Archive for the ‘What They Say’ Category

You Call These Old?

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Some “web-site” with the unlikely moniker “DNAinfo” has compiled a listing of the Windy City’s 11 oldest bars. I’m afraid I must confess that, sadly, I was unaware some of them had even opened in the first place! Clearly, further investigation is in order.

An Object Lesson

Monday, January 17th, 2011

 . . . on the danger posed by Bailey’s Irish Cream. Puzzlingly, the offender was French.

Your Big Cocktail Is Nothing to Brag About

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Catching up on some 2010 reading that I had heretofore missed–will my manservant ever catalog the periodicals correctly?–I find that Wayne Curtis shares my aversion to supersized cocktails.

Small cocktails were favored for a simple reason: they stay chilled from beginning to end. Few things are as unappealing as a Martini that’s warm when you hit bottom, with the possible exception of an Old-Fashioned on the rocks that’s both watery and warm at bottom.

My own feelings on the matter are, of course, well documented, and, having actually been alive to witness this horrible evolution firsthand (I do not know, but I suspect that Mr. Curtis is a mere pup of 50 or so), I can speak to the matter better than most. But Curtis’s words are well weighed, and he has the distinct advantage of being willing to report from locales (such as T.G.I. Friday’s and Margaritaville) where I fear to tread.

A Lump of Coal for These Christmas Spirits

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

At the worryingly named Eatocracy (phonetically closer to autocracy than democracy; I suspect they intend the latter whilst I prefer the former), it is suggested that guests may be adequately provided for with a slapdash, mix ‘n’ match drinks philosophy — although to call it a “philosophy” does it too much credit. In fact, the unnamed author (or authors) go so far as to compare the approach to something called “Garanimals.” Now, I do not know what a Garanimal is, was, or might be, but I do have a research assistant, and she was able to make the telephone inquiries that solved the matter: they are children’s pajamas.

Truly, a talent for improvisation is a gift when it comes to cocktail-making, and many great advances have been made by bartenders who added their own “twist” (excuse the pun) to a tried-and-true concoction. But this article — the likes of which I have seen more and more frequently of late — represents a new low, the sort of “anything goes” philosophy that could well mean the decline of drinks culture as we know it. I have stood by, if not silently, then tolerantly, as, over the past decade or two, society’s affluence has resulted in ever-increasing levels of dilettantism and specialization in the arenas of food and drink. Now, it doesn’t bother me a whit if someone has the time and money to try barrel-aging their cocktails or reverse-engineering a bottle of wine raised from a sunken galleon. As long as spirits have raised our spirits, there have been those who feel that, the more rarefied the drink, the higher our spirits will be raised. While I do believe that there are finite limits to the average drinker’s ability to discern microscopic improvements in taste and quality, perception is everything, and good for them.

But this is something else entirely: that is construction, and this is deconstruction. This is Cocktails for Dummies. Or, given the Garanimals, children. And, if you are a dummy or a child, then you may drink light beer. (Children’s beer should be diluted with lemonade.) If a learning a few drinks recipes — you needn’t even memorize them, for god’s sake — and shopping accordingly is beyond your ken, then you have no right entertaining holiday guests, period. If you don’t damage the palate of an accomplished drinker, you run the risk of convincing the cocktail neophyte that they had, after all, best stick to beer. And that, my friend, is like taking, not giving, at Christmas.

The Poetry of Gin

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

A man of my acquaintance mailed George Bilgere’s very fine poem, “The Return of Odysseus,” to another man (also of my acquaintance), with its excellent description of how a household hero’s wrath is salved:

I slammed the door. I threw down my book bag
in this particular way I have perfected over the years
that lets my wife understand
the contempt I have for my enemies,
which is prodigious. And then with great skill
she built a gin and tonic
that would have pleased the very gods,
and with epic patience she listened
as I told her of my wrath, and of what I intended to do
to so-and-so, and also to what’s-his-name.

The other man mailed back Philip Levine’s “Gin,” which has an entirely different take on the spirit’s medicinal qualities:

lay our fifteenth birthdays,
acne, deodorants, crabs, salves,
butch haircuts, draft registration,
the military and political victories
of Dwight Eisenhower, who brought us
Richard Nixon with wife and dog.
Any wonder we tried gin.

I quite enjoyed being carbon copied on their correspondence!

These Christmas Cookies Are Not for Tots

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

Via the electronic mail, from a relative in the McCulloch clan, a recipe for “Jose Cuervo Christmas Cookies.” While I cannot personally recommend tequila for yuletide consumption, this does recall to mind injuries sustained whilst baking macaroons in the company of 16-year-old Lagavulin.

Jose Cuervo Christmas Cookies
1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup or brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup nuts
2 cups of dried fruit
1 bottle Jose Cuervo Tequila
Sample the Cuervo to check quality.  Take a large bowl, check the Cuervo again, to be sure it is of the highest quality,
pour one level cup and drink.
Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.
Add one peastoon of sugar.  Beat again. At this point it’s best to make sure the Cuervo is still ok, try another cup just in case.
Turn off the mixerer thingy.
Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.
Pick the frigging fruit off the floor.
Mix on the turner.
If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaters just pry it loose with a drewscriver.
Sample the Cuervo to check for tonsisticity.
Next, sift two cups of salt, or something.
Who geeves a sheet.  Check the Jose Cuervo. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.
Add one table.
Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find.
Greash the oven.
Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.
Don’t forget to beat off the turner.
Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the Cose Juervo and make sure to put the stove in the wishdasher.
Cherry Mistmas!

Fighting Fire with Kerosine

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Suffering celebrants have this morning two options: going it again or going without. Mr. Eric Felten of the Wall Street Journal discusses the options. I myself am partial to the “liquor-egg-dairy lines” favored by Mr. Frank Sinatra.

Will “Blago” Replace “Blotto”?

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Some events current, some less so. Mr. Eric Felten of the Wall Street Journal commemorates the “delightfully vulgar Blagojevich affair” with the cocktails du jour–and of yesteryear. His recipe for Cohasset Punch, itself an ingredient in Saul Bellow’s Dangling Man:

1½ oz dark rum
1 oz sweet vermouth
juice of ½ lemon
½ oz syrup from canned peaches
½ oz Grand Marnier
2 dashes orange bitters

Start by putting half a canned peach in the bottom of a saucer champagne glass; then half-fill the glass with shaved ice. Put all the liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into the glass.

E Clampus Vitus

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Satisfactory “doin’s”:

“It’s a common saying that no one has been able to tell if they are historians that like to drink or drinkers who like history,” said Dr. Robert J. Chandler, a senior historian at Wells Fargo Bank and a proud member of the group’s San Francisco chapter. “And no one knows because no one has been in any condition to record the minutes.”

Fernet Bars: A Trend I’d Like to See

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

In the Atlantic Monthly, Wayne Curtis explores the bitter truth of Fernet Branca–which, contrary to popular misconception, is not the older brother of Glenn.

Other than that, it’s hard to describe what Fernet Branca tastes like; it mostly tastes like Fernet Branca. But to give you an idea: in 1960, Betsy von Furstenberg was suspended from Actors’ Equity for spiking Tony Randall’s onstage drink with it. Randall believed he had been poisoned with iodine.