My cocktail problem.

I was reading the New York Times special “winter drinks” issue when it occurred to me that my subset of the baby boom might go down in history as the Lost Generation of Cocktails. Just the first three paragraphs left me feeling I’d been parachuted into a very strange land, or maybe suffered a stroke and woke up with a type of reader’s aphasia. See what it does for you:

For a drink with a ball gag in its mouth, the Night Marcher has a lot to say about where cocktail culture may be heading.

Some major themes in fashionable bars lately: small, elegant, stemmed glassware; arm garters; house-made bitters; a seriousness that is hard to distinguish from humorlessness; gin.

Some major themes in the Night Marcher, a drink that one owner of the Tar Pit, a bar that will open in Los Angeles later this month, calls “our ambassador”: a large, grimacing tiki mug; bondage gear; store-bought Cholula hot sauce; a sense of humor that is hard to distinguish from weirdness; rum.

A drink has a mouth? Into which one can insert a ball gag? And themes? Bondage gear?

Of all the jobs I never held, I may miss bartending the most. One of my secret social fears is that I’ll have some people over for dinner one night, handle the front door and the coat-hanging with ease, and be struck dumb by a request for a Manhattan or, worse, a Rob Roy. With a few exceptions, mixing drinks — and especially cocktails with ball gags — leaves me feeling like those dreams where you’re giving a speech naked.

I don’t know where I went wrong. My dad had bar ware and could make anything. There was a citrus squeezer that captured the seeds, a wooden mallet for cracking ice, jiggers and shot glasses in all sizes, an elegant bottle opener, swizzle sticks in glass/stainless/plastic, and shakers of various types. He didn’t have a bar, but he could stand at the kitchen counter and mix up anything from a Tom Collins to a pitcher of martinis and serve it to you in the correct glass. (Mostly; he didn’t go much for the stemmed stuff, but I always thought martini glasses were a bit too James Bond for people in our demographic.)

My mother could do all this, too, but left it to him, because that was his job at the end of the day — making and serving the drinks. They had one, maybe two, and proceeded to dinner. It was what adults did.

When I started drinking, I started with beer, the classic choice of teens everywhere. Beer was easier to get and easier to steal from your parents, at least if they kept a second refrigerator in the basement stocked with Stroh’s or Budweiser. Beer is an acquired taste, and for a good long time this was the best thing about it, in that it was hard to drink quickly and virtually required nursing, preventing overindulging.

But the big alcohol trend of my youth were the so-called pop wines, Boone’s Farm and Annie Green Springs among them, sweet and sticky and perfect for getting your 16-year-old girlfriend loaded, in hopes of getting some before the inevitable vomiting on the front lawn (if you were lucky). No one really drank them much beyond high school, but I think they set the template for my generation’s lack of cocktail literacy. Because pop wines were followed by wine coolers, premixed sangrias, Zima and other crimes against humanity. Not everybody likes beer, even after you’ve developed the ability to drink like a grownup. But in that interregnum between legal drinking age and true adulthood (when wine with actual corks entered the picture), they were what served for cocktails for people my age, and with the exception of an occasional summer treat of frozen daiquiris or Slurpee-machine margaritas from a Mexican restaurant, they were what people my age drank.

My friend Becky tended bar (under the tutelage of our own MarkH), and what I learned from her was the following: If you want to keep a bartender happy, don’t order strawberry daiquiris or sloe gin fizzes. We used to go to her place, a restaurant/cocktail lounge connected to a hotel adjacent to the OSU campus, to watch her work (and drink her occasional “mistakes”). I once observed her nearly blow a gasket when the Ohio Women’s Republican Club descended on the joint and tied her up with blenderful after blenderful of fruity concoctions. She taught me that “and water” is music to a barkeep’s ears, advice I took to heart. In a mellow mood and during slow periods she would experiment with new formulations, but I don’t think the Brown Robe or Pink Bunny — both conceived during a beautiful Easter Sunday when “The Robe” was playing on the bar TV — ever caught on.

A brief pop-cult interlude: The radio ads for Annie Green Springs went like this:

Sold my suits and pawned my watches,
bought some Annie Green Springs wine.
Now I’m going up to the country,
gonna find my peace of mind.

Movin’ up with Annie Green Springs,
city’s not the place for me.
Movin’ up with Annie Green Springs,
to a place I’d rather be.

Let’s set aside, for now, the rather disturbing picture that such a ditty conjures, of a man happily embracing drunkenness and unemployment. My brother pointed it out to me one day when I was in junior high, chuckling over the idea of selling wine with a wino’s ballad. It was a funny, singable 15 seconds of song, anyway. Some years ago I was reading a profile of Warren Zevon, which described a dark time of underemployment in his past, when he was so hard up he was forced to write jingles for an undrinkable wine called Annie Green Springs. Sometime after that, I met the man himself, sang him that jingle and asked if it was his. He looked at me like I was insane and said, and I quote, “No.”

But you know who did write it? Professor Google says? BOZ SCAGGS. How would I know this stuff otherwise? Maybe wrecking the newspaper business will turn out to be worth it. You know what else? I remember reading a story in Time magazine around that time, about the trend in pop wine. And guess what? Google found that, too. You marvel, you.

