Gin Van, Joan Collins and Rare Earth

Friday is upon us, so a few notes about cocktails.

Blue Hawaiian, anyone?

The cocktail snob is suffering a (deserved) backlash, as Robert O. Simonson of the New York Times points out in When Bad Drinks Go Good:

Just as the cocktail renaissance has brought renewed fame to classics like the martini, the Manhattan and the Negroni, it has heaped fresh infamy on a rogues’ gallery of less classy concoctions, most of which emerged during the final decades of the last century.

Now a backlash of sorts has begun, as some high-end bartenders apply their skills to a new challenge: doing bad drinks well.

Bars like Holiday Cocktail Lounge in New York; Pépé Le Moko in Portland, Oregon; and the Automatic in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the martini shares space on the menu with a blue margarita, have risen to this curious challenge.

Whenever I see the Blue Hawaiian cocktail, which is not often, I compusively think of Elvis in Blue Hawaii (1961):

Superb sash.

Two by two.

The martini is not a complex drink.

Mercifully, this article keeps the options simple:

The cocktail world is divided into two camps: those who order martinis and those who don’t. And for those who don’t, it may be because they just haven’t found their best martini yet.

There are many different ways to mix this cocktail, and there’s a recipe out there for everyone ― you just have to know what to ask for when you stroll up to the bar. 

Classically, a martini is one part dry vermouth to four parts gin. But that recipe is not set in stone ― here are eight different ways you can order the cocktail. Figure out what’s right for you and have a better happy hour.

Read the entire article: How To Order A Martini Like A Total Pro.

Gin van (New World Trading Company)

A great concept from the United Kingdom: a mobile gin van:

Forget hosting a BYOB gathering, you can now pay for a mobile gin van to deliver delicious drinks straight to your party. The catch is that you can’t have the van, called The Wanderer, on speed dial for a quick drink or two.

Instead, the van, created by New World Trading Company (NWTC), has to be hired as a fully-kitted mobile bar, so it’s more suitable for weddings and big celebrations than your average house party.

Still, dedicated gin fans may be tempted to club together for an extravagant Saturday night after hearing what the van offers.

Read the article by Rachel Moss: This Mobile Gin Van Will Deliver Cocktails Straight To Your Party (But There’s A Catch).

From the UK’s Daily Mail, an article on retro drinks and the current popularity of bitter drinks (the Negroni) and ingredients (such as Campari, Cinzano and Aperol):

Speaking about the new trend, John Vine, drinks buyer at Waitrose, said: ‘Bitter notes can be refreshing and act as a foil to sweetness , the right balance makes for the perfect cocktail.’

His comments correspond with data from the store, which shows a thirty five per cent sales increase in sales of Cinzano, which is perhaps best known for its placement in the iconic TV advert featuring Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins.

I am a fan of bitter cocktails and have written previously about the Negroni.  Such drinks reflect, in some ways, this vale of tears through which we pass.

Failing to recall the “iconic TV ad,” I looked it up:

Outstanding.  According to the Campari corporate website:

Rated 11th best TV commercial of all time, the most famous Cinzano TV ads were those of Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins during the 1970s. The infamous couple engaged in 10 unforgettable slapstick sketches that always ended in Rossiter pouring a glass of Cinzano on a progressively more resigned Joan Collins.

Here is another one, this time about rose.

The Gin Corner

Rose be damned.  I am partial to gin.  Spaniards apparently take their gin and tonic seriously:

“In Spain, gin-tonic is not just a cocktail, 
it is an obsession,” says José Andrés. Here’s everything you need to know to nail this iconic drink at home—and six places in the States with excellent G&T options.

  • In Spain, fresh herbs (lemon verbena, rosemary or lavender), 
lemon peel, juniper berries, edible flowers and even whole spices are used to enhance the gin’s botanicals.
  • Spanish bars stock as many as 50 different gins. Our choice: a London dry style. José’s two favorites: Rives Special Premium Tridestilada from Andalusia and Xoriguer Gin de Mahón from Menorca.
  • Amplify the aroma of the 
gin and the garnishes with a large wine glass or goblet.
  • Big ice cubes keep your gin-tonic chilled without watering 
it down.
  • Look for tonic made with cane sugar or agave (not high-fructose syrup), such as Q, Fever-Tree or Fentimans, for 
a balanced mix 
of sweetness 
cut with quinine bitterness.

In particular, I endorse lemon (rather than lime); lots of ice (most G&Ts are insufficiently cold); and high-quality, non-syrupy tonic.

