Category Archives: Gin Cocktails

May 26: Apollo 10 Returns

Apollo-10It was on this day in 1969 that Apollo 10, the Apollo space program’s fourth manned mission, returned to Earth.

Apollo 10 was essentially a dress rehearsal for the Apollo 11 moon landing, a test of all the procedures for a moon landing, with the notable exception of actually landing on the moon. Astronauts Thomas P. Stafford and Eugene A. Cernan were deployed in the Lunar Module Snoopy and orbited the Moon, while John W. Young remained aboard the Command Modual Charlie Brown. During the mission, Stafford and Cernan scoped out the Sea of Tranquility, where Apollo 11 would land, and even came within a nautical mile of landing. The mission would come to an end when the Charlie Brown made splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on May 26, 1969.

Interestingly, all three Apollo 10 crew members later took part in an additional Apollo mission, the only Apollo crew to hold this distinction. Young served as the commander of Apollo 16 and became the ninth person to walk on the moon. Cernan commanded Apollo 17 and was the last person to walk off the moon. Stafford commanded the U. S. vehicle in the 1975 Apollo–Soyuz Test Project joint U.S.–Soviet space flight, which was coincidentally the last Apollo mission.

There are a few cocktails inspired by the moon, but I’m partial to the Blue Moon. I pulled this recipe from Ted Haigh’s indispensable book Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails. This blue cocktail has a nice violet aroma.

Blue Moon

  • 2 ounces Dry Gin
  • 1/2 ounce Crème Yvette or Crème de Violette
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

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

Tomorrow: Another day at the races.

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May 21: The Pogo Stick

PogoThe pogo stick had been around in one form or another since the early 1890s, but the modern, two-handled pogo stick was invented by George B. Hansburg of Walker Valley, N.Y. It was on this day in 1957 that Hansburg was issued a patent for that invention.

The earliest proto-pogo stick were spring stilts, created in 1891 by George H. Herrington of Wichita, Kansas. Each small stilt was worn around a user’s foot and featured a compression springs to give wearers a literal spring in their step.  In 1920, German inventors Hans Pohlig and Ernst Gottschall came up with a “spring end hopping stilt” and its believed that the combination of their names led to the word “pogo”.

In 1955, the American Harry Hohberger was awarded a patent for a pogo stick, but this one had a single upright vertical handle. There was one small problem with this design; if you weren’t careful, you could injure your chin on the handle. It seems that Hansburg had noticed this problem, and quickly designed the two-handled model that has now become the standard design for pogo sticks of all shapes and sizes.

The 1950s popularity of the pogo stick inspired Trader Vic to create a Pogo Stick cocktail. This gin based cocktail is sourer than the average Tiki cocktail, so the Trader would typically provide a rock candy swizzle stick to any customer who ordered it so they could sweeten it up if they so desired. Naturally, it’s this stick that gives the drink its name.

Pogo Stick

  • 2 ounces Gin
  • 3/4 ounce unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 3/4 ounce grapefruit juice
  • 1/4 ounce lime juice

Blend all ingredients with ice until sufficiently frothy. Pour into an old fashioned glass and add ice if you wish. Garnish with a lime wheel and a rock candy swizzle stick.

Tomorrow: We eat a power pellet.

May 20: Blue Jeans

Jacob-DavisThere’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.

Blue Jeans

  • 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.

May 9: J. M. Barrie

JM_BarrieScottish author and dramatist James Matthew Barrie was born on this day in 1860. Barrie wrote dozens of books and plays, but his most famous work is undoubtedly the 1904 play Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.

The play began as a series of stories inspired by and told to the boys of the Llewelyn Davies family, whose mother Barrie was friends with. Although the play Peter Pan introduced all the familiar elements of the Peter Pan story that we know and love (The Darling family, Captain Hook, Tinkerbell, the Lost Boys), the title character actually made his debut in an earlier Barrie work, 1902’s The Little White Bird.

The Little White Bird was an unusual little book. A cross between episodic novel and short story collection, the book tells a few slightly interconnected and fantastical stories about life in London. Although primarily intended as a novel for adults, the middle passage of the book told the tale of Peter Pan, a young boy who flew out of his nursery one night and took up residence in Kensington Park with the fairies. As the Peter Pan play was a massive success, it was soon adapted into a book called Peter and Wendy; and the public began clamoring for more Peter Pan stories. So, the Peter Pan chapters from The Little White Bird were extracted from the book, lightly edited and released as a short novella, Peter Pan In Kensington Park. Interestingly, although there have been countless adaptations and spin-offs of the Peter Pan story, Barrie never revisited his most famous character beyond the play.

