Archive for December, 2008

December 29th, 2008

What’re you doing New Year’s Eve? Readers poll

Shirley Maclaine in The Apartment

Since I’m out of the New Year’s Eve loop this year (I’ve temporarily abandoned Boston for Vermont), I decided to reach out to’s readers to get a snapshot of what the discriminating Beantown imbiber is up to on Amateur Night. Here are a few of the answers I got.

James S. has a plan I can get behind. “I often entertain at home on NYE, but this year I have friends who expressed an interest in exploring cocktail culture more deeply, so I’m bringing them over to the bar at No. 9 Park, followed by dinner at The Marliave (downstairs, which has a far more modest menu that the ritzy upstairs, but the same worthy bartending).”

Brian D. said, “I’m having dinner at my wife’s sister’s house. Her husband is a wine importer, so I’m expecting something good. Then, I’ll probably just have a few beers on my couch. It’s a bad night to be on the road.” Indeed it is.

A romantic named Patrick has the following plan: “Probably heading to Bina for an early dinner, then getting home before the madness and getting under cover with my sweetheart to make out at midnight. I’ll make her a tremendous breakfast on New Year’s morning, and congratulate ourselves for not dealing with the douche-bag factor fighting for cabs at 1:30 a.m. Have a peaceful New Year’s Eve.” Same to you.

Sensible cocktailians Fred and Andrea of the Cocktail Virgin Slut blog say: “We’re eschewing all commercial establishments and the concept of driving anywhere for New Year’s. We’re probably going to start at an ex-co-worker of mine’s house whose wife was a Boston bartender and move on to friends of Andrea’s who are new-school creative cocktail wizards. We’ll probably visit our favorite bars and bartenders in the days before and after New Year’s.” Smart.

“We always stay in, low key, with bubbly and treats,” says freelance food/drink/sports writer Jacqueline Church. Mmm, bubbly and treats.

Meanwhile, Winn G. will be out and about in your ‘hood, Jackie: “I shall be attending the New Year’s Eve party at Sorriso, 107 South Street, in the Leather District. It should be good fun.”

The ever-acerbic MC Slim JB offers this opinion of the annual year-end ritual: “Pure amateur-night hell, about as good an idea as dining out on Valentine’s or Mother’s Day. Rookie drinkers, restaurant gouging on chintzy prix-fixe menus, a risk to life and limb on both sidewalks and roadways, and a better-than-average chance of getting your shoeshine ruined by someone else’s vomit. I’ll be cooking a luxurious meal (by the standards of my kitchen) at home for a few friends, serving some classic cocktails (I’m thinking maybe Scofflaws, as I made my own grenadine recently and they look so festive), and busting out maybe one fancy bottle of wine from my meager cellar. I may serve some Champagne as an aperitif, but most of my crew are wary of it, ascribing rough morning-afters to bubbly even in sensible quantities.” About that bubbly — make it a good one and no one gets hurt.

Jennifer H. is (thankfully) not afraid to share this: “My roommate and former boyfriend — yes, it’s true — is getting a root canal that day so I may stay in that evening out of pity. I have the afternoon off and would like to run around doing First Night stuff if my knees are up to it. My best New Year’s, however, began at the Independent, moved to Atwood’s by foot via the Shell station for cigarettes and whatnot for the rest of the group, then to Joey Mac’s (I love dives), which was closing, then on to a party Joey’s bartender had been invited to at the East Side Bar & Grill. All I remember is that in the back the walls were shell pink and there was a DJ and dancing … no, I remember a little more than that. This was exactly what I wanted to do … not be in the big city for the fireworks, something I did at nineteen, but celebrate and drink with a bunch of friends, not ignoring the night either.”

Poor Mary J. needs our help, as she’ll be “in Pittsburgh, PA, desperately seeking a good Manhattan! Ideas?” I told Mary to track down one of the Pittsburgh broads who started the original chapter of Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails.

Finally, Amie D. plans on “hunkering down with my best sweats, lo mein, and a delicious bottle on whim. Will hit the Southie Brownies in the a.m. if I have back up …” No f-ing way! OK, maybe next year.

See you at the bars in ’09, everyone.

