Monthly Archives: November, 2014

November 30: Wilde and Twain

Wilde-TwainNovember 30 is a very important day in the lives of two of the late 19th century’s greatest writers; as it was on November 30, 1835 that Samuel “Mark Twain” Clemens was born and on November 30, 1900 that Oscar Wilde died. Unfortunately, these two wits never had the opportunity to face off against each other, so instead, let’s compare their views on a few of life’s more important issue:

On Youth:

Twain: “It is a pity we can’t escape from life when we are young.”

Wilde: “Those whom the gods love grow young.”

On George Bernard Shaw:

Twain: “Shaw is a pleasant man; simple, direct, sincere, animated; but self-possessed, sane, and evenly poised, acute engaging, companionable, and quite destitute of affectation. I like him.”

Wilde: “An excellent man: he has no enemies, and none of his friends like him.”

On American Culture:

Wilde: “We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.”

Twain: “To string incongruities and absurdities together in a wandering and sometimes purposeless way, and seem innocently unaware that they are absurdities, is the basis of the American art, if my position is correct.”

On The Idiot In Society:

Twain: “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

Wilde: “Oh, I love London society! It is entirely composed now of beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics. Just what society should be.”

On Self-awareness:

Twain: “A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.”

Wilde: “Only the shallow know themselves.”

On Death:

Twain: “Death, the only immortal who treats us all alike, whose pity and whose peace and whose refuge are for all — the soiled and the pure, the rich and the poor, the loved and the unloved.”

Wilde: “Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.”

On the Afterlife:

Twain: “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.”

Wilde: “I don’t want to go to Heaven. None of my friends are there.”

Of course, it’s no surprise that these two have cocktails named after them, and rather than settle on one literary libation, today we’re making both of them. The Oscar Wilde is a pleasant sweet after-dinner drink that mixes Irish cream liqueur with Triple Sec. The Mark Twain is actually based on a letter Twain wrote to his wife while he was in London in 1874, saying that he has been enjoying “cock-tails” morning, noon and night and making the request that she “remember to have, in the bathroom, when I arrive, a bottle of Scotch whisky, a lemon, some crushed sugar, & a bottle of Angostura bitters.” It’s a nicely balanced drink, with the lemon and sugar nearly masking the whiskey’s smokiness.

Oscar Wilde

  • 2 ounce Irish Cream Liqueur
  • 1 ounce Triple Sec

Moisten the rim of an Old Fashioned glass and dip it with chocolate powder. Add ice and the liqueurs and stir.

Mark Twain

  •  1 1/2 ounces Scotch
  •   3/4 ounce lemon juice
  •   1 ounce simple syrup
  •   2 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: Adelaide, Australia plays host to one of the world’s strangest unsolved mysteries.

November 29: The Franksgiving Controversy

FranksgivingAs you know, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. However, for decades, Thanksgiving was not held specifically on the fourth Thursday, but the last Thursday of the month, which meant that every so often, the holiday was held on November’s fifth Thursday. It was on this day in 1956 that part of America celebrated Thanksgiving on the fifth Thursday of November for the final time.

Okay, I can hear you thinking that’s all very well and good, but why is this interesting? Well, when President Franklin Roosevelt declared in 1939 that Thanksgiving would henceforth be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, there was a lot of controversy. You see, that year Thanksgiving was going to fall on November 30, and American retailers (who along with the rest of the country had just started to bounce back from the Great Depression) were concerned that the late Thanksgiving would affect Christmas sales. It’s hard to believe now, but 75 years ago it was considered uncouth for businesses to display Christmas decorations or promote Christmas sales before Thanksgiving Day.

That year, on advice from Secretary of Commerce Harry Hopkins, Roosevelt announced that Thanksgiving would not be on November 30, but on November 23. Naturally, there were some complaints. Atlantic City mayor Thomas Taggart dubbed the November 23 Thanksgiving “Franksgiving.” Alf Landen, the Republican who lost to FDR in the 1938 election, said “If the change has any merit at all, more time should have been taken working it out… instead of springing it upon an unprepared country with the omnipotence of a Hitler.” If you learn anything from this blog, I hope it’s that politicians comparing American presidents to Herr Hitler is a tradition that predates World War II.

