Category Archives: Brandy Cocktails

May 16: The First Academy Awards

Oscar“I found that the best way to handle [filmmakers] was to hang medals all over them … If I got them cups and awards they’d kill them to produce what I wanted. That’s why the Academy Award was created.” -Louis B. Mayer

On the evening of May 16, 1929 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences presented the first ever Academy Awards ceremony. The first ceremony was actually a dinner, attended by 270 people, with tickets costing $5. Reports vary on the exact length of the awards ceremony, hosted by AMPAS director Douglas Fairbanks,  but it was something between five and 15 minutes long. By comparison, the 2014 Oscar telecast was three hours and 36 minutes.

The first Academy Award ceremony was unlike any since. To be eligible for a nomination, films had to be released during the unusual window of August 1, 1927 to July 31, 1928, rather than the now traditional calendar year. The nominees were announced in late 1928 and amazingly the winners were announced on February 18, 1929, three months ahead of the awards banquet. Suffice to say, there wasn’t much suspense during award ceremony.

12 Academy Award of Merit trophies, as the Oscar was known at the time, were presented at the inaugural Academy Awards ceremonies. In addition to the two competitive awards, two honorary Academy Awards were presented; one for Charlie Chaplin’s “versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing The Circus” and a second to Warner Brothers “for producing The Jazz Singer, the pioneer outstanding talking picture, which has revolutionized the industry”.

Some of the inaugural Academy Award categories are quite familiar (i. e. Best Actor, Actress) while others were discontinued soon after the first ceremony. Amongst those were Best Engineering Effects and Best Title Writing. Even a couple categories we are still familiar with appeared in slightly different forms. For instance, at this first ceremony there were two separate Best Director awards, one for comedy and one for drama.

The award category we now know as Best Picture was then known as Outstanding Picture, and that particular trophy went to the movie Wings. However, there was another award, now considered to be as important as Best Picture, an award for Best Unique Artistic Production. This award was only awarded that first year and went to F. W. Murnau‘s beautiful film Sunrise. While Wings has subsequently been reduced to the answer to the trivia question “What film won the first Best Picture Oscar?”; Sunrise was recently named the fifth best film of all time in the 2012 Sight & Sound poll.

Finally, before we get to our drink, let’s take a look at the Oscar statue itself. The statue was sculpted by legendary MGM art director Cedric Gibbons. According to legend, the statue was modeled after Emilio Fernández, a young Mexican actor and friend of Gibbons’ future wife, the starlet Dolores del Río. Fernández eventually became a major director in Mexican cinema, and although he never won the statue he posed for, he took home the Palme d’Or award at the 1946 Cannes Film Festival for his film Maria Candelaria.

As for the origin of the nickname Oscar, it’s said that Margaret Gledhill, the Academy’s executive secretary and librarian, was the one who named the statue. The story goes that when Gledhill started working for the Academy she took a glance at the statue and commented that it looked like her “Uncle Oscar.” Gossip columnist Sidney Skolsky happened to be at the Academy offices that day and wrote in his column that “Employees have affectionately dubbed their famous statuette ‘Oscar” and the name quickly stuck. Gledhill, later Margaret Herrick after her marriage in 1946, continued to work as an Academy executive until 1971 and the Academy’s film archive, the Margaret Herrick Library, was named in her honor.

Let’s celebrate the Academy Awards with a cocktail named for an old time film magazine. I pulled this recipe for the  Filmograph from Ted Haigh’s essential book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails : From the Alamagoozlum Cocktail to the Zombie. The original Filmograph used sirop-de-Citron, a sweet lemon syrup, but Haigh suggests replacing the sirop with “fresh lemon juice unless you like to drink maple syrup out of the can”. The other unusual ingredient in this drink is the non-alcoholic cordial Kola Tonic, which you can pick up from the African Hut website.

Filmograph

  • 2 ounce Brandy
  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce Kola Tonic

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

Tomorrow: A day at the races.

Advertisements

May 11: Irving Berlin

IrvingBerlinIrving Berlin, the composer described by George Gershwin as “the greatest songwriter that has ever lived” was born on this day in 1888.

