Martini Quotes

"I'm not talking a cup of cheap gin splashed over an ice cube.

I'm talking satin, fire and ice; Fred Astaire in a glass; surgical cleanliness, insight.. comfort; redemption and absolution. I'm talking MARTINI.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

From Plymouth to Plimoth; Mayflower, Meals, and Martinis

The Tradition

      Thanksgiving Daya holiday which I eagerly anticipate each and every year with optimism and anticipation, is almost upon us.  All too frequently, holidays are merely a day away from the daily grind of work, a day set aside to get a chore done that has been put on the back burner for a while, or some other mundane task to complete. Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is truly something special.  I can think of nothing better than enjoying a Martini or two with family while showing off my limited but aspiring culinary skills.  It is a time when family comes together for reflection and to simply enjoy being family. I'm not sure if I can adequately express myself in this regard for different cultures and peoples may relate to each other in diverse ways, but the bond of blood runs deep in my veins, and while the traditions of eating, parades and football can sometimes overshadow the actual day, the performance of, and participation in, recurrent tasks has a tendency to ground oneself in one's beliefs, and in that sense, serve an important function.  And so, I give thanks for those things which I am blessed to have:
        Basic human necessities of food, clothing  and shelter
        Country which continues to provide individuals with a chance to succeed
        The Martini
I know that some of you may be surprised that I did not put the Martini first on the list, but for those that have read between the lines in my posts, you know that family is number one, not only the immediate family, but one's ancestral and cultural lines as well.  It is important to be rooted in this place we call Earth and have a sense of belonging to something, being from somewhere, a personal and cultural history of knowing from whence we came.

The History

        Perhaps one of the reasons that this is a favorite holiday of mine is that it is distinctly American and rooted in my childhood.  Growing up in New England, every fall bore witness to the endless line of school buses departing for the much anticipated school field trip to Plimoth Plantationthe historic re-creation of the original Pilgrim settlement.  I recently sought to relive that autumn rite by visiting there with my three sons under the guise of a Father/Son day.  A part of me was really wanting to relive a bit of my childhood while also taking in a beautiful fall day by the sea with my boys.  First stop was the re-created primitive English settlement with it's wooden cottages, gardens, storehouses, animal pens, fields and fortifications.  After a chat with the informative Pilgrims who happened to be living in the year 1624, we drove the 2.5 miles to the town of Plymouth to visit the Grist mill, which is still in operation today producing and supplying corn meal for local restaurants.  Across the street, one can meander through the cemetery to see the graves of the brave men and women dating back to the 1600's who helped establish a footing in this country.  Next, a stroll down Leyden street brought us to the waterfront to board the Mayflower II, a replica of the vessel that brought the Pilgrims to the New World.  The Pilgrims, having endured the arduous 66 day voyage across the Atlantic, anchored in Massachusetts Bay that first winter; 102 having made the crossing, one having died of illness along the way but one born to even the score so to speak.  The Pilgrims suffered through a cold and difficult winter, but then began their task of building a new nation which they could not foresee at the time.  In the fall of 1621, after a successful harvest, a 3 day feast was declared to celebrate. A group of 90 men from the local Wampanoag tribe led by their chief, Massasoit joined in the festivities, contributing 5 deer to the feast.  Along with the venison, there was abundant fowl, corn and cranberries.  This then became the basis for our tradition of Thanksgiving Day, which did not become an official US holiday placed on the fourth Thursday of November until 1941. 

The Meal

      I prefer to roast my Thanksgiving bird covered in bacon, outdoor on the grill imparting it with a smoky flavor. The other benefit of utilizing the grill is that it saves on indoor oven space needed for all the other vegetables, stuffing, roll, etc.  While the rest of the family is scurrying about in the house, I am allowed some quiet time away from the occasionally hectic crowd to reflect a little.  It is also the perfect time and place to enjoy my Thanksgiving Martini.  Hopefully the weather will cooperate this year but currently, a blustery, chilly, showery day is in the forecast.  In any event, meteorological or otherwise, imbibing a Martini outdoors on a November afternoon is choice, for the Martini remains naturally chilled while at the same time providing me with a little interior heat. I prefer to garnish my Martini with some fresh thyme- it goes nice with the Turkey.

