Now, you young folks won’t remember this, but back in my day, when you wanted to make a cocktail, and you needed some cocktail bitters, you went to the soda-pop aisle of your grocery and found the shelves dedicated to mixers for adult beverages, and if you were lucky, you’d see a bottle of Angostura right there sitting next to the lime cordial and the sour mix and the tonic water.
Then about eight years ago, the bartender and booze writer Gary Regan formulated the newest and greatest recipe of his orange bitters, sensing a need in the marketplace, and so it came to pass that Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6 became available to bartenders and cocktail nerds.
These days, you kids are spoiled for choice. I decided one day to count the number of upstart companies producing bitters, and I had to stop when I got to 30 because I can’t count much higher than that.
I’ve heard a rumor that in other parts of the country, the weather is turning colder, leaves are starting to drop from the trees, mountain men and other rustic types are gathering wood for their fireplaces, and drinkers are turning their bloodshot eyes toward the brown spirits.
Me? I have the air conditioning on as I type this. It’s about 80°F out there. Then again, my bloodshot eyes never turn away from brown spirits even when the temperatures crack the triple digits, but I’m unusual that way.
A few months ago, I provided a primer on Scotch terms. Today, I thought I’d turn my gaze inward and explain a few things about good old bourbon whiskey.
[Fill 'er up!]
Next time you’re at the gym or the salon or the grocery, and someone says it’s a sacrilege to mix Scotch into a cocktail, promise me you’ll grab that person, take him or her out back, and…
[Want to know my picks for five essential Scotch cocktails? Read on!]
From LIFE: August 15, 1938:
From the August 8, 1938, issue of LIFE magazine, this ode to the mint julep:
LICKETY SPLICKETY ZOOMBAH
[Still not large enough for you? Click!!]
I don’t normally post about this sort of thing, but Campari just announced that Uma Thurman is its calendar star this year. I know it’s not a universal opinion, but I think Uma’s great in nearly everything I’ve seen, and I also think she’s stunning. Campari’s released a few behind-the-scenes shots, and here’s one you might like:
Look at this. Just … look at this.
From the July 25, 1938, issue of LIFE:
From the very same issue, a letter to the editor:
And the context?
They ran right next to each other. The disparity between stereotype and reality, I thought, was impossible to miss. I wonder if it was deliberate.
A couple of years ago, I talked to Robert Klara, a writer for Adweek.com, about old bourbon advertising, and the shifting perceptions of bourbon over the generations. I enjoyed our telephone conversation, and I appreciated that Klara made me look smart in the subsequent article. I’ve followed his work on and off since then, and so when I saw AdWeek’s insightful and intelligent look at the subtle history of gay themes in advertising, I was unsurprised to see that Mr. Klara had written it.
Klara describes how, in much of the advertising from the middle of the previous century, gay themes are subtext; they’re closeted, if you will, obvious to a gay consumer, but easy to overlook by straight ones — and, more to the point, by straight executives at the brands in question.
“It’s all in the eye of the beholder,” says Bruce H. Joffe, professor of communications at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Va., and author of A Hint of Homosexuality?: “Gay” and Homoerotic Imagery in American Print Advertising. “A straight person who looked at these ads in Time or Life magazines would just turn the page and not think anything, but someone with a gay sensitivity would say, ‘Oh my God, look at that!’”
Here’s an example, not mentioned in the Adweek.com article, but culled from own collection of booze ads. This is for Hiram Walker ran in the June 27, 1938, issue of LIFE:
The fellow in the blue smoking jacket and ascot seems to be taking in the view, yes?
[LIFE; April 18, 1938]
Yes, this is the entirety of the ad. I love its simple elegance. You wanna see it in context of its original page? Sure you do.