Archive for the ‘’ Category
August 27th, 2010
Watch out when making off-hand remarks around Devin Hahn, author of the blog Periodista Tales. He will record everything you say. Then publish it. The thing is, you’ll be (mostly) thankful he did.
Hahn began writing the engaging, real-time narrative of his quest to find the origins of the Periodista — a drink found on multiple cocktail menus in Boston but apparently unknown in other cities — a mere few months ago. And already, the description of the Periodista on the menu at Eastern Standard pays homage to him. Already, cocktail historians around the country know about him.
In his most recent installment, he describes a sit-down we had at the Franklin Cafe to talk about this apparently Cuban cocktail (of which he now knows more than probably anyone alive) and other matters of the Boston drink scene.
If you dig cocktail history and haven’t checked out Hahn’s blog yet, I suggest you start from the beginning.
Tags: Cuba, Devin Hahn, Periodista
Posted in Books & resources, Cocktails, Rum, drinkboston in the news | No Comments »
July 13th, 2010
When it comes to iPhone apps, I’m a minimalist. Until a friend suggested recently that I write about cocktail apps, I only had one on my phone: Cocktails+. It was developed in part by Ted Haigh and Martin Doudoroff, the team behind the cocktail website I frequent most: the Internet Cocktail Database, or CocktailDB.com. I like the Cocktails+ app. It’s heavy on historic drinks, it includes the source(s) for each recipe, and it’s attractive and easy to read. Honestly, though, I have only used it a handful of times. That’s because my actual favorite cocktail app is a talented bartender. I mean, who needs to consult a mobile device when you have a person in front of you who can help you choose a great drink and tell you the story behind it?
Oh right. We’re not always in bars with talented bartenders, and we’re not always in bars, period. And we don’t carry our cocktail-book libraries around with us. So I figured I’d do a little research for the team to see which cocktail apps are worthwhile for us discerning drinkers. It took me about five minutes to figure out that most of the stuff listed in the iTunes app store was unworthy (to put it kindly), unless drinkboston readers secretly yearn to possess 7,000 recipes for flavored-vodka shooters. It took me about another 30 minutes on the Google, the Facebook and the Twitter to tease out which apps the drinkerati have approved. Here are the fruits of my hard labor.
Cocktails+ $2.99. “The authoritative cocktail reference for the iPhone.” The 2,000+ recipes include mostly classics, but there are many contemporary recipes by Jamie Boudreau, Dale DeGroff and Goncalo Monteiro. Cool feature: share recipes not only via email (which most of these apps do) but also Facebook and Twitter.
Flip n’ Drink $3.99. Authors Gary and Mardee Regan, the folks behind Ardent Spirits, selected and tested the hundreds of recipes on this attractive app, and they are continually adding more from an impressive list of contributors. Cool features: cocktail recommendations based on your current selection, and “cocktail conversations” — fun facts related to each recipe. Beware: the app’s over 20MB, so I got a message saying I had to download it via a computer rather than wirelessly.
Cocktails Made Easy $2.99. Based on a solid concept: 500 recipes that you can make with just 14 different spirits (plus mixers). The recipes are from diffordsguide.com by British drinks industry guru Simon Difford. Cool feature: click on the bottles of liquor you currently have in your inventory, and get a list of the drinks you can make.
101 Cocktails $1.99. “Do I really need 14,000 cocktail recipes?” asks L.A. blogger Jimmy Patrick (Jimmy’s Cocktail Hour), who developed this blessedly streamlined app. For those times when you just want the basics, this is perfect.
Tiki+ $3.99. More than 150 authentic tiki recipes culled from Beachbum Berry’s books. Illustrated with vintage drink photos and art, the app lets you share recipes via Facebook and Twitter. NOTE: Tiki+ is currently being upgraded for iPad compatibility, but it will be back on sale soon.
Please comment if there’s a great cocktail app out there that I missed — and also if you have a go-to beer or wine app. Meanwhile, I need an app with real-time info on the best bars and up-to-date schedules of my favorite bartenders.
Tags: app, iphone
Posted in Books & resources, Cocktails | 11 Comments »
April 25th, 2010
By Scott N. Howe
It was, of course, a stupid idea.