The Gin

      Plymouth, England was the launching ground for the Royal British Navy in exporting the British Imperialism brand throughout the world.  As such, and knowing the close association twixt the Navy and Gin, it is no coincidence that Plymouth was home to several gin distilleries.  Today, only The Plymouth Distillery remains.  It is sited on what was once a monastery, home to a Dominican Order, built in 1431 which explains the robed figure on the back of the bottle of Plymouth Gin.  They capture the connection from old to new as stated on the bottle:
"Plymouth has always been synonymous with adventure and discovery. In fact it was the last port of call for the Pilgrim Fathers before their epic voyage to the New World. To celebrate their feat, we depict their ship, the Mayflower, on every one of our bottles."
Gin produced in Plymouth was given a special designation to separate itself from other Gins produced in England.  Whether this was due to any taste difference, or merely the result of local distilleries trying to gain a competitive business advantage for outfitting the Royal Navy, I do not know.  As a consequence however, Plymouth Gin is both a brand of Gin and also a designated style of Gin.  I think there are two characteristics which set this Gin apart- the first is the "mouth feel" which is decidedly polished and smooth.  I think it likely that the moderate alcohol proof of 82.4% along with the higher proportion of earthy botanicals relative to other Gin brands are responsible for the velvety feel.  The second feature of Plymouth Gin is the exceptionally long and smooth finish. I think taste-wise, it fittingly crosses that void between the Juniper forward London Dry gins of the Old World, and the more floral gins of the New.  Here then are the botanicals:

ORRIS ROOT- violet undertone, acts as a natural preservative and flavor binder
ANGELICA ROOT- dry finish and sweetness
GREEN CARDAMOM-highest percentage of botanicals in Plymouth Gin,  a bit of menthol
LEMON PEELS- citrus but with a little tartness
ORANGE PEELS- sweet and citrus blend
CORIANDER- earthy citrus and peppery flavor
JUNIPER BERRIES- well, it's Gin

What more fitting way could there be than to offer a Thanksgiving Day toast from the New World to the Old with a Martini made with Plymouth Gin?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

When Not To Drink A Martini

      In a previous post, I listed the Top 10 things that one may do while enjoying a Martini and I thought as a follow up, I should consider some times when imbibing my favorite beverage may not be the most appropriate thing to do.  As sacrilegious as this may sound, there are occasions when hoisting that conical glass of icy cold gin and vermouth to one's lips needs to be resisted because, it truly is not the right time or place.  The lofty peak of elegance and exclusivity upon which the Martini stands necessarily means that there will be situations that do not suit it's character and in fact, we will only develop a finer appreciation of the Martini just because of it's absence and our abstinence.  

1. Sporting Events 
Sports and Martinis simply don't mix well. Whether it be a Superbowl party, attending a Boston College tailgate or any number of sporting venues, stick to your beer and ale. Crafting a Martini in such instances is akin to wearing a tuxedo to go to dinner at McDonald's.  

2. Camping 
Enjoyment of the great outdoors such as fishing, hiking, hunting and the like provide much the same feeling of serene warmth simply without the alcohol. Take it all in, breathe deeply.  Perhaps by the fire after dinner, a gin and tonic, a scotch, or a beer will fit the bill. Having to pack all the necessities for making a Martini are a bit burdensome.  I think I could make an exception in the case of an African safari. A chilled Martini after a day of lion hunting might just work,"Time for your Martini, Bwana" -it has a certain appeal.  

3. The Morning 
Res ipsa loquitor- for those of you who are not proficient in Latin, or not of the legal trade, simply put, it translates to "the thing speaks for itself".  Enjoy the rising sun with a cup of coffee and save the Martini for dinner time.

4. Traveling
The problem with planes, trains, and boats is not so much the atmosphere, as the logistics.  For one thing, the Gin selection is typically limited and for another, the people making the drinks are not mixologists by trade.  This is a recipe for a bad Martini.  I can't remember a flight without some turbulence and while I might not cry over spilt milk, I would certainly not be happy about a spilt Martini.

5. Beach
While vacationing in Italy last year, I ordered a Martini on the beach at my hotel in Positano.  It was exceptionally well made.  I believe it may have been the lemon twist from the fresh lemons which the Amalfi Coast is so famous for, or maybe it was the vermouth that did not have to cross the ocean and sit in a warehouse for months.  Whatever the reason, the taste was spot on. Despite this, I could just not enjoy it as I should.  Wind, waves, and sand just do not make for the proper Martini setting. 

6. Mathematics
While you can certainly enjoy a Martini reading or writing, arithmetic or anything requiring calculations of a scientific manner would not be prudent.  Martinis lend one towards "right brain" processes.  I have not thought of this previously, but I wonder if there is a connection between handedness and Martini enthusiasm.  Being left handed, and consequently a bit sinister, I need to consider this concept a bit more...

