There’s a pretty good chance that as you’re reading this you’re wearing blue jeans. You have the man at right, Jacob Davis, to thank for that particular fashion innovation, and it was on this day in 1873 that Davis and a San Francisco merchant named Levi Strauss received a patent for riveted blue jeans.
In the early 1870s, Davis, a Latvian immigrant, was running a tailor shop in the then small town of Reno, Nevada. There, he used cotton “duck” cloth and denim ordered from San Francisco’s Levi Strauss & Co. dry goods store to make tents, wagon covers and other goods. It’s said that Davis had a customer who frequently came in to his shop to buy cloth to reinforce her husband’s torn pants. Inspired by this, Davis decided to use the demin and duck cloth to make good quality work pants. Then, he added copper rivets to reinforce the key points of strain.
Word got around about Davis’ pants and people from all over the west began to order them. Soon the demand was too much for Davis and he realized that he needed assistance, so he reached out to his fabric supplier, Strauss, for financial assistance. So, with Strauss’ financial backing, Davis was able to file a patent for his riveted pants, or more specifically “Improvements in fastening pocket openings”. Upon receiving the patent on May 20, 1873, the two men went into business together. Although Davis continued to design the pants, including adding a signature stitched double orange thread design on the back pockets, it was Strauss who ran the business and eventually it was his name that become synonymous with blue jeans.
So, contrary to popular belief, Levi Strauss did not invent blue jeans during the California Gold Rush. On the anniversary of his patent, let’s toast Jacob Davis with a Blue Jeans cocktail. This drink comes to us from the Dodgy Dock, the bar at the True Blue Bay Hotel on the island of Grenada. It’s a refreshing, and bright blue, Champagne cocktail.
- 1 ounce Blue Curacao
- 1 ounce Gin
- 3 ounces Champagne
- 1 splash lime juice
- 1 splash simple syrup
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge and a cherry.
Tomorrow: We jump up and down on a stick.
Tragically, but not surprisingly, most of the legends of bartending died some time ago. However, today we celebrate one of the great barmen who is still with us: Joe Gilmore, the Savoy Hotel’s famed head barman, is celebrating his 93rd birthday today!
At the age of 18, Gilmore was hired by the Savoy as a trainee bartender. Gilmore spent World War II behind the bar at the Savoy and other London bars inventing new cocktails to help lift people’s spirits during the dark days of the blitz. After the war’s end, Gilmore became a permanent fixture at the Savoy, eventually being promoted to head barman in 1955, and becoming a favorite of the hotel’s celebrity clientele. Sir Winston Churchill would only go to Gilmore for drinks and in return, Gilmore invented not one but three different cocktails in Churchill’s honor. When American presidents and Hollywood stars came to London they’d go to Gilmore. When the royal family celebrated a birthday, they’d commission Gilmore to create a special cocktail.
Gilmore’s fame was even known in the depths of space! In 1969, Gilmore created a cocktail called the Moonwalk in honor of the moon landing. According to Gilmore, “The Savoy sent it off in a flask and I received a letter back from Neil Armstrong thanking us and saying it was the first drink they had when they came out of quarantine.” Then, in 1975 he created the Link Up cocktail to celebrate the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project, the first joint U.S.–Soviet space flight. During the mission, the astronauts were informed by mission control that they’d all receive the drink upon their return from space, to which one astronaut was said to reply “Tell Joe we want it up here”.
Gilmore retired from his post at the Savoy in 1976, but he’s still known to pick up the shaker from time to time. In tribute to Gilmore let’s mix a drink he created and named after his most famous post. The Savoy Affair is a sweet Champagne cocktail mixed with several fruit flavors.
The Savoy Affair
- 1 ounce lime juice
- 1 ounce Fraise de Bois Liqueur
- 1 ounce passion fruit juice
- 1 ounce Peach Brandy
Shake all ingredients, except champagne, together with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Top off with champagne and garnish with a strawberry.
Tomorrow: Blue jeans.
King Louis XIII was rather fond of hunting in the forests around the village of Versailles. So, in 1624 he erected a hunting château for himself, and over the following years he added more rooms to the château. His successor, Louis XIV expanded around the château and transformed it into the Palace of Versailles, eventually becoming one of the largest palaces in the world. In 1678, Louis XIV began moving his court to the palace, with the court officially being established at Versailles on May 6, 1682.
Versailles remained the center of French politics until 1789 when King Louis XVI along with his family and court were forced back to Paris during the beginning of the French Revolution. The opulence of Versailles was amongst the many things cited by Revolutionary leaders, but surprisingly nobody knows how much the palace actually cost. As Versailles was originally intended as an occasional residence of the king, most of the money for the initial château came from Louis XIII’s own purse. Additional funds came from the residents of New France (modern Canada) which although it was a part of France, New France was technically property of the king. Louis XIV on the other hand used public funds to pay for the expansion of the palace, and his successors followed, to the point that Louis XVI even commissioned furniture made entirely out of silver. All together, it was estimated in 2000 that the palace complex cost the equivalent of $2-million in modern money.