Songwriter Jerome Kern wrote that “Irving Berlin has no place in American music—he is American music.” Amazingly, Kern made this statement when Berlin was only 36. During his 55 year career as a composer, Berlin greatly shaped popular music. In short, a volume of the Great American Songbook could be dedicated just to his compositions. His first song was a ditty called “Marie from Sunny Italy”, written in 1907. In 1911, Berlin scored one of the first world-wide hits when his song “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” became a favorite all around the globe. It’s said that the four best selling records of 1911 were four different covers of “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”.

In 1917, Berlin was drafted into the Army, with some newspapers running the headline “Army Takes Berlin”, in a special capacity as an official army songwriter. During World War I, Berlin composed a special all-soldier musical revue Yip Yip Yaphank designed to keep morale up amongst the troops. Interestingly, amongst the songs composed for the revue was a song called “God Bless America”. Berlin decided to not include “God Bless America” in the review and did not release it until 1938, as the world prepared for the Second World War.

After the War, Berlin continued writing popular songs. Many of these went on to become jazz standards including “What’ll I Do?”, “Blue Skies”, “Putting On The Ritz”, “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” and “Whte Christmas”. “Blue Skies” had the distinction of being amongst the first songs sung on film when it was included in the landmark 1927 talkie The Jazz Singer. He also found the time to write music for musicals on stage and screen. His most notable stage work included The Cocoanuts (which starred the Marx Brothers), As Thousands Cheered, Annie Get Your Gun and Call Me Madam: while his most notable films included Top Hat (starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers), Holiday Inn, Easter Parade and, of course, White Christmas.

In 1919, on the eve of Prohibition, Berlin composed a song called “A Syncopated Cocktail” in which he suggested that “Now that your drinking days are thru” you should enjoy a jazzy, ”fascinating, intoxicating” syncopated cocktail. It was only a matter of time before the song inspired a drink, and in 1927 Harry McElhone included a Syncopation Cocktail in his book Barflies and Cocktails. It’s a fruity cocktail, with just a hint of bitter spice.

Syncopation Cocktail

  • 1 ounce Brandy
  • 1/2 ounce Triple Sec
  • 1/2 ounce Calvados
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 dash Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Tomorrow: Are you experienced?

April 28: Mutiny on the Bounty

HMS_BountyIt was on this day in 1789 that crew members of the HMS Bounty, led by first mate Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian launched a mutiny against the ship’s captain, William Bligh.

Prior to the mutiny, the crew had spent five months in Tahiti collecting breadfruit plants and allowing them to ripen before transporting the thousand-odd plants onto the ship. Captain Bligh permitted the crew to live on the island during this time and the crew became accustomed to life in Tahiti: getting tattooed and becoming involved with the island’s women.

However, while the scenery might have been that of a tropical paradise, Captain Bligh kept the crew from enjoying the Edenic atmosphere. Bligh regularly berated and flogged crew members for perceived slights, often imagined. As first mate, Christian was a frequent target of Bligh’s abuse. Conditions got worse as time on the island went by, and a few members of the Bounty‘s crew even attempted to desert the ship. When the ship set sail on April 5, the crew learned that Bligh intended to sail through the dangerous and as yet uncharted Endeavour Strait. Christian and some loyal members of the crew began to quietly discuss mutiny.

In the early morning hours of April 28, Christian considered making a raft and abandoning the ship, but changed his mind. So, under cover of darkness, Christian and a group of followers entered Bligh’s cabin, which he foolishly always kept unlocked, and told him to surrender. The mutineers quickly and bloodlessly took hold of the ship, parading Bligh out onto the deck at bayonet point, wearing only his nightshirt.

Bligh and 18 loyal crew members were then sent adrift in a boat, eventually landing on the island of Tofu before making a 47-day voyage to Timor in the Dutch East Indies without a compass or map. Amazingly, only one of Bligh’s crewmen died on the journey (He was stoned to death by Tofuan natives.), although five crew members did die after arriving on Timor. Bligh eventually returned to England and remained in the Navy. Fascinatingly, in 1808, while Bligh was Governor of New South Wales, Australia he suffered another insurrection, when the troops he commanded had him overthrown and arrested in an act that became known as the Rum Rebellion.

