All posts by nkendall

Cleveland-born, Purdue-trained, Detroit-toughened engineer and author. I like both of the footballs and when Detroit wins stuff. I swear a lot, I write a lot, and I drink coffee a lot.

The Kit Post – 2020

This is a bit delayed what with so much more Detroit City than we’ve ever had before. This is the sixth Kit Post and it’s the closest to it’s actual year, though I am unsure if Detroit get’s its new kits before the Spring session of NISA or before the premier of our women’s (!!!) team in the summer. Or, alternatively, after the women’s season and before the start of the 2020/21 season of NISA.

If I had to guess, it’d be option number three. Anyway, let’s cut the chaff and get to this, shall we?

For the uninitiated every year after the DCFC season ends, I write up a review of the previous kits (or current as it might very well be) and draw up some potential designs for the upcoming season (hence the title being a year in the future).

The post from previous years can be found here:

2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019


First, for the interested, you can actually see a wiki-fied list of Detroit City’s kits in as many combinations as I could remember. If you know of any other combinations, let me know! Especially if you have photographic evidence. I’d love to build a robust list. Some of the designs are not quite up to snuff, but I’d like to fix that in my free time over the next year.

So we didn’t go all out with our home kits, as I “predicted”, rather quite the opposite – DCFC returned to the dark purply maroon with a simple, clean kit with the dark red used in the piping elements on all three (the socks I’m not 100% about, tbh) pieces of the kit. Initially I think this caused a bit of a stir after a number of years of more complicated kits. The last time we wore plain kits were the much more off-the-shelf Nike kits of 2016.

The away kits were certainly a thing, though. White bodied and red sleeved, they used the red in the piping and after a humorous mistake by Toledo, appeared in the “Kit Man Moi combination” using the red shorts and socks in order to prevent a clash. These were certainly a thing to behold, beautiful even, in their simplicity without just being plain white. I loved the look personally, even though I didn’t get one from the store.

Lastly, this is the first time Detroit City has ever had a true “alternate” kit, and boy were they better than anyone could ever imagine. Pure black with gold piping. What a marvelous look for the club and I’m so happy they got to be used more than once. The boys in rouge looked absolutely stunning in black.

With three solid hits, it’s almost impossible for me to imagine what could be next. And that isn’t just a remark about kits, that’s also a remark about everything. The season was spectacular. Top of the table, Midwest finals, Members Cup champion. Our new Gaffa created a powerful side that played well and looked like a cohesive team, something I think was sorely missing the last few seasons.

But let’s give it a try anyway, shall we?


Anyway, the usual disclaimers before we continue:

  • I don’t work for the DCFC front office
  • The DCFC front office fucks with me
  • Kits shown here are not official direction
  • Logos, league, and sponsors are used without permission
  • Sponsors and league are not official or necessarily endorsed by our front office
  • The reality of 2020 might be very different than what I predict here, I love the challenge regardless

First things first.

Hummel?

Or Adidas?

Obviously for my kits it doesn’t matter, but for the unaware, NISA has signed a preferred supplier deal with Danish kit maker Hummel. This deal, as far as this writer is aware, basically gives teams access to cheaper, customizable kits from a supplier large enough to handle the quantities needed while allowing other teams to choose other suppliers if so desired.

Here’s the thing. I like Adidas, but I also understand that they are expensive and that their recent batch of templates leave a lot to be desired, especially in an era where even most small suppliers offer full sublimation of kits at a fraction of the cost of Adidas’ prices. A savings which can hopefully bring kit costs back to a more reasonable $50 or $60.

Hummel also was a leader in the sport hijab business as the main supplier for the Afghan Women’s NT. We’d be partnered with a company that holds many of our ideals and has partnered with some big names.

I guess what I’m saying is – if DCFC ditches Adidas for Hummel, I won’t lose much sleep over it. And hopefully I can afford more kits, which isn’t that just swell?


Okay, moving on to the part that I’m sure you’re all actually interested in, my 2020 designs for the Detroit City FC kits.


The Home Kit

Despite some earlier comments on thinking of going 90s, I ended up retreating from that pretty quickly. My focus on neotraditional design is pretty incompatible with the variety of design that embodied the 90s in football and despite doing some research, I don’t think it’s an æsthetic I could replicate in the time frame I had set aside for this project.

Here I went with a rather clean design, focusing only on trim and small flourishes. I touched up the collar and cuffs with a dark maroon, small touches of gold. On the left shoulder, a gradient of fleurs de lys come down roughly in line with the crest and are echoed in the socks with a very faint pattern there as well as the two gold stripes.

I like the over-all feel of this kit, though it is not my favorite from the three this year. It’s simple without being plain; the elements like the fleurs and the gold flashes on the neck and cuffs given extra weight from a design that isn’t fighting itself for your attention.


The Away Kit

This was the first kit I finished this year and it’s arguably my favorite. There’s a different sort of feeling when you work on a home kit than an away kit an especially a clash/alternative kit.

When asking for ideas for the home kit, I got some suggestions for sure, but there were definitely some ideas where I thought to myself, “I’d rather not start a riot.” Home kits are sacred territory and making big, uncalled-for changes can get a certain reaction from a fan base.

Away kits, though, have a bit of leeway and I wanted to play with that leeway this year. This idea struck me while doing research on historicalkits.co.uk, Specifically I was looking at Hearts kits and I noticed the black socks with maroon and white hoops on many of their kits back in the teens through 1940s. The idea of combining those with a white and maroon hooped kit was too much to resist, so here we are.


The Clash/Alternative Kit

This final kit was going to be an important piece of the puzzle. Alternate kits are used to fill any gaps between the home and away kits when it comes to color. It is easy to see a situation where the rouge home and the white/rouge away kits are both ruled to be ‘clashing’ with another team’s, for example that’s what happened with the game against Toledo at Keyworth.

I think these pretty much fill the gaps.

It’s sort of a take on the alternates from this year with a pretty obvious tweak. We’ve done gold and white a number of times and it’s not a bad look, but black and gold look so damn good together, and it’d be true even if I wasn’t a Boilermaker. I followed New Balance and went with half-and-half socks, this time with a bit of a chance to transition from one to the other without looking like the sock was accidentally only dipped halfway into the dye. The crest is in alternate colors, this time majority gold with the statue in black.

The sash, probably the most prominent feature here, was actually a late addition, spurred on by the suggestion that the gold felt empty. I do think lighter colors are more at a risk of feeling empty than dark. Instead of fading normally, it actually pixelates out of existence as it goes up to the shoulder, which is what gave me the idea of making the fleurs de lys on the home kit fade out quickly going the opposite way.

They, in a way, echo each other.


So that’s all she wrote, my friends! Another annual Kit Nerd Post come and gone.

As always, I hope everyone enjoyed the read and loves the designs, if you have any comments feel free to reach out via twitter. I’d love to hear your thoughts or any other ideas you might have. If you’re interested in perhaps having me work on some kits for you, you can check out my kit design commission page with details such as pricing and what to expect.

I wish everyone a happy holidays and hope to be post more soon!

Cheers.

Eleventh Warrior Appears

A while ago, I posted a set of eleven kits for the eleven members of the still-to-be-renamed NPSLPro’s Founders Cup, which kicks off in August. The Founder’s Cup, for the uninitiated, is basically a trial run of the NPSLPro before the league actually kicks off and is divided into East and West divisions.

But before even the NPSL amateur season could kick off, there’s already been some changes with that original eleven line-up. Weeks after NISA gained (provisional?) tier 3 status, Cal United tucked and rolled from the group. While nothing official has been confirmed, there have been some rumblings of them and at least one other team some had tagged for NPSLPro-ship are realigning their interests with NISA rather than NPSLPro.