So, that year, and in several subsequent years that featured a November with five Thursdays, America’s Thanksgiving celebrations were split along party lines. States that had primarily Democratic controlled governments celebrated Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday (i. e. November 23, 1939), while those with Republican governments generally celebrated it on the fifth Thursday (i. e. November 30, 1939). A few states decided to not get involved in the controversy and celebrated both days as official holidays. After World Ward II, Congress decided to officially declare the fourth Thursday of November Thanksgiving, and for the most part the states went along with it…except for Texas, of course. Texas held on to the notion of celebrating Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of the month until November 29, 1956. After that year, the Lone Star State decided to get on the same page as the rest of the nation and began celebrating Turkey Day on the fourth Thursday and has continued to do so ever since.

While you dine on Thanksgiving leftovers this weekend, why not enjoy a sufficiently festive cocktail? The Pumpkin Spiced Martini comes to us from Los Angeles’ Fig & Olive restaurant. It’s a delicious way to spice up your seventh helping of turkey.

Pumpkin Spiced Martini

  • 1 1/2 ounce Vanilla Infused Vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Applejack
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce ginger syrup
  • 1 bar spoon pumpkin butter

Rim a chilled martini glass with crushed graham crackers by dipping it in maple syrup and then dunking in the crumbs. Then shake all ingredients with ice and strain into the graham cracker rimmed cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: Two of the 19th century’s wittiest writers.

November 28: The Black And White Ball

Black And White“This is how the other half lives… we know you were not rich, social, or beautiful enough to be invited, or you wouldn’t be up watching the news.” -CBS reporter Charles Kuralt, covering the Black And White Ball from outside the event.

According to Truman Capote’s longtime friend and editor, Leo Lerman, one day in 1942 Capote swore that if he ever became rich and famous, he’d throw a grand party for all of his rich and famous friends. Although Capote would often deny this story, usually as one of his trademark displays of false modesty, he was able to make good on this oath today in 1966 when he threw the legendary Black And White Ball.

Capote (seen at right greeting arrivals at the Ball) had been a favorite of the New York literary scene for some time now, but the success of his non-fiction novel In Cold Blood had made him a household name, and quite wealthy too. So, the time was right for a party. However, although the subtext of the party was that Capote had finally made it, it would be uncouth to throw a party in his own honor. Conveniently, he had recently begun a friendship with Katharine Graham, the unassuming head of the Washington Post Group (which owned the eponymous newspaper and Newsweek, among other media outlets) and the defacto most powerful woman in the United States. Capote knew that the combination of Graham’s influential position, her husband’s 1961 suicide and her shy demeanor would create the perfect hook to attract the nation’s movers and shakers to his party. When Capote told Graham that the party was to be in her honor, she was surprised and flattered, but privately suspected that Capote had planned the party long before thinking of her.

With the guest of honor decided, it soon came time to decide upon the theme and guest list. Inspired by the Ascot scene in the film version of My Fair Lady, in which all the women were dressed in black and white, he decided the dress code would exclusively be black and white. Additionally, he thought it would be fun to make the ball a masquerade. The way he saw it, having everyone wear masks would add an element of anonymity that would help people from different social circles mix. While deciding the theme of the ball was simple, figuring out who to invite was a bit of a challenge. Everywhere he went during the summer of 1966, Capote carried with him a 10-cent black-and-white composition book in which he was constantly adding and dropping new guests trying to create the right, as he viewed them, cast of characters to make the night memorable. During this period Capote would regularly drop not so subtle hints to his friends, enemies and acquaintances about their current status on the guest list.

By October, Capote had settled on his guests and sent out 480 invitations with the following information: “In honor of Mrs. Katharine Graham / Mr. Truman Capote / requests the pleasure of your company / at a Black and White Dance / on Monday, the twenty-eighth of November / at ten o’clock / Grand Ballroom, The Plaza / DRESS Gentlemen: Black tie; Black mask. Ladies: Black or White dress; White mask; fan. R.S.V.P. Miss Elizabeth Davis, 465 Park Avenue, New York.”

Capote’s invitations started an uproar amongst New York’s high society. Those who had not received an invitation scrambled to come up with an excuse for why they could not make the party they had not been invited to. It was fairly typical for non-invitees to claim they were going somewhere in Europe that week. Of course, those tickets to the continent had been bought after discovering they were not invited to Capote’s ball. Many pleaded to Capote for an invitation (much to his delight), but few were successfully added to the guest list. According to longtime New York Review of Books editor Robert Silvers, one of the few people to successfully negotiate an invitation was a man who told Capote that his wife had threatened to kill herself if she didn’t get an invite.

