By Danniel Parker
Charles Bukowski once said, “Drinking is an emotional thing. It joggles you out of the standardism of everyday life, out of everything being the same.”
Similar Dionysian nothings could be said about appreciating a good piece of art work offered to aficionados downtown last week.
The OKC Event Production Company, The Exchange, mixed, shook and stirred the two concepts around until a party brewed in the reception area of the Film Exchange building at 700½ W. Sheridan.
Organizers rounded up those whom they thought were the city’s best bartenders, and challenged to make mixed drinks designed to skip beyond mere “booze” into the realm of art.
Sean Ridenour is the creative director for The Exchange. Putting gilded taps on the walls full of bright, fruity cocktails and calling it art was his idea. As a format for a party, his idea appeared to work.
“The Exchange staff got together and decided we needed a signature spring event. So I said, why don’t we mount drinks on the wall and call it art?” Ridenour said.
“There is no element of post-modern joke intended on this event, but it’s not meant to be overly-serious either. We want the audience and tasters to have time to interact with the bar staff and try things they’ve never had before,” said Ridenour.
Over 200 people arrived, mingled and imbibed in the “art” displayed in spherical containers on the walls. Partygoers grinned and plucked skewers of Ahi Tuna and from batches of baguettes attached to picture frames.
In the back, DJ John Mooneyham of The Spy spun down tempo and trip hop records, which seem to be the traditional background music for fancy, hip restaurants worldwide. But louder was the chattering of all the young, nicely dressed clientele who appeared to be thoroughly enjoying a night out on the town.
It could be said that as a party, The Mix: Art by the Ounce brought more bounce to the ounce as well.
Erica Reed, the events director for The Exchange said that she considered the event a success.
“Our goal is to get people out mingling and enjoying things. We have a mix of hipsters and young professionals who just got off work,” Reed said.
Corey Miller said he came as a connoisseur of fine cocktails. Besides tipsily pulling off one of the taps and spilling art all over the wood floor, he was representative of the majority of people in attendance, under 30 professionals.
“The Exchange is the cream of the crop for local events. Food and drink just tastes better on walls,” said Miller.
Miller went on to say that Film Row is in a renaissance, a word which was echoed by many in attendance.
Jesse Bain is an financial advisor, also under 30. Between sips of Mickey Mantle Steakhouse’s Lemonade Mint Julep, he said that this quote-unquote renaissance is a product of young Oklahoma City dwellers earning and spending their disposable income.
Our city’s cultural atmosphere is no longer primarily influenced by the spending dollar of the Baby Boomer generation, he said he believes.
Earlier Corey Miller was described as tipsy. His state of sobriety was not an anomaly, among the party goers or the artists themselves.
Reed said her event was similar to a wine tasting. She said she tried to limit drunken debauchery and drunk driving by providing 14 tickets to each person in attendance, the idea being that they would be able to taste test only one ounce of each cocktail, and shouldn’t have a problem getting home.
“But our staff here is happy to call a cab for anyone who needs one,” said Reed.
This reporter left with 14 tickets in his pocket after taste testing an estimated 35 ounces of art, and was never asked for a drink ticket by any of the bartenders or restaurant managers pouring drinks.
Each person who paid the $55 cover was also given a blue ticket too, which they were instructed to give out to vote for their favorite drink.
Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse offered the 7th Heaven Cocktail, which was a twist on southern traditional drink, the Mint Julep. Rick Shew, their representative traded in water for lemonade, and wheat whiskey for honey whiskey. They received at least one reporter’s vote.
The tickets were supposed to be tallied by the end of the night, but an exodus occurred when news of a heavy thunder-storm warning swept through the gallery and sent people rushing to their cars, to beat a possible tornado to their homes.
The following day it was announced via Twitter that Becky Lee and Margaret Holloway of Boulevard Steakhouse’s Martini Lounge won the prize for their WTF Martini, which was a top secret mixture of Hypnotic liqueur, Blue Curacao and Pineapple Juice.
Becky Lee said in this case WTF isn’t an acronym for Internet swearing.
“It’s called What’s This Friday, which is our mystery martini. If we told you what was in it, we’d have to kill you,” joked Lee.
Margaret Holloway joined in to explain further.
“If a person guesses the contents of the Martini, they can go on our Facebook and post their guess. If they get it correct, they get a T-shirt saying something fun,” Holloway said.
Becky Lee said she wasn’t quite sure what she won, because there was no prize for the winner. But the affirmation appeared to suffice.
“The Martini Lounge works very hard to make the best cocktails around, and I take a lot of pride in the products we put out,” Lee said.
The next event The Exchange has planned is called The Manifesto.
“It’s a guy’s guy art show which is scheduled for October,” said Sean Ridenour.
“We’re exhibiting upcycled art which is art made from scrap materials that nobody wants. We’re also going to have outstanding food and live Lucha Libre wrestling,” he said.