Max Wastler’s New Christmas, 2017

Max Wastler’s New Christmas, 2017 on Spotify and Apple Music.

In some ways, it was no different than it had been in years past. It started the day after I shared last year’s mix. I heard this haunting version of “Greensleeves,” my favorite Christmas song, performed by Coleman Hawkins.

And so I began “Christmas 2017,” a playlist I kept private, adding songs as I encountered them throughout the year. But something happened this year. Christmas stayed with me nearly every week, certainly every month, and as if on purpose, coaxing and coaching me through the year, and by November, the mix had grown to over 120 hours of holiday music I’d never heard before. This year — perhaps too revealingly — was filled with bluesy, melancholic tales of lonely Christmases, songs with yo-yo emotions like Chuck Berry’s “Spending Christmas” where he laments, “Many people are so cheerful, and some are alone and blue. / What would make my Christmas happy if I could have it all alone with you” (First heard on March 18, 2017, the day of his death).

There were brighter spots too, and you’ll hear a little medley of upbeat hipster tunes as a merciful coda to all that crooning over wah-wah pedals. Two standouts that are brand new this year: Amy Stroup’s “Holiday Ease” (discovered 12/01) and Sia’s “Snowman” (discovered 11/24), the latter of which pleads if somewhat ridiculously, “Don’t cry, snowman. Don’t you shed a tear. / Who’ll hear my secrets if you don’t have ears, baby? / If you don’t have ears, baby?”

Maybe you’re someone who wishes you didn’t have ears for Christmas music until after the last of the leftover turkey has been digested, or maybe you’re built like me: endlessly hopeful and brimming every day of the year with the wide-eyed optimism that’s typically bound to this season. Maybe it overflows in such waves that this year, despite the conspiring of the world around you, that spirit of Christmas was boundless, and everyday was like a holiday. Wherever you are, I hope you find tunes to suit your mood, and here’s hoping that maybe this year will be better than the last. 

As a post-script, note these are tunes that haven’t made it onto a mix of mine in the past. If you still have a hankering for more, I recommend this albeit preposterous six-and-a-half hour mix filled with the tunes I actually couldn’t get enough of this year.

Max Wastler’s New Christmas 2017 on Spotify and Apple Music.

Track Listing:

1) Coleman Hawkins – Greensleeves

2) Stanley Jordan – Silent Night

3) Charles Bradley – Everyday Is Christmas (When I’m Lovin’ You)

4) Chuck Berry – Spending Christmas

5) Chuck Berry – Christmas

6) Roosevelt Sykes – Winter Time Blues

7) Lightnin’ Hopkins – Santa

8) The O’Jays – Christmas Ain’t Christmas, New Year’s Ain’t New Year’s Without the One You Love

9) Canned Heat – Christmas Blues

10) Elvis Presley – Santa Claus Is Back In Town

11) Brook Benton – Soul Santa

12) Brook Benton – This Time of Year

13) Victoria Spively – I Ain’t Gonna Let You See My Santa Claus

14) Carla Thomas – All I Want For Christmas

15) Albert King – Christmas Comes But Once A Year

16) B.B. King – Christmas Celebration

17) Clarence Clemons – The Christmas Song

18) Mickey Champion – Gonna Have a Merry Xmas

19) James Brown – Merry Christmas My Baby And A Very, Very Happy New Year

20) James Brown – Christmas Is Love

21) Jimmy Liggins and His Drops of Love – I Want My Baby For Christmas

22) Roy Milton – Christmas Time Blues

23) Bessie Smith – At the Christmas Ball

24) Solomon Burke – Presents for Christmas

25) Gatemouth Moore – Gate’s Christmas Blues

26) King Curtis – What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

27) Sonny Boy Williamson – Christmas Morning Blues

28) The Universal Orchestra – Christmas Spirit

29) Felix Gross – Love for Christmas

30) The Moonglows – Hey Santa Claus

31) Charles Brown – Christmas With No One To Love

32) St. Vincent – Happy Birthday, Johnny

33) Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson – Winter Song

34) Sia – Snowman

35) Sam Smith – River

36) Amy Stroup – Holiday Easse

37) Kelly Clarkson – Christmas Eve

38) Justin Jones – Christmas Night

39) Opus Orange – A Long December

Dock Rockers

Dock Rockers

Dock Rockers on Spotify .

Dock Rockers on Spotify.

An avowed, unabashed dad-rocker, of late I cannot unshackle myself from these A.M. Goldilocks: not too hot, not too cold, the tunes I want to listen to are caught somewhere in between last year’s Linen Shirts & Lemonade and 2015’s Friday Night FeelsNot for night swimming nor for backyard swinging, Dock Rockers encapsulates a summer vibe all its own. This is for those sure-footed moments with the ones you love, bopping and bumping in the backyard, or as the title might suggest, at dockside, with a breezy drink in hand and the smell of still waters shimmering beneath your Sebagos.

Shortly after I did a deep-dive of what’s come to be known as “Yacht Rock” in a thirteen-and-a-half-hour beta-mix called Better Adult Contemporary, I found a wonderful Salon article that suggests this music is experiencing a renaissance. Infused with plenty of modern riffs on the boat-based fraternity favorites, it admittedly goes all over the place, but after spending several days driving around Los Angeles with the top down, I’m happy to report that it holds up. It even works on shuffle. I’m breaking with my tradition and sharing my summer tunes on the Fourth of July this year in hopes you do so much dock rocking the next two months that you report back on how your boat shoes needed a resole come Labor Day.

Subscribe to Dock Rockers on Spotify.

