BRIEFING| A half-century at the Carlyle, Hamill worries and the Aughts are ending

Good morning.

• For our cocktail lovers — don’t fear the Curacao! — there’s a terrific profile of Tommy Rowles, an Irish immigrant who started as a bartender at Bemelmans’ at the Caryle in 1958 and is still at it. Rowles’ secret: “I’m a walker. If you drink beer, you have to walk. I walk four miles weekdays with a partner.” And this pearl: “There’s no recession on the Upper East Side, I can tell you.”

• Pete Hamill, the old newspaperman and historically-concerned writer, is concerned for the safety of newspapers’ archives and morgues as the fate of the industry becomes ever more uncertain. In an interview with the Syracuse Post-Standard, Hamill talks about his new fiction project, his life growing up in Brooklyn and the future of newspapers.

• Michael Hirschorn, writing in this week’s special issue of New York that looks back at the decade that concludes later this month, concludes that these last 10 years have been complicated by the increasing dichotomy between fact- and faith-based perceptions of reality. In addition, Hirschorn says, the Internet has solidified the culture of hustlerism, in which we’ve all got to relentlessly compete for attention, jobs and money. It’s good stuff, as is the rest of the issue, which does a predictably good job at looking over the Aughts.

• Clarence Petty, icon of the Adirondacks, who died last week at 104, was given an obituary in Sunday’s Times.

• Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post profiles New York editor Adam Moss and, in turn, the dynamo that is his charge.

• And Vanity Fair offers an excerpt from the late Dominick Dunne’s final novel.

COCKTAILS | Ice Blue proves a cool customer

Ice BlueThe Ice Blue is a signature drink at the Fairmont Copley Plaza’s Oak Bar in Boston.

I love hotel bars. This may come from accompanying my parents to the bar at the Palmer House in Chicago as a young child. It just seemed all so sophisticated. Later, in college, during a train trip across Canada as part of a course, our group stayed in Fairmonts from Toronto to Vancouver. While we were sure to find top-notch pubs featuring the Great White North’s finest brews, we were also dedicated to the bars in each of the beautiful old places we stayed.

So when I started dating Mrs. F., I was particularly taken with a book she had, “Meet me in the Bar: Classic Drinks from America’s Historic Hotels.” Written by Thomas Connors, an editor at Playbill, and published in 2003, “Meet Me” is a wonderful little compendium of histories of and anecdotes about some of the great American hotel bars.

Among these is the Oak Bar at the Fairmont Copley Plaza. My parents stay at the Copley when they head to Beantown, though I’ve never been there. I asked my father today if he’d heard of this drink in any of the times he’s stayed there. He hadn’t. And, he asked, “blue curacao?”

Yes, blue curacao. I was just as skeptical. But we did have a bottle on hand, and so, when it came time to shake a few drinks up a few days ago, Mrs. F. and I settled on this recipe. Curacao, of course, is an orange-based liquor and, with that in mind, you can rest a little easy about using it. It adds a nice, if deep, citrus bite to drinks. Combined here with a bit of lemon-flavored vodka, it yielded a nice warmth for these increasingly cooler nights.

3 ounces vodka
3/4 blue curacao

Shake ingredients together and serve over lemon twists. Enjoy.

BRIEFING| Of Lewis, hockey, Wes, Rupert and furloughs

LaphamLewis Lapham, former editor of Harper’s, now runs a quarterly journal.

Good afternoon! Here’s what I’ve been reading today:

• Lewis Lapham, the dapper, chain-smoking and aristocratic wit who steered Harper’s from 1976 until 2006, is having a good deal of success with his new venture, Lapham’s Quarterly, the Times reports. You’ll hopefully get a kick out of his CIA anecdote.

• Sarah Henderson, daughter of Fritz Henderson, the GM CEO who stepped down yesterday, flew off the handle about her father’s replacement in a Facebook post. New York reports.

• Richard Brody, editor of the film listings at The New Yorker, posted his top ten films of the decade on his blog yesterday. Wes Anderson, who Brody flatteringly profiled a few weeks ago in advance of “Fanastic Mr. Fox,” was awarded second prize for his “The Darjeeling Limited.”

• The rise in the Canadian dollar has meant good news for Canada’s remaining N.H.L. franchises: the Montreal Canadiens, the Ottawa Senators, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Edmonton Oilers, the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks. The Times reports.

