Category Archives: In the library

Plus ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose

Sound familiar?

I do not object to waiters receiving tips, and the man, who gives one, is mostly benefited, because the waiter will give him more attention and pleasant service. The fact is, that writers of almost all the nations in the world have argued and written many articles on the subject, denouncing the custom of giving and receiving tips, but there will never be any change, for the reason, principally, that there is not enough clear money–profit–in the restaurant business to allow paying the waiters and other employees good living wages. The expenses are so enormous that the proprietor is obliged to hire men for the lowest possible wages, at which he can get them. If he were to pay his men fair wages…he would be obliged to charge much more, and have, altogether, a higher-priced bill of fare. Numbers of people would not then be able to patronize restaurants, who are in the habit of doing so now. This is the reason why the waiter receives tips, as his wages are generally not sufficient to pay his living expenses.

This reminds me of something I might have once read on Waiter Rant–the eponymous waiter, perhaps, reprinting a manifesto that an owner posted to an employee bulletin board, or some such.

But no matter how modern that attitude still is, about compensating waiters, this excerpt isn’t a recent piece of writing. It’s from a facsimile reprint of Harry Johnson’s New and Improved (Illustrated) Bartenders’ Manual and a Guide for Hotels and Restaurants. This facsimile (from New York’s Mud Puddle Books) is a reprint of the 1900 edition. Yes, it’s one-freaking-hundred-and-eight years old.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Oh, another interesting point. If you look back at the excerpt I quoted, you’ll see an ellipses: “If he were to pay his men fair wages…he would be obliged to charge much more…”. I did that because I didn’t want to give up the game right away. But what’s also interesting here is what the ellipses obscure. Here’s the original text:

If he were to pay his men fair wages–from $12 to $15 a week–he would be obliged to charge much more…

It’s still common for waiters and bartenders to start at $2.15 an hour, even in New York City. A 40-hour week would mean $86 a week. I’m no economist, and I don’t know how exactly to calculate the rate of inflation, but I suspect that even $12 in 1900 wages would equal far more than $86 in 2008 wages.

MxMo in the Crescent City

Mixology Monday logoFor this month’s Mixology Monday, which has a New Orleans theme, I’m going with a couple of drinks, both inspired by panels that I attended at Tales of the Cocktail.

The first drink is the Sloppy Joe’s Mojito, inspired obliquely by the To Have and Have Another panel, on the drinking life of Ernest Hemingway. Whether Hemingway actually drank Mojitos appears to be in some dispute. The eminent Eric Felten argues persuasively that he probably did not, but it is clear that old Papa frequented the Havana bar that originated this version of the classic rum drink. He even apparently persuaded the proprietor of a Key West saloon to rip off the Havana original’s name. So, who knows?

Charles Baker, writing in The Gentleman’s Companion, describes the drink thus:

Put several lumps of ice into a 16 oz collins glass, toss in 1 tsp sugar or gomme, insinuate a spiral green lime peel about the ice, turn in 1-1/2 jiggers of Bacardi; white, or Gold Seal, and the strained juice of 1 small green lime–not a lemon. Stir once, fill with really good club soda and garnish with a bunch of fresh mint.

What I love about this variant is that a) it’s not too sweet, and b) it’s not too minty. I don’t feel like I’m chewing rum-spiked Doublemint gum.

The second drink comes straight from the Beefeater reception at Palace Cafe and also the Juniperlooza session. I had heard of this drink prior to Tales, but I had never tried it. It’s the Jasmine cocktail, devised by architect and booze writer Paul Harrington. It tastes remarkably like grapefruit juice even though it contains no grapefruit whatsoever. Honestly, this is one of those drinks that I often post where I’m sure the majority of my single-digit readership is thinking, “What! New to the Jasmine? He needs to crawl out from under Plymouth Rock or wherever the hell he lives and actually drink from time to time!”

No argument here, Skippy. I will say this, though. I’ve mixed a lot of cocktails at home, and I’ve had many others out. It’s a rare treat when something passes my lips and earns a spot in my regular drinks rotation. The Jasmine is right there. Jen and I both adore it. It tastes like an old-school cocktail, even though it’s not old enough to drive, let alone drink, and the ingredients are perfectly balanced. A new favorite.

Jasmine

  • 1-1/2 oz gin
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz Cointreau
  • 1/4 oz Campari
  • lemon twist for garnish

Technique: Shake, strain, add garnish, sip, and smile.

Many thanks to Paulernum Clarke for hosting.

Photos by Jennifer Hess.