Cocktails came back into vogue a while back, in the ’90s. Martini shakers suddenly started appearing on wedding registries, but by then I felt set in my ways. Inexpensive wine was everywhere by then, and when I came home from work, that’s what we drank, unless it was summer, when I’d have a cold beer on the back steps, like the proletarian slob I always suspected I am. But cocktails continue to haunt me. There’s a passage in an Elmore Leonard book, “52 Pick-up,” where a blackmailer is taunting his mark, the latter a man who started life in a blue collar and traded up to white:

Here comes sport, now, rum collins for the broad and a Heineken. Loaded and he still drinks beer. That’s your background showing, man. Eleven years on the line at Dodge Main. Couple of shots and a beer every day after the shift. Right?

Until I read that it never occurred to me that the Budweiser in my hand was a social marker, but of course it is. The ’90s were also the time when designer beer came along, when someone was always pressing a bottle of some raspberry lager into your hand. This trend seems to have moved on, and thank God for that, because some of that was nasty-ass beer. Last I heard, hipsters in their 20s had rediscovered Pabst Blue Ribbon. Ha ha.

We’ve gone on at some length, now, and we still haven’t solved my cocktail problem. I’m making some progress on my own. There’s a container of simple syrup on my refrigerator door, mixed up last summer when Alan and I went through a mojito phase with mint from our container garden. I can make margaritas in the blender. But the drinks my parents made like it was second nature, gin rickeys and whiskey sours and various collinses, are beyond me. I guess I could look up the recipes online, but I don’t have the right mixers and I certainly don’t keep maraschino cherries on hand.

And so I sit, today, confronting this picture of the Night Marcher in the Times, of a drink in a black tiki mug with a ball gag in its mouth. An artfully scored lime with several picks emerging from it crowns the rim. Some sort of steamy, dry icy-looking condensation swirls off to one side. I feel utterly defeated. I guess I can always stop by and let someone else make one. I’m sure it costs only about $20 or so.

Maybe you get to keep the tiki mug.

Posted at 9:17 am in Popculch |

64 responses to “My cocktail problem.”

  1. Peter said on December 2, 2009 at 9:31 am

    I don’t miss the mixed drink culture at all – I considered it exhibit A in The Greatest Generation = A Bunch of Assholes.

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  2. jcburns said on December 2, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Way down in Athens County,
    Stop and have some wine
    Athens County
    Marie and me
    We’re doing fine.

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  3. LAMary said on December 2, 2009 at 9:53 am

    I tended bar when I was in college. That was when I was cute and tips weren’t taxed. I worked in the bar of a Best Western and then in a Holiday Inn. Of course this was in Golden, Colorado, so while I had studied up on making mixed drinks, the turistas all wanted Coors. Your friend’s take on creamy blender drinks is dead on. Not only is it a pain in the ass to make and clean up after those, the women who usually ordered them didn’t tip. Women don’t like to tip women bartenders or cocktail waitresses.
    Just as you had your mojito summer brought on by backyard crops, the ex and I had a salty dog winter. Our former next door neighbor had a very productive grapefruit tree and he hated grapefruit. Salty dogs are very tasty.

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  4. John said on December 2, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Trink, trink, trink Tyrolia, trink es wieder!

    No Boone’s Farm nor Annie Green Springs for me, I went with the fancy name. And only once on a dare did I purchase a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20.

    Now a days, I leave the drinking to the wife who has a love affair with Dirty Bananas, a blender concoction with rum, rum cream, chocolate something, and bananas.

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  5. Dave said on December 2, 2009 at 10:36 am

    JC, I think only OU people of a certain era might know where that came from. Jonathan Edwards, Sunshine, his one hit, for the rest of you.

    The whole hard liquor mixed drinks thing passed me right by, for the most part. Parents didn’t drink and other than the brandy-laced fruitcakes my parents made every year, there was no other liquor around. Beer and wine for us, to this day, in great moderation, I suppose some would think.

    Most of the dedicated drinkers I’ve ever known, ah, but never mind, we’re not talking about dedicated drinkers now.

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  6. brian stouder said on December 2, 2009 at 10:39 am

    I have almost nothing to contribute to this, except that Nance’s mention of Pabst Blue Ribbon reminded me of my dad, and Mary’s mention of salt gave me a flashback; my dad almost always salted his PBR; seemed perfectly normal at the time – but I’ve never since seen that done.

    Anyway – for me it’s icy cold Diet Coke, baby. CNBC had a great show about the Coca Cola Company – and at the end they showed their most state-of-the-art soda dispenser. The thing has a touch screen, and offers hundreds of different drinks, ranging from classic Coke through a plethora of energy drinks and fruity flavored Fanta.

    When I retire, I want one of those in my basement

    edit – and Mary, somehow I feel safe guessing that your tips from male patrons more than made up for any deficit from your female customers

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  7. 4dbirds said on December 2, 2009 at 10:46 am

    I drink maybe two times a year. Years ago, I drank way too much one night and ended up the next day in a motel in San Pedro barfing my guts up. That was enough for me. Last year for Christmas I made a drink that tasted just like orange creamcycles. I only had a sip but the hubby and kids loved and demolished them.