Suddenly, our eleven were down to ten… until a second eleventh appeared on the horizon: Napa Valley 1839 FC.

Napa 1839 is an interesting, if little head-cocking, addition to the line-up. When creating what is essentially a punk-rock soccer league, the wine-mum club seems to stand out a bit, but then again there are already a few clubs that might be wrecking the vibes for some people; Milwaukee and Phoenix especially.

I’ve actually designed kits for Napa in the past on my twitter account, which they kindly responded to. In my previous design, I went with a bottle green/primary, marlot/alternate set up. They actually seemed to take this into consideration and when their second kits were unveiled they were green/primary and a red/white combo for the alternate. So starting with that, I’ve come up with a set to join the other ten (plus one).

Napa Valley 1839 FC

For the home kits, I wanted to stick with the two-tone green combo that’s on Napa’s crest, which is one of my favorite in the NPSL. I know that it’s a little cheesy, but the Napa Valley front office seems to have a good sense of humor about it all, which I can respect. Hopefully they get that my “mummy’s chalkboard art” aesthetic above comes from a place of brotherly love and not malice. The other thing I wanted to do with both the primary and secondary kits was give it a watermark look using a sublimation process – here it’s some grapevine art picked up from Freepik. Accreditation done, the secondary goes to that red/white combo that Napa is already using, and reduces the water marking to just the shorts and the left shoulder, just off the crest.

So that gets us caught back up on the eleven teams in the Founders Cup. Welcome Napa Valley to the family. I look forward to the chance to beat you and then share a lovely Chardonnay.

Kendal Town 3 – Market Drayton Town 2

So, as I type this, my trip to England is coming to a close, but it isn’t quite over yet. I still have a trip down to London tomorrow and Monday (the 4th) the flight back to Detroit. I think back on the last week and a half and I’m exhausted. I wouldn’t’ve done it any different, but it is amazing that I was able to pull it off. Newcastle, Glasgow, Kendal; all absolutely lovely places and I would go back in a heartbeat, especially to just explore or enjoy the countryside or history a little bit more.

It’s been a while since I’ve written, so I’ll back up a bit. On the 28th, I jumped in a train or three and headed from Newcastle, on the east side of the island to Kendal, in the west.

I say good bye to Newcastle central and then headed out on a journey that involved three trains, delays, someone trespassing on the tracks, nearly boarding the wrong train, nearly waiting for the wrong train, then finally getting to the right train. Waiting for 30 minutes in the cold for the last train… which I road for 5 minutes.

But I was in Kendal and I set about exploring the city and the surrounding countryside. I had trouble capturing the whole city from above, but I did what I could by climbing up a tall hill overlooking the city, where the castle is, and doing my best.

The second picture is actually of my hotel from the castle tower. The castle and hill were beautiful, but then I went about exploring the town proper the next day, and found it to be much larger than I expected and much more bustling. 30,000 plus live in the area, much more than I thought.

Most of the city is made of this grey stone, giving Kendal it’s nickname, the Auld Grey Town. But many buildings are rather colorful, like these ones here.

It’s also a town of alleyways and yards in the middle of blocks of buildings. Down one of these alleyways was a little distillery, which of course I popped my head into.

And the city had some old-fashioned public or free houses, including the highly recommended and eclectic Ring O’ Bells, where, if you’re lucky, you get to meet Kendal’s biggest character: Jeff from Swindon.

And yes.

I met Jeff from Swindon/

The next day, today as of writing, was my final match of the trip: Kendal Town FC vs Market Drayton Town FC. Kendal Town is in a bit of a bind. Manager walked with the first team after issues getting paid by the club came to light. There’s a fissure between fans who want the chairman to step down and those that either don’t care or don’t blame him for the issues facing the club. As of writing the current manager might be the one paying the players, and from what I could gather, he wasn’t a manager so much as a wealthy gentleman who fancied himself one. Kendal Town is in the relegation fight, and a relegation at this level of football is basically into obscurity. Every game is vital. Every point is needed.

Luckily, I’m three for three when rooting for the homeside.

This pitch is a bit different from the previous two: tucked away in the hills behind the castle and a graveyard, it’d be easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it.

There’s a bar and a clubhouse overlooking the pitch, which as the game progressed got more and more tempting. The weather was chilly to start, but by the end was bitter and it was pouring rain. I ended up catching a ride home with a friend of a friend.

Supporters had a covered… terrace… of sorts. Covered was all that really mattered, by the end. I actually poked around on the other side where there was more covered seating, but the crowd there was either unengaged, or engaged… to one the other squad’s players.

My view of the pitch:

It was a hard-fought, scrappy game, made so much worse by the worsening conditions. Kendal opened up the scoring, but in the process knocked Market Drayton’s keeper out of the game. After a lengthy wait, one of their defenders donned the keeper kit and play resumed for the first half. By halftime the score was even: one-one.

Kick off for the second half and within 30 seconds it’s 1-2 for Market.

There was a real sense of defeat hanging around, even the fans who still supported the chairman seemed to know Kendal was not doing well. There were several conversations either overheard or participated in on the nature of support and supporting. Kendal was, for a moment, a microcosm of supporter culture throughout the world. Show up to support the lads? Or avoid giving money to a FO that doesn’t care? There’s no easy or right answer there.

Regardless, a defender handled a ball during a goal line scramble and Kendal got awarded the penalty. Fan-favorite Aaron Helliwell lined up, and equalized.

By now, Kendal was playing much better, much more aggressively and Market was started to back down from that challenge. And the rain kept falling.

Finally, on an early cross from just outside the box, Ryan Moore comes flying in and heads it straight past the keeper.

It was a long, long ten minutes plus stoppage in the cold and in the rain, but eventually three whistles came and Kendal Town had three points, three impossible points. And I leave England four for four, perhaps far better than I could’ve ever expected.

Tomorrow I start the journey home. I’m ready to go back home. A cold is setting in, I’m homesick, our cat is probably so pissed off, and I still don’t get to see my Brigid again until the end of the week. Yet, this’ll always have happened. And I will and do remember it fondly.

Until next time, England.

Cheers.

Newcastle 2 – Burnley 0

After the Glasgow trip, I actually took to relaxing for a day. When I originally scheduled the trip, the Burnley game was on Wednesday, but by the time I arrived it had been moved to Tuesday to better accommodate TV broadcasting, which meant folks back home could’ve (and did) watch the game. It also meant that I could write this after the fact instead of burning the midnight oil.

Monday

My day off was mostly spent writing. I recently restarted writing book 4 after months of staring at an incomplete manuscript thinking “this is garbage, I should’ve plotted it out better before putting word to page”. There were three goals that day: get a full English breakfast, go to the distillery, write. I don’t have any pictures of the full English because I was getting the feeling the place I was at was not happy to have me (fancy-smancy), but I did get to the distillery where I managed to complete chapter 1 in a single sitting, which is impressive for me. It was about 40% new stuff, 60% reused, and of the reused there was a decent amount of editing that went into it.

I also grabbed a bottle of gin and some socks for use at DCFC and Harper’s matches:

I also wandered around for a while and checked out the scenery again:

And finally I got dinner at a place where you can find this lovely mural:

I covered the whole “Anarchist Burrito” saga on my twitter. Needless to say, the folks running the place had noooooo idea who the Zapatistas were. But the food was decent, so I might go back, though I am being pressured to go to Greggs as I write this.

Tuesday

Tuesday started with a little bit of writing and a lot of refusing to wake up. I met up with a friend of mine from the States who is studying down in Durham just south of town, and we explored a bit more, stopping at the Strawberry and candy shop not far from the stadium. Then we headed back into town and parted ways so that I could get ready for the game.

