White Collar Wire supports cocktails.
As part of that effort, I have a magazine on Flipboard called (helpfully) “Cocktails.” Follow here, read on and use good ice.
Two items we focus on — books and cocktails — come together in How to Build a Solid Drinking Library, by New York Times writer (and bartender) Rosie Schaap:
Are there places I like as much as great bars? Yes: great bookshops. And if I had to pick a favorite in the latter category, it’s Dog Ears Book Barn in the little town of Hoosick, N.Y. Conveniently, it’s just a little ways down Route 7 from the Man of Kent, one of America’s best bars. A couple of hours spent digging through Dog Ears for treasure, then bringing those books to the Man of Kent and perusing them over a few pints for a few more hours? That’s what I call a perfect day.
Read the entire piece here.
On the subject of cocktails, absinthe has made a comeback, as shown in Gear Patrol‘s piece on How to Drink Absinthe Like a Gentleman.
Absinthe’s history mirrors the way it’s meant to be prepared: a mix of the misunderstood and the legitimately unusual. For most of its existence, the spirit has been slandered, ostracized and, in rarer cases, revered. It’s been dragged across borders, masqueraded as other liquors, aspersed with hallucination claims and — since its ban was lifted in America in 2007 — the spirit has been secretly embracing it all.
“There’s a tradition. There’s a lure to the preparation of absinthe”, says Will Elliot, a bartender at Brooklyn’s Maison Premiere, an oyster and cocktail den with the allure of a New Orleans haunt. Absinthe, at 68 percent alcohol, is a compacted spirit. Once diluted with water, the essential oils and flavors loosen to reveal the drink’s nuances. Preparing an absinthe drink involves combining botanicals, flavors and aromatic elements, Elliot says. “It’s not the sort of spirit that you just toss back.” As for lighting it on fire, which often is brought up in discussions on how absinthe’s served, “You wouldn’t…that’s really damaging the alcohol”, Elliot says. He got behind the bar to debunk some myths and walk us through two traditional absinthe drinks — a drip and a frappe — and a new twist on an old cocktail.
From the The Cabinet Rooms blog, a recipe for the Martinez, a precursor to the modern martini:
Continuing our exploration into the world of gin, we’ve been perusing classic gin-based cocktails this week. One dating back to the 1880’s is the Martinez; a smooth and refreshing drink, packed full of herbal aromatics. Usually made by mixing gin, vermouth and bitters with either maraschino liqueur or orange curaçao, this drink is a great alternative to the Martini. We love the combination of the gin’s botanicals with the fruitier notes of the vermouth and sweetness of the maraschino. Here we’ve used Burleigh’s London Dry and garnished with a black cherry, soaked in a rich Kirsch syrup, for a touch of added luxury.
From the Garden & Gun blog, a video recipe for a modern mint julep.
From The Telegraph, a review of fancy bitters:
“You’re writing about bitters – great beers!” my husband said. But no, with respect to him and Britain’s brewers, I’m going to talk about something far more chic and high fashion. And bitters – those little, apothecary-like bottles of intensely aromatic botanical tinctures – are about as on-trend as you can get right now.
For this weekend: cocktails, World War I, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn and Marvin Gaye.
From Saveur, warm-weather whiskey cocktails. Some of the drinks sound good. All of the photos are cool:
Rob McDaniel met Will Abner for the first time in a field in southwestern Virginia. They were both at Lambstock, shepherd Craig Rogers’s bacchanalian annual gathering of farmers, chefs, bartenders, and other food-and-beverage types. “I was finding wood sorrel and wild shiso in the fields up there. Will just started making cocktails with it. I thought, ‘That’s pretty cool,'” says McDaniel, who runs the kitchen at SpringHouse in Alexander City, Alabama. “When I went back to the restaurant, I said to our front-of-house manager, ‘We’ve really got to talk to this guy.’ He was just slinging drinks then, you know, at some bar that closed at three a.m.”