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  8. LAMary said on December 2, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Brian, I banked my paychecks and lived on my tips. Including college tuition. I tended bar full time in the summer and part time during the school year, and worked my NYT job whatever time of day fit in with my schedule. I also did day care for a drug rehab program for women. The county paid me for watching the kids while the moms were at the center. That wasn’t my favorite job. I wanted to take all the kids home with me to keep them away from their moms.

    one more thing…
    The women who ordered the blender drinks also used their time at a table in the bar to clean out their purses. The tables would frequently have old kleenexes and fuzzy chiclets and old receipts piled up.

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  9. Colleen said on December 2, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Whaddya have, something great, Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer….

    I come from a long line of cocktail hour drinkers. Martinis, Scotch rocks. None of that namby pamby stuff. My sister and I…meh. She likes wine, but I am mostly a non drinker, though I DO genuinely like beer.

    Haven’t had a PBR since I took sips of my dad’s when I was a wee thing.

    But I think I want to hang out in Brian’s retirement basement. Fountain Diet Coke is the best….

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  10. Julie Robinson said on December 2, 2009 at 11:23 am

    My family had no alcohol in the house as my mom didn’t drink and my dad only at parties. So of course when I went to college I equated drinking cocktails with being grown up and sophisticated. I had a book (from Time/Life!) with their recipes. But I lost interest and only drank wine for many years, never having acquired a taste for beer.

    Now I don’t drink at all, since my pain med label says not to, and it was surprisingly easy to stop. Like Brian, I do love my caffinated pop, though I belong to the Pepsi family.

    Our college son is waiting tables so he already had to get a server’s license. He sees how big the bar tips are when they have banquets, so it’s looking good to him. Since he wants to do music/theatre, I figure it will be good to be able to support himself.

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  11. Mindy said on December 2, 2009 at 11:29 am

    I remember being part of a small group in a bar very early in the evening. There were only five of us. The order was two beers, two basic mixed drinks and a Brandy Alexander for the diva in our midst. Boy, did that ever irritate the bartender even though we were the only ones in the place. She didn’t pitch in for the tip, either.

    I got to go to a wedding when the cocktail look was in full swing ten years or so ago. The twentysomething girls had spent most of the day in the beauty shop getting updos and manicures. They looked great.

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  12. moe99 said on December 2, 2009 at 11:35 am

    I have to take exception to the pooh poohing on small breweries. We are blessed in the Pacific NW with some of the best brews on record. And one in particular, Mac N Jack’s African Amber, is the best beer I’ve ever had. Bar none. But they don’t bottle it, so you have to find a bar that has it on tap. I’ve got hard liquor in my basement, but pre-chemo, I mostly chose wine or beer as the drink of choice. Although gin and tonics were da bomb on those very rare hot summer days in Seattle.

    And when I worked as a waitress at the St. Paul Country Club, we were allowed a mixed drink from the bar after we got off work. I took my vodka gimlet (which was my drink of choice then in 1974) on the bus in a paper cup.

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  13. LAMary said on December 2, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Seattle is micro brewery beer snob country, moe, sorry. All the locals were trying to one up each other with what they ordered with dinner whenever we went out in the week I spent there. Apologies, but it got pretty silly and pretentious. This is coming from someone who worked in a shop where at least half the staff kept wine diaries to record everything they’d tasted.

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  14. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 2, 2009 at 11:53 am

    PBR made a variety for sale on base PX’s called “Red, White, and Blue.” Friend of mine would drive some distance to get cases of it, and when i pointed out the PBR heritage, he got a six of it, drank 6 of each, and insisted there was a difference.

    You’re right, i disagreed, the RWB came from fifty miles away and the you’re spending the savings out your tailpipe. De gustibus non disputandam.

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  15. Jeff Borden said on December 2, 2009 at 11:56 am

    My father made wickedly delicious Manhattans for my wife and I whenever we visited. In fact, we got into the habit of calling him when we were about 15 minutes out, so they were already made and sitting in the refrigerator when we arrived. His were sweet –the only sweet cocktail I enjoy– and we still make them at home on weekends. Otherwise, it’s a vodka rocks for my wife and a Scotch or bourbon rocks for me.

    I second Moe on good, local breweries. Generally, I buy Dab, a German dortmunder that costs a mere $10 for a 12-pack of bottles, but I occasionally pop for something from Goose Island Brewery in Chicago or Great Lakes Brewery in Cleveland. These are superb ales, lagers and pilseners and are worth the extra money. Except for my forays to Wrigley Field, where the vendors sell only Bud and Old Style, I rarely drink mass produced beers. And even at Wrigley, there are Beers of the World stands where you can purchase better quality brews for less than the vendors.