Amongst the many Peter Pan adaptations is the Peter Pan cocktail, an enchanting take on the Martini that’s been given a kick of orange juice.

Peter Pan

  • 1 1/2 ounces Gin
  • 3/4 ounce Dry Vermouth
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • 2 dashes Aromatic Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Rub an orange twist along the edge of the glass and then drop the twist inside the drink.

Tomorrow: The political end of the Confederacy.

May 4: The 400 Blows

400 BlowsToday we celebrate another landmark moment in film history, the release of  François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows on this day in 1959. The 400 Blows, along with the 1960 release of Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, represented the birth of French New Wave cinema.

The 400 Blows tells the story of Antoine Doinel, a young Parisian boy played by Jean-Pierre Leaud. The film follows Doinel’s life as he occasionally gets in trouble with his family and school. It’s a touching and sometimes hilarious portrait of adolescence, partially inspired by Truffaut’s own childhood. When it was first released 55 years ago today, The 400 Blows was an instant critical hit and it was nominated for several awards including the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or and the Academy Award for Best Writing, a rare Oscar nomination for a foreign film. At Cannes, the film earned Truffaut the award for Best Director; not bad for a first time director.

Truffaut never thought he’d revisit the characters of his first film, but in 1962 he was invited to take part in an anthology film called Love At Twenty, and decided it would be interesting to check in on Doinel as a young man. Here, our hero, again played by Leaud, returned as a teenager in love in a short film called Antoine and Colette. Truffaut again revisited the character in three subsequent feature films, with the fifth and final Doinel film, Love On The Run, was released in 1979, twenty years after The 400 Blows‘ release.

The “Adventures of Antoin Doinel” is a film series unlike almost any other, providing periodic snapshots of Doinel over the years and tracing his (and in many ways Truffaut’s) life from adolescence to early mid-life and through romantic courtship, marriage and divorce. Its closest comparisons are probably two works by director Richard Linklater: His 18-year spanning Before Sunrise trilogy and his 2014 film Boyhood, which was shot over twelve years with the same cast. Love On The Run was not as well received as the other Doinel films, and there are rumors that Truffaut always intended to make one more feature about his most famous character. Tragically, Truffaut died at the age of 52 in 1984 from a brain tumor.

In January 2012, the Seattle Art Museum’s film department organized a series entitled “Forever Young: The Films of Francois Truffaut”. In tribute to the Truffaut retrospective, Inga Walker, a bartender at the museum’s TASTE restaurant, developed a cocktail fittingly called Paris Gray. It’s a bittersweet, murky cocktail that’s quite fitting for the anniversary of The 400 Blows.

Paris Grey

  • 2 ounces Gin
  • 3/4 ounce  Creme de Violette
  • 1/4 ounce Benedictine
  • 2 dashes Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters
  • 1 splash simple syrup

Stir all ingredients with ice in a mixing glass and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

April 26: Fredrick Law Olmstead

OlmstedNo one person shaped the public landscape of America quite like Fredrick Law Olmstead, who was born on this day in 1822. During his career as a landscape architect, Olmstead designed hundreds of parks and governmental master plans including Denver’s Civic Center Park, Stanford University, the grounds of the U. S. Capitol, Oakland’s Mountain View Cemetery, the grounds of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. However, one Olmstead project stands above all others: New York’s Central Park.

As New York grew taller and louder during the Industrial Revolution, its people began to seek comfort in its few open green spaces (mostly cemeteries) for peace and quiet. It readily became apparent that New York needed a large public park, an idea championed by Evening Post columnist William Cullen Bryant and landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing, Olmstead’s mentor. Eventually, in 1853 the New York legislature selected a 700-acre area stretching from New York’s 59th Street to 106th Street to serve as the park. In 1857, a design contest was held by the Central Park Commission and the Greensward Plan by Olmsted and English-American architect Calvert Vaux was eventually selected as the winning design.

Olmstead and Yaux’s plan had several clever design elements including artificial lakes, 36 uniquely designed bridges, and “separate circulation” paths; specialized roadways created specifically for pedestrians, horseback riders and pleasure vehicles like bicycles and carriages. Olmstead’s most novel idea for the park was created as a response to the needs of crosstown traffic. As the park took up 700-acres, it was essential that there still be a way for vehicles to get around the park. So, Olmstead built several transverse roads into the Central Park design. These sunken roadways were covered by bridges and obscured by dense shrubs to allow traffic to flow through without breaking up the tranquility of the park. Although sections of the park were opened as it was developed, Central Park was not completed until 1873. Over four million trees and plants (in roughly 1,500 species) were installed in the park during construction.

