CONDITIONS or ACCEPTING TO MOVE FORWARD

Someone I love reached out a few weeks ago to ask me how to navigate a complex personal situation. Out of respect, I’ll anonymize and abstract the situation here; in essence, the person who reached out to me found themselves in the midst of a pattern and repeated interaction that to them, seemed to be creating stress and also had a simple solution that involved the individual they were interacting with to “let go” of doing this one thing. It seemed so simple. And if the individual let it go, the person who reached out to me was convinced that everyone’s life would be easier and nothing negative would come of it.

For the first time, I shared a deeply personal approach to these situations with someone else: stop thinking of this situation as a problem you can solve, and start acknowledging this as a condition you will have to live with and find a way forward with.

This may be controversial; but I believe strongly that treating some challenges as conditions is a tactic you can use to put concepts like “choose your battles” into practice. Everyone knows they have to choose their battles; but nobody tells you what to do with the battles you choose…not to choose. And without a deliberate plan for those unchosen battles, they end up lingering, they end up resurfacing, and you end up having to revisit them as decisions as a result of them remaining unsettled as well as unchosen.

What do I mean when I say “condition”?

First, let’s define “condition”. Personally, I’m not the healthiest. I’ve had 10 surgeries in my life: a corneal transplant in my right eye, both ACLs, one meniscus, a compound rotator cuff and posterior bankart repair, wrist, jaw, abdominal hernia, and two topographic laser corrections to my left eye. I also have at least 4 more procedures ready to go when I’m ready, not to mention a near certain tear of my left shoulder (which I won’t repair), and up to 60% hearing loss in both ears (which has affected my ability to and desire to socialize).

Those are conditions. I don’t wake up every day complaining about my eyesight and my degenerative eye condition because there’s nothing I can do about it. I find a way forward. I am not going to have shoulder surgery on my left shoulder (the juice is not worth the squeeze at my age) so instead, I switched my tennis backhand from a two hander to a one hander. I can do very little about my hearing loss so I’m now enjoying more time with my thoughts and with experiences where sound is less important (I read more than watch or listen, for example).

Let’s be clear: we all have conditions we live with. When they are things that happen to us, our bodies, our minds, our experiences, we find ways to accommodate them. However, when they are imposed upon us, or brought into our lives, by external parties (family, friends, co-workers) we don’t allow them, or ourselves, the same grace and space, to treat them as conditions. We struggle, we engage, we battle, we debate, we try and fix … but I for one (I’ll stop saying we, as that’s not fair) can do a better job thinking about the challenges people bring to me not as disruptions but as conditions.

In doing so, the path forward is less about finding an answer, and more about simply finding a way. Sometimes, finding a way is the only way.

Taking this approach also fits what I hope and what I see as my world view more and more. It makes me realize I am more a part of the system than an individual of matter. It places pressure on me to be empathetic to an extreme.

Because there’s more to this approach than just us. When we look for solutions we do see a path froward. But in seeing the path forward, we don’t always see the other person. For who they are. For their context.

It’s always easy to solve someone else’s problem.

I’ve spent the past year, and very aggressively, the past 6 months, focused on becoming a holistically healthier human being. The amount of pressure I allowed myself to feel was unhealthy. And the number of excuses I made for myself to remain unhealthy, to make unhealthy choices, was exceptionally problematic.

One of the biggest changes I’ve started making for myself is to pull back from finding solutions unless I’m asked, or unless it’s an absolutely critical part of moving forward. This is important at work. This is also important at home, most importantly with my kids, where I’m not yet ready to treat their quirks as conditions…c’mon folks, they’re only 7 and 5. They’re human experiments, testing boundaries; they don’t have hard coded conditions yet. So it is important in that context that I work through their thinking with them. But outside of my kids, in most cases, thinking in terms of conditions is a healthy mindset.

Thinking in terms of conditions also allows me to remove steam from the pressure cooker. If I know I have a plan for dealing with a battle not chosen, then I’m more likely to pick and choose fewer battles.

I had an intense work conversation recently; and I realized that not only was I not being heard, I was very unlikely to be heard. I hadn’t and haven’t been heard. But it very truly isn’t my fault or my problem to fix. It’s a pattern I can’t change. Instead of allowing myself to be continually frustrated by it, I decided to take my own advice.

And treat certain dynamics as conditions. Since that very poignant moment and realization, I find myself liberated, positive, and energized again at work.

I’ve always said that “why” is an important question, but for all intents and purposes, “how” is the most powerful one. Embracing the mindset at critical moments requires that you shift away from “why” (which in many cases, can be asking a question the answer to which changes nothing, which are questions I often choose to ignore) and lean into “how”.