• In the cocktail world, there seems to be a quiet rum revolution. Trends like house-made bitters, 1890s-style armbands and over-reliance on gin are being swept aside out in California, where returns to Tiki traditions and rum are under way. The Times reports.

• Gannett, the largest newspaper company in the country, has announced 26 layoffs at its flagship, USA Today. In addition, the U.S. Community Publishing group, which oversees the chain’s domestic newspapers, can look forward to furloughs in the first quarter of 2010. The Associated Press reports.

• The Federal Trade Commission is weighing how, if at all, it might support struggling media companies, the Wall Street Journal reports. Rupert Murdoch, chieftain of NewsCorp and publisher of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, rejected the idea that good journalism be subsidized and publicly called aggregators, like the Huffington Post, thieves(!).
In other Rupe news, the big man is planning a $15 million budget to launch a New York-aimed edition of the Journal this spring. The Observer’s John Koblin reports.

COCKTAILS | ‘Jigger, Beaker & Glass’ reviewed

JBG“Jigger, Beaker & Glass,” a classic compendium of cocktail recipes from around the globe.

Editor’s Note: Maxwell Eaton III, our favorite childrens’ author and a member of the St. Lawrence Class of 2004, makes his debut as a contributor to with this post. A native Vermonter, he and his fiancee, the lovely Kristin Sadue, reside in the wilds of Arizona.

Maxwell Eaton III Contributing Writer

I recently picked up a copy of “Jigger, Beaker &Glass: Drinking Around the World” after seeing a brief piece on the author, Charles H. Baker Jr., in he Atlantic. Unfortunately, due to deadlines of the kiddie book variety, I was forced to shelve the book until this past Saturday when I finally found the opportunity to take a look. Of course, when thinking hard on one vice it can be useful to employ another for the proper perspective, so I grabbed a favorite Peterson pipe and made myself comfortable on the back porch for an extended Sonoran Desert sit.

Originally published in 1939 under the title, “A Gentleman’s Companion, Vol. 2″, “JB&G” is a sort of travelogue of mixed drinks written in a time when “cigarettes were smoked and martinis drunk, all in quick succession and with few apologies.” The recipes are thrown into the book with little or no organization — much like the author’s experiences — and each drink is accompanied by a brief anecdote about a run-in with a drunk Russian prince or how their steamer ran aground resulting in a five day bender. Think Mr. Boston meets “The Thin Man” and they’re bound for Ceylon with a warehouse full of booze on board.

Between many of the concoctions Baker finds room for his own brand of delicate declaration. Early on he reminds the reader that “…the American has invented, and always will invent more of the world’s good mixed drinks than all the rest of humanity lumped together…” If American writers can be divided into red skins and pale skins, then we know which camp Baker was mixing for. The author was doubtlessly writing while knee-deep in the field.

After a few hundred pages of crisscrossing the globe while seemingly in search of every drink that could possibly contain egg white and absinthe, Baker lays down a brief section on the more practical points of A Drinking Life. These include a traveling equipment list (don’t forget your mix-master and spice jars), how to clean up broken crystal (when your porter just can’t be found) and cures for routine occupational hazards like “amoebic alimentary disorders,” bloodshot eyes, hiccups, concussions, poisonings, and the odd attempted suicide by hanging. Not surprisingly at this point, most of the solutions involve either brandy or pure grain alcohol. But always one to play it safe, Baker likes to at least let his readers know what he or she might be in for. In the case of his Pink Lady No. 1 he advises “This is a drink of considerable shocking power, and after consumption keep out of the sun and in touch with friends.” Sound advice.

Despite the fact that every day of the week was a Morning After for Baker (half of his formulas are hangover cures) he maintains that “decent libation supports as many million souls as it threatens; donates pleasure and sparkle to more lives than it shadows; inspires more brilliance in the world of art, music, letters and common ordinary intelligent conversation than it dims…” Papa don’t got a problem. He just got sparkle.

After setting down “J,B&G,” you’ll either feel like beefing up the home bar or swearing the junk off for good. If it’s a case of the latter, you might first try mixing up a cup of Morning Doctor:

Take 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 jiggers of good brandy, a trifle over a cup of very fresh milk, and a teaspoon of sugar, and beat the whole business with an egg beater.

Here’s to decent libation. Cheers.

COCKTAILS | Gin fizz is a refreshing addition to the repetoire

Gin FizzThe Gin Fizz, a cocktail classic since at least the 1880s.