The cocktail Versailles was created by New York bartender Brian Miller and uses a flamed orange to enhance the drink’s herbal and citrusy flavors.
- 2 ounces Bourbon
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice
- 3/4 ounce St. Germain
- 1 splash Champagne
Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a flamed oil peel.
Tomorrow: I’d like to buy the world a Coke.
Bob Wills, born on this day in 1905, is one of the America’s greatest musicians. As one of the pioneers of western swing, Wills helped create a new blend of sounds unlike anything ever heard before.
Western swing is often categorized as a sub-genre of country music that drew influence from jazz styles and was popular in the 1930s and 1940s. It wasn’t unusual for a western swing song to feature both a fast fiddle player and a bit of Dixieland jazz. Bob Wills was widely regarded as the “King of Western Swing” and his band, the Texas Playboys were the best in the land. While many western swing bands were playing jazz influenced country, Wills and his bandmates went all in and added horns and a drummer.
The addition of horns and a drummer allowed for a unique versatility in the band’s sound that worked for song as diverse as the old folk song “Ida Red” to the eight-bar blues “Trouble In Mind” and the Dixieland jazz standard “Basin Street Blues“. Wills’ Playboys were also master improvisors. In concerts, Wills would just point his bow at one of the Playboys with little warning and they’d come up with a solo on the spot. While this was the standard for jazz bands, it was unheard of in country circles.
Of course, this new sound ruffled the feathers of a few more traditional country musicians, but Bob would always fight back in his own manner. In December of 1940, the Texas Playboys were going to play the Grand Ole Opry. There was one problem, the Opry had a strict ban on drums as they were not a “country instrument”; and the drums were the backbone of the Playboys’ style. Wills threatened to walk and after a bit of arguing, a compromise was reached: The drums would be allowed onstage, but they’d be hidden behind a curtain. So, that evening the Playboys took the stage at the Opry and during their first song, Wills personally tore down the curtain that was blocking his drummer. This action led the group to become temporarily blacklisted from the Opry; but as the group got more and more popular, the Opry had no choice but to invite Wills and the Playboys back, drums and all.
Wills’ legacy still stands in the “Bakersfield Country” sound pioneered by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, as well as the style of many “outlaw” and alternative country acts. Of course, Wills and the Texas Playboys shaped more than just country music; the band’s recording of “Ida Red” served as the inspiration for Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene”, one of the first major rock and roll songs.
One of Bob Wills’ signature tunes was an instrumental called “Maiden’s Prayer“. The piece was a western swing adaptation of a piano piece composed by Polish composer Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska in 1856. The piece was a surprise hit all across Europe and it eventually reached the States. For the next fifty years or so, if you were ever being entertained in the home of a particularly well off family, it was not unusual for you to hear one of the family’s daughters plink out “Maiden’s Prayer” on the piano. So, this brings us to Frank Newman, a British barman working in the suburbs of Paris who included a drink called Maiden’s Prayer in his 1907 bartending book American Bar, the cocktail’s name undoubtedly coming from the song. This drink is a sweet champagne cocktail with a thin hint of mint.
- 1 ounce Dark Rum
- 1/2 ounce orgeat syrup
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice
- 4 dashes Crème de Menthe
- 4 dashes Orange Curaçao
Shake all ingredients, except the champagne, with ice and strain into a chilled champagne flute. Fill with champagne.
Tomorrow: A Scottish outlaw.
After the expulsion of the Poles, Russia turned its eyes towards the powerful Romanov family for guidance. During The Time of Troubles, family patriarch Feodor Nikitich Romanov had experienced disgrace and was forced to exile himself from political life and take a monastic vow. After The Time of Troubles though, the Romanovs had returned to prominence, but Feodor Nikitich Romanov could not take the throne as tsar because of his vows to the church. So, his son Michael was elected to the throne…with Feodor helping to run the country from the shadows. The Romanovs continued to rule over Russian until they were deposed in 1917 during the Russian Revolution.
So, what was the second event we wanted to draw attention to today? Well, on February 21, 1848 (235 years after the Romanov dynasty began), Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published a political thesis called Manifesto of the Communist Party, which eventually inspired the Russian Revolution that brought about the end of the Romanovs.
Let’s raise a glass to the Romanov dynasty with a Tsar Cocktail. It’s a regal cocktail made with champagne and vodka, naturally.
- 3 ounces Champagne
- 1 ounce Grand Marnier Orange Liqueur
- 1 ounce Vodka
- ½ ounce lime juice
- 1 dash Orange Bitters
Shake all ingredients except for the champagne with ice anf strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne.