    One of my friends believes cocktail culture emerged in my generation to replace the rituals of drug use. Instead of rolling a joint or filling up a water pipe, we gather these tools and make alcoholic concoctions. I tend to agree and would also place the great cigar bar craze of a few years ago as another example. You have your fancy cigar humidor, your tip cutter, your butane lighter.

    By the way, PBR is luxury beer compared to the Tudor ale we drank in college. A six-pack at A&P cost $1.99. You got what you paid for.

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  16. alex said on December 2, 2009 at 11:57 am

    I second what moe said.

    I’d sooner drink anything from our local microbrewery, Mad Anthony’s, than any American piss beer. But I’d rather have a real cocktail than a microbrew.

    I wasn’t all that keen on drinking when I was young, actually. I grew up with parents who pounded Manhattans and brought their bar with them in the car on vacations. Yes, to enjoy during the trip. I didn’t start liking hard liquor until the 1990s.

    Edit: I take that back as regards the 1990s. I have a cocktail straw collection dating back to the 1980s. I didn’t start liking hard liquor exclusively until the ’90s.

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  17. mark said on December 2, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    I used to say I wanted to own a bar without a blender or dairy products. Of course, I was drinking when I said that. Vodka on the rocks (my choice, when I was still drinking) is a drink that makes the bartender happy but might put you on the road to rehab.

    I think America’s great days of cocktailing are in the rear-view mirror. DUI laws and smoking prohibitions have driven off all but the privileged. Beers in the backyard are easier.

    In Asia they still drink for show. Interesting in a wasteful, obnoxious sort of way. Boilermakers using shots of Ballantines’ 30 year-old scotch and shitty Kirin beer. I almost cried. Booze and business remain closely connected there.

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  18. alex said on December 2, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Oh, and to revisit a discussion on NN.C a while back, here’s a plea to release John Brown’s besmirched reputation from “the loony bin of history”:

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  19. 4dbirds said on December 2, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Beer is lost on me. It all smells like skunk piss to me. I think it’s in the genes. I hear there’s a large group of people who can’t stomach cilantro.

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  20. coozledad said on December 2, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Salty dogs are tasty. It’s the only cocktail I developed a taste for, aside from the bloody Marys Danny made at Pop’s Trattoria shortly after it opened. At the time I regarded them as a sort of philosopher’s stone of barkeeping.
    I was always tempted to mix the insufferable Pina Colada with the sunblock it smelled like. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to unload a couple of quarts of those in the morning. Even though we used a mix for them, they were a pain in the ass, and we added additional shots of liquor (or just used the 151) to get the customer down the stairs with as few as possible.
    We kept a Rolodex with all the drink recipes at the bar, because even the best of us were relative amateurs. We mostly slung beers, margaritas and brown liquor and soda anyway. Sometimes we let the customers check the Rolodex to see if there was something they’d like to try out, and for that reason, we added a few spurious recipes. My contributions were “The Piss Artist” (Jameson’s, Bovril and Bergamot tea) and “The Fuck Yoo-hoo” (Soy chocolate beverage with grain alcohol). Last, but not least, prune juice, dehydrated orange drink and one shot each of dark and light rum combined for the “Wang Dang Sweet Prune-Tang”.

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  21. nancy said on December 2, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Not all microbrews are awful, granted, Moe et al. We have a fine one in Michigan (Bell’s), and I’ll drink anything they make. The problem is that not everyone who makes beer makes good beer, and sorry, but raspberries and beer should only go together in a sentence, not a glass.

    My opinion of John Brown comes mainly from Russell Banks’ “Cloudsplitter,” which shows what a ninny I am, but there you are. Assuming Banks didn’t embroider the truth too much, however, Brown was indisputably a terrorist. Not always, though, and in service to a noble cause, but still a terrorist.

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  22. LAMary said on December 2, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Salty Dogs are way tasty. They go down much too easily.

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  23. nancy said on December 2, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    I wouldn’t drink a Fuck Yoo-Hoo or Wang Dang Sweet Prune-Tang, but I plan to use them in a piece of fiction someday. It’ll be the one with the discreet dedication: “To C., who knows why.”

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  24. beb said on December 2, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    A History Channel program on Prohibition mentioned that most of the fruity drinks invented during the 20a were to cover up the rather disgusting, oily taste of moonshine. With that in mind, I don’t think a lack of knowledge of how to make fruity drinks is that much of a liability.

    What Nancy says about beer is so true. It’s a taste that has to be acquired. And because it is so sour it forces the young, at least, to drink slowly. Binge drinking I think was invented only because kids have been prevented from tasting beer until they’re well away from home. (College spring breaks is a double remove from home.)

    Drinks that come with ball gags… That we can speak of ball gags as if its something everyone knows about is a little frightening. When did kinky sex become the norm? I think someone is trying too hard to make booze interesting. I’m reminded of the line by Martini, the bartender, who tells Jimmy Stewart something like “We sell hard liquor to hard working people who come to get drunk fast.” Damn straight. If you’re going to get drunk, to hell with the flavorings!

    Of course we all remember the dad who bought his son a lemonade at a Tigers game only to have Child Services haul the kid away. Hard lemonade — thjat stuff shouldn’t even be legal.