By the November 28, the guest list had swelled to 540 people. A partial guest list can be found here, but the notables included actors, directors, politicians, industrialists, playwrights, writers, photographers, publishers and three president’s daughters (Margaret Truman Daniel, Alice Roosevelt Longworth and Lynda Bird Johnson; the last of whom came with an escort of 12 Secret Service men in black masks). Additionally, Capote invited some less familiar faces including his own family members and those of his long time partner Jack Dunphy, former school teachers, friends he made in Garden City, Kansas while researching In Cold Blood and even a doorman from the U.N. Plaza.

On the evening of the 28th, guests began their long evening at dinners hosted by friends of Capote who had been volunteered by Capote. Following dinner, guests arrived in groups at the Plaza Hotel where they were greeted by waiting fans and a throng of cameramen waiting to take their pictures for the press. Capote and Graham personally greeted every guest at the entrance, with Graham meeting many of the guests for the first time that evening. Once inside, the guests were treated to plenty of food, plenty of liquor (including 450 bottles of champagne) and plenty of music. All of this made the crowd shake off their cares and dance up a storm; the highlight of which was undoubtedly when actress Lauren Bacall and choreographer Jerome Robbins drew all eyes towards them when they waltzed “in a fashion that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers might have envied”, according to Capote. The crowd also proved to be surprisingly hip by getting down to covers of R&B songs like “Twist And Shout” by Benny Gordon and the Soul Brothers.

At midnight, the masks came off and a late supper was served; but the party was far from over. It was still going strong around 2:45 AM when Frank Sinatra proposed that the members of his table join him for a drink at his favorite bar. Capote begged Sinatra not to go, knowing that his departure would significantly diminish the room’s star power, but the Chairman of the Board eventually managed to sneak out with the help of Lynda Johnson’s Secret Service men. The party drew to a close shortly after 3 AM, with Capote and Graham once again personally receiving every guest, but many unofficial after parties popped up all over the city as guests found ways to keep the night going. For his part, Capote went straight to bed in a room at the Plaza, satisfied that he had made a smash. Unfortunately, over the remaining 18 years of his life, Capote managed to alienate most of his high society friends, but he’d always fondly remember that one magical night in 1966 when all of the world’s eyes were drawn to the Plaza Hotel ballroom.

It would be appropriate to mix some manner of black and white cocktail to celebrate the Black and White Ball, but instead let’s drink Capote’s favorite cocktail. Capote always referred to his beloved Screwdriver as his “little orange drink”. The drink’s origins can be traced to Turkey in the first half of the 20th century when American engineers working on Turkish oil wells would mix vodka into their morning orange juice by stirring it with a screwdriver.

Screwdriver

  • 1 1/2 ounces Vodka
  • 6 ounces orange juice

Pour the vodka and orange juice over ice in a highball glass and stir. Garnish with an orange slice.

Tomorrow: A Thanksgiving controversy.

November 27: The First Female Pro Basketball Player

PennyAnnEarlyWho was the first woman to play professional basketball? Her name was Penny Ann Early and it was on November 27, 1968 that Early took the court.

Early’s road to basketball legend began a few months earlier in 1968 when she became the first American woman United States licensed as a horse racing jockey. Early on in her career, she was scheduled to ride in three races at Churchill Downs. However, the male jockeys who were supposed to compete against Early unanimously voted to not participate in those races. One can only assume that these jockeys thought that they might get cooties from racing against a girl.

This injustice caught the attention of the press, and the the Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association decided to jump on the opportunity for some publicity. The young ABA was struggling for attention, so what better way to draw eyeballs to to the league than by announcing that the Colonels had become the first team to sign at woman to a professional basketball contract?

On November, 27, 1968, Early joined her fellow Colonels on the court as they prepared to take on the Los Angeles Stars. Early was instantly recognizable when standing next to her teammates. For one thing, at 5′ 3″ she was the shortest person to ever play professional basketball and second, she wore a uniform that was quite different. While the other players wore standard basketball uniforms, Early sported a miniskirt and a turtleneck sweater with the number 3 (a reference to the three races at Churchill Downs) on the back.