Tomorrow: A legendary bartender.
The first airmail flight was actually part of an aviation exhibition in India. The event’s organizer, Sir Walter George Windham, got permission from the Indian Postal Service to run an airmail service to raise money for charity while also generating publicity for the exhibition. People from all over the region brought mail to a local church and in the end, pilot Henri Pequet flew 6,500 letters 8 miles from the village of Allahabad to the village of Naini. All of the letters carried on this 13 minute flight were given a special stamp reading “First Aerial Post, U.P. Exhibition, Allahabad. 1911″.
Amusingly however, this was not the first time that mail had been delivered by airborne transportation: Hot air balloons had been used in limited capacity for matters of both frivolity and great importance. For instance, when Jean-Pierre Blanchard traveled by balloon from Philadelphia to Deptford, New Jersey in 1793, the first hot air balloon flight in North America, he carried with him a letter from President George Washington that was to be delivered to the owner of whatever land Blanchard landed on. Also of note, while the February 18, 1911 flight was the first official use of airmail, one day earlier (February 17, 1911) pilot Fred Wiseman took three letters with him on a flight between the California towns of Petaluma and Santa Rosa, making it the first (unofficial) airmail flight.
The cocktail called Airmail is a nice fizzy drink whose name is perhaps a reference to how quickly it will get you sauced. Airmail’s exact origins are unknown, but this drink’s earliest known appearance was in the 1949 edition of Esquire Magazine’s Handbook for Hosts.
- 2 ounces Golden Rum
- 1/2 ounce lime juice
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 5 ounces Champagne
Tomorrow: “Buy me some peanuts and…”
Folks, I’ll be honest with you. I struggled a bit with the subject matter of today’s post. As I was looking at the historical events of February 16, one particular event kept calling to me. That said, I thought would it really be appropriate to mark the anniversary of the former Supreme Leader (i. e. dictator) of North Korea Kim Jong-Il’s birth on this day in 1941? After all, Kim was an absolute bastard: When he wasn’t actively killing his countrymen, he was indirectly killing them through famine; all while he lived in opulence…and his son hasn’t done much better. With all that said, I’ve long been fascinated by the hermit kingdom of North Korea and the cult of personality associated with the so called Dear Leader, so let’s look at some of the propaganda myths that Kim and his regime invented and also some of the strange real life details of Kim’s life. To clear fact from fiction, all North Korean propaganda (i. e. bullshit) will be presented in italics.
According to Soviet records, Kim was actually born Yuri Irsenovich Kim on February 16. 1941 in a tiny village in Russia while his father, Kim Il-sung was commanding the the 1st Battalion of the Soviet 88th Brigade, a battalion made up of Chinese and Korean exiles. Official North Korean propaganda claims that Kim was born on February 16, 1942 in a secret military camp on Baekdu Mountain, a mountain that was viewed in ancient Korean mythology as the birthplace of humanity, during the Japanese occupation of Korea. The story continues to say that upon his birth a double rainbow appeared above the mountain and a new star appeared in the sky.
According to North Korea’s state run media, Kim was quite the accomplished individual: He was a fashion icon whose signature look of matching tunics and pants was imitated all over the world. In fact, he was considered to be the world’s best loved statesman and his birthday was celebrated worldwide. He was a culinary genius who invented a new sandwich for students and teachers called “double bread with meat”, better known in the rest of the world as a hamburger. Most impressively, he was an amazing golfer. The first time he ever golfed, he got five holes in one and shot 38 under par which is 25 shots better than the best round ever officially recorded.
Of course, Kim’s actions in the real world are even stranger. The following is all true: He was obsessed with basketball and often pirated satellite broadcasts to watch NBA games. Kim’s love of basketball was so well known that when then Secretary of State Madeline Albright made a diplomatic visit to North Korea, she brought a basketball autographed by Michael Jordan. Kim told Albright that perhaps next time Michael Jordan himself could come. Of course, there was no chance that His Airness would risk the possibility of not being able to leave North Korea because after all, Kim once kidnapped a South Korean director and his wife to make a Godzilla knock off. In that case the filmmaker and his wife only escaped after tricking Kim and his goons into letting them do some location filming in Austria. Finally, Kim was a major boozehound. In the 1990s, Hennessy confirmed that he was their biggest buyer, typically buying between $600,000 to $850,000 of cognac a year. By comparison, the average North Korean only makes $1000 a year.
Now, our cocktail today is a little bit on the crude side, but I thought it was fitting considering who we’re talking about today. Today’s drink is a One-Balled Dictator. This cocktail was created sometime during or just after World War II, and takes its name from an English marching song called “Hitler Has Only Got One Ball“, the subject matter of which you can probably guess. The key ingredients that give this drink its name are the semi-sweet German wine Liebfraumilch and a cinnamon ball placed at the bottom of the glass.