After taking a nap and chatting with Brigid a little, I headed back to the Strawberry once more for one final Newcastle pint (I promised myself I’d take a day off drinking on Wednesday) and to soak in the atmosphere one last time.

While I was there I ran into a group from the Toronto-area and we hit it off, then all of us got cozy with some locals who were meeting up with their friend from Burnley, which was a lot of fun. And then, finally, the time came to pack back into St. James’ and enjoy life in the sun.

Or at least a massive array of day-bright lights that fucked with my camera.

I don’t know if I was just better awake this time, but the stadium was much more alive. Burnley is a bit of a boogey team for Newcastle, so there was a feeling that it’d be a bit of a fight. And the game was chippy. Burnley played a hard press most of the game to keep Miggy from fully utilizing his speed. When he could, it was always breaks down the wing, that’d eventually lead to traffic in the middle.

The crowd was much more into it. Chants were loud and often. It was a bit more like the Celtic match, with hits being celebrated as the game got pretty chippy toward the end.

Newcastle scored twice on the far side of the pitch from me before halftime, and the just about came down. During the second half, Burnley seemed to be inching closer and closer to a goal, but luck and Martin Dubravka saved us more times than many of us were comfortable with.

Miggy did have a few runs toward our end, as did Perez and Rondon. Some got tantalizingly close, but bad luck or good pressure kept me from seeing a goal up close.

It was a big win for us, as it pushed up over Burnley on the table and well out of the relegation zone, though the fight isn’t quite over yet. Fulham and Huddersfield are pretty much guaranteed to go down as of writing but only seven points separate Southampton at 18th and Newcastle at 13th. On the flip side, only five points separate Newcastle and Everton at 9th.  So at least the bottom half of the EPL is competitive.

The game ended, some people hung around to watch the monitors in the concorse, but I went to the foot trucks to get another disgustingly amazing steak and onion sandwich, which left me soaked in gravy.

All in all, Newcastle has been a lovely, wonderful city full of some great people. I loved every second of it and will definitely use today (Wednesday) to do a bit more exploring before the next bit of this journey – heading into the Lake District to watch Kendal Town and hopefully give them that Kendall bump I seem to be bringing with me.

As I sit here in my hotel room groggy and hungry (and definitely, probably going to Greggs after this), it’s a good time to think about all of this and try to process it all. But I can’t. I start to and then fade into just how crazy and amazing it all has been. I was really here. I really did see those games. Meet those people. Walk to and from stadium more times then I can count. Hopefully it won’t be twelve years in the making for the next time I get here.

Until then, I’ll miss it.

Celtic 4 – Motherwell 1

Mon the Hoops!

This is coming to you after the fact, because the trip to Glasgow was an all-day affair. So basically what happened was that between the Huddersfield game and the Burnley game I had a two day gap and didn’t just want to sit around for two whole days aimlessly wandering because that would lead me to “aimlessly” wander back to the Strawberry and then drink all day.

So instead I purposefully wandered to Glasgow (known locally, apparently, as “Glesga”) and purposefully wandered into a bar and drank all day until it was time to do something really fun – go to a Celtic FC match, something I had originally planned on doing, but thought might’ve been a bit hard to do.

The day started pretty bright and early with a trip to the train station.

And of course a journey through the beautiful English countryside.

Look at all that majesty, folks. But I’m only kidding. The fog eventually broke up and there were some absolutely beautiful sights. Some I got pictures of, some that were blurry messes. Here’s the town of Alnmouth.

But I found Berwick-upon-Tweed to be absolutely picturesque.

Along the way I had a cuppa and not much else as I watched the scenery go by. Once we crossed into what used to be the “Marches” of southern Scotland it really was like crossing into a new world. The little farms and the grazing sheep gave way almost immediately to rocky hills and towering trees. None of which you could photograph at 70mph, but they were amazing, and I really do wish I could share. Scotland and England are equally beautiful countries for very different reasons.

I made a train change in Edinburgh, a city which I saw, for all intents and purposes, none of. Then another ride to Glasgow on a train I was only 75% sure was going to Glasgow. Luckily it did go to Glasgow. One of the ticket-punchers was amused that I was planning on doing this whole thing as a “round trip”, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that five hours down and five hours back is normal for a soccer fan in the US, and that’s by car, which does make it bother harder in some ways and easier in others.

Eventually I arrived in Glasgow and smartly got off a station early (could’ve probably gotten off earlier than that) which put me closer to an area of the city called “The Barras” which is sort of like Detroit’s Eastern Market, only a bit rougher around the edges and also entirely full of people I can’t understand. It wasn’t a long walk, basically down High Street and then along Gallowgate, and I swear every city here has a street called “Gallowgate”, which I assume comes from the street where the gallows and gates were and fucking hell guys.

I found Glasgow to be a beautiful city in that way that old European cities are. Even when they’re rough and tumble, there’s a history and a story to them that sort of overwhelms the anxiety or apprehension of being far from home and instead forces you to think about how that bar is casually older than your country.

On my way to the barrows I ran into five lads from Kempten, Bavaria wearing the skull and bones of St. Pauli and with a shout of “Forza Sankt Pauli” I had five new friends and they had someone who had a better chance of understanding the local gist, though really what some of the Glaswegians were saying was a total mystery to all of us.

They (and I, actually) had been told to go to a place called “Bar ’67”, which was a great place to start any Celtic match, as it turned out to be as Celtic as a place could be without just being the stadium.

Edit: The Kempten lads were Michael, Helmi, Dino, K, and Schlossi. It was Dino’s 20th or 50th birthday, none of us could figure it out.

The walk to Celtic park from the Barras is about 30mins. I heard conflicting information. Some folks told me that the walk took us through Rangers territory, but some local folks told me that wasn’t true. What we did piece together was that might’ve been the case even five years ago, but things have quickly been changing, with more Celtic bars popping up around Celtic Park and more Rangers bars around Ibrox.

Regardless, it was a long walk that involved buying fries from a  Pizza Hut so two of us could use the bathrooms. But as you make your way eventually the word “Paradise” comes to mind, as the massive stadium rises over a green hill and between the apartments and malls.

And we saw that it was good.

The game was massive, made more so by just how loud and just how into it the entire crowd was. Every hit on Motherwell was celebrated. Every hit on us was booed. When Motherwell manged to claw one back off a scrappy happening in the box, the Celtic fans booed and hissed so loud and so long I honestly thought the ref was going to relent and scratch it from the books.

And when we scored… oh when Celtic scored…

It brings me to tears thinking about it now. It was hugs and high-fives and arms around shoulders as we all cheered and chanted. And to think Celtic weren’t even playing their ‘A’ squad, but to these guys it didn’t matter. Celtic were playing and Celtic is Celtic, whether first, second, or third line.

I was planning on meeting back up with the Kempten crew, but I realized too late that if I didn’t take the next train to Edinburgh, I wouldn’t be catching a train to Newcastle. So I popped back into that closer station, skipping the one I was supposed to use, and headed back. Only to find that the usual train to Newcastle had been changed out for a different one. Luckily I figured out which was which and spread the word to some other Celtic fans who were headed back along the same way as me. The platform manager kept trying to explain and finally I had to say “I don’t care where it’s going, so long as I end up in Newcastle.” The Celtic fans headed to Berwick had a laugh too, we were all tired and drunk and just wanted to know we’d be home.

Actually, when they got off, one recognized me through the window and gave a wave. Because so far, football has done nothing but make me friends wherever I go here.

And I think that’s pretty amazing.

Newcastle 2 – Huddersfield 0

HOWAY!

I don’t know how but as I write this it’s 6:00pm Newcastle time, I’ve had more pints than I can count, and mostly of those were free… and I find the more pints I have the more of a Geordie accent I pick up.