And for that step, for Kenny Rogers playing in the background while I figure out what condition my condition is in, #iamgrateful and #iamthankful. Here’s to being healthier with every day.

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FATHER’S DAY ’21 or HAVING MY BAR, RAISED

This is a hard one to write. But I’m writing it. Because if I don’t, I will miss the opportunity to bring the accountability I’ve brought to the rest of my life to the most important people in my life: my kids.

This post isn’t for anyone else; this post is for me to read and reference over the course of the next 12 months as I hold myself accountable to continuing to grow, improve, evolve, get better, as a Father.

Today was an exceptionally tough Father’s Day. The range of emotions I continue to work through, balancing the day-to-day effort I make and the perception of that effort is … dissonant. I haven’t found a way to reconcile the reality of it all but I know it won’t be for a lack of effort or self-awareness.

In a sense, it parallels the experiences I find myself in across my personal and professional interactions. Which in some senses, makes it easier to therefore find healthy ways forward. 2021 in many ways, has been my healthiest year on this planet. Not my easiest; but in many ways, my healthiest (honestly, I think with each year, you gain more perspective, more responsibility, increased expectations, and as a result, in some senses, with each year, it all gets heavier to carry; the question is whether that weight is harder, which is a separate discussion for a separate day).

Juxtaposed with that weight associated with growth, is this increasing sense of responsibility.

See, Anaiya and Jaanu, you grow and transform at such an extraordinary pace on a daily basis. It’s impossible to keep up with your progress. And what I think really resonated with me over the past year was the fact that to keep up with you, my growth as a Father needs to keep up with your growth and evolution as a human being.

It’s 10:51 pm and I entered today fully expecting to take another step forward as a Father. One way I planned to do that was to ask my children to tell me what it was they wanted me to do better in this upcoming year.

It’s always hard to hear; what you can do better. But this evening, before the kids went to bed, it wasn’t harder, it was simply a bit more clarifying.

When you ask a question, expect to hear the truth back. Otherwise, don’t ask the question.

For Anaiya, her ask was that I find more time to put her to bed during the week. There are so many reasons this has become a near impossibility, but when I look at them, in reality, they’re more excuses than reasons. I’m excited to look back on this past year in 2022 and see if Anaiya remembers what she asked me, and, see if she acknowledges any progess I’ve made. I’m excited for it.

For Jaanu, perhaps the most heartbreaking, was that he asked me to be more patient with him when he’s not listening. What’s hard is that since the last time I truly raised my voice at him, in January, I’ve made an active effort to be patient with him and talk him through calming him down. It tells you how fragile our children are; because for all that effort I think I’m making, he still remembers … the times I’m not.

I feel the weight of the world after these two conversations. Because I know that even here, I feel very little space to reason, to rationalize.

All I have are expectations.

And like everywhere else, when it comes to expectations, you can have them thrust upon you, or you can ask for them, seek them out, and make them a choice.

I want to be the best Father I can possibly be; which is why I promised myself that as hard as it was going to be to hear, and as many excuses and rationalizations as I could make about what I heard, the only thing that mattered was the honest answers to my questions.

Because in pursuit of being the best Father I can possibly be, I’m not looking for validation, I’m looking for motivation.

Anaiya and Jaanu, thank you. For relentlessly holding me to a higher standard.

Thanks for raising the bar on me, about me, for me.

I’m on it.

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STOCKING A NONALCOHOLIC, ZERO SPIRIT BAR or STILL WINNING PALATES, HEARTS, MINDS

Nonalcoholic drinks are on the rise thanks in part to “sober curiosity” -  Vox
(Image Credit: Vox)

At 11:53 pm on December 31, 2020 I finished the last sip of my Manhattan. Turned and celebrated New Year’s Eve and swinging into 2021 with Priya who then proceeded to turn away from the start of Pixar’s Soul and call it a night.

I stepped into the kitchen and made another Manhattan just after midnight. But instead of using my Woodford Reserve, I turned to a Zero Proof Whiskey Alternative I’d discovered at the start of the pandemic, Ritual. It was sweeter. It was lighter.

It was a start.

Having that Woodford Reserve still there on the counter was going to be too tempting; so I packed it up, along with all of the other liquor and beer we had upstairs (wine stayed for Priya) and took them down to the basement.

It was truly a start. My goal was to do a dry January and depending on how it went, I had mentally prepared myself to take a crack at a dry February as well.

It’s Father’s Day (2:03 am, Sunday, June 20, 2021) and I’m proud to say that the sip I took at 11:53 pm on December 31, 2020, is the last sip of what anyone would qualify as an alcoholic drink I’ve taken since; though it’s not the last I’ll ever take by any means (that’s an important point to make as well).

