If you have been in the bodybuilding space for just a short period of time, chances are, you have stumbled upon the word Nitric Oxide (NO). Its loved by bodybuilders and for a good reason. Its probably best know for it’s ability to give the user a feeling known as “the pump” - the street name for hyperemia which is an increase of blood flow to different tissues in the body.
In addition to this, increased NO levels can improve the effectiveness of your workouts. NO will dilute your veins, and because of this, allows your muscles to receive more oxygen and nutrients. So you get the Pump, better workout sessions, but there is also proof that it speeds up recovery, has cognitive improving features, the ability to up your sex drive, and more.
As you can tell, there is enough stuff here, to write about Nitric Oxide for days, but in today’s post, this isn't the focus. The focus is on how you can boost your NO levels, in a safe and natural manner.
For many—well, for me—sherry conjures memories of furtively swigging a sweet, creamy substance from a sticky bottle stowed in the back of grandma's cupboard when no one was watching. Despite its low-quality reputation, the fortified wine is one of the most misunderstood and under-appreciated categories in the world of wines and spirits.
But that's about to change: as we learned at this year's Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans in late July—think Comic-Con for the booze industry—sherry is the next big thing.
With varieties spanning the spectrum from thin and dry to viscous and sweet, the beverage is anything but new: It has been made in Spain for centuries and was integral to that county's culture well before the British brought it home as a spoil of war in the late 16th Century. Stateside, it enjoyed early, immense popularity (we're talking colonial-times early). The sherry cobbler—a mix of sherry, sugar, and citrus served over crushed ice—was so trendy in 19th Century America that it led to the rise of the straw so that those with rotted teeth could sip their cocktails pain-free.
Post-Prohibition, sherry was gradually pigeonholed as the forgettable sweet aperitif synonymous with brands like Harvey's Bristol Cream—a bastardization of the traditional form. Dry sherries were nowhere to be found. Thus, with the rise of dry wine's popularity in the second half of the Twentieth Century, sherry fell out of favor, tarnished by its false reputation of always having a cloying sweetness. "It's a great lesson in how fashion so often fails us," says Talia Baiocchi, author of Sherry(2014) and co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of the online magazine PUNCH.
Today, dry sherry is gaining traction. Part of that is the evolution of the American palate toward acidic, savory, and bitter flavors. Another is that chefs and sommeliers are realizing it pairs together well with food, from oysters to shrimp to Iberico ham. But its revival can be largely attributed to bartenders who've rediscovered its important role in many classic cocktail recipes. "The reclamation of sherry as a classic cocktail ingredient—and, perhaps more importantly, as a modern one—really acted as the gateway for sherry back into the consumer's consciousness," says Baiocchi.
WHAT IS SHERRY?
Certain aspects of sherry production remain constant: By law, it is made from white grapes grown in the "Sherry Triangle" anchored by the city of Jerez de la Frontera in the southwestern Spanish province of Cadiz, in which the very light, chalky soil, calledalbariza, uniquely maintains moisture during the rain-deprived summer months. The grapes are fermented, the resulting wine is blended with a grape spirit to up the alcohol content, and the boozy liquid is aged in barrels that are stored aboveground (as opposed to in a cellar). All sherries are produced using the solera method—in which different vintages are combined during years of barrel aging to create the final product.
But that's where the similarities from one bottle to the next end. A good sherry's flavor profile is extremely complex, and can range from notes of citrus, yeast, or sweet caramel on the nose followed by salty, savory, or nutty flavors on the tongue.
Many factors affect the end result—the location of the vineyard (or bodega) in relation to the nearby Atlantic Ocean, the alcohol content (ranging from 15% to 22%). But what most defines the style of sherry is the level of exposure to flor—a layer of yeast that grows at the top of most dry sherry barrels as they age, which prevents oxidation to varying degrees depending on how much the yeasty cap covers. Oxidized styles such as oloroso have shed their bright-fruit flavors entirely, giving way to more candied-fruit and nutty flavors. Sherries that have been partly or wholly protected from oxidation must be treated like other wine after opening—they should be consumed quickly to be fully enjoyed before losing freshness. I don't think Grandma realized that.
As sherry's popularity returns, so too has the interest in innovative production methods. One such style is known as en rama, in which bottling takes place when the juice is unfiltered, resulting in a cloudy liquid with more minerality. "En rama is one of the more fascinating developments of late," says Rafael Mateo, owner of New York City's Pata Negra, a Spanish-style wine bar featuring a long list of sherries. "It is pure. It is all the rage now."
In order of lowest to highest exposure to oxidation, here are the most common styles of dry sherry and a recommended bottle for each:
Description: The classic and most widely available style. A full flor cap covers the barrel as it ages, and the spirit is therefore not exposed to air at all.
Sherry's return to cocktail menus has been as a sort of Trojan Horse, appearing first as a modifier rather than a base. (An explanation of those terms by way of example: gin or vodka is the base of a Martini, and vermouth is the modifier.) While speaking at a seminar at Tales of the Cocktail, Michael Callahan, General Manager and founding bartender of Singapore's 28 Hong Kong Street, said, "You're not seeing it used as a base that often." But he believes that the more bartenders incorporate it, the more popular it will become: "By educating staff and patrons, they are going to start wanting more of it."
In that spirit, here are a few of our favorites—one old, one adapted from a classic, and one new—to get you started ahead of the inevitable curve.
Background: While its exact origin is unknown, the cocktail was named after the play, "Adonis," which debuted at the Bijou Theater on Broadway in 1884. This recipe is an interpretation of the original, which called only for two parts "dry sherry" and one part sweet vermouth.
1 oz Sweet Vermouth (preferably Carpano Antica)
1 oz Amontillado Sherry
1 oz Fino Sherry
Lemon twist, for garnish
Combine all ingredients except the lemon twist in a mixing glass. Fill with ice and stir until chilled. Strain the cocktail into a cocktail glass. Express the oils from the lemon twist over the glass and drop it in as garnish.
Add all ingredients except the garnish, to a mixing glass. Fill with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe. Express the oils from a wide grapefruit twist over the glass and garnish with the spent twist.
Elliot Sudal went viral last summer. This year, things are different.
Elliot Sudal caught a few sharks from the shoreline this morning. Got them on the line, reeled them in, pulled them onto the sand, affixed a tag to their backs. Then, after a quick measurement and a quicker picture, back into the Nantucket waters they went. He's at 49 sharks this year. So far.
Last summer, a video of Sudal, 27, wrestling a shark went viral, getting picked by Good Morning America and pulling in over 3 million hits on YouTube. He flashed across computer screens, the bro in the Chubbies and the shark-tooth necklace—made from the tooth of a 25-footer strung with the first line he ever caught a shark on—with an apparent death wish. Angry emailers told him they hoped "a shark drags you underwater and takes a photo of you." Another asked asked, "How loud was your Nickelback playing in your pickup truck?"
Virality brought on other changes. For one, Sudal got tapped by NOAA to put his talent to use. Now, he collects data from the sharks he catches, tagging them for research purposes. And this summer he got $1,500 shark bite insurance so the Snapchatting beach hoards can't sue him should anything horrible happen, god forbid.
Sudal can't do this forever. When he stops, he'll be immortalized as the Saltwater Cowboy, the Shark Wrestler, and, if things go the way he wants, an author with a TV show. But for now, it's as good—and as ballsy, and as extreme—a gig as any. We talked to him about his work.
ESQ: What's your day job?
Sudal: This is it. I take people shark fishing. The last couple years I've driven a tuna boat for a family—the guy's a hedge-fund dude, so the tuna boat is like his toy. This year, I was like, well, I'll just lead charters from the beach. I gotta put in all these tags anyway, and I can make money to do it, and it gives me an opportunity to talk to people about everything we're doing with these tags.
Why do people object to it?