Read the full article here: How to Make the Perfect Gin and Tonic, According to José Andrés.

Also, from the Boston Globe, a recipe-filled article for new gin cocktails from New England distillers.

The Joy Division (via Liquor.com)

Finally, here is a recipe for the Joy Division cocktail.  This may be worthy of a try: at times, I will rinse the inside of a martini glass with absinthe, which manages to simultaneously slow down and speed up the gin.

I know little of the post-punk English band from which the cocktail takes its name, although one of my favorite crime writers, Ian Rankin, used the title of one of their songs for a book title.

More to my taste, and to start you into your weekend, is Rare Earth’s 1970 version of “Get Ready”:

Preview (opens in a new window)


Summer Crime, “Young Lawyers,” Martinis

Casual Friday.

Summer’s heat is fully upon us.  Let us take a moment for crime fiction and cocktails.

For recent crime-fiction releases, take a look at Midmonth Book Notes  from The Poisoned Pen bookstore.

Also, here is a useful “review of reviewers” from The Rap Sheet blog.  And, for the visually-oriented, The Rap Sheet has a YouTube channel.  One clip I found there was for a show called “The Young Lawyers,” which ran from 1969 to 1971 and which I vaguely recall.  As described by IMDb:

David Barrett [a young-looking Lee J. Cobb] heads an organization in Boston that supports poor and indigent clients with the aid of young lawyers, Aaron Silverman is the young idealist, Pat Walters is the black street-smart lawyer and Chris Blake is the WASP added to balance the cast.

The opening credits are outstanding, and show some sharp dressing across Harvard Yard:

 

Management course?

Inasmuch as White Collar Wire focuses on white-collar crime, this post by J. Kingston Pierce (the publisher of The Rap Sheet) about “business” in crime-novel titles fits well:

While contemplating the imminent release, in late July, of Killing Is My Business (Tor), Adam Christopher’s second novel in his speculative-fiction/crime-fiction series starring steely eyed, tough-talking robot private investigator Raymond Electromatic, I got to thinking about how many other imaginative yarns based in the realm of crime and corruption have included the word “business” in their titles. At least a good handful, it seems.

Plus, the book-covers are outstanding.

Better late than never, I came across Tipping My Fedora, a detective-fiction, all-media blog which has some fine entries.

 

Not casual Friday.

As long as we are on the subject of books, my favorite photo-book on the martini is The Martini: An Illustrated History of an American Classic by Barnaby Conrad III.  From the Amazon review:

A chilled, crystal glass; the purest gin; a touch of dry vermouth–vigorously shaken, not stirred–and a plump, green olive. The martini was and still is more than just a cocktail. Originally mixed in the nineteenth century, it became an American icon in the twentieth, and the favorite drink of such luminaries as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Jack London, and Ernest Hemingway. Bernard De Voto called the martini “the supreme American gift to world culture,” while H. L. Mencken declared it “the only American invention as perfect as a sonnet.”

The first book of its kind to explore the drink’s wide appeal, this volume serves up a fabulous cocktail of martini-inspired art, cartoons, collectibles, advertisements, and film stills that reveal how deeply this classic has permeated every aspect of American culture, from literature and film to politics and high society. Complete with bartending lore, traditional martini recipes, literary excerpts, memorable scenes from James Bond movies, and more, The Martini offers a toast to this intoxicating symbol of the American dream.

Bernard DeVoto.

For a mature understanding of the martini, however, there is no peer to The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto by critic Bernard DeVoto (1897-1955).  The Amazon review:

One part celebration, one part history, two parts manifesto, Bernard DeVoto’s The Hour is a comic and unequivocal treatise on how and why we drink―properly. The Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award–winning author turns his shrewd wit on the spirits and attitudes that cause his stomach to turn and his eyes to roll (Warning: this book is NOT for rum drinkers). DeVoto instructs his readers on how to drink like gentlemen and sheds new light on the simple joys of the cocktail hour. Daniel Handler’s introduction to this reprint of the 1950s classic provides a humorous framework for the modern reader.

The Hour is to the martini as The Elements of Style is to composition.  DeVoto hated olives (lemon twist instead) and railed against shaking (preferring the stirred martini, as do I).  People will call all sorts of messes a “martini,” but in these days of alleged “fake news” we do well to remember that a martini is a stirred gin cocktail.

 


Vermouth, Bitters and Black Coffee

The transatlantic bond.

In speaking of the martini, Winston Churchill supposedly observed   “I would like to observe the vermouth from across the room while I drink my martini.”  Here is a recipe for a “Churchill martini,” which is basically a glass of cold gin.