The Colonels had made it clear that Early would actually see some playtime, not just sit on the bench, so during a time out in the early minutes of the match coach Gene Rhodes put Early into the game so she could inbound the ball to one of her teammates. Soon after, Rhodes called another time out and pulled Early from the game, earning her a standing ovation and a lifetime membership to Club Tril. Early signed many autographs after the game, and continued to try to make it as a jockey. Unfortunately, her career was cut short in 1974 when she fell off her horse during a race and broke many bones. Today, she continues to work with horses as a trainer.

So, Penny Ann Early was the first woman to get paid to appear in a professional basketball game, although not exactly the first woman to actively play professionally. Let’s toast the team that is responsible for this little nugget of trivia with a Kentucky Colonel cocktail. It’s a nice, strong cocktail and a simple blend of bourbon and Benedictine.

Kentucky Colonel

  • 2 ounces Bourbon
  • 1/2 ounce Benedictine

Shake with ice and strain into an Old Fashioned glass with ice. Garnish with a lemon peel.

Tomorrow: Truman Capote throws a party.


November 26: Casablanca

casablancaLegendary director Howard Hawkes once described a good movie as “Three great scenes. No bad ones.” So, if we are going by Hawkes’ definition, then I suppose that today we are celebrating one of the few truly perfect motion pictures. Yes, Casablanca premiered on this day in 1942.

Casablanca is a perfect film. Don’t believe me? Think about it. Not only does it have romance, action, drama, laughs and suspense; it also does all of those things extremely well. Plus its a great “hang out movie” (A term coined by Quentin Tarantino to refer to movies whose characters or world you’d want to spend more time with.): Rick’s Café Américain feels like a real bar where anything could happen. Not to mention that in addition to the main plotline, there’s a lot of interesting stuff happening on the movie’s fringes. There are whole stories that could be told about characters like Carl the waiter and Sascha the bartender and how they became part of the motley crew at Rick’s, and later members of the resistance.

The film also boasts one of the wittiest scripts ever filmed. Seriously, every line of dialogue that comes out of Captain Louis Renault’s (Claude Rains) mouth is golden, and that’s not even counting the often sarcastic and snappy exchanges he has with Rick Blaine (Humphry Bogart):

Captain Renault: What in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?

Rick: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.

Captain Renault: The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.

Rick: I was misinformed.

Of course, what makes this film even more amazing is that the script was constantly being rewritten during production; when shooting began, the ending still hadn’t been finished. Several film critics and historians have pointed out that this unusual quirk of production actually helped the performances by the main cast. Since the script was still being worked on, Bogart and Ingrid Bergman did not know what would happen to Rick and Ilsa. As such, every glance and every uncertain look that appears on Bogart and Bergman’s faces are realistic and offer no hint about whether or not the starstruck lovers will fly off together at the film’s end. Of course, when the ending did arrive, it was beautiful. It’s not a “happy” ending, but it’s the ending that’s fitting for the film, with Rick (the man who we’re told early on, “,,,doesn’t stick his neck out for nobody.”) making a noble choice that goes against his own self-interests, but will instead help many, many others.

So, as you undoubtedly sit back and watch Casablanca tonight, why not enjoy a cocktail called Casablanca. It’s the kind of relaxed, fancy fare that Sascha would serve at the Café Américain. Here’s drinking to you, kid.

Casablanca

  • 2 ounces Light Rum
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Triple Sec
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Cherry Liqueur
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon lime juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: A basketball first.

November 25: Evacuation Day

Evacuation_DayThe American Revolution formally came to an end on September 3, 1783 when the Treaty of Paris was signed. However, the last British forces in American territory did not actually leave until November 25, 1783.

In 1776, General George Washington and the Continental Army were forced to flee the island of Manhattan after being overpowered by British forces. So, for the next seven years, British troops and Loyalists occupied the city. During this time, New York City suffered serious neglect. When a mysterious fire burned through the city in the early days of the occupation, destroying between 10 and 25 percent of New York, the British were quick to blame American Patriots. The British commanders took up residence in the undamaged parts of the city, forcing colonists to live in squalor. The city was placed under a state of martial law, and prison ships began floating in the New York harbor. Over 10,000 Patriot soldiers and sailors died on those ships. By comparison, only 8,000 Patriots died in battle during the Revolution.