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  25. brian stouder said on December 2, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Alex – one notes that even Brown’s apologists focus on the manner of his death as the source of his greatness,rather than his exceptionally violent actions –

    Second, he was held in high esteem by many great men of his day. Ralph Waldo Emerson compared him to Jesus, declaring that Brown would “make the gallows as glorious as the cross.”

    I’d go as far as to say that remembering John Brown’s name in the Battle Hym of the Republic is a pretty huge concession.

    But as to the man himself, I am in no mood at all to venerate self-directed domestic terrorists, especially those who feel the need to spark a revolution directly against the United States government, just now

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  26. Jolene said on December 2, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    I love good, rich beer, but I haven’t really investigated enough to know all the distinctions between them. More hops vs. less? Wheat vs. barley? Winter brews vs. summer brews? Just give me something that wasn’t bottled in a big U.S. commercial brewery.

    I live by myself and rarely drink at home, but I do love booze. Funny thing is, you drink too much of it, and you get drunk! Harder to recover from than it used to be.

    I learned to like beer taking sips from the beers that my father opened up after a long, hot day of work during harvest season. He drank 7-7s (Seagram’s Seven and Seven-Up) for a long time, and I learned to like those too.

    As an adult, I’ve mainly been a beer and wine drinker, but, at certain phases of my life and depending on the company I was keeping, mixed drinks played a bigger role in my modest drinking life. In the 70s, I loved fruity drinks like Tequila Sunrises and Sunsets. Love margaritas. Gin and tonics are, indeed, the bomb. Had one recently that was a “special” at a restaurant in Bethesda made with some fancy kind of gin, juniper berries, lemon, and sage leaves. Delicious!

    Finally, port! Great way to end an evening. Or to spend an evening.

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  27. Jeff Borden said on December 2, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    I wonder where Glenn Beck would stand on John Brown?

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  28. Joe Kobiela said on December 2, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Mabel, Black Label,
    Lake Gage in the mid 70’s would go to Kinderhook Mich and buy a case for 5-6 bucks. Taught me you only rent beer. Threw up in front of the old man, blamed it on bad pizza. He’s gone, One regret In life is I didn’t owe up to it for him. Brother Dave K has a Doctorate in alcohol and we have some great rugby stories. When he and I quit drinking they laid off third shift at the Budweiser plant.
    Pilot Joe

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  29. John said on December 2, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Scott Roeder and Eric Rudolph would be apt modern day equivalents of John Brown.

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  30. Jeff Borden said on December 2, 2009 at 12:41 pm


    Man, do I recall that old tagline from Carling’s Black Label. My dad loved to watch the Friday night fights when I was little. I know they were sponsored primarily by Gillette, but remember hearing that beer jingle more than a few times, too.

    Canadian punks loved Black Label when I was in Toronto in the 1980s. Is it the Canadian PBR?

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  31. kayak woman said on December 2, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    The 20-somethings that I know and love are more into the microbrewery thing than PBR. When the California kids came home to Michigan last summer, it was Bell’s all the way (they went to college in Kalamazoo, where Bell’s is located). I think it was Oberon they were drinking and I spent quite a bit of time fishing orange slices out of the empty bottles before returning them.

    I rarely drink beer any more. These days, it’s manhattans or red wine but salty dogs are great on a hot summer beach day. Back when we would occasionally travel to Florida, we used to get salty dogs at a drive-thru.

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  32. Dave said on December 2, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Beb, your comments about hard lemonade made me remember that we recently had an employee retire rather than be dismissed for bringing Mike’s Hard Lemonade to work and putting it in a company refrigerator. He swore that he had no idea that it contained alcohol. Hard to imagine but why would he bring it to work otherwise.

    Back in the very early seventies, you could buy POC, which was either Pride of Cleveland or Pilsener on Call, I’ve been told both but don’t remember, for .99 cents a six-pack at the A&P in Reynoldsburg, OH. Oh, and it really was bad stuff.

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  33. alex said on December 2, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Amazed anyone thinks Mike’s Hard Lemonade is all that hard. You’d have to down a case of that shit to get the same buzz you’d get from one real drink.

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  34. Jolene said on December 2, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    He swore that he had no idea that it con­tained alco­hol. Hard to imag­ine but why would he bring it to work otherwise.

    Possibly because he liked it? Maybe he thought it was just a lemonade-y sort of drink–which is pretty much right.

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  35. Amy said on December 2, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Ah, in your list of pop wines of our era, you forgot..Riunite..”Riunite on ice…so nice!” That was my intro. Although the one “mixed drink” everyone drank was screwdrivers…not that it really qualifies.

    My 27-year old son belongs to a private club catering to 20-somethings in Atlanta, an alternative to the bar scene…very mixed-drink, faux Mad-Men-ish vibe.

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  36. ROgirl said on December 2, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    My parents drank gin and tonics and I carried on the tradition, although I learned to order Tanqueray to avoid getting cheap bar gin.