Tracks:

1) Young Gun Silver Fox – Better

2) Mapei – Don’t Wait

3) Amber Mark & Mia Mark – Monsoon

4) Dua Lipa – Thinking ‘bout You

5) HAIM – Little of Your Love

6) accord – No Good

7) Amandla Stenberg – Let My Baby Stay

8) Nilüfer Yanya – Keep on Calling (Vasco Remix)

9) ‘Om’ Alec Khaoli & Umoja – Say You Love Me

10) African Vibration – Hinde

11) Mop Mop – Kamakumba

12) Diane Tell Je suis en amour

13) Maria Gadù – Shimbalaiè

14) Cecilio & Kapono – Someday

15) Khalid – Location

16) Domo Genesis & Anderson .Paak – Dapper

17) Thundercat, Flying Lotus, & Kamasi Washington – Them Changes

18) Childish Gambino – Redbone

19) Guordan Banks – Keep You in Mind

20) SBTRKT & Little Dragon – Wildfire

21) Xavier Omär – Blind Man

22) Twelve’len – My Baby / Scarlet Red Love Tales

23) Lauv – I Like Me Better

24) Bleachers – Goodmorning

25) alt-J – Deadcrush

26) Amy Stroup – Magic

27) Fat Night – Sun Go Down

28) Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love

29) Shabazz Palaces, Quazarz, & Thaddillac

30) Prince – Starfish And Coffee

31) Black Star – Fix Up

32) Surfing – Hit the Spot

33) Flo Morrissey and Matthew E. White – Look at What the Light Did Now

34) Chromeo – Lost on the Way Home (feat. Solange)

35) Jordan Rakei – Midnight Mischief (Tom Misch Remix)

36) The Black Crowes – Wiser Time

37) The Building – Have to Forgive

38) Jan Hammer Group – Don’t You Know

39) Vondelpark – California Analog Dream

40) Canyon – Country Lovin

41) Marshall Hain – Take My Number

42) Boss Selection – Flip and Rewind (feat. Rashida Jones)

43) Saint Motel – Something About Us (at Spotify Studios NYC)

44) Omar Velasco – Paloma

45) This Is The Kit – Moonshine Freeze

46) Daniel T. – Mission Hill Morning

47) KAYTRANADA & Syd – You’re the One

48) Temples – Certainty

49) Tennis – In the Morning I’ll Be Better

50) Big L & Jay-Z – Stretch and Bobbito Show ’95

51) Rahsaan Roland Kirk – Ma Cherie Amour

52) Matthew Larkin Cassell – One Night

53) Loggins & Messina – Angry Eyes

54) Dave Mason – Then It’s Alright

55) Todd Rungren – I Saw the Light

56) Willie Mitchell – Breaking Point

57) Ambrosia – Biggest Part of Me

58) Bernie Leadon – Glass Off

59) Sea Level – Living in a Dream

60) Universal Togetherness Band – My Sentiment

61) Brian Protheroe – Pinball

62) Henri Texier – Les “La-bas”

63) Gil Scott-Heron – Lady Day And John Coltrane

64) Talking Heads – The Big Country

65) Buzzy Linhart – The Love’s Still Growing

66) Jacob Gurevitsch – Mexican Margarita

67) Young-Holt Unlimited – Young & Holt

68) Penguin Cafe – Protection

69) Mark Ronson & Kevin Parker – Summer Breaking

70) Amber Mark – Way Back

Track Notes: Kick off with a song from Young Gun Silver Fox, a duo whose freshman effort West End Coast pays heavy tribute to the genre infusing elements of Doobies, Eagles, and Fleetwood Mac, and merges quickly into a six song “she’s suite,” modern music flush with strong feminine voices. My friend Roy threw some excellent African tunes from the 80s on when we were cruising around the Silver Lake Reservoir the other day, and I had to include them here. “Redbone,” Childish Gambino’s latest hit is everywhere. It will be the song of the summer. In effort to include the deepest cuts, a tough task given the ubiquity of seventies soft rock, while eradicating the obvious, I felt compelled to incorporate a top five hit from Ambrosia and Todd Rungren. And since his library’s recent inclusion on Spotify, Prince has been injected this mix [be sure to do the deep-dive on his Purple Rain remastering which includes 26 never-before heard tracks selected by the man himself]. His song “Starfish and Coffee” is an all-time favorite, fresh as the day it first emerged from the Yamaha NS-10s at Paisley Park. Take a deliberate turn south with the inclusion of my all-time favorite band, The Black Crowes, whose Amorica has been something of a recent rediscovery, as I’ve done a deep dive on some high school tunes. Don’t miss Radio That Changed Livesa great documentary on NYC rap pioneers and DJ Stretch and MC Bobbito. It’s streaming on Netflix now [In middle school, I would trade Grateful Dead tapes for their tapes at Skateport Plaza in Saint Louis]. When he saw that I’d spent several days listening to nothing but Stevie Wonder, my friend Adam shared this strangely cool cover of “Ma Cherie Amour” by Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Everyone needs to see Mike Mills‘ Twentieth Century Women, the best movie I saw last year, if only for the Talking Heads tracks. Famous: The Buzzy Linhart Story broke my heart. Is it me or does this Penguin Cafe tune borrow from this track from James Horner’s score for Sneakers? Be sure to see their Tiny Desk Concert. “Summer Breaking” accompanied me and my friend John on our first surf trip yesterday, and Ronson’s Donald Fagen-esque riffs felt like the best way to round up a seventy-track, five hour, yacht rock mix. 

“Way Back” has been my theme song this summer. 

Also worth a listen, Seafaring Strangers: Private YachtNumero Group’s excellent tribute to the genre which was brought to my attention by Jocelyn Romo.

Thanks for subscribing to Dock Rockers.

Factory Visit: The Patagonia Archive

Chouinard Equipment Co., the tin shed where it all started.

