Fords Gin was crafted specifically for mixing. So on Tuesday, we did that. Mixed it with vermouth, with tonic, with wine, with beer, with more gin. I think it’s still mixing with my liver and I’m not sure I’ve recovered.
Fords, along with Eat the Rich and the Rappahannock Oyster Company, hosted a martini and oyster tour for around 40 of the top bartenders, beverage directors, and assorted drink peeps in the District. Along for the ride was Simon Ford, the brand’s founder, namesake, and someone who’s reached hero status to many conscientious bartenders. His trajectory in the beverage industry, I’m told, is something most dream of, going from bartender to promoter to purveyor of his own line of spirits. Through a long relationship with Pernod Ricard, whose subsidiaries include almost everything you’ve ever drank, he “essentially invented the role of brand ambassador” within the industry. Someone on the trip called him the Zuckerberg of liquor.
I received so many unsolicited comments from the attendees praising the work Ford does, how well his gin fairs in cocktails (at that point I’d already discovered that), how useful the ergonomically designed bottle is behind a crowded bar. It gave me an even deeper respect for the intricacies of the craft. I’m sure a conversation with any of these folks would put to bed the erroneous assumption of bartending as merely a transient industry or side gig. There’s as much passion and dedication here as any field.
Our day began at Eat the Rich, just around the corner from the BYT offices. A light brunch was served. Several martinis were served. It wasn’t even noon yet. But I was in the presence of professionals, and I ain’t a bitch. Thank God I had two bagels before I showed up, because they ran out of toast and I’d probably still be lost in the woods of southern Virginia had I not had something soak up excessive moisture in my stomach.
A trio of Rappahannock, Stingray, and Olde Salt oysters was served to prep us for our exploratory excursion. We packed up the booze, loaded the bus, and booked it. Three hours down to the Merroir tasting room and Rappahannock Oyster Company facilities in Topping, Va.
Gin and tonic was the preferred poison for the in-between. Whiskey, sherry, and some marijuana tincture got on the bus too. This was not their day. This was a gin’s day. But this was also not a day to be refusing consumables, and I’m an equal opportunity consumer. Along the way there was talk of lesbian weddings, and Simon spoke to me about Ian Fleming and presumably how James Bond orders his drinks wrong. A creeping, sleepy buzz brought me about fifteen minutes of shut-eye, and then we arrived. Thank God. I needed a cigarette.
The air seemed fresh along the Rappahannock River, even though the water was green. We split into two groups, split further into two small boats, and began our guided boat tour of the oyster op. A father and son duo took us out to the oyster cages and we unearthed one from the river below.
On the shore, the second group looked into some buckets. They had baby oysters in these buckets. They are essentially pebbles.
They also got to see the expansive filtration system that holds the larger oysters throughout a maturation process that can take as long as five years. Somewhere in the realm of four million oysters are housed in some twenty odd bins. Our boats pulled back into the dock, welcomed by birds perched like statues. The groups switched places and then we got to look at buckets too.
Some pre-mixed martinis were doled out. Just a couple more and I needed to switch to beer. I jotted some notes on the trip, but upon later review, seems they got progressively shittier as the day wore on. The end is damn near unintelligible.
We had dinner. We had drinks. Some folks jumped into the river. Back on the bus for a completely undesirable ride home, with a pit-stop for just 100 more beers, because why not? Back in D.C., Maria from Compass Rose hosted us for a nightcap.
Occasionally liquor companies and distributors will throw out a little “thank you” activity like this for the people that support them. Often it just ends up being a one-off party that no one really appreciates or gives a shit about. Chris Schmid, from distributor Ledroit Brands, told me they really wanted to put together an event that people would actually remember, even if it meant getting out of the city. It worked. It was memorable, and surprisingly I remember all of it. Shout out to those bagels. Wednesday morning? Yeah…not so great.