MxMo: Rum

Mixology Monday logoOne recent afternoon, Mrs. Bitters and I were in our new favorite wine and spirits shop, Eno Fine Wine and Spirits on Westminster Street. While Jen shopped for that evening’s vino, I studied the spirits shelves. One thing that caught my eye was Thomas Tew Rum, distilled very near by, in Newport, RI. The distillers are also, in fact, the makers of the microbrewed Newport Storm beer.

The Mrs. and I are semi-committed locavores. When we can buy local, we do, but when we can’t, we don’t sweat it. But having just moved here, we’re sampling as much of the local produce as we can, from shellfish to meats to veggies to, yes, rum. We’re not just blindly supporting local producers, we’re just avidly curious about what’s available here.

From what I’ve read, there aren’t many U.S. distilleries producing rum right now. When you find one in your back yard, at the same time the next MxMo post is all about rum… why the hell not?

So of course we bought the Thomas Tew, fool!

Tiki, Flickr

photo by Jennifer Hess

Thomas Tew has a good story. Newport was once a major rum distiller, and the Thomas Tew cats are trying to hew closely to the traditions of the past–distilling in a pot still, naming their product for a famous pirate, that kind of thing.

So, how’s the taste? Wellllll, it needs improvement. According to the markings on my bottle, I’ve got a sample of the third barrel that Thomas Tew has produced. When I bought the rum, I asked at guy at Eno, “Have you had this? What did you think?” He said he thought the flavors were good, but the rum was a bit thin. I think that’s a valid assessment. Sipping it neat, I found a simple, tasty dark rum. I didn’t find anything “unpleasant,” as some tasters have, but I didn’t find much complexity in the rum, either. I don’t know if it’s worth going out of your way to procure a bottle, but if the distillers tweak and improve their recipes, I think they can produce a damn fine rum.

For mixing, I wound up adapting the Kona cocktail from Trader Vic’s Book of Food and Drink. The copy I have entreats me to refrain from posting his recipe without his permission. I don’t have his permission, or that of his estate, but it doesn’t matter much because I didn’t hew to his formula that closely anyway. His recipe calls for Puerto Rican rum, lemon and lime juices, and maraschino.

I started with the Thomas Tew and the other ingredients, shook ‘em up, and tasted the results. Not quite what I wanted. I wound up adding a touch of Gosling’s Black Seal, and that was just the right thing to do.

I kinda putzed around with this recipe, so I’m not sure of my final proportions, but let’s say this:

  • 1-1/2 oz. Thomas Tew rum
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz. maraschino (Luxardo, in my case)
  • 1/4 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal

Technique: Shake, strain, enjoy.

MxMo: Limit One

For this month’s Mixology Monday, I decided to highlight a cocktail called the Diamondback, which I first saw in the September/October 2007 issue of Imbibe magazine.

Our taskmaster, Rick, demands we tax our livers with drinks that “contain at least 3oz of 80-proof spirit or have less than 1/2oz of non-spiritness.” No Rick! Don’t throw me in the briar patch! Anything but the briar patch!

The recipe in Imbibe credited the Diamondback as Murray Stenson’s variant of a recipe that first appeared in the book Bottom’s Up, by Ted Saucier. Saucier’s volume calls the drink the Diamondback Lounge and credits it to the Lord Baltimore Hotel, in Baltimore, Md. The hotel itself is still around, but I see nothing about the Diamondback Lounge.

Saucier’s original calls for rye, applejack, and yellow Chartreuse. Stenson’s says rye, applejack, and green Chartreuse. (Don’t worry; I’ll list both recipes at the end.) You might see where I’m going with this. I chose bonded rye (100 proof), bonded applejack (100 proof), and green Chartreuse (110 proof).

That’s a lotta proof.

When I first mixed this drink, I realized immediately that it had a strong bite and so I understandably assumed that both the drink and the lounge were named after this charming critter:

Turns out, I was probably wrong.

As I was researching this post, I learned that an animal called the diamondback terrapin is the state reptile of Maryland. Sports fans should recognize the terrapin as the mascot of the University of Maryland, and college-journo geeks (I know you’re out there) will remember that the U of M student publication is the Diamondback. So, the real culprit for my achin’ head? This beast:

Man, I thought it was a snake fucking me up. Turns out it was a freakin’ turtle. I’m so embarrassed.

Diamondback Lounge, Bottom’s Up

  • 1 jigger rye whiskey (I used Rittenhouse bonded)
  • 1/2 jigger applejack (Laird’s bonded)
  • 1/2 jigger yellow chartreuse
  • Ice

Technique: Shake well. Serve over ice in old-fashioned glass. Decorate with sprig of fresh mint.

This is okay, although it’s a little mild, and I don’t think the mint adds anything.