The mutineers first headed to the island of Tubuai, where they were frequently attacked by the native population. They then headed back to Tahiti where 12 of the mutineers decided to remain, until they were eventually captured by the HMS Pandora and brought back to England to face a court-martial. Christian left Tahiti with eight other mutineers, six Tahitian men, and 18 women; most of whom had been kidnapped by the mutineers. In an effort to escape the Royal Navy, the Bounty headed to the deserted Pitcairn Island. Although the early days at Pitcairn were fine, with plenty of supplies and room for everyone; but when the the American trading ship Topaz arrived on Pitcairn in 1808, only one of the original mutineers was still living on the island, the de facto leader of the few remaining Pitcairn residents. The lone mutineer, John Adams, explained that infighting and disease had decimated the colony, but did not provide further elaboration. Reports on Fletcher Christian’s final fate are mixed. Some say he was killed by his companions, while others say he committed suicide.

Fletcher Christian has been honored with a cocktail simply called Mr. Christian. It’s a tropical cocktail that utilizes brandy, rum and citrus juices.

Mr. Christian

  • 1 1/2 ounces Dark Rum
  • 1/2 ounce Brandy
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • 1/4 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: “We can’t stop here. This is bat country.”

April 17: Ben Franklin

FranklinToday we celebrate the April 17, 1706 birth of Benjamin Franklin: patriot, inventor, drinker, writer, ladies man and prankster. It’s the latter of those facets of his life that we’ll be looking at today.

One of Franklin’s earliest pranks came about when he was just a teenager and began sending letters to New-England Courant under the guise of a middle-aged widow named Silence Dogood. Franklin wrote the first of these letters on April 2, 1722 while working as an apprentice at his older brother’s print shop. Undercover of night, without his brother’s knowledge, he slipped the first Silence Dogood letter under the shop’s front door. The next day, his brother found the letter and after sharing it with his friends, decided to print it on the front page of the Courant.

Over the next six months, Franklin wrote 14 letters as Dogood, addressing many of the day’s societal ills with tongue planted firmly in cheek. For instance, in one letter, Dogood spoke about her distaste for hoop skirts and the risk they ran to society,  attributing a local militia’s “…irregular Volleys to the formidable Appearance of the Ladies Petticoats.” The letters were quite popular, and many men wrote in asking for Dogood’s contact information, in the hope that they could propose marriage.

After a while, Franklin grew tired of the prank and stopped writing in to the Courant. His brother, still none the wiser, placed an ad in the paper asking for information about Dogood’s whereabouts:

If any person or persons will give a true account of Mrs. Silence Dogood, whether dead or alive, married or unmarried, in town or countrey, that so, (if living) she may be spoke with, or letters convey’d to her, they shall have thanks for their pains.

Soon enough, Franklin came clean and revealed what he had done. His brother was not pleased, and told Franklin not to let all the praise for the letters go to his head.

Amongst his many achievements, Franklin came up with over 200 different phrases to describe being drunk (including my favorite, “been too free with Sir John Strawberry”.) Franklin also loved to share drink recipes, including one for milk punch that he sent in a 1763 letter to James Bowdoin II (the namesake of the college in Maine). Ben Wiley, head bartender at José Andrés’s America Eats Tavern in Washington,  D. C. came across that recipe and adapted it as Ben Franklin’s Milk Punch. This recipe makes about 4 quarts; perfect for a large party or when you really want to feel like you’ve “had a Thump over the Head with Sampson’s Jawbone”.

Ben Franklin’s Milk Punch

  • 6 cups Brandy
  • 11 lemon peels
  • 4 cups spring water
  • 1 freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cups whole milk

“In a large airtight lidded container, combine the brandy and lemon peels. Cover and steep for 24 hours. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the peels from the brandy and discard them. Add the water, nutmeg, lemon juice, and sugar, and stir until the sugar dissolves.

