Category Archives: Drink & Eat

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A Limited Cocktail

When America jumped headfirst into the ocean of folly that was the Volstead Act and Prohibition, the dedicated drinkers of the United States found any number of ways to respond to the madness. Over in Paris, ex-patriots drinking at the epicenter of the modern cocktail scene, Harry’s New York Bar, lifted their glasses in salute to their luckless countrymen who were forced underground and, in some cases, out beyond the three-mile limit that marked the offshore end of the US border. Three miles out, you entered international waters, and the powers of the US government to take your drink away vanished. So enterprising imbibers took to the high seas to enjoy their libations. Over in France, it seemed only appropriate to commemorate this new breed of seafarin’ revelers.

And so Harry’s bartender Chips Brighton paid tribute to Prohibition in the most fitting way he could: by creating a cocktail called The Three-Mile Limit.

Three-Mile Limit

  • 1 tsp Grenadine
  • 1 dash lemon juice
  • 2/3 Brandy
  • 1/3 Bacardi Rum
  • Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

When the US government got tired of people hopping on boats and sailing three miles off the coast to legally booze it up, they responded by passing a law that extended the border to twelve miles off the coast — which, I guess, means determined nautical drinkers had to invest in slightly more gasoline, or you had to find yourself a slightly more accomplished captain. The cocktail world responded by beefing up the Three-Mile Limit in similar fashion, giving birth to both the Twelve Miles Out, which appeared in the essential Savoy Cocktail Book by legendary bartender Harry Craddock (who himself relocated to London during Prohibition), and the better known (relatively speaking) Twelve-Mile Limit, reportedly created by journalist Tommy Millard. Despite both saluting the limits of the reaches of Prohibition, the two drinks are fairly different:

Twelve Miles Out

  • 1/3 Bacardi Rum
  • 1/3 Swedish Punch
  • 1/3 Calvados
  • Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze orange peel on top.

Twelve-Mile Limit

  • 1 oz White Rum
  • 1/2 oz Rye
  • 1/2 oz Brandy
  • 1/2 oz Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 oz Grenadine
  • Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Where the agents of Prohibition pushed the limit by tacking on nine more miles (interestingly, that limit was only a threat — albeit an enforced one — until 1988, when Ronald Reagan made it official law), cocktail creators pushed the limit by adding rye whiskey to the mix. This being a Prohibition era cocktail, the rye would have been Canadian. However, I don’t think anyone will fault you for substituting a superior American rye these days, just as I don’t think anyone will tsk you for choosing a rum other than Bacardi. For your rye, try Sazerac Rye or Bulleit Rye.

In general, the Twelve-Mile Limit is considered the the stronger and better balanced of the cocktails, relatively speaking. I’ve tried the Twelve-Mile Limit as mixed by bartender Vince at Ward III. Prohibition era cocktails are not for everyone, mind you, and what’s one drinker’s pleasure is another’s horror. A friend with exquisite taste in cocktails found the Twelve-Mile Limit to be utterly dreadful. I love it, likely because the lemon juice pushes the flavor toward another personal favorite, the French 75. It is very lemony, though, and very sweet, so if you don’t favor drinking a highly alcoholic Lemonhead, you’re probably going to be chalking this one up to historical experience. I’d say any good Repeal Day celebration (December 5) calls for sampling both the Three- and Twelve-Mile Limits, and you might as well have yourself a Twelve Miles Out as well, just to be safe.

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A Drink Before Dying

It was a good plan for as long as it was working. You’d managed to sneak into the sprawling underground lair disguised as a member of an exotic dance troupe hired to entertain the madman’s private army. The dance number was opulent, and you managed to maneuver yourself close to your target while still maintaining the beat on your tabla. But then his right hand man remembered you from a grainy photo handed over by a traitor somewhere in the ranks of Interpol. Suddenly you find yourself tied down in front of the villain in his egg-shaped plastic chair. He’s going to kill you. An alligator pit perhaps, or some sort of slow moving laser so he can savor your demise. But first, he will do two things: explain his entire nefarious scheme for world domination, and offer you a last drink. That drink will almost certainly be a blended scotch whisky.

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Bottled in Bond

‘When I’m… er… concentrating,’ he explained, ‘I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad.” – Bond. James Bond.

To call James Bond a thinly veiled wish-fulfillment stand-in for author Ian Fleming is to make the hilarious presumption that there’s any veiling at all. The Bond of the novels was basically a walking, talking catalog of everything that happened to interest and delight Fleming at the time he happened to be writing that particular novel (the movie Bond, on the other hand, was modeled somewhat more closely after British director Terence Young). Whether it was a drink, a meal, or “Pinaud Elixir, that prince among shampoos,” just about everything that fills James Bond’s universe was ported over wholesale from his creator’s life. And as anyone familiar with the books or the movies knows, alcohol occupies an important — more likely the most important — place in Bond’s life. Not to mention my own. And perhaps yours as well.