I have to bring a shark out of the water for 45 seconds to a minute to get the hook out, put the tag in, get a measurement, take a blood sample, and get it back in. And I do move them by their tail two or three feet, and some people think it's the most brutal, horrible thing in the world. But in reality, when we are tagging sharks, it's way safer than in a boat. When I get the hook out, it's on soft, wet sand. The shark is still getting waves washing over it. I can promote the tagging aspect and certain things like the style of circle hook, for example—they're much safer, they don't gut hook the shark ever.
Can you walk me through a catch?
I have gigantic, 15-foot rods with huge reels and about a 100-pound cast line on them. So I'll cast out these lines with a big chunk of blue fish or whatever on a circle hook for bait, and I'll stick them in the sand. I'll line up three rods. And when the shark hits one, you'll just see a 15-foot rod just straight and narrow—they're ripping off the line. Totally exciting.
It usually takes anywhere from five to 20 minutes to get the shark to the beach. At that point, I jump into the water, grab her, and sort of gently move her backwards, remove the hook, do what I need to do, and then I let her go.
What's the purpose of the tag?
This program that I'm working now, the NOAA Apex Predators tagging program, it's the largest shark tagging project in the world. It's been going on for 55 years and primarily tracks sharks in the Atlantic Ocean. You put a tag in their back, which essentially gives the shark a serial number. If it's been captured or whatever, found again, you can see where the shark's traveled from. In the last 55 years, they've tagged 300,000 sharks. You can compare things like how water quality or water temperature affect why certain species are migrating up to Nantucket or Maine, or wherever they're going.
The key is to detect the places where they're reproducing. The sharks I'm catching here are 98 percent female. So we're trying to prove Nantucket Sound is indeed a place where they're having their pups, and if we can prove this, we could get some of the commercial fishing pushed out of here. Because there are certain draggers that come through this area, and when they do, they just net up everything on the bottom, so I'm sure they kill thousands and thousands of sharks each year.
Why do you do it?
I mean, this is the most extreme form of beach fishing you can possibly get. Catching a 300-pound-plus animal, just from a recreational, sport fishing aspect, is as good as it gets. But adding the tagging is pretty cool because it adds a conservation element, and it is valuable data. The other day, we got a shark that was tagged 13 years ago, and grew 63 centimeters in 13 years. It's a piece of the puzzle figuring out how we're impacting shark populations around the country.
Seems pretty dangerous. Have you had any close calls?
Yeah. This is dumb, but I was cutting up a piece of blue fish, and it sliced underneath my nail, and I've just been in and out of the hospital for the last few days with fish poisoning. It's kind of funny because I've caught hundreds of sharks, and all the sudden, a dead blue fish sent me to the hospital. I've not been bit.
If you were to get bitten, would that change your mind about doing this?
Probably. I mean, no one would feel sorry for me. I have a shark-bite kit in my car: hydrogen peroxide, gauze. That would hold me over until I got to the hospital. It would be bad, especially from a tiger shark, which can bite a sea turtle in half. That's like two inches of bone. Do you know hard it is to bite a pistachio? Imagine a sea turtle shell. We have a ton of great whites around Cape Cod and the islands right now. I see all these seals that have just been chomped in half by great whites washing up. I measured a 22-inch bite mark the other day. The great white is the most powerful bite in the animal planet. I would probably be not doing this as much if I got bit.
Sharks are pretty notorious, but very few people have actually encountered one. What are they like?
They feel like sandpaper, first of all. I think a lot of people think they'd be slimy, but they feel literally like sandpaper, and when they rub against you, it's like your skin is sanded off. The big ones especially are really lazy when you get them up on the beach. The smaller ones, the five- and 10-footers, will really go crazy. If you're going to get bit by a shark, it's probably going to be by a four- or five-footer because they're so fast. They can reach around their tail. An eight- to 10-foot shark, 500 pounds, just kinda can't move that fast. Their brains are the size of a pea; there's not much going on. They don't feel pain. They have a goofy look on their face most of the time. They don't seem like these horrible killers that people tend to think.
I read that because of climate change, the warming oceans are pushing sharks further north every year, and scientists have expected that 2016 is going to be a pretty big year for shark attacks.
It's actually a record low for shark attacks so far this year. The average is 75 to 100 a year worldwide. This year, it's at 20 or 30 so far, according to the article that I read.
The changing ocean temperatures: is that something you can monitor through these tags?
I've caught sharks in water temperatures from 57 degrees all the way to 85 degrees. They are very sensitive, but moreso to pollution. This species of shark originally reproduced in the Long Island Sound hundreds of years ago. As the water quality got so bad from all the pollution, they migrated to the Chesapeake Bay, where they reproduce now. I guess that's been getting worse down there, so researchers think they might be coming up and reproducing in Cape Cod and around the islands in Nantucket Sound. The sharks I'm catching are huge—I've had at least 12 sharks that have broken the state record. And sharks live 40 to 50 years. It'd be really cool to prove they are reproducing here.
So, what's next?
We filmed a really crazy show pilot and have some funding behind it. My girlfriend's involved; she represents Maine in the USA pageant. I travel around the country trying to make it doing what I love. It's not exactly easy to make a ton of money catching sharks, but you get sponsors, you take people out. We've been talking to some networks, hoping to go fulltime. That's the dream, for now.
Harry Cook came into contact with Avallone via our website, and fell in love with our unique designs, and high quality Italian leather used on all of our Luxury leather goods. Harry particularly loved the 1st Class Traveler Duffle Bag in brown. He could not resist the unique blend of Italian Napa leather and Lamb Suede, along with the high quality and superior style of the handmade leather bag. After receiving the Avallone handmade leather bag, Harry was so elated, he posted about the 1st Class Traveler Duffle bag on all of his social media accounts including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Courtesy of Freemans Sporting Club's new made-to-order program.
The prospect of a custom-made suit is great, but going bespoke is expensive—in terms of both time and actual dollars spent. You have to get to the store, get measured, and go through multiple fittings before you finally get your hands on the finished product. And while there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, if you're the kind of guy who fits into an off-the-rack suit pretty easily, it might not be necessary.
Freemans Sporting Club
Ah, but the details! The crucial decision between a double-breasted or single-breasted silhouette. The type of pocket—patch or flap? The vents, the lining...we could go on. What if you want to pick those out for yourself? Well, now you can do just that for an American-made suit thanks to the folks at Freemans Sporting Club, which just launched its made-to-order service online.
Want a DB in nailhead wool, finished with a welt breast pocket and double vents? No problem. Single-breasted with patch pockets in a silk-and-linen blend? Yep, you can do that, too. It's still an investment—pricing starts at $1,000 and the production process takes four to six weeks—but it's a whole lot less expensive and time-consuming than going the traditional route. And that's exactly what some guys (maybe even you!) are looking for.
No, I did not meet Amal. You go to hang with George Clooney these days and that's the first question anyone asks.
Second, George made me a Nespresso. That fact seems to amuse people. It wasn't a big deal—he didn't call it Nespresso—he just asked if I wanted a coffee and then went over to his Nespresso machine and made us each a cup. I'd been hoping for tequila, but then again, it was only about 2:30.
Third, and this takes a little getting used to: He looks and acts just like George Clooney. He's exactly what you'd expect. It's a little stunning.
He strolls up to the photo shoot about 15 minutes early and he looks perfect. Perfect suit, shirt, and tie—looks like someone dressed him but, given that no one else is in evidence, you have to assume that he managed it himself. He's about five-eleven. He goes about 160, 165. Nice-looking guy. Maybe a little product in the hair—photo-ready. (Bill Murray, in contrast arrived at his shoot wearing cargo shorts and a Cubbies T-shirt under a fishing vest, and sporting an Xavier baseball cap with the Nike logo blacked out.)
The only thing that's a little off with Clooney is the slight limp, which gets more pronounced as the photo shoot goes on.
The previous evening, turns out, there'd been a rousing pickleball game on his tennis/basketball court. I can't say for sure, but there may have been drinking. Couple hours in, he bent over to pick up the Wiffle ball and—bang!—down goes Clooney, a disc slipped, immobile.