At Noon on November 25, 1783, over 29,000 British soldiers and Loyalist refugees fled the city on ships. Hundreds of Americans gathered on the shores of Staten Island to bid the ships farewell with plenty of jeers. As the ships departed, a British gunner fired the last shot of the war when he shot a cannon in the direction of the crowd. Conveniently, the shot landed in the bay. With the British gone, it was time for General Washington to lead the Continental Army in a triumphant march into the city. There was just one problem, the ceremonial entrance of the Continental Army could not occur until the large Union Jack nailed to the top of a flag pole in Battery Park was removed. Many men tried to climb the pole and remove the flag, but the pole had been greased by Loyalists; making it near impossible to climb. Eventually, wooden cleats were nailed into the pole and American veteran John Van Arsdale ascended the pole, tore off the British flag that had become synonymous in New York City with tyranny and hung a Stars and Stripes that was large enough that the retreating English could see it.

For over 50 years, the events of this day were regularly celebrated in America as Evacuation Day. In New York, a competition was held in which young men would try to climb a greased pole and remove the Union Jack. Sadly, this landmark day in history declined from public memory during the mid 1800s and was essentially made obscure when Abraham Lincoln declared that the first day of thanksgiving in 1863 was to be held on the last Thursday of November. That year, the last Thursday was the 26th, and subsequent Thanksgiving Days fell either on or near Evacuation Day. Since then, Evacuation Day has largely been forgotten, with sporadic celebrations occurring on major anniversaries.

But this year, we shall not forget Evacuation Day. Instead we shall honor the brave Patriots who died on those horrid prison ships with a strong drink. The Patriot Cocktail is an appropriately autumnal cocktail that was created by Washington, D. C.’s Artbar. It’s an unusual, but tasty, cocktail made with bourbon and pumpkin purée.

Patriot Cocktail

  • 2 ounces Bourbon
  • 1 ounce Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 ounce pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice

Shake with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and add a dash of bitters before serving.

Tomorrow: Here’s looking at you, kid.

November 24: Dan Cooper

DB_CooperOn the afternoon of November 24, 1971 (the day before Thanksgiving), a man calling himself “Dan Cooper” walked up to the Northwest Orient Airlines ticket counter at Portland International Airport and bought a one-way ticket for that day on Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305. This flight was supposed to be a standard half-hour trip to Seattle, Washington. Instead, it became the only unsolved air piracy case in American history.

The flight took off as scheduled and while mid-air, Cooper handed a flight attendant a note. The flight attendant assumed the man was trying to give her his phone number, so she just threw the note into her purse. Upon seeing this, Cooper calmly whispered to the flight attendant, “Miss, you’d better look at that note. I have a bomb.” The note read “I have a bomb in my briefcase. I will use it if necessary. I want you to sit next to me. You are being hijacked.” The flight attendant did as ordered, and Cooper opened his attache case, revealing four large cylinders connected to a battery. His demands were simple:  $200,000,  four parachutes (two primary and two reserve); and a fuel truck that would refuel the plane when it arrived in Seattle.

The flight attendant relayed this information to the pilot who then informed Seattle-Tacoma Airport air traffic control about the situation. The crew was ordered by the president of Northwest Orient Airlines to comply with the hijacker. Meanwhile, the other passengers on the flight had no idea what was going on and were simply told that it would be a while before landing due to “minor mechanical difficulty.” The plane circled around Puget Sound for two hours while the FBI and Seattle police prepared Cooper’s money and parachutes. For his part, Cooper remained unusually calm and friendly for a hijacker. He ordered a bourbon and soda (his second of the flight), paid his bill for the drinks, gave his hostage a tip and even offered to request meals for the flight crew for when they landed in Seattle.

Two and a half hours after take off, Flight 305 landed on a brightly lit section of the Seattle-Tacoma Airport tarmac. The passengers and two of the flight attendants were released. A third stepped outside to receive the ransom from a Northwest Orient representative. As the plane was refueled, Cooper informed the cockpit crew that they would be flying him to Mexico City and gave them extremely specific instructions as to what flight path they would take, the altitude they would fly at, how fast the plane would go, how low the wingflaps would be lowered and many more details. His final request was that the plane fly with its rear exit door open and its staircase extended. The airline refused this last point, saying that it wasn’t safe; Cooper didn’t bother to argue and said that he’d open it himself when they were in the air.

Shortly after take off, Cooper ordered the remaining crew to stay in the cockpit. After twenty minutes in the air, a light went off in the cockpit indicating that the rear door in the plane had been opened. The plane landed in Reno, Nevada with Cooper nowhere to be found. The only traces that remained of him were fingerprints, his clip on tie, his mother of pearl tie clip and two of the parachutes.

