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Thursday, February 18, 2010

The St. Paul Grill is starting a Scotch Club:

Join The St. Paul Grill Scotch Club today and begin the journey to a COMPLIMENTARY tasting the Midwest's, and one of the world's, most expensive scotches--The Macallan 55 (currently valued at $750 for 1.5 oz). The St. Paul Grill is only Minnesota venue to serve the 55-year-old limited edition, single malt Scotch. Created by The Macallan, a renowned distillery based in the Highlands region of Scotland. The Macallan distillery only produced 420 individually numbered bottles of the 55-year old Scotch, and it only made 100 of those bottles available for distribution to the United States. Most of these have been distributed to restaurants and bars on the east and west coasts and in Las Vegas.

To receive this complimentary tasting of The Macallan 55, purchase a 1.5 oz pour of each of The Grill's 52 scotches on the bar menu, except The Macallan 55. In addition to receiving a complimentary tasting and as a Scotch Club member, you will receive exclusive benefits and rewards along the journey and throughout the year.

* Taste all the single malt scotches in the Highland Category on the scotch menu and you will receive a complimentary 1.5 oz pour of Dalmore 21 ($21.00 value).

* Taste all the single malt scotches in the Speyside Category on the scotch menu and you will receive a complimentary 1.5 oz pour of Glenlevit 21 ($30.00 value).

* Taste all the single malt scotches in the Lowland, Campbeltown, Island and Islay Categories and receive a complimentary 1.5 oz pour of Laphroaig 30 ($42 value).

* The Grill will hold quarterly events to showcase various scotches and give you the opportunity to meet with distillers, learn more about scotch and cross some off your list.

Going through each of the Grill's 52 scotches would require a serious investment, both in terms of time and lucre. But what a journey it would be and what a reward when you reach your destination. And it's hard to think of too many better places in the Twin Cities to enjoy a good scotch than the classic bar at the St. Paul Grill.

UPDATE-- I should have known that if anyone was going to take the time to break down the costs and benefits of membership in the St. Paul Grill Scotch Club it would be the Nihilist in Golf Pants. Here's his financial analysis:

I did the math.

Since we don't have gatekeepers, I decided to determine how much you'd have to lay out to get your free taste of MacAllen 55. I assumed it would be less than $1000 since you'd have 52 pours at an average price of less than $20.

Additionally, the offer includes three additional free pours along the way as you complete the Highlands, Speyside and other groups.

The Highlands are the cheapest group, with 12 Scotches for $257.75, including your "free" pour of Dalmore 21. Since Dalmore is priced at $21 you're looking at an 8% discount.

The next cheapest group is the Lowland, Cambletown, Island and Islay group of 26 pours for $398.25, including your "free" pour of Laphroaig 30. Since Laphroag is priced at $42, that's a 10% discount.

The final group would be the Speyside, which lists 35 pours on the menu for $740.75. You are supposed to receive a "free" pour of Glenlevit 21, a $30 value. However, it's not listed on the SPG's online menu. I'll assume it's available, making the number of pours 36. Of course, if you complete this group last, you'd get a "free" shot of the good stuff valued at $750. That would make your discount on your round a whopping 52%.

Something's not right here. The SPG claims you only need to buy 52 pours, but there are 73 or 74 pours, depending on the availability of Glenlevit 21. Your total cost would be $1,396.75 (about $19 each) for a menu that retails at $2,239.75. And that's before appetizers and meals.


Friday, October 23, 2009
Children of the Corn

Tim e-mails to hep us to Bourbon: 5 Things You Didn't Know:

Bourbon's definition, and how it differs from other whiskies, is the source of some confusion, so we'll start with the basics: Bourbon is a whiskey (not "whisky," which is the Scottish spelling--although Maker's Mark does spell its name "whisky" because it uses a process similar to that of Scotch) that is made with at least 51% corn. It must be aged in new white oak barrels that have never been used before, the insides of which get charred with a torch before being filled with the liquor for aging. In order for a drink to be called bourbon, it can't have any flavor or color additives: just corn, water, wheat or rye, malt, and the coloring effects of the inside of a charred oak barrel. Finally, bourbon has to be between 80 and 160 proof (although, very few clock in above 130).

Now that you have the basic definition down, here are five things you didn't know about bourbon.

Check your knowledge.


Thursday, October 08, 2009
Whisky A Go Go

Events conspire to once again prove that I have no timing.

St. Paul Scotch and Whisky Fest:

St. Paul Scotch & Whisky Fest 2009 is our 2nd annual whisky fest located on the property of The Happy Gnome.

This is North America largest whisky fest by number of whiskies (over 300) and attendees (2500 tickets available). St. Paul Scotch & Whisky Fest is for the enthusiast of all levels and areas of interests. We will have a separated area where brand managers and distillers will sample a couple of their whiskies and attendees can sit in at no additional charge. There are four classes available being taught by educators from Cellar's Wine and Spirits. And, of course over 300 whiskies to sample.

Ticket price will only be $10, drink tickets will be available for sale for tastes of whisky. You choose what you want to sample.

No Bands.
Sorry JB. No Beer. Sorry Nihilist. No Flavored Vodka. Sorry Crazy Uke.

Just Whisky, For Whisky Folks.

On Saturday October 24th in the year of 2009 may the Islay people rub elbows with the Bourbon folks and much rejoicing abound as the St. Paul Scotch & Whisky Fest bagpipes sound at 12 noon.

Sigh. A shame that I won't be able to be among those folks and all that wonderful whisky.


Thursday, September 03, 2009
Vodka: The Elixer of Life

There comes a time when a man is pushed to the limits of tolerance, usually by the ignorant utterings of others. After spending the last decade or more on the sidelines, air-blogging in my pajamas, the Elder's misguided musings on vodka have finally drawn me into the fray.

Leave aside for the moment the issue of (his) palate, abused by decades of uninformed injesting, as there is scant hope that we'll be able to reverse the damage that's been done. Rather, let me address the issue full-on from it's intellectual imperative--the need to stock the Strategic Booze Reserve in the event of cataclysmic disaster.

VODKA - Even the etymological origin enlightens those seeking insight. From the Ukrainian word "voda" or "water", it is the veritable life-blood of human existence! Be it grain, potato(e) or sugar-beet, Vodka has been and continues to be the mother's milk of distilled libations in the constellation of adult-style beverages. More to the point, I approach this issue from the perpective of the intrinsic value that this life-long companion brings to the table of survivalism.

If you're cold, take a shot and you're warm. If you're hot, a poltice for your forehead and a dab behind both ears works just like nature's air-conditioner. Out of fuel? Pour it in the tank. Gangrene or infection? No more, with vodka protection! Dark outside? A vodka powered lamp by your side! Wolves at your door? Molotov cocktail that's for sure! Wait, did I mention the one thousand-and-one cooking uses?

Who knows. Maybe it was a life of plenty and his constant coddling that caused our compatriot's wussified approach to this serious subject. Perhaps...

But the line was crossed when our self-satisfied correspondent's "expert" opinion changed into astro-turfing malice. As a 100 proof Ukrainian the only mewling associated with vodka drinking I've heard is from those "wee-weed" wimps who lack the fortitude and cast-iron gullet needed to imbibe.

Are you man enough to look across the table at your comrade, bellow out, "Na Zdoroviya" and knock-back half-a-glass of "Bozhiy Slyozy"? (God's Tears)

Follow that up with a hearty chunk of rye-bread and a piece of pickeled pork-hock. Repeat as needed. Instestinal parisites? I think not!

Long after Mrs. Elder has buried your lifeless form under all those empty bottles of Milwaukee's Best, me and my Mrs. will be sitting in the bunker shooting down chilled shots of Stoli Elite, and toasting to your memory. And oh, by the way? Hangover? Not so much.

The Elder Raises A Glass: Ha ha, the Ukraine. Do you know what the Ukraine is? It's a sitting duck. A road apple. The Ukraine is weak. It's feeble. I think it's time to put the hurt on the Ukraine. Welcome aboard.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009
SBR Public Service Announcement

As part of our ongoing commitment to community safety, the staff here at Fraters Libertas would like to take this opportunity to remind our readers about the importance of being prepared in the event of an emergency. That emergency could be severe weather in the form of tornado, hurricane, flood, or snow storm. It could be a ragging wildfire or electrical blackout. It could even be the outbreak of a pandemic, such as H1N1 or Favre fever (which thankfully seems to have been localized and contained).

In order to survive such an emergency it's necessary to ensure that you are prepared with critical supplies on hand. Flashlights? Check. Water? Check. Food? Check. Medical supplies? Check. Emergency radio? Check. Booze? BOOZE?

Yes, booze. Now is as good a time as ever to review your SBR (Strategic Booze Reserve) and ensure that you have the minimum supplies on hand in the event that you're not able to get to a liquor store for an extended period of time (like two days). The SBR isn't a list of what you should have for a well-stocked bar. It's the bare drinking essentials that you should never be without.

BEER: The March/April issue of DRAFT Magazine had a piece called "Subterranean Bottleshop Blues" which talked about how to properly stockpile beer for a disaster. It also asked a few experts to choose which beers they would want to have on hand. To keeps thing simple, I'm not going to get into that level of detail.

When it comes to beer, you should always have the equivalent of a case (24 12 oz cans or bottles) on hand. If you're intensely loyal to one particular beer, this means keeping a reserve case. If you're like me and you enjoy a variety of beers, it means that all your assorted single bottles and cans add up to a case. Right now, I would guess I've got about thirty beers in the house from ten or twelve different brewers.

WINE: If you're lucky enough to have a formal wine cellar, you're well prepared in the event of an interruption in supply. If not, I would suggest that you have at least three bottles of vino on hand. My preference would two reds and a white, but that's your call. One of the most important reasons to have wine is that it will give your wife something to drink and keep her out of your beer stocks.

