Over on Alcohol Professor, I write about visiting Virginia’s A. Smith Bowman whiskey distillery and meeting their master distiller, Truman Cox.
February 21’s Good Spirits represents the second Edible magazine event I’ve had the chance to attend, the fourth time they’e done this particular event, and for my money they put on one of the best and best-organized food and drink events in the city. This year’s event was held at 82 Mercer, and only twice in my preparation did I pause and stupidly ask myself what their address was. It’s a nice space with two cavernous rooms which, for this event, were lined with tables staffed by some of New York’s most interesting food, spirits, and cocktail makers. It’s almost overwhelming the amount of food and drink available for the sampling, but Edible organizes their events in such a way that, even with a large crowd and a lot of vendors, it’s easy to both gauge what you want and actually get to it. A lot of food and drink events are circus disasters, oversold, jammed too full of attendees, and impossible to move around during. Not so here. I know talking about crowd control and logistics isn’t terribly exciting, but when you’ve been to enough events that don’t have these things down, you suddenly realize how important it is and how much more enjoyable it makes an event.
Like many of the country’s big city’s New York was once a mecca for mid-century exotica, tiki bars, and places conceived entirely on the impressions of far away lands one could get from the album covers of Martin Denny or Alfred Lyman. Almost all of it is gone, though a few places still pay homage to American fantasies about Polynesia and the mysterious East. Nestled in a nondescript strip mall in Staten Island is New York City’s last remaining vestige of authentic tiki culture. Tiki establishments usually came in one of two flavors: the Trader Vic’s style cocktail lounge or the gussied up Chinese restaurant. Jade Island Restaurant, as you might guess from the name, is among the latter.
In November, I had a chance to visit San Diego for the first time. As befits a man of my tastes, the trip was built entirely around fancy places to eat and drink. San Diego offers a surprising number of options, both in the trendy, touristy downtown “Gaslamp” quarter, as well as in the surrounding suburbs and towns. With only a few days, I was hardly able to map any sort of definitive guide, and there were many stones left unturned. However, your pals at Teleport City — with an assist from accomplice Monster Island Resort — managed to hit enough bars and restaurants to make it worth jotting down on the off chance that you, too, one day find yourself in San Diego and long to follow in our footsteps. I was sans vehicle for most of the time and staying downtown, so most of my choices were driven by proximity as much as they were by recommendation. But either way, it worked out pretty well. As always, Greenie McGee of Greenie Travels fame was our regular partner in crime and is responsible for most of the pictures in this write-up.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.