In a pan set over medium-low heat, bring the milk to a boil. Immediately add the milk to the brandy mixture and stir. Let stand uncovered for 2 hours–the mixture will curdle as it sits. Strain the mixture through a coffee filter, a clean pillowcase, or a jelly bag if you have one (this may take several hours). Before discarding the curds, squeeze them to extract as much liquid as possible. Use a funnel to transfer the punch to bottles. Before serving, lightly whisk the punch and sprinkle each glass with fresh nutmeg.”

Tomorrow: Look, up in the sky…

April 13: Thomas Jefferson and the $2 Bill

2-dollar-billWhen the United States began production of bank notes in 1862, the two dollar bill was one of the first bills produced. The little loved currency continued to be produced until 1966 when the U. S. transitioned its paper money from U. S. Notes to Federal Reserve Notes. The Treasury explained that as the bill wasn’t particularly popular, they saw no reason to reassign it as a Federal Reserve Note. However, on April 11, 1976 (what would have been President Thomas Jefferson’s 233rd birthday) the $2-bill made a triumphant return when the Federal Reserve began producing the bill again.

Why was the $2-bill brought back? While some have cited the patriotic fervor of the Bicentennial year as the reason for the bill’s return, the actual answer is tied into U. S. financial concerns. In 1976, the $2-bill replaced nearly half of the $1-bills in circulation. By doing this, the government was able to save $26 million in 1976 dollars over a six year period from 1976 to 1981 because of reduced production, shipping and storage costs. After all, it takes just as much effort/room to produce, ship and store a $2-bill as it does for a $1-bill, but a $2-bill is worth 100% more money.

$2-bills are still produced to this day, albeit not as frequently as other bills. A new series of $2-bills was produced in November of 2013, prior to that, the last printing of $2-bills was in 2006. The current $2-bill depicts Thomas Jefferson on the obverse in a design that has not changed since 1929, while the reverse is a rendition of John Trumbull’s 1817 painting Declaration of Independence which happens to prominently feature Jefferson. Now, although the Lincoln Memorial is depicted on the backside of the $5-bill, the face of the statue of Abraham Lincoln’s isn’t exactly clear, so one could make the case that the Jefferson is the only president depicted on both sides of a piece of American money.

Nowadays, two dollars isn’t much, but once upon a time it was a good amount of money. It was in those days that the Two-Dollar Cocktail was created. This recipe for the Two-Dollar Cocktail was published in a 1992 issue of the late lamented Gourmet Magazine, and is essentially a Sidecar that has no lemon juice.

Two-Dollar Cocktail

  • 1 1/2 ounces Brandy
  • 1 1/2 ounces Curacao

Shake with ice and strain into a highball glass with ice, garnish with a lemon twist.

Tomorrow: The Sound of Young America

April 6: The First Olympics

1896_Summer_Olympics_logoIn 1894, Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin organized an international congress of 11 different national sports societies at the Sorbonne in Paris. There he proposed that the Olympics, the noble athletic competition of ancient Greece be revived for the modern age. The proposal was met with acclaim, and two years later,  the first modern Olympic Games opened in Athens, Greece on April 6, 1896. Surprisingly, despite, the events obvious Greek origins, Athens wasn’t the first city considered to host the Olympiad.

Immediately after Coubertin proposal was approved, debate broke out over where these new Olympic Games should be held. Coubertin suggested that they be held in coordination with the 1900 Universal Exposition of Paris. However, a few of the assembled national representatives voiced concern that six years would be too long a wait and the public might lose interest during that interval. It was soon decided that the games would happen in 1896. Records are sketchy as to how it was decided upon, but eventually the congress decided that since the ancient Olympics were held in Greece, it was only right that the new Olympics be held in Athens. At this point the congress officially became the International Olympic Committee, with Greece’s representative  Demetrius Vikelas serving as the first IOC president.

