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Activated Charcoal Cocktails Are Our Latest Drink Obsession

Culture
Mission Chinese Food's Moonwalk Cocktail photographed by Mikey Asanin.

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The following feature appears in the May 2017 issue of NYLON.

It’s a known fact: Black is always in fashion. And these days the color has transitioned from street-style staple to cocktail menu must-have courtesy of activated charcoal, the ingredient responsible for the spike in midnight-hued happy hour beverages on your Instagram feed.

You might recognize the activated-charcoal hype from the beauty world, as seen in the form of face masks, cleansers, and even toothpastes, since it’s believed to absorb dirt and oil. A similar theory applies to ingesting it—once in your body, proponents say that activated charcoal binds to and eliminates toxins in your system. For this reason, it’s also become a favorite of the supplement- and juice-shop set. 

But now that activated charcoal seems to have officially crossed over from health fad to fun drink trend, a bevy of aesthetically on-point cocktails are cropping up that incorporate the ingredient to magical, moody effect.

Slowly Shirley's Perla Negra Cocktail photographed by Mikey Asanin.

Mission Chinese Food’s Moonwalk cocktail, for instance, is made from mezcal, yuzu sake, kosho, citrus, and, of course, activated charcoal, and is sprinkled with “disco salt” (a combination of Maldon salt crystals and confectioners’ luster dust). Slowly Shirley in New York’s West Village has also created a showstopping drink dubbed the Perla Negra, a large-format, rum-punch cocktail served in a huge skull glass, topped with sorrel, and garnished with flowers and a burning candle.

Both Sam Anderson of Mission Chinese Food and Ray Sakover of Slowly Shirley acknowledge that the charcoal’s primary function is to create a deep black tone, and that the ingredient doesn’t really alter the flavor profile of drinks. That said, it definitely makes the cocktail experience more exciting. And while it’s important to note that health professionals advise against consuming too much activated charcoal, indulging in the occasional cocktail only turned our tongues black. 

She considers herself "one of the luckiest kids on the face of the earth"

Dani Okon, NYLON's associate creative director of video, sat down with her great-aunt, May Okon, to talk about their shared experiences—despite vastly different time frames—living as queer women in New York City. Prior to retirement, May was a journalist for the New York Daily News, having first entered the male-dominated workforce when "the boys were all at war." And, of course, she absolutely killed it. Her only regret? "Retiring at 55," she tells Dani, joking, "Who the hell knew I was gonna live to 100?"

Upon retiring, she moved out to the Hamptons with her partner and bought a home. If she had to do it all over, May says "there are a lot of things I wouldn't do," but she still considers herself "one of the luckiest kids on the face of the earth." Get to know May in the video, above.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Marlene Colburn and Naima Green
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by: Alexandra Hsie
Camera: Gretta Wilson + Katie Sadler
Edited by: Madeline Stedman

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Here's how they're making sure it doesn't happen

Lauren Morelli, the showrunner and executive producer for the new Netflix show Tales of the City, is fostering a space where multiple queer realities can be shown on-screen. She spoke with one of the cast members, trans actor Garcia (who plays Jake Rodriguez on the show), and, in the video above, they explore why it's wrong to treat queer stories as representative of the entire community. Tokenization is something that they both want to avoid at all costs, and they're on the right track.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Naima Green and Marlene Colburn
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
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We put non-binary activist Eddie Jarrel Jones and The Phluid Project founder Rob Smith in conversation with each other, and the two spoke some powerful truths about the continued gendering of products like makeup and clothing. Smith recalls that 30 years ago, the only way that he was able to experience the joys of playing with makeup was to work at a beauty counter. Even today, Jones notes that it's hard for non-binary femmes like them, or even trans women, to get that experience in stores.

In the video above, get a sense of why Smith created a genderless store, and see how important it is for people like Jones to have a space where they don't feel criticized for dressing like they want.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Naima Green and Marlene Colburn
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
Shot by Charlotte Prager + Dani Okon
Edited by Gretta Wilson

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Marlene Colburn, one of the founders of the Dyke March, and Naima Green, an artist currently working on a project and archive called Pur·suit, which will document queer people of all identities, agree that it's really hard to find lesbian spaces that aren't bars. Just as hard, it seems, is to find lesbian representation that isn't white. In the video above, the two talk about how they are creating space for queer people and what that looks like within two different generations.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

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Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

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