Investigative reports: Uptown Phenomenon part 8

The saga of the Mighty Nutcracker continues. Now the NY Times takes notice.   I guess they had the story sitting on ice for a while then some editor who got caught up in the Boardwalk Empire frenzy finally decided to run it.

Thanks to Tenz Dym for the link.

Part 7 is here.

In Harlem, a Hint of a Previous Era as Peddlers Stealthily Quench a Thirst

Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times

A man known as Kool-Aid mixing multiple alcohols and juice at his home in Harlem to make a drink called nutcracker. He said he could make $700 in profit on every $200 to $300 in supplies.

By TRYMAINE LEE
Published: September 20, 2010

In Prohibition-era Harlem, bootleggers sold cheap and sometimes toxic liquor and moonshine at rent parties and speakeasies for as little as 25 cents a pop.

Some semblance of those days are back in Harlem, where potent sweet liquor drinks are being mixed at home and sold illegally off stoops, in apartment hallways and in bodegas and barbershops.

The drinks, a blend of various hard liquors and fruit juices, are called nutcracker, and they are being sold in sealed plastic bottles or Styrofoam cups for $5 throughout Harlem.

Sales of the drink have been part of the underground economy for years, but with this summer’s heat and the economic slump they have become more visible. Visitors to any block party or outdoor event in Harlem this summer could not have missed the chant of “Nutcrackers! Nutcrackers!”

Sellers include young and older women, blue-collar workers, street hustlers and the underemployed. To give themselves an edge, some sellers even make home deliveries.

Their customers are teenagers, men and women arriving home after a day at work, and young adults who have made it a staple of the party scene. The drinks can also be found in neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens but have been ubiquitous this summer in Harlem and Washington Heights.

“It’s definitely a summer drink, and I try to serve them as cold as possible,” said a regular nutcracker seller, a man in his early 30s who goes by the name of Kool-Aid and asked that his full name not be published. “It’s a fruity drink, so you don’t have to sip it with your face all scrunched up; you feel really nice without getting totally bombed out.”

The juice and liquor typically cost him about $300, he said. He also spends about $85 on plastic bottles and sealable caps.

For each $200 or $300 he spends, he said, he makes about $700 in profit.

For some the drink’s presence in Harlem conjures up an era 80 years in its past, when selling and consuming home-concocted alcohol was an illegal, dangerous pastime.

“As a phenomenon it evokes both the romantic and repugnant concoctions of Jazz Age Harlem, the illicit elixir of bathtub gin on the one hand, the toxic tonic of wood-alcohol-based wild whiskey on the other,” said Eric K. Washington, a Harlem historian and author of “Manhattanville: Old Heart of West Harlem.”

link

Investigative Reports: Uptown Phenomenon part 7

We last spoke about the Nutcracker drink here. Shout out to Serve Chilled 81 from NT, for supporting the movement.

My Nutcracker series is very dear to my heart as I’ve done a lot of research on the subject over the past few years and have had countless conversations, samplings and debates on the origin of the beautiful drink.

Let it be known that there IS a specific formula for the Nutcracker drink, but like most things that make money in the streets or money in general, people will sell you their own “version” for a quick buck. Once you taste an official Nutcracker though, it will bring a smile to your face any time it you think of its tasty flavor.

These blogs have gladly been used across the web as a resource when discussing the Uptown Phenomenon and I’ve been contacted by various print and video outlets who wanted me to further discuss my love affair with the drink. To go on record basically doing what I do here.  They were very kind and I developed some good relationships, but I really had to decline because of the illegal nature of the mighty Nutcracker. I wasn’t trying to blow up spots and/or mess anyone’s money up. Better yet, it wouldn’t be a good look if someone got locked up, a ticket or fine because I brought some camera crew to their establishment to get bent on Nutcrackers.

