Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Advil Calendar Year 3 Day 5: A BOOK AND A DRINK EDITION

I'm a librarian, right? So I am kind of a sucker for books.

It's not the best reason to go into librarianing, by the way. The books are maybe about 20% of the job. The rest is website troubleshooting ("Well, it looks like if you hit 'Next' here..."), putting holds on DVDs, and helping people buy nutritional supplements for their cats over the phone.

Fortunately for me, I had worked in a law library as a youngster and knew what I was getting into by the time I enrolled in library school. (And someday I will teach a class: How To Learn To Hate Books and Also Graduate Students 101, and it will involve a one-hour field trip to a law library. One hour. One and done. What a bunch of assholes those kids were. Making a xerox copy of something - or better yet getting a workstudy minion to xerox 250 pages out of a law manual - does not replace just fucking reading it and taking notes.)


All librarians get Hermione
when they do that FB quiz.
No, you go into librarianship because you are a know-it-all brownnosing snot who loves having all the answers. Heh heh. Ahem. Or because you believe that democracy is knowledge. It's about 50/50.

There's also a subset of librarians who chose the field as a drastic form of overcompensation - those are the types who never know where their keys or their glasses are, but god damn it they can find you the NOLO forms book on tenant/landlord law in twelve seconds flat, and that means THEY WIN. They may not be able to get into their car to go home tonight, but still. One in the W column.

Yeah, in fact, librarians have to be people people. It's a public service job in the truest sense of the phrase. But that doesn't mean we don't, y'know, like books.

Me, I collect old cookbooks and mixer's manuals. Old bartending books are particularly bizarre - Prohibition caused a lot of mixology malarkey as people tried to mask the taste of the illegally distilled poison that passed for booze in those days. And we got to like it!

My friend Paula knows my illness, and gave me this dear little pocket-size drinks manual originally published in 1904. I happened to have it in my bag one night at a panel discussion featuring some of my favorite picture book authors, so on a whim I asked them to sign it instead of their books.

"Jack in a glass!"
This autograph book now has about 50 signatures. Jon Scieszka gave it 5 stars! Chris Myers shared a recipe for a post-basketball ginger drink. Melissa Sweet drew a parade balloon and Jack Gantos drew a glass of applejack. It's one of my most prized possessions.

I also collect new cookbooks and mixer's manuals. Not a lot of them. Most are exciting looking, with sexy sharp pictures or amusing descriptions, and sometimes that's enough -- but not everybody can be Kingsley Amis or Bernard DeVoto -- so most of those clever/gimmicky joints are merely disappointing from a maker's point of view. Here are my impressions - Maureen Kearney coined the word "reviewlet" and I think I'll use that - of some recent cocktail cookbooks:

Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist by Tim Federle

Let's start with this lover of a book. You know somebody bought me this book - of course they did! And I bought it for Paula! And my friend Lara at Chronicle (or Elisabeth Dahl? Now I can't remember) introduced Tim and I on Facebook saying that we were clearly meant to be friends.

Have you read Better Nate Than Ever, kidlit people? You oughta. Tim has been a dancer and a choreographer, he is a thoughtful and witty commentator, AND he was a backup dancer for Christina Aguilera during the Super Bowl XXXIV Halftime Show! Eeee!

You want cute names and clever recipes? Oh we got 'em right here: I give you Drankenstein (Midori, tequila, and a can of club soda). I give you Infinite Zest (2 parts vodka, 1 part limoncello, 1/2 part lemon juice). The Unbearable Lightness of Peeing! That is pineapple juice and absinthe and that is fuckin' funny - no matter what you think about Czechoslovakian postmodernism. Oh jesus - LOVE in the TIME of KAHLUA!

Are the drinks new or unusual? Naw, not really. That's not the point. Detailed process instruction is not the point either. Tim Federle being insanely goddamn clever, now that's the point - for The Turn of the Screwdriver (you know the story, right? A hundred years later we're still not sure Henry James meant the governess to be koo-koo-ka-choo, seeing ghosts who are after the kids, or whether she was the sane one) he offers:
Theory 1: She's perfectly levelheaded.
4 oz orange juice
2 oz vodka
Theory 2: She's batshit nuts.
4 oz sparkling orange soda (like Orangina)
2 oz vanilla vodka
For either variation, pour the ingredients over ice in a highball glass. If drinking alone, this may be better enjoyed in a plastic tumbler - just in case someone (or something) sneaks up behind you.


Let's Bring Back: The Cocktail Edition: A Compendium of Impish, Romantic, Amusing, and Occasionally Appalling Potations from Bygone Eras

You know, people get very twee very quickly with cocktails sometimes. As soon as the shaker comes out, they just can't resist tripping on ye olde-timey fancey words like "compendium" and "potation." These are the people who favor hipster bartenders with waxed handlebar mustaches and suspenders. We have to give Lesley Blume a pass, though - this is her third "Let's Bring Back..." collection, and one of them had to do with "lost language," so she's clearly an aficionado.