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  37. Jeff Borden said on December 2, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Is it true that we all avoid the alcohol we first got really sick on? ROgirls mention of gin compels me to note that it was a couple of G&T’s that got me sick at a cousin’s wedding when I was in high school. To this day, the scent of juniper berries takes me back to that awful event, where I was forced to lie in misery in the back seat of the car after evacuating said gin from my system. I didn’t even get a buzz. Just sick.

    One of my pals feels this way about tequila. Another about bourbon. Is this fairly common?

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  38. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 2, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Apparently, this ends up aiding folks in need in the Detroit/Michigan area, and it’s wickedly addictive —

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  39. Jo said on December 2, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Long time lurker, first time poster (and I did come to NN.C for the Bob Greene stories, via friend Carter. I have my own gruesome Bob Greene story from the late ’70s in Chicago).

    So glad to see the mentions of Bell’s Brewery in my hometown of Kalamazoo, wish its success were enough to bring prosperity back to the city.

    And to continue on yesterday’s topic but with a Kalamazoo theme, I highly recommend the work of Kalamazoo area writer Bonnie Jo Campbell, who was recently nominated for a National Book Award for her story collection, ‘American Salvage.’ Another Kalamazoo author, David Small, was also nominated this year for his moving graphic novel ‘Stitches.’ It’s an account of his hellish childhood in the Detroit area. He’s better known as an illustrator of award-winning children’s books, so this book is quite a departure. Neither of these are light reading, but worthwhile.

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  40. nancy said on December 2, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    One of my pals feels this way about tequila. Another about bourbon. Is this fairly common?

    It’s incredibly common. One of the best articles I’ve read about anything, ever, was Atul Gawande’s essay on nausea in the New Yorker some years back. Not only was it full of fascination information — did you know “hyperemesis of pregnancy,” or constant, roiling, all-day puking, is the No. 1 cause of second-trimester abortions? — it contained this utter stunner of a lead, which I’ll paraphrase:

    A man who breaks his leg skiing today may suffer great pain, but with competent medical treatment and physical therapy, will be skiing again a year from now. Whereas a man who drinks too many tequila shooters in the ski lodge the same day may well never drink tequila again for the rest of his life, and will likely still be nauseated by even the smell of tequila for years to come. That’s how powerful nausea is.

    I put the magazine down and thought about that for hours afterward. I lurve Atul Gawande. Best MacArthur genius-grant EVER.

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  41. Dave K. said on December 2, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Brother Joe, don’t worry about not fessin’ up to the Old Man, he knew. He told me, “Your little brother sure dry-heaved a long time to get that last piece of pepperoni out”.

    He used to salt his Old Crown Ale, sometimes Stroh’s or PBR. I remember the beer in a glass, just a shake of salt on the foam, then tap-tap the glass on the bar to send grains of salt to the bottom, leaving tiny trails of foam.

    Boz Skaggs reminded me of a family Q & A we used to play, one of those mental block things where you know the answer but just can’t remember when the song comes on the radio. Who wrote the lyrics for Three Dog Night’s “Joy To The World”. and Steppenwolf’s “The Pusher”? Yes, it is the same guy, and while I’m sure coozledad knows already, I’ll let you guys answer.

    My wife and I just returned from 10 days in Germany, visiting our daughter and grandchildren, and big Diet Cokes with free refills are much appreciated by this former beer lover. (Joe had the PhD in alcohol about right.) Over there the beer drinkers get a huge foamy mug, while “Coke Light” is served with a “0.4 ltr” line etched on the glass and that is all you get, at twice the price of beer!

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  42. coozledad said on December 2, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Dave K. I don’t know the answer, but I’ll make a wild guess-Paul Williams? I did just recently find out that Leo Sayer wrote “The Show Must Go On” and had a hit with it in Britain before Three Dog Night recorded it. I have a visceral dislike of Leo Sayer. Always did.
    Outside of my first few adolescent experiences with alcohol, I never experienced nausea. Just that black dog of self doubt, and a feeling I imagine must be roughly similar to clinical depression. I’ll take mania any day.

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  43. LAMary said on December 2, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Hoyt Axton. His mother wrote Heartbreak Hotel.
    He also wrote the song Bony Fingers, which has the the chorus, “work your fingers to the bone, whadda ya get? Bony fingers, bony fingers.”

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  44. Lex said on December 2, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    I’m old enough to remember the ads for Annie Green Springs, but when I drank cheap, sweet wine in high school, it was always Cold Duck. (In particular, I recall pounding a bottle in the parking lot right before midnight showings of “Rocky Horror.”) But mostly I drank beer. Most of that was Stroh’s, and most of the rest was Bud. I drank a fifth of vodka the night of my senior prom, mixed with whatever I could find as I went, and wound up with my first hangover. I do not recall it fondly.

    To the extent that I drink liquor anymore, I remain gravitated toward the clear liquors, primarily vodka and rum — gin smells too much like celery, which I hate. Vodka & tonic or vodka rocks. I make my own strawberry daiquiris at home when fresh strawberries are in season locally (May), and I clean up after myself when I do it. Tip myself real good, too. Once in a blue moon I’ll have The Glenlivet, on the rocks, because it tastes good and is the liquor of my people.