Chouinard Equipment Co., the tin shed where it all started.

In March, shortly after I learned that two of Patagonia’s iconic designs, the original pile jacket and the Synchilla Snap-T, were to be incorporated into upcoming shows at the Tate Modern and MoMA, I reached out to company archivists Val Franco and Terri Laine to see about a visit.

As Outside Magazine’s Brad Rassler describes his visit in November of 2016: 

“A 10,000-square-foot facility not far from the former Hells Angels’ Ventura, California, headquarters—a former food canning operation, the address of which I am not to reveal—houses the Patagonia Archives, a project recently launched by the clothing company to chronicle its storied past. No signage betrays the identity of the building’s occupant or hints at the work that takes place within. The archives, you see, are not open to the public. But for one day last November, its doors opened to me.

Terri Laine has been with Patagonia since the mid-80s, and her extensive work in visual merchandising — incorporating environmentally-friendly materials and practices into brand visuals — inspired my passion for the brand from very early on.

An employee of the company since its earliest days in the mid-70s, Val Franco is largely responsible for the look and feel of Patagonia’s packaging, from the capilene sushi rolls to much of the recycled content you’ll find in the hang tags.

The Catalog Library

The Catalog Library

For a little over a year, Laine and Franco have been tasked with preserving and protecting as much of the brand’s archives as they possibly can. Founders Yvon and Malinda Chouinard have moved crates and boxes from their Ventura, California home into the space and they’ve tasked many of their friends to do the same. 

Walking into the archive, I was reminded of my trip to meet Ruth Porter who oversees L.L. Bean’s archive. The major difference between a more well-establised archive and a young archive like Patagonia’s is noticeable. 

“Shovels and tweezers,” Val Franco explained. “Bean’s in a place where you need the white gloves and the tweezers to examine their history. We’re still digging to get to our archaeological site.” 

c/o Terri Lane, Patagonia.

c/o Terri Lane, Patagonia.

Three major highlights of the archive for me were holding one of the first carabiners ever made, Chouinard’s own design, the “fish and tits” Pataloha shirt that he wore with a tuxedo at a meeting of the Seven Summits Club in 1985. (Photo by Rick Ridgeway) and the Fun Hogs flag, which flew atop Mount Fitz Roy on December 20, 1968 at the climax of the fateful trip that inspired Chouinard to start Patagonia. For more on that trip, I recommend watching Mountain of Storms, Lito Tejada-Flores’ 1969 adventure film featuring Yvon ChouinardDoug TompkinsDick Dorworth, and Chris Jones.

Dick Dorworth, Doug Tompkins, and Yvon Chouinard after the first ascent of the California Route. December 20, 1968, 8PM. Photo c/o Chris Jones

Dick Dorworth, Doug Tompkins, and Yvon Chouinard after the first ascent of the California Route. December 20, 1968, 8PM. Photo c/o Chris Jones

Shortly after the trip, in the American Alpine Journal, Tompkins wrote, “In general, we were going to ‘hog fun’ as much as we could for six months.” As translated for the locals, the “sporting porks” headed out on a six month road trip where they surfed, skied, and climbed from Ventura to Patagonia and back again in an old Econoline van. Legend has it that Tompkins, who founded The North Face in 1966 and sold it in 1968, had the banner made just before leaving San Francisco.

Patagonia’s geography deeply impacted Chouinard, so much so that he went on to name his company for the range. Later, Tompkins migrated to the region and began acquiring vast tracts of land, and he and his wife Kristy, a former Patagonia executive, turned them into national parks.

The Devil is a  Hangdog .

The Devil is a Hangdog.

First generation Chouinard Equipment Co. pitons, painted yellow.

First generation Chouinard Equipment Co. pitons, painted yellow.

Yvon Chouinard and Rick Ridgeway on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska.

Yvon Chouinard and Rick Ridgeway on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska.

Hand-drawn specs.

Hand-drawn specs.

This early pile jacket will soon be on display at the  Tate Modern . Part of a California design retrospective.

This early pile jacket will soon be on display at the Tate Modern. Part of a California design retrospective.

This early Synchilla Snap-T has been added to the permanent collection at  MoMA . Of special note, the off-set snap on the chest pocket was designed by a member of Patagonia's sailing department. "It kept his sunglasses from sliding into his armpit," Laine explained. That shape continues to reappear in designs  new  and  old  today. 

This early Synchilla Snap-T has been added to the permanent collection at MoMA. Of special note, the off-set snap on the chest pocket was designed by a member of Patagonia’s sailing department. “It kept his sunglasses from sliding into his armpit,” Laine explained. That shape continues to reappear in designs new and old today. 

Hand-painted specs sheet for the earliest rugby shirts.

Hand-painted specs sheet for the earliest rugby shirts.

These rugged Umbro rugby shirts were roomy and perfect for climbing. Included in the Chouinard Equipment Co. catalog alongside some heavyweight corduroy shorts, Chouinard saw an opportunity when his hardware sales began to be outpaced by what he then referred to as his "software," and Patagonia was born.

These rugged Umbro rugby shirts were roomy and perfect for climbing. Included in the Chouinard Equipment Co. catalog alongside some heavyweight corduroy shorts, Chouinard saw an opportunity when his hardware sales began to be outpaced by what he then referred to as his “software,” and Patagonia was born.

For more on the archive, be sure to read Brad Rassler’s piece in Outside Magazine.

For more on Patagonia, I recommend reading the tenth anniversary revision of Let My People Go SurfingYvon Chouinard’s masterwork, a book that changed my life and countless others. 