"When you've blown the month's rent on a pair of red-soled stilettos or a new golf club, and the landlady comes knocking, be prepared..." 
The Landlady
1 oz gin
1 t grenadine
1/2 egg white
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Serve with lots of solicitous, apologetic smiles and nods.
Well, ok.

What we've got here are some recipes with funny names from the kind of books that I collect paired with witty and/or informative mini-essays. How gauche! Just kidding. Ha ha. It's cute! No color pictures. And maybe 50% of the recipes are things you might want to try.

Dr. Cocktail: 50 Spirited Infusions to Stimulate the Mind and Body

A conversation with my inner jaded bitch:

Me (humming): "Dr. Cocktail." Do you think he used to date Sister Disco?
IJB: Who?
Me: You know, the Who song: "Goodbye Sister Disco / with your flashing trash lamps / Goodbye Sister Disco / And to your clubs and your tramps"
IJB: Ignoring you. Please stop being so old. Tell us about the book. Did you even crack it?
Me: Yeeess... ok well NOW I have.
IJB: And?
Me: It's awfully... styled. I see a red drink in a martini glass with a 8-inch rosemary sprig garnish that someone has set on fire with a mini blowtorch. I see an ancient bottle of liver tonic on a Chilewich mat next to an antique microscope and a bottle of Tom Ford cologne.
IJB: But that's just the photographs. Sometimes the illustration program is totally out of whack with the book, you know that. Who's the author?
Me: Um. "World-renowned alchemist and mixologist Alex Ott learned the life of a nomad from his globe-trotting mother and father, a nutritionist and musician, respectively..."
IJB: Mmm-HM. You can fill in that story, can't you?
Me: Be nice. Maybe they loved each other very much.
IJB: Well certainly somebody loved them. Or somebody left 'em a bunch of $$. Ok skip the intro, it'll just make you barf. Check the recipes.
Me: I don't know if I can get that far. There are a lot of pictures of bits of crud in dusty jars. Oh man, and somebody spelled "marshmallow" wrong on one of the labels. You know how that hurts me. Don't make me go on! He wears strings around his wrists!
IJB: YOU wear strings around your wrist. Quit whining and look at the RECIPES.
Me: Fine.
Me: ...
Me: He uses a lot of brand names. Really, Svedka is a preferred vodka? And he likes pear nectar almost as much as Martha does. He has a whole chapter on "Anti-stress cocktails"!
IJB: Isn't that the whole point of drinking?
Me: ... I... I thought it was... ok these are like chamomile tea and cognac.
IJB: Whatev--
Me: -- Ok NO MORE CALLS I'm done. The Scottish Bloody Mary combines tomato juice, grenadine, lemon juice, bacon and cayenne with Ardbeg Single Malt Scotch.
IJB: Ardbeg...?
Me: THE CHEAPEST Ardbeg product is $50 a bottle. If you're going to make a Bloody Mary with scotch, you can goddamn well use J&B.
IJB: And grenadine in a Bloody Mary?

Cocktails and Rock Tales: 200 drinks to shake, rattle and roll with

First published in 2008 in Australia, which seems promising. Then there's this:
There's the backstage romancing, the tour-bus trekking, the post-gig drink-ups... but heck, that's what it's all about: collecting as many debauched stories as possible in the space of a wild night out. Because only Rock can cradle you in its evil arms and spit you out in the morning, leaving you begging for one more serve.
Damn, man. These had better be some balls-ass drinks to live up to that intro. Oh but. Hm. She's got a drink called Rockaway Beach that includes lychee liqueur. Australian or not, no way Joey Ramone would have peered past his bangs at a bottle of lychee liqueur and done anything but curl his lip and arch an invisible eyebrow.

And the Cock Suckin' Cowboy? Irish cream layered over butterscotch schnapps?? NO WAY would my favorite gay cowboy Randy Jones open his mouth for something like that. That guy wore leather legwarmers and a bandanna in the Village People and even he has too much dignity for shit like that. No. Way. Respect the cowboy.

Fun to read, but not to drink. Maybe this one:
1 oz tequila
1 oz lime juice
1/3 oz agave syrup
splash of wheat beer
Shake tequila, lime juice and syrup. Strain over ice into a Boston glass with a salt rim. Top up with beer.
Now why you'd put wheat beer in a drink called a Lagerita I don't know. I'd do the topping-up with an actual lager.

Savory Cocktails: Sour Spicy Herbal Umami Bitter Smoky Rich Strong

This is going to be catnip to those of us who love a Bloody Mary, who put hot sauce in tequila and a strip of bacon in a shot of bourbon. Wait I just lost my train of thought. Bacon. Bourbon.