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Posted in Boston bars | 9 Comments »

December 24th, 2008

Holiday hints for hooch heads

Like you, I’m too busy doing last-minute holiday errands to accomplish much of anything else today. That’s why I’m thankful to borrow this gem from the Modern Drunkard: Tis the Season to Get Falling Down Drunk: Holiday Hints for Hooch Heads. Highlights:

If you receive three cocktail shakers every Christmas, you are a drunkard.
If you receive ten, get ready for an intervention.

Spread the holiday cheer by going to your favorite bar dressed as Santa Claus.
Because nobody under-pours Santa. Nobody.

If you’re going to travel during the holidays, be aware that you can no longer bring alcohol onto the airplane.
Unless you hide it in your bloodstream.

Merry Christmas and stuff, everybody!

Posted in Books & resources | 3 Comments »

December 22nd, 2008

Snow & elderflower

St. Germain Sno-Cones

Friday night, Central Square, the first blizzard of the winter season. I’ve just finished having cocktails at Cambridge’s solid new bistro Craigie on Main with a few of the ladies of LUPEC Boston — Pink Lady, Fancy Brandy (our shutterbug) and Saucy Sureau — and we’re about to snow-boot it over to Green Street to grab a nightcap with those young bucks behind the stick, Andy and Bice.

Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli with St. Germain Sno-Cone

But wait … Saucy, who reminds me of a girl in a Northern Renaissance painting, has an idea. The snow piling up on the sidewalk is so fluffy and fresh … it’s actually edible. And, seeing that Saucy peddles St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur for a living and always has a supply on hand, along with some little plastic tasting cups … well, how ’bout a St. Germain Sno-Cone, girls? We make one extra and offer it to the bartender who has been concocting little gems for us all evening, Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli. It’s delicious. Saucy announces, “I’m entering this in a cocktail contest.” “You win!” we say, and throw the unspiked slush in the bottom of our cups back into the snowbank.

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Posted in Liqueur | 7 Comments »

December 17th, 2008

The weird & the wintry

Tylenoltini, anyone?Got a fever? Forget the Theraflu. Have a Baby Tylenoltini instead!

I am not kidding. This is an actual cocktail planned for the forthcoming (January 2009) winter drink menu at Tamo, the bar in the Seaport Hotel’s Aura Restaurant. I have never been to Tamo. For all I know, it’s a perfectly pleasant place to enjoy a drink in the Seaport district. But its cold-and-flu-themed cocktail menu? Bizarre. Some highlights from the press release:

“Baby Tylenoltini: Nothing stirs up nostalgia quite like the sweet tartness of Baby Tylenol — this adult reinterpretation combines Absolut pear, ginger, lemon, honey, Grenadine and pink lemonade … maybe growing up isn’t so bad after all!

“Cherry Cough Drop: Luden’s, everyone’s favorite excuse to pop cherry candy all day long, is reincarnated into liquid form with a mix of Stoli Raz, Chambord and Champagne.

“Asian Sniffle Snuffer: A gingerly mix of Canton ginger liqueur, Grey Goose vodka and soda with a splash of bitters and fresh ginger garnish — who needs Vicks Vaporub with the sinus clearing effects of bitters!”

You can’t make this stuff up. A cocktail formulated to taste like Baby Tylenol?! I can’t wait for the Gerber Banana Daiquiri on the summer menu. Let’s hope this isn’t the beginning of a disturbing new trend. The same goes for this invitation I received from the celebrated chef behind Pigalle, Marco and, more recently, Restaurant L (inside Louis Boston):

“Chef/owner/Mack Daddy Marc Orfaly and Restaurant L invites [sic] you to a night of industry debauchery you will never forget … Come dressed as a suave pimp or a slammin’ ho. 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes go to the best dressed!”

Wow, I’ve been invited to a party by one of Boston’s best chefs, but only if I come dressed as a sex worker. I know, I know, “pimp” and “ho” are just terms of endearment these days — they’re probably what first-graders call their teachers. But I’m going to have to go ahead and RSVP “Are you f-ing kidding me?”

Luckily, another recent communiqué has provided me a glimpse of civilization: two recipes for drinks using Dubonnet Rouge, which I grew up viewing as an old-lady drink and now know as an essential quinquina in classic cocktails like the Blackthorn. I’m going to admit I have not yet tried these cocktails, which were created by Jim Meehan of PDT in New York City. But they sound fantastic.

