On a day that’s starting out at 30 degrees in Chicago, all I want to do is pretend it’s summer. Turns out, our friend and photographer extraordinaire Nathan Michael just released this video of a poker night he organized at Heritage Bicycle and General Store. In Nathan’s words: “There’s no grander way to say goodbye, than with a glass of bold whisky and a game of poker.”
Food came from Trenchermen; booze came from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It was an evening of cards and merriment, and on this blustery morning I’m feeling nostalgic for warmer days. (Although, I have it on good authority that a few fingers of good scotch can indeed take the bite of winter.) See for yourself below, then read on.
Adieu to Summer from Nathan Michael on Vimeo.
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society has been ramping up their American outreach over the past year, and we’re actually pretty blown away by the concept. They bottle their own limited edition single cask whiskies from famous distilleries across the world (think: Laphroaig, Balvenie, Glenfiddich, etc.), except there’s a catch. Instead of labeling the bottles with these well-known names that might prejudice your taste, they use a numbering system that simply informs you which region the spirits came from. Then, they list off-the-wall tasting notes. For real. Check this out: “The reduced nose turned out apple and rhubarb crumble, banana loaf, gingerbread men and oranges in a canvas kit-bag.” Elsewhere, you’ll get “millionaire’s shortbread” and “saunas.”
Thus, they let you create your own relationship with a rare whisky that won’t be seen again. And for a drinking tip? They recommend “any time at all.” We can get behind that.
For more of Nathan’s work, follow @nathanmichael on Instagram and Twitter.
Chris Ciesiel. Better known (to some) as @thehydeparker, proprietor of The Campground, Kansas City’s own guerrilla cocktail service. We first met Mr. Ceisel, and his lovely wife, @owlandmouse, like you do these days…through Instagram. They built a backyard speakeasy with their own four hands, and as far as we’re concerned, it’s the best damn place to get a stiff drink in KCMO.
Chris and I connected over fine spirits, and he’s been a constant source of inspiration to me in my fledgling cocktail journey. That’s why we’re so excited that he’s agreed to share his knowledge with us—and you. So, first up from Mr. Ciesiel: how to get your own bar up and running.
Throughout every aspect of life there are essentials, or must-haves. For example: riding a bicycle and wearing a helmet (you do wear a helmet, don’t you?); eating a Chicago-style hotdog with neon-green relish, diced onions, two sport peppers, tomato wedges, Kosher pickle spear, celery salt, steamed poppy seed bun with mustard (absolutely no ketchup). Similarly, there are certain rules that apply to properly stocking your home bar.
Before I dive in and you get overwhelmed with how much all of this costs, I should reassure you that building the perfect home bar takes some time. Like any other skill on the way to manhood, it’s not something you knock out in one fell swoop. And that’s part of the fun, isn’t it? A bottle here, a cordial there. This is a journey. Savor it.
Let’s get into it.
- BOURBON: You’ll either find Bulleit or Buffalo Trace on my stick. They’re both aces and won’t break the bank ($25-30).
- VODKA: I don’t often drink vodka, but when I do it’s Tito’s Handmade Vodka ($18). That is all you need to know.
- GIN: This is where it gets a little tricky, as not all gins are created equal. Hayman’s Old Tom ($25) is my ideal mixing gin for everyday use. It’s botanically forward, while imparting a bit of sweetness. Ransom Old Tom ($35) is the “historically accurate” version, distilled with malted barely and neutral corn spirits. What’s more is that it is barrel-aged. This gin plays wonderfully in cocktails that are very gin-centered, i.e. Martinez. Finally, I’ll use a dry gin, such as Beefeater ($16), for my other cocktails that don’t typically include a citrus, as it is reasonably priced for every day consumption.
- VERMOUTH: You’ll need both sweet and dry. There are a number of different varieties/brands of vermouth out there, but I have come to love Carpano Antica Formula ($35) as the best for sweet (even as pricy as it is) and Dolin Dry ($12) for well, dry. You’ll find that there are many varieties of vermouth at different (read: cheaper) price points, so you should certainly experiment.