Brrrr- I'm fine! Right from page 6, our buddy Greg Henry distinguishes this book by offering some really interesting syrup recipes. I make ginger, mint, and lemon simple syrup all the time - it's ridiculously easy - so I'd be totally up for keeping some Habanero Agave Syrup (thinly sliced chile, 1/2 cup warm water, 1/2 cup agave syrup, stir it up, let sit an hour, strain) in the fridge.

He also includes directions for making your own bitters, shrubs (infused drinking vinegars that mix divinely with gin), and infusions.

The cocktails are divided into the sections indicated in the subtitle, and hoo hoo! - smoky cocktails? Yes please! But he really wins my affection with this one from the sour section, which he recommends mixing by the pitcher for parties:

Green Tea Gimlet
1 1/2 c dry gin, room temperature
2 green tea bags
3/4 c lime juice
4 to 6 T lemon syrup
6 lime wedges
Pour the gin into a 3-cup or larger pitcher. Add the tea bags and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour. When ready to serve, remove the tea bags and add the lime juice and citrus syrup; stir until well combined.
For each cocktail, add about 3 1/4 oz of the base to a cocktail shaker 2/3 filled with ice. Cover and shake vigorously; strain into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass. Squeeze a lime wedge over the drink and drop it in.

My friend The Nas, who was also drawn to this book, has been making an applejack cocktail (coming soon - I'm planning a whole applejack day) that looks very similar to this one:

Autumn Ash
2 oz blended scotch whisky
1 oz apple brandy
1/4 oz elderflower liqueur
2 dashes orange bitters
1 lemon twist, as garnish
Combine the scotch, apple brandy, elderflower liqueur, and bitters in a mixing glass half-filled with ice. Stir until chilled and properly diluted, about 20 seconds.
Julep-strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist, expressing its oil onto the surface, rubbing it on the glass rim, and dropping it in, peel side up.

Note the almost fetishistic description of what you're doing to that lemon peel. Note you are told exactly how much ice you'll be using, and for how long. I don't need any bush-league Wall Streeter to tie me up with a necktie - I just need Greg Henry to instruct me how to mix my drink!

True Blood Drinks & Bites

Now, you know this one is just an excuse to roll out cute drink names. The True Death, Faerie Blood, the Maenad à Trois. But I love cute drink names! I have a half-written proposal for a Star Wars cocktail book that would feature Hoth Buttered Rum and Admiral Ackbar's Revenge! (You watch. That thing's gonna happen.) So I couldn't resist picking this up. The Bloody Sundress. *snort*

But oh my. Across from a full-bleed photo of Jason Stackhouse looking like a pouting puppy, we find this:

You almost WANT that guy to be an idiot, but he's
surely one of the best actors on the show.
Sex is a Bitch
1 1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz cranberry juice cocktail
1 1/2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
quarter-moon grapefruit slice for garnish
Fill a double old-fashioned glass with ice. Pour in the vodka, Campari, vermouth, cranberry juice cocktail, and g-juice. Stir well. Garnish with the grapefruit slice and serve right away.
I would drink that, yes sir. That's like some kind of modified Sea Breeze. In addition, this book claims that Maxine Fortenberry makes Pickled Shrimp (and provides the recipe), and given my success with pickled oysters, hell yes I'd try pickled shrimp.

Cocktails, Cocktails & More Cocktails!

This is where my money is. It's got such a dorky title, no pretensions, no monocle, no puns - I betcha this is one helpful modern-day mixer's manual. Which you need! Because those old mixer's manuals, what are they missing? Process instructions. The real difference between shaken and stirred. Cigarette lighter or matches to flame a twist?

And... I'm right. If you're going to try something like a Brandy Crusta, which has a deep sugar rim and a wide curl of lemon peel wedged around the inside of the glass, you're going to need some hand-holding. There are sharp breakdowns, best-practice methods, and well-thought-out variations for often-abused familiar items like the Daiquiri, as well as nearly-forgotten drinks like the Frisco Sour (rye, Benedictine, lemon juice - with or without egg white).

This is my choice for the one to buy, not borrow. My brother Kester Thomas will steer you right.

Sigh. Maybe I do love books after all. This was a long post but it just rolled right out. Ah the written word. What's next you ask? Dare you interrupt my bibliophilic reverie? Well screw you! No, shush, that was my inner jaded bitch - down girl!

I apologize. This is exactly where I figure out the next day's post. It's... I could do speakeasies or White Trash / Ghetto Fabulous. I guess the latter. Which gives you a couple days to clue me in to your favorite invisible, no-website artisan drinking holes. Or dives. Sometimes both. Give me the secret handshake!