Royal Pomme Punch
Makes 12 servings

3/4 bottle Dubonnet Rouge
12 oz apple brandy (such as Laird’s bonded or calvados)
24 dashes of Angostura bitters (or 3 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram)
3 oz fresh-squeezed orange juice
12 oz champagne

Add Dubonnet, apple brandy, orange juice and bitters to a pitcher filled with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled punch bowl.  Garnish with a block of ice (use a small Tupperware container as the mold; pull the block out of the freezer 15 minutes before use to allow it to thaw sufficiently to remove it from the mold). Top with champagne and serve.

Single Malt Sangaree

1 oz Dubonnet Rouge
2 oz Paumanok Cabernet Franc
1 oz Oban 14-Year-Old (Highland malt or blended scotch can be substituted)
3/4 oz Grand Marnier
1 barspoon of demerara syrup (or teaspoon of sugar in the raw)
1 6-inch cinnamon stick

Add everything to a crock pot and heat until almost boiling. Pour into a heat-proof mug and twist an orange peel over the surface before serving. Garnish with a fresh cinnamon stick. Better as a cold remedy than a Baby Tylenoltini and more stimulating than a waitress dressed up as a slammin’ ho.

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Posted in Cocktails, Vodka | 17 Comments »

December 12th, 2008

Lushes on the loose

The Lady is a Lush - pulp novelBeing a drinking woman, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by a pair of recent articles: New York Magazine’s “Gender Bender,” about the rise in heavy drinking among women and possible reasons for it; and Salon’s response, “I’m sooo wasted off feminism,” which takes the NYM article to task for its premise that feminism is worthy of blame for all those messes in dresses running around town. Wow, is there some, um, drink for thought here.

The NYM article says, “The number of women who identify as moderate-to-heavy drinkers has risen in the last ten years, while the number of women who say they are light drinkers has declined.”

The reasons, according to NYM?

  • Feminism: “For the bulk of history, women have skewed toward the teetotaler end of the spectrum; not until the middle of the last century did a burgeoning relationship with alcohol coincide with Second Wave feminism and a general impulse to close the gender gap across the board.”
  • Marketing: “Dr. David Jernigan, the executive director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, believes that the real onslaught — and its effect on the beverages women consume — didn’t reach critical mass until the turn of this century. New alcopop flavors proliferated, Jell-O shooters showed up in grocery-store aisles, and companies rolled out vodkas in increasingly exotic flavors … ‘There’s a clear effort by the industry to create products for female drinkers. And it has had an effect.'” (A whole new argument against flavored vodka!)
  • Higher education: “The transition from high school to college marks the greatest increase in substance abuse among women, and the more educated a woman is, the more likely she will be to drink throughout her life.”
  • Third-wave feminism (a.k.a. “Do me” feminism or “Girls Gone Wild” feminism): “And if you choose to drink yourself unconscious in some random guy’s bed, that’s also your prerogative. To say that you shouldn’t would be paternalistic hand-wringing, implying that a woman needs to be protected from herself.”

The Salon response’s major beef is with NYM’s sub-headline asserting that “this is the kind of equality nobody was fighting for.”

Salon retorts, “Wait, it isn’t? Since when was feminism supposed to bring about selective equality, where women get to enjoy the benefits of being a man, but none of the liabilities? If you claim only the good and none of the bad — it isn’t really equality.” Agreed. Women today have every right to avail themselves of the freedom to be both successful investment bankers and drunken dickheads. Oh, and the connection between higher ed and alcoholism? I guess that means we should be celebrating the fact that, as NYM reports, men are both attending college in fewer numbers and “reining in their drinking.”

The thing that gets me is the way in which only the extreme ends of certain behaviors are portrayed in the media. The NYM piece begins with an anecdote about a twenty-something investment banker who downs as many as 24 drinks in 24 hours, and it ends with the director of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University advising women to stick with the “federally recommended maximum of one drink a day.”

As I wondered in my own take on such matters, “Is there any way a girl can occupy some median point on the scale between ‘drinks a little Chardonnay on the weekends’ and ‘brings a flask to the office?'”

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Posted in Booze in the news | 5 Comments »