Hammering the martinis.

On the other hand, Julia Child supposedly went to the opposite extreme: a glass filled with vermouth and topped with gin, also known in this recipe as an “upside down martini.”

I am no Churchill or Child, on several counts, but I have never understood the anti-vermouth wing of the martini party.  A martini is a cocktail.  A cocktail, by definition, is “an alcoholic drink consisting of a spirit or spirits mixed with other ingredients, such as fruit juice or cream.”  Ignore the “fruit juice or cream” modifier.  The point is that a cocktail is a mixture of things, and a martini mixes gin with vermouth (by being stirred, one hopes, not shaken).

On the other hand, we can consider drinking vermouth by itself, a concept that does not offend because vermouth by itself does not call itself a “martini.”

Vermouth shooters?

Lettie Teague of the Wall Street Journal offers a thorough article on  The Best Vermouths for Sipping.  In particular, she notes the new drive towards drinking vermouth on its own, which is apparently the way that things started out:

A tall order, perhaps, but that’s how vermouth is usually consumed in Europe—not as a component in a Manhattan or martini, as in the U.S. Back in 1786, in Turin, Italy, Antonio Benedetto Carpano created vermouth to be sipped as an aperitif. He infused a white wine with herbs and spices, and it was an immediate hit, so popular that Turin cafes purportedly had to stay open day and night to meet the demand.

Such practices have a ways to go in the United States, but who knows?

Either way, Fred Astaire in 1943 was having none of it:

 

“Celery.”  It sounds . . . English.

Bitters are now a “thing” again.  (I like celery bitters with Plymouth or Death’s Door gin).

One may reasonably ask, with EpicuriousWhat Are Bitters, Anyway?

Basically:

Bitters are made from botanicals, like aromatic herbs, bark, roots, and fruit. These ingredients are infused into a flavorless alcohol base to create a potent flavoring. You know how you add salt to almost everything you cook for that extra flavor boost? That’s sort of like what bitters do for cocktails.

There are all sorts of ways to use them in cocktails, and there is even a book about bitters.  Originally, they were touted as having digestive and even medicinal properties.  Dropped into gin, I have certainly found them so.

No matter how you take your martinis, if you are over-served, you may need a pot of black coffee (via Julie London (on “Around Midnight” (1960)):


 


Red Harvest: Crime Fiction and Gospel Conviction

Forgot how itchy this suit is.

Forgot how itchy this suit is.

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.

Second-hand smoke.

Second-hand smoke.

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

Ingredients

  • 3 parts chocolate vodka
  • ½ shot creme de menthe
  • 1 shot chocolate milk liquor
  • Chocolate syrup (as needed)
  • 1 Thin Mint, crushed

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
Thin Mints Martini: ready for Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Red Lobster.

Thin Mints Martini: ready for Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Red Lobster.

 

The mind, as well as the bowel, races.  One might add:

3.  Insert Luger under tongue to minimize the aftertaste

 

 

 

The Seelbach.

The Seelbach.

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.

 

 


Weekend: GCs on Boards and Gin in Ice

 Notes For the Weekend:

 

I tend to agree:  No, General Counsels Should Not Be On The Board.  The conflicts can be too great.  GCs sometimes have a hard enough time, as it is, being honest brokers and, as the saying goes, speaking truth to power.

Especially good corruption, bribery and FCPA collection from Corruption Currents  (via@WSJRisk).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

500 Pearl St. logo

As always, a good summary of white-collar news from @WaltPavlo and 500 Pearl Street.

 

And finally . . .

The best “coffee-table” book I have read on martinis is The Martini: An Illustrated History of an American Classic by Barnaby Conrad III:

A chilled, crystal glass; the purest gin; a touch of dry vermouth–vigorously shaken, not stirred–and a plump, green olive. The martini was and still is more than just a cocktail. Originally mixed in the nineteenth century, it became an American icon in the twentieth, and the favorite drink of such luminaries as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Jack London, and Ernest Hemingway. Bernard De Voto called the martini “the supreme American gift to world culture,” while H. L. Mencken declared it “the only American invention as perfect as a sonnet.”

The first book of its kind to explore the drink’s wide appeal, this volume serves up a fabulous cocktail of martini-inspired art, cartoons, collectibles, advertisements, and film stills that reveal how deeply this classic has permeated every aspect of American culture, from literature and film to politics and high society. Complete with bartending lore, traditional martini recipes, literary excerpts, memorable scenes from James Bond movies, and more, The Martini offers a toast to this intoxicating symbol of the American dream.