- AMARO: These Italian digestifs provide bitterness and a different yet pleasant dimension to cocktails. There’s several we usually stock: Cynar ($24, an artichoke liqueur), Fernet Branca ($26, peppermint, menthol), Ramazzotti Amaro ($22, orange peel, cardamom, cinnamon).
- SWEET: Make an easy, rich, no-cook syrup by combining sugar (turbinado) and water—at 2 parts sugar to 1 part water—in a large jar, and shake the hell out of it. It should dissolve after five minutes and be ready to incorporate into cocktails. Oh yeah, and get some sugar cubes too (ahem, Old Fashioneds?)
- SOUR: Get off your lazy ass and hand-press some fresh lemons, limes, and oranges!
- BITTERS: You’ll definitely need one… Angostura Aromatic Bitters. You can experiment with the other flavors at your own will.
- I love spicy, hot ginger beer! That’s why I use Cock ‘n’ Bull. Also because there’s no artificial sweetener.
- Jiggers: Exact measurement is key when crafting cocktails with pricey spirits. But if you want to add a little spill-over bourbon to my Old Fashioned, I won’t get mad at ‘cha.
- Boston Shaker: I typically use these whilst shaking cocktails containing egg, as the emulsification process builds up subtle pressure which is easier to expel by tapping the sides.
- Cobbler Shaker: I like these because they are easy to use, and they create a tight seal when in action. Added bonus: They have a built in strainer. If you have a couple extra bucks to spend this month, check out Cocktail Kingdom or Umami Mart.
- Bar Spoon(s): Because you’re going to want to stir your spirit-heavy cocktails. Word of advice: Get something with a tight coil. They’re easier to twirl.
- Mixing Glass: I like Pyrex beakers, because, well, they look cool.
- Channel Knife: This ensures you get those nice long twists.
- Y-Peeler: Quickly get that peel to garnish you drink.
- Paring Knife: Same concept as the Y-peeler, only you’ll get thicker peels, and you can easily trim down that bitter white pith.
- Cone Strainer: When you want to double strain to omit the mini ice chips formed by vigorous shaking.
- Hawthorne Strainer: These are used to strain shaken (or stirred cocktails) while keeping the ice in the tumbler. The wire coil helps prevents other debris from entering your drink, i.e., mint leaves, berries, etc.
- Julep Strainer: These are typically used to strain stirred cocktails.
- Muddler: My friend Dylan Sly over at Manifesto crafted me a Brazilian Walnut muddler. Chances are, it’s better than yours.
- Mallet & Lewis Bag: Oh yeah, Dylan also made me an Thor-sized American Oak Mallet. You could kill a man with this thing!
- Juicer: Either a handheld or a stand-up, any juicer will do (scour your local antique malls, as I picked up a really nice juicer from the 1950s).
In no way is this an exhaustive list, but it is a good, solid start. I began building my bar several years ago while obsessing over with one drink: the Aviation. The more I experimented with cocktails, the more equipment I amassed. Or, you could blow your rent/mortgage, and purchase everything in one outing. Finally, put up some nicknacks that give your bar space your own personal touch. For instance, we have a .22 caliber hollow point bullet; locust sheddings; a hen feather we found at Will Rogers’ home; and a really cool vintage postcard that sums up our love for all things booze.
By now, it’s been a couple of months since we met these cats, Grant Legan and Kara Dykert. And we’ve discovered that they just keep getting better the longer we know them. Separately, they’re amazing people. Together, they’re unstoppable. So, it’s a good thing for artists in the Midwest (and beyond) that they’ve joined forces and established a home for imagination here in Chicago. It’s in the form of a website that turns the camera lens on designers, visual artists, wardrobists and more. But honestly, they tell it better than we do, so we’ll toss it over to them. Meet The Niche.
Where are you two from?
is from the suburbs of Chicago. Homegrown in the midwest.
is from Holland, MI. Moved to the Chicago area during college.
How’d you meet?