Special thanks to Patagonia and to Val Franco and Terri Laine for their hours-upon-hours of time and care — not just for me but for anyone who is passionate about the outdoors and this company that does so much to preserve and protect those wild experiences for the generations to come. December 1, 2016

Romance in Three Cocktails

stage_2_test_m_villalobos

This originally appeared in Five O’Clock, Harry’s Magazine.


Eau de Quête, the Green Goblin’s Ambrosia and Threshold Punch.

As the calendar flips to February, my mind turns to two things: travel and romance. I’m not talking your run-of-the-mill Poconos weekend and candy hearts, mind you. I’m talking travel and romance rooted in the adventurer’s spirit, the kind of intrepid quest famously heralded in Arthurian tales of chivalry.

Knights tasked with quests to fend off evil, heading on faraway journeys at the behest of a damsel, with the hopes of returning to the castle free of wounds and filled with a renewed sense of spirit and a deepened character.

Today, my countrymen favor February as a time for a weekend’s escape to warmer climate or a snowy mountain sport paradise. As you prepare to set out on travels of your own, be they romantic, adventurous, or god-willing both, arm yourself with these three cocktails for each stage of your trek.

stage_1_quest_m_villalobos

Eau de Quête

Stage One: Quest

Bolstered with something crisp and refreshing, you, Sir Knight, must feel that you can face anything. And with the bittersweet scent of a fair maiden’s perfume sending your heart aflutter, you’ll be doubly motivated to set out on your crusade. As you voyage, have your flask filled and pick a blood orange from your lady-maid’s tree (or local Whole Foods Market)—as the perfect Negroni will keep you steadfast on your travels.

Ingredients

3-parts dry gin
1½-parts Campari
1½-parts Carpano Antica
A twist of blood orange peel (add a wedge on the side for extra sweetness)

Pour contents of flask over ice. Garnish with the blood orange.

stage_2_test_m_villalobos

Green Goblin’s Ambrosia

Stage Two: Test

In the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, green symbolizes the mythological creature that Sir Gawain must fend off, while scholars have argued the Green Knight himself represents the devil. As you endeavor, you may find yourself bedeviled by unforeseen obstacles but, as we all know, adventure doesn’t truly begin until plans go awry—and, like any well-prepared adventurer, you’re prepared for anything. Which is why you’ll undoubtedly be armed with a flask of rye whiskey and chartreuse, along with your trusty sidearm: the absinthe atomizer.

As the saying goes, when life hands you lemons, make this take on a Sazerac.

Ingredients

2½-parts rye whiskey
½-part Chartreuse
1 spritz from an absinthe atomizer
1 lemon
1 raw sugar packet

Add the contents of your flask to an absinthe-washed glass, bottomed by a sugar packet. Squeeze the wedge of a lemon into said glass and garnish with the peel. Top with ice.

stage_3_return_m_villalobos

Threshold Punch

Stage Three: Return

You’ve done it. You sought the holy grail. Slayed the dragon. Survived no less than three booby traps. While you wisely left that humble cup in the Turkish cave where it lies—rest assured your damsel is no less eagerly awaiting your return with a punch bowl at the ready, filled with this holy water of another kind…

Ingredients

1 bottle of brut champagne
2-cups dry white wine
3 raw sugar packets
2 cinnamon sticks
1-tablespoon ground anise
The juice of 1 blood orange
6 wedges cut from second blood orange

Add all ingredients to a punch bowl with ice. Stir with a ladle. Serves one thirsty knight and one de-girdled damsel, or four-to-six serfs.

Illustrated by: Miguel Villalobos

Rotgut Ingenuity: Holiday Salvation Part 3

This originally appeared in Five O’Clock, Harry’s Magazine

rotgut-ingenuity-holiday-salvation-mazel-tov-cocktail


The drinking man’s guide to circumspection, consolation and celebration with your significant other…

Come January you may find yourself saying to your partner, “How did we ever make it through the holidays without each other?” As I prepare for another season with my girlfriend, we realize there are three scenarios we’ll likely face again this year: circumspection, consolation and celebration. For those likeminded readers, we can now embrace these moments with gusto, thanks to these three cocktails…

rotgut-ingenuity-holiday-salvation-whiskey-and-water

Whiskey and Water

The Scenario: Circumspection
Degree of Difficulty: A Partridge in a Pear Tree

The Game Plan conversation. Whether this is your first holiday season as a couple, or you’re already old pros, this pre-game strategy session is an absolute must. How is Uncle Donkey going to try to get under Aunt Elephant’s skin? How are we going to respond when Great Aunt Sister (that’s right, your ninety-year-old nun-in-law) broaches the topic of legal weed? And don’t forget to practice the surprised face for that embarrassing gift— underwear from grandma or that Kama Sutra book from your perverted Uncle Steve.

The perfect drink of circumspection is a slow sipper, something you can nurse while dreaming up the most frightful scenarios you might face over the course of the next few days.

Ingredients

2-parts high-proof whiskey
Ice and/or water to taste

Try a high proof whiskey with a side of ice, water, or both. The higher the proof, the less the water in the bottle, the hotter the heat and the slower you’ll want to drink it. Try diluting with part of an ice cube first, adding more H2O as needed.

rotgut-ingetnuity-holiday-salvation-cool-off-in-the-car

Cool Off in the Car

The Scenario: Consolation
Degree of Difficulty: Seven Swans a Swimming

After that tragic moment when your spouse accidentally offends your mother by suggesting a slaved-over-for-a-week dish “could use a little salt,” and is then chased out the front door with a meat cleaver, only to slip-and-fall on the driveway’s fresh patch of ice.

Ingredients

1-part crème de menthe
1-part peppermint schnapps
2-parts vodka
2 candy canes
1 dark chocolate bar

First, obtain the meat cleaver from your mother. Then, dust your spouse off. Finally, retreat with said spouse to the front seats of the car where you’ll have these ingredients flasked and hiding in your glove box.

