. Taking a space and transforming it - even briefly - into an attractive space with purpose is no easy task and considering what the space may become. One would think that Gothamist would praise the street art installation and support of NY based artists.

The best decaf I’ve ever had has been sourced and roasted by Durham based Counter Culture Coffee, and of course, was Swiss Water processed. If you’re in the need of some, you can find their great coffee here.

To be clear I consume coffee in it’s caffeinated form, I’m just resoundingly in support of Swiss Water’s well executed pop-up. It’s marketing with purpose, the positive attention that they receive from this is well deserved.

Advertising in the Age of Mixed Reality

I am fascinated by technology and its benefits. Tech news is typically the first news I see in my day. Advertising is my industry and I drop this technology news into my sphere. We’re in what feels like an incredible slipstream of movement towards everyday Mixed Reality and I think we’re in for a wild ride. I’m increasingly interested in where the two intersect.

Mixed Reality, if you are unfamiliar with the idea, is a lot like Augmented Reality. That is, the digital overlay of information onto your physical world; ranging from a speedometer on a car windshield to an app that uses your phone camera to display information about a given physical space. Virtual reality is separate, an immersive experience that completely occupies the users senses: in essence VR transports you to another place (a remarkable feat.) MR is a step beyond the immersion — it takes you further into the world you already inhabit. It is in its fledgling stages now, but we’ll see it go far beyond its current form. MR will integrate many inputs into a seamless experience that frees our senses. No more eyes down on a device, no more holding a device. If the goal of technology is to allow us to do more, give us more, to enable us as a species, then this is the natural progression.

One day Google Glass will be viewed as the bag phones that we saw in the early 90s. No slight or fault, simply the precursor to what we now use and interact with everyday — we owe quite a bit to the devices that test our societal tolerances to where technology is allowed to go. Technology advances at a surprising rate and we will see this stream of MR devices becoming smaller and smaller allowing us to digitally interface with our physical world with no interference.

Now let’s imagine the implications of this new reality on the advertising world. Our minds may leap to dystopian images of virtual signage covering every inch of our field of view — our inclination based on pop-up ads and the insistence of advertisers to invade our personal spheres every day. However, before we go down that path let’s consider: when was the last time you actually saw a pop-up ad? When was the last time you sought to see an ad? When was the last time you used an ad-blocker? I bet your answers to those questions were more and more recent. If it’s been months since you saw a pop-up ad (maybe years) It’s likely been weeks since you sought to view an ad and only days (maybe minutes) since you employed an ad-blocker.

These tendencies will not suddenly decrease as we enter into another age. Following a temporary adaptation to the environment, we will likely see ad-blocking increased. Following the streamlining of our ad experiences we will see increased participation with adverts. This MR experience will allow you to not only see an ad but to interact with it. Imagine shopping for makeup and seeing a YouTube influencer standing patiently beside your favorite makeup line and all you have to do is digitally engage with this person to see a tutorial with some of your favorite products. A digital how-to without having to access a second screen. Imagine a digital wardrobe overlay so you could virtually try on outfits while simply looking at yourself. Imagine a Tanqueray branded in-home tutorial about how to mix a Martini. All adding benefit, all in your MR experience, all ads.

In this world where ad-blockers and MR co-exist winning campaigns will be the big ideas. Great advertising is about big ideas, creativity, and compelling stories. That’s the dream — that someone looks at your ad and chooses to engage with it. It will be easier, of course, to have real interaction with the adverts. These ads will in part resemble interacting with a chat bot or NPC on a video game and more advanced versions will be like interacting with Comedy Central star Jay Pharoah in a Pepsi Spire machine.

Instead of billboards in our physical sphere, we’ll see billboards in our digital sphere — so much easier to change, update and segment. Engagement will be trackable, etc. Imagine a world where your lenses to your prescription glasses, your prescription contacts or a simple contact-like lens allowed a digital interface to be super-imposed on your physical world. When you looked around, you could receive information from your environment. You could interact with your environment like it was a physical interface. There are some years before we arrive at this mixed reality as reality, but we are headed there.

If you’re looking for a glimpse at the possibilities, look no further than Florida based Magic Leap. That’s what this is all about; the possibilities.

Working in the Twilight Zone

Home for the holidays. I love it. Everyone does. I’ve put on a few pounds and put off a few projects. Here’s how to keep the dream alive when you’re traveling or on holiday.

Stick to your guns — In regular life I employ a morning routine to get my day started right. When I travel I have a shorter, more flexible morning routine that nonetheless gets me off the ground with my head in the game. Whatever your morning routine looks like in real life — develop a travel morning routine that crunches and adapts your typical morning schedule and use it when you travel, and over the holidays.

Carve out time — time abounds if you’re looking for it. Get up early, skip a movie or be the last one in bed. Be with those who you are with but don’t feel bad about slipping out if you need to work on things. Respect the space though, don’t be half working and half with family all the time. Create clear lines so that you can actually get work done instead of bouncing between watching the sports game and working. Head to a coffee shop, the basement or the porch to get some quiet. Don’t forget your headphones.

Dress — It’s easy to go un-showered, stubbled, or in sweats all day. If you’re used to working at home then you know the importance of taking yourself seriously and looking like the professional that you are. Plus, nothing advertises to your family that you take yourself seriously like the way that you present yourself.

Plan to not get it all done — You are home, or at the very least on holiday, it’s not going to all get done. You probably could use some time off the grind so enjoy it; drink coffee you’re not used to, sit at a table instead of a desk, shave with a disposable razor, adapt to the environment, be flexible and don’t show up for to the holidays with a mound of work to do. Be real about how much you’ll get done. Don’t play catch up your holiday. Bring a writing pad and a book and try to enjoy it.

If you’re still in the twilight zone — somewhere between Christmas and the New Year where you don’t really know that the day of the week is, or if you’re wondering how to make it through next holiday season without losing all your steam, or if you plan on traveling this year then this writeup is for you.