Let’s start from the beginning.

9:50am Feb 21, 2019 I ditched work to make a delivery at Roush, By 10:15 I was on the road back home to shower, change, then relax before heading to the airport. Flight starts bumpy over Lake Eire and again rough as we head out over the Atlantic, but other than that it was pretty smooth and I think over the 7 hours I got about 3 or 4 hours of sleep, non of it continuous.

As we approached London, there was no way of telling how high we were as the whole area was buried under fog:

This photo was taken at 1500~2000 feet:

If you look carefully, there are towers poking out of the “clouds”.

After landing in Heathrow I took the Tube 1.5 hours to King’s Cross, and then the train another 2.5 hours to Newcastle. Along the way my phone died, but not before I snapped this:

Which I grabbed at 9:30am, giving the poor girl working the trolley a laugh.

Eventually I made it to Newcastle proper, dropped my bags off at the hotel while they made up my room, and explored the city, including heading up to the stadium to grab my tickets from the box office. While I was up there I stopped at the Strawberry, the pub across the street from the stadium and the Irish Center (for some help with the Celtic game).

The next day (today as of writing) I had to recreate all that, starting with my base of operations until I head into the Lake District:

Snagged one of these from the Strawberry:

British bathroom light switches are on the outside and I forget every time:

View round the corner from my hotel:

The Chinese gate on the entrance to Chinatown and toward St. James’ Gate:

Some shots of the stadium:

Sir Bobby:

Alan Shearer:

And of course the Strawberry:

I got adopted by some locals and headed over to the Nine, the bar at the stadium proper:

And after a pint there I headed to my seat and holy hell was it a place and a half:

It was about this time that the realization of over a decade of being a Newcastle supporter was coming to life. I sort of broke down at the sight of it all.

It’s kinda of hard to describe, and I’ll probably talk about it more for game #2, but it was just a lot to take in all of a sudden.

Like seriously:

That red card:

Goal #2:

Do you think I’ll be able to make it back?

I did manage to grab some stadium grub:

Tomorrow I’m headed to “Glasga” to watch Celtic, and while I’m not certain I’ll be able to do a that-day update, I will certainly get something posted on Monday!

Cheers everyone.

The Founders Cup – Eleven Warriors Assemble

Happy Holidays, everyone.

I hope everyone has been enjoying at least a few days off, or if you haven’t, that your days have been slow enough to be at least a little regenerative.

Been a pretty low-key vacation time for me. Writing has been put on a back-burner for a while as I recover my creative reserves and what better way to recover one’s creative reserves than other creative projects you’ve been knocking around in the noggin for a month or so?

Not long ago, Detroit City and ten other clubs announced the long-anticipated NPSL Founders Cup. These eleven clubs have elected to go pro for a bit of a pace lap before a fuller professional league kicks off in the 2020 season. The list of clubs included some no-duh clubs like Cosmos, Detroit City, and Chattanooga as well as some surprises like Albion SC, Torrent, and Miami United. I was actually surprised at some missing names, but they might be aiming more at 2020 than 2019.

So eleven teams total, split into East (6) and West (5) divisions. As far as I am aware right now they will only play within their group with no idea if there will be a EvW Champion match.

What better way to keep people going in these long dark days while we wait for some announcement than to make some unofficial home/away kits for all eleven teams?

None.

None ways.

So here we go folks, strap in!

NPSL Founders Cup – EAST

Chattanooga Football Club

For our friends in Tennessee, I went with a pretty standard home kit, focusing on the dark/light contrast in the blue of their crest. I know in the past they’ve had some interesting takes on these, but I wanted to come back to basics for at least a season. For their aways, I looked at some recent kits they’ve used and went with a contrasting white/yellow get-up with a full collar. The small touch of sky blue in the collar works well breaking up the top of the kit.

Detroit City Football Club

I know that I already did Detroit City recently, but I am always excited to give it another shot. I spoke a bit with the FO about next season’s kits, and I’ll keep it under wraps, mostly because you all know how much they love fucking with me.

Mr. Wright, if you’re reading. Here. Order these.

Anyway, for the homes I went a little out of the usual comfort zone for a plain rouge kit with darker accents, framed in gold. Generally DCFC home kits are pure rouge with two-tone touches. The away kit is white with some rouge touches to keep it from falling into an overly plain hell. The pinstriping is a nice touch, I think, and creates a look that is pretty unique in our history.

Miami Football Club

Miami FC are an interesting kit team because their home kit colors aren’t the same shades as their crest. It creates a unique look with a lot of possible variations. In the past they’ve used orange socks, but here I went with sky blue and orange stripes. The away kit, though, does take on the crest colors with only a tiny touch of the sky blue in the pipe cuffing of the sleeves.

Miami United Football Club

Miami United FC was one of those clubs that surprised me in the announcements, however I love working with their neon color scheme which is one of my favorites in soccer anywhere. I actually toned it down from their current rugby-styled tri-color hoops, which are chef kiss amazing. Here I tried out my new henley template and tried to keep them as far from the other Miami in look as I possibly could. Home went high-contrast, and the away took on a traditional European look that shouldn’t be unfamiliar if you read this year’s kit day post.

Milwaukee Torrent

Milwaukee Torrent was another name that surprised me when I read it. Having traveled there two seasons ago, I wasn’t impressed with the turnout. The bar literally across the street hadn’t even heard of them, so… ramp up the marketing. Torrent have a very interesting silver and blue color scheme, and in 2018 not only did they use a half-and-half top, but half-and-half pants as well! Here I went with another rare look in the US: asymetrical stripes, then for home and away I stuck with the pattern but swapped the colors around. Changing out the blue for the white (instead of just swapping white for black) gives enough contrast to prevent clashing.

New York Cosmos

The Cosmos (long may they be fucked), are certainly the most storied of the clubs in the Founders Cup. I believe they’ve actually already unveiled their kits, but I hadn’t actually been paying much attention. As far as I am aware, both Inaria and myself came to the same conclusion – there’s too much blue in the NPSL Founders Cup. Instead of the normal blue, I went with green for the home kits, based on a design I did quite a while ago for the “Green Mountain Boys” of Vermont plus a small navy detail so it wasn’t devoid of navy. The aways are tied to the home with the navy collar, but otherwise are a simple top/shorts+socks contrast game.

NPSL Founders Cup – WEST

Albion Soccer Club San Diego

I’ve actually interacted with Albion before on twitter, when I remarked that their grey-colored crest was very interesting, and tried to design some kits around that color scheme. Their twitter account reached out to tell me that they actually had a traditional look that they used and I checked it out. Despite the chance for an interesting silver kit, I stuck with what I’ve seen of theirs so far. The home kits are red and white hoops paired with blue, which for the away kits I went with a Rangers-esque look, broken up with some red and white on the chest.

 California Football Club

This was pretty hard, to be honest. Cal FC doesn’t have a crest, apparently. Or they really are going to go with the California flag with a soccer ball photoshopped onto it. I didn’t use that “crest” here. It was… well… it was a flag with a soccer ball shopped onto it. And the only thing I saw for them was a blue kit in their wikipedia page. So… I went with blue-white scheme, because there isn’t enough blue in the NPSL Founders Cup. For the aways I went with broken red hoops on white, with red socks as a nod back to the California flag.

California United Strikers Football Club

I have to admit that, like Miami United, California United’s neon-based color scheme rubs me in all the right ways. Not sure what everyone else thinks, but I love it. For the home kits I went white. White is a color that I often avoid when designing home kits, but I often use in away kits. I wanted to change that with a mostly white kit that relies on the cyan and black as flavor enhancers. The away kits, though, are certainly one that you’d expect from me. I didn’t want to copy the Miami United “color on black”, and instead went “black on color”.