The 1896 Games were a little different from today’s modern Olympics. All of the Olympians were amateurs and had to provide their own lodging (The Olympic Village concept did not arrive until the 1932 Los Angeles Games). As such, many of the competitors were people who were already in Athens for either work or vacation. For instance, the British national team had several athletes who were employees of the British embassy. Incidentally, women were not allowed to participate in the Olympics until 1900.

At the 1896 Games, 14 nations competed in 43 events in nine different sports. Surprisingly, while Olympic events have changed over time, all nine of the sports represented in the first Olympics are still part of the Summer Olympics today. The United States won the most events, winning 11 silver medals. Yes, silver. You see, at the 1896 Games, winning athletes won a silver medal, an olive branch, and a diploma. Second place received a copper medal, a laurel branch and a diploma, while third place got nothing (In later years IOC would adjust the 1896 medal table to reflect the now standard gold, silver and bronze medals).

The cocktail called Olympic was invented at Ciro’s of London around 1922. It’s a sister drink to the Sidecar, that uses orange curacao in lieu of Cointreau and orange juice instead of lemon juice. A couple dashes of orange bitters are added to keep this drink from getting too orangey sweet.

Olympic

  • 2 ounces Cognac
  • 3/4 ounce Orange Curacao
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • 2 drops Orange Bitters

Shake well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: What’s for breakfast?

March 29: The Colts Leave Baltimore

Colts MoveJust before dawn on March 29, 1984 the Baltimore Colts football team fled out of town under the cover of darkness, taking all of the team’s equipment to Indianapolis in a fleet of Mayflower moving vans.

Since the early 1970s, Colts owner Robert Irsay had asked that the city of Baltimore provide a new (at least partially) publicly funded stadium for his privately owned football team. The city and state of Maryland refused to give Irsay as much as he wanted, and Irsay began shopping the team around to other cities. On March 27, 1984, the Maryland Senate passed legislation allowing Baltimore to seize ownership of the team via eminent domain. The next day Irsay quickly made a deal with the city of Indianapolis and in the early hours of March 29 the team moved away, much to the shock of their loyal fans. It was 12 years before Baltimore got a new NFL franchise, when the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore and changed their name to the Baltimore Ravens; ironically, much to the heartbreak of Cleveland fans.

Now, there’s a fascinating side story to the tale of the Colts’ exodus; that of the Baltimore Colts Marching Band, the team’s official marching band. The band’s leaders somehow became aware of the Colts’ plan to leave in the middle of the night, and so they removed the team’s instruments from Colts headquarters. By coincidence, the band’s uniforms were at a dry cleaners and had not been taken to Indianapolis. The dry cleaner let the band members “borrow” the uniforms, and after getting the okay from Irsay’s wife, the band was allowed to keep performing in uniform as the Baltimore Colts Marching Band.

They performed in local parades, for the short lived Baltimore Stallions of the Canadian Football League and at halftime for other NFL franchises, serving as “Baltimore’s Pro-Football Musical Ambassadors”. When the Ravens arrived in Baltimore, the Baltimore Colts Marching Band was quickly adopted as the team band; and when the Ravens moved into a new stadium at the start of their third season, the band gained new uniforms and officially became Baltimore’s Marching Ravens. For more on the tale of the Colts Marching Band, I recommend Barry Levinson’s documentary The Band That Wouldn’t Die, part of ESPN’s  30 For 30 series.

To mark the anniversary of the Colts fleeing from Baltimore, I suggest you mix a Baltimore Bang. It’s a sweet but potent take on the Whiskey Sour that adds apricot brandy.

Baltimore Bang

  • 1 1/2 ounces Whiskey
  • 1 1/2 ounces Apricot Brandy
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp sugar

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange slice and skewered cherry.

Tomorrow: A post-Impressionist master.

March 2: The 100 Point Game

WiltOn March 2, 1962 the Philadelphia Warriors hosted the New York Knicks in what was supposed to be a by the numbers NBA match-up. However, instead it was a game that went down in legend as Warriors player Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points, a feat unmatched by any NBA player since.

