Posts Tagged ‘Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails’

March 6th, 2010

Nips – 3/6/10


If you’re insulted by Men’s Health magazine ranking Boston the soberest city in the nation, get yourself over to the Boston Combat Zone: 1969-1978 photo exhibit at the Howard Yezerski Gallery in the South End. It’ll cheer you up with images of hookers, strippers and guys driving around in muscle cars drinking Schlitz. Hurry — you only have until March 16 to catch the show, which WBUR profiled nicely on the web and the airwaves with A Puritan City’s Experiment in Adult Entertainment.

» Now, about that Men’s Health article. America’s Drunkest Cities ranked Boston the least drunk of 100 metro areas. (Fresno, CA, was ranked the most drunk.) Reactions around town ranged from the fitness-and-moderation crowd giving themselves pats on the back to boozing homeboys lashing out as if Men’s Health had ranked Boston last in penis size. In any case, if the results sound surprising, you’re not alone. I mean, it was only four years ago that Forbes ranked Boston among the top five drunkest cities. You see how things get weird with these surveys when you examine the data on which they’re based.

Men’s Health ranked cities according to “most liver disease, most binge drinking, most deaths in DUI-related crashes, most DUI arrests and least stringent DUI laws.” As some people have pointed out, DUI crashes and arrests would logically be lower in Boston, where many people take public transportation or walk, than in cities where driving is the primary way of getting from bar to bar. Staggering around drunk results in fewer deaths than driving around drunk. But the survey doesn’t appear to correct for those sorts of disparities.

Forbes, meanwhile, looked at “state laws, number of drinkers, number of heavy drinkers, number of binge drinkers and alcoholism.” The problem with statistics like “number of heavy drinkers” and “number of binge drinkers” is that they are derived from self-reporting, which, when it comes to alcohol, is infamously inaccurate.

Why not just look at per-capita consumption of alcohol based on more reliable sources like wine/beer/liquor sales and tax revenue? Well, it seems no one is tallying that data — not at the city level, at least. However, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism put out a recent report on per capita alcohol consumption state by state. Massachusetts is in the 4th decile, with the 1st decile representing the highest levels of consumption and the 10th representing the lowest. So, it appears that our state — and its capital, I’m guessing — rank above average in boozing.

Oh, but wait. The report notes that “many factors may result in inaccuracies in estimates of per capita alcohol consumption. For instance, per capita consumption estimates in some States can be inflated by such factors as cross-border sales to buyers from neighboring States.” Hello, New Hampshire! Turns out the Granite State is in the 1st decile. Would Massachusetts’ and New Hampshire’s rankings look different if all the lower-priced liquor that Bay Staters purchased north of the border — not to mention all the drunken crashes on I-93 involving Mass plates — were accounted for? I’m guessing yes.

» OK, I’m done being a wonk. Now back to the fun side of alcohol education. It seems that the Saturday-night bar scene at Lineage in Brookline is worth checking out. From 9:00 – 11:30 p.m., the restaurant’s website tells us, “resident mixologist” Ryan Lotz is exploring the Lineage of the Cocktail by way of mixing up recipes from Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: from the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie and Beyond. It’s one of my fave cocktail books, and I’m not just saying that because Haigh mentions me and drinkboston in the revised edition. Each Lineage session features two different drinks in two different sizes (about $5 for the smaller and $9 or $10 for the larger). Call ahead if you want to see what’ll be on the menu: 617-232-0065.

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Posted in Nips | 6 Comments »

July 1st, 2009

The man, the doctor, the legend


Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, originally published in 2004, is the book that made me “get” this whole classic cocktail thing. I’d been dabbling around the edges of that world for years, drinking Martinis, Negronis and the occasional French 75, collecting vintage barware here and there. But most of the books I encountered failed to inspire me: they were either thick tomes listing, without context, every mixed-drink recipe of the last 50 years, or books for the serious bartender, dense with text about tools and techniques.

That’s why I was so thankful when I found VS&FC, with its mere 80 carefully chosen, carefully formulated classic recipes, snappy historical briefs on each drink, and as good a summary of cocktail history — including how cocktails got popular again — as I’ve ever read. The book was fun, accessible and smart. It guided me in stocking my home bar, and when I tasted the mysterious delights of Corpse Reviver 2’s and Widows Kisses, I never looked back.

If you missed VS&FC’s initial printing, don’t worry. The Revised and Expanded Deluxe Edition is now available. Besides a hard cover and a whole new (and improved) look, it’s got 100 recipes (still a quite manageable list), more photos of booze artifacts from the Doctor’s own collection, and added appendices, including one on “the 25 most influential online cocktail pioneers.” Hint: I’m on page 318. Ever seen yourself quoted in a book that influenced you to become that quotable person? It’s freaky.

Speaking of which, several of the bloggers mentioned in the “pioneers” section, including myself, are contributors to the blog for Tales of the Cocktail 2009. I recently contributed a post previewing a seminar on hangovers taking place Sunday, July 12. I’ll be filing additional stories later next week, so stay tuned.

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

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Posted in Books & resources, drinkboston in the news | 2 Comments »