Monthly Archives: June, 2014

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 lifelong dream of serving on the highest court in the land. It appears that 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 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 into 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 legendary Ramos Gin Fizz inventor 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 just over 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 into the frosted cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: Canada’s favorite cocktail.


June 29: Setting The Globe On Fire

Globe FireThere are only a few confirmed performances of any of William Shakespeare’s plays during the Bard’s lifetime. Now, obviously we know that his thirty-odd plays were frequently performed during his lifetime, but we only know the exact dates for a decent sized handful of performances. These include 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 June 29, 1613 today. And why do we know that Henry VIII was performed 401 years ago today? Because it was during that performance that 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.

There’s a scene in Henry VIII in which the title king arrives at a banquet at the home of Cardinal Wolsey, and the script called for the arrival to be marked by cannon fire. Unfortunately, at this performance the lighting of the prop cannon also ignited a nearby wooden beam. Soon enough, 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 will 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

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 vastly outnumbered them.

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 gained 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: The First ATM

ATMThe automated teller machine is one of those conveniences of modern life that we take for granted, and it was on this day in 1967 that an ATM was used for the first time ever.

Banks and inventors had been developing a self-serving cash machine for years. In the early 1960s, teams from Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States all individually tried to create a machine that could accept checks and cash and give customers money. In fact, according to the U. S. Patent Office, a Luther George Simjian filed a patent for a Bankmatic Automated Teller Machine, but it would be years before his invention got a proper roll-out.

However, it’s John Shepherd-Barron, a Scottish inventor with the printing firm De La Rue, who gets the credit for the first ATM in public use. The machine was installed at Barclays Bank in Enfield Town in North London, United Kingdom. To attract publicity to the new service, comedian Reg Varney (seen above) was invited to be the first customer to use Barclays’ De La Rue Automatic Cash System, or DACS. Soon after other cash machine service would pop up all over the world.

Since it’s the anniversary of the ATM’s debut, let’s celebrate easy access to money with an Easy Money. It’s a smooth blended rum cocktail that uses mango sherbert to give it some thickness.

Easy Money

  • 1 ounce White Rum
  • 1/2 ounce Dark Rum
  • 1/2 ounce Coconut Rum
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • 1/4 ounce lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons mango sherbert
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine

Blend all ingredients except the grenadine with crushed ice. Pour into a hurricane glass and then drizzle the grenadine on top.

Tomorrow: A legend of the American Revolution.

June 26: Dodgers v Giants v 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 six innings and then 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 as $5.5-million in war bonds was raised from attendees of the game. An additional $50-million in bond money was contributed by the City of New York, while the Bond Clothing Company provided another $1-million in exchange for a game day program signed by the members of all three teams.

Now, there’s no cocktail directly tied in to this amazing game, so we have to turn to another bit of Polo Grounds history: 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. 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 contains no hot dogs.

Harry M. Stevens

  • 3/4 ounce White Rum
  • 3/4 ounce Dry Vermouth
  • 3/4 ounce Apricot Brandy
  • 3/4 ounce orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Curaçao
  • 1/2 teaspoon grenadine

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

Tomorrow: We hit up an ATM.

June 25: Anthony Bourdain

anthony_bourdain Anthony Bourdain, one of the most influential and entertaining personalities in the world of food was born on this day in 1956.

Bourdain has built a reputation as a prickly, often snarky but highly knowledgeable and adventurous world traveling chef. He first came to prominence with the 2000 release of his book Kitchen Confidential, in which he detailed his experiences working in restaurant kitchens and reveals 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, Bourdain loves profanity almost as much as he loves a good meal, so 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 maintains 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. Amusingly, Bourdain claims he hates all three ingredients (gin, Campari and sweet vermouth), but he loves it 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 everything into 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 23: 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 starred in 52 films during her career and was one of the first movie stars to have their name appear above the movie title on theater marquees. In fact, in her heyday, the only actor at the time who was as popular as Pickford was Charlie Chaplin. The first actress dubbed  “America’s Sweetheart”; Pickford cemented her place in film history on this day in 1916 when she became the first actress to sign a million dollar contract.

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 remained 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 with ice and strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

Tomorrow: A globetrotting chef.

June 23: Robert Hunter

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
  • 1 splash Port Wine

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

Tomorrow: The original American Sweetheart.


June 22: Billy Wilder

Billy Wilderf you asked any cinephile to name their favorite writers or directors, it’s a good chance that Billy Wilder would be one of the people they named, and it just so happens that Wilder was born on this day in 1906.

Wilder 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. 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 Awards, one Directors Guild of America Awards 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.

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.

June 21: Summer Solstice

SummertimeReaders, you’re all fantastic, but I think I’m going to phone this entry in, for it’s the first day of summer, and from where I’m sitting in sunny Los Angeles it is absolutely beautiful. SSince it’s the Summer solstice and a Saturday to boot, I say get out there and enjoy the start of the season.

And what better way to enjoy the longest day of the year, than by soaking up the rays and drinking a Sunshine Cocktail. According to some reports, this drink was created by the South Florida Pineapple Board to promote pineapple juice. Regardless of its origin, it’s a refreshing way to kick off your definition of summer madness.

Sunshine Cocktail

  • 2 ounces White Rum
  • 1/2 ounce Dry Vermouth
  • 1 ounce pineapple juice
  • 1 splash grenadine

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: We go for something Wilder.