WHISKEY: Contrary to what you may have heard, whiskey is not a seasonal drink. You should ALWAYS have some on hand. A good rule of thumb to remember is Two of Three. You should have some combination of two bottles of Rye, Bourbon, or Scotch. For example; one Bourbon and one Scotch or one Scotch and one Rye or one Rye and one Bourbon. If you really favor one style, you could go with two bottles of it, but you really shouldn't limit yourself. Ideally, you'd have at least one bottle of each.

GIN: Gin too is a year round staple. Personally, I think one bottle is sufficient. However, if you're more of a gin fiend like Atomizer you may opt for a more generous reserve.

And that's it. Wait just a second here mister, you say. What do you mean, that's it? What about my rum, my tequila, my vodka, my brandy, my eau-de-vie, my root beer schnapps? Sorry Charlie. This is a list of what you must have around, not what's nice to have. I suppose I could make an allowance and allow substitutions of brandy, rum, and tequila for those who regard those spirits as critical to their survival needs. Happy now?

So in summary...Hold on. I'm hearing some mewling out there from the vodka crowd. Mostly women who enjoy cosmos and other sweet vodka-based cocktails, but also from a few "connoisseurs" of the clear, odorless, tasteless, utterly neutral spirit. Despite their ardor for the alcoholic beverage, the reality is that vodka should play be more of ancillary role in your drinking life. It just so happens that I usually do have vodka on hand, not because I can't do without it, but because I rarely find myself in a situation where I would choose to drink it. If I have beer, wine, whiskey, and gin available, why in the world would I waste my time with vodka?

Vodka's like celery. Saying you have the best vodka in the world is like saying you have the best celery. Okay, that's not an apt comparison as celery does little to actually provide sustenance. For all of vodka's shortcomings when it comes to pleasing the palate, it does deliver the alcohol content. So maybe it's more like gruel or porridge. Pretty bland and tasteless, but eat enough and if will fill you up. Or drink enough vodka and you will get drunk. Which seems to be the only reason to ever touch the stuff.

Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that. Back in my college days--after we reached the point where drinking enough beer to really get good and blottoed was not only expensive, but very time consuming--we discovered that vodka was a much more affordable, efficient, and sure-fire way to reach the depths of an alcoholic stupor. It was the rocket fuel that got many a drunken escapade off the ground and--considering the rot gut crap we were buying at the time--it's composition was probably similar. Brands like Kamchatka, Siberian Ice, Popov, Wolfschmidt's, and McCormick's (some of which seem to be making a comeback).But when you diluted the five dollar a liter poison with enough SunnyD (poured into plastic cups from fast food joints) you could just manage to get it down without gagging. And after a couple of cups of these potent potables, the real fun would begin. The next day would not be so pleasant, but when you're young, drunk, and stupid you're willing to pay that price.

But now when I drink, it's a rare occasion when I actually set out to get drunk. Yes, I still drink for the alcohol and the effects that come with it. But those effects are usually fairly moderate. A good part of the enjoyment of drinking now is to savor the flavor of the beer, wine, whiskey, or gin that I'm consuming. Which would again lead me to ask again why I ever would choose to drink vodka.

And it's not as if I haven't tried the "good stuff" when it comes to vodka either. I've had the premium brands from Russia, Poland, France, the United States, and even Iceland. While they certainly are better than what we used to choke down it college, they still offer nothing special for me. If I'm going to mix up a vodka-based cocktail would I prefer using Belvedere over Popov? Of course. But as a stand alone spirit or even one that dominates a mixed drink (like a Martini), vodka simply does not compare to whiskey and gin. It also falls fall short of the varieties of character and complexities that you find in brandy, rum, and tequila. Of all of these spirits, vodka has the least distinction between the high and low ends.

Again, if you want to drink vodka because it's an easy spirit to disguise in cocktails or you think it doesn't bring as bad a hangover or if you just want to get good and hammered , then more power to you. There's a reason that vodka is so popular in Russia and it's not because the people have a natural affinity for its fine flavor. My Russian vodka drinking experiences--albeit very limited--were very much about the more the merrier. We were drinking decent stuff--some version of Russian Standard--but we weren't too concerned with the taste. In fact, we were encouraged to chase our shots down with mushrooms and pickles to help smooth the journey (and supposedly to ease the next day's pain--a claim I found dubious).

So vodka does have its place. But that place should not be part of your Strategic Booze Reserve.

Things may seem calm now. But you never know when disaster might strike. It's a good time to review your current SBR and replenish your saftey stocks if necessary. As all former Boy Scouts know it's always a good idea to be prepared.

SISYPHUS ADDS: There was a time when a Strategic Booze Reserve was more than just precautionary. Here is how H. L. Mencken responded to prohibition (from Terry Teachout's biography, "The Skeptic: A Life of H. L. Mencken").

Mencken responded to Prohibition by selling his car and using the proceeds to purchase a large stock of "the best wines and liquors I could find," stored in a homemade basement vault whose door bore a custom-painted sign emblazoned with a skull and crossbones: "This vault is protected by a device releasing Chlorine Gas under 200 pounds pressure. Enter it at your own risk."


Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Mad About You

The American Beverage Institute asks and answers the question Why Would MADD Oppose Obama's Beer Summit?:

Today, the American Beverage Institute (ABI) criticized Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) for publicly lamenting that President Obama chose to hold a "Beer Summit" in an effort to cool tensions between the gentlemen involved in the recent police incident in Cambridge.

"MADD is no longer an organization that opposes drunk driving, but an anti-alcohol group that has been hijacked by the modern day temperance movement," said Sarah Longwell, ABI Managing Director. "That someone in a position of leadership at MADD would criticize President Obama for simply drinking beer, illustrates the neoprohibitionist mentality that now dominates the group."

Last week, President Obama met with the men involved in the Cambridge police incident in an attempt to diffuse the situation. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, and Cambridge police Sergeant James Crowley enjoyed cold beers while working out their differences. But in an interview this weekend, the President of the Delaware chapter of MADD, Nancy Raynor, expressed concern that the event could send the wrong message to young people who saw the president drinking on TV.

"MADD's position on the 'Beer Summit' should remind Americans that the group once dedicated to preventing drunk driving has transitioned into leading the anti-alcohol movement," said Longwell. "MADD has even been denounced by its founder Candy Lightner as 'very neo-prohibitionist.'"

MADD is now focused on preventing any alcohol consumption prior to driving through its support for polices like sobriety checkpoints, which serve to scare drivers who may have enjoyed one drink prior to driving home. Recently, MADD went so far as to denounce New Jersey's Flying Fish Brewery for naming its beers after turnpike exits, claiming that the brewery was promoting drunk driving.

MADD is a perfect example of an organization that was formed with perfectly good intentions in mind, but has been hijacked by zealots who have steered the group into areas far outside the scope originally envisioned. It's one thing to campaign to prevent drunk driving. But more and more the goal of MADD seems to be to prevent drinking in general. If that's the position they want to embrace they should at least have the decency to change the group's name to something that better reflects their true intentions. Something like:

MAD-Mothers Against Drinking


Tuesday, July 07, 2009
They Took The Bar...The Whole F'n Bar!!

Al's Bar, a veritable landmark on the suburban side of the St. Louis Park-Minneapolis border for the past 83 years, has a date with the wrecking ball. The city of St. Louis Park has decided that the Minneapolis metropolitan area would be better served by yet another new urbanist mixed-use utopia. By this, of course, I mean a couple hundred over-priced and empty condos situated above 10,000 square feet or so of empty retail and office space.

Oh sure, maybe a brand new Champps will fling open its doors on the corner of Excelsior and France when The Ellipse has its ribbon cutting ceremony in 2010. But then, a few years later when that novelty has worn off, an Applebee's will take its place followed by a TGIFriday's and a Chili's and so on down the chain. All perfectly fine establishments in their own right, but I can guaran-damn-tee you that none of them will still be on that corner in 2092 and none of them will be as steeped in history as Al's Bar is.

Consider that Al's opened while our nation was still in the throes of Prohibition when, according to the St. Louis Park historical society:

...Al J. Lovass and Mary Vlavianous obtained a license to sell soft drinks and operate a restaurant. Others remember it as a grocery store or a confectionary. Whatever was going on upstairs, bootlegger Al and his wife supplied their customers with more than pop in their basement "party room"/speakeasy that featured a large fieldstone fireplace. Al's friendship with the Sheriff ensured that he and his card playing, drinking customers were safe from prosecution.

The drinking moved upstairs after The Scourge was repealed in 1933. A liquor store was added, the bar was expanded and the property changed hands a few times in the ensuing years but Al's Bar remained a popular neighborhood watering hole:

Al's ("home of the giant double") was an especially popular place when there was an election in Minneapolis and the Minneapolis bars were closed, since Al's was the first bar across the city line.

Al's never closed because of inclement weather. During the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940, people walked on top of cars to find refuge at Al's, where they partied for 3-4 days.
My own history of drinking at Al's began 23 years ago as a newly legal 19 year old who was bored with guzzling beer with my buddies in my room. When we decided to try the mysterious little corner bar we had all heard so much about we had no idea it would become the touchstone of our bar drinking lives.

I've spent an obscene number of Monday nights at Al's. What started as a gathering of friends to watch Monday Night Football became an event that if anyone were to be absent from, for good reason or not, he would be roundly chastised by the group the following week. I can even say, somewhat embarrassingly, that missing a Monday night would sometimes elicit in me feelings of guilt for letting the other guys down. The number of regulars has dwindled quite a bit over the years but the tradition has survived.

Last night was the last Al's Bar Monday I'll ever attend. As we were reminiscing around our little square table strewn with oversalted popcorn, discarded peanut shells and pools of Summit beer, a buddy reminded me of that first night 23 years ago. When we sat down at that table for the very first time we noticed a large banner tacked to the wall telling us that Al's would be closing for good in a few months. It's almost a quarter century later and, despite that banner and a handful of other false alarms, the building still stands. Come next Thursday night, I won't be able to say that.

The Elder Adds: I was wondering what it was going to take to awaken Atomizer from his posting slumber. I should have known that it would have to be something as momentous as the shuttering of his favorite watering hole.