Even worse, what if my words got published by someone whose sole purpose was to stop the sale of the mystical drink? When discussing my concerns with my peers, they told me not to get paranoid and to continue with the program. Due to recent media backlash though, I’m glad that I went with my gut feelings, while keeping my eye on the sparrow. Nutcrackers are probably about to go a bit more underground, so if you’re still buying them on the street, remember what I told you in part one of the series, “Be careful where you get them from”.

Also, Nutcrackers are not for kids! Shut your face and stop blabbing to reporters Shaquel aka “Sha-squeal” ya big dummy… They call you jail bait for a reason. Fall back and drink a red bull on the rocks or something for a buzzz. You’re just off the nipple yourself, so stay out of grown folks’ business.

Media Backlash:

Bodegas, barbershops dealing sweet liquor punch ‘Nutcrackers’ to city teens

BY Simone Weichselbaum
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Sunday, January 3rd 2010, 4:00 AM

The city’s bodegas and barbershops are secretly selling kids as young as 14 an illegal and potent mix of fruit punch and alcohol, a Daily News investigation found.

“Nutcrackers,” and a frozen version called the “Nemo,” sell for $5 or $10 a cup – an easy buzz for teens who like the sweet taste and the cheap price.

“They are poppin’. They get you sauced,” said Shaquel, a 15-year-old who declined to give his last name.

A News reporter was able to buy the blend of punch and vodka, white rum or tequila at five shops in upper Manhattan and the Bronx last week, including a Washington Heights natural juice spot.

“Kids like them. You don’t need ID to get them. It is like your first step toward drinking liquor,” Shaquel said.

To make the street cocktails even more appealing to teens, some sellers add liquor to piña colada mix or drop a Jolly Rancher candy at the bottom of the cup.

“It is a real phenomenon right now, and it needs a law enforcement response,” said Dr. Peter Provet, head of the Odyssey House, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic for teens. “Kids who start to abuse alcohol start to abuse things that are sweet.”

Shaquel said he regularly buys fruit punch and sour apple nutcrackers from Rodriguez Deli Food Center in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx.

The News visited the deli and bought a 16-oz. styrofoam cup filled with Tampico tropical punch and vodka for $5.

The News also bought nutcrackers from Juaquin Deli, just down the block on Morris Ave. The reporter was never asked to show ID.

Carlos, a Mott Haven 17-year-old, said he was surprised bodega workers sold to an outsider.

“You gotta know the bodegas,” Carlos said. “If they don’t know you, you ain’t gettin’ nothin’.”

And in fact, a worker at Rodriguez Deli was suspicious – but not enough to send the reporter away.

“Who sent you?” the worker asked. “They are illegal,” he said before handing over a cup in a black plastic bag.

Other spots have been busted for selling the boozy concoction – but the fines don’t seem to have stopped them.

Cops caught Juaquin Deli in August 2008 with a jug filled with red nutcracker, court papers say. Yet the News was able to buy three cups of the drink there in two visits last week.

Police also cited a Washington Heights barbershop on Audubon Ave. in July 2008 for selling a nutcracker, but The News was still able to buy two $10 containers.

The shop’s owner, who said his name is Freddy Imperial, stashes the hooch behind the back tire of a Toyota Avalon in front of his store.

His mix is so popular, he claims, that rappers like Fat Joe are fans.

“Just drink one,” a 16-year-old girl warned a reporter. “Two will get you twisted.”

Link

Investigative Reports: Uptown Phenomenon part 6

Nutcracker, oh nutcracker. Your legend lives on. (n.h.)

We last spoke of the Mighty Nutcracker here. I’d like to say that since then, I’ve been to the birthplace (allegedly) of the still popular drink. It was an honor and a pleasure to soak up some history in the very place that has been selling them since at least 1994.  Those of you who frequent that place in Brooklyn, know exactly what I’m talking about.

Its spring once again and the Mighty Nutcracker continues to intrigue, inspire and instigate debates. One of the biggest debates is what goes into a nutcracker drink? What does it consist of??  I’ve heard countless wrong recipes that come close, but don’t get the cigar.