7. Yard Work 
When the icy claws of winter loosen her frigid grip, those landscaping projects which have been ruminating in my imagination for the long cold months are thrust into action. Naturally all that hard sweat and tears needs to be replenished with a cold beverage. This is just the spot for an ice cold beer.  The Martini would have been useful in the inspirational planning and creative stage. See Above #6

8. Church or School Socials
These events are typically beer and wine affairs and don't really rise to the level of say a cocktail party.  The last thing you want is to toss back a few Martinis before talking to junior's teachers or Father Bob.

9. Negotiations 
It is common in post anesthesia instructions to tell the patient not to drive, operate heavy machinery, or make any important decisions for 24 hours.  I can tell you that the 24 hour part is totally arbitrary, but the general concept that one might not be in full control of their faculties for a time after some powerful mind altering substances have been introduced into the body is a sound one.  A similar suggestion should be implied with the Martini.  You don't want to enter into any negotiation, monetary or otherwise, after indulging in some Martini sampling.  The only exception here is when you are certain that your opponent has had more than you, ceding the upper hand.  I believe this is how the 3 Martini lunch came to be.

10. _________________
Well, that is nine that I could think of.  I left out the obvious ones like drinking and driving, and drinking Martinis at work. If there are any other suggestions, let me hear from you...........

Monday, November 14, 2016

Bow ties and Bullfights

Bow Ties

      I am one that tends to revel in the pomp and circumstance of the occasion, preferring to dandify myself with the bow tie and jacket for formal occasions and holidays.  It is preferable to me that I aver my belief in the quality of tradition over the trends of today.  I would hope that it is the best creations of humanity that stand the test of time, outlasting the transient fads of the present and offering something of enduring quality to the future.  Naturally, I consider the Martini which has endured for over a century, due in part, to it's simplicity and hence understated elegance.  It is iconic and presents an immediately recognizable elan.  But, is that true of all things which aspire to perfection or an immortality like the leopard frozen in The Snows of Kilimanjaro?  Certainly, there are pieces of art which endure... plays, literature, etc.  Yet, what of things that surely possess the qualities of art and which attain a lofty status, but then fall.  Is this the inherent fault of the object, or the personal bias of the beholder?  Are those things which matter most subject to the arbitrary whims of the masses, or can the best sustain themselves simply of their own merit without a popular majority?


      I offer up for your consideration the spectacle that is the bullfight.  Steeped in tradition, the Spanish bullfight embodies tragedy as classically defined by Aristotle-

“Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its katharsis of such emotions. . . . Every Tragedy, therefore, must have six parts, which parts determine its quality—namely, Plot, Characters, Diction, Thought, Spectacle, Melody.”   

The Spanish bullfight then clearly is defined by tragedy.  It is literally a life and death battle between man and bull in which the bull is fated to Death in the Afternoon-one my favorite Hemingway reads.  You cannot help but get the impression that Papa is sitting next to you on the couch in the living room telling you first hand what to expect at the bullfights.  I have not witnessed the spectacle myself, but it is on the proverbial bucket list.  And yet, there are a number of groups trying to stymie the tradition of the bullfight. Even back in the time of Papa Hemingway, efforts were afoot to soften the tradition, to gut it, in a way.  For instance, the horses upon which the picadors rode were disemboweled by the bulls on a regular basis.  This was thought inhumane and displeasing to some spectators (money paying tourists) and the horses were then made to don a sort of straw armor.  In this way, after the picadors' horses were gored by the bull, the trailing blue entrails were no longer allowed their parade, yet the horses suffered nonetheless, for the pointy horns still penetrated the straw padding resulting in a more metered and ironic suffering.  

    And we see this today, where a vocal minority with perhaps a displaced enthusiasm are allowed a stage upon what is now an electronic media world with implications beyond measure.  Even in the early 1930's, when the Martini was becoming king of the cocktail, there was this vocal minority bent on influencing something beyond their grasp.  And so I sit here with my complete and perfect Martini musing over what is all too clear and just, while pondering what will become of things that were once accepted and revered by some and now are assailed by others who are perhaps well meaning, but in the end, a bit naive.

Hold true to your beliefs
show a little Dutch courage!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Harambe Voters and the Exodus


      Well folks, after an historic 2016 Presidential election, a few afterthoughts are swirling around my mind like the olives in a Martini. I could not help but notice the story of the number of intellectually stunted people in this country that are so devoid of purpose and commonsense that they cast a vote for Harambe-that's right, the dead gorilla.  As I'm sure everyone recalls, Harambe was the gorilla that had to be put down as a result of the child that, unbeknownst to his guardian, found his way into the ape enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo.  After the child in question was slung around like a rag doll for a while, zoo personnel fearing for the child's life, shot the big ape. This set off a wave of controversy as the anthropomorphists soliloquized and interpreted Harambe's actions as being "protective."  That issue aside, I suppose the Harambe voters thought they were being humorous or representing a protest vote, but I sincerely believe they merely wanted to post something to twitter, because that's the driving force in a lot of people's lives these days.  The fact that we live in a free and democratic state, which was fought for, and defended with, human life going back to the American Revolution apparently did not cross their minds.  There just isn't enough room in there with that over-inflated sense of ego and self aggrandizement.  Hopefully, clear thinking and calmer heads will prevail- except in California....