On the morning of the shoot, at 7:00 a.m., he was in the hospital getting an epidural in his spine so he could withstand the rigors of the day. No biggie. He said he'd hang with us; he hung with us.
David Granger: This will be the ninth time you've been on the cover of Esquire.
George Clooney: This year?
DG: Uh, no. Your first time was after your fifth year on ER—1999.
GC: That was a hell of a cover.
DG: It was such an important thing for us. I'd been there less than two years, and we'd floundered. And then Sam Jones took that picture and we thought: That looks like an Esquire cover.
GC: It's the best cover I've ever taken.
DG: Over the last few days, I read all the stories we've run about you. It was an amazing experience.
GC: I bet.
DG: [Whispers] I didn't remember any of them.
GC: I bet.
DG: I think over the time that you've been on our cover and the time I've been editing this magazine, it's only gotten more complicated to be a man, in part because of the growing influence of women, which we all welcome, and in part because of sexual politics. I think over all this time, you have at least appeared to navigate being a man pretty easily.
GC: I had some pretty good examples in my life. My father's very smart and has a great sense of humor. And some people just feel comfortable in their skin. I have good friends who are like that. And my father is like that and my uncle is like that.
DG: Probably didn't hurt that you were in your thirties when you got famous.
GC: Noah Wyle was 23 when ER got picked up, and by our fifth or sixth show we had 40 million people watching. And I remember Noah asking me, "Is that good?" And I said, "It will never happen again in your lifetime." I was lucky enough to have the perspective to understand when things are good.
DG: It's hard to imagine now, but for a big chunk of your life, you were scrambling like any other American.
GC: Scrambling, yeah, but I made a living for a good portion of that time. In a way you get too much credit. But it's scrambling. The show is gonna get canceled and then you're gonna have to find another gig. People always think you manage your career. You don't manage your career when you're trying to get a job. You're just trying to get a job. And you know this as well as anybody, that it's much later in your career that you can go, Oh, here's what I want to do. Early on, it's just: Get work. Just survive.
DG: Do you remember what it was like to just survive?
GC: I'm directing a movie [Suburbicon], so I was just looking at actors on tape—actors I've worked with and auditioned with, and they're so good, and the minute I see them, I'm thinking,We did a play on Melrose Avenue in 1984. It's a real community.
DG: What's the difference between you and that guy you were acting with in '84?
GC: It's a combination of about 500 different things, but the one thing that you have to have is luck. I've done 13 TV pilots and seven series. I've done series that were considered very good and series that were considered very bad. None of them stuck. And all of a sudden we got a show on Thursday night at ten o'clock. That time slot was the cradle of love—and we had a groundbreaking TV show. Go back to 1994 and look at the first year of ER. It's some great television.
DG: You came to fame right at the beginning of the modern age of fame, when—
GC: When all the fun was gone. Used to be you could be as famous as you wanted. You show up at premieres and everybody cheers and you sign autographs, and then you go off and you drive out to a restaurant and go to dinner and you'd be left alone. Every once in a while some paparazzi would sneak around, but now everybody's got a phone. If all this stuff existed when I was 25, it'd be me getting carried out of some bar by my feet. Cuz I did it all. I had all the fun that you should have. And it would have been multiplied by 10 times had I been famous and rich. I'm just lucky that the advent of camera phones happened when I was 43 years old or something.
DG: Fame is, at this moment, a kind of a double-edged sword. You're one of the most famous men in the world on one end of the spectrum. And Donald Trump is on the opposite end of the spectrum. But it's not just because he's race-baiting that he's doing well. It's because he's famous that people are buying into this stuff.
GC: And he's been famous for 35 years.
DG: You know Hillary Clinton well. Is there a moment you've had with her that crystallizes who she is?
GC: I was a big supporter of Barack Obama in 2008. When I came back from Darfur when she was secretary of state, I would have thought she would have been a little ticked off to meet with me. And she wasn't.
DG: What is it like meeting with a secretary of state?
GC: When I walked out of that room, I was very, very, very glad that she was secretary of state and that she was an informed, responsible, smart person. I don't think she's nearly as good a campaigner as she would be a leader.
DG: Is Obama funny?
GC: Deeply funny. He gets the joke. He's called me a couple of times after I've gotten in an argument with somebody about him. And he's like, "What are you doing fighting with that guy?" That kind of stuff has been very funny.
DG: Have you ever played basketball with him?
GC: We played here in L.A. I did a fundraiser here with him, and he said, "What are you doing tomorrow morning?" I go, "What time?" He goes, "5:30. You wanna play some hoops?" And I go, "Yeah." And he goes, "All right, we'll set it up. You got any of your friends want to play?"
DG: Do they want to play?!
GC: So I started writing my friends, going, "You wanna play basketball with the president of the United States?" Now I have this picture of my buddy elbowing the President. It was really fun. He's a good basketball player.
DG: I'm surprised he even has time to play at 5:30 in the morning.
GC: The truth of the matter is, in my lifetime certainly there's never been a president who's been up against so much obstructionism. There just hasn't been. Period. I don't give a shit what anybody says. Yet he's managed to do an awful lot of things, and he's had to do it with a sense of humor that I wouldn't have kept. At some point, I would've said, "You know what, boys? Why don't we step outside?"
DG: You seem to manage conflict with aplomb. You take stances, you get angry sometimes, and yet I can't remember a time when you've been tarred by your fame.
GC: What you learn is you gotta pick your fights, and the fights you pick have to be about someone besides yourself. You go, "Don't say that my wife should be executed." The Daily Mail sort of pulled one of those, which was inaccurate on every level. Those are the fights you gotta pick.
DG: I was in Milan in January and everybody I met was like, What is going on with the United States?
GC: A Danish reporter asked me, "What's going on with Donald Trump?" And I said, "Well, what's going on with you? You guys just passed a new law says that you're going to take the belongings off of every refugee that comes in to pay for them coming in, which sounds an awful lot like 1938, '39 in Germany." But how am I to defend us when the only voice that's coming out from across the sea is banning Muslims? That's the problem with what's going on. It's not that it's gonna happen; it's that we're broadcasting this to the rest of the world.
Here's the thing about Trump—I was just in Amsterdam, and I'm up onstage, and they go, "What's going on with Trump?" And I said: "Look, we're not going to do these things. We're not going to deport Muslims. We're not going to build a wall." But the problem is all these other countries hear these things, and all of a sudden you see in France that [Jean-Marie] Le Pen is going, "Bravo." You get all of these nutcases on the far-right fringe saying, "Well, if America thinks that…" That is the real problem with Trump—his ideas bleed into the rest of the world. That he says, I'm gonna find every terrorist, and I'm gonna find their family, and I'm gonna execute them…. I'm not gonna let him walk away from that. I'm gonna execute a family?! That's a war crime of the highest level that no one would do. When you say that, that tells all the other people, Okay, well, if they're saying that, then why don't we?
DG: Are you hopeful about the future?
GC: I actually think it looked a lot bleaker in 2008, when the economy tanked. I really thought we were in real trouble.
DG: We were.
GC: This country is a big carrier ship that has to slowly turn all the time to right itself, and it takes longer than we want it to. But if you look at us over the history of time, we really fucked up. We fucked up with the Indians; we fucked up with slavery. We were terrible to women. We fuck up and we fuck up and we fuck up, and we get better. We're not great yet; we haven't fixed it all yet. We didn't figure it out in 1776. We didn't have a Constitution until 1787. It takes a while to figure things out. But what happened in 2008 was: Just when you thought you couldn't figure it out, that the world was gonna go straight to hell, we elected the first African-American ever, who, when he speaks, he makes us feel proud, and makes the rest of the world calm down about the United States.
DG: Probably helped that CNN and Politico weren't covering the emergence of America as an independent nation.
GC: This is the thing that makes me crazy. What's going on in Syria doesn't get airplay. A little boy drowns and washes up on a shore, and [in response] everything was moving in the right direction until Cologne or San Bernardino, and everything changes. We don't have any coverage of what is truly one of the great catastrophes in our lifetime. Six million refugees, it's just a number. But six million. But what if six million of those little boys washed up on the shore?