Check the videos below for examples of varying recipes of the hood classic. Their enthusiasm is great and they may have created some good drinks, but they did not recreate the Nutcracker. Try at your own risk.

If you get alcohol poisoning, go to the hospital! Don’t tell them that I sent ya..

News You Can Use: Somali Swagger.

I’ve been keeping tabs on the Somali pirates since last year.  Forget gangsta rap, they are the new bad boys in town.

It’s a genuine case of David vs Goliath. You have these teens in little boats going up to giant oil tankers and jacking the ships, then holding them for months on end until ransoms are paid.

With the USA bleeding Iraq dry of its oil reserves, isn’t it only natural that other countries and people follow suit and resort to the ski mask way?

Check out these videos for a little more insight on whats going on over there.

Speaking of water, did you read that article about all the unregulated drugs that get released into our drinking water? No? Here you go.

Investigative Reports: Uptown Phenomenon part 5

In part 3 of this series, you saw the pictures showing how the Mighty Nutcracker and DogWater looked in their proper setting. The streets of NY.

What I found most intriguing about the drink, is the fact that those who buy and enjoy them know little of the ingredients. The vast majority just accept it as a sweet, tasty mixed drink that they bought from someones car, bodega, cooler at the beach, back of the barbershop, at a parade etc.

Its fruity taste and potent alcoholic blend is known to make you feel good without drinking too much or spending a lot of money.  Drinkers of the mighty Nutcracker usually warn you to, “Be careful where you get them from”.

Aside from the different liquors in the mixed drink, I’ve heard reports of ecstacy, cough syrup with codine, rubbing alchohol(when they run out of liquor), assorted pills like crushed vicodins, liquid morphine, promethazine and even Nyquil cherry flavor added into the equation .

So just be careful where you get them from.

With that out of the way, back to the festive activity which made me notice the Nutcrackers in the first place. It started with me observing people in the ball parks of Harlem having a good time, watching a bball game, listening to music, while drinking something red, out of a styrofoam cup.

A five dollar Nutcracker in a fifty cent cup to be exact.

Although the mighty Nutcracker is most popular in uptown Manhattan, it is also widespread in the Bronx as well as parts of Corona Queens. Its origin though, can be traced back to Williamsburg Brooklyn as early as 1994.

I’ve had many people who’ve been drinking them since the mid 90’s take exception to me calling it an “Uptown Phenomenon”, since it seemed to catch on uptown later in the 2000’s.

After seeing the documentation in the following video, you will see where I’m coming from. There is no where else in the city of New York where it’s “popping” as much in regards to the mighty Nutcracker. When it comes to being a part of the social fabric and backdrop, uptown takes it.

Also, something isn’t a legitimate phenomenon until there is a song made about it. Right? Riiiight.

I’ll warn you in advance, don’t try to figure this out in one sitting. It will take you quite some time to get what he’s saying.

My favorite line?: “Beat walker gave me hunned dolla summons, for a 5 dollar Nutcracker in a 50 cent cup”!

By my calculations that ticket added up to aprox. 18 nutcrackers, but it doesn’t seem like Mr. Lux minds one bit.

Investigative Reports: Uptown Phenomenon part 3

The Competition

When I first started to research about the street drink called “Nutcracker”, I was also told of other drinks sold on the streets of Washington Heights and El Barrio called “Elmos”, “Cookie Monsters”, and “Finding Nemos”.

A few days ago, I found what may be The Mighty Nutcracker’s biggest foe. “Dog Water”.

Now, eventhough Dog Water is based on, and basically another version of Nutcracker, peep what the “creator” has to say.