From our friends at Gastronomista, an article on honey solera aged daiquiris, plus more cool photos:
From The Guardian in London, a piece on the science of mixing mind-blowing cocktails:
Likewise for Thomas Aske, one of the pair behind the Worship Street Whistling Shop in Shoreditch, east London, who regularly lectures on multi-sensory drinks, a cocktail always starts with a story. “It could be derived from anything but often it’s the brand of spirit you’re using,” he says. For instance, a barrel-aged cocktail based around Clynelish highland whisky was cooled with a frozen pebble from the coast of Scotland. “It could add a bit of minerality,” says Aske (unsure whether that effect would be physiological or purely psychological), “but it also can hold its temperature without offering the dilution that ice does, so you’ve still got the intensity of flavour.”
I prefer my cocktails without frozen stones, an impulse that may have inspired this rant about when the martini went off the rails:
Step into a trendy restaurant and look at the liquor menu. A whole section will be devoted to martinis of every hue and taste – strawberry, watermelon, jalapeno and (for all I know) bubblegum. These alleged martinis are the equivalent of the drinks you used to get in Jamaica or at Harry’s Glass Bar: crowned with paper umbrellas, stuffed with sliced of tropical fruit or celery or cucumber, they declared themselves sui generis, though no one could say of what genre they were “sui.” These are drinks for people who do not like the taste of drinks, martinis for martini haters.
Not only should connoisseurs of bourbon not read this article, neither should persons preoccupied with the perils of alcoholism, cirrhosis, esophageal hemorrhage, cancer of the palate, and so forth—all real enough dangers. I, too, deplore these afflictions. But, as between these evils and the aesthetic of bourbon drinking, that is, the use of bourbon to warm the heart, to reduce the anomie of the late twentieth century, to cure the cold phlegm of Wednesday afternoons, I choose the aesthetic. What, after all, is the use of not having cancer, cirrhosis, and such, if a man comes home from work every day at five-thirty to the exurbs of Montclair or Memphis and there is the grass growing and the little family looking not quite at him but just past the side of his head, and there’s Cronkite on the tube and the smell of pot roast in the living room, and inside the house and outside in the pretty exurb has settled the noxious particles and the sadness of the old dying Western world, and him thinking: “Jesus, is this it? Listening to Cronkite and the grass growing?”
A superb question, here in late middle-age.
We are a little late to the commemorative party, but World War I started one hundred years ago this month.
First, from your schooldays, John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”:
I was less familiar with Isaac Rosenberg‘s “August 1914”:
As a young man, I was much taken with Russian dissident Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, not least his novel August 1914. Here is the New York Times book review from 1972:
Barred by the government from doing research in archives and libraries, expelled from the Writers’ Union, deprived of all income from abroad, constantly harassed by the authorities, repeatedly vilified and slandered in the Soviet press and at party indoctrination meetings (which try to discredit him with his countrymen by spreading rumors that he is a nobleman, a Jew and a German agent), Solzhenitsyn continues writing under conditions that would drive most of us to madness or suicide. Very few living writers can match his artistic achievement; in human and moral stature he is in a class by himself on the literary landscape of our age.
Western society has given itself the organization best suited to its purposes based, I would say, one the letter of the law. The limits of human rights and righteousness are determined by a system of laws; such limits are very broad. People in the West have acquired considerable skill in interpreting and manipulating law. Any conflict is solved according to the letter of the law and this is considered to be the supreme solution. If one is right from a legal point of view, nothing more is required. Nobody will mention that one could still not be entirely right, and urge self-restraint, a willingness to renounce such legal rights, sacrifice and selfless risk. It would sound simply absurd. One almost never sees voluntary self-restraint. Everybody operates at the extreme limit of those legal frames.
I have spent all my life under a Communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale than the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man’s noblest impulses. And it will be simply impossible to stand through the trials of this threatening century with only the support of a legalistic structure.
In today’s Western society the inequality has been revealed [in] freedom for good deeds and freedom for evil deeds. A statesman who wants to achieve something important and highly constructive for his country has to move cautiously and even timidly. There are thousands of hasty and irresponsible critics around him; parliament and the press keep rebuffing him. As he moves ahead, he has to prove that each single step of his is well-founded and absolutely flawless. Actually, an outstanding and particularly gifted person who has unusual and unexpected initiatives in mind hardly gets a chance to assert himself. From the very beginning, dozens of traps will be set out for him. Thus, mediocrity triumphs with the excuse of restrictions imposed by democracy.