DG: It's not a rating until that happens.
GC: It's not a rating.
DG: Trump's a rating….
GC: Last night's debate will be known as the I-have-the-biggest-dick debate. When you could have been saying, Let's talk about what we really are going to do about refugees.
What you learn is you gotta pick your fights, and the fights you pick have to be about someone besides yourself.
DG: Looking at the recent films you've been involved in, I get the impression that you basically only work with people you like to work with.
GC: That's pretty true. You try to push out every once in a while, but if I can work with the Coens, if I could work with Soderbergh. If I could work with Alexander Payne. That's where I am in my career right now.
DG: You're retiring from acting, allegedly.
GC: Somebody said, "What are you doing in 10 years?" And I said, "Well, I don't think anybody really wants to see anybody age." But humor doesn't make it in print. The reality is what I was talking about was the kind of parts that I was doing I'm not going to be doing anymore. Paul Newman did it best. He was a movie star, he was a leading man, and then he was like, Now I'm a character actor.
DG: And they were memorable roles.
GC: They just weren't as often and they weren't as much. I'm much more interested in doing films where the role makes sense for me. I'm not gonna be carrying movies the way I did before. There are actors you'll see that try to hold on to this leading-man status long past the due date.
DG: It starts to look ridiculous.
GC: And you get a softer lens, but it doesn't work anymore.
DG: I'm also talking to Bill Murray for this issue.
GC: He's a nut.
The Clooney Impressions. Clockwise from top left: Sammy Davis, Jr., Robert De Niro, Undisclosed, Dick Van Dyke.
DG: Everybody thinks they know him. Is there anything people get wrong about him?
GC: He's oddly emotional. He's incredibly warm and emotional. He gave a toast at our wedding that was so elegant and beautiful and warm and he's such a loving individual. And he's adaptable to anyplace he goes. Everybody's life is a puzzle that's missing this one piece, and he fits in each time.
DG: I wonder if he gets back to you faster than he gets back to me.
GC: Bill comes to see us in Italy every summer. I text him [to see when he wants to come], and then I won't hear from him for three months. Then I'll be in Italy, and he'll call me and say, "I'm here." And I go, "Where?" And he goes, "At the front gate." And I open it, and he comes in.
Another story: We were recording Fantastic Mr. Fox at the house. Wes Anderson and all the guys came there to do it. Bill was coming the next morning. And we all woke up to the news that Owen Wilson tried to hurt himself. And Wes and everyone said, "We have to go back." But Bill was supposed to be in Venice in ten days. And he's like, "Well, what should I do?" I'd only known him from a few parties, but I said, "Well, you can stay here." And he did. And we would just sit and we'd watch television together, or we'd go into the gym and work out. But you could do it and not even talk for hours. I'd come outside and he'd be lying in the grass looking up, and I'd come out and I'd lie in the grass and look up, and we'd just sit there and look up at the stars for two hours. He really is that guy. He's incredibly warm, and he really fits into everyone's life when he shows up.
DG: That's beautiful.
GC: I feel that he gets a good amount of joy out of how much people love him. I think he really likes that.
DG: My image of him will always be at one of his Christmas parties. There will be 400 people there. Emma Stone, Chris Rock, David Letterman. But then he'll turn to you and say, "Would you please talk to that woman over there? She runs the emergency room on Martha's Vineyard. She's a really nice lady. She needs somebody to talk to."
GC: There's this gentleness about him. He's just such a funny, sweet man. Obviously talented, but in many ways he's just a normal guy.
DG: I was asking my staff what I should ask you, what they were curious about. And there was one really simple question that Tyler Cabot thought I should ask. And the question is: "What do you want?"
GC: That's a good question. So I made money. I was broke, but I made my money. I've never been happier in a relationship by any stretch of the imagination. At 52 I found the love of my life and I'm really happy. I enjoy the work that I've been lucky enough to do and I wanna keep doing it. I want to remain creative and be able to stay creative as long as they'll let me. So I wanna do that. But as I've gotten older and as I've gotten more secure in my life, there are a lot of other things that I care about more, which is: the people who don't have the luck that I have. There's a lot of people out there who could use some luck. There's a lot of people in this country, but there's an awful lot of people in this world that could use some luck. And sometimes luck is just shedding the spotlight on the fact that their lives are hell.
DG: A couple years ago I was in the doctor's office for tests and the technician says to me, "So, are you still in the workforce?" And it just bugged the hell out of me.
GC: There isn't this 65-year-old retirement age, you know? We can be working on the things that matter to us, and that we're interested in, until somebody pulls the plug. That's a great place to be. I have a tequila company, right? It's off-the-charts successful. That's going to end up being the most successful thing I've ever been attached to financially.
GC: By far.
DG: And you've done pretty well.
GC: I mean by leaps and bounds. That's one of those things where you go, "Well, how much money do you need?" And then you go, "Well, then, what can we do to make this actually do some good around the world?" That's my interest now: Where can you focus your energy, not just in writing and directing and producing and acting but in actually changing people's lives?
DG: And you have a lot of time to do that.
GC: I'm 54 years old. I'm in good shape and good health for the most part.
DG: Are there any physical compromises you've been forced to make?
GC: I played basketball three times a week up until about a year and a half ago. But each injury takes longer to heal. As we're talking, I've just come from having injections in my back for a slipped disc this morning. So I'm not feeling peak, but I can still hang with the young guys in most sports.
There isn't this 65-year-old retirement age, you know? We can be working on the things that matter to us, and that we're interested in, until somebody pulls the plug.
DG: It is an odd experience sitting here and talking to you—you have a way of making me and probably everybody else feel like we've known you forever. It seems comfortable. It's fuckin' weird.
GC: I didn't grow up afraid of conversation or afraid of people who actually write for a living. I find an actual conversation is not hard to have.
DG: As I've been preparing to leave Esquire, people keep asking me, "So, what's your legacy?" And I've always thought there's no such thing as legacy. Three months after I'm gone, people will have forgotten I was there. Do you think about what lives on beyond you?
GC: I had this conversation with my dad not long ago about legacy. He said, "No one will really remember all the things that I did—the work that I've done." And we were talking and I said, "I look at some of the films that I was able to do—the ones that mattered. Good Night, and Good Luck; Michael Clayton; Out of Sight; Up in the Air; The Descendants. I look back and think I've got seven or eight films that will stand the test of time." And I said, "That's my legacy, I suppose." And he said, "Name me the top ten movie stars in 1930."
He said, "You get 80 years." And he's absolutely right. So if your legacy's gonna count for anything, it actually has to count for the next generation's lives. My family—we were Irish immigrants. And we were shit all over because we were Irish. And people said, "Oh, they're gonna be terrible and a disaster for the country." And Amal had to flee Beirut during the civil war and she ran to England. We have to do better. We have to stop this incredible fear that some guy who wants to kill us is going to go through the year-and-a-half or two-year process of immigration to be a terrorist, you know? I don't understand that. It doesn't make sense to me that people think that way. Your legacy is about immigrants and refugees. Amal and I are working on things now that matter to us on a whole other level, in a whole other world. If there's a legacy for me, it's yet to be written.
DG: I appreciate you taking the time and doing this.
GC: Well, I'll say it on the tape because I want it said: You're gonna be missed. You really are. Your voice and the magazine as it was through your voice has been exceptional. That is a legacy. They might not remember any of our names. But what they will remember is an era when there were great stories told, and there were great questions asked that a lot of places don't ask and don't do. So you'll land somewhere that you like, and all that stuff. But you do have a real legacy here, and you should be proud of that.
DG: I'll make sure to print that.
GC: I'm a big fan of loyalty. All this O.J. stuff is coming up right now because of the show [The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story]. When I look at loyalty, I look at Al Cowlings. And I think, I hope I'm that friend. Right? I hope I'm the kind of friend you can come up to and say, "Listen, they're saying I killed my wife. I didn't kill my wife. They're trying to railroad me. Just get in the car and drive." I like loyalty.