Mint is thought to have a cooling effect on the body’s operating temperature, chocolate will provide a rush of dopamine to mellow even the harshest vibes and the crunch of a candy cane releases pent-up aggressions.

As for your mother: you’re on your own, pal.

rotgut-ingenuity-holiday-salvation-mazel-tov-cocktail

The Mazel Tov Cocktail

The Scenario: Celebration
Degree of Difficulty: Two Turtle Doves

Pro Tip: host your own New Year’s Eve party. Trust me. It’s so much more fun than going out. A week after that, with the year in the rearview, do this.

Ingredients

4-parts crème de cassis
1-part champagne
1-slice fresh plum
Handful of Mashuga Nuts

Rim a pair of champagne flutes with a handful of ground or chopped Mashuga Nuts. Fill the glasses with crème de cassis and top it off with one of the leftover bottles of New Year’s champagne. Drop a slice of plum in the glass.

Grab your partner for a one-armed slow dance to the tune of The Zombies’ “This Will Be Our Year.” Clink glasses with a toast of “Mazel Tov!” and “Happy New Year!”

Illustrations by Jenny Mörtsell

Rotgut Ingenuity: Holiday Salvation Part 2

rotgut-ingenuity-holiday-salvation-wastlers-wassail

This originally appeared in Five O’Clock, Harry’s Magazine


The drinking man’s guide to hosting the holidays…

Hosting a well-planned holiday party takes gumption. And setting the right tone with that first “welcome in” drink is everything. Here are three scenarios you’ll likely run into after inviting your nearest and dearest to bask in the season’s warmest greetings…

rotgut-ingenuity-holiday-salvation-oscar-peterson

An Oscar Peterson Christmas

The Scenario: Polite Dinner Parties
Degree of Difficulty: Four Calling Birds

The Old Fashioned has become one of the standard-bearers for anyone looking to learn the basic principles of mixed drink construction. I’ve come to rely on it for occasions where the tone is casual, but slightly more refined. It’s also the perfect cocktail to entertain an evening in conversation with seven of your closest friends enjoying the hearty food customary to this time of year. I like to turn on An Oscar Peterson Christmas and craft this classic in precisely the same way the distillers of many of the world’s best bourbons would craft theirs.

Now would be a good time to tell you: you don’t need the best bourbon. In fact, save your best bourbon for sipping neat. Use a less expensive but higher proof bourbon for mixing into a cocktail. The high proof heat sticks around longer in the mix.

Ingredients

1 slice fresh orange cut to fit in the basin of a rocks glass
2 demerara sugar cubes
2 to 3 drops orange bitters
2 to 3 drops of Angostura bitters
2-parts bourbon (107 proof or higher)
Ice cubes made with distilled water
Cocktail napkins
A bar spoon with a muddler button on one end.

Add a slice of fresh orange to the basin of a rocks glass. Get some raw brown sugar cubes. I like demerara cubes. Their rich molasses flavor melds well with a high proof bourbon. Place two sugar cubes atop the orange slice. Dash the cubes with bitters slowly until they’ve soaked through the cubes. Add a dash of bourbon. Muddle the sugar into the fruit of the orange slice, avoiding the bitter, white rind. Once the fruit has been broken up and gently coated in sugar, add more bourbon. Cover with ice cubes.

Now we stir. The technique: place your spoon inside your glass, plan the glass on the tabletop, hold the spoon in one hand and turn the glass with the other. The warmth from your turning hand will melt the ice slightly, but not too much as to dilute the cocktail. Rim the glass with a thumb-sized cut of orange peel.

Add more bourbon as you see fit.

rotgut-ingenuity-holiday-salvation-blonde-toddy

The Blonde Toddy

The Scenario: Elder Relatives in from Out of Town
Degree of Difficulty: Three French Hens

I made a toddy for my aunt a few years back and, from her reaction, you’d have thought I found the key to Santa’s workshop. Since then, I’ve been whipping up this gin toddy—the “Blonde Toddy”—as a nightcap for parents and older relatives visiting during the holidays. It never disappoints.

Ingredients

2-parts gin
2-dashes of DRAM Apothecary’s Hair of the Dog bitters
1-teaspoon of orange marmalade
Brewed Irish breakfast tea of your choice
1 thick-cut orange wheel

While preparing your other ingredients, brew a pot of your favorite Irish breakfast tea. Add the gin and bitters to a mug. Top with as much, or as little tea as you like. Stir in marmalade.

Sip and squeeze the orange as you enjoy the drink.

rotgut-ingenuity-holiday-salvation-wastlers-wassail

A Wastler’s Wassail

The Scenario: Ragers
Degree of Difficulty: A Partridge in a Pear Tree

I once threw a BYOB holiday party for sixty or seventy of my closest friends. It ended in utter debauchery with several of my guests jumping from the couch into the fake tree Kiefer Sutherland-style to great fanfare and cheers of “Best Christmas Ever!”

I received several texts the day after simply saying, “I blame you, wassail.” That’s right. Knowing hardly anyone brings good alcohol to a BYOB party, I made a kickin’ wassail. Now, I’m sure there is no truth to this, but a long time ago a family member insisted that our last name is somehow related to the wassail. So it was with great pleasure that I concocted this warm rum punch, “Wastler’s Wassail,” perfecting it over time to include such seasonal chestnuts as… well, chestnuts for one, but also apple cider, apple cider vinegar and dried cranberries.