The 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibited the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” in the U.S., expanded government involvement in the lives of citizens and turned millions of regular folks who just wanted a beer into criminals. The amendment, and the Volstead Act that enforced it, also led to an explosion in organized crime, encouraged legitimate businesses to circumvent the law, and subjected the United States to the ridicule of many throughout the world. Winston Churchill called Prohibition “an affront to the whole history of mankind.”
Today, it seems amazing that it happened at all, but Daniel Okrent’s new book, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, makes as much sense of the era as can be made. The book illuminates the social and political factors that led to Prohibition’s passage in 1919. The women’s suffrage movement, mixed with anti-immigrant sentiment and shaken vigorously with righteous, saloon-hating religious elements, created a potent cocktail that intoxicated just enough congressmen and state legislators to enshrine the 18th Amendment into the Constitution.
Last Call humanizes Prohibition, discussing many individuals who made their names on both the “wet” and “dry” sides of the issue — people like Al Capone, Billy Sunday, H.L. Mencken, William Jennings Bryan, Carrie Nation, Susan B. Anthony, and Sam Bronfman – the Canadian bootlegger who went on to run the Seagram’s empire. Okrent also re-introduces several long-forgotten figures who played important roles during the era, including the Anti-Saloon League’s Wayne Wheeler, a political operative Okrent compares to Karl Rove, and Assistant Attorney General Mabel Willebrandt, arguably the most famous and powerful woman in America during the 1920s.
Drinkboston readers will find plenty of local angles in Last Call. For example, the book examines the work of Dorchester’s Mary Hanchett Hunt, who brought temperance education to millions of American school kids in the late 1800s and even established a “Scientific Temperance Museum” at her home on Trull Street. You’ll also find a detailed look at how bootleggers along the East Coast’s “Rum Row” brought booze to New England during the ‘20s, as well as a convincing argument that Joseph P. Kennedy was not, in fact, a bootlegger.
Those looking for a rollicking ride through the Roaring ’20s, however, may be disappointed in Last Call. Yes, you’ll find flirty flappers, charmingly corrupt politicians, saucy speakeasies, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and even Elliott Ness’s “Untouchables.” Mostly, however, you’ll find a sober (sorry) look at a twisted time in American history. So sober, in fact, that Okrent includes the entire text of the U.S. Constitution in the book’s appendix. That’s because Last Call isn’t about what happens when you take a drink, it’s about what happens when the law takes that drink away.
Tags: Daniel Okrent, history, Prohibition, Scott N. Howe
Posted in Books & resources | No Comments »
March 13th, 2010
Anyone out there know if there’s a good college class on Prohibition? I would sign up for it. There is so much interesting stuff about big-P Prohibition (1919-1933) and various small-P prohibitions that just isn’t part of Americans’ knowledge of history (OK, there’s a lot lacking in Americans’ knowledge of history, but I’ll let another blogger tackle that). I did not know, for instance, until I read The Chemist’s War in Slate that there was a federal program to poison alcohol.
“Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people,” writes Deborah Blum. If it’s even close to being accurate, that number’s astonishing.
Prohibition-era President Calvin Coolidge, who had already, as governor of Massachusetts, made a name for himself by cracking down on striking Boston cops, showed his characteristic zeal for maintaining law and order by turning to “chemistry as an enforcement tool.” Wow, way to go, Silent Cal. Imagine if that sort of zeal was ever applied to enforcing regulations governing high finance… Ah, well. Then as now.
Equally as fascinating as the dark episode above: We think of Massachusetts as a pioneer in everything from establishing the New World to declaring independence from the Old World to letting gay people marry to mandating universal health insurance. But few people know that the Bay State was also a pioneer in prohibition. According to Perry R. Duis’ study The Saloon: Public Drinking in Chicago and Boston, 1880-1920, Massachusetts was the first to enact statewide prohibition, which, except for the years 1868 and 1871-3, lasted from 1852 to 1875. Of course, we had about as much success with our own noble experiment as the entire nation did some decades later. Duis writes:
“The wets claimed that arrests for drunkenness had not really declined as dramatically as citizens had earlier believed. Alcohol was obviously being produced or imported, and a secret distribution system placed it in the hands of thousands of drinkers… Charity workers and city missionaries worried aloud about the social problems that came from… secret consumption. Tenement doors concealed drunkenness, wife beating, and child abuse… Under license, the quality and purity of liquor could be regulated; now, inspection was virtually impossible.”