     Along with the narrow minded Harambe voters, I have to take exception with the California rioters.  They seem to equate rioting and vandalism with protestation.  A little more insightful thought on their part might just allow them to come to the realization that VOTING is in essence a form of protest- a way of getting your opinions and choices out there.  There are sundry examples in this world where the privilege of free elections does not exist.  This behavior is more in line with a two year old child who didn't get what they wanted.  They apparently did not learn the lesson usually acquired in kindergarten, that after a game, you shake hands and try to accept winning or losing with some alacrity and class.  It shows respect for your opponent but more importantly, for yourself in graciously accepting defeat.   Every election cycle, there are winners and losers, and roughly 50-55% of the people will be happy with the results, while the rest will not be so happy. Show a little decorum, otherwise you look like a childish fool, and you may as well turn in your ballot for a baby's rattle or pacifier.


     The following people put on for public display their desire to leave the country should Donald J. Trump win the election. Don't let the door hit you on the way out!

!. Lena Dunham- I don't know who she is.
2. Al Sharpton- Hallelujah
3. Spike Lee-  Good luck finding an          audience for your movies outside of the US

4. Barbara Streisand, Cher- They're the same person, right?
5. Miley Cyrus- Thank God
6. George Lopez- try getting back in after Trump builds the wall.
7. Amber Rose- Again, I don't know who she is.
8. Jon Stewart- Plans on going to Jupiter
9. Raven-Symon- Again, I don't know who she is
10. Whoopi Goldberg- one person with the name Whoopi is one too many
11. Neve Campbell- Go ahead and Scream
12. Chelsea Handler- I don't know who she is
13. Michael Key- This one I feel bad about, I think he's a really funny guy.
14. Ruth Bader Ginsberg- I'm not sure she'll survive a long trip, but that's ok
15. Samuel L. Jackson- South Africa, really???  Think about it.

I'm sure there are some others that I have omitted, but I think this is a good start.  What is abundantly clear to me is that none of the aforementioned people have a grasp on the concept of democracy as framed by our forefathers.  Nor do they aspire to live a life engendering a sense of national pride.  Under the pretext of a particular agenda, social, conservative or otherwise, they put forth a message that is actually self centered.  It was John F Kennedy, a democrat, that famously stated,"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." - sometimes the you is not singular, but a plurality of special interests, but self centered nonetheless.  

  Martini drinkers do not
 riot or 
vote for dead gorillas
 or spew forth childish threats.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Protests and Waters


      I have been following the Standing Rock protests occurring in North Dakota with some interest, as well as a bit of cynical amusement.   On the one hand we have the protesters who are perhaps rightly concerned with the construction of an underground oil pipeline which could impact parts of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers as well as Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.  The potential for water contamination as well as the violation of "sacred" tribal land is a reasonable concern. The clash here of oil and water makes for a cheeky metaphor that I will resist at present. In any case, the Army Corps of Engineers approved the project and the Obama administration has been conspicuous by their silence on the matter.  Local law enforcement has been placed in the middle, trying to provide a civil environment for all, while the influx of activists from not only around the country, but actually worldwide have led to deteriorating living conditions with some devotees occupying(trespassing on) private land leading to confrontations with law enforcement.  The accusations fly back and forth as to who started what.  Many of the locals don't even want the protesters there- Indian or not. The situation is eerily similar to the Occupy Wall Street movement.  I'm sure that there is some validity to their point. Yes, corporate greed does exist, but we also want independence from foreign energy and all the unseemly politics associated with it.  Lest we forget our recent history, it was the Oil Crisis of 1973 that spurned on the construction of the Alaskan Pipeline which was a much larger undertaking, and it produced work for thousands, boosting the economy and helping to ease the energy crunch.  The situation conveys to me the impression that protesting is a pastime for some individuals almost regardless of the inciting cause.  When sundry people are drawn from the far reaches of the globe as if attracted by some protesting pheromone for an oil pipeline in North Dakota you just have to wonder where their motivation comes from. Consider the politically correct crowd and their revisionist assault on poor old Huckleberry Finn.  I wonder how many have actually read the book?