- 5 ounces Liebfraumilch
- 1 ounce Champagne
- 1 cinnamon ball
Shake the wines together violently with ice and strain into a rocks glass with one cinnamon ball.
Tomorrow: The tale of an American naval officer and a Japanese girl.
Since the 1970s, computer scientists had attempted to create a computer program that could beat a human player. Why? Because chess is a game of strategy and critical thinking, which makes it an excellent way to test a computer’s grasp of these traits. As computer technology advanced and computers started to beat average chess players, the question became “Could a computer beat a chess grandmaster?”
After IBM’s Deep Blue won a few computer chess tournaments and beaten a few humans, IBM decided to challenge Garry Kasparov, the Russian chess grandmaster. Kasparov agreed to a six game series against the computer system. On February 10, 1996, the grandmaster and the computer faced off for the first time and much to the surprise of everyone except the IBM team, Deep Blue won the first match. However, Kasparov went on to win three of the following five matches, with the other two ending in a draw.
A rematch was held a year later; and in that six match series, a slightly reprogrammed Deep Blue won two games, lost one and drew in the remaining three. Upon the end of the 1997 series, Kasparov commented that he saw cleverness and intelligence in Deep Blue’s moves. Deep Blue was dismantled soon after the 1997 series, presumably to keep it from trying to emulate Hal 9000 or Skynet.
So, while we wait for the robotic uprising, let’s raise a glass to our future overlords with a cocktail named after the father of their revolution. The Deep Blue is a tasty blue champagne cocktail that makes for a great after dinner drink.
- 1 ounce Vodka
- 1/3 ounce Blue Curacao
Stir the vodka and blue curacao together with ice and strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne and garnish with a blueberry.
Tomorrow: A golden record.
It’s New Year’s Eve, ladies and gentlemen. You’ve probably got plans tonight, so I’m not going to take up too much of your time. How about I quickly tell the origins of a New Year’s Eve tradition, and then give you a nice drink recipe?
Have you ever wondered how the tradition of dropping the ball in Times Square got started? It all began in 1903 when The New York Times‘ owner, Adolph Ochs, decided to celebrate the opening of One Times Square, the newspaper’s new headquarters, with a New Year’s Eve fireworks show. 200,000 people showed up to watch the fireworks welcome in 1904. The fireworks continued for a few years, but Ochs wanted to do something a little bigger that would draw attention to the building itself.
Eventually, the Times‘ chief electrician, Walter F. Painer suggested the dropping of a “time ball.” If you, like most people, are unfamiliar with the concept of a time ball, it’s an obsolete time keeping device consisting of a large ball that is dropped at predetermined times. It was initially invented so ship navigators could accurately set their marine chronometer, allowing them to keep time while at sea. Ochs liked Painer’s idea and a 700 pound ball, made from iron, wood and one hundred incandescent light bulbs was built and used to ring in the start of 1908.
Since then, the Times Square Ball has been dropped every year, with the exception of New Year’s Eve 1942 and 1943 when wartime lighting restrictions caused the cancellation of the event. The current Times Square Ball weighs 11,875 pounds and is made up of 2,688 Waterford Crystal panels and 32,256 LED lamps.
Now, there are any number of champagne cocktails that you could enjoy tonight (personally, I’m thinking about whipping up a batch of Old Cubans), but the most thematically appropriate might be a Happy New Year. It’s an easy to make, festive mix of champagne, brandy, really good port and orange juice.
Happy New Year
- 1/4 ounce Brandy
- 3/4 ounce Ruby Port
- 3/4 ounce orange juice
- 4 ounce Champagne
Shake everything except the champagne with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into a champagne flute. Top off with champagne.
Tomorrow: A New Year’s hangover.
The nation quickly went into mourning, and in fact Queen Victoria dressed in mourning black for the remaining 40 years of her life. Despite Prince Albert’s wishes not to be memorialized, monuments to his memory were erected all over the British Empire, including the famed Royal Albert Hall. There were so many in fact, that Charles Dickens once wrote to a friend about all of the Albert memorials:
If you should meet with an inaccessible cave anywhere in that neighbourhood, to which a hermit could retire from the memory of Prince Albert and testimonials to the same, pray let me know of it. We have nothing solitary and deep enough in this part of England.
In my opinion the greatest monument to Prince Albert was the cocktail called Black Velvet. Invented in 1861 at Brook’s Club in London; the story goes that a barman at the club created this drink because he thought it was inappropriate to serve straight champagne while the country was in mourning. So, he added some Guinness stout to darken the champagne and make it resemble the dark purple or black velvet arm bands that mourners were wearing.
- Guinness Stout
Fill a champagne flute halfway with stout, then float champagne on top.
Tomorrow: We say goodbye to the father of American mixology.