It does seem like a curious time for yet another condo/retail/office combo to be going up in St. Louis Park as the market--particularly in that part of the city--seems more than saturated. Although I was not an Al's regular like Atomizer, I have darkened its door on several occasion over the years. As one of the last "neighborhood" bars still standing in the Western 'burbs, news of its demise, although not unexpected, is most unwelcome.

By the way, bidding is now open for all drinking establishments who would like to become the new host for Atomizer's Monday night crew. You're not likely going to find more consistent business and loyal customers.


Monday, June 22, 2009
Last Call?

For the last four years Eric Felten has been performing yeoman's work by providing weekly reports on the past, present, and future of the American cocktail culture in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. His insights, analysis, and recommendations have proven invaluable for those of us trying to muddle our way through the complicated and at times confusing world of fine drinking. But eventually everything runs its course and Felten announced that he's moving on from one of most enviable writing beats with his Valedictory Toast in last Saturday's paper:

Since September 2005, I've profiled more than 150 cocktails, punches, slings, fizzes, highballs, bounces, smashes and juleps. There may be a drink or two that I've neglected--my 8-year-old daughter, Greta, champions a morning "Milkshake" of two parts skim milk to one part Danimals yogurt, and with a cheerful tenacity that suggests she has a promising future in PR, Greta has been urging me to feature her Milkshake in a column. But the Milkshake notwithstanding, I think I've been able to get to most of the concoctions worth mixing--or at least those worth a thousand words.

Writing this column has been one of the best gigs in journalism, and not just because I've been able to fob my bar bills off on The Wall Street Journal. The readers of How's Your Drink? have made the experience a treat. You've been a remarkable resource, suggesting wonderful drinks I would never otherwise have heard of. And in this coarse and caustic age, you have been gracious correspondents, confirming my faith that worthy drinks inspire worthy drinkers.

Starting the week after next, I will be taking on a new challenge, writing the De Gustibus column on the Taste page of the Weekend Journal every Friday. It's a chance to look at American culture and the way we live today from a perspective somewhat wider than that behind the bar.

That doesn't mean How's Your Drink? is going away. I will continue to write the occasional cocktail column as the spirits move me. New drinks are being devised every day, and I look forward to documenting those that have a chance to enter the hallowed halls of the cocktail canon. Well, or at least those that taste good.

Fare thee well Mr. Felten.


Friday, June 05, 2009
Number One With A Silver Bullet

ND leads nation in binge, underage drinking:

A new report says North Dakota leads the nation in the rate of binge and underage drinking. It's old news to state officials who have been on a mission to change it, with limited success.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released Thursday by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, found 40 percent of North Dakotans ages 12 to 20 had at least one drink during the month before the survey was taken. The interviews were conducted in 2006 and 2007.

Researchers also found 32 percent of North Dakotans ages 12 and older said they had five or more drinks in one sitting during the month before the survey. The national average for binge drinking was 23 percent.

The results have changed little since 2005, when a similar survey found more than 31 percent of North Dakotans age 12 and older said they had five or more drinks in one sitting.

Drinking--even underage and to excess--is "culturally accepted" in North Dakota, authorities say, and many communities' social activities revolve around booze.

Binge drinking in North Dakota? Shocking. The only thing remotely surprising in this news is that the NoDakians managed to outbinge the oft-besotted Badgers.


Monday, May 18, 2009
Neat Freak

In this past weekend's WSJ, Eric Felten examines the all too common American practice of putting the taste of good Scotch on ice (sub req):

Richard Paterson -- renowned whisky blender with Scotland's Whyte & Mackay Ltd., home of such single malts as the Dalmore and Isle of Jura -- has come to dread ordering whisky in America: "Ask for Scotch in the U.S. and before you know it you hear that horrible clink, clink, clink of ice going in the glass," he says in a voice that's two parts exasperation and one part burr. "As far as I'm concerned," says Mr. Paterson, "if you've got a nice 12-year-old Scotch whisky, there's nothing more ridiculous than putting ice in it."

Amen. I used to be among those who preferred my Scotch with ice (just a single cube). Then, I realized just how much that mellowed the richness of the taste experience. I now like to infusion my Scotch with just a touch of water.

The problem is that at many places you just about have to beg the server to hold the ice. The worst is on airplanes where my pleas to flight attendants to not cram the cup with eleven ice cubes have been made with a mixture of confusion and contempt. Often the best I can hope for is to convince them to limit the ice to one solitary cube, which they reluctantly do while giving you a derisive look that says "What kind of freak are you, anyway?"

You know you're in good Scotch bar when you receive a small jug of water with your dram. And no ice.

The purists' complaint is that whereas a small splash of spring water seems to open up a whisky, releasing its full bouquet and flavor, ice tends to do the opposite. The tongue is anesthetized by the cold, and the whisky itself acquires a smoothness that glosses over the deeper complexities of the dram.

The mindless pursuit of "smoothness" in drinks is something that JB and I have discussed of late. While there certainly are drinks where "smooth" is a complimentary description, Scotch--and in fact all whisky (or whiskey)--is not one of them. What smooth really means for whisky is lack of texture, flavor, and character. While it might be easier to drink a "smooth" whisky, it certainly is not enjoyable. If you want something that's easy to drink and smooth to the point of being tasteless, stick to high-end vodka whose penultimate distillation goal seems to creating a spirit as bland and indistinguishable as possible.

Not that a whisky necessarily has to be rough, harsh, or sharp to be good. One of my favorites that I came across last year is Tomintoul, which is billed as "The Gentle Dram." And there is nothing wrong with a whisky that has a smooth finish. The problem is that seeking "smoothness" often means sacrificing the very things that you drink whisky to experience in the first place.

If you're still not convinced that keeping your Scotch neat and tidy is the way to go, you might want to conduct a side-by-side taste test as Felten did:

Still, I think the ice-dependent drinkers among us will find it illuminating to do their own side-by-side tasting. Take a good, straightforward single malt (any of the standard drams represented by the partisans I consulted -- Macallan, Glenfiddich, Bruichladdich, or Dalmore -- will do admirably). Pour two glasses: one without ice, and another embellished with a large cube or two of ice made from spring water. Take a taste of the tepid malt. It will seem at first sip rather fiery. Then taste the iced whisky. It will seem soothing, a respite from the spirit's alcohol burn. But then go back to the neat Scotch. You'll find that it blossoms with flavor in your mouth. If you keep going back and forth, I suspect you will perceive the taste of the Scotch on the rocks as narrower and perhaps even thinner with each sip.

And definitely smoother.


Monday, March 16, 2009
Nous sommes tous des Américains ivres?

While President Obama seems intent on remaking America in the European mold, France is moving toward a more American approach to drinking (WSJ-sub req):

The government of President Nicolas Sarkozy has drafted the bill, which would raise France's minimum drinking age for wine and beer to 18 from 16. The government says it would reduce a dangerous addiction among youths. A vote on the bill is expected to take place Wednesday at the National Assembly, where it is likely to pass, as Mr. Sarkozy's center-right coalition has a majority of the votes. A final vote in the Senate could take place in April.

France has had a liberal approach to alcohol thus far. Unlike most other countries, France has two drinking ages: Young people can drink or purchase wine and beer from the age of 16 and hard liquor from 18. Bartenders and shopkeepers don't usually check the identification cards of their customers, however young.

The powerful lobby of French winemakers says it won't try to derail the law, but thinks the government is making a big mistake. A stricter law, winemakers say, could reverse the age-old French custom of parents teaching children how to taste and appreciate wine at the family meal.

The risk of the new law, they say, is a habit of binge drinking imported from the U.S., where the drinking age is 21, and the U.K., where studies show one in four adult men and one in three adult women are heavy drinkers.

"When I visited my daughter who was studying in the U.S., she couldn't drink a glass of wine at the restaurant because she was 20," says Marie-Christine Tarby, head of industry lobby group Vin & Société. "Back on the campus, all her friends were drunk every night -- is this what we are trying to do here?"

If past experience with the impact of prohibition on binge drinking is any indication, then that is exactly what the result will likely be in France.


Thursday, February 19, 2009
Agreeing To Agree

It's not every day that you can find common cause with those on the other side of the ideological divide. But this being the Age of Obama--a time of universal unity, post-partisanship, peace, love, and understanding--I suppose it should not be all that surprising that we should find ourselves holding hands and singing Kumbaya around the campfire with our comrades at the local alternative newspaper City Pages:

City Council members are discussing options to ban happy hour and other drinking specials at bars to help prevent binge drinking. They are also looking at ways to ban drinking games in bars (think beer pong and flip cup). Because, you know, young people can't play those games at home if they are so inclined.

Minneapolis is forming a task force to take a closer look at the recommendations on limiting drinking in bars to decide if the regulations should be considered by the City Council.

These recommendations are ridiculous. Businesses should be allowed to price their drinks how they choose. Particularly in a tough economy, bars have to find creative ways to get customers into their establishments.

Amen sister. You really have to read that second paragraph slowly to grasp the utter stupidity of the Minneapolis City Council:

Minneapolis is forming a task force to take a closer look at the recommendations on limiting drinking... bars...

What's next up for the Nanny State naybobs on the Council; limiting eating in restaurants? How about limiting shopping in malls? Limiting reading in libraries?

When you consider all the challenges facing the City of Minneapolis today, to learn that its "leaders" are spending their time on something so frivolous, so foolish, so far from what should be the legitimate scope of their power it almost makes you want to cry. And if I was a resident of Minneapolis, I probably would. And then I would pack my bags and get the hell out. Which is something that more and more businesses (especially bars) are probably seriously considering right about now.

For if there's anything that the Minneapolis City Council has a proven track record of limiting it's innovation, growth, and entrepreneurship within the city's boundaries.