Finally, just because we can, here’s Marvin Gaye and “Ain’t That Peculiar”:
The recent outpouring of remembrances of and praise for the late comedian and actor Robin Williams is understandable and commendable, but the deluge seems to have somewhat submerged most thoughtful notice of the passing of Lauren Bacall this week. This is a shame.
To the extent that it reflected crime, Bacall’s work was noir, not white-collar; black, not white; guns, not accounting fraud. Yet, there was an elegance and a fierceness about her films – especially those with Humphrey Bogart – that are familiar to those who work in a white-collar crime landscape.
David Brooks, writing in the New York Times, reflects on The Bacall Standard. In particular:
[Raymond] Chandler was not particularly kind to women, though. It was up to the director Howard Hawks and his star, Lauren Bacall — who died this week — to give that era a counterpart female ideal, a hero both tough and tender, urbane and fast-talking, but also vulnerable and amusing.
Vivian Rutledge, the lead female character in the movie version of Chandler’s “The Big Sleep,” is stuck in a classic film noir world. Every situation is confusing, shadowed and ambiguous. Every person is dappled with virtue and vice. Society rewards the wrong things, so the ruthless often get rich while the innocent get it in the neck.
The lead character, played by Bacall, emerges from an ambiguous past, but rises aristocratically above it. She has her foibles; she’s manipulative and spoiled. But she’s strong. She seems physically towering, with broad shoulders and a rich, mature voice that is astounding, given that Bacall was all of 20 years old when she made the picture.
We’ve written about Chandler before: Browning (The Poet, Not The Automatic). Speaking of Chandler’s dialogue in The Big Sleep (both the book and the film), Brooks notes:
The heiress greets Marlowe with a put-down: “So you’re a private detective. I didn’t know they existed, except in books, or else they were greasy little men snooping around hotel corridors.”
But he’s self-sufficient enough to stand up to her. He wins her over with a series of small rejections. And he can match her verbal pyrotechnics. When she says she doesn’t like his manners, he comes straight back at her: “I’m not crazy about yours. … I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. I don’t like them myself. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them long winter evenings.”
Here is a detailed Becall piece from The Rap Sheet, an excellent crime-fiction blog. An excerpt:
A former theater usher and fashion model, Bacall first came to prominence in 1944, when, at age 19, she starred with 44-year-old Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not, a film based loosely on Ernest Hemingway’s 1937 novel of the same name. Her famous double entendre-laced line, delivered to a smoking, reclining Bogie–“You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and … blow”–knocked out movie-going audiences everywhere, and had no less impact on Bogart himself. At the time he was already on his third marriage, to actress Mayo Methot, but he divorced her the next year to wed Bacall, or “Baby” as he called her. The pair were together only until his death in 1957, but if Bogie’s ghost is still anywhere around today, he’s whistling for her to join him today.
Ghosts. Noir fiction and films worked on many levels, not least the theological (as we discussed in Red Harvest: Crime Fiction and Gospel Conviction). And, at their best, they are art, as Chandler wrote in The Simple Art of Murder:
In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things. He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. The story is his adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in.
David Brooks gets the next-to-last word:
The feminine ideal in “The Big Sleep” is, of course, dated now. But what’s lasting is a way of being in a time of disillusion. At a cynical moment when many had come to distrust institutions, and when the world seemed incoherent, Bacall and Bogart created a non-self-righteous way to care about virtue. Their characters weren’t prissy or snobbish in the slightest. They were redeemed by their own honor code, which they kept up, cocktail after cocktail.
In the scene from The Big Sleep with the bookshop girl (played by Sonia Darrin), Bogart mentions that he has a bottle of rye in his pocket:
For some background on rye, an article from The Atlantic: How Rye Came Back.