Football Club Arizona

I’m really happy to hear that we have an Arizona team in the lineup as that might give a good reason to take Brigid out to her parent’s place and then for Ron and I to watch some soccer again. For their kits, I wanted to do two totally different co-equal “home” kits. First was FC Arizona’s more traditional-looking red and white kits, which is a favorite combo of mine. I wouldn’t want to take that away. Then, for the other kit, I wanted to go to the complete other end of the spectrum and do a busier kit in the modern sensibility. Gold-Red-Navy is a great combination, and given that Arizona’s flag is just that, why not translate it into a kit?

Oakland Roots Soccer Club

When the Oakland Roots first unveiled their crest on twitter it was met with equal parts of “What? No…” and “What? Yaaas.” I love it, personally. It isn’t a crest I would design or even want to design, but it’s like the DCFC crest of the Madison pink flamingo crest – it isn’t about working for everyone, it’s about working for the community around it. And that’s fantastic. I wanted to lean into that wild look for the home kit. I split the tree top and bottom and spread it out so the roots and their colors could rule over the chest and shoulders. Then the rest of the kit was nothing but color. For the away kits I wanted to focus on the roots themselves, in black, then combined that with touches of red.

So that wraps up all eleven teams in the NPSL Pro Founders Cup. There is a lot of great stuff to work with here, which is great. Rumor has it that the Nola Jesters will be joining too, adding a third neon-schemed team to the mix, so I am excited for that. Plus Cleveland SC and FC Buffalo rumored as well could mean the return of the Rust Belt Derby.

I’m excited for what the future offers here, there is a lot of “pros” to our punk-rock pro-league, but some cons as well. We face an uphill road, but I think Detroit City remains as level-headed as ever and we are in good company. This will be one of the most critical “fronts” in the Soccer Warz™, so regardless of where you are or who you root for, you’ll want to at least keep up-to-date on the Founders Cup in specific and the NPSL in general.

I hope you all enjoyed my designs and have a great rest of 2018. It’s been a tough year, but there’s a lot to look forward to in 2019.

Cheers, everyone!

Update 29th of December: Now with 100% less phallic imagery.

Football from Scratch

In a “two birds, one stone” sort of situation, celebrating both my thirtieth birthday and HAFC’s 12-2 victory late on Tuesday night, I wanted to write a bit about the genesis of the club from the perspective of the guy who’s almost really only done marketing/branding/kit work (which shouldn’t really be shocking to any of you).

So what is Harper’s Athletic Football Club (usually just “Harper’s” or more rarely “HAFC”)?

Harper’s is a co-ed, beer-league indoor/outdoor football (soccer) team that is comprised of about equal parts DCFC fanatics and not, who started off life as Whiskey in the Jar in the DCFL outdoor summer league which plays at historic Fort Wayne south of downtown.

I joined on the urging of several friends as a way to get more soccer in my life, actually start playing sports competitively, and as a way of staying healthy.

Between the summer and fall seasons there was a longer-than-usual break as Detroit City prepared to open the Fieldhouse (and then later, the Clubhouse). This would move DCFL indoors to the renovated facility. At this point the captain of Whiskey decided to look into a few new potential sponsors and a rebranding.

The Crest and “Harper’s” AFC

Being a sort-of, almost sports branding person, I basically took this as a chance to have a ton of fun and learn a lot about running the image of a team. I set out chasing down one potential sponsor which will pop up a lot in the following images. But despite that, it was pretty quick how we moved from them once another sponsor popped up.

The decisions between sponsors is a story that doesn’t necessarily belong here, or really anywhere. Both are fantastic. Both owners were generous and forward. Both are worth your patronage.

Originally, and in the spirit of the bar league, we were going to take the name of the bar that sponsored us, but with the coming Fieldhouse (and the attached bar, the Clubhouse) we knew that there might be multiple sponsors in our future. At that point was the genesis of a club with an actual name and thus a real identity.

The first mock up was pretty basic, a bumper filled with red beer with the name of a bar over it, here Little Tony’s, which is a favorite hang out of Brigid and me.

This is a prototype image, because I had never bought the actual image IIRC. Or if I did, I didn’t use it later. It might’ve actually been free, now that I’m thinking about it.

Anyway, it was eventually upgraded to this:

Which is a much better-looking glass and I most certainly have the right license too!

The reason for a red beer instead of more traditional black or yellow ones actually has to do with the kits, but it starts here with Little Tony’s. This bar is in an offset building on Mack Avenue that is green and black:

(Taken from the Little Tony’s Facebook)

I knew I wanted to use green and black as two of the primary colors of the club, and if they were going to be the primary colors, it was likely that the crest would involve both. Now, I could’ve gone with a green crest and a black beer, but I already had a sort of idea in mind so what I needed was contrast. The cream contrasted the black, and so to contrast the green I went with red.

So I threw together a very Germanic or even Celtic-inspired crest with an art deco font I had laying around (and again – the license to). I needed a sort of “name” to fit in there and rather than using Lorem Ipsum, mostly jokingly threw on the name of the other avenue I live near – Harper.

For those of you know don’t know, I live between Mack and Harper avenues literally on the line of Grosse Pointe Woods and Harper Woods. Many of the bigger, better teams in the DCFL (which play in the much more competitive “Neighborhoods” league) use the names of local neighborhoods. Harper Woods is oft forgotten, so eh?

I fully expected the name to be questioned and changed pretty quick to another part of Detroit proper or even just to something a bit more generic. To my surprise it stuck, which maybe I shouldn’t’ve been because it does roll off the tongue pretty well and I love that it has a human quality to it without also being easily gendered.

Plus my phone puts “Harper’s Ferry” and “Harper’s AFC” next to each other so… you know… fight the power.

“Athletic Football Club” also came from a desire to be outside the norm. “Football Club” is much more common, especially here in the States. Really it’s a tiny tweak, but it has some good consequences. It differentiates us and it the abbreviation is much more aesthetically pleasing to me: HAFC vs HFC. HAFC is a sports team, HFC is a TV channel that plays in the background of the dentist’s office.

The Folks in Hoops

This is probably the part everyone is waiting for. Obviously one of the things that appealed the most to me was being able to design distinct, perhaps even iconic kits for HAFC and then getting to actually make them. The thought of working with suppliers and designers, at the time, was super exciting. And to an extent, it still is, but it is much more… mundane? Mundane.

The first thing I did was sit down and collect my thoughts and asked a vital question. What makes a kit iconic?

What makes a kit that after hundreds of years of iteration can be put next to the first one and you go “oh yeah, I see that”. And really, what I found, is that it is a combination of sticking to your colors, sticking to a simple design that offers room for experimentation without losing the focus.

So the next question was, what are some iconic kits?

Newcastle. Celtic. Manchester United. Chelsea. Inter Milan. Barcelona.

This list could go on forever. But basic colors. Basic designs. Focus. A plain shirt is a design. It’s an aesthetic as much as any other decision. Hoops vs stripes. What color are your shorts? Your socks? Those can be easy to forget when doing this. Shorts and socks provide either more room for your color of choice, like with Liverpool. Or can provide contrast, like Manchester City.

If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend Historical Kits. which is a lovely archive of hundreds if not thousands of kits spanning more than 100 years of football history in England and Scotland. It’s an easy way to see (and also get lost in) the design of football kits.

But if you’ve been on this site even just once or paid attention to that crest I posted, you probably know where this is going – we’re going to hoops.