Ingredients

2 slow cookers
1-gallon fresh farmer’s market apple cider
2-quarts cranberry juice
2-tablespoons orange bitters
2-tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
8 cinnamon sticks
24-ounces of dried cranberries
1-cup allspice dram
1/2-cup honey
2 oranges, sliced thick and studded with cloves
2 bottles of dark rum
Enough warm chestnuts for everyone to enjoy two cocktails

Why two slow cookers? Like kindergartners at a soccer game, everyone crowds this ball. Split them up by placing the slow cookers in separate rooms. Split all the ingredients evenly. Assemble them into your cookers in the morning and turn them down around party time.

Serve with warm chestnuts as a garnish on the side.

Illustrations by Jenny Mörtsell

Rotgut Ingenuity: Holiday Salvation Part 1

rotgut-ingenuity-holiday-salvation-hed


The drinking man’s guide to holiday parties and the gifts to leave behind…

The main objective as a holiday party guest should be to arrive bearing as considerate a gift as possible. And it should come as no surprise that whenever I’m asked, “What should I bring to the party?” before a person can get out the tee in party, I invariably say: “Good booze.”

What follows are three holiday party scenarios complete with a DIY cocktail recipe, degree of difficulty and a well-thought-out host gift—which will come in handy when you whip up said cocktail on the spot…

rotgut-ingenuity-holiday-salvation-gin-martini

The Iceberg Gin Martini

The Host: Friends
The Gift: Koriko Shaker Tins and a Julep Strainer
Degree of Difficulty: Two Turtledoves

Ingredients

2-parts locally-made gin of your choice
1-part dry vermouth
Ice. For this drink I prefer the crescent-shaped ice made by a high-end fridge. Trays work too.
Twist of a lemon peel

The convivial nature of a friend’s holiday party is the perfect environment to show off your noisiest shaking skills. I can think of no better cocktail to make for a fancy, friends-only holiday party than a well-balanced gin martini. Bring a bottle of regionally-made gin and a bottle of dry vermouth. Fill the tins with ice from their fridge. Shake like hell. You want to shake it till the ice has broken against itself so intensely that ice chips will float on the surface of the cocktail. This adds a lot of water to the drink. The hydration makes the night last longer. Strain using a Julep Strainer—my favorite for extracting just the right amount of small ice chips into the cocktail. Top with a spirally twist of fresh lemon peel.

Chances are, unless they’re bartenders, your friends don’t have a high-quality set of shaker tins. Bring with you a set of my favorite. These Koriko tins are made by the Japanese, they’re weighted perfectly and they’re surprisingly durable.

rotgut-ingenuity-holiday-salvation-mcfrosy-nip

A McFrosty Nip (at Your Nose)

The Host: Family
The Gift: Marquis Glassware from Waterford Crystal
Degree of Difficulty: Five Golden Rings

Ingredients

2-parts your favorite Irish whiskey (80 proof)
1-part Amaro Montenegró
1/2-part egg whites
Juice of a small orange slice
Twist of an orange peel
Pinch of thyme

On special occasions my Irish-American relatives proudly pull out the good crystal from County Waterford. We reminisce about holidays past—like the years during the Great Depression when my great-grandparents could only afford to give their children an orange, meant to represent the traditional gold coins left in stockings. More recently, in less trying times, my grandmother would give the grown men in my family a bottle of spice-scented after shave—they would hoist those bottles in the air and hum an old Irish tune.

This cocktail is meant to be a nod to those Christmases of yore. Pick up a set of four Waterford rocks glasses for the family host. The Marquis Collection is relatively affordable. You’ll also need a bottle of your favorite Irish whiskey, an orange, a bottle of Amaro Montenegró, a carton of eggs or a thermos of egg whites and a jar of ground thyme. Combine everything but the thyme and orange over ice in a shaker tin. Shake, strain and spoon out the remaining egg white froth atop the glass. Sprinkle with thyme, top with a twist of orange. As you clink glasses, hum your family’s favorite old tune.

rotgut-ingenuity-holiday-salvation-maple-manhattan

A Maple-hattan

The Host: Perfect Strangers (AKA That Boss You Don’t Report to but Joke with in the Breakroom.)
The Gift: A Wentworth Pewter Flask
Degree of Difficulty: A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Ingredients

2-parts bourbon
1/4-part sweet vermouth
1/2-part pure maple syrup
2 dashes of orange bitters
1 Maraschino cherry

A safe bet when attending the party of someone with whom you are not familiar: bring your standards. Your go-tos. Your trusted stuff. My favorite flask is a Wentworth Pewter that was given to me by a friend for Christmas.

At a loss for what to bring to a white elephant party one year, I stopped at a gas station along the way. Desperate, I asked the attendant what he would bring to a party. “Oh, that’s easy,” he replied. “Pure Maple Syrup. Ours is some of the best.” It was a hit. Of course it was. Maple syrup’s unrefined sugars are a great natural sweetener and make any winter cocktail taste that much more wintry.

When it comes to giving the gift of spirits, my favorite to share with strangers is Basil Hayden’s Bourbon. As a means of disclosure, I’ve been their spokesperson for four years. Prior to that and surely long afterwards, I will continue extolling the virtues of Basil Hayden’s as an excellent bourbon for the aficionado and the novice alike. Made with twice as much rye as traditional bourbons, it has a “trademark spicy finish,” and comes in a uniquely packaged bottle that looks impressive sitting atop your bar.

And after making it for several years at all manner of holiday parties, I’ve come to learn this cocktail pleases all who try it. Toss all the ingredients into a shaker tin filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain neatly into a cocktail glass. Add a cherry garnish.

Then go make friends of strangers and family of friends.

Illustrations by Jenny Mörtsell

The California Shirt on Esquire.com

The California Shirt on Esquire.com

I woke up this morning to a text message from Michael B. Dougherty, author of the latest post at Esquire.com. The text simply read, “BOOM.” It was followed by a link to his story. It’s about my journey to making the first product to carry my name, The California Shirt. 