Amazingly, this historic game was only witnessed by a relative handful of people. In the early ’60s, the NBA was struggling and its popularity was nowhere near that of college basketball. Nobody was particularly excited about this game: There were only five games left in the regular season and the Warriors were in second place in the Eastern Conference, eleven games behind the Boston Celtics, while the Knicks were the East’s worst team. The game was to be held in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the third of three “home” games played in the Chocolate City by the Warriors that season as part of the NBA’s attempt to grow its fanbase. The game was poorly attended, with the Hershey Sports Arena barely at half-capacity. As the Knicks were terrible, and baseball spring training was starting up, all of New York’s sports reporters were in Florida with none available to cover this match. Obviously, this almost meaningless contest wasn’t televised.

In 1962, Wilt Chamberlain was in his third year in the league and had already become basketball’s most dominating player. He was fast, and at 7′ 1” he was the league’s second tallest player. While Chamberlain was a master of the fadeaway jumper and finger roll, his weapon of choice was the slam dunk, which he used often, much to the dismay of basketball traditionalists who found it unsportsmanlike.

Before this game, Chamberlain was just 237 points short of scoring 4,000 points in the season, an amazing accomplishment as no other player had even scored 3,000 points in a single season. He had already set the single game record for the most points scored in a single game (78) and in the week prior to the 100-point game, he had played three games in which he scored over 60 points. Many of his contemporaries believed that he could easily score 100 points in one game at some point. In the words of Celtics center Bill Russell, “[Chamberlain] has the size, strength, and stamina to score one hundred some night.” Interestingly, when he was in high school, Chamberlain once managed to score 90 points, leading the Philadelphia Inquirer to write, “Chamberlain might have hit 100 if he had played the entire 32 minutes.”

How important was the Warriors-Knicks game to Chamberlain? Well, he spent the night before the game in New York partying with a woman. He caught the train to Philadelphia and arrived tired and hungover before engaging in a long lunch with friends that nearly made him miss the team bus. The rest of the Warriors weren’t looking forward to the game either, as the Hershey Sports Arena was a cold and drafty building, and in the words of Warriors forward Tom Meschery, “The town of Hershey was built around a huge chocolate factory; everything there became permeated with the smell of chocolate. It was practically impossible to stay indoors; people felt sick. I was just dreaming to leave the place as fast as I could.”

The game started out relatively low key. By the end of the first quarter, the Warriors were winning 42–26 and Chamberlain already had 23 points. Relatively early in the match, Knicks center Darrall Imhoff, who was tasked with guarding Chamberlain, was benched after getting too many fouls. Imhoff blamed the referees, both of whom had never serve as a lead official, for his foul troubles, at one point yelling “Well, why don’t you just give the guy a hundred now and we’ll all go home!”

At the half, the Warriors were up 79–68 and Chamberlain had 41 points which was not atypical for him. Since the Warriors pretty much had the game locked down, Warriors guard Guy Rodgers suggested “Let’s get the ball to Dip [Chamberlain]. Let’s see how many he can get.” Head coach Frank McGuire agreed and in the third quarter the fun began.

The plan worked wonderfully. Chamberlain quickly brought his total up to 50 points. Despite the Knicks putting three or four men on him, he continued to score. By the end of the third, the Warriors were up 125–106, 69 of those points belonging to Chamberlain. Chamberlain was now four points from breaking his 73-point record for for the most points scored in regulation and nine away from breaking his 78-point record for the most points scored in a game with overtime.

In the fourth quarter, the arena’s announcer began to declare Chamberlain’s total points after every basket. The crowd began to chant “Give it to Wilt! Give it to Wilt!” and even the Warriors players stopped playing serious offense and just passed the ball to Chamberlain and watched him go. When he scored his 79th point, breaking his prior record, with 7:51 left on the clock, the crowd went crazy and after he made his 80th on a free throw, the crowd started yelling for 100. Chamberlain later recalled, “Man, these people are tough. I’m tired. I’ve got 80 points and no one has ever scored 80.”

