Photo credit: Dixie SheridanPerformed in a former Greenwich Village speakeasy, The Imbible: A Spirited History of Drinking is an entertaining performance piece that takes a crowd of eager-to-sip New Yorkers and savvy out-of-towners on a musical tour of the history of alcohol.
The brainchild of engaging, tuneful, and slightly hyperactive mixologist and barbershop quartet singer Anthony Caporale, The Imbible starts out in prehistoric times – where a pile of harvested wheat doused by rain is recovered soaked in a bubbly, happy-making brew – the first beer! Anthony takes a scientific approach and enlightens the crowd that alcohol had tremendous medicinal value before it was drunk for a good time, telling us that cavemen that drank beer were not only happier but just happened to live longer thanks to alcohol’s antiseptic qualities.
We go from the cave dwellers to Egyptians and beyond, and as the millennia turn, the quartet of actors (two boys, two girls) make numerous quick costume changes all while singing in four part harmony, and, on three occasions, handing out historically appropriate cocktails.
To celebrate the birth of beer, we enjoyed mighty tasty Shandies (Coney Island brewery's Overpass IPA mixed with gingerale). Then when we traveled across the sea with the East India Company, we learned that Brits stationed in India mixed their malaria prevention (quinine-containing tonic) with their daily gin rations. As we drank a very limey and refreshing gin and tonic we newly appreciated this summer standard for its medicinal qualities.
For me, I felt like I was back in class at the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), when Anthony placed a ridiculously adorable miniature copper pot still on the bar and rasped lyrical about distillation and the heads and tails. Sigh, good old WSET was never such fun. And after learning how whiskey was made, we got to enjoy a Ginger-Orange Old Fashioned, which was a drink that became popular after Prohibition, because it was made the “old fashioned” way – in other words, not with nearly-toxic bathtub gin!
Anthony and his merry band sang, mugged, served, and cheerfully presented about 10,000 years of booze history in a breezy hour and a half. For those who appreciate theater, barbershop quartet music, and the chance to think (a little) as they drink, The Imbible makes a great evening out.