BOOM is right. It’s fitting that the first story about a product made from my life’s history (this shirt’s pattern is based on my father’s first custom shirt which became a hand-me-down for me and my brother) would come from Esquire. 

It’s likely that I wore my dad’s shirt on or around the time that I discovered in the back of Mr. Jerry Boyle’s AP English classroom a pile of vintage Esquires. Mr. Boyle liked to heap praise on his students comparing us to his favorite of Esquire writers from the sixties. Where others were compared to BaldwinMailer, or Talese, after a fluffy story of my family’s fall traditions, he dropped my (A-) paper on the desk in front of me with a delightful, delayed delivery, chewing his words: “Mis-ter Wast-ler…. a nice attempt at Nora Ephron….” 

I would’ve been fine dying then and there. Esquire was also once home to one of my college mentors, Mr. Tom Chiarella, whose ability to tie the personal narrative to many of our national conversations is unrivaled among his peers today. In my time under his care, I leaned on him more often than I probably should have for fluffier stories with a particularly collegiate bent to them: profiles of the women’s rugby team or a takedown of the Administration following the suspension of one professor or another, or somehow tying a campus cycling race to the Tour de France. 

But today, I am featured not as a writer but as a merchant, and Dougherty did a wonderful job encapsulating what I am attempting with this first offering. It should be noted that as acquaintances, he reached out to me at a time when I felt uncomfortable seeking press. I actually deliberately did not seek publicity hoping instead to allow for the proof of my concept to speak for itself on this early beta run of what is to come. Granted, I am entirely grateful to him for the platform, for the kind words, and for the opportunity to share more of the behind-the-scenes. 

If you have time to read his profile, I would be grateful. I suppose it goes without saying, nonetheless I sit here humbled to see words I’ve spoken gracing a space authorized by a publication I have admired for so long. Thank you again to Michael B. Dougherty and to Esquire.

Rotgut Ingenuity: The Cornucopia

This originally appeared in Five O’Clock, Harry’s Magazine

rotgut-cornucopia-header


Bobby’s Orange Sweater, The Missouri Horn Of Plenty, Like A Greek Mother’s Milk and The Sacred Place.

As the season of halls decked with boughs of holly beckons, we hope you’ll celebrate the harvest by putting aside differences to come together around the same table in appreciation for the bounties of our lives.

Today we recognize one symbol of this bounty: the cornucopia. The pastoral fortune displayed in that horn of plenty personifies a year of hard work to plant, to fertilize, to grow, to gather, and to savor the fruits of those well-lived labors. What follows are four cocktails to weave into the metaphorical harvest horn at your family’s or friend’s Thanksgiving gathering. 

rotgut-cornucopia-bobbys-orange-sweater

Bobby’s Orange Sweater

The Shetland Isles, a subarctic archipelago in northeastern Scotland, are home to a small breed of sheep famous for their fine wool—often found in the world’s most luxurious sweaters. In my family’s history is a particularly lean Christmas during the Great Depression when the children were given only oranges and told that they represented the gold placed in stockings by St. Nicholas, to be used as a dowry.

Paying tribute to both is one of my favorite cocktails to drink from Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day. It’s a take on a “Robert Burns” named for the famed Scottish poet. I make mine with absinthe, which coats the throat with some added heat, a sweater for your stomach.

Pour a small amount of absinthe in your glass, coating the surface with just enough absinthe to feel the warmth and not so much as to overwhelm the rest of the cocktail. Bonus points if you can pass your absinthe pour between each of the glasses as you make more cocktails.

Ingredients

2-parts scotch
1-part sweet vermouth
A dash of orange bitters
A dash of absinthe

I serve mine with a small orange wedge punctured with cloves and squeeze a bit of orange juice into the cocktail. As you raise your glass, be sure to thank Mr. Burns. Excellent.

rotgut-cornucopia-missouri-horn-of-plenty

The Missouri Horn of Plenty

Thomas Hart Benton’s massive twenty-two-foot-long painting “Achelous and Hercules,” which once hung in a Kansas City, Missouri department store, features a massive cornucopia overflowing with gourds, cornstalks, carrots, wheat and a plump bunch of large, purple grapes. The horn belonged to the river god Achelous and it had been filled with the harvest bounty by the nymphs who presided over the river.

In 1904, forty-three years prior to the completion of Benton’s painting, across his home state of Missouri at the St. Louis World’s Fair, a Syrian immigrant by the name of Ernest Hamwi rolled up one of his zalabia—a waffle-like pastry—and gave it to Arnold Fornachou to serve his ice cream. Originally, Hamwi called his invention the “Cornucopia Waffle,” but it soon after came to be known throughout the world as the Ice Cream Cone.

This boozy ice cream takes a night to prepare, but the effort will pay off in droves when you have its origin story on-hand to disrupt your drunken uncle’s oral dissertation on the return of American Democracy.

Ingredients

1-part cognac
1-part red table wine
1-part vanilla ice cream
A dozen red grapes per batch
6 maraschino cherries per batch

Let ice cream soften. Add ingredients to blender. Blend until well-mixed but grapes and cherries are still in medium-sized chunks. Pour ingredients into sealed Tupperware container. Freeze. Serve in an ice cream cone, and raise a toast to Benton and Hamwi.

rotgut-cornucopia-greek-mothers-milk

Like a Greek Mother’s Milk

The legend goes that when Zeus was born, he fed on the milk of the goat goddess Amalthea. While nursing, overcome by his own strength, Zeus broke off one of her horns which then provided him endless nourishment.