We actually met through Twitter. I (Grant) was doing an editorial through a local menswear company in Chicago, and Kara was one of the models. We bonded over whiskey and both being 7s on the enneagram personality test.
What is The Niche?
is a community for creatives living in Chicago. It’s also a voice to share the stories of creatives who are passionate about growing their art form and working hard at it every day.
Why start the Niche?
When we met, we realized we were so proud and humbled to know so many creative people. We began a bubbly conversation about one artist who was creating something fantastic, which spooled into endless tangents of creatives we had come to know over the years who were making such amazing things right in our own city.
When you look at the Niche, what do you see?
A place where we can learn from the other passionate people around us. A place where we can grow together and realize that we all want to help each other out. If you think about it, we all want the same thing: to be living a creative life and making things that make us happy as artists.
Favorite [experience or relationship] that has resulted from The Niche so far?
I think our favorite experience thus far is the personal interaction we get to experience with each person we feature. We get to step into their lives for a minute and see what makes them tick and how they got to be so amazing. They share with us some of their own inspirations, and we are able to then continue that conversation with others. We love the honesty and vulnerability that the people we’ve interviewed have shared with us. We really love being brought into their story.
What places, objects, or people do you look at for inspiration?
I personally pull inspiration from the people and conversations happening around me. I pull inspiration from my own day-to-day emotions—and from music and dreams. My mind morphs with music, and it feels with experience.
I am 100 percent a people person. I am inspired in my relationships—by my friends and family who are doing things they love and using their gifts and talents to better other people. I pull inspiration from being tactile, by using the things around me to create. I’m a total repurposer; I love taking what’s around me and recreating with it. I pull random ingredients from the kitchen to create fun meal. I pull “trash” to recreate furniture, to decorate, or to design with. I like to see the potential
in things, and that inspires me.
Have you ever thought about combining the powers of the creatives you’ve profiled so far into an event or trip?
Our long term goal for The Niche is to continue to discover these creatives that are hiding in pockets all over the city and across the world. From there, we hope to bring creative minds together and create “story branding” for companies we are passionate about or that have a wonderful story as well. I mean, collaboration is everything.
What would you like the Niche to become?
We would like it to be a community that works on creative collaborations. We would like to continue creating beautiful work and telling stories. Our form hasn’t become concrete; it’s still growing. Its been a pretty organic process so far and we’re excited to see what it becomes.
Who’s on your wish list to profile?
There are many greats out there. We are moving in a pretty organic way, for now. We enjoy being surprised by each new person we feature and each new relationship or contact we gain from that moment on. We both really love and respect people who are genuine and kind and talented. We don’t necessarily have a wish list of creatives, but we do want to keep meeting people who inspire us and are willing to share a part of their lives with us.
Follow The Niche: Website + Instagram + Twitter
Get in touch with Grant: Portfolio + Instagram + Twitter
Get in touch with Kara: Portfolio + Instagram + Twitter
We’re proud to announce a few things today.
One being that we posted two days in row on this glorious week in 2013. And the other in that we are bringing on not one, not two, not three, but count ‘em FOUR new dudes on board. We’re stoked to announce one of the first guys: Jonathan O’Reilly.
Jonathan is a denizen of our beloved Northland in Kansas City, and he’s an all-around stand-up guy who’s actually got his ducks in a row. He is first and foremost a husband and a new dad. Everything else he does sort of pales in comparison.
However, if you were to get a sneak peak into his week, it could include: absorbing anything Bill Simmons writes, podcasts, or tweets; listening to and creating mad Spotify lists (but going private when listening to Miley); trying to be active and stuff, but failing mostly; and also hoping to one day live in a city that houses an NBA squad (looking at you Sprint Center!)
So, all of our posts that justify buying things that are oh-so-damn expensive and precious that we’ll probably, definitely, maybe pass them down to our kids are meaningless now that there’s a real dad here. We’ll still try to make those justifications. We’re excited to have you, Jonathan! Welcome.
I say a word, you tell me what comes to mind: Pregnant.
