Category Archives: Booze in the news

Meanwhile, on Kickstarter …

Swizzle sticks are interesting devices. I don’t mean the plastic straw-like things that we know today as swizzle sticks. I mean true wooden swizzle sticks.

Originally made from slender tree branches, they’re meant as stirring tools for a type of cocktail called a “swizzle.” The swizzle is a tall drink, made of rum, lime juice, crushed ice, and sugar. In a way, it’s similar to a mint julep. The stick is a long-handled device with four or five “spokes” radiating out from the end in a star-like pattern.

Plunge the swizzler into the glass, all the way to the bottom. Take the stick between your palms and spin it. The spokes will spin around in the bottom of the glass and get the ice moving. Then you move the stick up and down in the drink, you’ll see the glass frost over.

The problem of the swizzle stick is not an easy one to solve.

Swizzle sticks are unique in cocktail ephemera, and they’re very hard to find; you normally have to import them from the West Indies, or have a friend bring some back. They’re natural products, so they vary a lot from stick to stick. Further, for working bartenders, true swizzle sticks can be a pain. They’re delicate and break easily, which means they need to be replaced often. And then you’re stuck, again, trying to ship some in from Martinique.

Two guys in the Boston area think they have a solution. One of these guys is Adam Lantheaume, friend to A Dash of Bitters and proprietor of The Boston Shaker, the awesome barware store in Somerville, Mass. He’s teamed up with a product designer, Brian Johnson, to develop and test a plastic swizzle stick, one that looks and works just like the wooden model but lacks its drawbacks.

The only thing is, the plastic model is a complex piece of product design, and it requires a special steel mold — one that’s expensive to produce. So Adam and Brian have turned to Kickstarter to fund the production of the mold. Further, to launch a product like this, they need to meet minimum order quantities, and the Kickstarter campaign will fund those, too.

So check it out. Like all things Kickstarter, there are fun premiums if the project is fully funded.

Incidentally, what Adam and Brian are doing here is surprisingly normal in the cocktail world. If a bartender needs a tool or ingredient that she can’t find, there’s nothing stopping her from just making it for herself or adapting another item to the task. Bartenders used to make their own liqueurs and tools all the time, so this DIY approach is right on target.

Ads of the Week: Johnnie Walker in the 1960s

Unless you’ve been asleep this week, you’ve probably noticed that AMC’s Mad Men is returning to TV after a nearly 2-year hiatus. What you might not know is that Newsweek magazine this week has turned retro, reverting to its 1960s-era design and featuring advertisements in a 1960s style. You can browse those ads here, and in general, I think the advertisers mostly did a good job. I especially like the ads for Dunkin’ Donuts, Hush Puppies, John Hancock, Allstate, Lincoln Continental, and BOAC.

But I love the Johnnie Walker ad, and that shouldn’t surprise anyone, since I’ve featured ol’ John’s ads here before. Here it is, in the largest resolution I could get:

newsweek-johnnie

How accurate is it? Well, let’s find out. Here’s a real JWR ad from Ebony magazine, circa 1965 (click through to see it full size):

07 Johnnie Walker

I’d say that’s pretty impressive, right? The layout’s the same, much of the copy is the same (or similar), and even the mildly suggestive nature of the photography is the same. I’d perhaps wager the Newsweek version is a reproduction of an actual Walker ad, updated slightly to reflect minor detail changes, except that I can’t find it on Google Books. (At least one change merits mention: JW in 1965 was 86.8 proof; today, it’s 80. Apparently, the proof level changed around 2000.)

UPDATE: I was right. Ad Age confirms that this is an actual JW ad that originally ran in the 1960s.

As a bonus, here’s another 1960s JW ad, this one from Life (again, click through for larger image):

11-04 Johnnie Walker

Hm. Seems a little sexist, but I love the simple, clean design.

A Note to My Unborn Son

Dear Son:

One of the things you’ll learn pretty early is that Daddy likes his whiskey. (Mommy’s a fan, too, but while you’re still incubating, she’s abstaining.) One of Daddy’s favorite families of whiskey is the group of bourbons and ryes made by the Wild Turkey group (although please steer clear of the 80º, k thx bye). Aside from that, I like everything else they make, so it’s safe to say, when you’re finally of age to buy booze, you won’t go wrong buying me some Wild Turkey for Father’s Day.

If you were around this year, and not simply still a wee fetus floating in an amniotic sac, you could do the world a favor and not just your old man.

Wild Turkey has an older brother called Russell’s Reserve, a small-batched, ten-year-old bourbon distilled by father-son team Jimmy and Eddie Russell. Russell’s Reserve is a damn good bourbon, but that’s not what does the world a favor.

Well, actually, it’s part of what does the world a favor, because the world needs all the damn good bourbon it can get. But there’s something more important that Jimmy and Eddie Russell are doing. During the month of June, for every bottle of Russell’s Reserve sold, they’ll make a donation to a nonprofit group called Operation Once in a Lifetime, to help provide flights home for members of our Armed Forces.

Now that, you little monster, is a damn good reason to buy anyone’s Daddy (or Mommy) a bottle of Russell’s Reserve. Well, that and the fact that it’s damn good bourbon.

Dad

Disclaimer: I received a sample bottle of Russell’s Reserve, but don’t let that bug you. I’ll be buying a bottle or two of my own this June to help the cause. (I also plan to rerun this post, or a similar version without the cutesy baby stuff, later in June to remind people.)

