Helen and I love to host dinner parties. For our “Friendsgiving Feast” this past weekend the guests brought the meal and left it to us to provide the apps and pre-dinner drinks. Our closest friends know of my penchant for mixing good cocktails.
I served up the “Vieux Carre” a New Orleans contribution to the cannon of classic cocktails.
The drink itself is complex and boozy. But like many experiences in my life, it is the story in the glass that contributes much to my enjoyment.
Vieux Carre is a shout out to the “old square” in the French Quarter – where settlers from France founded the city. It was first mixed after the repeal of Prohibition at the Hotel Monteleone. You can still visit the bar in the hotel which was founded by an immigrant from Sicily.
The base ingredients are a mélange of cultural touchstones, much like New Orleans itself: Italian sweet vermouth, French cognac and the original American spirit – rye whiskey - that was shipped in charred oak barrels down the Mississippi. The highball glass is first rinsed with Benedictine, a liqueur created by a botanist monk of that Catholic order in an abbey on the Normandy coast. Then a few dashes of Peychaud’s as well as Angostura bitters – both of Caribbean origin – are added.
The history of the city is told through international ingredients that come together in heady concoction. If you know that story, you might gain a different relationship to the drink. It might create a spot in your mind for that offering. It becomes memorable. It becomes nuanced.
Pay attention to the components of your story and how you mix them. It will become more than its base parts. It can become a classic.
It is not likely to happen overnight. It is going to take an uncomfortable amount of time. You will tell your story. You will tell it with passion and creativity. And then… nothing.
The website traffic stays stuck, attendance at the rallies has dipped, charitable giving is not increasing, employee morale remains the same.
And so you are frustrated. You question your offering. You scrap the campaign entirely. Or you take an entirely opposite approach.
What you need to do is stop and breathe.
Take the time to improve your offering. Test a different version of your story.
Once, on the island of Kefalonia, Greece, I observed the owner of a beach bar oversee the delivery of new chairs and umbrellas. A young worker of his was eager to immediately set up the chairs. But the owner told him to leave them in stacks while he sat in the shade and had a smoke. The old man watched as customers came in and out. He then put a couple of chairs in a new spot to see how people responded. And then he tried them in a different location. I watched this play out the entire week of my vacation.
You can see him in the photo above sitting in the background. Getting work done.
When I checked out of the hotel I stopped by and asked him about it. He said that he hadn’t decided yet what was best. But that was ok, because “Αγάλα-αγάλι γίνεται η αγουρίδα μέλι.” Which translates “Slowly, slowly, the sour grape becomes honey.”
Rearrange your story. And give it time to sweeten.
I cut open the persimmon and its orange flesh yielded a trickle of sticky juice onto my fingers. I lifted a fat slice into my mouth and was immediately reminded of apricot and the texture of a ripe tomato.
It was a gift from Pavan Iyer, owner of eightvillage, a place-based design consultancy that has an office in my workspace. He had brought a sack full of persimmons to share, explaining that his parents have a tree in their backyard that is laden with these sweet gems each October.
I was intrigued because I’d never tasted one. I didn’t know anything about persimmons. Had never thought to seek one out. Had never wondered about this delicacy. But because he shared one with me and told me about the tree in his parent’s yard, I had a new place in my brain for “persimmon.” And it is associated with Pavan.
Good storytelling – effective marketing – persuasive communications – starts with the generous act of sharing a taste of your offering with us. To create a connection in my mind with what it is you do.
What fruit are you sharing?
I have a variety of interests and enjoy sharing my reflections on them here.