    But I don’t drink much liquor anymore, period. These days it’s primarily red wine — Malbec, Merlot, Carmenere, Syrah, Zin, depending on the food. If either a Natty Greene’s Buckshot or a Red Oak Amber, both brewed locally, is available, I’ll gladly drink it. Otherwise? Dos Equis or Sam Adams (I particularly like SA Winter Lager — only wheat beer I could ever tolerate.)

    4dbirds, I’d be one of those people who can’t stomach celantro.

    LAMary: Hoyt Axton also wrote Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” and “Never Been to Spain.” He also played the main character’s dad in the movie “Gremlins.” He’s got a good voice even when he’s not singing.

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  45. nancy said on December 2, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Fun fact to know and tell: Cold Duck was invented in Detroit, only not as a buy-in-a-bottle beverage, but a champagne cocktail. The waiter stood tableside and poured champagne and burgundy into your glass in equal measure.

    I’m told that, made this way, it’s delicious. Pre-bottled? Not so much.

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  46. Dexter said on December 2, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    A beer at a Chicago sports event was 40 cents in 1963, and a box seat was $3.
    Now a beer is $6.50, more than a 16 x increase, and the field boxes are priced according to the team played, but the price is about $75 a seat. That is a 25 x increase. So I guess the beer is a bargain.
    It was 1970 when I came home from California and all the bars served Boone’s Farm, “The Righteous Apple”. “Righteous” was a code word, meaning this stuff was for cooling a throat if the mellow stuff you bought had turned out to be harsh.
    I always enjoyed reading Nelson Algren’s and Dr. Hunter S. Thompson’s words on drinking. Both certainly knew the “magic elixir ” properties of bourbon and gin and made the reader feel the pain of the characters who suffered until they could find a bar and order a shot. Old Forrester for Algren, Wild Turkey for the good doctor.
    The last alcohol I had in my refrigerator was beer, St. Ides Malt Liquor, and two bottles of Night Train Express wine. I had read about Night Train in The Trib; it was the choice of the destitute alkies in LA, and I found some at Belmont Liquors in the Fort. It was tasty, about like MD 20-20…just cheap rotgut, and a fitting tribute to my drinking career that on the day the shit hit the fan and the booze hit the sink, I was dumping skid-row wine chased by Bud Light and malt liquor.
    Sometimes, like now, I think about how much fun it was to use alcohol. I never consider going back to that lifestyle. As my old friend P. says, “I was like the monkey making love to the skunk: I didn’t get all I wanted, I just got all I could stand.”

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  47. Jolene said on December 2, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    The mention of screwdrivers up above made me think of mimosas, which made me think of my first trip to New Orleans years ago. Was so fun to slide into a seat at Commander’s Palace, order a mimosa and knock back the first one, while one of the half a dozen waiters assigned to us went off to fetch me a crab omelet. Ah, youth!

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  48. Jolene said on December 2, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Actually, now that I think of it, we also had some very fine screwdrivers made w/ fresh-squeezed orange juice, but that was on a weekday. The mimosas were for Sunday.

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  49. brian stouder said on December 2, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Alex – further to your idea of under-appreciated persons from America’s slave era, I cannot tell you how genuinely affected I was by the Illinois State Museum’s Elijah Lovejoy exhibit, which I saw last month in Springfield.

    In our day, people with particularly provocative messages (which they may or may not really believe) and their own media platforms tend to be safely ensconced someplace, free to reap large financial rewards, and safely insulated from any reaction to their views.

    But think of the courage and conviction it must have required, in the middle of the 19th century in the river town of Alton, Illinois, to forthrightly and consistently publish the view that no human being had the right to enslave another – thereby risking not just the physical existence of your printing press, but also your life.

    That fellow (and others like him) was a genuine, courageous American hero; a champion of basic human rights and human decency, who took an active part in his day’s “culture wars” by weilding words and ideals instead of guns and sabers.

    I think we probably agree that ol’ Elijah and the abolitionist movement in general (specifically including the term “abolition” itself, which still carries a historical taint) deserves a thorough-going re-assessment. The courage of many under-rated heroes, such as the Tappan brothers and Lovejoy and the Friends deserve to be remembered, and celebrated. But where we probably don’t agree is that, in my opinion, elevating genuinely scarey folks like John Brown does a very great dis-service to what should be a proud American memory – abolitionism and abolitionists.

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  50. coozledad said on December 2, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    The last cocktail I had was a sample the bar was thinking of putting on the menu, and for some reason, they decided the three beers I’d had with dinner wouldn’t affect my palate, and asked my opinion anyway. It was a slender glass with some chilled grappa and a little cranberry juice. Delicious, but with that telltale burn of enough ethanol to knock you down. I don’t know about bartending nomenclature anymore, but it was at the height of the martini craze. Our local liquor stores don’t stock grappa, and I found out why. In Italy it’s moonshine. Here it’s treated like Cognac.

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  51. ROgirl said on December 2, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    A local restaurant has enormous glass barrels sitting on the bar filled with fresh pineapples and vodka. The ingredients steep for several days, allowing the pineapple to infuse with the alcohol. It’s strained and served icy cold in a big ole martini glass, and boy, is it good.