In the days following the highjacking, the FBI worked tirelessly to figure out what happened to Cooper. There was no definitive theory as to when and where Cooper jumped. In fact neither of the Air Force fighter pilots who were tailing the plane witnessed Cooper jump out of the plane. A few possible suspects, including an Oregon man with a minor police record named D. B. Cooper, were questioned, but no charges were filed. In February of 1980, eight-year-old Brian Ingram was vacationing with his family on the Columbia River near Vancouver, Washington when he discovered three disintegrated packets of bills which the FBI later confirmed were in fact part of the Cooper ransom. However, to this day no trace of Dan Cooper, his parachute or the remaining 9,700 or so bills have been found.

Now, there are two ways you could memorialize Dan Cooper’s flight. You could drink like Cooper and have a bourbon and soda, or you could enjoy a Cooper’s Cocktail. It’s a nice cocktail for the end of the day that balances sharp rye flavors with floral notes.

Cooper’s Cocktail

  • 2 ounce Rye Whiskey
  • 3/4 ounce St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
  • 1/4 ounce Fernet-Branca

Stir in a mixing glass with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Tomorrow: The end of the American Revolution.

November 23: Doctor Who

Doctor Who all doctorsAmy Pond, there’s something you’d better understand about me cause it’s important, and one day your life may depend on it: I am definitely a mad man with a box!” -The Doctor

November 23, 1963 saw the debut of one of the most inventive tv series in the history of the medium: The classic British sci-fi program Doctor Who. The show’s premise is simple enough, it’s the continuing adventures of an alien who calls himself the Doctor and travels through space and time in a machine called the TARDIS, picking up (usually human) companions and outwitting the forces of evil.

Now, there are two reasons why Doctor Who has lasted as long as it has. The first is that its basic premise essentially makes it a sci-fi anthology series: From week to week, the Doctor and his friends could wind up doing anything from fighting off genocidal aliens at the edge of the known universe to traveling to Aztec times and be mistaken for gods or even solving a murder mystery with Agatha Christie. Really, a Doctor Who episode could be about just about anything as long as the Doctor, his companions and the TARDIS make an appearance in the story.

However, the real reason why the series is still running strong over 50 years later is due to a constant reinvention of its cast. Although the Doctor has been the series’ main character for the entire run, many different actors have played the part. Now, this isn’t in that James Bond way where the role will be played by Sean Connery for a few years and then in the next adventure he’s played by Roger Moore without any explanation. No, the 12 (well, technically 13, but that’s a whole other matter) actors who’ve played the Doctor have seamlessly transitioned from one to the next thanks to the process of regeneration. You see, during production of the show’s third season, William Hartnell (the actor who originated the role of the Doctor) grew gravely ill. The producers of the show wanted to keep the program going, so a clever solution to the problem was created. It was decided that at the end of the third season, the Doctor would die.

The writers decided that as the Doctor was an alien, his species would have the ability to rejuvenate themselves when they are on the verge of death. So, as the Doctor (played by Hartnell) lay dying, he suddenly began to glow and transform into a younger body (played by Patrick Troughton). He may have had a different face and a slightly different personality, but he was still very much the same man with the same drive to defend the universe. Since then, the process (later dubbed regeneration) has been used eleven times;  the series is currently on its 12th Doctor (played by Peter Capaldi).

The Doctor doesn’t carry a weapon, other than his cunning mind. Instead, he arms himself with a sonic screwdriver, a device with thousands of capabilities ranging from cutting barbed wire to sealing doors shut. So, in the spirit of the Doctor, today we’ll mix a Sonic Screwdriver. Created by Liz Mulhern of Omaha, Nebraska, this is a charming reworking of the classic Screwdriver cocktail. Mulhern replaced regular vodka with vanilla vodka and orange juice with blue curacao (to keep the orange flavor) and lemon lime soda. This drink is blue, which is quite fitting as for most of the series’ run the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver has emitted a blue light.

Sonic Screwdriver

  • 1 1/2 ounces Vanilla Vodka
  • 1 1/2 ounces Blue Curacao
  • 6 ounces lemon lime soda

Pour over ice in a highball glass and lightly stir.

Tomorrow: D. B. Cooper books a flight.

November 22: The Algonquin

AlgonquinIt was today in 1903 that a red bricked hotel in the heart of New York City opened. The hotel was named the Algonquin and for about ten years, the Algonquin played host to an infamous daily lunch.