The crest and the kit were being iterated at the same time, but the hoops were first on the kit and then migrated to the crest to solidify the relationship, it’s also a bit of a nod to my favorite English team – Newcastle United, who have their stripes on their crest. I did think about vertical stripes, but the hoops are so much… better? Better is the wrong word, but it works here.

One club in particular I had in mind when picking colors and designs was Plymouth Argyle, a team I know literally nothing about other than over the last few years they’ve had several kits I nearly bought just to have lying around. Their colors are also include a beautiful shade of green and black and boy have they had some amazing kits:

Plymouth Argyle's most recent home kits

(Image taken from PlymouthLive)

Their 2018/19 kit especially (far left above) is so gloriously fantastic that I might still buy one just to have. If only their season was going as well as those kits. They’d be in the PL before Christmas.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I hadn’t even picked colors yet. Whiskey in the Jar (the team, not the bar) wore sky blue kits.

The shorts and socks were a mish-mash as only tops were made and I actually never even had one as I wore a sky blue Adidas training top. Originally I considered keeping to the sky blue and potentially doing hoops or stripes with that. But since we were on the prowl for a new sponsor, the idea to grab new colors was too strong and the green/black color combo is a favorite of mine, one that I’ve used a number of times in mock ups and world building scenarios.

This is a kit I designed as part of a failed project mentioned several times in the blog. You can tell it was pretty early in my ‘career’ as it uses the 3/4ers “hero” pose and things don’t line up as neatly or make much sense. Like the logo on the side of the shorts. The first iteration of the Harper’s kits was basically this translated to the front view:

I wanted to emphasize green with the hoops, rather than black, so instead of starting and ending with black, I started and ended with green. The sleeves line up with the shirt only in opposite colors, which gives it a cool effect, I think. Then, stealing directly from Plymouth, I threw on that sexy, sexy white collar. You can see the first iteration logo here. I think it mostly works, but it doesn’t have the charm of the circular ones to come.

Still with the older logo (the second iteration of the logo was something that really only lasted a day or two before being replaced, so it didn’t really end up on any mockups), I had a sort of serendipitous moment when I colored the sleeves white and liked the look of it so much I took another step back to let it soak in. That’s when I came up with this crazy idea – what if the top of the kits were white?

I applied a pattern I had laying around from another project (or recreated it) and got that rounded effect on top.

Side note – if you’ve ever worked with me and wonder why I can finish shit so quickly, it’s because A) I’m very familiar with my tools (I’ve been using PS since I was like 14), B) I have a very extensive knowledge of kits because there are great people like Högs, Eric, Roger, and others who always give me great tips when stuff pops up and C) I’ve got a very large portfolio made almost entirely of random ideas that I can quickly grab pieces off of. And also, when you pay for “15 minutes of work” you’re actually paying for 15 minutes of my time and all of the above. This shouldn’t need to be explained, but there’s a trend of devaluing artists and designers… but not the work they produce? Which is weird.

Anyway.

So, I get the designs all together (there is a corresponding away kit that has not and will not be made and isn’t being discussed here) and I send them over to our captain for review.

The review portion can always be nerve-wracking, even in situations where I maintain a large amount of control like this. It often leads to sitting next to gmail and refreshing.

What came from the review was: no collar, different sponsor. Plus at the time we were made aware that the custom socks could not be made, so we had to choose from some pre-made ones, we chose black.

I have one final check that I often like to do when working on more traditional designs like the one above. I open up my sandbox on wikipedia and I try to recreate the kit using only the default patterns for the kit and see if it captures the spirit of the design. Not necessarily 99% of it, or even really 90%. But the closer, the better.

It worked fantastically.

So there it is. The Harper’s AFC kit in all it’s finished glory. I’ve actually learned a lot about everything working on these. Including how to get those hooped socks, which some of us now have! There is a few things I’d improve with the finished (i.e. worn product) but for the most part they are amazing and I’m please to have worked on them.

We’re already looking into next year’s kits and we have some sexy new away kits on the wings ready to drop in the next few weeks.

Cheers, everyone!

Month of Exhaustion, Quarter of Death

Tomorrow is the end of what has probably been the most stressful and seemingly unproductive months in my life since graduating from Purdue at the ass-end of 2011. I looked at my calendar a few days ago and nearly had an anxiety attack just thinking of all the stuff I had done. Not “to do”, already done and it still hung over me like black storm clouds.

Social life has been busy. Work has been overloading. And it all seemed to culminate in the realization it had been in a month that had blow by so quickly that I’m still dealing with the headaches.

In the last week my social media presence has dropped nearly to zero. There was literally nothing I felt like doing but just screaming about whatever thing, trivial or not, was on my case at the time, which was usually “all things”.

As we fade into October, a month I swore started today, things are at least looking up for the time being.

The Harper’s AFC season starts on Tuesday and while it’s one of those things that puts a lot of boxes on my calendar they are usually moments of release. As bad as I am at soccer, it’s fun and just the pure act of running around with a bit of purpose invigorates me somewhat. Doing so in my lovely kits more so.

I’ve also got a lovely wedding to attend to, which means some parties and social gatherings, again, another way for me to decompress.

But the biggest drag in my life recently has been the difficulty in writing I’ve been dealing with lately. The stress has been eating away my time and my time needed to be spent writing and not stressing. By September 30th, I wanted to have written 40,000 words in the final book in my quartet. I am currently sitting at 33,500, which is far too short.

It’s not nothing, but I have schedules because I treat myself as a professional here and not keeping to schedules is depressing.

The stress has also torn down my drive for writing moving into the near future. Generally, every year I do what’s called “the quarter of death”, it’s like NaNoWriMo, but it’s daily goal is slightly lower (1,330 vs 1,667 words) and its duration much longer (92 vs 30  days). In the end the intended word goal is much, much higher (roughly 122,000 vs 50,000).

Last year I was able to do this, though a great lead was eaten away by a huge drop in work as I dealt with writer’s block and depression. But the goal was accomplished and the book was finished.

This year I’m taking the precaution of lowering the daily word goal to 760.

Precaution?

Because if I don’t meet word goals, I’ll start to second-guess myself. Is it purely motivational mumbo-jumbo? Yes. Does it help my anxiety? Yes. Am I really aiming for 1,330 anyway? Also yes. My hope is to keep to the main goal but seeing little boxes on an excel sheet change to green will help.

And it’s about self care as I get ready to jump over the ledge into this year’s quarter of death.

At the 760 rate and including a few extra days in January, I’ll write a minimum of 72,960 words. It’s far, far short of what I need to finish book four, and that has me worried, because I don’t want to spend too much time in 2019 writing it. I want to get to editing the series and getting it published, finally.

I’m really hoping that the next three months pick up, and I can get back to full writing strength, but there would be something storybook by finishing my series sitting in Newcastle or Kendal at the end of February.

I said I’d get an update here up before the end of the month and the start of the QoD, I managed that. And that’s what I need right now.

Small victories.

You Must First Create the Universe

It’s almost a throw-away line, though now widely quoted and oft recalled. In the original Cosmos, hosted by Carl Sagan, a scene begins with a waiter walking through an empty restaurant with an apple pie, placing it in from of Mr. Sagan who, in his usual calm, paced tone sets the scene.

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

And so it is with many things.

What constitutes “from scratch” differs from person to person, though some thing are taken from granted. Baking a pie from scratch does not – for the most part – first start with inventing the universe, but rather with rolling some dough. It does not, however, start with buying a pre-made pie crust, though in the grander scheme of things is there really that much of a difference?

The 2018 hobby de jure that I’ve adopted is cocktail culture, preparing and inventing cocktails for my own enjoyment out of a basement-based fridge. If you frequent my twitter you’ve probably seen threads on making the Trinidad Sour, the Bijou, and the Last Word (among others).

