COCKTAILS | Drop into the Stork Club

StorkClubCocktailThe Stork Club cocktail, a liquid relic of Old New York.

Stork Club barA couple of evenings ago, deterred from going out to dinner by the arctic cold, we turned to Dale DeGroff. No, we didn’t ring him up; we opened up his “Essential Cocktail.” From the extensive menu, we selected the Stork Club cocktail, a relic of one of New York’s greatest old night clubs.

The Stork, opened in 1929 by Sherman Billingsley, was among the most exclusive night spots in Old New York. A seat in the club’s storied Cub Room signaled your arrival. Among the cocktails sipped at the Stork Club, was its siganture, a gin, Cointreau and citrus and Angostura. It was one of countless cocktails mixed every night at the bar, left.

We were pleased — particularly because DeGroff’s recipe called for a flamed orange peel, which is accomplished by lightly seering a small peel of orange.

Billingsley’s daughter, Shermane, maintains a charming online archive of the place, which includes an adequate history, radio and TV clips and other electronic ephemera that document the famous 53rd Street haunt. Here’s a particularly entertaining video from the dawn of television:

Here’s the recipe for the cocktail:

• 1 1/2 ounces gin
• 3/4 ounce Cointreau
• 1 ounce orange juice
• 1/2 ounce lime juice
• Dashes Angostura
• Flamed orange peel

Combine your gin, Cointreau, orange juice, lime juice, Angostura in a shaker over ice. Shake over ice and serve up in a cocktail glass. Garnish with the orange peel.

CLIP | Lena Horne, ‘Stormy Weather,’ 1943

CLIP | Art Tatum, ‘Art’s Blues,’ 1947

MAPS | USGS bonanza online, courtesy of U.N.H.

WestchesterA detail from the 1891 U.S. Geological Survey map of the Harlem, NY-NJ Quadrangle that shows southern Westchester County.

As you may have guessed from various posts over the two years I’ve been operating, I love maps.

The affinity for cartography is a trait inherited from my mother, who is obsessed with atlases, maps and where things are, were and will be. Given that most of her life — save for stints in Europe and Jamaica in the 1960s and 1970s — has been spent in Morris County, New Jersey, it seems fitting that she hung a giant school-room map of the county in our den about 10 years ago. Also in her collection is a soil map of Sullivan County, New York, where we own a home; a vintage Sullivan topo that includes our pond there; and a 1921 road map of New Jersey.

Topos are always fun — don’t you want to know the elevation of Amherst, N.Y.? I do. I was delighted by the recent discovery of a massive online archive of U.S. Geological Survey topos. The maps, housed by the University of New Hampshire’s Dimond Library Documents Department, cover all of New York and New England.

Here’s a little gallery of historic topos of places that interest me:

COCKTAILS | This Bastard hardly suffers

The Suffering Bastard, a new fascination.

First concocted as a hangover cure at the old Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo during World War II by Joe Scialom, the Suffering Bastard is a classic cocktail I stumbled across in the realm of Robert Hess earlier this week.

The eyeopener, originally dubbed the Suffering Bar Steward by its progenitor, calls for either brandy or bourbon, lime juice, Angostura and ginger ale. Scialom (pronounced Shalom) explained the drink’s origins to the Winnipeg Free Press in 1972:

“During the bleak war days, Shepheard’s ran short of cognac, gin and most imported liquors. “We had to make do with stuff that wasn’t so smooth,” he said, “and the British officers began to complain that they were getting bad hangovers”.

“I decided to seek a cure, and I finally dreamed up a drink that I named The Suffering Bar Steward. It consisted of gin we borrowed from the South African post exchange, brandy from Cyprus and bitters made by a chemist across the street from the hotel. To this we added lime juice made in Cairo and a local ginger ale provided by a Greek merchant of dubious character.

“The result was a drink with an unexpectedly pleasant taste and a delayed action effect.”

Scialom is something of a cocktail legend: his name pops up all over the Times’ archive. In 1957, when the new Shepheard Hotel opened (the original was torched during the fire riots of 1952), it was lamented that Scialom, who had decamped to Caribbean parts, would not be tending the plank. In 1971, a letter to the editor clarified that Scialom had invented the bastard and that he was working as the head of beverage service at The Four Seasons. In 1980, a lengthy piece on the origins of the Bloody Mary has him retired from Windows on the World and living in Fort Lauderdale.

But the drink. It’s a tasty one that gets billed as having tiki heritage, as Hess suggests in his presentation. Hess calls for bourbon, not the brandy I’ve found recommended elsewhere. The lime juice is a big player here and would probably temper the brandy in much the same way it does the bourbon. I can’t trace the gin, but it’s in there somewhere.

• 3/4 ounces of bourbon or brandy
• 1 ounce gin
• 1 ounce lime juice
• Dashes of Angostura bitters
• Ginger ale or beer

Combine the gin, bourbon (or brandy) and lime juice in a highball glass. Add ice and top with ginger ale. Stir and garnish with an orange slice (or other citrus — I used a lime) and a cherry. A mint sprig wouldn’t hurt either. Enjoy.

CLIP | ‘Am I Blue,’ 1944

GIFT| 1940s St. Lawrence stationery is a real treasure

LetterheadSt. Lawrence stationery from about 1940. I recently received an unused box of notepaper and envelopes as a gift.

When we got a bit of the gang together a few weeks ago, we asked everyone to bring materials for their favorite cocktails. Cortney Terrillion came bearing more than a bottle of terrific straight-from-St.-Petersburg-vodka. She also brought a couple of gifts of Laurentiana for which I’ll be forever grateful.

A Lowville gal, Cortney has deep roots in the North Country. During a recent trip home, Cortney and her mother were rooting around their attic. Among their finds was a box of unused writing paper and envelopes bearing the St. Lawrence seal and a few copies of the Laurentian. Cort guesses these were relics of a relative who attended the university in the 1940s.

The Laurentian, now the annual literary magazine, was a monthly in the 1940s and served as both an alumni bulletin and as a digest of student life. More on that to come.

The stationery is the real story here. Manufactured by Marston-Warner, information about which appears scarce after a rudimentary search of the Web, it’s in near-perfect shape. There are 25 sheets and envelopes. Two details are of note: First, the horizontal bar in the middle of the shield is missing. Second, the Saint is spelled out. St. Lawrence has abbreviated the Saint since the dawn of time. The county and the river, from which the University takes its name, are also abbreviated.

No matter. These are beautiful pieces of paper. They’ve held up remarkably well. I don’t dare write on them, but I’m sure that at some point in the future, I’ll write something of real importance on one of them.

Cort, thank you, again, for this wonderful gift.

Here’s a closer view of the letterhead:


CLIP| ‘The Woman in the Window,’ 1944

CLIP | ‘Blues are Brewin’,’ 1947

FIND| Your grandparents got strange too

KeggerSome of the revelers on view at Keggers of Yore.

You remember My Parents Were Awesome, right? Well if you got a chuckle looking at all those beehive hairdos and David Cassidy impersonators, you should thoroughly enjoy Keggers of Yore, which is basically MPWA soaked in a giant vat of Seagram’s V.O. and yellowed by the smoke of thousands of Pall Malls. Wow.

Rest assured that all those wild nights in college — those times when you agreed to that last Jaeger shot as the pink glow of dawn crept over the horizon — were largely based on your genes. So pour yourself a glass of Cold Duck and enjoy.

And thanks to Clarke for passing this find along.

Kegger2Images courtesy of Keggers of Yore.

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