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Monday, December 08, 2008
Hey Bartender

Eric Felten on the sorry state of American bartending in Saturday's Wall Street Journal (sub req):

The best hotel bartender I encountered in my travels didn't need any new training program to teach him how to make great cocktails. Gus Tassopulos, dean of the barmen at L.A.'s Hotel Bel-Air, has been mixing drinks for five decades. He started at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1959 and came to the Bel-Air in 1990. Mine wasn't the first request for an Americano, which he mixed right up. His Sidecar was a thing of beauty, made with fresh lime juice, and every ingredient carefully measured to make sure the drink would have the correct balance. Mr. Tassopulos was also a paradigm of dignified, old-school service -- friendly but formal, attentive without being intrusive.

Mr. Tassopulos laments that there aren't many good bartenders these days. Yes, there are men and women serious about the craft. But they are generally focused on becoming celebrity mixologists, cocktail consultants -- or, at the very least, they want to own their own high-end bars one day. More power to them. But otherwise, barmen tend to be waiters or waitresses who graduate to the better-paying spot behind the bar and stick it out long enough to finish school or get the acting job they've been chasing. "Bartending isn't what people want as a career now," Mr. Tassopulos says, which explains why I ran into so many people who didn't seem to care what they pushed across the mahogany.

Take the young man I found tending bar at Hollywood's brilliantly restored Roosevelt Hotel. He happily told me that he didn't know how to make many drinks at all. When needed, he could always just look something up in the bar book behind the counter. But most of the time he didn't bother to use the book: "If people ask for a drink I don't know," he explained, "I can always kind of make something with sour mix and vodka and they'll be happy." A more eloquent and concise expression of the state of bartending in America you couldn't hope to find.

Far too often these days, the simple act of trying to order a drink brings a response of ignorance, arrogance, or apathy from the bartender. They don't know, they don't have time for such menial things as serving a customer, or they simply don't care.

UPDATE-- Here are a couple of more observations on the matter, penned by JB and me Saint Paul back in the pre-blog days of Fraters Libertas:

Hey Bartender #1

Hey Bartender #2


Monday, September 08, 2008
Raise A Glass

In Saturday's WSJ, Eric Felten suggested a novel way to support Georgia (sub req):

The brandies of the Caucasus region -- Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan -- are known for their distinctive fruitcake sweetness. When the whisky writer Michael Jackson wanted to describe a single-malt Scotch as tasting of dried fruits and raisins, he would say it was redolent of Georgian brandy. I happened to have a bottle of Azerbaijani brandy on my shelf (the gift of a friend who had traveled there -- I've never seen it in a stateside liquor store), and I was able to pick up a rather more readily available bottle of Armenia's take on distilled wine. I tried them out, together with the Vartsikhe.

The Azerbaijani brandy was the most syrupy, heavy with tastes of toffee and chocolate; the Armenian brandy was very soft in the mouth, with lighter sweet notes of vanilla and cinnamon; the Georgian brandy was the closest in style to cognac, with the medium body and elegant balance of a French VSOP.

It's worth noting that Georgia's vintners also make a distinctive alternative to vodka, an indigenous grappa called chacha. Like the Italian eau-de-vie, chacha is distilled from wine and the leftovers of winemaking -- grape skins, seeds, and even a stem or two. I was able to find a chacha made by the Telavi Wine Cellar, a spirit that was aged just enough to give it a honey-tinged color and with a nice balance between the fire essential to any good grappa and the mellow sweetness of the original grapes.

Georgian brandy and chacha are delights, even without the geopolitical benefits of buying them. But there's no denying that added bonus. Richard Holbrooke writes that "so far, Moscow has failed in its real goal -- getting rid of Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's pro-democracy, pro-American president." A former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Holbrooke has been a vigorous advocate for bolstering Georgia with aid to keep the country, and its government, from collapsing of economic asphyxiation. "If Mikheil Saakashvili survives," Mr. Holbrooke writes, "Vladimir Putin loses." Now that's something worth toasting -- where's that claret glass?

I don't believe that I've ever had Georgian brandy before. I have had Armenian brandy courtesy of my favorite Armenian economist and it was quite good. I will definitely be looking for some of the Georgian liquor soon. Does anyone know if it's available locally?


Monday, May 12, 2008
You And Me And The Bottle Makes Three

A couple of e-mails regarding my post on "bottlenomics."

Todd from Pennsylvania reminds us of the seasonality of Scotch:

Scotch is certainly a 'staple' in my house, even being assigned a cabinet top in the dining room, but I don't plan on buying any more anytime soon. Not because of the economy, we're doing fine--it's the the seasonal switch to gin. I'm off to the store later this AM to start stocking up on the staple of spring, summer and early fall, half gallons of Booths. I bet the scotch economy barometer will start to spike in late Sept., early October at the latest.

I too make somewhat of a seasonal transition from brown liquors to clear, but I also believe that two things that are always in season are good Scotch and a dry Martini.

Dan from Minnetonka waxes philosophically:

Read your post on scotch and the economy. The thought comes to mind. Drinking, while a necessity, does not have to be done to the level one would most enjoy. Both in quantity, and more importantly as we mature quality.

While there is some truth there, I would disagree on the quality angle. As you get older (and hopefully wiser) you naturally tend to drink less than in your days of misspent youth. But you should be drinking better. Much better.

Of course, when your drink of choice in college was a five-dollar liter of gut-rot vodka diluted with Sunny Delight, the bar has been set pretty low.


Thursday, May 01, 2008
Show Me The Bar

Bill from Maplewood e-mails with some important dates for the basement bar enthusiast:

Enjoy your website. You mentioned basement bars, if you are looking for some 1930s/40s/50s/60s beer and tavern related stuff to put on the walls, it might be worthwhile to check out any of these shows. (The best is the Guzzle and Twirl but it is not until October).

Sat. May 3--9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
North Star Chapter's and Heileman At Large Chapter's show at the former G. Heileman brewery in LaCrosse, next to the brewery's gift shop. A fun time for all! Contact Dave Wendl, 651-731-9573 for details.

Sat. May 17--9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
NSC's annual show in the parking lot of the great Summit Brewery. Located at 910 Montreal Circle. Contact Dave Wendl, 651-731-9573.

Fri-Sat June 6-7
NSC's and Hawkeye Chapter's annual funfest. Friday night room-to-room at the hotel, Saturday show at Eagle Point Park. Contact Dave Wendl, 651-731-9573

Fri-Sat July 11-12
NSC's and Nordlager Chapter's 3rd annual show at the grand and glorious and newly restored Northeaster Hotel, 115 St. Louis Avenue in Cloquet, MN. Can't miss this one. Contact Bert at 218-393-0657 or Dave, 651-731-9573

Sat. July 26
NSC's annual show at the former Cold Spring brewery in conjunction with Old Days town celebration. Contact Joe Wendl, 651-731-9573 for info.

Sat. Aug. 9
NSC's annual show in conjunction with Pure Water Days town celebration. Contact Dave Wendl, 651-731-9573 for info.

Maplewood, MN--NSC's GUZZLE 'N' TWIRL
Fri-Sat. Oct. 10-11
Our big annual show will be at Aldrich Arena and at the Holiday Inn Maplewood again this year. Stay tuned for further details or contact Dave Wendl at 651-731-9573.

I would be like a kid in a candy store at one of these shows.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Time to taste the fruits and let the juices drip down my chin

At Infinite Monkeys, David declares The Summer of Gin:

A few years ago, Monkey Ben declared the Summer of Rum. Out of sheer laziness, and inebriation, every summer since has been the summer of rum. And it's been lovely.

But now I'm declaring Summer 2008 the Summer of Gin. A gin primer and recipes to follow, no doubt with the same results as Ben's rum posts...

For Atomizer, every summer is the Summer of Gin. Along with the Fall of Gin, the Winter of Gin, the Spring...

Atomizer Sez: What?! Alcohol has seasons now??!! Nonsense, I declare!!!! Drink what you like when you like...period.


Saturday, April 12, 2008
No Garnish Required

In today's WSJ, the paper's noted mixologist Eric Felten reminds readers to Consider the Trimmings (sub req):

Garnish in cocktails is something of a mystery. After all, no one feels the need to dress a glass of Château Lafite Rothschild with stray crudités. And aside from the lime-in-one's-Corona affectation, beer is also free from the garniture imperative. But from the first days of cocktails, the mythology of the drink has involved frou-frou. One of the earliest (though no doubt apocryphal) tales of the invention of this distinctively American drink has a patriotic Revolutionary barmaid named Betty Flanagan plucking the tail-feathers from a Tory's prize roosters and using them to adorn drinks in her tavern -- thus the name "cock-tail."

Calling the use of a lime in bottle of Corona an affectation is a bit unfair. While it certainly is in some cases, there are serious beer drinkers (myself included) who believe that the lime is a noticeable flavor enhancer for Corona as well as number of other Mexican beers. I also enjoy adding a slice of lemon to the glass when quaffing a hefeweizen or other wheat beer, although I'm still agnostic on oranges in beer (popular with Blue Moon).

When the cocktail came into its own, in the mid-to-late 19th century, ornament was all the rage. Gilded Age drinks were often fancy things, luxuriously draped with boughs of mint and piled high with fruit. But such excesses were stripped away in the 1920s, when two forces intersected. The first was practical -- Prohibition made bartending a more utilitarian affair. The second was philosophical -- the style of the modern age called for streamlining.

Given those forces, it's a wonder that garnish didn't disappear altogether. I suspect it would have, long ago, if the odd bit of foliage didn't serve some fundamental purpose. Good garnish does accentuate the positives in a glass. But by the same token, bad ornamentation is the death of one's drink. Bar guru Dale DeGroff despairs of the long black, segmented plastic tray with the clear plastic lid that sits behind most bars, containing a room-temperature selection of wizened olives, shriveled lime wedges, and leathery lemon twists. "How many of my icy Martinis have been ruined by a heedless bartender skewering three huge heat-bombs of olives and thrusting them into my drink?" he laments.

A lament I well understand. I like my Martinis dry, chilled, and neat, meaning free of anything other than gin and a hint of vermouth. No olives, no way.