As time wore on, Chamberlain continued to score and the Knicks knew they could not stop him; at best they could only contain him. So, they tried to burn the clock by constantly passing when they were on offense and then fouling every Warrior except Chamberlain, forcing the Warriors to take free throws so the Knicks could get the ball back. However, the Warriors were intent on getting Chamberlain to the century mark, so they performed a highly irregular move for a team in the lead and started intentionally fouling the Knicks so they could get the ball back! By the end of the game, the Warriors had 25 fouls and the Knicks had 32.

Anyway, at the 2:12 mark Chamberlain scored his 96th point and at 1:19 he brought down his 98th point with a powerful slam dunk. Then, finally, with only 46 seconds left on the clock, Chamberlain got his 100th point. Accounts differ on whether it was an alley oop dunk or a simple lay up. Around 200 fans stormed the court to congratulate Chamberlain. Eventually, the court was cleared and Chamberlain spent the remainder of the game standing at center court. He’d later explain that 100 points sounded better than 102. The final score of the game was Warriors 169, Knicks 147. The two teams played again on March 4 at Madison Square Garden where Knicks center Darrall Imhoff was given a standing ovation by the New York crowd for “holding” Chamberlain to only 58 points. Oscar Robinson, one of Chamberlain’s basketball rivals later commented on the importance of the game and its effect on the then struggling NBA, “People heard about Wilt scoring a 100, averaging 50 a night, and they wanted to see the guy do it … I believe Wilt Chamberlain single-handedly saved the league.”

So, to celebrate the anniversary of Chamberlain’s 100-point game, let’s mix a mighty cocktail called Warrior. It’s a really strong drink that’s a little like a brandy Manhattan, but with more kick.

Warrior

  • 1 ounce Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 ounce Dry Vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce Brandy
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pernod
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cointreau

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: A late Mardis Gras!

February 24: The Battle Of Los Angeles

Battle_of_Los_Angeles_LATimesLate in the evening on February 24, 1942, the skies above Los Angeles were lit up as the 37th Coast Artillery Brigade engaged in battle with either the Japanese, a UFO or perhaps a weather balloon?

The west coast was already a bit on edge prior to the event that became known as The Battle Of Los Angeles. After all, less than three months earlier Pearl Harbor had been attacked and literally the day before, on February 23, the Bombardment of Ellwood had occurred in Santa Barbara. So, when something was spotted in the sky late in the evening on February 24, Angelenos took it extremely seriously. The air raid sirens started blaring and the city instantly went into black out conditions.

Starting at 3:16 AM the 37th Coast Artillery Brigade began shooting at the unidentified flying object, eventually firing 1,400 shells. Shelling went on for about an hour and an all clear was sounded just before 7:30 on the morning of February 25. The shells damaged many buildings and vehicles, and although no one was directly injured by the shelling, five civilians did die as an indirect result of the night’s events: Three individuals died in a car crash and two others suffered fatal heart attacks presumably brought about by the hour long barrage.

So, the million dollar question is “What was the 37th shooting at?” Well, initially there were fears that it was a Japanese air craft. The official military report said that the events were sparked by a loose weather balloon and that the smoke from the continued shelling created the impression that there were more objects in the sky and that those objects were firing back.

Of course, ome people refused to take this explanation at face value. The front page of the February 26 edition of the Los Angeles Times featured a photo of spotlights shining in the sky. Naturally, this  led some people to assume that the unidentified flying object was no weather balloon, but an actual UFO; an alien spaceship. Proponents of this theory claim that the Times photo clearly shows searchlights focused on an alien vessel. However, in actuality the photo had been modified before publication. At the time, a certain level of photographic modification was considered acceptable in the newspaper industry, especially when modification would improve the contrast in black and white photos. So, by making the searchlights clearer, a UFO myth was born.

So, on the anniversary of the Battle of Los Angeles, and its accompanying blackout, let’s mix a Blackout. It’s a nice after-dinner drink that takes a Gimlet and adds blackberry brandy.

Blackout

  • 1 3/4 ounces Gin
  • 3/4 ounce Blackberry Brandy
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: An entire football team is given the death penalty.