The Dossier: George Clooney
Date of birth: May 6, 1961
Which makes him: 54
Hometown: Lexington, Kentucky
Which proved useful when: He sent the O Brother, Where Art Thou? script home to his uncle Jack, along with a tape recorder to capture his accent. Though he later learned that: Uncle Jack, a strict Baptist, had omitted all the damns and hells.
Other relatives of note: Aunt Rosemary Clooney, cabaret singer and actress; father Nick Clooney, talk-show host and news anchor.
First onscreen appearance: The Nick Clooney Show, at age 5.
Childhood aspiration: Baseball player
Not an unrealistic goal, considering: That he tried out for the Cincinnati Reds when he was 17.
But ended up: Studying broadcast journalism at Northern Kentucky University.
After dropping out of which he: Moved to California with money saved from cutting tobacco.
First film: Return to Horror High
As: Oliver, a wannabe actor.
Who: Dies in the first 15 minutes.
But not before a female character sneers: "Gonna be a star, Oliver?"
And he responds: "Gonna try."
To which she says: "Yeah, right."
To which we say: Yeah. Right.
Spouse: Amal Clooney (née Alamuddin), human-rights lawyer.
Of whom he has said: "Oftentimes, I feel like an idiot talking to my own wife."
Upcoming projects:Money Monster, a thriller costarring Julia Roberts; Suburbicon, a dark comedy written by the Coen brothers about a suburban home invasion gone wrong.
Shown to him in: The late 1990s
And resurrected when: "I called up the boys and said, 'Any interest?' And they're like, 'Let's go.'"
This article originally appears in the May 2016 issue of Esquire Magazine.
Esquire fashion director Nick Sullivan explains how 007 pulls it all together.
At once modern and timeless, 007 is the personification of straightforward elegance, with no room for unnecessary details. He is simply Bond: cool under pressure, at home in any situation, and always the best-dressed man in the room.
Whether turned out in a shawl-collar tux at the baccarat tables or dressed down in tweeds, Bond accepts nothing but the very best. Everything fits perfectly into Bond's world; there's no room for the superfluous. His weapon is reliable, his Aston Martin is fast, his suit is impeccable, and his Belvedere martini is simple.
Bond doesn't demand attention; on the contrary, he eludes the public gaze. It's part of the job. But when the focus lands on him, every detail conveys vigor and resolve. The creases are sharp. The tailoring is precise. The cufflinks gleam in the dim light. He is the secret tower of strength in the room. And he's always in his element.
The modern man can take a cue from one of the most stylish icons in menswear: Keep it simple. Choose the classics, and have them cut to fit. We never see his tailor, but we know Bond must visit Savile Row. A double-breasted overcoat, a single-breasted two-button suit, a crisp shirt with a knitted silk tie, and cap-toe oxfords. Nothing flashy. Everything to its purpose. That's 007.
Josh Ozersky was hungry. He looked like a man who could put it away. And put it away he did, for his own satisfaction, sure. But also for yours.
Because Josh Ozersky lived to chow and tell. He was hungry for whiskey and argument (always a good pairing); hungry for validation of his work, which he received but probably distrusted (writers are like that); hungry for camaraderie and song. And, of course, just plain hungry, for the new-school and the old, the salty and fatty, the crispy on the outside and juicy in the middle—especially if it once possessed four hooves and a tail. But deeper than his need to ingest great cooking was his hunger to share his discoveries and to soak in the pleasure of affirmation from his audience. In that sense, Josh possessed a drive like that of great chefs, equal parts generosity and need for applause—not just for praise but also for surety that the rest of us tasted his discoveries and understood.
Josh chose most of the restaurants herein and devoured as many of their delights as he could, just in time to exhaust the Best New Restaurants travel budget, but not in time, sadly, to write the stories. Every death is untimely, but Josh's was especially so, happening as it did when he was just forty-seven in the early hours of May 4, 2015, the very day he was supposed to cheer on his favorite chefs at the James Beard Awards in Chicago. So a team of Esquire pros and great new voices from all over the country, including Beard Award winners John Birdsall and John DeVore, picked up the fork and finished the job.
No tribute could be more fitting, because we are as blown away by these restaurants and the cultural shifts they represent as Josh was. There is something of a New Food Order emerging—the rules, like the complexion of the country itself, are changing.
The restaurant of the year, Shaya, serves Israeli cuisine—in, of all places, New Orleans. And if you doubt that pita and tabbouleh could merit such an accolade, consider that their elevation comes at the hand of a chef, Alon Shaya, who has cooked for NoLa revolutionary John Besh since his first of (now) twelve restaurants began transforming that former time-capsule culture of Commander's Palace and Brennan's. And if that's not enough, imagine sinking your teeth into a pomegranate-lacquered lamb shank, blackened and glistening from hours at the roast.
There is a restaurant that basically serves only birds. A restaurant on a bleak block in Harlem that no sooner saw success than it was shut down by a ridiculous rent increase. Yet somehow it managed to reopen ten months later, bringing its beacon to a different careworn stretch of the city.
In more restaurants than ever, Latin Americans are not just rocking the line but also running the show, with confidence and style. Witness Ray Garcia: I went to his L.A. joint Broken Spanish in its ninth week, before it even had a sign out front. He takes familiar flavors and formats from the Mexican playbook and brilliantly interweaves them with surprises like black garlic and foie-gras butter.
Perhaps most important is that after a decade of tatt-sleeved male chefs whose primary concern was building empires rather than flavors, we are entering a new era of collaboration and cooperation that focuses more on cooking and less on big-swinging solo-artist brand development. Chefs who use the pronoun we when describing their creative process, like husband-and-wife chef-owners Nicole Krasinski and Stuart Brioza, of the Progress in San Francisco. These are craftspeople with their chests unpuffed and their heads down over their pots, developing loyal teams of homegrown cooks just as surely as they develop killer dishes—and upending the bro culture of the American kitchen.
If only Josh could have seen this through. The last memory anybody seems to have of him belongs to John Currence, a friend and the chef at City Grocery in Oxford, Mississippi. Having decamped from the Beards' annual Chefs' Night Out cocktail party in search of Jim Beam, the two, along with Charleston chef-kings Jason Stanhope and Mike Lata, found their way to a basement karaoke dive. "Nobody was singing, so Josh just started devouring the microphone and dragging people onstage." Among the selections: the duet "Islands in the Stream," with Stanhope. "It was really one of the most joyful things to watch."
Because for food, for whiskey, for one more song, Josh Ozersky was hungry. You're hungry. I'm hungry. Let's eat.
After three or four drinks, look no further for your next round.
It's the moment of truth. Your phone lies facedown on the polished mahogany, the relaxed pulse of the music blends with the sounds of a couple dozen voices engaged in pleasant conversation, the lights shining through the ranks of whiskey bottles behind the bar enfold you in an amber glow, your companion is amusing–or even, perhaps, charming–and the cocktail you've just taken the last sip of was cold and strong and necessary, and you can feel it reaching into each individual capillary in your body, soothing each individual nerve. The bartender stands in front of oyu, her eyebrow raised. What will it be?
Sometimes, of course, the answer is easy: another, please, just like that one. But despite their modest size, modern cocktails are strong, and there are times when you don't want another just like that. You want to prolong the experience, but for whatever reason (and that's certainly no business of ours) you don't want to double your buzz. Fortunately, there's a simple solution, and it doesn't involve punting to champagne or beer or the like. As pleasant as those drinks are, they somehow seem like a missed opportunity when you've got an expert drink mixer standing in front of you, waiting to roll up anything you desire.
Drinkers in the 19th century were aware of this problem. Their cocktails, originally made of nothing more than straight booze with dashes of this and that, had to be. The first solution was the manhattan–one of those straight-booze cocktails but with a third or half of the fuel replaced by low-octane vermouth. But if you've ever drunk manhattans, you know that while the pleasure is great, they are no aid to sobriety whatsoever. It took another turn of the wheel to solve the problem. What if you took that manhattan and replaced the remaining spirits with sherry? Mixed thus, this Spanish wine has the texture and depth of flavor of whiskey or brandy or gin (depending on the style) but the same low proof as the vermouth.
