Seven Drinks: (on the Absurdity of Being Human) and Instructions for Their Service by Ty Harvey
Longtime Austin bartender serves up some serious rituals of imbibing
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Nov. 15, 2019
This is not a book of cocktail recipes, nor is it some literary distillation of the history of potent potables. This is not a primer on barkeeping etiquette nor a collection of the author's personal anecdotes about drinking and slinging booze for a living. This – Ty Harvey's Seven Drinks: (on the Absurdity of Being Human) and Instructions for Their Service – is nothing less than an antidote to the mindless swilling of alcohol and the scatterbrained same ol', same ol' of human existence.
Harvey's elegantly designed chapbook is perfect-bound and pocket-sized and contains a series of specific ways to serve seven different drinks – ways that are focused and performative and require a meaningful interaction with the drinker. A sort of manual choreography is engaged; props are often required; philosophical questions are posed and considered; and, finally, the drinks are drunk.
(Well, we shouldn't say finally: Follow the instructions here, and each experience will stay with you long after the relevant liquid's been ingested.)
That Harvey would create such an odd and compelling printed object as this is probably no surprise to those who know him as a longtime bartender at the Volstead Lounge on East Sixth – especially because he's a fixture at Melissa Seely's Me Mer Mo Monday showcase of live music that features free jazz, noise, electronic, ambient, outsider, and experimental sonics from a crowd of Austin regulars and the occasional out-of-town guest. (As the Chronicle's Kevin Curtin put it: "For sophisticates preferring to witness artists walking the tightrope with no net, here's your circus.")
But what is surprising is the care that's gone into this small volume. Self-published projects like this, no matter how good the concept is – and I'll insist that Seven Drinks partakes of some heady brilliance – tend to disappoint at closer range: The type design is garish; the grammar is slipshod; the proofreading is nonexistent and results in jarring misteaks. (Like that, see?) But none of that obtains in Harvey's excellent book. Down to the subtlety of blue text for the chapter headings and (thank you) the use of serial commas, the whole thing is perfectly presented.
Liquor companies like to (or maybe they're legally bound to) remind you to drink your alcohol responsibly; the TABC and its beyond- Texas cousins require bartenders to serve their alcohol responsibly. This Seven Drinks does that well-meaning song-and-dance a few magnitudes better, as if "responsibly" were defined by Marina Abramovic, David Lynch, and a council of resurrected druids.
And, yes, we'll gladly – with a cold stone in our hands, inside a circle of salt, while sounds of a forest emanate from nearby speakers – drink to that.
Seven Drinks: (on the Absurdity of Being Human) and Instructions for Their Serviceby Ty Harvey
60 pp., self-published, $8.99
Ty Harvey will be releasing Seven Drinks (and performing drinks from it) on Sat., Nov. 23, 6-9pm @Volstead Lounge, 1500 E. Sixth.