Super Booze Me

A sobering journey into one man's weeklong binge in the world of alcohol distribution

Friday: It is already well into happy hour, you're still at work, and the only free liquor event you've heard about is at some place called Design Within Reach, way the hell over in Coral Gables, an arduous cross-town trek on a Friday evening, even now, at 8:30 p.m. As the virtual gridlock southbound on Le Jeune Road slows you to a stop, the prospects for even one round of happy hour stimulation seem beyond reach. You finally cross the Coral Gables city limit, make a sharp left east into the central business district, and encounter total parking space saturation. You comb the curbs -- you're already at Douglas Road -- you circle, and suddenly a guy in an SUV pulls out of a metered space. Lovely.

You stroll down Miracle Mile, pass the sidewalk mob in front of Tarpon Bend Bar & Grill, and pop into Design Within Reach a few doors down. You've just missed your friend, the documentarian, who's picking up his date at UM. Figuring he'd be occupied for the evening, he told you to use his name to get into the Michael Capponi birthday extravaganza later on South Beach. But the documentarian's buddy, a marketing genius once employed by a major New York-based cognac concern, is still here, with a female lawyer pal.

You snag the last two-by-three-inch ham sandwich and some shriveled olives from a table in the back before plopping down on a red designer sofa next to the woman. You're making poignant observations when a tiny drop of saliva spurts out of your mouth and lands on the plush fabric.

"Eeew," she says. "If that would have landed on me, I would have puked on you."

And you say, "Now that's not true."

The soiree is winding down, which is okay because there is no hard liquor within reach. Studio proprietor Tracey Coffman thanks everyone for coming; you introduce yourself and then politely point out the absence of a Bacardi spread usually featured at such events. "We did that last year. Last time we did that it was huge," she says, noting tonight it was "more of a private party."

There's bound to be free liquor at the Capponi bash.

Traversing Little Havana en route to South Beach, you have the marketing genius (MG) on the phone, relating details of an auspicious free liquor outreach situation the following night, Saturday: the opening party for the new Kevin Bruk Gallery. Bruk approached him earlier in the week, searching for a contact in the booze business to cater his relocation party. The MG called Bacardi Joe and, voila, Bacardi Joe delivered. "They're going to send a bunch of bartenders and a fucking truckload of liquor!" he tells you.

"And they don't charge for this? It's just sheer, pure promotion?" you ask.

"Yes, it's just sheer, pure promotion."

Of course Bacardi Joe has requirements, such as "the demographic."

"Okay, the art angle," you say. "Right ... The opening ... Okay, there's the art crowd, there's the Wynwood art phenomenon ... it's an opening of a significant gallery ... Fifty to seventy-five people are flying in from New York just for tomorrow night? And four of the world's biggest art collectors will be there?"

"Four actual billionaires," he emphasizes.

A hell of a demographic.

"How lowbrow would Bacardi be willing to go?" you wonder.

He pauses. "Umm. Volleypalooza," he responds, referring to the annual beach volleyball tournament featuring dozens of bikini-clad models and vast quantities of liquor.

"Oh, you invented Volleypalooza?" you reply. "Have you ever gotten credit for that? Did you make any money from it?"

He says no -- Cointreau stole the idea with the help of a local promoter.

The MG informs you he is already at his South Beach apartment, freshening up for the Capponi thing.


Setting the bar: the two-for-none specialYou don't really have any hookups of your own, so you rely on your friends and their friends to penetrate hip VIP happenings.

You park near Washington Avenue and inspect the big white tent at Washington and Ninth Street. You're going to be boozing it up, so you need to eat. There might be food inside, but it's almost eleven and you shouldn't risk it. You trot down the filthy sidewalk, sidestepping a pile of gnawed-on chicken wings, and pop in to Gino's for a slice of pizza.

Ready to pose as the documentarian, you return to the Capponi party site, step onto the grassy area outside the tent, and glide right past the security guards. They couldn't care less who you are. Very cool.

You're not even inside the tent and there's nightclub impresario/developer Michael Capponi himself walking toward you. "Happy birthday," you offer, but he saunters past as if you were invisible and inaudible. You shrug and enter the tent. There are four liquor bars: three small ones on the periphery and a large circular one in the middle. You hit a smaller one at the far end, situated beneath a huge Ocean Drive banner. There are two bartenders, thus two lines, with about eight people in each. And yes, the entire Bacardi party portfolio is present.

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