I used to work with a sales guy who liked to modify his gin and tonic orders by adding "NFL." In his parlance, the acronym meant "No F***ing Lime." I can handle a small lime corner in a G&T, but I've grown to dislike the large wedge that you often get at a bar. Besides displacing valuable glass space, the huge limes add too much flavor and water down the rich ginny goodness.

When it comes to garnishing your drinks, less is usually more.

Atomizer Sez:
The Elder is right, of course, but an exception must be made for Bloody Marys. This morning I had one with a pickle, an olive and a spicy beef stick. Now that's what I call breakfast.


Monday, February 18, 2008
A Real Political Party

Richard Brookhiser provides us with a glimpse of our political past to honor Presidents' Day at National Review Online:

George Washington's two elections to the presidency were nothing like the process, part-marathon, part-cage fight, we are seeing right now. All Washington had to do to get elected (unanimously) was not say that he would not serve. Washington's campaigns were the ultimate bare-bones operation--no pollsters, no fundraisers, no ad buys. Yet he was well-versed in the arts of politics even so.

Washington did have to campaign to win his first political office, a seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses, the lower, elective chamber of the colonial legislature. Until early in the 19th century, voting in many parts of America was a festive occasion. You went to the county seat and announced your choice in public; rival candidates plied voters and onlookers with drink (which was illegal, but universal).

Washington ran for the House of Burgesses in 1758 while still serving as a colonel in the militia. He could not be at the polling place on Election Day, but he delegated a friend, Lt. Charles Smith, to tend bar in his absence. We know from their correspondence what the Washington campaign served: 28 gallons of rum, 50 gallons of rum punch, 34 gallons of wine, 46 gallons of beer, two gallons of cider (probably hard), for a total of 160 gallons of booze. There were 397 voters. Washington won. If you?re not the candidate of Change, be the candidate of Have Another.

While those numbers sound impressive to begin with, they really catch your eye when your break them down. If each of the 397 voters drank an equal amount of all the booze offered they would have chugged:

* 9 oz of straight rum
* 16 oz of rum punch
* 11 oz of wine
* almost 15oz of beer
* a little less than an ounce of cider

That's for each and every voter too. I hope they voted first.

In our age of widespread cynicism and disillusionment with the political process, perhaps we could gin up more interest and participation if we gave voters a real incentive to show up. Kegs at the caucuses anyone? A little Pernod at the polling places? I can think of worse things than having a bump or two while filling out your ballot.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008
You're All Saints In Our Eyes

On behalf of all of the staff here at Fraters Libertas (especially Atomizer), we officially issue a belated and long overdue Thank You to the good people of Utah. We wouldn't be where we are (or aren't) now without you.


Monday, December 31, 2007
A Happy Medium

Just in time for New Year's Eve, Eric Felten offers some solid advice on cocktails to both drinkers and party hosts. It's from his column in Saturday's Journal on How to Get A Kick From Champagne (sub req):

No amount of sugar and bitters will redeem a lousy bottle of fizz: Use a cheap and nasty champagne, and you will have a cheap, nasty Champagne Cocktail. As in so many things, an Aristotelian mean between the extremes is the answer. Don't waste the best stuff by turning it into a mere ingredient; yet don't use as the backbone of a cocktail anything you wouldn't be willing to drink on its own. It is a principle broadly applicable in the science of liquid refreshment: It assures us palatable cocktails, and puts the lie to the hoary canard that mixed drinks are, by their nature, nothing but dishonest vehicles for delivering substandard liquor.

I can't stress how important those words of wisdom are people. Don't you dare--as a relative did at my Dad's retirement party a few years ago--ever mix Coke with a single malt Scotch. But don't think you're going to get off cheaply by mixing rot gut booze to hide its taste either. If you're going to bother to whip up a cocktail (or more importantly serve them to others), pony up an extra couple of bucks and invest in decent hooch. It doesn't have to be great, just good. Try the Felten Test (can you drink it on its own?) if you have any doubt.

The top shelf stuff stands on its own and should be consumed that way. When you're mixing cocktails, leave the bottom of the barrell swill to the college kids. You're an adult. You should be drinking (and serving) like one.


All I Want For Christmas... some good whisky. Santa has been thoughtful enough to leave top shelf selections of whisky in my stocking the past few years and I hope to make this a regular Christmas tradition for years to come (hint, hint).

This year's gift was rather unique. A Welsh (yes, Welsh) whisky called Penderyn. I believe it is the only single malt distilled in Wales and it has a very interesting impact on the taste buds. The Penderyn web site describes it thusly:

At premium strength (46% vol) Penderyn has an exceptionally balanced taste with an aroma of cream toffee and fleetingly of fresh new heather. Then, as the initial sensations fade, the finishing notes of tropical fruits, raisings and vanilla emerge strongly and are long lasting.

I don't know about the cream toffee, heather, and vanilla. All I know is that it tastes good. It's hard to go wrong with the gift of whisky.


Friday, December 07, 2007
Stillwater Crime Watch

News from the mean streets of Stillwater:

Shortly after 7 p.m., police received a report that someone had assaulted a Salvation Army bell ringer stationed outside the Walgreens store at 6061 Osgood Ave. According to a store manager, the 43-year-old St. Anthony man might have been drunk and fallen to the ground rather than assaulted.

I think its admirable for Atomizer to get involved with charitable activities during this Advent season. If he could only wait on the spiked eggnog until after his shift is over.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007
It's 11:30 Somewhere

10:18 am

JB: Ahh...time to crack the first beer of the day

Wife: It's only ten o'clock!

JB: I didn't say it was time for the first bourbon!

Wife: It's only ten o'clock!

JB: (opening beer, a Summit IPA) it's holiday

UPDATE: It's now 11:22 and I'm on to a Summit Pilsener. I love Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 19, 2007
Twenty-One Is The New Eighteen

A graph in a story in yesterday's Strib on the dangers of binge drinking on your twenty-first birthday and what people are trying to do to minimize the risks caught my eye:

Twenty-one-year-olds think they're invincible and they can do crazy things and get away with it," said Ed Ehlinger, director of the University of Minnesota's Boynton Health Service. "The 21st birthday is probably the riskiest time. More kids get in trouble on that day than any other day of their 21st year."They are now legal and there is a lot of pressure to celebrate this big event. They intellectually know that alcohol can kill you, but they don't internalize it and they do respond to the peer pressure."

We're talking twenty-one-year-olds, right? I can understand peer pressure and feeling invincible when you're eighteen, but shouldn't you have matured past most of that by the time you hit twenty-one? It wasn't that long ago when an average twenty-one year old might have already served a stint in the military, be married with a child (or one on the way), and be holding down a regular full-time job.

So what's changed? Perhaps part of it is the expectations we now set. When you make the drinking age twenty-one, you're sending a message that people can't be trusted with controlling their drinking until that age. You set the stage for abuse and misuse of alcohol up until that point (and after) and create an allure of the mystery of the forbidden fruit.

Instead of trying to come up with a largely arbitrary age (why twenty-one and not twenty or twenty-two?) when you let people drink legally, why not make it the same age that we legally consider people adults, eighteen? But instead of making it a milestone for being able to drink as much as you want, let's return it to an event that carries with it added responsibility along with its freedoms.

You're eighteen. It's time to grow up and act like an adult. It's time to be serious about your life. You can drink and have fun, but you'll be expected to drink like a adult.

Part of this would involve introducing alcohol at an earlier age in controlled settings. There's no reason a sixteen-year-old shouldn't be taught how to enjoy a glass of wine or beer with the family at dinner. Alcohol shouldn't be a taboo and drinking shouldn't be all about getting loaded and acting stupid. Kids should be taught both the positive side and the peril of drinking. The message shouldn't be all or nothing, that you're either a teetotaler or an alcoholic. The path of moderation is one that far too few Americans discover until well past the time they should have.

What we're doing now is clearly not working. You can further infantilize society by move the drinking age out again, you can prohibit people from drinking at midnight on their twenty-first birthday (as Minnesota does), and you can warn people all you want about the dangers of binge drinking. But until you change the culture of drinking in America and teach people how to drink responsibly before they reach adulthood, it's not going to make a difference.


A Drink Worthy Of Our Thanks

There is no disputing the fact that the Wall Street Journal's Eric Felten is a cocktail connoisseur (correction via Mitch). His weekly columns provide fascinating back stories on some of history's more famous concoctions as well as shedding a spotlight on deserving drinks from the past that have fallen by the wayside. He's also not afraid to defy convention by altering a drink's recipe (either by changing the mixing ratio or substituting ingredients) in the quest for a more perfect potable. For all this, he is to be commended.

But even the best come up short on occasion as this last Saturday's column by Felten did. In it (sub req), he noted the dearth of drinks associated with Thanksgiving and asked some of his main mixologists to come up with suggestions.

I challenged some first-rate mixologists to come up with a Thanksgiving Day drink inspired by that empty cask of Metheglin. The parameters were fairly simple: The drink should involve honey and at least a few of the spices that have been used in Metheglin over the centuries. Oh, and yes, it should appeal to the modern palate.

Perhaps the most ambitious entry came from Greg Lindgren, an owner of the San Francisco bar Rye. He proposed poaching quince in honey, water and mulling spices, and then using the warm fruity broth to flavor a glass of brandy. Very nice indeed -- if you succeed in finding fresh quince.

Kim Haasarud, who runs an L.A. cocktail consultancy called Liquid Architecture, came up with a terrific aperitif for those hours spent waiting for the turkey thermometer to pop, a drink that we'll call Metheglin Punch. Make a syrup by boiling, then simmering, a pot of honey, water, cranberries, orange peel, cloves, allspice, cinnamon and vanilla. Once it cools, add two ounces of this Metheglin syrup to six ounces of beer. Garnish with fresh cranberries and a slice of orange peel.

Wait until after dinner to enjoy the elegant drink designed by Gina Chersevani of Washington's Rasika restaurant. She devised a honey syrup spiced with cloves, cinnamon and whole cardamom seeds. Combine the syrup, while still warm, with gin and calvados, and garnish with thin slices of apple. Made, as it is, with strong waters, I think it's only appropriate that we name this drink after Samoset, the first American Indian to enjoy the Pilgrims' hospitality.