   I am fully cognizant of the fact that I have no absolute proof of this, but I feel confident in saying that a significant portion of the people protesting at Standing Rock were similarly supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement, and have now moved on to Black Lives Matter, and moreover, are likely aligned with the misguided souls trying to remove the term "nigger" from the prose of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  In this classic of American literature, the storytelling mastery of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, brings to life early American culture in the South along the Mississippi River prior to the abolition of slavery. Throughout the novel he explores the issues of religion, education and race relations in a quaint and folksy manner which belies the deeper allegorical narrative.  But, I think it is particularly his tack on friendship that allows Twain to reach the heart of the reader. Apparently, David Bradley from the University of Oregon agrees. 
"What do you think of Huckleberry Finn?" Pitts asked author David Bradley, who teaches at the University of Oregon
"It's a great book. It's one of the greatest books in American literature," Bradley replied.
He says the key to understanding Huckleberry Finn is through Twain's use of language, as the friendship between Huck and Jim unfolds.
"When Huck comes back to that raft, he says, 'They're after us.' He doesn't say, 'They're after you.' He says, 'They're after us.' And that's the moment when it becomes about the American dilemma, it becomes about, 'Are we gonna get along?'" Bradley said.
      Although the book was written after the abolition of slavery, Clemens chose to place the novel during the period of slavery.  I think this was decidedly not accidental.  Clemens uses the term "nigger" 219 times in the book.  If anything, he draws attention to the issue and we are wrong to ignore it or sweep it under the rug.  I think he chose to incite discussion on this topic and his views are obvious to all who read the book. Nigger Jim (actually appearing that way just once) is simply one of the dearest, most moral and noble characters in the book.  He is both friend and father to Huck and frequently vents his sorrow at being separated from his own family. There is not a single derogatory remark implicit or explicit that is related to Huck's friend Jim.  He stands in complete contrast to Huck's biologic father, "Pap" who could only be described in today's lingo as "white trailer trash".   I think the only cogent argument that the "protesters" have is with today's use of the term.  But really, that simply isn't relevant.  The pages of history are strewn with examples of changes in word usage. That is just the nature of the beast we call language. From Beowulf to Chaucer to Shakespeare to literature today, the English language has changed, we just don't discard words because they attain a different usage.  It is important and necessary to put things into the context of the time they were written and the intention of the author. Taken in that light, a reasonable, intelligent reader open to growth and understanding would not find anything demeaning about the use of "nigger" in the novel and indeed find the point of discussion as the learning opportunity that Clemens intended it to be.  Any other reading of the book could only be construed as overly simplistic.


       With all the new Gins coming to market today, each one must seek to carve out a niche for itself by varying the composition of the basic ingredients-distilled spirit, botanicals and water.  Most of the new generation Gins have sought to mellow the Juniper flavor with inventive uses of numerous botanicals...rose petal and cucumber for Hendricks, spruce tip and kumquat for Ironworks, etc.  Some use alternative base spirits, deviating from the neutral grain, utilizing cane sugar for some, grape or apple for others.  Cold River Gin, for instance, from the state of Maine is distilled from potatoes.   A few Gins, such as Martin Millers which utilizes Icelandic water, concentrate on the flavor imparted by the water used to cut the Gin to it's final proof. CapRock Gin tries it's hand with all of these.  The base spirit is created with a blend of Romanian winter wheat and Jonathon apples locally sourced.  The botanicals are listed as numbering 12, though only juniper, apple, roses, and lavender are mentioned.  The end product is cut to the final proof of 82 with naturally pure, soft water from the CapRock formation at 10,500ft on Grand Mesa, Colorado.  When all these facets come together, what is produced is a Gin with a wide and varied bouquet.  As is characteristic of a new balanced Gin, it has a very floral bouquet, with a bit of citrus and a hint of mint while juniper is more of a background flavor. It is sweet tasting with little or no burn going down as a result of the low proof and apple base.  It stands out in a summer drink such as the old standby Gin and Tonic.  The tonic serves to freshen up the flavors and the lime cuts into the sweetness.  On the rocks with a lemon twist is another option that highlights the attributes of CapRock Gin. As a Martini guy, I find that Gins which tend toward sweet such as CapRock and Dry Line for example, simply don't stand up so well in the classic pour.  The sweet and floral bouquet tends to clash with Vermouth.