It all began in June of 1919 when theatrical press agent John Peter Toohey decided to play a prank on New York Times drama critic Alexander Woollcott. Toohey was mildly miffed that Woollcott had refused to mention one of Toohey’s clients in his Times column. So, Toohey organized a luncheon at the Algonquin that he claimed was to celebrate Woolcott’s return from Europe, where he served as a reporter for Stars and Stripes, reporting on World War I. However, instead of honoring Woollcott, Toohey and the assembled guests humorously roasted Woollcott on a variety of topics. Surprisingly, Woollcott loved the luncheon and suggested they make it a regular thing.

So, for the next ten years, Toohey, Woollcott and many members of New York’s theatrical and journalistic scenes regularly met at the Algonquin for a lunch filled with wisecracks and barbed witticisms. Initially the group met at a long rectangular table in the hotel’s Pergola Room. They called themselves “The Board” and their luncheons were naturally dubbed “Board meetings.” In addition to Toohey and Woollcott, the members of the Board included Dorothy Parker, Harpo Marx, novelist Edna Ferber, playwright George S. Kaufman, New Yorker founder Harold Ross, humorist Robert Benchley, sportswriter Heywood Broun, and many more. Over time, the Board got too large for its rectangular table, and were moved to a round table in the Algonquin’s Rose Room. The group often played pranks and made jokes at each others’ expense, and naturally references to these and other events made appearances in various members’ newspaper columns, and thus the legend of the group, now informally known as the “Algonquin Round Table,” was spread across the country.

However, like all good things, the Round Table’s luncheons eventually came to an end. Some members had grown tired of the sometimes vicious nature of the Round Table’s japes. Although there was no definitive date for the end of the Round Table’s luncheons, Edna Ferber knew that the fun was over when she arrived at the Algonquin one afternoon in 1932 and discovered that a family from Kansas had been seated at the Round Table.

The Round Table crowd created a few cocktails in their own honor, but the most lasting of those is of course called The Algonquin. It’s a nice mellow drink with only a slight edge.

The Algonquin

  • 1 1/2 ounces Rye Whiskey
  • 3/4 ounces Dry Vermouth
  • 3/4 ounces pineapple juice

Stir the rye, dry vermouth and pineapple juice together with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and add two to three drops of orange bitters.

Tomorrow: The Doctor is in.

 

 

November 21: Voltaire

voltaireOn November 21, 1694 François-Marie Arouet was born in Paris, France. Of course, you dear reader know him better as Voltaire, the 18th century philosopher, writer, historian and satirist who was not afraid of challenging any and all authorities.

The origin of Voltaire’s pen name is quite interesting. In the mid-1710s, the young Arouet published a particularly ill received satirical verse about the Duke of Orléans and was promptly imprisoned in the Bastille for eleven months. While in prison, he wrote his first play, and invented a pen name as a way of possibly keep himself from getting in more trouble. The name Voltare is an anagram of “AROVET LI,” the latinized spelling of his family’s name followed by the French words “le jeune” or “the young.” Of course, it’s been suggested that his pen name was also a boastful comment about his quick, sharp wit; a play on both the words volatile and “volte-face,” a word meaning to quickly turn around to face one’s enemy.

Voltaire wrote many pieces of literature, poetry, historical and scientific knowledge, but his best known work is easily Candide. The novel is a comic picaresque about a young man named Candide whose sheltered life progressively begins to fall apart. When the novel begins, Candide is a believer in the optimistic philosophy of Gottfried Wilhem Leibnizian, a philosophy that Voltaire thought was bunk. Specifically, Voltaire thought Liebnizian optimism, and its chief tenant that “this is the best of all possible worlds,” was naive in a world that contained evils and suffering. So, to that end, Voltaire humorously shows the philosophy’s fallacies, by depicting Candide’s feeble attempts to look on the bright side of life when faced with earthquakes, war and slavery. By the novel’s end, Candide has rejected Leibnizian optimism and has decided to pursue his own (undefined) philosophical path.

I can think of no better way to celebrate Voltaire’s birth than with a drink named for Candide. Optimists are said to wear rose colored glasses, so it’s fitting that this is a rose colored cocktail.

Candide

  • 1/2 ounce Dry Vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce Gin
  • 1/2 ounce Orange Curacao
  • 2 dashes Triple Sec
  • 1 dash Grenadine

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: The Vicious Circle’s clubhouse opens.