Archive for October, 2007

October 31st, 2007

Grimes and Wondrich on the Professor

Imbibe - Wondrich on ThomasAnyone wondering where our best bartenders got the inspiration to revive classic cocktails must read William Grimes’ article on Jerry “the Professor” Thomas in today’s New York Times, “The Bartender Who Started It All.” Specifically, it’s an article on Esquire magazine drinks correspondent David Wondrich’s new biography of Thomas, Imbibe. Grimes, himself a noted food and drink scribe, writes:

“As Mr. Wondrich justly observes, Thomas, by departing from the code of the bartending fraternity and sharing his secrets, earned his place as ‘the father of mixology, of the rational study of the mixed drink.'”

Thomas lived from around 1830 to 1885 and wrote the first bartending book, variously titled the Bar-Tender’s Guide, How to Mix Drinks or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion. Don’t own a copy? You’re in luck, because bartender-blogger Darcy O’Neil of The Art of the Drink has published the Bar-Tender’s Guide (whose copyright has expired) online.

Posted in Bartenders, Books & resources | No Comments »

October 29th, 2007

Feel the fizz!

Red Sox 2007 World Series champs

No, 2004 wasn’t a fluke. The Red Sox just won the 2007 World Series. And incidentally, Manny Ramirez knows more about baseball than you do.

Let’s not stop drinking bubbly ’til New Year’s!

In victory, you deserve champagne. In defeat, you need it. — Napoleon

Three be the things I shall never attain: Envy, content and sufficient champagne. — Dorothy Parker

David Ortiz incorporates champagne goggles into everyday uniform — The Onion

Posted in Champagne | 2 Comments »

October 24th, 2007

And a bottle of rum

A bottle of rumWayne Curtis could be the best drinks/history/travel writer working today. You probably already know this if you have read And a bottle of rum: A history of the New World in ten cocktails. I picked up an autographed copy at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans this summer after prancing like a schoolgirl up to Curtis’ table at an authors’ reception and introducing myself as a fan.

He gets that drinking is both a sublime and shiftless pursuit, and he chronicles the history of rum with an appropriate mixture of fondness and cheek. He traces the spirit’s ups and downs, from its origins in the pirate-riddled trade routes between the Caribbean and the Colonies to Medford, Massachusetts’ once-bustling rum distilleries to the long-lived tiki drink craze to today’s cocktail-of-the-moment, the Mojito.

The narrative is engaging and solidly researched. It contains a lot of nuggets surprising even to those who know a thing or two about spirits — like that the daiquiri caught on in Cuba in the early twentieth century because of an ingredient that had only just become widely available: ice. Also, even though I knew the Andrews Sisters song “Rum and Coca Cola,” I had no idea how big that drink was during and after WWII. It marked the early phase of a trend toward bland and sweet drinks that continues to this day with our myriad vodka-based alco-pops. Luckily, the back of the book has several good rum cocktail recipes that serve as an antidote to that silliness.

Incidentally, one of the people Curtis acknowledges in the back of the book is Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, historian and resurrector of tiki drinks and the culture that surrounded them. He talks about his latest book, Sippin’ Safari, and the legitimacy of the original versions of drinks like the Zombie and the Mai Tai, in this recent Salon article. Give it a read while you’re waiting for And a bottle of rum to arrive in the mail.

Posted in Books & resources, Rum | 5 Comments »

October 18th, 2007

Mr. Holland’s jocose

Sean Holland

Sean Holland was back on the stick temporarily last week at the Independent, a neighborhood restaurant well liked by Somervillians. Until he moved to L.A. in June to find fame as a musician, he could be found behind the bar at the Indo most nights of the week. What can I say? Scott and I miss the guy (sniff). As we settled onto our barstools for Sean’s guest appearance (filling in for the just-married Tanya — congrats!), I asked Scott what he was going to have and laughed when he said, “Whatever Sean wants. It’s his night.” Sean plunked a bottle of Saintsbury Pinot Noir and two glasses down on the bar, and off the evening went.

Sean’s a fine server, and I witnessed him hone his mixing skills on vintage cocktails, like the Gin and It, from the Indo’s smart drink menu. That he’s got some chops behind the bar is only the cake. The icing is that he’s highly entertaining, with a sense of humor that’s goofy on the outside and sharp on the inside. Sean and I are both from New Hampshire, and when I asked him once, without preface, which neighboring town he made fun of growing up, he knew immediately what I meant and answered, “Ossipee.” (Sean’s from Sandwich. For me and my fellow Gilford-dwellers, the town to mock was Belmont.) He has a knack for making you feel, even though he’s bringing you food and drink, like he’s just hanging out at the bar with you for some laughs.

Another knack of Sean’s is treating everyone with the same unaffected good humor. Some of the Boston-area’s most accomplished bartenders hang out at the Indo’s pub on their nights off. Sean never stooped to doting on them and forsaking other customers. And that’s one of the reasons they — and we — kept coming back.

Let us know when you’re making your next guest appearance, Sean, and good luck with the career.

Posted in Bartenders | No Comments »

October 13th, 2007

The high-rise blues

Glowing toilet seatIt’s time to broach an unpleasant subject: public toilet seats sprinkled with pee. This is caused by women who refuse to sit while urinating and instead hover above the toilet, thus soiling the seat and forcing successive users to adopt the same uncomfortable high-rise position. It’s a problem in all public ladies’ rooms, but particularly those in bars, where trips to the toilet are more frequent. Rock clubs, where I go to see contributor Scott Howe’s band the Hammond Group, are especially notorious; their bathrooms are heavily trafficked and dimly lit — a bad combo for anyone hoping to keep her bum dry.

We can’t chalk up the annoying behavior of high-risers to alcohol and darkness alone, however. It really stems from an old-fashioned, entrenched, completely unfounded belief that toilet seats are breeding grounds for infectious diseases. To all you dainty dolls afraid to park your precious derrieres on a toilet seat that others’ backsides have touched, I say this: you want to see a breeding ground for infectious disease? Look at your desk. Microbiologists have found four hundred times more illness-causing bacteria on the typical office desktop, with its germ-filled computer keyboard, mouse and phone receiver, than on most toilet seats. Hands, which are out in the world touching everything, and not bums, which are covered by clothing all day, pass the vast majority of bacteria that make people sick. So worry more about the faucet handle in the bathroom than the toilet seat, princess.

Howard Heller, an M.D. and infectious disease specialist at MIT Medical, says, “It’s very difficult to get sick from a toilet seat. A little extra caution might be warranted if one is traveling in an area where enteric infections like cholera are more common.”

In other words, if you find yourself in a public restroom in Angola, you may want to play it safe and hover. Otherwise, sit down on the damn toilet. Please. I mean it. My thighs are killing me.

Posted in Boston bars, Misc. | 9 Comments »