Friday, December 18, 2009

Moonlighting: Dec. '09


If you feel that the ill-conceived collision of booze, words and drawings shouldn't be confined to just this blog, then you're in luck! This month you can check out more Dr. B. product at two other places...

First, encouraged me to contribute to the destruction of countless eggs in pursuit of a light and festive seasonal tipple. Want the scoop? Then head on over.


Santa demonstrates his lethal "Double-fist Snow Dragon" shaking technique.

This month also brings another issue of the periodical that is unparallelled in covering uncovered women: Bachelor Pad Magazine. Java and his hardworking crew of retro-philes are right on schedule with another dead-tree installment of the most spectacular atomic-age culture rag out there. It's full of holiday goodies, including yours truly's "Last Call" column (which you may want to check out just in case you weren't getting enough booze this season).

Go here to subscribe and increase your yuletide power to astonishing levels!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Olde Tyme Fizze


I just wanted to give a quick heads-up to everyone about Darcy O'Neil's new book Fix the Pumps. Darcy's name will be familiar to anyone who cruises the boozeblog circuit, as he is the person behind the fine site Art of Drink. Also, if you've been to Tales of the Cocktail you've probably attended at least one of his presentations where he drops some serious knowledge, often showing how chemistry and cocktailing are intertwined.

With Fix the Pumps, Darcy directs his efforts toward shedding light on the soda fountain and the myriad concoctions it dispensed. These wonderful palaces of fizz are no longer with us, but reading Darcy's new book will fill your head with historical info, fun facts, and images detailing what a visit to one of these bygone watering holes would have entailed. Time travel never tasted so good.

Darcy also asked me to design & illustrate the cover, so if you like books with drawings of attractive, mechanically-inclined women on the front (and don't we all?), go check it out!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tailspin/Bijou/Oh Come On Already


This month I somehow managed to not forget Mixology Monday
(something I'm exceptionally skilled at), so I really wanted to find something decent to whip up. Considering the theme is "money" (which according to the rules could be interpreted as using "the good stuff" to prepare a top-shelf version of an otherwise pedestrian cocktail), I was eager to find an old concoction and dress it up nice-like with some quality ingredients. Plunging into my modest collection of bar guides, I unearthed a recipe I thought fit the bill pretty well: The Tailspin.


I pulled the Tailspin from the 1936 edition of the Old Mr. Boston DeLuxe Official Bar-tender's Guide and it looked like a winner: Gin, green Chartreuse, and sweet vermouth in equal proportions all topped off with a dash of orange bitters. I like all those ingredients, so it was the perfect drink to spruce up with some of the spiffier denizens of my liquor cabinet. Here's what I ended up with:

Tailspin (as written)

1/3 Old Mr. Boston Dry Gin
1/3 Italian Vermouth
1/3 Green Chartreuse
Dash Orange Bitters

Sir well in ice and strain into 3 oz. cocktail glass Squeeze lemon peel on top and serve with cherry or olive.

Tailspin (my "money" version)

3/4 oz. Old Raj 110 proof dry gin
3/4 oz. Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
3/4 oz. Green Chartreuse
1 Dash Angostura Orange bitters

Sir well with ice and strain into 3 oz. cocktail glass Garnish with lemon twist.

A couple notes about this recipe:

1) The Tailspin comes out a rich amber color and is gorgeous to look at. On the tongue it's a pungent medley of herbal goodness, with dense, powerful flavors from top to bottom. It's slightly on the sweet side, but there's enough alcohol presence to rein it in. The saffron-infused Old Raj brings another flavor component into the mix with the Carpano and Chartreuse, and definitely ratchets the whole affair up a notch or two. For comparison, I made one using some other dry gins, and while they ended up producing a sharper, brighter drink, the Old Raj version has more depth and will probably be my go-to recipe.

2) Half the cocktail blogging community has discussed this freaking drink to death already.

I discovered this when I did a simple search online for "Tailspin Cocktail." I made several versions of the drink, took notes, and thought I'd better just take a quick peek and see if anyone else had tried it out too. A BUNCH of people had (Did I mention I'm frequently "late to the party" where this kind of thing is concerned?). And there was much discussion of what this drink actually contained, and what it should be called. Turns out the Tailspin is very similar to a drink called the Bijou, and that similarity has contributed to a good bit of head-scratching and bewilderment amongst us booze geeks.