Though some liquids may not mix well such as oil and water, 
Let us be thankful for the harmony of Gin and Vermouth.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Down and Dirty

   The Infinite Malady 

      Every now and then, I just have to shake my head in wonder at what has gone so horribly wrong in this world when fresh off the Google News feed comes the headline, "Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have reached a record high level", and unfortunately, it seems that this is occuring with an unsettling frequency. According to the annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the total combined cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis reported in 2015 reached the highest number ever recorded.  A sorry state of affairs, pardon the pun, indeed.  How is it that we can live in such a technologically advanced society, with the best medical treatments in the world, and yet we continue to wallow in the muck and mire of base human behavior?  Well, people will be people I suppose.  The innate struggles of this all too human race rage on as we continue to wage a silent battle against the beckoning seven deadly sins in a timeless conflict against our virtues.  Even the best amongst us, those prolific in their contributions to mankind, struggle with personal vices.  Perhaps even the great bard himself whose tragic plays and countless poems provided so much insight into the human condition but yet seemed to be so fixated on syphilis was actually stricken with the disease...

The Bard

      The possibility that William Shakespeare may have suffered from syphilis has been the subject of a number of erudite articles.  It has previously been noted by his contemporaries that Shakespeare was notoriously promiscuous and a number of individuals that ran in his crowd had actually contracted the disease.   Although, at the time, what was classified as syphilis cases were probably also inclusive of other STD as syphilis, gonorrhea and herpes simplex were poorly differentiated because of the high frequency of coinfection. Treatment for syphilis back in the Elizabethan period consisted of inhaling mercury vapor which led to the saying, “a night with Venus, a lifetime with Mercury.” There are numerous references to the "infinite malady" throughout Shakespeare's writings and I recommend an excellent medical article which lays out the case in a clear and scholarly manner.  The only way to know for certain would be to dig up the old Bard and have him tested, but some things are better left to the imagination.


      The Martini is elegantly simple- comprised of Gin, Vermouth, and a garnish which typically is the olive and it is the olive which defines the classic image immediately recognizable to all.  The brine of the olive stands up well to the dryness of the gin, so much so, that people have taken to adding a bit of the olive brine solution to the cocktail.  The resulting addition turning the cocktail a bit murky and thus the moniker- "dirty" Martini.  Now whereas the Martini has a classic ratio of 3:1, the amount of brine required to invoke the dirty Martini is a personal decision.  Some just add a drop or two while others wholly substitute the brine solution for the vermouth portion.  Personally, I prefer not to overshadow the nuances of the gin botanicals with an excessive amount of the olive brine.  The playfulness in me only orders a dirty Martini with a female barkeep, and I order it "just a little dirty."  One word of caution here when making your own, make sure to get yourself a quality jar of martini olives.  The last thing you want to do is have a glass of gin with a hapless pour of olive scraps and oil mixed in.  Even though it's dirty, the Martini still should be classy.

Let's lead a clean life-
You can have your Martini dirty!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Hurricanes, Cholera, and Martinis


      The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season is off to an ominous start as Matthew hurtled through the Caribbean portending a ruinous spell.  These potent storms brew off the west coast of Africa, wind their way into the Caribbean, and oftentimes meander up the east coast of the United states inducing fear and panic.  By the time the storms extend up to New England, much of their momentum has abated and fortunately for us, it is a rare thing indeed for a major hurricane to significantly impact us.  Matthew was the latest and most powerful of these swirling bundles of nature's fury to cut a swath of destruction along it's path.  The immediate affects are evident as the media inundate us with live video of the damage and destruction inflicted through a combination of lashing winds, pounding waves, raging storm surges, and torrential rainfall, but a hurricane's effects can be longer lasting.  After the initial drama of wind and waves plays out in our 24/7 culture and there are no more news clips to be had of capsized boats and battered homes, the real effects of the devastation sink in as communities struggle to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and possessions. Frequently, in less industrialized areas without back up systems in place for electricity, heat, and clean water and sanitation, pestilence in fact, may be a more significant part of the morbidity and mortality as outbreaks and epidemics tend to occur in the sometimes squalid living conditions.  And so, in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, a report of a potential cholera outbreak in Haiti has surfaced, like a fog creeping forth out of the tropical verdant swamps.