Though not unending, I find a well-made punch bowl can accomplish nearly the same. After learning a bar in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood serves a goat’s milk punch, I tried to replicate it at home but found it to be too sweet. If you prefer imbibing on the sweeter side, punch up the amount of cinna-syrup. But batch out a glass for yourself first to ensure the ratio is suitable before filling the punch bowl.

Ingredients

2-parts ouzo
3-parts goat’s milk
1-part cinnamon syrup (½ part cinnamon, ½ part sugar, 1-part water)
1-part Madeira

Combine in a punch bowl. Serve over fresh ice. Hang some horn-like candy canes from the rim of the punch bowl. Suggest stirring with said cane. Garnish with a sprig of mint. Avoid conversations with any man named “Cronus.”

rotgut-cornucopia-the-sacred-place

The Sacred Place

Dale DeGroff, noted bartender whom for many years oversaw cocktails at Rockefeller Center’s Rainbow Room, befriended a group of editors who’d become regular fixtures of “lunch” during his tenure. One afternoon just before Thanksgiving, as a sign of gratitude for their patronage, he prepared “The Pilgrim’s Cocktail.” One of those bitterly cold November days in New York, he served the drink hot.

A few years ago, nostalgic for those blustery afternoons reprieved by The Pilgrim, I whipped up a batch myself, poured it into a couple thermoses and hailed a cab en route to a “Friendsgiving” celebration. Of course, being New York, my chariot was abruptly caught in crosstown traffic. Apparently the accident was caused by a wild bird crossing the road. My cabbie, a real comedian, exclaimed, “This is why you shouldn’t pardon turkeys!”

Idle for nearly fifteen minutes, I cracked open one of the thermoses. As I enjoyed the first few sips, my cab driver turned around taking a big whiff, his eyes widening as he asked if he could try it. I poured him a small sip and—whether he knew he was quoting John Wayne’s character in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, or not—said to me, “Well, thanks for saving my life, Pilgrim.”

Ingredients

½ part dark rum
½ part light rum
½ part orange curaçao
2-parts fresh orange juice
2-parts fresh lime juice
¼ part St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
2 dashes Scrappy’s Jalapeño Bitters

Combine ingredients over high heat, removing from the stove just prior to boiling. Pour into your favorite insulated container. Share with your closest friends or the nearest cab driver.

Illustrations by Jenny Mörtsell

The California Shirt

Photos courtesy of  Carolina Mariana

Photos courtesy of Carolina Mariana

Consideration is defined as “careful thought, typically over a period of time.”

For the past decade, my central focus has been men’s clothing. For a time in 2009 and 2010, I traveled a twelve-state territory in the center of the country selling shirts and ties to high-end men’s boutiques. Prior to this experience, it had been my dream to build button-downs with flourishes that I liked in a well-made men’s shirt. Through my experience as a traveling salesman, I learned that many of those flourishes were just that, ostentatious and superfluous to the function and quality of the shirt itself. What has remained exists in this first offering from the newly formed company which bears my name, Max Wastler.

Know, first, who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly. – Epictetus

I spent my entire childhood shopping. I would pore over catalogs, magazines, and racks of clothing, obsessing over every detail. I inherited my father’s extensive mental checklist for quality and value and my mother’s inherent ability to foresee a trend. As I grew older, I began modifying my tastes to suit the fashions of the day, learning the implied messages that clothing sends.

From early on, the shirt was the center of this obsession. It’s the billboard. When we meet, it’s the first thing we see. It expresses so much, so quickly. It covers the core of our being: the heart, the lungs, the stomach, and the arms. I have owned every kind of shirt you can imagine, and in the process, I have learned some valuable lessons. These lessons largely informed my first offering, The California Shirt.

Blue Years ago, a mentor of mine told me, “A man needs two things in this life: a blue shirt and a blue shirt.” He was right.

Gingham Long associated with scooter-cruising Mods and before them, fellow Kansan, Dorothy Gale, gingham has reemerged in recent years as a staple of men’s shirting. Prior to this, in 2008, I wore a navy gingham shirt to a wedding. A groomsman told me I looked like a picnic table. By the time we were dancing, he had the crowd chanting, “Go, Picnic Table, Go, Picnic Table, Go!”

Durable In 2010, a shirt sat atop my mother’s clothing donation pile. Examining it, I recognized it as one I had spent the last year selling. With signatures like double-track stitching on the collar, a chalk button, a box pleat, a trim fit, and a “Made in U.S.A” label. In 1989, after moving our family to a new city to start a new job, my father had this shirt made, a rare move for a man who never buys anything for himself. While flipping through my high school yearbooks not too long ago, I discovered I had worn this shirt, his hand-me-down on my first day of high school. My brother wore it after me, and after rescuing it from the donation pile, I have continued wearing it to this day. I hope my shirts last you and your family a quarter-century or more.

Seasons of Love How do you measure a year? In 2016, I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. Upon arriving, I mentioned to a friend that my wardrobe was too heavy, and he replied, pointing to the linen shirt I was wearing, “you’re going to need more of these.” I designed this with two flap pockets to keep my phone from falling out of my breast pocket, and to stash my favorite pair of wayfarers or an ice-cold stubbie of Coors Banquet Beer.

The California Shirt Now you know why I call this lightweight yet durable shirt “The California Shirt.”

For more details on the shirt itself, visit The Shop.

Max Wastler’s Guarantee For me, the sale isn’t complete until the goods are worn out and you are still satisfied. I am committed to delivering well-made, well-considered, dependable products. If you are not satisfied with one of my products at the time you receive it, or if it does not perform to your satisfaction, please return it for a repair, replacement, or refund. If you are uncomfortable doing so, I will gladly repair anything worn or torn at a reasonable charge. Above everything, I want to avoid having a dissatisfied customer.