Monthly Archives: June, 2013

July 1: Canada Day

CanadaIf you hear any celebrating coming from north of the 49th parallel today, it’s probably because it’s Canada Day! The occasion is often described as “Canada’s Birthday,” but it actually marks the  anniversary of the enactment of the British North America Act, 1867 on July 1, 1867. This act united the colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada into the country of Canada. For the record, that didn’t give Canada full independence from the British Empire, as the Parliament of the United Kingdom still had some power over the country until 1982. In fact, even though Canada is an independent nation now, England’s Queen Elizabeth II remains their (ceremonial) head of state.

Now, for this great day we have to drink a Canadian original, so may I present to you the Caesar. Created in 1969 by Walter Chell, the then manager of the Calgary Inn hotel, the Caeasar is incredibly popular in Canada. In fact in 2009 Caesar festivals were held around Canada to mark the drink’s 40th anniversary, and a petition was floated around to make the Caesar the official mixed drink of Canada. Despite this, the drink is largely unknown outside of its native land. Some have speculated that the American distate for Clamato (clam-tomato juice) has kept this drink from becoming popular south of the Canadian border. So, if you want a new twist on the Bloody Mary (and don’t mind clam juice) give this drink a taste this Canada Day.

Caesar

  • 6 ounces Clamato
  • 1 1/2 ounces Vodka
  • 2 dashes hot sauce
  • 4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash of pepper

Rim a highball glass with lime juice and celery salt. Pour the ingredients in this glass over ice. Stir and garnish with a lime wedge and celery stalk.

Tomorrow: An unsolved disappearance.

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June 30: Chief Justice Taft

Taft CourtIn Jon Stewart and The Daily Show writers’ satirical 2004 faux text book America (The Book), William Howard Taft is described as follows:

Taft served as both president of the United States and chief justice of the Supreme Court –a remarkable feat unmatched in U. S. history. Taft also weight 320 pounds, making him the heaviest to serve either position. Guess which distinction people brought up more.

Well, today we’re going to honor Taft’s unique political achievement, for it was on this day in 1921 President Warren G. Harding nominated Taft as chief justice of the Supreme Court. Unsurprisingly, Taft was quickly confirmed and achieved his life long dream of serving on the highest court in the land. Taft vastly preferred his time as chief justice to his four years as president, and to be blunt, so did his colleagues. Justice Felix Frankfurter reportedly said to Justice Louis Brandeis that it was “difficult for me to understand why a man who is so good a Chief Justice…could have been so bad as President.”

Taft’s time on the judicial bench featured few cases that are well remembered in the present day, but he was instrumental in making changes to the Court’s operating procedures. He supported the Judiciary Act of 1925 which gave the court more independence in choosing what cases to hear. and brought the courts of Washington D. C. and the U. S. territories and possessions in to the U. S. federal courts system. Additionally, at the time, the Supreme Court met in the Capitol building’s Old Senate Chamber. Taft argued that as a separate and independent branch of the federal government, the Supreme Court should have its own building to distance the Court from Congress. Sadly for Taft, it wasn’t until five years after his death that the Supreme Court Building would be built.

In the 1925 court case Samuels v. McCurdy, the Court heard a challenge to a Georgia law that made it illegal to own liquor that was legally purchased pre-Prohibition. The court ruled 8 to 1 that the law was unconstitutional, with Taft writing the majority opinion. So let’s raise a glass to the defender of a drinker’s property with a Taft Cocktail.

Now, there’s a slight problem here, as the exact recipe of the Taft has been lost to time, but I was able to find a copy of the Reading Eagle newspaper from 1909 that mentions a Taft cocktail created by Ramos Gin Fizz maker Henry C. Ramos which is “built after the manner of the Creole cocktail, but it has some trimmings.” The only other bit of information that the article gives is that the rim of the glass is dipped in a mix of lime and lemon juice and then frosted with powdered sugar. So, I’ve taken an old recipe for the Creole and added the preparation instructions from that 1909 article to create a reasonable facsimile of what they might have been drinking in New Orleans nearly a hundred years ago.

Taft Cocktail (Recreated)

  • 1 ounce Bourbon
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/4 ounce Benedictine
  • 1/4 ounce Amer Picon

Dip the rim of the cocktail glass in a mix of lime and lemon juice and then frosted with powdered sugar. Stir the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and pour in to the frosted cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: We enter our second month with Canada’s favorite cocktail

June 29: Setting The Globe On Fire

Globe FireYou know, there are only a few confirmed performances of Wiliam Shakespeare’s plays during the Bard’s lifetime. Now, obviously we know that his thirty-odd plays were frequently performed during Shakespeare’s era, but we only have the confirmed dates for a decent sized handful of performances, like a Swedish tourist’s account of the likely premier of Julius Caesar; the 1601 performance of Richard II commissioned by the Earl of Essex to help rally supporters for a treason plot, and a performance of Henry VIII that occurred 400 years ago today. And why do we know that Henry VIII was performed 400 years ago today? Because during that performance, the Globe Theater burned to the ground!