Diamondback, from Imbibe

  • 1-1/2 oz. rye whiskey
  • 3/4 oz. applejack
  • 3/4 oz. green Chartreuse
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: Cherry

Technique: Stir ingredients with ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish.

Diamondback

photo by Jennifer Hess

You’ll note from the photo above that I forgot the garnish. A cherry makes more sense to me here than mint does, anyway. This is a better drink than the version with yellow Chartreuse, since the green has more backbone and brings more botanical notes to the drink. Still, I think equal parts applejack and Chartreuse result in a drink that’s a tad too sweet for my tastes.

Hence, if you’ll forgive me…

Diamondback Terrapin

  • 1-1/2 oz. rye whiskey
  • 1 oz. applejack
  • 1/2 oz. green Chartreuse

Build in an old-fashioned glass over ice. Stir until chilled. Garnish with your own best wishes or deepest fears.

Hello, nurse!

Saucier’s book is known not just for its recipes but also for its risqué illustrations of young women. Well, I say risqué, but they’re only so by 1950s standards. Today, they’re rather tame. Personally, I think they’re charming and fun. I know, I know. Portraying women in such a cartoonish way has its pitfalls, as does associating drinking and sex. And yet I still think that this book is harmless fun.

I recently bought the new DVD-ROM set Playboy Cover to Cover: The 50s. (The publisher, Bondi, has also released 40 years of Rolling Stone, cover to cover. Some of you know that the New Yorker has a similar product; I wish magazines like Esquire and Atlantic would do the same, frankly.)

As I was paging through the Playboy DVD-ROM, though, I found something that surprised me, though it shouldn’t have, in the second issue ever published:

Playboy v. 1, no. 2, p. 4

Page 34, which isn’t safe for work, follows after the jump:
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Bottom’s Up!

BaroqueWell, I apparently paid way too much for it, having embroiled myself in a bidding war on eBay and being too stubborn to back out, but I finally have a copy of Ted Saucier’s saucy 1951 cocktail book, Bottom’s Up! For those of you who don’t know the book, it’s a hefty thing, at a pound and a half, 270 pages, and a trim size of 10.25 by 7 inches. (Yes, I’ve worked in publishing, why do you ask?)

I mention the book’s (ahem) ample nature to point out that it’s a serious volume, with a lot of recipes and a bunch of really good ones, to boot. One thing I love most, though, is the index. Arranged, in part, by main ingredient, it’s very handy. Want a gin drink? Find the Gin subheading and eat your heart out. It is, unfortunately, not cross-referenced, so if a recipe has, say, gin and rum, but rum is the main ingredient, you won’t find it under Gin.

“Whazzawha? Recipe with gin and rum?” you sez? Well, yes. And it’s a good drink. Well balanced, with the rum and gin complementing each other rather than fighting. Saucier terms this drink the Baroque, but given the political season in the USA, I’m calling this, rather obviously, the Baroque Obama, although it’s the same recipe as appears in Saucier (although I’m converting his 1 part lime, 2 parts rum, etc. into ounces).

Baroque Obama

Courtesy, The Baroque Restaurant, New York City

  • 1 part [3/4 oz.] fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 t. sugar
  • 2 parts [1-1/2 oz.] Jamaican rum
  • 1 part [3/4 oz.] gin
  • 1 dash maraschino

Technique: Shake lime juice and sugar well. Add rum and gin [and ice]. Shake well and serve in iced glass. [As you can see from the picture, I served ours up, in a cocktail glass.] Float maraschino. [No garnish.]

I’ve learned very little about Ted Saucier. It appears he was once the publicist for the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in Manhattan, and he lived from 1896 to 1970, but beyond that, I’ve learned nothing.

Except that I shouldn’t get excited and overbid on a cocktail book.

OH, I almost forgot! There’s another reason Saucier’s book is so well-loved. I’ll share that tomorrow.

Moonshine!

Forty-some years ago, my father was an auditor for the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, working from HUD’s offices in Lexington and Covington, Kentucky. His duties sometimes took him into the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, and in those days (we’re talking around 1965 or so), he met some resistance from local townsmen who apparently mistook him for an IRS man–a “revenuer.” The story’s come down to me second-hand, but the way my mother tells it, he was apparently chased out of one town by a man bearing a shotgun.

Who knows whether this is true? Dad ain’t around to tell the story, and he had a reputation as one who’d sometimes embellish a tale to get a bigger laugh. But it kept popping into my head as I read Matthew Rowley’s fine new book, Moonshine! This one’s got a hootenanny of a subtitle: Recipes, Tall Tales, Drinking Songs, Historical Stuff, Knee Slappers, How to Make It, How to Drink It, Pleasin’ the Law, Recoverin’ the Next Day.
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