In Bacall’s memory, here’s a recipe for a rye Manhattan. Have one tonight.
From the New York Times, this set of interactive videos about summer cocktails is a great start to the weekend.
The Thin Man movies starring Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) combine two elements of our mission (cocktails and crime fiction). This montage from several “Thin Man” films has some of their best martini-hits.
Tiki drinks are a hot-weather favorite. From Saveur.com, here’s a story about Dragon 88’s mai tai.
Nothing causes good-natured arguments better than the correct preparation of the Sazerac. From our friends at Gastronomista.com, an article that reminds you: Trust Me, You’re Drinking Your Sazerac Wrong.
Finally, I am no great fan of commencement addresses, but this one by Navy Admiral William H. McRaven, Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, seems especially appropriate on Memorial Day weekend.
White Collar Wire’s weekend cocktail notes.
You sit down at a bar, peruse the menu, decide on a tipple, order, and then… wait. It is this moment of waiting that has indescribable power. This moment is filled with anticipation – a pause – and it is the time I always use to watch the scene behind the bar. I carefully observe the tender of bar, watching his or her hands quickly trade bottle for bottle, add ice, bitters, and then delightfully shake the concoction or stir with casual flair. It’s a glorious moment, a moment when one always asks themselves, will the cocktail be as magnificent as I’ve imagined??? And then, there it is. A glorious potation filled glass shimmering in the bar’s candle light, waiting to be devoured. And then, the moment of climax: the first sip.
Jude Goergen from Glassbackwards has found a way to make this moment of anticipation even better – each cocktail is prepared backwards. Yes, backwards, and, some might argue, it’s even better that way.
These high-quality videos give one added appreciation for the art of a good bartender.
From the Washington Post, a revival of ’80s cocktails:
When cocktail lovers talk about “classic” cocktails, they usually mean drinks made before 1950: The Perfect Martini, the Singapore Sling, the Daiquiri. Few would make the case that a Kamikaze or Harvey Wallbanger belongs in such exalted company.
Unless, of course, they work at the Majestic.
Still, a little too green for us.
To begin the weekend: London’s top cocktail bars, a whiskey glossary and a history of ice cubes.
London Calling. The drinks aren’t cheap, but here’s a look from The Guardian at the top 10 classic cocktail bars in London:
London’s cocktail scene is booming, with new bars opening all the time – but if you want to treat yourself to a flawless classic then head to a hotel bar. Cocktail expert Jared Brown chooses the best, plus some cutting edge places where top mixologists are producing drinks destined to become the new classics.
Definitions. From the folks at Saveur, a handy whiskey glossary.
Cutting Much Ice. And, in what may the best tangentially-related article on cocktails, here is Freezer Harvest: A History of Ice Cubes, from Modern Farmer magazine:
While it’s usually challenging to trace the origins of specific cocktails (with all the drinking the details get lost), we understand pretty well how ice got into all of them. It started when one entrepreneur named Frederic Tudor had the idea to harvest lake and pond ice from New England states and sell it in hotter countries. He began sending ships full of ice from Boston to Martinique and Cuba in 1806, expanded the business to Southern US states, and his ice reached as far as India. In the process he created the ice trade.
Up until that point many cocktails were made with added water, but it didn’t take long for the concept of “cooling drinks” with ice to catch on. Different shapes of ice were specified for different drinks: lumps of ice for cocktails, shaved ice for juleps, and cobblestone ice for cobblers. These new drinks were so delicious it seems every foreign visitor to the U.S. in the early 1800s commented on the marvelous cocktails in this country. Soon, “American bars” opened up in big cities around the world serving these refreshing and exotic delicacies. But the glory days of the cocktail in America came to an end in 1920.
The thirteen years of Prohibition pretty much killed the art of bartending in America, and it took decades for things to begin to turn back around. It wasn’t until after 2000 that a critical mass of American bartenders began looking to drink books from Frederic Tudor’s time, and classic cocktails came back into fashion. High-end bars gave better attention to each element in the cocktail, from the base spirit to the type of sugar used in the simple syrup, and eventually to the shape and size of ice best-suited to each drink. The problem was that by then nobody harvested ponds anymore, and machine-made ice provided one size of cube for all types of drinks in most bars.