Opened sometime in 1599, the Globe served as the home for Shakespeare and the theater troupe he wrote (and sometimes acted) for, The Lord Chamberlin’s Men and their star, Richard Burbage; the first great Shakespearean actor. Although the Lord Chamberlin’s Men performed at other London theaters, the Globe’s open air “wooden O” was their home.

So, at the fateful performance of June 29, 1613, King Henry VIII’s arrival in disguise to a banquet at the home of Cardinal Wolsey was to be marked by cannon fire. Unfortunately, the lighting of the prop cannon also ignited a nearby wooden beam, at which point the fire began to spread all the way to the the Globe’s thatched roof. Thankfully, everyone was evacuated and no one was hurt, except for one man whose pants were literally on fire until someone extinguished them with a bottle of ale. However, we may never know how many scripts, props and other theatrical treasures were lost in the blaze.

The Globe would be rebuilt a year later with a tiled roof to help prevent another disaster. Amusingly enough we happen to know what play was performed at the rebuilt Globe on June 29, 1618, fifteen years after the inferno: Henry VIII.

So, after a nice evening at the theater, how about we grab a drink? Might I suggest The Globe Cocktail? Built by Jason Rector, the bar manager for San Francisco’s Globe Hotel, it’s a great alternative to the Mojito, perfect for a hot summer’s night.

The Globe Cocktail

  • 3 ounces Gin
  • 1 ounces St. Germain (elderflower liqueur)
  • 1 ounces lime juice
  • 1/2 ounces agave nectar (simple syrup will also work)

Shake together, and serve in a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish by allowing a sprig of mint to float on the liquid.

Tomorrow: The only president of the United States to become chief justice of the Supreme Court stops by for a drink.

June 28: Molly Pitcher & The Battle of Monmouth

Molly PitcherJune 28, 1778, The Battle of Monmouth Court House, New Jersey: Continental Army forces, led by General George Washington fight Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton’s British Army column to what essentially amounts to a draw. Clinton’s column would begin a retreat to New York under cover of night and over time the battle would be viewed as a turning point in the Revolutionary War, as the Americans were able to show that they could hold their ground against the British forces who outnumbered them.

Now, the story goes that one Mary Hays, the wife of an American soldier, was at the battle bringing fresh water from a nearby spring to soldiers and artillerymen. She would gain the nickname Molly Pitcher, as soldiers would yell “Molly! Pitcher!” when they needed water (At the time, Molly was frequently used as a nickname for women named Mary). It is said that during the battle Hays’ husband collapsed and was taken away from manning his cannon. Without a pause, Mary Hays picked up her husband’s ramrod and personally swabbed and loaded the cannon until the battle’s end. According to legend, at one point a cannon ball  flew between her legs and tore off part of her skirt, at which point Hays, like a true action movie badass shrugged and said “Well, that could have been worse,” and went right back to work.

Allegedly, General Washington gave special commendation to Mary Hays for her heroics at the Battle of Monmouth and she gained the nickname “Sergeant Molly.” Hays husband survived the battle, but would die in 1786. She would later remarry, and in 1822 the state of Pennsylvania would give Mary Hays, now Mary McCauley, an annual pension of $40 for her services. She died ten years later at the age of 78 and is buried in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with a statue of “Molly Pitcher” standing near her grave site.

Conveniently, there is a wonderful drink called the Molly Pitcher. It’s a sweet but potent drink, kind of like a tougher Cosmo, and a perfect tribute to this American woman warrior. As the old advertising slogan says it’s “Strong Enough for a Man, Made for a Woman.”

Molly Pitcher

  • 1 1/2 ounces Applejack (apple brandy)
  • 1 ounce triple sec
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 1 or 2 dashes of cranberry juice

Shake with ice, strain into cocktail glass and garnish with a lime wedge.

Tomorrow: A theatrical production brings down the house…by accidentally setting the place on fire.

June 27: National Orange Blossom Day

Well, boys and girls, today’s a rather slow day in drinkable history, but according to the internet, it’s National Orange Blossom Day! Yes, a whole holiday devoted to the flower of the orange tree, which is used for everything from perfumes to honey to teas. Did I mention it’s the official state flower of America’s favorite drugged out and arrested state, Florida? Well, it is!

Alright, really, there’s not much to say about National Orange Blossom Day. In fact no one even knows the history of this alleged holiday. There is however an old drink called the Orange Blossom. It was included in the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book, so you know it’s at least somewhat respectable. It’s a simple little thing, but it does exactly what you’d need it to do.