This post is not to sell you on the merits or value of a dry sprint. Rather, this post is to share what I’ve fallen in love with along the way and in my active quest to find things to sip, to savor, to indulge in even, things that scratch the itch to drink when I have it (say, a Hazy IPA, a rich Stout), that offset any social pressures when I socialize (a Gin and Tonic, a Cocktail), and that give me alternatives to the more sugary options we feel stuck in when we do give up alcohol (is sweet the only baseline flavor available to me now?)

Finally, I’ll update this list as time, tastes, and new experiences require. My first step today was to get this down to make it easier for me to support the people who’ve reached out to me about my approach to this experience.

In Pursuit of the Ideal “Time-to-Sip” or Ready Made vs Mixed, vs Crafted

There are many ways to organize this post; I ended up settling on how I think about drinks as someone with a fairly busy schedule: time-to-sip. In other words, I’ve organized this post by the effort required and time needed to get from thirst craving to first sip.

  • Ready Made
    • The nonalcoholic, zero spirit industry is booming. The trend has some health driven catalysts, but as with all things, it’s also a byproduct of shifting generational tastes and the nature of generational reactionism (it doesn’t matter what you do when it comes to tastes and styles and indulgences, subsequent generations will naturally react and pivot more than copy). Nevertheless, the byproduct is an extraordinary assortment of now off-the-shelf, ready made alternatives to alcoholic beverages that I enjoy and even prefer.
  • Mixed
    • I’m separating “mixed” from “crafted” for a reason: stirring is a hell of a lot easier than measuring, weighing, calibrating, tasting, and presenting. Think of the difference between a Jack and Coke and a truly exceptional Whiskey Sour. Mixing the right zero spirit beverage requires a creative palate and knowledge of your audience; understanding that some people may be more forgiving because it’s nonalcoholic, and some people are more forgiving when it’s alcoholic. Let that sink in, and then laugh about it.
  • Crafted
    • There is one book and set of recipes that transformed my experience here. I’ve only had the chance to attempt two recipes from it, but, simply by reading through the recipes, I’ve also created and experimented with a third on my own that I’m extraordinarily happy with.

Ready Made

Non Alcoholic Beer or “Near Beer”

I’m not going to spend any time on Lagers / Pilsners. You can find these anywhere, and have been able to for decades.

What I was most surprised by, was the broad number of options available … that had depth and breadth of flavor. As someone with a well stocked beer selection, kicking back with a Heineken 0.0 wasn’t going to suffice.

Athletic Brewing CompanyRun Wild IPA, Free Wave Hazy IPA, and All Out Stout. First and foremost, all three taste good (IPA), to great (Stout) to virtually indistinguishable (Hazy IPA). These are good drinks and objectively good beers. What makes them additionally worth referencing is they are all available on Amazon, so add them to your next Prime order, get them on a recurring delivery, and you’ll never be wanting. The cans also have a great feel and texture to them, a high quality finish. If you are trying to mask your sobriety (short or long-term) than these are excellent options as well as without deep inspection and attention, nobody will know the difference — in can form, or if poured into a glass.

Bottom Line: ABC has the better stout. It’s richer and more complex.

How Athletic Brewing made nonalcoholic beer cool

Brewdog AF Series – Hazy AF IPA, Punk AF Robust IPA, Wakeup Call. These fit the same pattern as the Athletic Brewing Company. They tend to be deeply similar (Hazy AF), while also being lower calorically than Athletic Brewing (Punk AF is 37 calories vs 70-90 for ABC). Similarly available on Amazon and in a variety pack and at about the same price. The key reason I lean toward ABC is they have the Free Wave Hazy at my local liquor store otherwise, if I’d seen these first, I’m certain I’d have embraced Brewdog first and more often but if all things are even, I’d go with the Brewdog IPAs.

Bottom Line: Brewdog has the better IPAs. They’re bolder, more complex, and have fewer calories.

I also encourage you to connect with your local brewers to see who’s making great versions of local beers in low or non alcoholic options. There are some well reviewed stouts I can’t get my hands on in NJ but would do just about anything to find a way to get into my fridge. Wellbeing Brewing (great name) isn’t one I’ve had luck with as of yet

If it’s not clear, I objectively enjoy the taste of a great IPA and a smooth stout. It’s not the alcohol that makes them something I want to drink, it’s the flavor profile and how it complements times of day, foods, and moods. I’m thankful to the brewers who are bringing their profiles to the market in NA and LA forms.

Beer Alternatives

HopTea – I’ve been a fan of HopTea for a couple of years now. I stumbled across the brand at my local WholeFoods as I was looking for low calorie, low sugar alternatives to coffee, that I could enjoy on a hot day. HopTea are carbonated, hop-infused, teas (green, white, chamomile, and recently, hibiscus, with zero calories and solid doses of caffeine and hop-forward flavors to carry you through. You can find many “Hop Water” type clones but from my experience, HopTea is the runaway best for those looking for caffeine, hop notes, and brisk alternatives.

