Can I make you a cocktail... on the blockchain?
One year ago this week, I was working my last shift as a bartender before the pandemic shut down my industry for the long haul. Bars weren’t officially closed in Oregon until March 16, but even before then, our normally packed dining room was completely empty. On my final night, I waited more than two hours before serving a single guest. It’s been a weird year ever since.
A boom in NFTs and a $69 million Beeple
Certainly one of the weirdest things to happen is the rise of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. You’ve probably seen some mystifying references to these recently. They’re essentially a kind of cryptocurrency, except that each token is uniquely associated with a digital file. So, while a Bitcoin is a Bitcoin, and none is more valuable than another, NFTs can trade for wildly different prices depending on the file they’re associated with. An NFT for a collage by the digital artist Beeple, for example, auctioned today for nearly $70 million.
This is weirder than it sounds. The owner of the Beeple NFT doesn’t own the artwork in a traditional exclusive sense, like a painting they could hang up at home or loan to a museum. As a digital piece, it’s accessible to anyone. You can view it at the Slate article linked above. What they do have is an ownership claim on a blockchain indicating that they possess a particular authenticated copy, a sort of digital equivalent of a signed baseball card. They can hold on to it or trade it in the future. Just about any kind of digital file can be sold as an NFT, from cat illustrations known as “CryptoKitties” to video clips from NBA games to the new Kings of Leon album.
Why not a cocktail?
Unfortunately, cocktails are not yet a digital item. Perhaps someday the technology to digitally transmit cocktails over the blockchain will exist, but for now you need a human to procure the ingredients and mix them together. One could, however, mint an NFT for a digital representation of a cocktail.
A NiFTy cocktail
So, that’s what I did! The NiFTy cocktail is, as far as I know, the first cocktail designed to be minted as a non-fungible token. When I started thinking about what this drink should be, I decided it should consist of only three ingredients and that their names should begin with “N,” “F,” and “T.” Within these constraints there are near endless possibilities. Nocino, Falernum, and Tanqueray? Nikka, Fernet, and Tonic? Noilly Prat, Frangelico, and Talisker? Hmm, these all sound terrible. How about Nonino amaro, Fino sherry, and Tequila? Hey, now we’re talking.
This cocktail now exists as an NFT sold on the Mintable platform. Or, to be more precise, the image of the cocktail is now available. The very same image you see above. I can’t stop you from viewing or downloading the image, or from following the recipe and mixing it up yourself. (Indeed, I encourage you to do so!) But if you want to own the one-of-a-kind NFT for the NiFTy cocktail — and again, I’m not saying you should — you’ll have to bid for it on Mintable.
Why do this?
That’s a great question! While there are all kinds of things being sold as NFTs, recipes seem to be mostly unexplored territory. I posted this one as an experiment to see if it’s a viable use of the platform. In the past, creators have published their recipes in books, news articles, and blog posts; more recently, they’ve turned to social media networks like Instagram and TikTok. Perhaps soon they’ll start minting them on the blockchain. Imagine owning the original NFT for the next Negroni, Cosmopolitan, or Moscow Mule. It sounds weird, but no weirder than a lot of the other things people are currently trading as NFTs. Creators can also structure an NFT so that they capture royalties every time it sells in the future, which is potentially a nice bonus.
Of course, my expectations for the NiFTy cocktail are rather modest, although you never know. Probably all I’m getting out of this is a fresh bottle of Nonino amaro, which is honestly not a bad position to be in.
How do I buy this thing?
If you want to own the NFT for the NiFTy, you’ll have to make a bid on Mintable. For that you’ll also need an Ethereum wallet and some of the currency, known as Ether. The auction will end a week from today, at which point the highest bidder will own the unique NFT for the image above. That highest bidder could, for some inscrutable reason known only to yourself, be you. (Using cryptocurrencies can be confusing, so if you’re going to do this, please make sure you’re informed about how they work. Here’s a basic guide from Mintable.)
So, this is tending bar in early 2021? Using your Substack to sell a non-fungible token for a digital image of a cocktail in exchange for Ether?
Yeah, I miss bars, too.
Can you legitimize this post with some cocktail history?
Sure thing. The idea for the NiFTy is partly based on the Parkeroo, an esoteric mix of two parts dry sherry to one part tequila served in a chilled champagne coupe with a twist of lemon peel. Described as a “sort of bastard Martini” in the old Stork Club Bar Book, it’s among the few early appearances of tequila in the cocktail canon.
If you enjoy this newsletter, whether you read it for the articles or just for the cocktails at the bottom, consider forwarding it on to someone you know who might like it, too.