[Joel Gitskin (he/they) is a bartender and writer in Chicago, IL. His bartending work focuses on simple, spirit-driven cocktails with minimal ingredients and waste. He currently works at The Berkshire Room in the ACME Hotel, and has previously worked at Scofflaw, Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar, Outside Voices, and Ludlow Liquors, with original cocktails on menus at Scofflaw and Chef’s Special. He is in the process of completing a BA in History from DePaul University, focusing on US Social and Labor History in the 20th Century. This book will be his first published work.]
(as yet to be titled)
︎ There are many who are fond of musing about what will still be around after the revolution. Elif Shafak’s character of D/Ali in 10 Minutes 38 Second in This Strange World can’t imagine that sex work will still be there after the revolution for the simple fact that he can’t see it as labor. He is limited by his worldview. Pleasure is difficult to think about as part of, or in relation to, the revolution. How do we derive joy in between the moments of pain that litter our lives? And not just joy, but something stronger than that. I think of the writing of Hanif Abdurraqib,
“Joy” is such a flimsy feel-good word. I’m talking instead about what can be wrestled from otherwise uncomfortable circumstances and be repurposed, anywhere a flat surfce can be fashioned. I want a gift like this at every entry to every unfamiliar place.1
Abdurraqib is talking about spades, he is writing in service of the praise of Black Performance, but I want us to keep in mind the lessons that come from what Abdurraqib writes. The idea that pleasure and grief, and all of those complex elements of being in the world are always intertwined. Our question then is necessarily how do we move within that?
Gitskin’s as-yet-to-be-titled book on cocktails is tinged with his belief in revolutionary optimism. For them there will be cocktails after the revolution, and it will be for all of us. And not just then, but now. This book considers the realm of cocktails as necessarily integrated in the world we live in (as all consumption is), but doesn’t settle for these pleasures in excess, but rather as embroiled with the ethical and social. Who has access to cocktails? Who has access to the knowledge? Where does the alcohol itself come from? Who had to be hurt or exploited to get to it? Drinking in Gitskin’s world does not stop at an escape from the world. It is a way to interface with it.
When I was in high school, my dad would let me give him my car keys for the night inexchange for a glass or two of wine with dinner. More often than not, I’d take the offer and stay in for the night and enjoy a glass or two, learning how certain flavors paired together best and why. As I’ve grown, my dad’s tastes and mine have diverged pretty dramatically, but I remember those dinners fondly, making a pasta dish from scratch in his small townhouse kitchen drinking Zinfandel, listening to music, joking and laughing. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received about drinking came from one of those nights, when I asked how much a bottle of wine cost (which I can’t remember exactly, but that particular bottle was much less than I expected it to be, even at seventeen). My dad looked at me with that parental look, like “I’m going to tell you something that’s very important to me right now.”
“Whatever you like to drink is the best drink in the world, and if it’s cheap, then you’re just lucky.”
All quoted material, unless otherwise stated, is from correspondence with the artist.
1 Hanif Abdurraqib, “It Is Safe to Say I have Lost Many Games of Spades,” in A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance (New York: Random House, 2021), 164.
[As a writer and as a bartender, my main focuses are accessibility, material awareness, and folly or revolutionary optimism. Informed by the writing of the great revolutionary voices of the 20th century, namely the Bolsheviks, the Cubans, the Black Panthers, among others, I strive to work constantly to dissect the material world in which I reside, and to find ways to pass along my findings that are not only resonant with the working class but also approachable, welcoming, and understanding. Inspired by the legacy and actions of revolutionaries like Thomas Sankara, I wish to live the ideals that I put on the page, and outline ways in which my readers can do the same in manageable ways.
One of the first authors who made me fall in love with the novel, Tom Robbins, wrote that “human folly does not impede the turning of the stars.” Though I’ve grown over the years to approach his writing with a critical lens, this mindset has stuck with me and comes through in both my writing and my career as a bartender. I strive also to embody the spirit of Revolutionary Optimism in my writing and actions, rejecting the easier answer to our material conditions of despair and nihilism, I want to share and practice the importance of pleasure even in the dire historical moment we all find ourselves in now, as the snake of capitalism eats itself while we all watch. Might as well sip a drink while it happens.]