“Zero” Cocktails (aka Mocktails, but wow, I hate that label)

Beckett’s Nonalcoholic Tonics – These are an absolute runaway favorite on the taste side of things. We’ve tried them all, the Stone Daisy Lime Margarita, the Flying Mule Moscow Mule, the Mystic Dove Paloma, and the Juniper Sky Gin and Tonic. Each nailed the flavor of their alcoholic sibling without being overly sweet to compensate for their lack of “spirit”. The downside is that they tend to skew a bit more expensive unless you buy in bulk (about $4/bottle if you do buy in bulk and include shipping) and what they win you over with by being low in calories (~30 calories per can/bottle) they likely get you with longer-term by using Stevia as the sweetening agent. For me, I can never have enough of these on hand or in the fridge, which is doubly troubling given that they appear to no longer be distributing through Amazon.

Try Beckett's Amazing Line of Non-Alcoholic Spirits and Cocktails

Of the nonalcoholic cocktails, Beckett’s was the only one I truly enjoyed in Ready Made form. I tried Spirity for example, and was deeply unimpressed; not because of the flavor, but because of the expectations of the label (if Spirity would have called their Negroni a “botanical, nonalcoholic beverage” I may have managed it differently).

Elixirs and Botanicals

As mentioned above, if Spirity recategorizes themselves, I’ll put them here. For now I’ll focus on the creators of nonalcoholic beverages who aren’t trying to recreate a cocktail but rather are trying to explore objectively great and satisfying flavors for complex beverages that also happen to be nonalcoholic.

Kin – Kin was the first creative, deliberately nonalcoholic cocktail I purchased. I was one of the first to try the High Rhode and I loved it as a novelty. It was expensive, but it felt like an exceptional investment (from the packaging all the way through). Kin kicked off a category branded “euphorics”, more often referred to a “nootropics” but these are effectively botanicals that also claim to have some mind altering/state altering/mood altering/brain boosting capabilities. I never felt that with High Rhode, but I did feel like I had a unique and tasty spirit in my hand — and no hangover the morning after. Since Kin’s release, the market has flooded and I find some of the alternatives, particularly Curious, to be a preferred alternative for me. That being said, I’m excited to try their new Lightwave flavor, which is focused on “calming” and features vanilla, saffron, and reishi.

Curious Elixirs – I loved my Curious Elixirs subscription. The care they take to introduce you to their perspective and approach on each of their 5 elixirs is great for someone taking their first step into complex nonalcoholic beverages. If you don’t like the subscription you will, at the least, walk away with a point-of-view and a way to explore additional options as a result of the initial sampler. These are also on the more expensive side. That being said, my recommendation is to sign up for the sampler and buy the additional order of Curious No. 5 (not included in the Sampler). You’ll find a range of booze free cocktails that are made to be poured into glasses, shaken/stirred with ice, and served garnished. If you wanted to make these a true cockatil alternative though, I believe you’d want to move these to the “Mixed” category and since they’re all sugar free, explore creative ways to add a sweetening agent (think simple syrups, honeys, etc). Curious No. 5 is my favorite; some people think it tastes like balsamic vinegar.

Betera – Very similar to Curious, but with more of an emphasis on “bitterness” as an attribute. Where I found Curious to be spicier and bolder, I found Betera to be brighter and more bitter. The botanicals were more pronounced here and I enjoyed each flavor, drank them faster, but felt less satisfied after each. In the end, I felt like I was drinking an unsweetened fruit juice, and not necessarily in the best way. I see Betera as having a very distinct flavor profile and a very tight audience. That being said, as with all, I highly recommend getting an initial sampler to get you started and find out where on the spectrum of available nonalcoholic beverages you reside.

Mixed

One thing I have learned is that nonalcoholic spirits I’ve tried do not work on their own. So though they may be positioned as spirits you can include in the Ready Made category above, it felt disingenuous to put them there. Actually, I’d even put Betera and some flavors of Curious in the Mixed Camp simply because making them enjoyable requires more than opening a can or a bottle and moving the container to your lips.

Time-to-sip in this category is a range, but it doesn’t require much foresight, much planning, a variety of utensils. It’s the difference between making cheese sauce for your macaroni and cheese the Kraft way, or the way that starts with “stir and whisk your choice of fat with the flour…” (the latter, is obviously, is Craft, and not Kraft).

Let’s start with assembling the spirits that change you from a person who serves non-alcoholic beverages to a person who has a non-alcoholic bar.