The perhaps my favorite cocktail, and the favorite of my lovely Brigid, is a simple martini. I usually like mine dry with a dash of absinthe and garnished with a lemon peel.

I love the combination of gin and absinthe enough to have commissioned a bit of artwork of it for my calf.

So, anyway, I’m rambling.

This is going to be be a cocktail thread. I am going to make a cocktail for you and I’m going to teach you, step by step how to make it. It’s got a lot of ingredients, it’s got a lot of steps, and you will need some specialized equipment.

Because I am going to make a martini, as legally as I possibly can… from scratch.

And to make a martini from scratch, you must first invent vermouth.

VERMOUTH

I chose to start with vermouth because for many folks vermouth is a secondary ingredient that can, callously, be tossed away without a second thought. There is a long-standing series of jokes that a martini is a glass of gin served with a bow to France,  or on a postcard from Italy, but I don’t necessarily subscribe to that line of thinking.

A martini, in short, is a cocktail made primarily from two ingredients: gin and vermouth. The balance between those two partners it what gives it the majority of its characteristic. From “perfect” (2:1 gin to vermouth ratio) to dry (3,4,5:1) to very dry (10+:1) Other things can be added to it, but it’s got to be both.

Aside, though you use “dry” vermouth, a “dry” martini means more gin, not more vermouth (which makes it “wetter”, or sweeter). This goes back to when “dry” gin (as compared to what is now known as “Old Tom” gin) was new and it needed to be ordered specifically.

Again, I digress.

Vermouth is a herbal wine that includes wormwood, in fact the name “vermouth” comes from the French spelling of the German word for wormwood. Most recipes I’ve seen call for the addition of sherry as well as some other herbal components to be steeped into the wine after it’s made.

So my thought is… I can make wine. I’ve made plenty of wine. And wine is legal to make in my basement. So I’m going to make a crazy Michigan Vermouth from apples, cherries, cherry pits, sugar, and honey.

First order of business was dice up apples and pit the cherries.

Apples getting diced.

I wanted to keep the cherry pits because they impart their own flavors, but I wanted them separate so I could deal with them separately.

So then I threw those into some steeping bags and threw the bags into a 2-gallon plastic bucket.

Next it was time to pix the additives for wine, namely tannin and pectic enzyme into 2.5 quarts of nearly boiling water. I also used this to dissolve the sugar and the honey.

In a mortar and pestle I crushed two campden  tablets (to kill any natural yeasts and bugs that might be on the fruit) and the yeast nutrient.

The near-boiling mixture is dumped over the fruit, and the nutrient/campden mixture is poured and stirred in as well.

The campden tablets take a day to do their work, so the bucket is left covered in my wine cellar overnight for the yeast the next day.

The next day, soon as I got home from work, I pitched the yeast and got a blow-off installed.

First I proofed the yeast for a bit, basically mixed it into some warm water to wake them up. I’m using my favorite: champagne yeast, because it ferments dry and I can always add sweetness back. But in this case I really am interested in complete dryness here.

Pitched it into the bucket and gave it a good stir. The red from the cherries is already really starting to come out.

And it goes back into the spider-filled hole that is my cellar.

NINE DAYS PASS

Okay, so the glory of wine/vermouth making is that there’s a lot of sitting around a doing nothing. Generally I usually stick to the rule of thumb that you should leave the wine in the first fermenter for about a week. This meant probably racking it over on a Monday, but Monday I didn’t feel well and literally went to bed around 4pm and slept until dinner at 6pm, then slept on-and-off for another four hours before dragging myself to bed where I slept soundly until work at 5am.

Tuesday was the last game of the 2018 Detroit City campaign so that wasn’t going to work. But Wednesday? Wednesday is the day I work from home so after running an errand or two I returned to rack the wine over.

So I moved my equipment up from the spider cave up to the kitchen and then brought up the wine and the degas bottle. The fermentation had been extremely vigorous and spent yeast lined the bucket and the lid. There was a small amount of lees in the degas tube, but not much and none in the bottle, which was good. I was hoping to get two-ish gallons out of this batch, which is twice what I normally make.

First step, check the wine and see if it went bad.

That color. Absolutely gorgeous. A bit strange for dry vermouth, but that’s the fun of making it yourself. Plus, as I was telling Brigid, this will help with the color of the compound gin, which is usually a pale yellow/brown.

You can see here that the color had been entirely sucked out of the cherries. I also removed the pits, not pictured here as I had them in a disposable bag that went straight into the trash. This bag is reusable so it got cleaned out.

And there’s the wine! Excluding the bit lost to the siphon, I got 1.5 gallons, so I am going to cut it with water to get an even 2. Wine I make tends to be super alcoholic anyway, so that’s not a huge concern. Even cut it’s probably at least 12% by volume. I don’t really take the readings and stuff because my hydrometer was shattered in the move and I am too cheap to replace it. Plus I don’t really care that much, I’m more worried about taste and I tend to ferment dry and then cut/sweeten at the end as needed.

Is that the right way? Probably not.

Do I care? Absolutely not.

Here’s the actual racking in progress.

The fall from wine is called “lees”, a mixture of fruit and mostly dead yeast. These yeasty fellows died so that we might drink. Tonight I raise a zero-calorie sparkling water to them. Santé!

And two happy jugs with a gallon of wine each. My plan is to bottle and only turn maybe a liter and a half (two bottles) into vermouth, which will involve a secondary period of soaking with some botanicals.

Botanicals, for those not into drinks like gin, absinthe, and vermouth among others, are the selected herbs, spices, and other organic additives that are used to give those drinks their particular flavors. Some drinks are strongly defined by their botanicals: like gin with juniper (and coriander seed), absinthe with anise and wormwood, vermouth with wormwood as well. Some drinks are absolutely crazy with their botanicals, like chartreuse (which uses 110+ last I checked) and you can find some absolutely amazing additions like I have a gin, Terrior by St. George Spirits, which uses Douglas Fir among other botanicals native to California.

The last thing I did  before returning the wine to its slumber in the spider pit was take a bit of a taste test. It was good. Not the best I’ve made, but it was tart and light and crisp, which was nice. Obviously the apple and cherries were there, which was good, I was afraid I might’ve not added enough. Also very yeasty, as to be expected. With all that done, the wine will be allowed to rest for at least a week, probably a week and a half so that I could do the next racking on a weekend.

Ten…ish Days Pass

So I didn’t really keep track of time, instead I found some free time during an otherwise rather busy Sunday which also involved cooking ribs and making pasta salad and BBQ sauce to move over the two gallons of wine I had downstairs.

Pretty quick after moving the jugs into the basement, I had noticed a pretty strong lees fall and that the wine was practically clear already, almost ready to stabilize and bottle, even though it had only been three weeks or so. And you can’t argue with the results.

There’s about an inch or more of lees at the bottom and I’m going to be careful not to suck too much of that up when I make the transfer. Once again, let us raise a glass to the yeast that dies so we might drink. Salute!

It was a pretty quick day. I did take another taste of the wine. It is very, very light. Just a hint of apples and cherries. I suspect that the vermouth is going to be very heavy on the botanicals, but we shall see. The wormwood and gentian root have already arrived and everything else I can grab from Kroger or the cabinets. Currently I am waiting on a botanical for the gin, rose hips, which had originally arrived in pill form.

So apparently that’s a thing. Thanks online herb shop.

Two. Weeks. Later

So, since I have everything in, including another last second order from the online herb shops, I’ve decided to make my vermouth at the next racking, which I think was on day thirty-four, but really I’ve lost count and care at this point. Also this is being written on the final day and I’m starting to get sick and the next section (“GIN”) is a huge step back in time for me but is more or less a straight narrative for all of you.