The New Amsterdam Spirits Company created the Central Park as a mellower variation on the Bloody Mary. Instead of Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco this highball uses vanilla extract and cayenne pepper to accentuate the tomato juice.

Central Park

  • 2 ounces Gin
  • 3 drops vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces tomato juice
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into an ice filled highball glass. Garnish with a vanilla bean and cherry tomato.

Tomorrow: We rebuild Parliament.

April 5: Sherlock Holmes Returns

HolmesWatsonIn 1891, Sherlock Holmes fell to his death at Switzerland’s Reichenbach Falls while fighting against his arch-nemesis, the “Napoleon of Crime” Professor James Moriarty. After a period of mourning, Holmes’ friend Dr. John Watson began to get on with his life, but still showed an interest in assisting in the solving of crimes. On the afternoon of April 5, 1894, Watson was examining a crime scene when he inadvertently bumped into an elderly book seller. Later that same day, the bookseller came to Watson’s study to apologize, and while Watson was distracted the bookseller removed his disguise to reveal that he was in fact Sherlock Holmes!

Of course, that’s all fiction. In reality, Holmes had been killed off by his creator Arthur Conan Doyle in the 1893 short story The Final Problem. Conan Doyle had gotten tired of his famed detective character and wanted to move onto more serious literary pursuits, so he decided to write one last Holmes story. When the story was released, the public was shocked. Some newspapers actually published the news of Holmes’ “death” on the front page.

Eventually, Conan Doyle began to relent on the matter of Holmes. In 1902, he published the novel The Hound Of The Baskervilles, a previously untold adventure set before Holmes went over the falls. The novel was a hit and Conan Doyle began to think about how he could bring the world’s greatest detective back to life. As Watson’s did not actually witness Holmes’ death in The Final Problem, there was enough wiggle room for Conan Doyle to bring Holmes back under the pretense that he had faked his death. So, in 1903 Conan Doyle published Holmes’ return in The Adventure of the Empty House to the delight of readers everywhere.

To celebrate the (fictional) 120th anniversary of Sherlock Holmes’ return, let’s turn to the fine folks at the number one website for geeky boozers, The Drunken Moogle. Mitch Hutts created The Reichenbach Fall to celebrate the third season of the BBC drama Sherlock. Just as Sherlock is an update of the Victorian era Sherlock Holmes tales, Hutts’ cocktail is a modern twist on the Sherry Cobbler, a cocktail that was popular in Victorian England.

The Reichenbach Fall

  • 1 ounce London Dry Gin
  • 2 ounce Dry Sherry
  • 1 splash Stirring’s Blood Orange Bitters
  • 3 ounces lemonade

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a highball glass with ice.

Tomorrow: Citius, Altius, Fortius

April 4: Netscape

NetscapeToday we go back to the recent past, though it seems like a lifetime ago in internet terms. It was on April 5, 1994 that the computer services company Netscape was founded as the Mosaic Communications Corporation. Netscape is best known for its famed Netscape Navigator browser, which was designed as “the web is for everyone”, a browser that would look the same on any computer operating system.

Tragically folks, Netscape Navigator has gone the way of the dodo. Netscape is now a division of AOL, which is shockingly still a thing, and AOL stopped servicing the browser in March of 2008. Now, we could get into the history of Netscape, or we could have a bit more fun and look at some of the Netscape era “zombie websites” that are surprisingly still online and haven’t changed much since the 20th century:

  • Perhaps the most famous zombie website is that for the 1996 Looney Tunes/Michael Jordan movie Space Jam. This site’s “press box” page rightly informs us that there is “No Spacejam [sic] news at the moment! Go back to the Space Jam home page to see more of the site!”
  • Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign website is still online, maintained for educational purposes by the 4President Corporation. On the Dole/Kemp website you can still download computer wallpaper featuring Bob Dole, Libby Dole and running mate Jack Kemp.
  • Remember the suicide cult Heaven’s Gate? Their website is still around, apparently kept alive by a foundation set up by the cult’s living members, who were specifically left behind to continue to spread the cult’s message.
  • Fire.com is the website for La Cañada Flintridge, California’s A&A Fire Protection Inc. A quick search indicates that A&A Fire Protection Inc. has shuttered its doors, but its website still lives on, complete with a not particularly helpful MapQuest map.
  • Most surprising perhaps is that deep inside the bowels of the TBS’ website, you can still find information about the Atlanta Braves on TBS Superstation. TBS stopped airing regularly scheduled TBS games in 2007, but interestingly this webpage hasn’t been updated since 2000.