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Bagpiper From Bombay

Dev was secured to the rotating chair and flanked on either side by bald goons wearing a tight t-shirt and flamboyantly colored scarf. The man standing behind the vast desk was wearing a silver Nehru jacket accented with ribbons and golden cords of a vaguely military style. Behind the desk was a Plexiglass window looking out into the deep blue of an aquarium filled with sharks, and on the desk was the oval shaped viewscreen the fiend sometimes used to randomly call up and taunt officials in Mumbai. Dev’s own lime green shirt with a playfully clashing tie that seemed to contain more colors than exist in the known universe was a splash of sharp contrast amid the austere modern decor of the room. The man behind the desk smiled at his captive.

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Sinning in Sydney

After more hours than I want to count neatly folded into the capsules that comprise coach service on most major American air carriers; after finishing two Jim Butcher “Dresden Files” novels; after Justice League: Doom and Nameless Gangster; after all that, I stepped into Sydney, Australia with only a single thought in my mind: I needed a drink. Or two. Luckily, Sydney is a drinker’s paradise, overflowing with dens of indulgence that run the gamut from historic pubs to modern cocktail bars with an eye focused on the American speakeasy. With an absurdly mild definition of winter greeting me, I knew I was in for a proper drinking adventure. While almost everything in Australia costs twice as much as it does in New York, the odd exception is the alcohol (purchased in bars that is). Australia’s best drams of whiskey are poured for you at more or less the same price you would pay in a whiskey bar in the United States. Cocktails are comparable in price (but not always quality) to what you’d pay at any one of the many speakeasy-revival style bars in the States. And beer prices hover at about the same level as you’d pay for a pint of quality American micro-brew. So with those amazingly indestructible and colorful Australian dollars in hand, and after a brief stop at the hotel to freshen myself a bit, I was off.

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London’s Historic Pints & Pubs

Some time ago, I jetted off to London to spend a few days with a companion exploring the rich history and richer beer of that fine English town. Normally, when I travel I leave it up to myself to plot an itinerary and seek out the spots I want to visit. But in London, we had naught but a couple days and plenty of history to cover, so we signed up for one of those guided theme tours that sounded like it would appeal to me: Sinister London.

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My Dinner with Clyde

I don’t usually go to celebrity restaurants. Unfair though it may be, I associate them with average food, higher prices, and a willingness to coast on the name of a disinterested star who was willing to slap their name onto the outside of the establishment. I’m in New York after all, and why would I sit with the tourists at Mickey Mantle’s or Don Schula’s or Michael Jordan’s when I just go to Keens and get an infinitely better meal for around the same price — and sit next to Teddy Roosevelt’s pipe to boot? However, I’m nothing if not a sucker for something marketed seemingly directly at me, so when legendary Knicks court general Walt “Clyde” Frazier appended his name to a Hell’s Kitchen eatery, my interest was piqued — first because I love Clyde, and second because it wasn’t a steakhouse.

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White Devil

In the past couple months, two of the whiskey world’s heaviest hitters — Jack Daniels and Jim Beam — have released “white whiskey” products in an attempt to (somewhat belatedly) jump on a perceived white whiskey trend. Most spirits writers have reacted to these releases with a resigned sigh and a rolling of the eyes. I’m hard pressed to come up with a more appropriate reaction. I don’t fault a company crass marketing ploys — Steampunk Cider is a pretty crass attempt to appeal to steampunk nerds like me, and I bought two bottles without having ever tasted it because, you know, <em>steampunk</em>. Luckily, it was fantastic, but the point is companies do marketing, and that’s A-OK with me. Sometimes though the marketing crosses a personally drawn line and really gets on my nerves (stop telling me you’re a distillery when you are just buying barrels from other distilleries and bottling them). Beam and Daniels have managed to poke a spot on me that was already sore as I am not the biggest fan of white whiskey, be it unaged white dog or simply filtered to be colorless. I also think this bandwagon onto which Jack and Jim are adding their weight is pretty rickety already, if it exists at all.

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Urban Bourbon: Stitzel-Weller

“We make fine bourbon. At a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always fine bourbon.” – Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle

The intersection of Dixie Highway and Ralph Avenue (Ralph Street on some maps) marks more or less the southern boundary of Shively’s former bourbon district, and so it makes as proper a place as any to begin your tour. Assuming you are heading north toward downtown Louisville, when you approach the intersection, on the corner to your right you will see what remains of the old Four Roses distillery: a group of brick warehouses, now sitting on the property of Louisville Cartage Trucking. Note it for later in this series, but for this part of the tour we’re taking a left onto Ralph Avenue and heading just a little ways down to then make a right onto Fitzgerald Road. Be careful, because it’s easy to miss. The street intersects some train tracks at an odd diagonal that can make it look like you are actually turning onto the railway. It all becomes clear once you commit though, and immediately on your left you will see the imposing warehouses of the legendary Stitzel-Weller distillery.

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