Here’s something: Drinking is pointless. Sure, it can be delicious. It can be fun. It can spark conversations that bring us closer together, push us apart, make us believe we can change the world. But as far as the act of drinking, itself: pointless.
Here’s something else: Lots of really great things are pointless. Take, for example, surfing. It’s beautiful, healthful, and quite fun. And many of us who do it certainly love to wrap it up in faux spirituality, hold it close to us, and pretend it defines who we are. But, at the end of the day, surfing is pretty pointless.
Don’t take it from me. Listen to lifelong surfer, preeminent surf historian and man behind the gorgeously written, meticulously compiled Encyclopedia of Surfing, Matt Warshaw, who in the foreword to a new book by Chas Smith describes surfing’s aimless nature, thusly:
“…my experience, and the experience of pretty much everyone I’ve surfed with over the past 50 wonderful wave-filled years, is that we’re not doing anything constructive, much less enlightening.”
This from the guy who has made a career from writing about, contextualizing, and enlightening us about how surfing fits into the broader narrative of contemporary history.
Here’s something else, still: It’s very much O.K. to love things that are pointless. The often fun, often delicious act of drinking can serve as a catalyst for deeper connectivity. It’s the lite lagers, the summer shandies, and the margaritas that add color to our summer barbecues. It’s the neat whiskey or the glass of chardonnay that impart class and tame the butterflies on a first date. It’s the bottle of 12-year aged scotch a good friend brought over to celebrate the birth of my daughter. And while not everyone’s relationship to drinking is healthy, for the vast majority, it’s a pointless act that lends ambience to many meaningful moments.
A fitting example: It’s the year 2009. The American economy is in the toilet, but a group of local surfers, encouraged by the popularity of a website they’d founded to update the community on conditions at the Pier, begin hosting live music events at the now defunct establishment. Like the website, SurfJaxPier Nights at Landshark Cafe grow quite popular. And the social lubricant of choice among the party attendees — remember, the economy was in a deep recession and money, for many, was scarce — was the watery, delicious, fairly inexpensive, award winning Pabst Blue Ribbon. PBR takes notice and gives the group a significant amount of money to put on a surf contest. The success of that event and new relationships forged sparked the imagination of the group, and those individuals collectively conceived of a larger initiative, Void Magazine, which hit the streets of North Florida in May of 2010.
Today, for more than a few among this magazine’s founders, one sip from a cold PBR tall boy prompts a certain set of feelings and emotions—nostalgia, pride.
We used the word “spirit” as a kind of guide post in developing this issue. As a homonym it can be used to define both the strong liquors (such as bourbon, vodka, and rum) used to make the delicious drinks and the qualities—courage, energy, determination, imagination—that define the character of the persons making, mixing, and serving booze featured in this issue. From Josué Cruz’s portrait of the emerging trend among local barkeeps of using their skills to pursue a more itinerant lifestyle (“Gypsy Soul,” page 19), to Ian Makrit’s look at an innovative new technique blending traditional distilling practices with emerging technology (“The Sound of Whiskey,” page 16), to Amber Lake’s compiling of the best in local watering hole mythology (“Dive Bar Lore,” page 18), this issue seeks to highlight the passion, the fire, the zeal, the spirit behind our region’s drinking culture. Meanwhile, our Bartender’s Guide will help you recognize the faces and better understand the personalities serving up some of the area’s best drinks.
Despite being a pointless endeavor, drinking is one of those compulsions—like making art or music, cooking, or surfing—from which culture can be defined, relationships can be forged, and veritably redeeming initiatives (like magazines) can be born.