The same solution seems to have popped up on both sides of the country simultaneously, in the early 1880s. In San Francisco, little Louis Eppinger, proprietor of a popular saloon on Halleck Street, made his version with dry vermouth and called it the Bamboo cocktail. In New York, "handsome" Joe McKone, of the famous Hoffman House, made his with sweet vermouth and called it the Adonis, after a musical.
Either way, it's a great cocktail. If you like 'em dry, a Bamboo with fino sherry and dry vermouth is as cold and dry as the Atacama Desert; if you want something bordering on the plush, an Adonis with a mellow old oloroso sherry and one of the richer sweet vermouths we're getting these days is as comforting as fleece pajamas.
Whatever you call it, the beauty of this formula is that it's easy to order in any craft-cocktail bar, even if the young Picasso behind the bar has never heard of ti. Simply ask for sherry and vermouth 50-50 with a couple dashes orange bitters and a twist, up. Not an order you could get away with at McSwiggan's, but you aren't paying 12 bucks a cocktail there, either. And if they don't have vermouth, well, you were planning on moving on anyway, or you would have that next one just like the first.
Stir well with cracked ice:
1 1/2 oz chilled fino or Manzanilla sherry
1 1/2 oz dry French vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
Strain into chilled cocktail glass and twist lemon peel over the top.
Stir well with cracked ice:
1 1/2 oz oloroso or amontillado sherry
1 1/2 oz sweet Italian vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Strain into chilled cocktail glass and twist lemon peel over the top.
There is a chicken in my shower. It's 8:30 a.m., I've just sat down on the toilet to pee. I casually glance around and there it is, drinking some of the residual water puddled on my shower floor. This is not the first creature to make an appearance in my bathroom. Since I moved to the Caribbean, I've had spirited encounters with tarantulas, scorpions, and untold lizards. But the chicken got me thinking.
"How did you get here?" I ask the bird. It blinks unhelpfully back at me.Perhaps a better question is, how did I get here? How did I come to live on a tiny, rustic island of 4,100 people sharing a bathroom with poultry?
It all began four years ago. Back then I was living in Manhattan, a 31-year-old journalist making $95,000 a year. I lived in a lovely(wildlife-free) apartment in the East Village, a bustling neighborhood with every imaginable convenience and so much to entertain. But New York is a competitive city; you have to spend most of your time working to afford to live there. And a downside of living among so many ambitious people is they're often overscheduled. Sometimes I didn't see my closest friends for months at a time. Trying to negotiate a time to meet a friend for drinks was harder than getting into college (and the cocktails about as expensive).
It's ironic to feel lonely on an island of 4 million people, but it seemed I spent my life staring at screens: laptop, cell phone, iPad — hell, even the taxis and elevators had televisions in them. I felt stressed, uninspired, and disconnected.
IF YOU'RE CONSTANTLY THINKING YOU NEED A VACATION, MAYBE WHAT YOU REALLY NEED IS A NEW LIFE.
"I need a vacation." This was a constant refrain in my head. I wasn't living in the moment; I was living for some indeterminate moment in the future when I'd saved enough money and vacation days to take a trip somewhere. If you're constantly thinking you need a vacation, maybe what you really need is a new life.But I was complacent. My life wasn't satisfying, but it was comfortable.
One day I was working on my laptop, finishing some edits on a book I'd just written. I was distracted, wondering what I would do now that the manuscript was finished. While I had several job offers, none of them excited me. I let my hands idle too long and the screensaver, a stock photo of a tropical scene, popped up. Here was something to get excited about. What I wanted — something I'd fantasized about for years, in fact — was to stop living in front of a screen and live in that screen, in the photo on my computer. And why couldn't I? With no professional obligations or boyfriend, I was completely untethered for the first time in my life.
Feeling slightly ridiculous, I posted a message on Facebook saying that I wanted to move to the Caribbean, and asking for suggestions as to where I should go. A friend's sister recommended St. John, the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Nicknamed "Love City" for its famously friendly locals, it was home to some of the most stunning beaches in the world. I glanced out my window where punishing, chest-high snow drifts were forming on the ground at an alarming rate. On the sidewalks impatient and preoccupied New Yorkers bumped into each other without apology. I immediately began expediting my passport.
It was startlingly simple to dismantle the life I'd spent a decade building: I broke the lease on my apartment, sold my belongings, and bought a one-way plane ticket. The hardest part was convincing myself it was OK to do something for no other reason than to change the narrative of my life.
"You can't just move to a place you've never even visited!" my mom protested.
"Sometimes you just have to leap and the net will appear," I said with more confidence than I felt.
Six weeks later, I stepped off the ferry in St. John. I had no plan, no friends, and no clue how ridiculous I looked, festively ensembled in boat shoes and a dress celebrating the palm tree. Yet I had a strange feeling that everything would unfold as it was supposed to.
My parents did not share this viewpoint. I come from a conservative Southern family with a healthy respect for the American Dream: You worked hard in school, chose an upper-middle-class job with a 401(k) and a good matching plan. So they were pretty taken aback when, upon arriving in St. John, I took a job at the local ice cream parlor.
"But, but ... you went to Yale," they sputtered. "And you're 31 years old!"
Perhaps there was something indulgent and Peter Pan-ish about this new lifestyle. But the truth is, I was happier scooping mint chocolate chip for $10 an hour than I was making almost six figures at my previous corporate job. It was calming to work with my hands. I met new people constantly, talking face-to-face instead of communicating via email and instant messaging. When I closed the shop at the end of the shift, my work was done and my time my own. Besides, I found that not everyone shared my parents' concern. "When I moved here 25 years ago, my dad insisted I was ruining my life," said one of my regular customers when we got to chatting about our lives one day. "Recently he visited and told me, 'You had it right all along. I'm toward the end of my life and looking to retire to someplace like this, and now I'm too old to enjoy it.'"
Cruz Bay, the island's main town, consists of a few winding roads and a handful of open-air bars and restaurants. There are no stoplights on St. John (though we frequently have to stop for the wild donkeys and iguanas and chickens that roam the streets). No chain stores. Limited WiFi. Shoes optional. We drive beat-up Jeeps because no one cares what kind of car you drive. For those without cars, hitchhiking is common; after all, we know almost everyone who lives here. We shower in filtered rainwater collected in cisterns attached to the house. There are no addresses. (Typical directions to someone's house are along the lines of, "If you take a left at the dumpster, I live in the white house at the end of the road with a broken-down dinghy in the yard.") People gather on the beaches at dusk to watch the sunsets together. I see my friends every day. On our days off, we hike the local ruins, dive, or go boating to the nearby British Virgin Islands.
These days, I work as a bartender, a job I pursued simply because it's something I always wanted to try. Sometimes I think back to the question I used to be asked in job interviews: "Where do you see yourself in five years?" That always seemed a depressing notion, to already know what you'd be doing five years in the future. Here it's not unusual for someone to work as a cook on St. John, then move to Thailand for six months to work as a dive instructor, then they will head off to Alaska and work on a fishing boat. Living abroad has exposed me to a different approach to life, one in which you're not expected to settle in one place and do one kind of job. Perhaps some of us are meant to move around every few years, change jobs and live many different micro lives.
That's not to say doubts don't creep in on occasion. Seeing old colleagues and acquaintances building successful careers can make me second-guess my choices. One of my friends from college started a little website called Pinterest. Another just won an Emmy for a hit television show she created.
But I have an island. I live in a charmingly ramshackle one-bedroom apartment on a hillside overlooking the sea.
Which brings us back to the chicken in my shower watching me pee. How did it get there? My best guess: It was tottering around the woods outside, accidentally flew onto my second-story balcony, and wandered into my apartment through the sliding-glass door, which I usually leave open to enjoy the breeze.