Odds and Ends

No one ever seems to blog much during Christmas week, and I’m no exception. Just wanted to drop a quick post linking out to a couple of other things I’ve been working on.

The biggest news is that I’m contributing to Serious Eats. I’m writing a weekly column for the next several weeks on basic cocktail techniques. Right now, I’m in the middle of a three-part series on party planning. Parts 1 and 2 are up, along with a recipe for a batched Negroni. Part 3 should be up next week. I still can’t believe people pay me to write about what I love.

I also have a recipe that’s part of a crowded field at Food52, competing for best Hot Toddy recipe. My entry, the Rum Tum Toddy, features baked apple and Smith & Cross rum. I love the drink and hope it has a chance, but we’ll see. Here’s a video of me flaming an orange twist to go atop the toddy. I sloppily managed to drop the twist pith side up, which irritates me, but I didn’t get a smudge of match soot on the peel, which would have vexed me even more. (Yes, that’s a box of wine behind me. Sigh.)

Fall 2009 column is now online

Hey, folks. My fall 2009 column for Edible Rhody magazine is now online. As a reminder …

The focus of the column is on using seasonal, local ingredients in cocktails. Each column will have two recipes–one that I mix and one from a local bartender. Trust me, my focus will always be on classical techniques and interesting spirits.

So, now you can see whether I made good on that promise. First, though, the stunning cover:

Edible Rhody Fall 09 Cover

Who knew there were cranberry bogs in Rhode Island? I didn’t! Now, the column (if you want to read the text without squinting, click here):

Mix Master, Edible Rhody Fall 09

Photo for the article is by local photographer Chip Riegel, and boy did I have fun mixing drinks for a photoshoot at 9am.

Apple Sage Old-Fashioned

For this drink, I was inspired by traditional Thanksgiving flavors, particularly apple and sage stuffing.

  • 2 ounces Calvados apple brandy
  • 1/2 ounce sage simple syrup (recipe follows)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters (when I made this at home, I used Fee’s Whiskey Barrel Bitters, which were superb in this, but aren’t for sale in Rhody as far as I know)
  • Apple slice, for garnish

Build in an old-fashioned glass over ice. Add garnish.

Sage Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage leaves

Add sugar and water to a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. When sugar dissolves, remove from heat. Add sage leaves and stir. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a jar (discard sage leaves) and refrigerate. Will keep for one month.

Apple Sage Old-Fashioned

photograph by the ever-loyal Jennifer Hess

Pippin’s Pear of Aces

This drink is by Providence bartender Bonnie Siharath. At the time of writing, she was at Chinese Laundry, but that restaurant closed just a week before this issue was released. I have not yet followed up to see where she’s landed. The food at Chinese Laundry was inspired by the tastes of East Asia, and this drink follows that theme.

  • 1/2 fresh pear
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 ounce Wokka Sake vodka
  • 1 ounce Gray Goose pear vodka
  • 1 ounce Asian pear nectar
  • 1/4 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
  • pear slice, for garnish

Gently muddle pear and cinnamon in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, vodkas, nectar, and lime juice. Shake well and strain through a tea strainer into a chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.

Edible Rhody

Mix Master Mike what cha got to say

My quarterly cocktail column for Edible Rhody starts in the latest issue, which is hitting stands this week. I should be able to post the full content next month, but for now, I urge anyone local to go out, grab a copy, and grab a croissant from Olga’s or a hunk of cheese from Farmstead while you’re at it.

The focus of the column is on using seasonal, local ingredients in cocktails. Each column will have two recipes–one that I mix and one from a local bartender. Trust me, my focus will always be on classical techniques and interesting spirits. There’s already enough vodka flowing in Rhode Island! Just to hint at what’s to come, it looks like my winter submission will be the Tom & Jerry, made from locally produced milk and eggs.

Vintage Spirits is re-go-go!

Exciting news! The seminal cocktail guide, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, enters into a new edition on July 1. Or, just because it’s fun, let me provide the full title:

Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie and Beyond. 100 Rediscovered Recipes and the Stories Behind Them

That alone gives you some idea what to expect. Drinks you’ve never heard of. Drinks you have, without knowing what’s in them, or what the classic recipe is.

Preorder your copy today!

Author is Ted Haigh. By day, he’s a graphic designer for the talking picture show.  He’s worked for Superman and John Adams; for samarais and snickets; for gangsters, vampires, and spies. By night, he’s Dr. Cocktail, historian, raconteur, and bon vivant.

new-cover

Vintage Spirits is a legendary book among cocktail geeks. It has been out of print for a couple of years now, and I’m among the fools who don’t own the first edition, so it’s legendary in part for being so elusive. More than that, though, it’s legendary for introducing readers to defunct spirits. Or, should I say, no longer defunct spirits. To name only one example, the book discusses a liqueur called crème de violette, a delicate liqueur made from violet petals and a staple ingredient in such drinks as the Aviation and the Blue Moon. Crème de violette, however, has reentered the market since Doc’s book premiered, in no small part because of Doc’s attention and the laments of serious bartenders everywhere.

But, if I may, there’s another reason I’m excited about the book.

I’m a small part of it.

Ted contacted a few folks who’ve helped spread cocktail love across the Internet and asked whether we’d consent to an interview. I, no fool, said yes. I’m flummoxed and flattered that Ted asked for my participation, and was very happy to help. I can’t wait to see my copy of the book, and I’m sad that I won’t get to see Ted next month to thank him personally and get his autograph.