February 23: Dick Turpin Is Identified

Dick TurpinDuring the 1730s no name was feared more in England than that of Dick Turpin. Turpin was a highwayman who’d ambush stagecoaches, robbing travelers while yelling his famous order to “Stand and deliver!” before escaping on his fierce steed Black Bess. His exploits have become the stuff of legend, with his story often becoming romanticized to the point where the routinely brutal and truly vile Turpin is regularly portrayed as a roguish hero. English authorities had trouble capturing Turpin, and for a period he went into hiding; but it was on this day in 1739 that Dick Turpin was identified and soon brought to justice for his crimes.

Turpin’s life of crime began simple enough as a common cattle rustler and horse thief. Soon he took up with a gang of scoundrels known as the Essex gang. The psychopathic Essex gang were the 18th century equivalent of the droogies from A Clockwork Orange. They preyed on country homes, and while they undoubtedly enjoyed robbing the country folk, their main passion seemed to be in sadistically torturing the people they robbed.

Thankfully, in 1735 most of the gang was captured, ending their four year reign of terror, but Turpin evaded his pursuers. It was at this point he decided to go solo, becoming a highwayman. But first, he took a pseudo-apprenticeship under a more established highwayman who he later killed while attempting to break him out of police custody. Some say it was an accidental killing, but with Turpin who can be sure? From there he embraced his role as a highwayman, robbing travelers and striking terror amongst those that journeyed along England’s roads. Eventually, a bounty of £200 (the equivalent of £27,000 today) was placed on his head.

Then, in 1737 Turpin disappeared. In June of 1737, a horse trader named John Palmer checked into an inn in Brough, East Riding of Yorkshire. In October of 1738, Palmer was arrested after killing a man’s rooster and then threatening to kill the man. The local authorities soon launched an investigation into Palmer’s background, suspecting that he had a criminal past. Soon, reports came in that he might not be a horse trader but a horse thief, which at the time was a capital offense. Soon, Palmer was transferred to the prison known as York Castle.

While jailed, Palmer wrote a letter to Pompr Rivernall, a man who lived in Hempstead and happened to be married to Dick Turpin’s sister, Dorothy. The letter arrived at the Hempstead post office and Rivernall refused to pay the charges as he claimed he “had no correspondent at York”. Soon after that, fate intervened when James Smith, who taught young Dick Turpin how to write noticed the letter and recognized the handwriting as that of his now infamous pupil. He quickly paid the postage and made his way to York Castle where on February 23, 1739 he informed the police that John Palmer and Dick Turpin were one and the same. Smith was awarded a £200 reward for his service.

Surprisingly, horse theft was the only charge that Turpin stood trial for. It was a speedy trial and unsurprisingly he was found guilty. On April 7, 1793, the 33-year old Turpin was hung, with the highwayman voluntarily jumping off the gallows dais. He hung in the town square for most of the afternoon before being buried the next morning. Soon after his body was stolen, only to be reclaimed by the citizens of York who reburied Turpin’s corpse, this time with quicklime. A gravestone in the graveyard of St George’s Church, Fishergate purports to mark Turpin’s final resting place, but there remains debate about whether the outlaw is actually buried there.

As Turpin was only ever formally charged with horse theft, let’s mark the 175th anniversary of his undoing with a Horse’s Neck. The Horse’s Neck got its start in the 1890s as simple ginger ale and ice with a lemon peel garnish. However, by the 1910s, the “Horse’s Neck with a Kick” (the kick typically being brandy) became popular, eventually surpassing the original non-alcoholic drink. This drink gets it’s name from the long lemon spiral that is used as a garnish. When properly placed in the drink, the lemon spiral should resemble a horse’s neck.

Horse’s Neck

  • 1 ounce Brandy
  • 3 ounces ginger ale
  • Dash of Bitters

Pour the brandy and ginger ale over ice in an Old Fashioned glass. Add a dash of bitters, stir and garnish with a long lemon zest spiral.

Tomorrow: Los Angeles is attacked by either the Japanese, aliens or a weather balloon.