Okay, the honey part I'm down with as it does make a connection with the history of the day. The making a syrup part however is right out. I want to mix a cocktail, not spend hours slaving over a hot stove, not to mention messing around with various spices and fruits. Thanksgiving is a holiday of eating, drinking, and enjoying the company of family. A Thanksgiving cocktail should be icing on the cake, not a chore. It needs to easy to make and enjoy.

Therefore, I'm issuing a challenge to our readers, JB Doubtless, and other would-be mixologists out there. Come up with an original Thanksgiving cocktail that tickles the taste buds without taxing the work ethic. Bonus points for including honey, but that's not a requirement. Since it does have to have a Thanksgiving angle, it should include American spirits. A catchy name is also helpful.

Submit your entries by Wednesday afternoon and we'll post the best one in time for Turkey Day. Experiment early, experiment often.


Saturday, November 10, 2007
Toast To The Troops

Eric Felten comes up with the perfect drink (of course) for Veterans Day in today's Wall Street Journal (sub req):

Of all the world's armies, the American army gets the best equipment," wrote GI cartoonist Bill Mauldin in 1945. "But we missed the boat on one thing. Every other army gets a liquor ration."

Mauldin was part of the otherwise well-equipped amphibious landing on the Italian coast at Anzio in January 1944. The assault caught the Germans by surprise, and the troops might well have charged deep into the Italian countryside. But the timid general in charge hunkered down on the beachhead instead, much to Winston Churchill's dismay: "I had hoped that we were hurling a wildcat onto the shore, but all we had got was a stranded whale."

Pinned down along a broad stretch of coast for months, the American troops "were fixing up their own distilleries with barrels of dug-up vino, gasoline cans, and copper tubing from wrecked airplanes," Mauldin recalled in his memoir "Up Front." The result was a rough approximation of grappa. "The doggies called it 'Kickapoo Joy Juice,' " named after the fierce moonshine in the "Li'l Abner" comic. "It wasn't bad stuff when you cut it with canned grapefruit juice."

The grappa-grapefruit combination is not something I would have come up with on my own. But if you use some decent, professionally made grappa, the drink is downright tasty and a good way to toast America's veterans this weekend.

Felten suggests a mix of two parts grapefruit juice to one part grappa. Cheers!


Monday, October 01, 2007
Drink Guinness for a healthy baby and painless birth

Frank Kelly Rich has the back stories on the Ten Greatest Alcohol Icons Of All Time at the Modern Drunkard Magazine Online:

The Hamm's Bear
Perhaps a Little Too Happy?
The joyous bear haunting baby-boomers dreams was conspired by Ojibwa Indian Patrick DesJarlait in 1952. Though his name was never revealed on air, around the brewery he was called Sascha, after the brewery founder's wife. Which must have thrilled her no end--what woman wouldn't want to be the namesake of an obese male bear?

Being saddled with a chick name didn't seem to bother Sascha much. He spent most of his time dancing and getting into weird adventures with the other animals of the forest, to the point one wonders if there was something other than fish in the "Sky Blue Waters."

The wildly-popular commercials employed plot devices ranging from good old-fashioned fun like pie fights and log rolling to more risque activities, such as train robbery, gunplay, arson, and gleeful wolf-abuse. The spots would saturate the airwaves for over 30 years, which is especially impressive when you consider Spuds MacKenzie lasted less than three.

Read all ten.


Friday, September 28, 2007
And Wiser?

Earlier today, I was reminiscing on some of my misspent days at college. You appreciate just how far past those days really are when realize that when you think about having a depth charge these days it has nothing to do with beer.


Monday, September 24, 2007
You Are What Your Drink?

Far be it for me to question the masculinity of Vox Day. I leave such waving a red flag at a bull type matters to Atomizer. However, I will say that this post does raise some troubling questions.

As the Modern Drunkard reminds us:

20. Drink one girly drink in public and you will forever be known as the guy who drinks girly drinks.

Do you really want to be that guy?

Atomizer Waves The Red Flag:

I installed two way mirrors in Vox Day's pad in Brentwood, and he'd come to the door in a dress.

I'm not saying anything, I'm just saying...


Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Social Glue

Kurt e-mails:

Barbara Holland would be a great guest in your radio show.


She'll Drink to That

She's a wisp of a woman with short white hair and a face that's weather-beaten enough to be called craggy. She has just published her 15th book. It's called "The Joy of Drinking" and, as the title suggests, it's a lighthearted history of humanity's long romance with strong liquids.

Booze, she writes, is "the social glue of the human race." As soon as humans stopped wandering around looking for berries and settled down to raise crops, they started creating wine and beer and, not coincidently, civilization.

"Probably in the beginning, we could explain ourselves to our close family members with grunts, muttered syllables, gestures, slaps and punches," she writes. "Then, when the neighbors started dropping in to help harvest, stomp, stir and drink the bounty of the land, after we'd softened our natural suspicious hostility with a few stiff ones, we had to think up some more nuanced communication, like words. From there, it was a short step to grammar, civil law, religion, history and 'The Whiffenpoof Song.'"


Sunday, September 02, 2007
The One To Have When You're Having A Liter

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Eric Felten wrote on the difficulties that vodka makers are having trying to dfferentiate their brands (since they all pretty taste the same) and brought up a blast from the past (sub req):

For vodka sellers, these are the best of times, in that sales of high-priced vodkas continue to grow. And they are the worst, too, in that just about anyone can -- and is -- getting into the vodka marketing game. "Go into a liquor store or a bar, and there are 20 vodkas on the shelf," says Vic Morrison, marketing veep at McCormick Distilling. The challenge is to come up with some clever gimmick to set one's vodka apart.

The salesman who thinks he can crack the market with claims of superior taste will be sorely disappointed: I went to a vodka tasting hosted by the head of a prominent luxury liquor house. It was an exercise meant to dispel the notion that the differences among vodkas are illusory. But after being walked through the vodkas on the table with elaborate descriptions of the characteristics of each, I found myself hard-pressed to discern much difference. So I asked the executive to demonstrate the differences by tasting the vodkas blind. He couldn't even identify his own flagship brand.

McCormick Vodka is now in the high-end game? When I was in college, McKormick was our rot-gut vodka of choice along with the likes of Kamchatka, Siberian Ice, Popov and other bargain basement brands that had Russian sounding names despite being distilled in Cold Spring, MN.

McCormick used to run $4.99 for a liter and when dilluted with a little Sunny Delight was a cheap, effective way to get mind-numbingly drunk (and suffer some of the worst hangovers imaginable the next day). We even had an anole lizard that we named after our favorite vodka. He was a great pet, whose life was tragically cut short after a close encounter with a sparkler. RIP McCormick.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The Two Sweetest Words In The English Language

Front page story in today's Wall Street Journal on how people are profiting from Beer Pong (sub req). That's right, a FRONT PAGE story on beer pong:

Rules vary by region and campus, but beer pong -- a game some call "Beirut" -- typically is played on a 6- to 8-foot-long table where partly filled cups of beer are arranged in triangles of six or 10 at each end. Two-person teams take turns trying to toss a ping-pong ball into one of their opponents' cups. When a ball lands in the suds, the opponents must chug the beer and remove the cup. The first team to eliminate all of the other team's cups is the winner.

The game has been gaining fans on campus for more than a decade. But only in the past few years have entrepreneurs begun zeroing in on devotees who spend freely on beer, cups, balls and tournaments. The market appears to be expanding as beer-pong fans go on playing the game after they get out of college.

Oh to be young and stupid again. As usual, the scolds are out in force to try to ruin the fun:

This week, Georgetown University joined at least a dozen colleges in banning alcohol paraphernalia, specifically including beer-pong tables. Henry Wechsler, director of College Alcohol Studies at the Harvard School of Public Health, says beer pong and other drinking games contribute to excessive drinking associated with drunk driving, sexual assault and other social problems.

Yeah, ban the beer-pong tables. That will stop the kids from binge drinking.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Mash Note

Tom e-mails on my post on orphan booze brands:

In a previous position with the company I work for, I spent some time visiting various distilleries in the Commonwealth of Kentucky (among many other things, our company makes components for bottling, packaging and conveying machinery). Before thinking that a visit to a distillery must be heaven on earth, I have to tell you that the average distillery smells like a fraternity house basement on the Sunday morning after the football team upsets the schools biggest rival (or after the Fraters annual meeting?).

The mashing process is particularly odiferous and the stale alcohol spilled on the floor is well, I hope you get the picture. Anyway, one of the things I found interesting are the number of different brands the average distillery bottles. Many are brands that I've never seen in a liquor store and my contacts at the time said that many were brands distributed overseas. In some cases the booze was top shelf stuff that was bottled under a different brand name for reasons that weren't explained adequately to "move the goods".

At one time I had a little bit of knowledge about what brands were top shelf but bottled under a different brand, but all the testing to see if it was the truth has effected my memory. I understand that Maker's Mark was a brand that had fallen on hard times until the son or grandson of some wheel in the world of Bourbon whisky bought the rights to the name and started making it again like the Sheep Dip brand discussed in your post. Anyway, just as their are tours of wineries in Napa, there are also tours of the distilleries - complete with free tastings throughout the Bourbon country of central KY. I don't know what kind of experience that might offer, but I would certainly recommend a designated driver.


Saturday, August 11, 2007
No Booze Left Behind

Following on the heels of Atomizer's post on unwanted whiskey, Eric Felten looks at orphan booze brands in today's Wall Street Journal (sub req):

Sheep Dip is a classic example of an "orphan brand." Originally made just for the Anchor Inn, a pub in Gloucestershire (where the local rustics' slang for whisky is "sheep dip"), the Scotch grew into a nationally distributed brand. Sheep Dip was successful enough to catch the attention of a major producer, Invergordon, which took over the brand in the early '90s. But soon Invergordon was swallowed by Whyte & Mackay, which was part of what is now called Fortune Brands -- home of Jim Beam, Courvoisier, Sauza tequila (and Titleist golf balls and Moen faucets for that matter). Sheep Dip wasn't even a rounding error for its corporate parent, which eventually let the whisky drift into oblivion.