Smiling, I shoo out the wayward bird. Then I pause for a moment, transfixed by the view framed by my open sliding glass door. Sunlight sparkles on the water. Sailboats bob companionably in the distance. The scene is remarkably similar to the stock photo that was my screensaver four years ago. How different my life was then.
There's a quote by author J.R.R. Tolkien that pops up a lot on T-shirts and bumper stickers sold around town: "Not all those who wander are lost."
Lately I've been mulling moving somewhere entirely opposite of here. Europe, perhaps? There are so many places to go! It fills me with a sort of wild happiness. Who knows where I'll end up? And what a marvelous thing that is — not knowing.
It isn't the fancy shmancy cocktail bar you love to order dealer's choices at. They don't have the same booze the other spots do. They surely don't have the right ice and there is not an Edison bulb in sight. A coaster slung across the wood and a "What are you havin'?" may be the first introduction to a very important drinking establishment you should learn to appreciate. Here are a few guidelines you need to know if you want your local dive to be a sanctuary and not just that neighborhood "hole in the wall" into which you've never ventured.
1. Make it yours.
Don't bring your friends here. Don't bring your girl here. Don't even talk about it. It is your secret now. Make sure it's on your daily route and a place you can frequent without having to go out of your way.
2. Pick your standbys and stick to them. Every. Single. Time.
By choosing something easy ie. generic beer, a pour of whiskey or a [insert booze] and [insert mixer], and ordering it every time they will remember you. Nothing is better than walking in and having the bartender put your drink in front of you without you having to ask for it and being able to settle up at the end without having to pay every time you order.
3. Tip 100% to start.
These drinks don't cost anything comparatively. You are drinking a beer for two bucks and change when you are used to paying six or seven. Just hand the guy a fiver and say we're good. Do it again on the second one and he will probably pick up your third. He'll also remember you next time.
4. Cash is king.
Pay in cash. The drinks are dirt cheap and it makes the transaction much faster and looser. The point is not to be a nuisance. The bartender is not waiting on you in the service sense. He's actually waiting on you so he can get back to the game or a better conversation.
5. Be quiet.
Don't talk other than ordering and stay off your phone in every way. You are new. Everyone else in the bar has been bellying up there for years. No need to spout off what you heard on ESPN yesterday—they watched it sitting where you are sitting right now and probably discussed it in length then. You will earn your spot to talk when you can be trusted. And it will likely start by someone saying "Hey I've seen you in here before. Let me buy you a drink (see rule 2)?"
6. Say "thank you."
When you leave, look the bartender in the eye and thank him or her by name. This and this alone goes a very long way. The whole point is to be remembered so next time you walk in they say hello, pour your drink, start you a tab and start up the conversation where you left it.
You can have multiple spots around the city at which you use this regimen. If your place serves burgers for lunch, stop in once a week and have one with a cold beer. They will remember you over time. When you get done with work, stop in and have another before hoping on the train. Before you know it, you'll have reached regular status just by being polite and having a few drinks. Use your spot before a date by stopping in and relaxing with some liquid courage. And maybe some great tips from the old timers for after dinner. What you are doing is creating a space that is different than your normal reality because it isn't your scene and it isn't what you normally drink and the conversation is not what you usually partake in. If you are anything like me, it will become a peaceful sanctuary in no time.
Anyone who's been handed a high school diploma can tick off the classic novels from the twentieth century: The Great Gatsby, A Farewell to Arms, The Grapes of Wrath. But cross into this millennium and things are suddenly murkier, Kindle-ier, less classed up with age. Then again, it's been an affirming 15 years, enough time to breed a whole new body of post-2000 lit we're happy to call the new classics—and we're not afraid to name names. We spent months chiseling down a list* of not just our favorite books from the 2000s but also the works of fiction that we most readily recommend to our fathers, brothers, and non-blood-related bros. Then we asked a bunch of those authors to pick an overlooked book—stories, poetry, memoir—from that same period of time. Dig in quick: This is your chance to right some wrongs and hit the new musts you missed the first time around.
-as published by GQ.
*Numbered, but not ranked
JONATHAN FRANZEN (2001)
BECAUSE: Let's be real, he wrote two of the very best books (Freedom's the other) of the millennium—or, if you're guzzling haterade, at least the two best books on, among other things, family, anti-anxiety drugs, marriage, fate, songbirds, and Minnesota.
AUTHOR'S PICK: "Ms. Hempel Chronicles (2008), by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, is a deftly constructed novel masquerading as a collection of linked stories; you don't even realize it's a love story until you read the last chapter. Its heroine, Ms. Hempel, is a young private-school teacher whose troubles include haziness about the distinction between student and teacher. Chapter by chapter, as you watch her interact with her pupils, you realize that she's as lost and confused as they are, and the result is an extraordinary sympathy for all concerned. Bynum seems incapable of writing a sentence that doesn't have something fresh or funny or true going on in it. She gets you laughing and then she whacks you in the heart.
The Human Stain
PHILIP ROTH (2000)
BECAUSE: he's written eight pretty great novels since the turn, but only one masterpiece. Beginning in the summer "that Bill Clinton's secret emerged," it's the best book on sex, scandal (Roth coined the famous phrase "ecstasy of sanctimony"), and political correctness in the Lewinsky Moment.
CORMAC MCCARTHY (2006)
BECAUSE: While plugging this book is sorta like plugging a weekend getaway to Pittsburgh in February, it's irresponsible not to, for the sheer tactful feat of turning a post-apocalyptic skin-crawler into both a critical stick of dynamite (the Pulitzer Prize) and a commercial windfall (Oprah's Book Club). McCarthy, who rarely lifts a fingernail to promote his work, is better than hermetic: Doesn't care about the fame or money but isn't such a nutbag that he frantically hides from it. He's operating in the new millennium as actively as the younger generation, this prime-time gunner, now 79, who so clearly has still got it. Notice, on the other hand, the absence of those other stalwarts of the 1960s—1990s: Updike, DeLillo, Morrison, Pynchon, Ford, et al.
ZADIE SMITH (2000)
BECAUSE: Smith's debut (published when she was just 24!)—about the friendship and family fates of two polar-opposite and yet instantly identifiable British men—is better than any recent book at answering the question: What was life like in London last century?
True History of the Kelly Gang
PETER CAREY (2000)
BECAUSE: the voice in this fictional autobiography of Australia's most famous outlaw—Ned Kelly, bushranger—is so convincing that you'd swear it came from his own dirt-and-blood-soaked hands.
AUTHOR'S PICK: "Kent Haruf is one of the great poets of the modern novel. He has an extraordinary capacity for love. He will give you the smell of the dirt and grasses of the High Plains of Colorado. He will never fail to engage your heart, but because he is an honest man, he will have you grasp the nettles. If you have never entered his beautiful singing sentences, I envy you your first time. If you do already know that Plainsong and Eventide are masterpieces, get ready for Benediction, out this year. This is why writers write and readers read.
ROBERTO BOLAÑO (2008)
BECAUSE: Big novels always arrive with an aura of ridiculousness, overpraised by critics, under-read by readers, slowly eroding an indent into the bottom shelf of your bookcase. Worse is a posthumous publication (which usually requires someone to defy the author's last wishes) that's as rickety as improperly assembled Ikea furniture. This book was both: the English translation of 898 pages showing up five years after Roberto Bolaño's death from liver failure. But pick it up with two hands and you'll find a masterpiece just swarming with stories, of hapless critics and too many murdered women; earnest, haunted investigators who don't find the answers they need; and vanished geniuses who don't want to be found.
Tree of Smoke
DENIS JOHNSON (2007)
BECAUSE: The best book about Vietnam took thirty-odd years to brew—resulting in the finest first few pages (and subsequent 600) written on the subject.
