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In the movie of my life, juleps might play the role of the piano in Shine, the spinning top in Inception, Pulp Fiction‘s glowing briefcase or Jerry Maguire‘s mission statement. They have given me pleasure personally and purpose professionally. During my lowest lows, when bartending was all I had going on and I was beginning to wonder what the hell had happened to me, I could fix a customer a damn good mint julep, watch his or her expression change for the better and know there was at least one thing I still did right enough to merit my getting out of bed. I’d also spent a birthday or two at the bar as a customer, cashing in on the staff’s golden rule: You can only order a mint julep for yourself when it is the day of your birth.
Of course, the one time I am so besotted by my own cocktail invention that I vaingloriously choose to name the damn thing after myself — the one time I do that, of course I encounter practically that exact cocktail not once but twice within the same week.
Why, the chances of such a coincidence are nearly as preposterous as the obtuse grandeur with which I declare: TO HELL WITH ALL THE OTHERS, IT IS I WHO HAS INVENTED THE GREATEST COCKTAIL EVER THOUGHT UP BY MAN — OR WOMAN, BUT ESPECIALLY MAN!!
Let me back up.
And now for something completely self-glorifying!
In between blog posts here, I (and society at large) force myself to actually write for money. Sometimes, it’s actually even fun! Like when I spent the bulk of 2010 happily employed as “Fairy GodWriter” to entrepreneur and SavvyAuntie.com founder Melanie Notkin during the researching, writing and editing of her first book, Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide For Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers and All Women Who Love Kids — a book which, ahem, happens to come out today.
Is the book awesome? Yes, it is, in that even if you have no interest in changing poopy diapers, it will make you believe that changing a poopy diaper would actually be fun. Is the book not just Auntie-savvy, but cocktail-savvy? Indeed, it is that, too, as it contains a pair of cocktail recipes courtesy of yours truly, perfectly geared to the woman who loves afternoon outings with someone else’s little ones as much as she cherishes the well-earned cocktail she treats herself to once she’s back home in her un-babyproofed lair.
Many Royale customers, I’m sure, assume that the Mr. Smith cocktail is named after Royale proprietor Steven Smith — or at least his father, who’s also a part owner of the business and, truth be told, whose first name I can’t remember because “Mr. Smith” was all I ever called him.
But none of that has anything to do with the Mr. Smith. The Mr. Smith is named after Jeff Smith, who might also be addressed as The Former Honorable Jeff Smith, Ph.D. Jeff was the subject of a documentary, Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?, about the time he popped his campaign cherry running for the congressional seat vacated by veteran Rep. Dick Gephardt, and how he narrowly lost the Democratic primary to Russ Carnahan, son of a famous Missouri politician, and how he was a short, Jewish, basketball-loving UNC grad.
Guest post by St. Louis-based attorney and old friend of mine Tim O’Connell, who worked at daily newspapers, and a few taverns, before being admitted to the bar.
Blogtender’s Note: Those readers who’ve been to The Royale (psst, it’s Royale Week here at the blog) know that if there’s one thing people like about The Royale (and there isn’t; there are always several things people like about it) it’s the Subcontinental, sometimes ordered as “that cucumber cocktail you guys make?” But it’s got lots more depth — in flavor complexities and, as you’ll read here in a guest post by its inventor, in mixological history — than that.
It began with tzatziki. I’d peeled, seeded, and grated the cucumbers and had dutifully squeezed the shreds with cheesecloth in preparation for adding them to some drained yogurt. It was a hot day. The cucumbers were cold, as was the green essence that collected in the bowl under the cheesecloth. The juice’s clean scent filled the room, and it was incredibly refreshing. It tasted of greenness and health.
There are a lot of brown liquids on this blog, I often worry. Presentation means a lot in mixology, I know, and giving y’all pretty, enticing things to look at means a lot to me. So when I made a Vesper for the first time this weekend and beheld its gloriously golden hue, its angelic, luminescent tintedness, well, let’s just say I felt very good indeed that I could show it to you, and lots and lots of photographs were taken.
If you are a James Bond aficionado (which I am not), then the Vesper’s moniker might ring familiar to you; it’s named after Vesper Lynd, anti-heroine of Casino Royale, both the book and the movie (and the other movie). Bond actually comes up with the drink himself, alluding to it as a ‘special martini.’
I’d be happy to tell you more, but the pictures are worth more than the words in this case.
The very fact that any mixologist — a term I use here in its broadest scope, as one who has mixed at least two things together on at least one occasion in his/her life — can name a cocktail creation absolutely anything he or she wants is really quite mind-blowing to me. I mean, when you have a baby, you can name that baby any name you want, but it still has to be a name… unless, I suppose, you are an Oscar-winning actress or a world-famous lip-syncher/plastic surgery recipient or that man in Egypt who, post-uprising, bestowed upon his daughter the moniker of Facebook.
The point is, given how wide-open the field is, I think I overthink my cocktail naming. What to call a cocktail needn’t necessarily follow a traceable logic or make sense to anyone other than you, and really, it doesn’t need to make sense to you, either. It doesn’t need to mean something or say anything more than these words are what you say when you want this drink. It just needs a name.
Hey, ‘member a few weeks back when I blogged about that batch of Negroni I’d whipped together and funneled into my favorite flask in the name of cocktail-aging experimentation — and then couldn’t hold my wad for more than five days before popping it open? Well, someone sprouted some willpower this winter, as I’ve since gone a whole month without having a touch or sneaking a taste. Yay, Rosie! I’m a grownup!
Guest post by Sean Lorre, PhoBlograpHusband
Well-documented cocktail lore has it that the Tom Collins began as a sort of name-game hoax circa 1874. People would prank their friends by telling them that a Tom Collins had been speaking ill of them in a bar just down the road. When the slandered walked into said bar demanding Tom Collins, they’d be told that he just departed for another nearby watering hole, and so on. (It’s oddly comforting that people still found stupid ways to waste their time before television.) Eventually, enterprising bartenders got in on the joke, and a crisp refreshment was born.
Poorly documented family lore (on my Mom’s side; Lorre lore has been quite meticulously researched) has it that “That Girl” actress Marlo Thomas was so named thanks to a chance encounter over a few cigarettes between her father, entertainer Danny Thomas, and my maternal grandfather, Thomas Marlowe, outside a jazz club in Newark, New Jersey, sometime in the late 1930s.
Dear Rachael Ray,
‘Member a few years ago when Anthony Bourdain rained ninja spawn on you for shooting that Dunkin’ Donuts ad, the one where you sported a keffiyeh like some kind of cultural anthro major at Columbia? He was pissed because, in his ideal, folks like you should advocate for sound, wholesome foods, which you’ve gotta admit is a point.
I am mad at you too, Rachael Ray. I am mad because last year your eponymous mag, Every Day with Rachael Ray, printed this:
And I read: “Here’s a sweet idea: Use lollipops as color-coordinated cocktail stirrers.” O Rachael Ray, where do I begin?