I am not an alcohol connoisseur. The times I've been required to or handed a shot of alcohol to down, I usually can get about half of it down before gagging. There's just something about the smell and the burn of it that turned me off. I do like the occasional cocktail but more often than not I will sit down with a glass of wine or a bottle of a good micro-brewed beer. Over the weekend, we drove over to New Haven to tour the Pinckney Bend Distillery. When I hear the word "distillery", I think of whiskey. Whiskey is not really my thing (see above) but learning about the process of making whiskey sounded interesting and I knew Michael would really enjoy it too. Neither of us didn't really know what to expect, but I don't think Michael and I expected to become quite so enamored by Pinckney Bend.
For a measly five bucks, they start you off with a tasting of their various products (in a commemorative glass!). The first thing you taste is their vodka followed by their two whiskeys and then ending with their gin. They offer some cranberry juice to those who do not enjoy sipping vodka on the rocks and they make their own tonic to go in the gin. They ask that you taste a sip before mixing in a mixer just to appreciate the taste. If you're me, you take that sip and then make that cartoon gasping sound. There were two exceptions to this: the rye whiskey and the gin. Don't get me wrong. I wasn't all totally turned into a straight up whiskey on the rocks gal. I still winced at the sting of the drink, but for the first time I suddenly understood how people could actually sip this stuff straight up. I could actually taste all the flavors they were talking about, the caramel sweetness and the bite of rye. The first thing I noticed about the gin, was the smell. It smelled of juniper and chamomile and when mixed with their hibiscus tonic, made the most refreshing drink. We bought a bottle of gin that day. I had no idea I was gin drinker.
As enjoyable as the tasting was, it pales in comparison to how entertaining it was to hear these young men talk about their product and describe the process of distilling. There was excitement in their voices as they talked about the unique flavors in each liquor. There was pride in the way they poured their drinks. They were humble about how they did everything from bottling, corking and labeling all by hand. They don't do all of those things by hand to be trendy. They do it because they have to, but these guys love it. They love their job. They may be a small operation, but they are a small operation with a huge heart (and one amazing mustache).
I think when many of us graduated from college or grad school, we figured we'd end up working some job or another. Many of us would end up with jobs just for the sake of having a job. It's not often you hear someone talk about their work and express joy, particularly in corporate America. Occasionally, though, you run across someone who has figured it out. They have found a way to make a living while doing something they love. I saw this in the chef for Port Fonda when I interviewed him. That was back when Port Fonda was a food trailer and Chris and I had the privilege of sitting in the trailer while the chef, Patrick Ryan, cooked us a meal and talked about creating good food with good ingredients. The guys working at Pinkney Bend speak the same language. There is joy and passion in the things they do. When I meet these people, I always say "Yes! This is what it's all about!"
Maybe it has something to do with my inner hippy girl or my liberal arts background. I don't know. But I am always over joyed for those people I meet who have found that thing, that magic of creating something they can be proud of and use to pay the bills. This to me is the true example of the American can-do attitude. So today, for Love Thursday, I raise my glass to to those of you who have found a way to make your joy and passion work for you.