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Anyone else here a huge Hedwig fan? You know, the eponymous character from the off-Broadway-musical-turned-cultishly-adored-indie-film Hedwig and the Angry Inch, that one about the queer East German boy whose African-American G.I. male lover/sugar daddy encouraged him to get a sex change that did not go well, hence the “angry inch?” That one.
After Hedwig winds up a craggily transgendered, white-trash divorcee stuck in a Kansas trailer park, s/him sings a bittersweet number about what few pleasures life still holds, one being “vermouth on the rocks.” So to ‘splain — no, there is too much, to sum up — now you get what the above pic’s all about. (An in-joke expressly styled for an audience of exactly moi? Probably.)
OK, my point is — vermouth on the rocks, who drinks this anymore? I know they did back in the day before the counterculture hit, if only because it says so in this book I once read, New York in The 50s: Young adults and also James Baldwin got together at one another’s cramped apartments in the Village and drank vermouth and then danced the Twist to Chubby Checker. So there must’ve been some sort of cool cachet surrounding vermouth back then, to balance out the fact that vermouth tastes yucky.
There’s a whole flow chart of professional angst leading to today’s drink, starting with this week’s edition of “The Tipsy Diaries,” a cocktail-centric column penned for the New York Times by its restaurant critic emeritus, Frank Bruni. Bruni’s restaurant-writing tenure — or I should say tenor; Bruni never refused the gooey puns that roiled forth from his brain, just as he couldn’t seem to wrestle the keyboard away from his occasional alter ego, Frannie Von Furstinshow — had its critics, some insidiously scathing in their put-downs.
Much of the disdain stemmed from the fact that Bruni had no professional food-writing background. But neither did I when I started writing restaurant reviews in St. Louis, so the worst I can say about him is 1) he went to UNC; 2) I am not him. And in order to become him, of course, I must destroy him.
Some people have a gift. They can create glorious cocktails and have a knack for dressing up traditional drinks so that they taste entirely new.
The proprietor of this blog is one of these wondrously inventive people. [Oh, pshaw. -- Ed.]
I am not.
Put me in a kitchen with a dozen random food items, and I can make something tasty on the fly. But with drinks, I tend toward tried and true recipes with little variation. I like Manhattans and martinis and the most daring I get is experimenting with a new gin. So when Rose invited me to write a guest post, I knew that I’d be seeking outside help. And my outside help happens to be a fantastic, outdated (sorry, I mean “vintage”) book that my boyfriend’s grandfather used to own: The Esquire Handbook for Hosts, published in 1949.
Folks, how cool is my mother in law? So cool, she got me this for Christmas:
Moonshine! White dog! Rotgut! White lightning! Hooch! Fire water! Mountain dew!
Academically speaking, corn whiskey, made from a mashbill of a government-mandated-minimum 81 percent corn (with rye and malted barley making up the difference) that usually sees the inside of a charred oak barrel exactly never. In other words, it’s a sort of bastardized, unaged bourbon (which requires at least 51 percent corn in its mashbill and some time sittin’ in charred oak).