Orange Blossom

  • 1 ounce Gin
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce orange juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: We look at something infinitely more interesting: A legend of the American Revolution.

June 26: Dodgers vs Giants vs Yankees

TriCorneredBaseballOn this day in 1944, a most unusual baseball game was played at New York City’s Polo Grounds. the Brooklyn Dodgers went up against the New York Giants and New York Yankees in a one of a kind “tri-cornered” baseball game to raise money for war bonds. The rules of the game were like any other baseball game, except for one minor differences: The game would last nine innings, but each team would only play in six innings and sit out three. It went a little something like this: The Dodgers took on the Yankees in the 1st, as the Giants looked on. In the second, the Giants faced the Dodgers, while the Yankees sat out. Then in the third the Yankees played the Giants and the Dodgers took a breather. This rotation was repeated twice, allowing each team to face each other three times.

In the end, the final score was Dodgers 5, Yankees 1, Giants 0. Although the Brooklyn nine, led by future Hall of Famers Paul Waner and Leo Durocher, were the winners on the scoreboard, the real winner was the War Finance Committee. $5.5-million in war bonds was raised from attendees of the game, plus the $50-million in bond money contributed by the City of New York, and another $1-million donated by the Bond Clothing Company in exchange for a signed program from the game.

Now, there’s no cocktail directly tied in to this amazing game, so we have to turn to another Polo Grounds legend: Harry M. Stevens was an Englishman who ran the concessions stands at the Polo Grounds in the 1900s. According to a possibly dubious legend, one cold April day in 1901, Stevens noticed that people weren’t buying ice cream, so he ordered his staff to get some dachshund sausages and stuff them in bread rolls. Soon, shouts of “Get your red hots!” were heard from Polo Grounds vendors, and thus Harry M. Stevens might have invented the hot dog.

We can’t verify if this is entirely true, but we can direct you to the Harry M. Stevens Cocktail. First spotted in the 1937 Hotel Lincoln Cocktail Book, published three years after Stevens’ death, It’s a dry but fruity drink that’ll warm you up on a cool day, and thankfully it contains no hot dogs.

Harry M. Stevens

  • 3/4 ounce Light Rum
  • 3/4 dry vermouth
  • 3/4 apricot brandy
  • 3/4 orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon curaçao
  • 1/2 tesapoon grenadine

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a lime twist.

Tomorrow: The state of Florida wants us to make our drinks more flowery.

June 25: Anthony Bourdain’s Birthday

anthony_bourdainIf you’re anything like me, during last week’s Paula Deen racism scandal, you were waiting for Anthony Bourdain to make some wonderful snarky comment about Deen’s downfall. Bourdain, who was born 57 years ago today, had long been critical of  Deen’s decidedly unhealthy cooking and frequently referred to her as the “most dangerous woman to America.” Unfortunately, Bourdain hasn’t said anything about the fall of his old foe, but I think it’s safe to assume he got a small kick out of last week’s events.

But enough about Deep fried racism, let’s talk about the birthday boy. Bourdain has built a reputation as a prickly, often snarky but highly knowledgeable and adventurous world traveling chef. Bourdain first came to prominence with the 2000 release of his book Kitchen Confidential, detailing his experiences working in restaurant kitchens and what happens behind the scenes during the average dining experience. Since then, he’s hosted numerous travel programs that take him to destinations both well known and exotic where he explores local foods and cultures. Of course, because of his great love of profanity, his programs are probably the only travel programs to carry viewer discretion advisiories.

Although Bourdain may come off to some as a sarcastic “chef with an attitude,” he has a deep respect for locals and their traditions. He’ll even eat unwashed warthog rectum with Namibians because even though he thinks that’s one of the worst meals he’s ever had, it would be rude to not eat the food his Namibian hosts provided him with. Really, the best assessment I’ve ever heard about Bourdain is that “he makes you want to be a better asshole.”

Conveniently, Bourdain has actually gone on record as to what his favorite drink is. In an interview with Forbes, Bourdain revealed that he is a fan of the classic cocktail The Negroni. Interestingly, Bourdain claims he hates all three ingredients (gin, Campari and sweet vermouth), but he loves when the three are mixed together. It’s a sharp drink with bitter notes, so it’s not for everyone; but it’s perfect for Bourdain.

The Negroni

  • 1 ounce Gin
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth

Pour the alcohols in to a short rocks glass with ice, give it a few quick stirs and garnish with an orange peel.

Tomorrow: The most unusual baseball game ever played.

 

June 24: Mary Pickford’s Million Dollar Contract

Mary_Pickford_with_camera2I think it’s fair to describe Mary Pickford as the most powerful woman of the early days of the film industry. Pickford, who would star in 52 films during her career, was one of the first movie stars to have their name appear above the movie title on theater marquees. Pickford was the first actress dubbed  “America’s Sweetheart,” and on this day in 1916 she cemented her place in film history by becoming the first actress to sign a million dollar contract. In fact, the only actor at the time who was as popular as Pickford was Charlie Chaplin.