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
WELLS TOWER (2009)
BECAUSE: This is the voice lots of writers are most excited about today, the one whose story collection they'll hand you, dog-eared, if you ask for an urgently ass-kicking must-read. Spend a few hours with these damaged, defiant, uncomfortably familiar men (yep, including Vikings) and watch as Tower unravels and stitches up their lives. There's no way you're giving this book back.
AUTHOR'S PICK: "Haven Kimmel's A Girl Named Zippy (2001) is a joyous, humane memoir of a midwestern childhood, wrought in sentences whose epigrammatic hilariousness makes you want to applaud at each period. Recalling her early years, Kimmel writes, 'If I could have gotten my nose close enough I would have inhaled leaded gasoline until I was retarded.' For my money, this whups Proust and his doughnut any day of the week.
Fortress of Solitude
JONATHAN LETHEM (2003)
BECAUSE: A lot of people write about Brooklyn—but Lethem's epic take on gentrification and racial tension is the first and last word on the subject.
AUTHOR'S PICK: "The appearance in 2010 of What Is All This?—a 600-page career-spanning anthology of stories from Stephen Dixon—was a welcome reminder of the continued existence of a literary cornucopia still steadily blurting out nourishment and fascination, now for fifty years and counting. Dixon's surely a candidate for the most prolific short-story writer of all time. Every one of his hundreds of tales long and short hinges on the singular miracle of his voice—as sprung and uncanny as Donald Barthelme's, yet as rooted in the urban vernacular as Bernard Malamud's—and from there takes nothing besides that voice for granted, promising constant surprise. Read Dixon to be staggered by his humanity, fearlessness, comic despair, and formal genius. In my opinion he ought to get the Nobel Prize.
GEORGE SAUNDERS (2000)
BECAUSE: The title story alone—the depressive ramblings of an employee in a vaguely dystopian caveman-themed amusement park (trust us)—was proof that we had found a new king of literary tragicomedy.
AUTHOR'S PICK: "Stuart Dybek, an American master, is the literary embodiment of essential Chicagoness: deep emotion expressed in language that is street-smart, lyrical, and full of heart. The stories in I Sailed with Magellan are technically amazing, but always to emotional purpose. The book is full of the romantic, exotic, ethnic, story-rich Chicago I remember from my childhood. His story 'Hot Ice,' from the amazing earlier collectionThe Coast of Chicago, was the first contemporary story that ever completely cleaned my clock.
ALICE MUNRO (2004)
BECAUSE: In any of the five collections she's put out since 2000, but especially in this one, she so totally nails the short story that one could be forgiven for thinking writing them is easy. It ain't.
W.G. SEBALD (2001)
BECAUSE: Austerlitz is possessed of a form all its own. It's long been in vogue to blur the lines between fiction and non-, between novel and memoir, and W.G. did that before it was cool. But Austerlitz, which is basically about Sebald wandering around Europe, doesn't do it as a gimmick. You get the sense that this is simply what he had to write. Austerlitz is about the intricate, horrifying, inhuman destruction upon which all societies, certainly Western ones, are built. An understandable thing for a German to have been obsessed about. Its message is that we all live in the silent, beautiful ruins of sadistic disaster. And it falls to Sebald to uncover those ruins. To read it is to stop and smell the roses, except, you know, roses that smell like sadistic destruction.
DAVID MITCHELL (2004)
BECAUSE: Forget the endless movie: Mitchell's original novel—six rollicking story lines connecting disparate-seeming characters through reincarnation—was big without being dense, and ambitious without being overbearing.
MARILYNNE ROBINSON (2004)
BECAUSE: Conversation about religion in America in the twenty-first century is so batshit insane that when someone tries to strip it down to the parts that were interesting to people, like, 2,000 years ago, it's worth listening. While Robinson's novel—a long, elegiac, wisdom-bleeding letter from a much older father to a much younger son that's also a meditation on just about every question of God and humanity—sure ain't easy, it socks you in the face and then hands you some ice to cool the bruise. Which is what religion's supposed to do, right?
AUTHOR'S PICK: "I've read a book that comes out this month. It is Christian Wiman's My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer. Wiman is the editor of Poetry magazine and has now accepted a professorship at Yale. His book is a memoir, his coming to terms with cancer and a very dark prognosis—which he has outlived. The thing that is exceptional about this book, aside from its intelligence and its language, is the quality of its theological reflection. It is very lucid and not at all simple, a book in the great tradition of truly serious thought.
The Art of Fielding
CHAD HARBACH (2011)
BECAUSE: Bros will never not love baseball and bros will never not love college—and together, that pairing made us love reading a book more than the sum of our love of baseball and college. (Also: For guys who get through max two books a year, this is the surest rec on the list.)
AUTHOR'S PICK: "Sam Lipsyte's The Ask, from 2010, is my favorite novel of the past few years, and his new story collection, The Fun Parts, out this year, is just as good. Since 2000, the battle for Funniest Writer in America has been a mano a mano mountaintop clash between Lipsyte and George Saunders, and everybody else just stands around laughing.
JOSEPH O'NEILL (2008)
BECAUSE: Shoveling down the language in this book—about a man's lonely assimilation in New York after his wife and kid leave him to move back to London in the wake of 9/11—is like dining out gourmet for a week straight. Plus: murder, banking, spanking, and—seriously, this will work on you, as anyone from the former Colonies has long insisted—the awesome draw of cricket.
AUTHOR'S PICK: "Skeletally, Leaving the Atocha Station (2011), Ben Lerner's first novel, is the chronicle of a young American poet's fellowship in Madrid. In substance, and not to mince words, this is a very intelligent, very funny, verbally brilliant, relentlessly perceptive investigation of the ethical-linguistic-political morass in which the American abroad must wade. Truly tip-top.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
JUNOT DIAZ (2007)
BECAUSE: We've never heard a book talk like this one: "Dude, you don't want to be dead. Take it from me. No-pussy is bad. But dead is like no-pussy times ten."
AUTHOR'S PICK: "I guess I'll go for two. Aracelis Girmay's landmark poetry collection, Kingdom Animalia, because of 'Oh, body, be held now by whom you love. / Whole years will be spent, underneath these impossible stars, / when dirt's the only animal who will sleep with you / & touch you with / its mouth.' And Alexander Chee's incomparableEdinburgh, because of its bravery, its wisdom, its vitality, and because it's a novel that never stops haunting.
The Line of Beauty
ALAN HOLLINGHURST (2004)
BECAUSE: Although the story is simple—a recent grad spends the summer of '83 stumbling into his attraction to men while living in the home of a member of Parliament—Hollinghurst tells it with the metronomic consistency of early Cheever, the wide-eyed sexuality of Updike's Rabbit series, and the bloodlust for men of wealth and class that launched Fitzgerald. And because Hollinghurst easily carries the torch for all three.
IAN MCEWAN (2005)
BECAUSE: No novel, by McEwan or anyone else, so precisely and gorgeously conjures the thought processes of its protagonist. Here the synaptic crackle and fizz of Henry Perowne's formidable brain as the neurosurgeon absorbs a body blow from a street thug: "The blow that's aimed at Perowne's heart...lands on his sternum with colossal force, so that...there surges throughout his body a sharp ridge, a shock wave, of high blood pressure, a concussive thrill that carries with it not so much pain as an electric jolt of stupefaction and a brief deathly chill that has a visual component of blinding, snowy whiteness."
The Yellow Birds
KEVIN POWERS (2012)
BECAUSE: What happens when poets write novels is you get sentences with chiseled precision, chapters with an elliptical swirl. What happens when a soldier-poet writes a novel is you get the best book yet on the post-9/11 wars.
AUTHOR'S PICK: "It's not exactly underrated—it was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2006—but then again, poetry collections aren't exactly overplayed. Elegy on Toy Piano, by Dean Young, is a sad and vibrant shock of a book. Moving between the ridiculous and the sublime, often within the same poem, this collection is a perfect introduction to the reckless humanity of Young's poetry.
JHUMPA LAHIRI (2003)
BECAUSE: No other novel this century has so fully, meticulously described the life of a man, from birth to middle age, and all the choices and obsessions that guide him through.