Nonalcoholic Spirits – Replicants

Ritual Zero Proof – Ritual makes a range of spirits. Their Rum is their best option, though I found their Whisky to be solid when mixed thoughtfully. I don’t use Gin in my cocktails so I saw no need to make that purchase. And as someone who tends to struggle mightily with Tequila (thanks again to the guys at my bachelor party), I’ve avoided Ritual’s Tequila. I use their Rum in fruit juices, I use their Rum in teas, I use their rum in seltzers and sodas. As nonalcoholic spirts go, it’s a top notch option, and if you’re getting the Rum for the first time … just go ahead and get their Sampler Pack (Whisky, Gin, Tequila). Thanks again to Amazon for equipping us all to live a healthier, more booze free life.

Ritual Zero Proof Whisky and Gin now served at Irish Nobleman Pub Chicago

Lyre’s – As a brand, Lyre’s is a pioneer. They create entire environments around the concept of the “sober bar”. It’s only recently that I found their Spiced Rum. It’s different than Ritual’s approach to rum and I believe the goal for Lyre’s is to substitute for Spiced Rum more literally than Ritual proclaims. Lyre’s is not a spirit I would have on its own on the rocks, but with a splash of anything that augments the flavor profile (ginger ales, pineapple juices, seltzers and sodas) it’s a great way to go. As the summer is upon us, I just refreshed my Lyre’s and if I’m using my own behavior as a signal of interest, I purchased Lyre’s Spiced Cane Rum instead of Rituals — though part of me believes it’s because I’ve had more Ritual than Lyre’s and I’m still formalizing my choices. Note: As the weather opens us up to in-person gatherings, I’m eager to attend Listen Bar.

Free Spirits – I have not tried these but I’m excited to. The way they describe the bourbon is what has me intrigued even though the reviews are challenging to get past.

The above represent the best options for spirits replicated in nonalcoholic forms. That being said, I am starting to believe that similar to excellent vegan and vegetarian food where focusing on “mock meats” (seitans, impossible and beyond burgers) is inevitably short-sighted and a limiting factor. What I’ve started finding true excitement in is with booze free, nonalcoholic beverages that are deliberately and unabashedly nonalcoholic. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it may not lead you to achieve your own greatest potential. In the end, the above are the best karaoke singers of the nonalcoholic world; sometimes though, you want to taste originals.

Non-alcoholic Spirits – True Alternatives

Seedlip – For many, Seedlip is where the bar starts and ends. I’ve found them to be solid, botanical mixers — but prohibitively expensive for the end result. I recommend a Seedlip sampler if for no other reason than the beautiful bottles and the universe of beverages crafted around the experience. They’re a great way to take your first step into a nonalcoholic bar. If you’re like me though, I think with some experimentation you’ll find that a better way to get the Seedlip type experience in a wider array of options and in a much more affordable investment, is through the next option on this list…

Bitters – Yup. Bitters. The assortment available on Bitters is truly incredible. And in a side-by-side comparison of Seedlip and Tonic vs Soda, Bitters, and Tonic, I was effectively able to recreate the general Seedlip taste without the cost. The proof is in the usage; my Seedlip Spice 94 is hovering near 1/2 used, while I’ve torn through several bottles of Bitters in the same amount of time (and to be clear, any usage of Seedlip has been forced and deliberate as opposed to instinctive and a default). Aztec Chocolate Bitters. Angostura Bitters. Orange Bitters. Branded Bitters. Smoked Herb Bitters. The best part about Bitters is that a 3-4 dashes (instead of 1-2 in spirited cocktails) can push the flavor profile far; and Bitters double as an excellent way to bring grilled fruits and vegetables to life (don’t sleep on cooking with Bitters folks).

Aromatic Cocktail Bitters Collection - Set of 5

In addition to the Ready Made items above, I see some assortment of Seedlip and Bitters as a necessary shelf in any truly well stocked nonalcoholic bar with any hope of providing your guests with exciting options that make them forget (or at least embrace skipping) the traditional boozy cocktail.

Many people push back on Bitters as a nonalcoholic alternative because at a standard “proof”, they are 35-45% alcohol. That being said, they have formally been declared as nonalcoholic because of the potable amount; said differently, if you were to attempt to drink enough bitters to “get drunk” you’d get sick before you got drunk. At the 2-3-4 dash ratio of Bitters to beverage, a Bitters inused beverage is going to be between Grape Juice and Orange Juice on the ABV (at a high-level, 41 dashes of Bitters equals 1 fluid ounce). There’s plenty to read on the subject that a simple Google search will get you. The best way to think of Bitters? True Vanilla Extract.

Mixers

The list of items you can use to mix with the above is exhaustive; I’d say long and distinguished but that would take me down a Top Gun rabbit hole few of us have time for. That being said, there are a few core mixers I recommend having on hand that give you an excellent set of beverage aids to augment and extend the items above.