So here’s our botanicals for the vermouth: wormwood, gentian root, sage, cardamon pods, coriander seed, chamomile flowers, cinnamon sticks, half a vanilla bean, the rind of a lemon, and the rind of an orange.

Here it all is as a tea-like mixture. I have to admit the chamomile bag is great just to open and stick your face into. I’ve really enjoyed that part of this whole experience: smelling and trying all these botanicals in the raw forms and then as a drink.

I put the loose botanicals in tea bags and then pour 1500ml of my wife, freshly racked over them. I’ve also added stabilizer to the mix to prevent the yeast from reawakening with the addition of a bit more sugar. As you can see here, the tea bags are floating, which is a bit of a problem. After some attempts to push the air bubbles out of them, I give up and tie them to a spoon and throw that in there too. Fuck it.

For those of you following along on twitter, this is when I made my Fuckitmosa, using the remains of the lemon and the orange. That was fucking amazing and temporarily held my cold at bay. I then took the mixture down into the spider den to await its fate.

Two. More. Days. Pass.

It is now day thirty-six or so.

I’m tired. I’m definitely getting sick. I’m over-caffeinated. And I’m tired.

Yes, I know I literally just wrote that bit above, but I’m also hungry and that’s exacerbating the whole problem. Also I just drank raw, warm vermouth so… you know… spoilers.

Here is everything we need to finish up, including a bottle of extra dry sherry, which is going to help fortify the vermouth. In this picture I’ve naively believed I’d be able to use a coffee filter to filter this. In time, I will be proven a fool.

This is going abysmally slow and I have to hold it.

Just dumped it into the bowl.

Then ran it through the brita. Not sure why I didn’t just do this to start, but again: hungry, tired, sick.

And there we go! The vermouth is done! I’ve corked one bottle and the other I’ve just stuck a stopper in because I’m going to pop it in the fridge and later tonight I’m going to finally have my fucking martini.

But first I’m going to try the vermouth raw. The color is very interesting, and though the whole thing started red, it’s a pale gold here. And the nose is really, really full of cinnamon and chamomile, but the taste is very, very herbal. I don’t think Brigid is going to ever drink that straight again, and honestly, I might not either.

I’ve been told sweet vermouth is good on the rocks with some soda water or even just as-is, but this? This might need a little something to cut the flavor. But it’s not bad, just strong.

GIN

Gin is a deceptively simple and beautiful drink. I was on the gin subreddit recently talking about what botanicals we liked in gin and the conclusion of my response was this:

I like being surprised with something new or unexpected, which I think is why I love botanical-based spirits like gin, vermouth, chartreuse, and absinthe so much. There’s a piece of the maker’s soul in there. They chose these botanicals over all others to give me a little taste into their minds.

The booze fridge in my basement is always full but the vast majority of it is gin. Gin gin gin-gin-gin.  Piney gin. Citrusy gin. VERY piney gin. Peppery gin. Detroit gins. London gins. Dry. Old Tom. Fruity gin. American, British, German… you name it, it’s probably there.

And everything that isn’t gin can probably be mixed with gin some way to make something better.

So I really considered what I wanted out of this gin. I had already done the compound process to mixed success. The flavors, while there, were very muted and it tasted, even when served plain, very watered down. I knew I needed to up the ante.

So up it I did.

This gin is a very floral gin. For one liter of vodka the botanicals were:

  • 45g juniper
  • 15g coriander seed
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 6 pepper corns
  • 6g fennel
  • 10g lavender flowers
  • 15g rose buds
  • 20g rose hips
  • 3g lime peel
  • 8g lemon peel

The final ingredient, the rose hips which had originally been delivered in pill form, arrived on day 25 and I ran out and bought a liter of vodka soon after with Brigid.

Basically you weigh out and pour each botanical into a container and then add vodka. I also strain the vodka because I hate how it tastes.

And then you basically steep the botanicals in the vodka like you’re making a very slow, very boozy room-temp tea. This is called a compound gin, because the botanicals were not distilled with the alcohol. Distilling is illegal without a permit in the US because, among other things, it’s dangerous and can one can potentially  produce poisonous drinks by bottling the pure methyl alcohol that comes out at the start of the distilling process.

I have been told that the above is incorrect – that a small still would not create the pressures needed to explode and assuming one began your gin with a pre-distilled grain alcohol, there would (for obvious reasons) not be any methyl alcohol. 

Compound gins are far easier to make, and while they might have an ugly brown color, instead of crystal clear, they are absolutely delicious and you can make smaller batches to experiment with your favorite botanicals.

So after adding the first day’s botanicals, I put the gin in the basement next to it’s eventual partner in boozy crime, where it’ll sit (with an occasional shake) for two days. After those two days you have what appears to be a tea and smells like all hell.

What I do is remove the botanicals by running it through a strainer in a bowl, give it a taste, then run it through the filter, give it a taste, and repeat as necessary. Sometimes it is helpful to remove botanicals at day one and and add fresh ones, but this one I let sit for the two days. And the initial nose is full of flowers. It’s amazing.

The first taste was heavy on the vodka, and gritty. Both of these are easily removed by the brita.

So that’s not the gin you’re used to – clear as day, but it’s definitely gin. I took a sample to my lovely wife, who approved, and I bottled it up.

The initial liter of vodka gave us about 750ml of gin. There are some losses to the botanicals, though I did give them a light presing, as well as to the filter. I wasn’t suspecting it’d be that much, but it is what it is, and 750ml is plenty enough for the original task.

THE MARTINI

Twenty-nine hundred eight-five words later… thirty-six days… several herbal store orders, one botched rosehip conundrum, and a few drips to the liquor store for vodka and sherry. It’s all leading to this. Possibly either the best, worst, or most mediocre martini I’ve ever made.

So, I started off intending to make a 5:1 martini, garnished with olives, but a math error meant I made a 10:1 martini garnished with olives, so this is a bit out my normal zone.

I gathered all the materials.

  • 2.5 oz homemade compound gin
  • .25 oz homemade dry vermouth
  • 2 olives

We’re going to stir with ice to combine and chill, then pour into a martini glass. When finished, it should look something like this:

A normal dry martini is crystal clear, this is not. The vermouth is a pale gold, the gin a deep rusty red. Combined it looks more like a Manhattan or Martinez. At 10 to 1, this is a very gin-forward drink. The gin, with heavy notes of juniper with a floral bouquet on the nose fades into an herbal note.

Does this finish among the best martinis I’ve ever made or had? No. Far from it. The gin is a tad powerful and I think that even with a full half ounce of vermouth it still wouldn’t be enough to balance out. This might need a retesting at 3:1 or even 2:1 to completely balance out.

However, it is far from the worst martini I’ve ever had. As it gets farther down in the glass and the olive brine begins to soak in, it’s a bit more balanced than when I started.

So there you go: a simple, straightforward way to make a martini, one of the oldest and most recognizable cocktails ever in only 36 days and probably close to a $100 in materials not including the equipment I had lying around for wine making.

Too often, I think, we often forget the craftsmanship that goes into the things around us; from food to furniture, from our cars to our cocktails. There is a primal sort of joy in doing something ‘from scratch’ from taking the long way home instead of the direct routes.

I like to step back and do those things when I can, and being as unhandy as I am, that can be both nerve-wracking and dangerous.  So when the opportunity presents itself, I don’t hesitate to take it. Whether it’s mixing a Trinidad Sour, choosing botanicals for a compound gin, or sitting down to write a chapter in a book. Sometimes it’s worth rolling things back as far as you can and retracing the steps of so many before you little by little.

If anything, I hope this very long update has inspired you to try something new, to explore the process of creation. And I wish you luck on that journey. Until next time.

Cheers.