I’m going home to check the freezer.
Pop culture and theology mix fruitfully in pulp-crime fiction.
Here’s a four-part course from 2012: Red Harvest: Crime Fiction and Gospel Conviction .
Here’s the blurb that went with the class:
Crime fiction, in its varied forms, both illuminates and counterpoints the Gospel. Crime fiction correctly presents and analyzes the sinful human condition, even where its conclusions are horribly wrong. And, in crime fiction as nowhere else, the law is most definitely the Law: God did not get after Cain for shoplifting.
So: four classes’ worth of dark human hearts and blazing Gospel light, interspersed with mayhem, Augustine, detectives, 1930s pulp novels and the overlooked theological punch from the opening line of The Postman Always Rings Twice: “They threw me off the hay truck about noon.”
These are complete classes, so prepare a stiff drink before hitting “Play.”
As an example of what not to drink, consider this assault on civilization from that Pravda of sentimentality, Parade magazine: Girl Scouts Cookie Thin Mints Martini
- 3 parts chocolate vodka
- ½ shot creme de menthe
- 1 shot chocolate milk liquor
- Chocolate syrup (as needed)
- 1 Thin Mint, crushed
- In a martini shaker, mix together chocolate vodka, creme de menthe, and chocolate milk liquor. Shake well. If you don’t have a martini shaker, use a glass filled with ice and mix well.
- Coat a martini glass with chocolate syrup. Crush the Thin Mint cookie and coat the brim of the martini glass with the cookie. Then, pour your martini drink mixture into the glass.
The mind, as well as the bowel, races. One might add:
3. Insert Luger under tongue to minimize the aftertaste
Here is something more appropriate: Garden & Gun magazine’s Guide to Southern Cocktails.
We have, of course, written on crime fiction and how it relates to business crime, cocktails and theology before.
The law can be dreary, so at White Collar Wire we follow cocktails, as well. For weekend viewing and sipping, we point you to Gastronomista, which treats both food and cocktails:
Gastronomista is an art and design blog focused on the culture of food and drink, andwas founded in October of 2009 as a way to keep track of delicious treasures, tipples, and trips around the world.It is run by Miss Emma Emerson, who is an architect by day, writer and avid drinker by night. Gastronomista is a place where you might find architectural chicken coops, tea parties, decanters, bespoke knives, or donut art. Emmaseeks inspiration everywhere she goes, and finds fodder in everything she sees – on the streets and plates of foreign lands, the inked limbs of subway-riding compatriots, or shaking up cocktails in her own kitchen.
In particular, check out Clara Bow in Black Oxen (1923).
Of course, we muse on cocktails, ourselves: White Collar Wire on Cocktails.
Garden & Gun magazine has outstanding cocktail recipes. We are not great ones for punch, here at the White Collar Wire, but in a season of good will, we might try this Garden & Gun Holiday Punch:
Tagging behind the cocktail revival, however, has been a punch revival, spearheaded by the cocktail historian David Wondrich (see his encyclopedic 2010 book, Punch, for the whole shebang) and popularized by bartenders like Slater, whose bar menu features a revolving cast of oldfangled and newfangled punches. “Punch bowls are the original cocktails,” Slater says. This is true: The bowl preceded the glass by more than a century. Peruse some old punch recipes—and by old, I mean antebellum old—and a truth emerges: Punches don’t have to suck. Or involve 7Up.
Consider the Cadet Punch. This is a Slater invention, but its inspiration stretches back to nineteenth-century Savannah, Georgia, where a militia group called the Chatham Artillery concocted a punch that could reasonably be called weaponized. Into a horse bucket went brandy, rum, whiskey, and champagne, along with an oily lemon and sugar mixture. Slater ditched the brandy, rum, bubbles, and horse bucket to produce a simpler, less belligerent blend. The result, he says, tastes something like an old-fashioned—a minimalist punch for whiskey lovers. “It doesn’t hide anything,” Slater says.