      Upon hearing the news of cholera in Haiti, I could not help but think of the miasma of the great swamp described in Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. "At nightfall, at the oppressive moment of transition, a storm of carnivorous mosquitoes rose out of the swamps, and a tender breath of miasma, warm and sad, stirred the certainty of death in the depths of one’s soul." The title of this novel says it all.  It is a quintessential representation of the conflict in the novel as Dr. Juvenal Urbino is systematically trying to rid the land of the cholera plague arising from the miasma of the swamps, just as his marriage is trying to rid his wife, Fermina Daza and her long time suitor, Florentino Ariza of their romantic love. The book also plays on the term cholera, which the adjectival form in Spanish, c√≥lera, can also denote passion or human rage. While some see this as just a story of undying romantic love surviving and triumphing over realism, that is a rather sophomoric interpretation of the novel, which is probably how it made Oprah Winfrey's book list. Marquez himself warned the reader- don't fall into my trap.  Marquez forces the reader to compare and contrast the varied forms "love" may assume.  The romantic, but also obsessive, love that Florentino professes toward Fermina is compared to physical illness--perhaps not so innocent and healthy after all.  It is not quite so black and white, and it should really be left up to the reader to ponder- perchance over a Martini.

Nantucket Gales

     Off the south coast of Massachusetts lies the Island of Nantucket made famous by the whaling industry and immortalized in Herman Melville's classic, Moby Dick.  It is here that Triple Eight Distillery is brewing up their own storm of sorts. Gale Force Gin is produced here and it is a spirit that is most aptly named, for it is a firm brew that stands up, like the two red flags on the bottle as a sign of warning for gale force winds (or maybe for the alcohol content of 88.8 proof).  The style is more in the classic London Dry fashion, but slightly less juniper forward. Triple Eight Distillery uses a total of nine botanicals in the production of Gale Force Gin, however only four are listed-  along with Juniper are Angelica, Orris root, and Grains of Paradise.  There is a clear citrus component, the origin of which is not specified.  Tasting notes- a softened Juniper up front, a distinct citrus follows  and a smooth peppery finish.  It is a standout for the classic Martini and also is unabashed in a Negroni.

When Mother Nature exhibits her choleric behavior
Pour yourself a Gale Force Martini

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Togas, Frocks, and Capes

Togas and Torts

      In the modern world in which we live, we like to reassure ourselves that our civilized society endows us with certain rights and protections that are granted to us under the umbrella of the law.  For the most part, we wallow through life, toiling away at our chosen profession trying to make an honest living and fortunately, brushes with the law are far and few between.  But, how would our perspective on all this change when suddenly involved in a law suit?  Do we trust that justice would truly be served.  Ultimately, who keeps the scorecard on the justice system and what of the lawyers bringing frivolous law suits?

      Well, things were vastly different in the days of Roman Law during the Republic. There was no Roman equivalent to the American Bar Association and any individual with a sufficient education in the law could choose to bring a law suit.  However, one had to be careful in their proceedings.  Things could get personal and prosecutions were often politically motivated, however,  a prosecutor who brought an accusation wrongfully could be sued under the Lex Remmia de calumnia.  If the defendant was absolved of wrong doing, and he felt that the prosecution was malicious and a false accusation, then he could bring a counter suit accusing the prosecutor of Calumnia which is similar to the present day libel or defamation. According to the writings of  Cicero, the false accuser might be branded on the forehead with the letter K, the initial of Kalumnia (Greek).  The physical branding of lawyers bringing frivolous law suits would certainly change the landscape of the American legal system as we know it.  

Puritan Jurisprudence

       Though it may seem somewhat improbable that Hawthorne had this in mind when he penned The Scarlet Letter, studying the classics of Greek and Latin was one of the mainstays of education back in the day. So it may well be that Hawthorne read of Cicero's letters and orations and thus was born the puritanical justice of his famous novel.   Although, by his own admission he was not the most studious undergraduate at Bowdoin College. Nevertheless, it is with striking similarity that the heroine of the novel, Hester Prynne, found guilty of Adultery, was forced to don her frock with the scarlet letter A embossed upon it.  Now the Puritans were a bit on the austere side, what with the stocks and witch hunts and all, but comparatively speaking, Hester wasn't treated all that bad, for she merely had to wear the letter A, rather than have it branded into her forehead.    

