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My better half Rebekah and I are turning our basement into an izakaya. The reason: I’m obsessed. Also, because izakayas have a singular feel that no other social space can match, and I want perpetual access to that.

An izakaya is a Japanese bar that serves food, not the other way around. You drink while you eat a succession of small plates. Aesthetically, there is no one type, and the name izakaya is widely and vaguely applied, but the ones you commonly see in urban Japan have an aesthetic you might call “pub cluttered.” I like the way they look, stuffed with sake and whisky bottles, posters, hanging red lanterns, and people drinking at low tables made of beer crates under wooden signs whose Japanese characters could say “Hey ugly!” for all I know. Izakayas swallow you up. The clutter feels like a cozy blanket. I want to feel that at home. When the world can’t deliver, you have to make things yourself. We’re trying to make a lair, a lounge, a burrow, not a gendered “man cave,” but a cozy place to read books, listen to records, talk with friends, or be alone. And as people in Tokyo know, there are few spaces as snug as a room underground.

More… “Our Basement Izakaya”

Aaron Gilbreath is the author of the personal essay collection Everything We Don’t Know, and the ebook This Is: Essays on Jazz. An editor at Longreads, his essays and articles have appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Lucky Peach, Brick, and Saveur. He’s working on a book tentatively titled Tanoshii: Travels in Japan. @AaronGilbreath

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If you delight in partaking of a dram of whisky, you likely delight in what I think of as whisky extracurriculars. There are some foods and drinks for which savoring them directly is the height of our experience with them, but any whisky buff will tell you that there’s a bit extra with the water of life.

I’ve been a devotee of Islay whisky for a decent chunk of my life, loving how the essence of sea and coast can be distilled into a glass, with aspects of brine, seaweed, the iron of terra firma, peat, and the smoky fingers of the kiln playing around one’s nose and tickling the back of one’s throat. The island of Islay produces the most intense whisky in Scotland. Many drinkers prefer the more honeyed malts of the Highlands, though if you drink one you tend to drink the other. What’s ironic in my case is that I’ve given up drinking entirely, for a host of reasons — isn’t that always the way in these matters? — and yet my relationship with whisky, post-drink, continues on.

That’s one of the reasons I’m so fascinated by the 1949 film, Whisky Galore!, which is based on the novel of the same name by Compton Mackenzie, an author few people remember today. More… “The Laughing Dram”

Colin Fleming writes on art, literature, film, rock, jazz, classical music, and sports for Rolling Stone, JazzTimes, The Atlantic, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and a number of other publications. His fiction has recently appeared in AGNI, Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Commentary, and Post Road, and he’s the author of The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe: Stories from the Abyss (Dzanc), and is writing a memoir, Many Moments More: A Story About the Art of Endurance, and a novel about a reluctant piano genius, age seven or eight, called The Freeze Tag Sessions. He’s a regular contributor to NPR’s Weekend Edition. His tattered, on-the-mend website is colinfleminglit.com, and he highly recommends reading The Smart Set daily, along with ten mile coastal walks and lots of Keats and hockey for the soul.

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