Now, a million dollar contract and the adoration of millions would be enough for some Hollywood stars, but not Pickford. In 1919, Pickford would team up with director D. W. Griffith, her future husband Douglas Fairbanks, and Chaplin to create the United Artist Studios. This partnership of four of cinema’s biggest names would give actors and directors both more artistic control over films and a greater share of movie profits. On top of that, Pickford would later help start the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Oscars and a major preserver of film. Pickford would largely retire from acting shortly after the dawn of the “talkies,” but would remain a major force in the film industry until she left United Artists in the mid-1950s.

During Prohibition, at the height of her fame, legendary Havana bartender Eddie Woelke created a cocktail to honor Pickford. The Mary Pickford is an appropriately sweet and smart little thing that wouldn’t be out of place on the menu of a 1950s Tiki bar.

Mary Pickford

  • 2 ounces Rum
  • 1 ounce pineapple juice
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine
  • 1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur

Shake the ingredients thoroughly in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Strain in to a cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

Tomorrow: We honor a globetrotting chef.

June 23: Robert Hunter’s Birthday

hunter-garciaWhen is a key member of a rock band not part of the band? When he’s the lyricist. Such is the unusual state of songwriter Robert Hunter’s (born on this day in 1941) membership in the Grateful Dead. Hunter (seen at left with writing partner and Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia) served as the Dead’s main lyricist for most of their thirty year run. His often surrealistic lyrics complimented the Dead’s psychedelic jamming. Hunter’s lyrics would help make albums like Aoxomoxoa, Working Man’s Dead and American Beauty rock classics, and a lyric of his from the proto-rap song “Truckin,” “what a long strange trip it’s been,” has become a longstanding hippie slogan. Hunter was such an important member of the band, that when the Grateful Dead was inducted in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, he was included on the list of inductees, making him the only non-performer to be inducted as part of a musical group.

American Beauty is considered by some to be the Dead’s masterpiece and includes the song “Friend Of The Devil,” which Hunter has said he and Garcia thought that “that was the closest we’ve come to what may be a classic song.” So, it’s only appropriate that you toast Hunter, Garcia and the rest of the Grateful Dead with an American Beauty cocktail. The drink has a rosy color and a slight hint of mint. But don’t let appearances fool you, this beauty’s heavy alcohol content packs a punch.

American Beauty

  • 1/2 ounce Brandy
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce orange juice
  • 1/2 ounce grenadine
  • 1 dash creme de menthe

Shake the ingredients thoroughly in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Strain in to a cocktail glass and carefully float a splash of Port Wine into the glass. To float a liquor, slowly pour it over an inverted teaspoon (round side up) and into the glass.

Tomorrow: A drink named for the original American Sweetheart.

June 22: Billy Wilder’s Birthday

Billy WilderIf you asked any cinephile to name their favorite writer-directors, it’s a good chance that Billy Wilder would be one of the people they named. Wilder, who was born on this day in 1906,  was able to seamlessly bounce from drama to screwball comedy to noir thriller to romance. His are some of the funniest, darkest and sharpest scripts to ever come out of Hollywood’s. If you don’t believe me, check out his Academy Award resume:

  • 8 Best Director Oscar nominations (2 wins)
  • 12 Oscar nominations for Screenwriting (3 wins)
  • 5 of his films were nominated for Best Picture (2 wins)
  • Directed 14 Oscar nominated performances (3 wins)

Additionally, Wilder won five Writers Guild of America Award, one Directors Guild of America Award and the American Film Institute has named four of Wilder’s films amongst the 100 greatest American films ever made.

There’s no one cocktail associated with Wilder, although there is a bar named in his honor in Berlin, so I had to turn to his films to find an appropriate liquid tribute. After some thorough research, I came to realize that the Whiskey Sour would be the right way to toast Wilder. After all, a bottle of whiskey plays a key role in his heartbreaking best picture winning alcoholism drama The Lost Weekend and in Wilder’s farce The Seven Year Itch, Tom Ewell explains to Marilyn Monroe “I’m perfectly capable of fixing my own breakfast. As a matter of fact, I had two peanut butter sandwiches and two whiskey sours.” On top of all that, when done right the Whiskey Sour is slightly dark, a touch sweet and a little sour; just like Wilder’s best screenplays.

The Whiskey Sour

  • 2 ounces Whiskey
  • 2/3 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Pour the whiskey, lemon juice and sugar in to an old fashioned glass half-filled with ice and stir. Add an orange slice and cherry and serve.

Tomorrow: An underheralded songwriter, and the band he made famous.