Yankee InGINuity

       From the toga of Cicero to the frock of Hester Prynne, I thought of capes and with that came Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which I realize is a stretch, but it always comes back to the Martini eventually. In any event, Cape Cod is home to a new Gin on the market. Dry Line Gin is produced by South Hollow Spirits, a distillery located on the outer reaches of Cape Cod in North Truro, Massachusetts.  It is not often in life that I find myself in the position of being first or possessing the number one of something...anything, but such is the case with Dry Line Gin, this being the first year of production.  The distinctive bottle I procured is labeled #423 of batch no. 001. Dry Line Gin takes its name from the juniper-producing Eastern Red Cedar that is only grown east of the 100° Meridian and in this case is grown right on the property.  
      Initially, South Hollow Spirits distillery produced rum and as such, utilized sugar as the basis for fermentation to produce alcohol.  In expanding their repertoire to include Gin production, they have stayed with sugar as the fermentation base unlike most gin which uses a neutral grain derived alcohol. The Gin is twice distilled and brought to a final ABV of 47. The list of botanicals is somewhat classic including orange peel, lemon peel, for a bit of citrus bite, while cardamom, allspice, coriander, orris root, grains of paradise, angelica root, and anise provide the earthy tones. And what would a product from the Cape be without a bit of cranberry to infuse the spirit of Cape Cod?  The style of this gin is of the new "balanced" variety bearing little resemblance to it's London dry predecessors.  The flavor is broad and smooth, with a sweetness about it, no doubt influenced by the sugar base and the addition of cranberry.  The juniper is mild and remains in the background and there is little burn to this 94 proof gin.  It works particularly well in mixed drinks and can be enjoyed neat, but for my palate the sweetness doesn't work quite so well in a classic dry Martini.  I hope you enjoy it, but if not-

Don't Sue Me

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Green and Gold


      As I sit observing my youngest son as he begins to read the classic middle school read,The Outsiders, a bit of amusement crosses my face, for the irony does not escape me that I am watching my children grow up as they read a book about growing up and the loss of innocence, and likewise, my shadow in life grows just a bit longer with each passing day.  The book is frequently on the must read list for the adolescent student as it deals with that awkward period in one's life when youth has not been totally surrendered and maturity sits on the horizon but is not yet attained.  While the characters Ponyboy and Johnny are on the lam after a stabbing during a gang fight, they spend time reading in their hideout, which just so happens to be, not coincidentally I think, a church.  They read from Gone With the Wind and Robert Frost's poem Nothing Gold Can Stay.  Inevitably the students will be called upon to proffer an explanation as to why the author chose to introduce this particular poem into her novel, and the themes of youth, loss of innocence, and impermanence will be explored. 

The Fall

      Only the inimitable poet Robert Frost could make the traverse from the advent of spring to the Fall of Man in 8 simple, yet perfect lines of poetry. 

                Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

I especially love how Frost utilizes alliteration in this poem.  The second line - Her hardest hue to hold is nicely balanced against the seventh line - So dawn goes down to day creating a stylistic symmetry.  I suppose he could have substituted the word dives for goes to further the point, but what do I know?  There is something in this poem which is somewhat somber, but not in a necessarily sinister sense.  Youth doesn't last forever, and it is a necessary fact that one grows up to the realities of life.  Even the calamitous Fall of Man was in a sense an inevitable result of the taking from the tree of knowledge.  Right and wrong and the attendant choices fasten the yokes upon us.  But there is a bright side in that we have free choice and though change itself is as inexorable as the marching of time, we may choose a betterment.  Let us pick up the pieces after the Fall, because although nothing gold can stay, we may still make choices of gold.

The Gin

     Now when considering the Martini, choices abound, particularly in the ever expanding assortment of Gins that are being produced. There is a Gin revolution of sorts currently transpiring today, and the American Gins are, I think, at the forefront. I am quite certain that the Gin produced in the early periods of the British Empire would be considered a bit harsh by today's standards. But, over time, production evolved to produce what we commonly refer to as a classic "London Dry Gin", primarily characterized by a Juniper forward flavor, and after all, the spirit is defined by it's inclusion of Juniper.  And, just as the Colonies fought a revolution of independence, so now the American Gins are offering up a change from the old London Drys.  "Tired of being colonized by dry British Gins?  Then Wire Works Gin is for you." So reads the label on one of my favorite gins which just so happens to be distilled a few miles north of my home.  GrandTen Distillery produces Wire Works Gin along with several other craft spirits right in South Boston.  The building itself is sited on an old foundry which originally supplied the early US government with arms and munitions, but later was converted to the production of wire and thus the name given to the Gin.  The newer Gins all play on the classic taste profile by subtle flavor manipulations of the added botanicals, which in this case are listed below-the full list is somewhat of a secret....

Juniper               Angelica            Spruce tips            Kumquat               Cranberry

I like the addition of spruce tips here which produces a smoother evergreen flavor than the juniper alone.  The addition of kumquat is a different play on the citrus component and what would a Massachusetts Gin be if there wasn't a cranberry or two added in.   For myself, I prefer a Gin that is proofed at 90%, but goes down smooth with little burn which is exactly what GrandTen delivers.  Overall, Wire Works Gin is one of the finest of the new age American Gins in terms of flavor and drinkability.  It works well straight up, in a mixed drink, or my favorite of all beverages- The Martini. 

By all means, garnish your Wire Works Martini
 with a 
Green olive.