On my end, I was using a series of Mr. Boston's editions spanning 70-some-odd years as my starting point, and these books revealed some interesting quirks, both mixological and editorial. I compared Tailspin and Bijou recipes in the editions I had, and here's what I found:

1936 edition: Exact same recipe, except the Bijou is garnished w/ a cherry *only*, instead of a hunk of lemon peel and cherry/olive for the Tailspin. Also, the ingredients are listed in a different order for some reason.

1940 edition: Same as in the 1936 edition, except now the Bijou is supposed to be shaken.

1959 edition: Same as the 1940 edition.

1966 edition: Same as in the 1959 edition, except now they want the Bijou to be stirred again.

1996 edition: Same as in the 1966 edition

2009 edition: Bijou same as in the 1996 edition, but the Tailspin now has a dash of Campari in place of the orange bitters.

Moving on to other bar guides, I consulted The Official Mixer's Manual by Patrick Gavin Duffy, which lists the Bijou as being the same gin/Chartreuse/vermouth/bitters combo, but with only a lemon peel as garnish. I also found it listed in The Ultimate Book of Cocktails which indicated that curacao could be substituted for bitters and that Plymouth gin must be used.

If you're still with me at this point (God help you), you've probably determined I'm a bit of a masochist. Allow me to reinforce that assessment by providing just a few links to some places where the Bijou and/or Tailspin discussion has taken place.

Oh Gosh!


Cocktail Chronicles

Underhill Lounge

The Spirit World

If you looked at any of those (including the comments), you can see that going online often raises as many questions as it answers. So is there a conclusion to be drawn here? It seems there's a loose consensus that when made with Campari, it's a Tailspin. When made with orange bitters, it's a Bijou. It really depends on the source though. This sort of thing is what makes the type of alcoholic archaeology we practice simultaneously exciting and frustrating.

And I'm beginning to see why sometimes it's easier to just get a damn gin & tonic.

Friday, December 4, 2009



This time of year I find myself making drinks fairly often (I make 'em fairly often the rest of the year too, but keep your judgments to yourselves please). Since I've accumulated a good bit of gear to go with my giggle water, I'm frequently rummaging through my heap of tools and assorted cocktail-making paraphernalia looking for those items that I end up needing more than the others. What causes certain bar tools to become absolute necessities while others drift slowly to the back of the shelf like phantoms, eventually forgotten?

Who knows? Everybody's got their favorite tools, and while there are some constants, the stuff we use to make drinks can be mighty varied. Booze geeks are fiercely opinionated about the stuff they drink, so it only makes sense that their preferences toward the gadgets they employ would be just as intense.

Much like Jeffrey's knife, Tiare's jigger, or Matt's "Murdler", I've discovered I have a piece of beloved barware that I consider indispensible and use more than any other:

The Frankenshaker.

Reminiscent of Eddie Van Halen's legendary "Frankenstrat", its ugly, made up of disparate components, and gets the job done like nobody's business. It's essentially a Boston shaker with none of the parts matching, and I reach for it almost 100% percent of the time.

What makes this motley assemblage so dear to my heart? Lemme break it down:

1) Tin: First off, I'm not even sure it's a cocktail mixing tin. It may have been intended for milkshakes for all I know. The only indication of its origin is "Capco 18.8 stainless steel Korea" etched on the bottom. Despite being covered in nicks, scratches, and assorted abrasions, it's got nary a dent and is sturdy as heck. It's thicker than most other tins I've seen and has some pretty good heft. Not bad for a flea market find.

2) Glass: A thick-walled, hefty mixing glass with garish red, green and yellow graphics of fruit printed on it along with recipes for Whiskey Sour, Martini, Daiquiri, Manhattan and Tom Collins. It was apparently originally part of a kit that included a spoon and strainer, but mine is all by its lonesome. The printing is worn off in many places but I don't care because this baby is all about function over form. Another flea market find.

3) Strainer: A Hawthorne strainer that was included in a bartender's kit given away as swag by Plymouth gin at Tales of the Cocktail in 2008. I have several Hawthorne strainers and I find most of them either too heavy or too flimsy. This one is very balanced and feels just right to me. The Plymouth logo printed on the handle has long since rubbed off, but that just goes to show how often I use it.

When all three are used together, it's joy. The tin & glass fit together superbly, yet never get stuck, and the strainer sits in the tin comfortably, with a little bit of play (which I happen to like). Like I said, it's certainly nothing you're going to see in a design museum or upscale watering hole, but I'll take my Frankenshaker's ramshackle elegance and utilitarian charm over a shiny bit of bartop objet d'art any day.

So what's your favorite bar tool? (And don't pretend you don't have one...Dr. Bamboo knows when you're lying!)