And on and on. See you in class.
Tags: 1920s, Calvin Coolidge, Massachusetts prohibition, Perry Duis, poison alcohol, Prohibition
Posted in Books & resources | 3 Comments »
February 14th, 2010
A fellow drinker said recently, “I just discovered you should never input your drinks into a calorie-counter app. No wonder I look like Santa Claus.”
Boozing makes you fat, right? Yes. No. Maybe. When it comes to alcohol and body weight, things get weird. That’s according to the scientific and medical literature out there on the web — a confusing hodgepodge of sites looking at alcohol consumption mostly from fitness, diet or addiction perspectives, or sites representing incompatible agendas, i.e. MADD vs the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, or the NIH vs the BATF. Of course, there are plenty of dense scientific articles on PubMed, but making sense of those and coming to any useful, real-world conclusions is a task I would only undertake for a lot of money.
In a way, it seems simple: alcohol has calories, and if you consume too many calories without burning them, you’ll gain weight. It’s funny how many people don’t realize that alcohol itself, aside from sugary mixers or carbs in beer, is calorie-rich. In fact, pure ethanol has 7 calories per gram compared to 4 for carbs and protein and 9 for fat. Of course, we don’t drink pure ethanol; we drink drinks. So here are some more relevant numbers based on the caloric content of various alcoholic beverages (according to CalorieKing) and recipes that represent the sort of cocktails that drinkbostonians are likely to consume.
- Fort Point (among the many “Manhattan variations” out there): 2 oz rye whiskey, 1/2 oz Punt E Mes, 1/4 oz Benedictine: 174 calories.
- Margarita: 2 oz tequila, 1 oz Cointreau, 3/4 oz lime juice: 223 calories.
- Martini: 2 oz gin, 1 oz vermouth: 173 calories.
- Gin and tonic: 143 calories.
Now, for comparison’s sake …
- Coca Cola (12 oz): 143 calories.
- Narragansett (12 oz): 152 calories.
- Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine (12 oz, 10% abv): 330 calories.
- Red or white Wine (5 oz): roughly 120-130 calories.
So, if you take the generic, 2,000-calorie daily intake on which standard nutrition labels are based, and you add up the two Fort Points, three glasses of wine, and beer nightcap you might consume on a night off — roughly 875 calories — you have 1125 calories left for food if you want to avoid gaining weight. Which means eating like a supermodel without any of the financial benefits. Depressed yet?
But wait. “Scientists have not been able to tie alcohol consumption consistently to weight gain,” according to this article on ShapeFit. Huh? It continues, “Researchers have also found that heavy drinking reduces body fat, but still others point to evidence that it raises the risk of becoming overweight or obese. There may never be a simple answer, since there are so many variables.”
Oh, those pesky variables. You’ve got to, for instance, stack up your eating patterns against your drinking patterns. Do you tend to eat — and eat a little more than you normally would — whenever you go out drinking? Or does your boozing often replace food and other types of caloric beverages? Also: Are you genetically programmed to be an alcohol-metabolizing machine? And perhaps the peskiest variable of all explaining why there “may never be a simple answer” to what role alcohol plays in weight gain: “People in studies are prone to under-report how much they drink, rendering many findings unreliable.”
Ah, yes. Under-reporting one’s booze intake is a rich, American tradition. It’s not surprising, given that our official definition of “drinking in moderation” is one drink per day for women, two for men. That’s not moderate, that’s puritanical. It’s like when nutritionists say that a serving of meat should be no bigger than a deck of cards. Oh, I guess that means I’m splitting this porterhouse steak with my date, plus the family of four sitting next to us.
My advice? Ditch the calorie-counting app, get some exercise, and pick up the recently reissued Drinking Man’s Diet, originally published in 1964. The guy who wrote it, Robert Cameron, died slender last year at age 98.
Tags: alcohol, calories, health, weight gain
Posted in Books & resources | 8 Comments »