As you browse these webpages of the living dead on a browser that probably isn’t Netscape Navigator, why not enjoy a Navigator? Created by London based bartender Jamie Terrell, the Navigator is a bitter, citrusy gin cocktail.

Navigator

  • 2 ounces Gin
  • 3/4 ounce Limoncello
  • 1 1/4 ounces pink grapefruit juice

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

Tomorrow: Sherlock Holmes returns.

April 2: Ponce de León, Florida & The Fountain Of Youth

Ponce_de_LeonOn April 2, 1513, Juan Ponce de León spotted land that he believed was an island. In recognition of the Easter season, which Spaniards called the Pascua Florida (Festival of Flowers), he named this alleged island La Florida. Today we know it as the state of Florida; and that it was a peninsula.

Now, I’m not going to write about Florida, mostly because the state scares me, and with good reason. Instead, let’s look at popular story about Ponce de León. It’s said that Ponce de León discovered Florida while searching for the Fountain of Youth. This, as you might suspect, is a myth. While Ponce de León was looking for new lands and treasures in the hope of expanding the Spanish Empire, none of his writings mention a search for the Fountain of Youth.

The Fountain only became attached to Ponce de León after his death. Fountain of Youth stories had been told for centuries prior to Ponce de León’s exploration of the Caribbean, both amongst Europeans and the natives of modern Latin America. During his Caribbean voyage, Ponce de León was searching for Beniny, a land of riches that modern historians believe was a misunderstood reference to the kingdom of the Maya. It seems that when Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo wrote his Historia General y Natural de las Indias in 1535, he blended the story of Ponce de León’s failed hunt for Beniny with the Fountain of Youth myth and the rest was “history.”.

Naturally, there is a cocktail called Fountain Of Youth. While I cannot speak for its restorative properties, it is quite refreshing. It’s a twist on the Pimm’s Cup that wouldn’t be out of place at an alcohol-friendly spa.

Fountain Of Youth

  • 3 cucumber slices
  • 1 1/2 ounces Gin
  • 2 1/2 ounces white cranberry juice
  • 1 teaspoon Pimm’s No. 1
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice

Place two of the cucumber slices, the lime juice and Pimm’s Number 1 in the bottom of a cocktail shaker and muddle them together. Then add the gin, white cranberry juice, and ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the remaining cucumber slice.

Tomorrow: We eat in the hat for the last time.

March 22: Captain Kirk

Captain-KirkAccording to Star Trek, James Tiberius Kirk, the future captain of the USS Enterprise, will be born in Riverside, Iowa on this day in 2233. Coincidentally, William Shatner, the actor most associated with playing Kirk onscreen was born on March 22, 1931.

Kirk first came to minor galactic fame when he became the only Starfleet Academy student to beat the Kobayashi Maru test, a test designed as a no-win scenario that measured a Starfleet cadet’s character. On a simulated mission, cadets come across a ship called Kobayashi Maru that has become stranded in the “Neutral Zone” between the planets of the United Federation of Planets and the territories of the Klingon Empire. Cadets are presented with two options, either they go into the Neutral Zone to save the ship and potentially provoke the Klingons into battle, or abandon the ship stranded leaving all aboard to die. Of course, the program is designed so that engaging with the Klingons will always lead to death.

How did Kirk beat it? It was fairly simple; Kirk hacked the program prior to his test and altered the program so the Klingons could be defeated. Shockingly, Starfleet awarded Kirk a special commendation for “original thinking”. Kirk then advanced through the Starfleet rankings until he received a promotion to captain, the youngest person to ever achieve that rank in Starfleet. Kirk was given command of the USS Enterprise for a five-year mission “t to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

From 1998 to 2008, the Las Vegas Hilton housed an attraction called Star Trek: The Experience. The attraction featured two simulator rides, a museum of Star Trek props and costumes and a promenade styled after that of the space station Deep Space Nine. On the promenade there were several shops and a restaurant based on DS9’s Quark’s Bar. At Quark’s, one could order food and drinks inspired by the Star Trek franchise including a James Tea Kirk. This potent concoction is pretty much a blue Long Island Iced Tea.

James Tea Kirk

  • 3/4 ounce White Rum
  • 3/4 ounce Gin
  • 3/4 ounce Vodka
  • 3/4 ounce Blue Curaco
  • 1 ounce lemon lime soda
  • 1 ounce sweet and sour mix

Pour all ingredients over ice in a highball glass.

Tomorrow: One of history’s greatest directors made more than just samurai films.