“Dog Water™ was started in SPRING of 2001. While walking around the hood, I kept hearing about a drink called a Nutcracker. I was curious and wanted to know more. So, I spent a considerable amount of time talking to people and learning about mixed drinks. I also remembered what a big liquor company once told me about the making, blending and mixing of different types of liquors. As an entrepreneur, I understood the effort and risk of venturing into new territory. However, I decided to put my own spin on it. It took a lot of time, effort and other resources during the initial phase to mix, test, and sample until a premium beverage was arrived at. Dog Water™ was worth the plunge into uncharted waters. Try one today and enjoy one of the industry’s finest new mixed drink sensations.”

^^ Those sound like fighting words to me…

Anyway, we have seen that the “hood” is all-encompassing and there is room to coexist with the original. Both have been around over 7 years and are still kicking.

While Dog Water may not have the total appeal of the Nutcracker, they do seem to have a fanbase.

Where my dogs at?

Peep the flix below.

^^ Fatboy might just be drinking a lemon iced tea in that wonton soup cup, but he looks happy as hell. As do the people with the dog waters.

Nutcrackers and Dog Water.

Can it be that it was all so simple then?

Link

Investigative Reports: Uptown Phenomenon part 2

As I continue my search to find the origin and recipe of the drink “Nutcracker”, I’m told about a similar drink called The “Apollo”.

I’m also reminded of hood classics “Incredible Hulk” and “Thug Passion”

Hmm.. I think I’m on the right track.

Apollo = son of Zeus, and god of the intellect, the arts, prophecy, healing, and light.

Apollo Drink Recipe

Ingredients My Bar
3 1/2 oz Hpnotiq
1 oz Gold Rum
3 oz Bacardi Breezer Orange
1/2 can Monster energy drink
Apollo Directions
Pour the Bacardi and Gold Rum into a martini shaker with ice. Mix and when finished, place in glass without the ice. Add Hpnotiq and stir. After you have finished, pour in half of a can of orange monster. Once completed, add a yellow/green glowstick for a glowing sunlike effect. Enjoy!

Incredible Hulk Recipe.

1/4 oz Cognac image
3/4 oz Hpnotiq image
Green Hulk Directions
Pour Hpnotiq and cognac into a shot glass, watch as it turns green, and serve.

History.

Nick Storm explains:

“When we launched Hpnotiq on the market we were throwing these parties in the Bronx and Brooklyn. There was one party at Justin’s [rap star P Diddy’s restaurant] where there were about 500 people. I noticed that all the women were drinking Hpnotiq but the guys weren’t so much, because they were saying that it was too fruity, it was blue and just seemed too girly for them. So the bartender Victor Alvarez had a brainstorm and poured Hennessy into it.” The drink turned green and was an instant hit. Not long after the party, Nick was hearing back from liquor stores that customers were coming in to buy the ingredients and were referring to the drink as “the Hulk.” That was when Heaven Hill decided to officially baptize the cocktail the Incredible Hulk. Once the movie was released it wasn’t long before the drink went mainstream. link.

Thug Passion Recipe.

This drink is referenced in the song “Thug Passion” by rapper 2Pac in which the ingredients are “alize and cristal”. Cristal is the brand name of a well-known Champagne produced by Louis Roederer, Since we don’t expect everyone to have $350 for a bottle, we listed generic Champagne.

2 oz Alize® liqueur

Shake ingredients over ice and serve.

It should be noted that in NYC, the Thug Passions were made Alize and Hennesy.

Anyway, peep Pac’s lyrics for his Thug Passion song. Funny as all hell.

I feel myself getting closer to they mysterious “Nutcracker” ingredients. I also hope to find out where the name came from.

Stay tuned.

Investigative Reports: Uptown Phenomenon.

For the past few years, when I hang out Uptown (Harlem, Spanish Harlem, Washington Heights), I’ve been seeing people selling and buying nutcrackers. Everyone up there seems to be in the know and enjoys them.

A few questions..

1. When did people start making them?
2. Wtf is in em?

All my friends from uptown say they are good, but to “be careful cuz people sometimes put shit in em”. WTF??

How’d something that seems so simple and colorful become such a phenomenon?

I’m on the case to find out exactly.

Stay tuned…