Sodastream – Simple. ‘Nuff said. Get a Sodastream. Carbonation brings nearly all of the above items to life and a near infinite stream of soda water means you never run short. The syrups are on you; go for it if you want. I’ve never used them. But the Sodastream is steady flowing in our household so much so that it owns a place on our counter, near our sink, second only to hand and dish soap. Also, if you’re looking for ROI, the Sodastream we have is about 18 years old. When I was 18 I dressed terribly, had ragged hair, rarely shaved, and wore crappy cologne — all this to say, Sodastream is in way better shape at 18 than I was.

Cherries – Get. Good. Cherries. I found these Fabbri Amarena Cherries at Whole Foods has a really great stock on hand which has been a game changer; but any liquor store worth its margarita salt will have at least a few for you to choose from, none of which will disappoint. The cherries and the syrup will put you in position to transform the look, texture, and taste of all the spirits above, but you’ll find their utility expand dramatically as you look to enhance the botanicals and elixirs without losing the essence and philosophy behind why they were made.

Cocktail Crate – There are tons of mixers, but I am set on Cocktail Crate as my go to. I love everything about them. The breadth of flavors and syrups is outstanding. They’re available at my local grocery stores. And the bottles have a shape and form that help them fit perfectly in a bar, or in a cabinet — not too tall, not too wide, not too deep (part of stocking a bar is being able to stock it, and it’s these mixers and aids we’ve outlined here that take spirits and give them range). I don’t have a strong, comparatively informed opinion here. If you find better mixers with the range, convenience, and stocking/storing function, comment back. My two favorites from Cocktail Crate are the Old Fashioned and the Ginger Bee but you can’t go wrong.

Simple Syrups – I can’t overstate the value of a rich selection of simple syrups. Cardamom is my knock ’em down, drag ’em out favorite, but it barely wins in a Fight Club battle with Rose. For many, the simple syrups will be the best way to make the botanicals sessionable vs simply sippable. They’re also something you can have a lot of fun with on your own (making homemade simple syrups and infusing vodkas are two simple, highly effective ways to personalize beverages — high ROI for little risk and investment.) Please, if you can, avoid Torani. And a second please, don’t hesitate to use that cardamom and/or rose syrup in your cold brew coffee.

Teas – Finally, don’t underestimate the power of Teas to color, to flavor, to augment the beverages you’re creating. Teas come packed with flavor, with aromatics, with caffeine, and with antioxidants, making them an excellent partner and aid to your bar. One that more bartenders, alcoholic or not, should incorporate into their arsenal.

Crafted

I’m still learning here; but outside of experimenting on the above, if you’re interested in crafting nonalcoholic cocktails the single best and most comprehensive investment you can make will be this book from the team at Alinea, Zero: A New Approach to Non-Alcoholic Drinks (if you’re here, get the Reserve Edition, it’s stunning).

When you shift to Crafted, the list of ingredients is extraordinary. I spent $150 on utensils and ingredients just to make the breakfast stout. 90 minutes later, after realizing how much I’d messed up, I was left with … a really solid nonalcoholic beer and tons of lessons and inspirations on how to improve the recipe going forward. I simply can’t recommend the book enough as more than anything, it will transform your thinking around what’s possible in the non-alcoholic beverage arena.

Paying it Forward

I spent the past 6 months trying to avoid telling a sober story, and wanting to tell a story of creativity, exploration, and what to me still felt indulgent. I didn’t get there right away, but I’m right there today.

At 5:20pm ET on Father’s Day, the sun is blaring, the Suns / Clippers game is on in the background.

And I’ve got a bright, crisp, nonalcoholic espresso stout in my hands.

The Ready Made, nonalcoholic beers made me rethink what was possible in this category.

The Mixed, helped me understand how to bring flavors together.

The Crafted, equipped me with the materials and some of the technical know how to believe that I could make this one myself.

That’s right, the espresso stout I’m drinking right now is my own. Powered by Decaffeinated coffee, Barley, Cacao Nibs, and Hop Pellets … and some powerful carbonation from that Sodastream.

The past six months, I don’t miss the alcohol. I’ve found a universe of flavors where “missing” isn’t the feeling. I’m more in a position where I want those flavors at times too. And with a healthier foundation around what I consume, I do look forward to returning to the drinks I want. And to having less of a binary decision-making process when “What would you like to drink?” is the question coming my way.

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TYMMPB … | Family

People have to wonder if you’re scripted. There’s no other answer.

How is it, for a boy of 4, when granted any wish for his birthday, almost as if given a genie in a lamp, turns quickly to his parents and without batting an eye and without missing a beat, responds with more confidence than an honest man on trial:

“I want the whole family together.”