A former marketing director for Glenmorangie single malt, Alex Nicol, spotted the opportunity in the defunct brand. For the big conglomerates, Sheep Dip "wasn't worth getting out of bed," he says. But for a small start-up like the Spencerfield Spirit Company he was setting up, the whisky came with a built-in base of customers -- a base perplexed at the brand's disappearance and eager for its return. Two years ago, Mr. Nicol made a deal for the rights to the brand and set about reviving it.

Sheep Dip always had two chief sources of appeal. The first was that it was very good whisky, a vatted-malt blend made exclusively from single malts, without any of the generic grain whisky that goes into most Scotch blends. But perhaps more important was the off-beat branding -- decidedly unslick and antipretentious. A brand like Sheep Dip short-circuits the one-upmanship of connoisseurism, declaring that whisky is something simply to be enjoyed. Or, as Mr. Nicol puts it, a dram should be about "having fun, not taking yourself so bloody serious." Mr. Nicol turned to well-regarded whisky blender Richard Paterson to re-create and upgrade the old Sheep Dip mix of single malt whiskies. Comparing my recently acquired vintage bottle with the new stuff, I found that Sheep Dip 2.0 is true to the original, but more polished, with admirable depth and complexity.

Mmmm...Sheep Dip. Seriously though, I've seen Sheep Dip in stores, but never had it pass my lips. Now, I must give it a go.

Orphan brands can be mined for their residual value, or they can be revived in earnest, which is what happened with Plymouth gin, a storied brand fallen on hard times. Some early Martini recipes specified Plymouth gin, and the classic 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book -- compiled from the recipes used at London's Savoy Hotel -- called for using Plymouth in several drinks. Among them is a terrific 1920s cocktail called the Charlie Lindbergh, made with Plymouth, Lillet, apricot-flavored brandy and orange bitters. And when it came to gin and bitters, Plymouth was the brand of preference for the British Navy's Pink Gins. In the years before World War II, Plymouth was selling a million cases a year, but by 1975, the brand was sadly diminished, producing only 5,000 cases. For two more decades the factory managed to limp along, tossed from conglomerate to conglomerate as the gin was cheapened and the brand degraded.

Come 1996, the lights were about to get turned off for good at the Plymouth distillery, when four investors bought the brand and the plant -- a 15th-century monastery outfitted with an 1855 pot still. They restored the distillery and the quality of the gin, which soon became a favorite with hard-core cocktail geeks looking for authentic products to put in classic drinks. Soon Plymouth was selling enough to attract the attention of the major players, and was bought a few years ago by Vin & Spirit, the Swedish government-owned distillers who make Absolut vodka. With their distribution muscle, Plymouth is now available in stores most everywhere, which comes in handy if you want to make a Martini according to the original specifications.

But be sure to try it soon, because you never know how long any brand will be with us. The Swedish parliament voted in June to sell Vin & Spirit, part of a free-market campaign to get out of the business of state-owned businesses. A bidding war for V&S is expected, with Absolut as the prize. Let's just hope that Plymouth isn't orphaned all over again.

There will always be a place for Plymouth in my home.


Friday, August 10, 2007
Sweetness From the Bleachner

This bit of utter stupidity comes my way via Eloise at Spitbull:

Getting rid of whiskey

Q I have some rare whiskey that's 45 years old. How can I get rid of it?

A You can always pour it down the drain, of course, but consider passing it on. If you want to give it away, try listing it on a website such as (xxx) or (xxx). You can try selling it online at (xxx) or by auction at (xxx). Or, take out a want ad.

Be aware that the bottle itself may be valuable. Contact an antique dealer or bottle collectors organization. The Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors operates a website that lists such organizations by state.

(hyperlinks removed to protect the innocent)

I don't know what is more disturbing...the very idea that someone out there has no clue what to do with a bottle of rare whiskey, the horrific idea of pouring perfectly good booze down the drain or the ridiculous concept that a whiskey bottle may be more valuable than the contents held within.

Blogging will be light as I try to wrap my mind around this one.


Sunday, August 05, 2007
Lordy, Lordy, Look Who's Forty!

Last night, a crowd of family and friends surprised Atomizer as he walked into the Little Wagon bar in Minneapolis. His initial fears of an intervention quickly dissipated as people shouted "Happy Birthday!" and broke into song. Yes, our own Atomizer--defying most medical experts--has hit the big Four Oh. You've come a long way from the corn fields of Iowa baby.

If you're looking for a different joint to haunt in downtown Minneapolis, you should give the Little Wagon (420 4th Street) a ride. It's got a great classic bar and is part of the burgeoning Keegan's empire of establishments, joining the namesake Keegan's Irish Pub on University and Hennepin in Nordeast Minneapolis.

Atomizer Sez: I choose to look at last night's festivities as the celebration of the 11th anniversary of my 29th birthday. It takes some of the sting away from having to look at that big ugly 4 right next to the zero on my cake...which I never got to taste, by the way, you pigs.

Seriously, thanks to all who came out. It's quite an experience to face a roomful of family and friends who have gathered for the sole purpose of celebrating your birth. It's also quite gratifying to haul home all of the bottles of liquor they purchased for me so I can do the same. What gave you all the idea that I was a booze hound anyway?


Monday, July 30, 2007
Hanging With The Boys

We are glad to report that Saint Paul's bachelor party did not go awry this past Saturday night, although one invitee did learn the downside of being fashionably late. A variety of beers, top shelf Irish whiskeys, and tequilas were consumed. Food was grilled. Baseball was watched, dissected, and endlessly debated. Bars were hit. No one was arrested. A good time was had by all.

More importantly, we learned that Atomizer can do a killer Frank Pentangeli impersonation. It was as funny the next morning at breakfast as it was in the drunken haze of 4am which shows it has some real staying power.

The only slight buzz kill of the entire evening was The Nihilist in Golf Pants whining about going to a karaoke bar so he could debut the new song that's he's been working on. Fortunately for all involved, more sober minds prevailed and the integrity of the event was maintained.


Thursday, July 26, 2007
All the things that make life worth living for!

Canadian boys will be boys:

Lets just say in Lutsen, Minn., pop. 1,200, they will not soon forget the day a Hurricane blew into town to party with a Penguin and a bunch of wild Canucks.

"Our jail had never been full before," laughs Darcy Ziller of the Cook County Sheriff's office in nearby Grand Marais.

But a bachelor party Friday for Carolina Hurricanes star Eric Staal, 22, in the resort town on Lake Superior, changed all that and landed the superstar a night in the slammer with nine of his friends and relatives.

"We would have kept them all in for the night if we had room," Ziller said.

They considered putting Penguins rookie sensation Jordan Staal, 18, and three others in the women's cells but "since there was a woman in there," they decided to release him instead.

Needless to say the brothers, hockey royalty from Thunder Bay, will take some good-hearted ribbing at training camp this fall.

And perhaps even at the older Staal's wedding next Friday in the Lakehead.

It all started out innocently enough...

It always does. a day of golf and an evening of partying at the posh Lutsen Resort and Sea Villas on Lake Superior. But as the sun fell and the beer flowed, things became a little rowdier amongst the 20 young men in attendance.

"It was a bunch of Canadian boys going wild," an employee at the resort, two hours south of Thunder Bay, joked last night. "It was a bachelor party that went awry."

It's been my experience that every truly memorable bachelor party goes awry at some point.

Police reports were not as humorous - stating the men were "warned multiple times to be quiet or they may be removed from the property, issued citations, arrested, and/or deported from the country."

This young man has had a very trying rookie season, what with the litigation, the notoriety, his subsequent deportation to Canada and that country's refusal to accept him.

That was at 12:30 a.m.

At 3 a.m., according to a police press release, "staff at Lutsen Resort and Sea Villas ordered the group to leave the property, as they were not obeying the warnings. Cook County Sheriff Deputies, a Minnesota State Patrol Trooper, and a U.S. Border Patrol agent assisted with the removal of the suspects."

At 4 a.m., "after leaving the property, the group gathered on Highway 61 and began harassing passing motorists," the release alleges. "The suspects were placed under arrest for disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process. Some of the suspects fled into the nearby woods."

Dude, it's cops! Run! How many of us can honestly say that we haven't been there and done that? Multiple times.

When daylight came, the arrested men were no longer disorderly and in fact quiet and co-operative.

It's amazing how waking up in jail in a foreign country with a killer hangover will do that to you.

If you happen to read reports of similar shenanigans this weekend in the Washington County, rest assured that none of the crack staff here at Fraters Libertas would ever stoop to participate in such unseemly activity. Besides, you can't get kicked out of Stillwater, can ya?


Monday, July 09, 2007
Ginning It Up?

Tom e-mails with an idea:

Is it time for Atomizer to raid the petty cash drawer at Fraters Worldwide and rate brands of Gin the way you have rated beer? My local muni claimed that Plymouth would favorably compare to Bombay Sapphire. Having read that Bombay Sapphire was Atomizer's brand of choice, I decided to pick up a bottle. I can't tell you if it compares as I've never had Bombay Sapphire. I like the Plymouth in a Martini, but still prefer Tanqueray for a G&T. I'm not certain what that reveals about me, I just find that a Tanqueray G&T quenches my thirst for G&T better than the Bombay. Considering that an Atomizer post is about as rare as Kate Parry posting on a Star Tribune error in her Sunday column, I won't hold my breath waiting for this to happen.

Not bad. Even better might be a Martini Tasting Night With Atomizer to sample the various top shelf gins with a true expert. If only we knew someone who owned a bar or liquor store to host such an event...