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  52. Little Bird said on December 2, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    ROgirl, you can do the same thing with bacon and vodka. You just have to strain it and then run it through a britta filter about 5 times (you might not want to use that filter again. Ever. Makes for delicious bloody marys. Not too good straight up though.
    You also have to fry the bacon ’till it’s really crispy beforehand.

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  53. 4dbirds said on December 2, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    I had my first mimosa in a Frankfurt, German bridal salon. My fellow soldier and good friend was getting fitted for her wedding dress.

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  54. LAMary said on December 2, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Cooz, they have good grappa in Italy. There are grappas in elegant bottles that go for over a hundred bucks. I recall something called grappa Picolit from my drinking days. It was wonderful.
    They serve grappa outdoors at the posh ski resorts in Italy.

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  55. coozledad said on December 2, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    LA Mary: Yeah. I understand it’s made from grape must and stems and distillation is pretty strictly regulated to insure the absence of wood alcohol.

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  56. Holly said on December 2, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    We would go to my in-laws house for fancy dinners. My Mother-in-law would have the table set with her best. We would have great food. She knew how to entertain. My Father-in-law would ask if anyone wanted more wine. If you said yes, he pulled out from under the table a big gallon jug of Carlo Rossi. I still laugh when I think about the fancy plates on the table and a gallon jug of wine. They just don’t go together.

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  57. Joe Kobiela said on December 2, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Night Train wine,
    We drank that at rugby partys. The Blues Brothers also drank it. The label had a train on it with a little engineer. Had a friends wife drink to much train on their wedding day. Night train on a white dress really stains.
    Pilot Joe

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  58. basset said on December 2, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    Annie Green Springs… hadn’t thought of that for years. Next we’ll be talking about ditchweed and Three Dog Night.

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  59. Deborah said on December 2, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    This post is so timely for a project I’m working on. I just returned from Miami where I’m designing environmental graphics for a spirits company headquarters (guess which). We are doing typographic treatments that spell out drink recipes for lots of cocktails. And also visuals of all kinds of bar stuff and more. It’s been a fun project.

    Did you know there’s an iPhone app out there that has over 800 drink recipes.

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  60. Deborah said on December 3, 2009 at 12:38 am

    After traveling on business I often can’t sleep when I get home, so I’m catching up on my blogging. I missed yesterday’s post about book recommendations, so I’ll insert mine here: before heading to the airport at the crack of dawn for the flight down to Miami I grabbed a book off my library shelves that I read a few years ago “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”, by David Foster Wallace, the essay about the Illinois State Fair is a classic now, fun to reread. I love DFW and was so sad when he died last year (by his own hand no less). A couple of months ago for my birthday my husband gave me the new illustrated publication by R. Crumb about the book of Genesis. I highly recommend it. I’m reading “The White Hotel” by D.M. Thomas now which I purchased at a used bookstore in Coral Gables last night. Quite disturbing but very well written. I promise to buy some books through Nancy’s Amazon deal but I always forget about it until after I’ve purchased a book, kinda like V-8.

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  61. Denice B. said on December 3, 2009 at 1:36 am

    A fun book exploring Detroit’s soul and spirit called ‘The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit’. The China Town area is gone now, but Chin Tiki lingers in the memories of Detroiters Of A Certain Age. Trader Vic’s downtown on Washington called the trendy to an exotic experience. Sweet pineapple drinks in glasses you could keep. That’s Tiki!

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  62. Dexter said on December 3, 2009 at 1:56 am

    Carlo Rossi. I loved that stuff. They make 12 different wines. I only bought Burgundy once in a while but I was really hooked on Paisano. Once my local store ran out and I drove to Defiance just to re-supply.
    Years before that, in the army in California, the wine of choice was Mateus.

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  63. crinoidgirl said on December 3, 2009 at 10:35 am

    I remember moving up to Lancer’s, in the cool little bottle.

    Denice B., thank you for the recommendation on “The Lost Tiki Palaces”. I’ve lived in the Detroit area since early 1979 and remember when the Chinatown area was on its last legs, and drove by the Chin Tiki a lot.

    We still have one of the old Tiki places near us, in Livonia.

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  64. Ricardo said on December 7, 2009 at 12:47 am

    Right, Lancers. Or you moved up from Boone’s farm to Mateus to be classy. Lime, orange, and cherry vodka was a cheap drink in the day. For beginners, it was certain to make one violently sick too. Now, the high end vodkas all have those flavors, I guess some tastes never change.

    My favorite Detroit-area cheap wine was Boogie Down Wine. There was a tie-in, Eddie Kendricks, formerly of the Temptations had a single named “Boogie Down” and did commercials for the wine too. “Hi I’m Eddie Kendricks for Boogie Down Wine…” while his falsetto voice sang the song in the background.

    I miss the beers, victims of the beer mergers. E&B, Carling, Blatz, Strohs, Altes, Pfiefer, Frankenmuth, all cheap and pretty good.

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