Archive for the ‘History’ Category
Thursday, March 19th, 2009
The Richmond Cocktail; old ingredients with a new name, in honor of a historic landmark.
A terrible fire erupted in the mountains of Western North Carolina in the early hours of March 19, with the blaze that ensued managing to consume a historic landmark, the Richmond Hill Inn, near Asheville. Area news source the Asheville Citizen Times reported that “The months leading up to a devastating fire today at the Richmond Hill Inn were fraught with conflict as current and former owners battled over a $6.8 million debt. The historic inn building and surrounding complex were set to be sold April 16 on the courthouse steps because of an unpaid mortgage.”
Area officials suspect arson as the cause of the fire that consumed the landmark, and speculation abounds as to who, how or why it may have occurred.
Weather in the mountains was particularly dreary today, with the first spring thunderstorm arriving only hours too late to aid in quenching the smoke that still pours off Richmond Hill outside of town. As I drove North toward the township of Woodfin today on business, I could still see firefighters perched above the ruins, working to insure that no embers continued to burn within (I understand that thirtteen different firefighting crews were needed to assist in extinguishing the fire at its worst). After such melancholy news, I retired early this evening to continue working on excessive records and reciepts for the ever-nearing tax deadlines next month, and by around 8 PM this evening it became evident that a cocktail was in order.
Thursday, February 26th, 2009
Brian McDonald at the New York Times alcohol blog Proof recently shared some rather philosophical musings on drunken writers who have influenced him, and among them I found one of my many favorites: Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Below is an excerpt:
“Late one night Hunter S. Thompson sat by himself at a back table lighting shots of Bacardi 151 rum with his Zippo and firing them down the hatch. I don’t remember how many flaming shots he drank — but I do remember the last one. Something had gone horribly wrong with his technique. When I looked back at him he was on fire. Only the quick thinking of Carlo the waiter, who snatched a nearby tablecloth and used it to smother the blue flames, saved Dr. Thompson from escalating into a three-alarm blaze.”
The Rum Diary : A Novel
Among other vibrant literary names, McDonald also conjures Hemingway, as well as F. Scott Fitzgerald (another feller close to home in my repitoire). You can read the entire article by visiting the Times Web site.
Sunday, February 8th, 2009
The general consensus among true drink connoisseurs is (and always has been) that a fine cocktail beverage is a proper blend of a few flavors, not a muddling mixture of too many. Thus, according to such lore from the annals of fine mixology, many weekend barflies may be surprised to learn that one of today’s most popular beverages certainly wouldn’t be considered a “fine cocktail”; the drink in question is none other than the Long Island Iced Tea.
This beverage, since its creation in 1976, has grown to a position of immense popularity, especially among college-age drinkers traditionally around the time of spring break. Modern Drunkard magazine cites it as a beverage which “no matter how old you are, at some level, you’re still afraid your parents are going to catch you drinking,” due to its ability to mask that a cocktail is being consumed at all with its convenient resemblance to non-alcoholic iced tea. But be warned; however much it may look like iced tea, be reminded that it surely isn’t. Sporting a recipe that includes equal parts vodka, gin, tequila, rum and triple sec, the drink is typically higher in alcohol concentration that most beverages (around 28%), and thus has the effect of ridding one of their sobriety more quickly.
Thursday, February 5th, 2009
PROHIBITION ALERT: And you’ll never guess where…
…Wrong again. It’s UTAH, the great state of fear-mongering.
Monkey See, Monkey Do (just look at this poor guy, made to dress like a peanut after watching Planters Peanuts commercials).
Apparently, Utah state legislators are pressing for laws that will restrict restaurants from making mixed drinks in view of minors seated in their establishment. According to senate president Michael Waddoups, such legislation is necessary to protect the “safety and mental future of our children.” As we all know by now, “monkey see… monkey do.” Lord help us, we can’t have our children driven to insanity by watching bartenders pour up drinks… shield their virgin eyes, and presumably wait until the drinks arrive safely at the table, where they may be consumed in full-view of youngsters far and wide.