Depending on what your angle is, it’s a word that can conjure a host of emotions. I realize given the context of this site, this may seem a little “off-topic” but just relax, pop a brew, and keep reading. If you’re like me, and I know there are a few honest ones out there, I experienced a couple initial reactions when my wife broke the news that we would be expecting our first little bun in the oven. The first being a sense of, “Well, I guess they were right: s + e = x.”
And the second: “So, does this mean I get to buy a new bag, you know, like my own bag for diapers and whatever else you’re supposed to throw in there?” Needless to say, my wife was less than amused, but not at all surprised. Outside of a few dude diaper bag sites, I found the market for dads who want a sharp looking diaper bag to be pretty slim. So, though there are few of us, we’ll stand united.
I found three great options in a number of price points. Here were my requirements:
- Pockets (‘Cause, you know, more pockets are better than less pockets.)
- Durable (‘Cause, well, you might need it for more than one little minion.)
- Versatile (‘Cause, you know, you may have to use that excuse with the missus: “I can use it as a gym bag and stuff…”)
- And, of course, it has to look sharp (But, you know this; otherwise you wouldn’t be here.)
Splurge buy: $100 & above (top row left to right)
- *Lifestyle bag ($174) by SoYoung from Amazon, “Edmund” backpack ($298) by Sandqvst from Need Supply and Gamebag messenger ($285) by Filson.
Budget buy: $100 & under (bottom row left to right)
- Walton Weekender ($99) by Herschel from Zappos, Snap backpack ($65) by Everlane and “Abingdon” waxed cotton-canvas and leather messenger bag ($98) by J.Crew.
Oh by the way, if you’re reading this because you and your significant other are expecting, a congrats is in order.
It will change your life for the better. Just remember: You’ll get to sleep again…someday.
*But this is actually a diaper bag.
Do you remember when Hanson went off the grid for like a decade? But when they came back they looked like men, had wives and started their own brewing company
Well that wasn’t the case for us, but we’re pretty inspired by what the Hanson brothers have done, regardless. When we for-real fall of the grid again one day (like next month), we’ll hopefully pop back up with a lake house, a superfluous automobiles and everything else that gets the Tumblrs tumblin’.
Until then like any “no-please-don’t” sequel, we’ll hop back on the horse and sally forth. And much like a sequel—or worse, a prequel— we’ve refocused our direction, and we’ve even got a few new faces in the cast of characters, whom we’ll introduce in the coming days. Let’s hope we last longer than the Fast & Furious series. Stay tuned!
Jeffrey hopped states again and transplanted his way to New York, last we heard. He wound up in advertising, writing and creating for The Man, and now works on Park Avenue in a big building marketing things you need to be happy. Hooray commercialization!
He’s been on a blazer kick and has avoided wearing denim lately. But don’t worry—he still holds his grudge against cream khakis from his steadfast high school days at Best Buy. He now opts for avocado toast over donuts. He’s also planning on running another marathon this year. X3, baby!
Cam spent the better part of the past year studying for the last of his collegiate exams, drinking High Life (champagne of beers, y’all), and not shaving. Now a loud and proud graduate of the University of Missouri, Cameron passes his days in Kansas City, working for a clothing brand and eating too much Mexican food.
His wardrobe has slowly evolved into a grayscale collection of American-made basics: tees, sweatshirts, and button-downs. He retains his affection for “heritage’ heavy-weight denim, and Red Wings, but sneakers and technical outerwear are never out of reach. Old school meets new school…or something like that.
Seth has been gallivanting across the east and southwest U.S. and starting more side projects than he can reasonably manage. Continuing to hold down the fort in Chicago, he’s still writing for magazines and has recently begun coaching high school soccer.
Much like his drinking habits, Seth’s wardrobe is completely governed by the whims of Chicago’s increasingly unpredictable weather. Now that fall is around the corner, he’s more than likely clad in navy—in the form of heavy denim (ugh, so much denim!) and thick fishermen sweaters. In other seasons, however, he has taken a page from Jeff and embraced loud colors and short shorts.
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