Today, class, we look at how Lichtenbergianism can affect your daily life, not just your creativity. (Spoiler alert: it’s always about the creativity.)

If you’ve read this blog for a while, or my other blog, or followed me on Twitter, you know that I am a cocktail aficionado. The problem with being a cocktail aficionado is that as your tastes develop and expand, so does your bar.

What started as a bottle of gin and a bottle of bourbon all those years ago rapidly expanded. The Art Nouveau French pastry display case we bought as a bar rapidly filled up; the overflow filled up the front hall closet; and then there’s the single malt scotch collection in the playroom.


(For those who know the restaurant Leon’s Full Service in Decatur, GA, we bought this when that building was an antique shop. We had decided to ditch the formal Southern living room in favor for a hotel lobby bar. It was a wise decision.)

After two recent trips to Greenville, SC, and to Grand Canyon, I had finally accumulated so many bottles that there wasn’t room in the bar, and the closet was already a disaster, so it was time for a little SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATION. (That it was a really grand TASK AVOIDANCE was just a bonus.)

Phase 1: Empty the bar.


The thing about GESTALT/SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATION is that sometimes you realize that you have bits and pieces that you have forgotten about, some good…

Completely forgot this was in the bar.

Completely forgot this was in the bar.

… and some appalling. (Why on earth did I have a bottle of DeKuyper’s “Peachtree Schnapps”??)

Phase 2: Empty the hall closet.

It took a panoramic shot to get it all in.

It took a panoramic shot to get it all in.

On the left, the decanter “refill” and backup bottles. On the right, all the bitters, plus the crap I’ll take to the burn for the hippies to dispose of. (Think “Peachtree Schnapps.”) In the back, the fortified wines that I’m pretty sure have aged out of the program. (N.B. the bottles on the floor on the right/back are wine. They are not involved in this process.)

Of course, I had assistance.

top: Abigail, my Assistive Feline™; bottom: Cecil Alexander the Pest, the Assistant Assistive Feline™

top: Abigail, my Assistive Feline™; bottom: Cecil Alexander the Pest, the Assistant Assistive Feline™

(I don’t know how he does it, but Cecil always looks smaller than Abby in photos when in real life he is twice her size. I think it’s his tiny kitten head, despite the fact that he’s a fully growed two-year-old.)

This SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATION was one of those times when you scrape the palette clean and start over, so my goal was to move from a Bodleian Library approach (where the bottles were in no order, but I knew where they were mostly) to something more Library of Congress (still arbitrary, but a little more systematic):

  • in the bar:

    • base liquors

    • bitters

    • high-traffic liqueurs/amaros (think Campari, Chartreuse, et al.)

  • in the closet:

    • refill bottles and backup bottles on the floor

    • base liquors too tall for the bar

    • liqueurs by flavor profile

    • amaros in mostly alphabetical order

I was delighted to discover in the closet that there were brackets for a third shelf. (Yes, I’ve only lived in this house for 38 years, why do you ask?) So I moved the bottom shelf to the top and installed a new one on the bottom.

Inspection in progress

Inspection in progress

Then it was time to start putting stuff back.


The closet:


And the bar:


And done. The felines were exhausted.


Here’s the deal: whenever something you’re working on—fiction, nonfiction, music, painting, bar—is feeling clunky/bloated/sluggish, it’s time to think about taking it apart and putting it back together. You will find pieces you need to jettison, and the pieces that remain will fit back together betterer than before.

And most importantly, you will more than likely now have room for expansion that you didn’t have before. Amaro Lucano, anyone?