Except with you, there’s no cliffhanger.

There’s no clause to follow. There’s no extension of the ask. There’s no “I want the whole family together, so I can get more gifts.”

There’s just you.

Expressing your incredibly kind, warm, loving soul, in the most authentic of ways.

When we got the family together, and when the house we rented tortured us into leaving after 18 hours, you know what made everything ok: knowing that you would be more than ok.

I realized that the house, was for us. The pool was for us. The game room was for us. The weekend plans were for us.

The “us” was for you, and the “us” was all you needed.

As much as you find excitement in new things; gifts, toys, foods, experiences. What’s so magical about you is that consistently the simplest things make you happiest. And nothing makes you happier than time with the people (family and friends) you love.

You remind me of what’s important every morning and every night. You teach me what the world sometimes makes me unlearn.

And it is undeniably the thing that makes me proudest of you.

At age 4, going into age 5, you make me proud because your greatest and most authentic happiness comes from the people and in the ways that the entire world is taking courses, setting reminds, seeing coaches and actively seeking to get back to.

Time. Attention. To and for. The people we love.

I am proudest of what you love, of the way you love, and how simply, easily and clearly you’re showing the world, what love means to you.

Happy Birthday, Money….and thank you.

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DIGITS or LOCKING IN HAPPY AND PROUD

I made today a numbers day. I woke up with a feeling. It’s been an intense week. Honestly, it’s been intense for way longer but the past week I’ve taken strides toward fixing my state of mind, my mental approach, my framework for thinking, processing, reacting.

It’s been an intense week.

Just like anything else, it’s amazing what a few deliberate, committed steps can do around creating momentum and accelerating you into progress. Try going vegan for a week. Try not drinking for a week. Try breathing before every response for a week. Try no TV for a week. Try reading every day for a week.

It’s amazing what a week can do.

It’s been an intense week. In the best possible way. And today I woke up with a feeling. So I leaned into that feeling.

I knew today was a day I was going to lock in what made me Happy, what made me Proud, and set the stage for tomorrow, thinking about where I’m Not Yet Satisfied so I can find new achievements, states of mind, I want to pursue.

Sometimes what I’m happy about and what I’m proud of, are feelings.

Today, they are digits.

1.

It wasn’t today, but of all the numbers, “1” and “first” are where things should begin. I became a Kaka for the first time. To the child of the boy who was the first human being I know from day one. There’s something powerful; about seeing the first child I remember holding in my arms, holding his first child in his arms. That I’ll never shake. There’s no digit more important than this digit. But there are more digits.

2.

I’m excited about the progress I’m making on my storytelling project. Helping people unearth, frame and share their authentic stories. Yesterday, I posted my second testimonial; my second bit of evidence about the approach I’ve taken to help people gain confidence and bring their stories to life. It was humbling.

$1 million.

I woke up and in my first work meeting I found out we hit $1mm in monthly revenue in April. That’s 3x growth in the past year. That’s a little under double from December. It’s incredible. Given what we’ve faced the past year I view this, plain and simple, as one of my best efforts at work. I find tremendous happiness, and take tremendous pride in knowing the role I played in organizing, aligning, motivating, inspiring, and compelling our team to make this happen.

30.

Today I started reading book 30 for the year. I’ve read 29 books in 2021. Of all sorts, sizes, shapes, lengths, formats, genres. Today, I started reading book 30. I picked The Razor’s Edge because 25 years ago almost to the day, a friend and then roommate to be told me that in Maugham’s book, he saw me reflected in the main character. To this day, I still don’t know how to process that feedback. I’ve read the book once, at his first reference. I’m reading it again now as I turn the page on 45 and the past year — the healthiest of my life in so many ways — because I’m eager to see if this still holds up. Or if that insight into me 25 years ago was prophetic, showed a deeper understanding of me then than I have even now. Book 30.

26.2.

Miles. That’s a marathon. I’ve tried to prep for 5ks, 10ks, 1/2 marathons a few times over. Every time I try, I get hurt. Plantar fasciitis. ACLs. MCLs. Groins. You name it. The past 6 months I haven’t walked with a number in mind, I’ve walked with a spirit in mind: get healthier. The most I’ve done in a day is 18 miles and that happened because I couldn’t sleep so I watched a movie and walked starting at 2am.

Today wasn’t that. Today, I started walking with my first call at 8:30am. And then, I just didn’t stop. It was 10:30am and I was at 10.5 miles. Then I spoke it into existence.

I said out loud to the person I was on the phone with “I think I want to walk 26.2 miles today. I want to do my first marathon.”