Indeed, restaurants falling under this new proposed category of restriction will be forced to remodel if their bar is visible from main dining areas. Hey, while we’re at it, we might as well go ahead and ban people from being allowed to light cigarettes in front of minors as well, eh? Apparently the problem with mixed drinks, according to legislators, is the act of making them in front of youngsters instead of the far less harmful act of drinking them; therefore, if we continue to follow this logic, a ban on lighting cigarettes in view of minors should likely be passed as well. Granted, the act of smoking in front of kiddies ought to be fine and dandy, right?
Hell, let’s take no chances… why not go ahead and just kill two birds with one stone? Why not say all smokers have to sit at the bar from now on as well (which will already be shielded from the highly impressionable young eyes of our children, of course). After all, this is America the free, baby.
Sunday, February 1st, 2009
When asked to give the best example of a great American mixed-drink, no doubt many a spirit-purist would cite the Old Fashioned as the definitive classic cocktail. According to frontier legend, the first use of the name “Old Fashioned” was with a kind of Bourbon whiskey cocktail served at the Pendennis Club, a gentlemen’s club in Louisville, Kentucky, back in the 1880s. The recipe, supposedly invented by a bartender at the Pendennis, was also popularized by Colonel James E. Pepper, a regular there at the club who is later was said to have brought it to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel bar in New York City. On the other hand, historians would argue that the term “Old Fashioned” was already in use around the same time Pendennis Club was established (Editor’s Note: Indeed it was, and according to mixologist Robert Hess, the beverage is actually a traditional “Whiskey Cocktail, served old fashioned” and was likely stated as such, hence the origin of its popular name today. This title dates back to at least a year prior to the opening of the Pendennis). But all theories regarding its origin put aside, the heart of the debate that rages over the Old Fashioned today has the most to do with what goes in the damned thing.
The basic ingredients in the recipe appear to have been immortalized in print three-quarters of a century earlier than beverages were served at the Pendennis, in response to a letter asking to define the word “cocktail” in the May 6, 1806 issue of the New York Balance and Columbia Repository. The May 13 issue that would follow featured a note from the editor, who described it as a potent concoction of “spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.”
With all due respect to the years lapsing between, at this point we’ll fast forward to 1948, and the release of David A. Embury’s seminal testament on the art of crafting classy mixed beverages The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. The reason for this was perhaps best summed up in the author’s views regarding the creation of any good cocktail beverage, which stated that the ideal mixed drink “should be made from good-quality, high-proof liquors”, and “should whet rather than dull the appetite. Thus, it should never be sweet or syrupy, or contain too much fruit juice, egg or cream.” Following Embury’s guidelines goes directly against practices maintained during the prohibition period, which involved heavy use of sugars, syrups, and fruits to hide the flavor of poor-quality liquors. This being said, we’ll skip straight to Embury’s notion that the over-use of sugar or fruity elements (both of which are called for in most Old Fashioned recipes) will need to be something to avoid when mixing this concoction correctly.
Friday, January 30th, 2009
With the economic turmoil looming over the American people at present, I’ve supposed for a good while now that alcohol could in fact be a “recession proof” magic-bullet of sorts. Think about it, if times are bad people drink… they may not spend as much money on doing so, but people will drink regardless of the circumstances in order to rid themselves of worry, stress, and other things nagging at their minds and weighting their conscience (sadly, this of course can lead to alcohol abuse with folks who begin to feel more than a mere desire to drink socially).
Conversely, if times are good, money abounds, and jobs flourish, people still drink because now they can certainly afford to do so! Besides, good times and a booming economy call for celebration, right?
In addition to the notion that drinking may be recession-proof activity, another well-maintained theme here at Culture of Spirits is the notion that prohibition is NOT a good thing. However, in observing new trends in bars opening recently around the country, could it actually be that there are elements of prohibition-era America emerging today that are helping create a different kind of atmosphere… and a new kind of clientele… in bars and pubs around the country?