The Origins of Drinks

When I applied for this digital residency, I had to propose a project that aimed to be creative, innovative, community-minded and fulfil the brief of the people reading: I came up with Friends with Drinks. You can read an actual excerpt of my application here, or you might have read the snappy version on the Friends with Drinks tumblr before you sent your submission (haven’t done this yet? Please do here!):

Merging the everyday rituals of making friends and taking drinks with the digital zeitgeist, Friends with Drinks is a creative collaborative project that aims to share different experiences of drinking and place worldwide.

By way of online communion, Friends with Drinks signifies particular spaces through full and fragmentary texts, images and sounds that together create a map of what we drink, with whom and where—whether it’s morning coffee in Milan, midday chai in Lucknow, an afternoon beer in Prague, an evening martini in New York or a cup of hot milk before bedtime in Accra.

The possibilities for joining minds, locations, words, inspirations, snapshots, actions, sketches, music, clips and destinies are as infinite as the networks that draw us together. Please submit, share—and salud!

Although I had jotted down a vague outline of Friends with Drinks in my notebook to float at the earliest opportune moment, it wasn’t until last week, in the course of writing content and setting up websites and Facebook pages—tasks that seemed far removed from the pencil-scratched origins of the idea—that I remembered what had prompted Friends with Drinks in the first place; what had given the concept enough personal meaning in order for me to pitch it with a degree of sincerity.

This time last year, I was living through a sultry July in Bangalore, India, while working on a project; in the same month, I met a handful of mixed-media German artists who had come to Bangalore to complete residencies. Among them was Stepan, a tall drink of draughtsmanship who became, in the way of Melissa Bank, an ‘insta-friend’. A month later, Stepan left Bangalore with a bang and departed from my analogue life in a way you have to grow accustomed to when you travel, or else perish from the stranglehold of sentimentality. (One of the definite advantages of the digital age is having the opportunity to keep our friends in the frame of our lives, even at a strange, unquantifiable distance.)

One night I was muddling through some sentences, longing for distraction, when I heard a ping! It was Stepan, via Messenger. This is what he wrote:

S: I am already accosting the Old Monk [famous Indian dark rum] on this hot Berlin afternoon. It’s good!

K: Classic flavours travel well…and the bottle made it in one piece! Excellent. What are you mixing it with? Oh yeah, I’m glad you made it in once piece too.

S: Pure, already drunk. Feels good in the white Berlin heat.


K: Lovely. Surrounded by white light, consuming golden redness…

S: Feeling a bit blue. I met so many lovely people, and still wearing your Ganesha band with pride—Ganesha himself has vanished already though.

K: I understand how you feel. Homecoming isn’t easy, especially after India. The people who found you lovely here miss you already! Ah, that Ganesha, always giving people the slip. I have a drop of Old Monk here in my flat too. Let’s drink together.

S: Haha, cheerio dear girl! to your health and welfaring! And to meeting again somewhere!

K: Old Monk on my work desk. Cheers to you, bhaiya! Speedy recovery from jet lag and remember: Bengaluru waits for you.


S: I put all my Indian novels on the shelf and go to bed with Gaiman’s American Gods for now!

K: And I shall listen to Lana del Rey and write about Nepal. Sweet dreams.

S: And I will listen to Lana del Rey as well.

K: Ah, it’s just like we’re in the same room.

I wrote in my first post that digital media are machines for contortion—they certainly are, but perhaps they are also a means of intimacy, of a type that we don’t normally expose, which is perhaps an excellent reason why we should. Last week I met an artist/academic, Larissa Hjorth, who makes a study of digital intimacy, but more on that later. For now, I request that you go forth and engage in the ritual of drinking (anything, with anyone) without forgetting to record (and possibly submit) these moments—across neighbourhoods and cultures and countries. However you come together as friends with drinks, via digital methods or analogue, there is enough meaning in every communion to make each worth remembering.

Special thanks to Stepan for giving his OK for me to share our dialogue.


3 thoughts on “The Origins of Drinks

  1. Bharat Barki

    Friends with drinks is a wonderfully fascinating idea. Old Monk was a staple and preferred rum of our circle of friends in college and continues to be so. A drink of legendary proportions to be precise. 🙂
    It may quite well be true that a person can be understood with the drink he drinks. All the best Kathryn in your poetry pursuits. Finally I am a bit of a poet myself. Here is the link to my blog

    • Kathryn Hummel

      Thanks, Bharat dear. You’re right about the legendary OM–it’s like a rite of passage to/within India. I’m looking forward to more blog posts from you.

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