"Civilization begins with distillation." - William Faulkner

August 20, 2015 in Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (0)

Road Coffee


Our latest Hilton Head trip provided two additions to our burgeoning Road Coffee list: Jet Coffee in Florence, Kentucky (pictured above), which is just off of I-75 and offers surprisingly good espresso; and Atmalogy in Nashville, Tennessee, which is located in a charming old house across the street from the Vanderbilt University campus.

Also worth noting is that Corner Perk has moved to a new location in downtown Bluffton, South Carolina (previous review here), and is now more of a breakfast/lunch sort of place, while continuing to serve very good espresso; they now even roast their own beans.

June 2, 2015 in Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cocktails from 1862

image from http://www.boogaj.com/.a/6a00d83451ce9f69e201b7c76a1634970b-pi

So cool: The Bar-Tender's Guide or How to Mix Drinks, the first known cocktail guide in the English language, published in 1862. A seemingly endless array of punches and liqueurs. Check out the "Locomotive":

Put two yolks of eggs into a goblet with an ounce of honey, a little essence of cloves, and a liqueur-glass of Curacoa; add a pint of Burgundy made hot, whisk well together, and serve hot in glasses.
Don't cross the train tracks on your walk home after drinking this one. This site (the EUVS Digital Collection) has a treasure trove of digitized cocktail and distilling books dating back to the early 19th Century.

March 24, 2015 in Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (0)

Not your grandfather's cocktail

At Inlander, Samuel Ligon writes about booze and the commodification of cool. On the one hand, it's intriguing to sip a cocktail while browsing a boutique so overpriced that you'll never buy anything there. But then, alas, it's not really a cocktail, but an artisanal creation.

On the booze table is a recipe on distressed paper for a cocktail called a Grandfather's Boil, written by Dexter Fontaine, Seattle's preeminent artisanal craft cocktail mixologist. But the list of ingredients has you wondering if Dexter Fontaine cares about booze at all.

First there's .3 ounces of green chartreuse. You figure maybe you can skip that ingredient, but next it's two spritzes of velvet falernum, which sounds kind of sexy, kind of filthy, and then nine drops of rosewater and a jigger of Lillet. A dude in a Civil War beard sighs behind you, waiting to mix his Grandfather's Boil. You scan the recipe for something you can just pour into a glass. The three stalks of pre-measured powdered Palouse wheat can't possibly be real. Same for the freshly raked leaf garnish. Looks like everything's going to have to be left out of this cocktail. But then you find it. Actual booze! Only it's cinnamon and apple-infused. Don't ask why.

You can just keep your artisanal craft cocktail mixologists, Seattle (and Chicago, and other big cities); I'll be more than happy being served by a bartender named George at the corner tavern (or serving myself, at home). I don't drink Manhattans because they're trendy, but because they're simple and my common-sense dad drank them, and with every sip I feel almost a communion with him.

March 1, 2015 in Current Affairs, Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (0)

"The Character of a Coffee-House"


Spitalfields Life presents a lovely map, by Adam Dant, of 17th Century London coffeehouses, including interesting factoids on each, like the one shown above for Batson's.

"And it wasn’t just coffee they sold but alcohol too," he added, fleshing out the historical background as he sipped his glass, "so you could get drunk in one corner and sober up with coffee in another."

Sounds like my kind of place.

January 21, 2014 in Food and Drink, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Long Gimlet

"What they call a Gimlet is just some lime or lemon juice and gin with a dash of sugar and bitters. A real Gimlet is half gin and half Rose's Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow."
- Terry Lennox, speaking to Philip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye

Over the weekend, I took Lennox's advice and picked up a bottle of Rose's Lime Juice at the liquor store. Then I went home and cracked open a bottle of Bombay Sapphire, mixed it fifty-fifty with the Rose's per the strict Lennox recipe, and enjoyed the very refreshing cocktail while lounging on our brand new patio. First time I've ever had a gimlet, and definitely not the last. Life, as they say, is good.

August 18, 2008 in Books, Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (4)

Miller Brewing Company

I wrote the following essay way back in 1996. Most of it still rings true, I think.

As relentlessly conformist as most Americans are, we all want to be considered individualists. Perhaps that's the reason for the enduring appeals of such pop-culuture institutions as the movie western, a genre that is hopelessly narrow and whose plot line can be predicted in advance by a ten-year-old possessing only average intelligence. But there's something about that lone cowboy, riding into town, exerting his will and having his way, and then riding off into the sunset off to some other town where he will undoubtedly exert his will and have his way. Though we can't identify with that cowboy as we dutifully insert ourselves in bumper to bumper traffic for that long commute to work, where we dutifully obey the boss and where the duties are of of only modest interest, we want to be the cowboy. We want to be different.

And American industry didn't become the most powerful force on earth by ignoring such opportunities. Take Miller Brewing Company, for example. Miller, a subsidiary of promotional colossus Philip Morris, could probably produce a high quality product if it wanted. It certainly has the capability. With its vast financial resources, Miller could easily secure the finest ingredients, the most innovative brewmasters and the most sophisticated production processes. But the fickle tastes of American consumers, who want to be safe while imagining themselves being "different", makes such an investment fairly risky.

Instead, Miller focuses on its real strengths, marketing and promotion. Rather than producing a beer that is truly distinctive, Miller's investment goes into producing a perception, a perception that its product is truly distinctive. Miller took a long look at its onetime flagship brand, Miller High Life, and saw a dinosaur--a dinosaur that only sold to lower income, blue collar, non upwardly mobile consumers. A dinosaur whose slogan continued to be "The Champagne Of Beers"--dating from a time when the use of the word "champagne" could invoke a sense of chic and sophistication.

So, High Life was going nowhere. Not to worry--the marketing honchos at Miller understand fully that the ticket to success in American business is not quality, but image. With much fanfare, they unveiled two "new" beers, Red Dog and a beer simply known as "Miller". Red Dog ("Be Your Own Dog") zeroed in on the American yearning for individuality. Its clever ad campaign began with the creation of a logo, the head of a snarling bulldog colored a vivid shade of red. As the beer was being introduced, billboards appeared which bore no text--just the unmistakeable image of the Red Dog. One couldn't help noticing these billboards and wonder what they could possibly be. Then, when the TV commercials hit, the consumer could make an immediate connection--instant familiarity.

Miller Beer ("Brewed From The Heart Of The Hops"--as if the use of hops was some bold innovation that Miller just came up with) stressed its newness. New beer, new label, new name--but, as Miller stressed, you were already familiar with the beer, label and name. Both beers came with boldly designed labels and an unmistakable message.

But let's not forget that under the packaging, under the advertising, and under the highly efficient distribution system there is the base product. Beer. If all the labeling and promotion were to be believed, Miller had come up with a great beer, something bold and distinctive for which we consumers wouldn't mind pay a few extra pennies for than we had paid for High Life.

Yet, when one finally tastes the product that is buried under all that image, it tastes suspiciously like High Life. Maybe slightly better than High Life, but not enough of a difference that would seem to justify all the hoopla and the higher price. It's almost as if Miller peeled off all the High Life labels, slapped on glitzy new ones and starting hawking the "new" product with a brilliant ad campaign.

Maybe the Miller Beer message was honest, after all. New beer, new label, new name. And, they forgot to add, same beer.

February 13, 2004 in Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (0)