And then, I kept repeating it. It wasn’t a straight through walk. Life, work, forced some pauses. But with the kids asleep at 8:15pm I had 9 miles left to go. So I hopped on the treadmill, work documents ready to go, got after it.

At a 5-5.5 MPH pace, I finished at 9:40pm ET. My first “marathon”. And I’m confident I’m one of the only people to pull off 26.2 miles in one day, while working. (Note: I did watch 45 minutes of Point Break for the end of that walk.)

46.

It’s coming around. 46 is two weeks away. I used to wait for important days to lock in milestones.

“I’ll make that resolution on January 1st.”

“I’ll change that behavior on my birthday.”

Today I realized that I would walk a marathon for no other reason than it was Thursday.

And I f*cking wanted to.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful for digits. For numbers. For happiness and pride providing fuel that made yesterday one of the most accomplished days of my life, holistically.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful that I remembered to write it down and to lock it in.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful for my framework; for my mantra around being “Happy. Proud. Not Yet Satisfied.” because it’s a reminder to remember what’s important (happy), it’s a reminder to remember what we’ve achieved (proud), and it’s a reminder to remember — I ain’t through (Not Yet Satisfied).

L
F
G

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167 or MY LOWEST WEIGHT AS AN ADULT

I don’t know how else to frame this: but today, I’m officially the lowest weight I’ve been in my adult life (after college). I’ve hit 167 before. Most recently while living in Charlotte. In 2010.

It’s an amazing feeling on the health side. I dropped 27.5 lbs in a year.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful for what the past few months have made possible for my physical health. I think some of these habits will stay with me forever (some may just be more modest or tempered).

Vegan.
Dry.
Daily exercise.
Intermittent Fasting.

The best part? There are still a bunch of habits I can break (sugar); and I’ve got some things holding me back which should be resolved over the next 5 weeks.

It’s kind of funny that I lost 27.5 lbs and I look at myself and still see so much stuff to work on. Tells you how far off of healthy I was to start.

Happy. Proud. Not yet satisfied.

I’m going to use the next few days to reflect a bit. And then set some goals for the next quarter. New goals, requiring new habits, that stack upon the positive habits that got me here.

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HOOPS or BILL BRADLEY

Few things more fun than taking on Bill Bradley in a fun solo game of hoops. I love that we got this hoop up. And I love the days when I drop the kids off and get 20 minutes to just shoot around on a quiet morning.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful especially for the walkers and neighbors who all have a joke to crack about my old @ss shooting hoops!

First shot was rough. Rim was generous. Ended up playing three games agains Bill and winning 2-1. If you don’t know the game, lmk. Takes shooting hoops by yourself to the next level (fun, challenging, exercise).

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7 AND A HALF or EROTIC CITY AND PRINCE

Something, someone, took me through a Prince run the past 24 hours. And I’ll tell you, #iamgrateful and #iamthankful for it.

Never heard this dance version, teased out to 7:30.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbmGM_r_sc4

You know a song is great when you wrote it in one fell swoop after watching Parliament Funkadelic, and to return the favor, the great George Clinton covers it back. (Also, a dope version).

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A LITERARY JOURNEY or I MISS THIS ROOM

When we moved into Jersey City we had reserved the downstairs bedroom for our first kid. I had an image in my head of where I wanted to take it and with some vision, with a Craigs List illustrator to help bring it to life, we created this scene across two walls in the bedroom — weaving a path through my favorite stories as a child and ultimately, through what became Anaiya (and later Jaanu’s) favorite stories as well.

I miss this room. I loved going into it. Every night before Anaiya went to bed she’d say goodnight to each character and it’s those kinds of rituals that I’ll never forget.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful we were able to have fun and bring this to life; and I love that we brought that same energy to our new house.

I hope when the kids see rooms and walls, they’re inspiration around what they can turn a space into is open and unconstrained. Every wall you see every space you see, is truly a canvas as long as you ask the most powerful question … how?

Love FB for bringing this room back to me today. I needed the dose of inspiration and a reminder of the energy that was.

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RUMI or THE WOUND THE LIGHT THE HEART THE SKY

Today, in honor, I share two quotes from Rumi specifically, who I spent a lot of time with last night inspired by a young mind and heart.

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.”

“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.

”Cancer. Blood disorders. Affect us all greatly.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful for the example set by those facing, fighting daily. You are the best of us.

Sending love to so many.

Too many.

We all know Rumi. We’ve all seen his quotes. Last night I found myself reading about him. Learning about him. Privileged. Wealthy. Migrant. Refugee. Preacher. Writer. Student.

What resonated with me most was how he instructed his followers to treat his death like a joyous wedding night. Life should be celebrated always. Especially, I feel, when it is gone.

Thank you for pointing me to Rumi, yesterday, LO.

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