Atomizer Sez:


Your commentary is absolutely spot on with regard to Tanqueray. The finest gin and tonic known to man includes a healthy tilt from the iconic green bottle into a highball glass filled with ice coupled with a cool splash of your favorite tonic. A hearty wedge of lime is the crowning touch. Just make sure to give that lime a good squeeze before plopping it into the mix and you've got the king of all cocktails.

Beefeater will suffice for a gin and tonic when you're in a pinch but, and I cannot stress this enough, under no circumstance should you use Bombay Sapphire for a mixed drink. It is a martini gin...period. Pour a splash into your glass, say a quick prayer for the vermouth then enjoy and repeat as necessary.

As for "Martini Tasting Night With Atomizer", I'm here...where are you?


No love for Hendricks? That stuff is dee-lishus!

And Atomizer, I agree that Bombay is not to be used as a G&T gin. Although filling a water glass with ice and then adding gin aint exactly a "martini" either!

What are your thoughts on "Tanqueray 10?"

Atomizer Sez:

Who said anything about ice?


Friday, May 18, 2007
Praise The Lord And Pass The Bottle

At the evangelical outpost, Joe Carter asks What Would Jesus Drink?:

The "weaker brother" argument is often used as a justification for self-imposed (and institutionally mandated) teetotalism. And for good reason. It is scriptural admonition that must be prayerfully considered in regards to an issue like this in which personal conduct can have an impact on others. I myself am sympathetic to that argument and truly wish that I could be convinced that it provided the definitive answer. But no matter how much I want to accept that line of reasoning, I'm stymied by the obvious question: Why did Jesus not refrain from drinking alcohol if it is an obvious "stumbling block" to our "weaker brothers"?

There is no disputing the fact that alcohol abuse is, as my SBC brethren point out, the cause of much "physical, mental, and emotional damage." No doubt that was as true in 1st century Palestine as it is in 21st century America. So why didn?t Jesus say that we should avoid alcohol? If nothing else, why did he not refrain from drinking alcohol himself in order to set an example?

These types of questions have important implications that go far beyond the concerns about drinking beer or wine. Where does Christian liberty end and institutional authority over matters of conscience begin? Obviously there are times when we need to delineate such boundaries. But we should be cautious about where we mark those lines -- especially when they would put Jesus on the wrong side.

Thank God I'm Catholic and therefore untroubled by such questions.


Sunday, April 08, 2007
Nunc Est Bibendum!

After being Duffless for all of Lent, I'm tempted to say:

"Marge, I'm going to Moe's. Send the kids to the neighbors, I'm
coming back loaded."

But it's probably best to ease my way back off the wagon. Or is it on the wagon?

Anyway, cheers and Happy Easter!


Monday, January 15, 2007
Spirits That Americans Shouldn't Do

Reading Eric Felten's piece on The Malts of America in Saturday's Wall Street Journal, I was left with one question:

Vodka is fast, but whiskey takes time -- and, as old Ben once sagely observed, time is money. The biggest challenge for the small craft distillers tackling whiskey may not be in making a drinkable spirit, but in finding the cash needed to keep it in barrels for the years it takes to mature.

"I remember sitting down with my wife and saying, 'We'll spend $60- or $70,000 and after 10 years we might start getting some of it back,'" says Richard Pelletier, who owns the Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton, Mass. "At least the kids are young," he joked with his wife, "so at the very least, years from now we can have an open bar at their weddings." The first barrels of Nashoba single-malt whiskey were distilled in 2001 and are still aging. Mr. Pelletier keeps the oldest barrel in his living room, where he can easily steal tastes and keep tabs on its progress.

Nantucket Spirits, which has been sailing along with sales of its Triple Eight Vodka, also has a Scotch-style single malt in dunnage. Called "Notch" (for "Not Scotch"), the whiskey was first distilled in 2000 and may finally get released later this year. Nantucket Spirits financed its whiskey experiment by selling cask futures -- a cash-flow technique that Scottish start-ups have been using as well. New American single-malt whiskeys are also in the works at Oregon's House Spirits and Ohio's Woodstone Creek Spirits.

Why? Why American Scotch? Are there not more than enough fine Scotches coming out of Scotland already? Doesn't America already have its own proud and distinct whiskey tradition?

Every region, nee every community should have breweries that produce unique beers with a touch of local flavor. And the expansion of wine-making to new areas of the globe in recent years should be celebrated. But when it comes to spirits, especially spirits so tied to a country such as Scotch, it would be better to leave good enough alone.

Leave the Tequila-making to Mexico. Leave the gin to the Brits. The cognac to the French (and Armenians). Most of all, leave the Scotch to the Scots.


Saturday, December 30, 2006
'Tis The Season

A couple of my favorite Holiday Hints For Hooch Heads:

--Gift Tips
Whenever you open a non-liquor gift, loudly proclaim, "Oh, great, how the f*** am I supposed to drink this?" They'll know what to get you next year.

--Family Gatherings
Don't freak out if it's your turn bring the Christmas Turkey to a family gathering.
Just make sure you buy the one-liter family-sized bottle so there's enough to go around.

Check out the entire list that the Modern Drunkard has put together.

Atomizer sez: I like this one:
If you receive three cocktail shakers every Christmas, you are a drunkard.
If you receive ten, get ready for an intervention.
I received twenty four.


Sunday, December 03, 2006
Oh The Weather Outside Is Frightful

But inside my bar refrigerator, it's so delightful:

Summit Winter Ale

Red Hook Winter Hook

Rogue Santa's Private Reserve

Boulevard Brewing Nutcracker Ale

Throw in a bottle of Dalwhinnie 15 year-old Single Malt Scotch and I say, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006
The Drunk In My Past

I have officially forgotten how to sleep. Since I awoke Sunday morning, I have lain in bed or on the couch for nearly twenty hours. By my estimate, no more than four of those hours were actually spent sleeping. My head is pounding, my back constantly aches, my throat feels like it has been sliced by rusty razors, I have no voice at all and my soul hurts.

Now, it could be the dramatic change of seasons we experience here in Minnesota that is affecting me so adversely. A few short weeks ago it was 80 degrees and sunny. It has now been 50 degrees and raining for several days. Brutal.

It could also be the emotional letdown after my Minnesota Twins were dispatched from World Series contention with incredible haste by a team that, as it turns out, had even less collective ability to hit a baseball. Unbearable.

Or...I suppose it could possibly be the activities of this past weekend that have me in such a funk. Late this past Sunday I returned from a weekend trip to parts east of Virginia, Minnesota. It's a semiannual jaunt up north for a couple days of poker and male camaraderie with a few close friends of mine. I like to call it the "The Semiannual See How Much Five Grown Men Can Drink In A Drafty Log Cabin Up North With Two Stinky Dogs And A Freezer Full Of Pizza and Bacon Without Widowing Their Wives Extravaganza" (I know, the title is a bit lengthy...but it is descriptive).

This celebration is usually followed by a weeklong period of decompression and detoxification which I like to call "Hell Week". This begins when the alarm clock rings the following Monday morning, as it did yesterday, wrapping up 8 glorious hours of tossing, turning and profuse amounts of sweat.

So the detoxification has begun. Actually, it began retroactive to Sunday afternoon when I had my last gin and tonic...but it will continue for a full week after that. Unless, of course, someone were to offer me a drink. It would be rude of me to turn such a gracious offer down and, frankly, nobody likes a rude drunk.

I must also have wine with my dinner. A meal without wine is like, well, breakfast...unless Bloody Marys are being served. Then it's not like breakfast at all. In fact, breakfast isn't even like breakfast without Bloody Marys, and my doctor told me I need to eat breakfast every morning. So that's settled.

Then there's Thursday Trivia at Keegan's where at least two pints of Guinness shall be required. Oh, and I can't forget happy hour on Friday, game one of the World Series on Saturday and the NFL on Sunday afternoon.

There it is in black and white then, my detoxification plan. Bloody Marys at breakfast, wine at dinner with Guinness on Thursday night followed by a long happy hour on Friday and a weekend full of sporting events and beer. All of this is punctuated, of course, by knocking back whatever an acquaintance of mine may wish to buy me anytime in-between (strongly discouraged as I AM trying to recover here, people).

By the time I reach my target, 3:00 on Sunday afternoon, I shall be fully detoxified and ready to celebrate with a delicious Bombay Sapphire martini.

It's gonna be a rough week.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Make Tonight (Actually Tomorrow Night) A Wonderful Place

I had the good fortune of breezing through Fargo last week. Fargo? GOOD fortune? I know, it sounds nutty but bear with me.

First stop was the James Lileks Interpretive Center. While not as interesting or varied as the Mitch Berg Interpretive Center (I mean, how could it be?) in Jamestown, the interactive features were kind of cool. I was able to vacuum what looked exactly like Jasperwood's north solarium and I corrected a faux homework assignment for the Gnat.

But the real reason the trip to Fargo was so enjoyable was stopping at arguably the best liqour store in the world (it's a chain of three actually) Happy Harry's.

The choices of hootch simply boggle the mind. I spent 10 minutes alone admiring the bourbons--there must have been 25 varities--many of which I had not even been drunk on before. But the real score came when I discovered Shaker's vodka on sale for $18 a bottle.

If you've never had Shakers, do yourself a favor. It's made from humble Benson, Minnesota grains and is perhaps the smoothest and tastiest of any of the top shelfs out there. I was able to procure a bottle of rye vodka AND wheat. I'm not sure the difference but we'll soon find out. (My wife only allows me to drink heavily on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, so I have one more day...)

UPDATE--Atomizer Adds:

JB is clearly delusional. The only liquor store worth patronizing is Glen Lake Wine & Spirits in scenic Minnetonka, MN. It's the only booze purveyor that meets with my incredibly stringent standards.

That name again is Glen Lake Wine & Spirits. Stop by today...and tell them that Atomizer's liver sent you.


And your preference of this store has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that their lack of security has allowed you to five-finger-discount your way to drunken bliss on more than one occasion now does it?

Sorry I had to rat you out on the internet like this, but I'm sure the proprietors were kind of wondering why you never seemed to buy anything and were at the store 3-4 times a week.


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