Fan that I am of a Tom Collins, the Gin Fizz seemed a natural cocktail to attempt. Having all its ingredients on hand was also a boon, but all in all, Mrs. F and I enjoyed these classic American cocktails. Refreshing, they’d be swell day cocktails on the lake in summer or welcome after a long, hard ski in the winter.

Fizz recipes first appeared in Jerry Thomas’ seminal 1887 “Bartender’s Guide,” and have remained steady pillars of the cocktail community since. The Gin Fizz is also connected to the equally classic Ramos Gin Fizz, pioneered in 1888 by Henry Ramos at Meyer’s Restaurant in New Orleans. Ramos’ drink throws lime juice, orange flower water and egg white into the mix; the Gin Fizz is a simplified attempted at his concoction.

2 ounces gin
1 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
1 bar or teaspoon of powdered sugar

Combine the gin, lemon juice, syrup and sugar and a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake vigorously and serve into a Collins glass. Top with soda and serve. Enjoy.

DESIGN| Wall-mounted corkscrew/bottle opener is all-American affair

StarrFriends and loyal readers Maxwell Eaton III and Kristin Sadue found this beauty at the Hotel Congress in Tucson, Ariz.

We’ve all seen the classic Coca-Cola bottle openers. In college, we attached one to our bar. Manufactured for the last 80 years or so by Brown Manufacturing, Starr bottle openers are American classics.

What we all haven’t seen is the combination bottle/opener and corkscrew our good friends Maxwell Eaton III and Kristin Sadue recently encountered at the Hotel Congress in Tucson, Ariz. Neither Max nor I have been able to find the combination Starr model for sale online. In the video below, which features Brown Manufacturing president and CEO David Brim, there’s a bit of B-roll that includes a few other examples of these fine pieces of American craftsmanship.

You can, however, purchase a standard Starr bottle opener at Patented on April 21, 1925, the Starr was invented by Thomas C. Hamilton of Boston. Raymond Brown, a Coca-Cola bottler in Newport News, Va., stumbled upon the patent later in the 1920s and began production. Today, Brown Manufacturing is located in Decatur, Ga., where Starrs are still produced.

Starr Bottle Openers
From $4.95

COCKTAILS | Get yourself Between the Sheets

BTWNOne of the better cocktails we’ve tried in the last few weeks is ‘Between the Sheets.’

Taken from an old recipe used in the 1930s at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, Between the Sheets is a very lovely Sidecar-inspired cocktail that happily adds gin into the mix.

Built of equal parts gin, cognac, Cointreau (or triple sec) and lemon juice, we thought the Sheets was a drink that really has no season. Obviously the climate in Jerusalem is considerably milder than the northeast’s, but we thought this drink would be as pitch perfect at a June garden party as it is at a November supper.

3/4 ounce cognac
3/4 ounce gin
3/4 ounce Cointreau
3/4 ounce lemon juice

Combine the four ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice, shake vigorously and serve in a cocktail class.

SPIRITS| Craft-distilled Apple vodka is good to the Core

CoreCore Vodka is produced at Golden Harvest Orchards in Valatie, N.Y.

Several years ago, when Mrs. F. was doing graduate work in Albany, we made a trip across the Hudson to the hamlet of Valatie and Golden Harvest Farms, an expansive, family-owned orchard. We stocked up on macs, Empires and galas, purchased some Columbia County cheese and, if memory serves, some very excellent apple baked goods.

During our recent walkabout through the northern Hudson Valley, we visited Golden Harvest again. Besides the requisite apples, we walked away with a more “spiritual” fruit of the autumn harvest: Core Vodka, the flagship distillation of Harvest Spirits.

Tucked in a corner of Golden Harvest’s massive apple storage facility is a custom-built German still that churns out Core, a vodka distilled from utility apples that would have otherwise been used for cider, apple brandy, pear brandy and, as the holidays approach, a craft applejack named “Cornelius.”

Here’s how the process works, according to the Harvest Spirits team:

We start by pressing our own fresh apples in our antique rack-and-cloth cider press. Blends of apples are selected based on sugars for fermentation and pH. 800 lbs. of apples are fed into our press at a time, macerated, and pumped onto each of sixteen layers per stack. Each rack-and-cloth stack is pressed slowly and evenly to extract the maximum amount of juice. Pressing 800 lbs. of apples takes 20 minutes and we repeate the process 30 times for each batch producing 2000 gallons of cider.

StillThe Harvest Spirits still

Fresh cider is pumped into the distillery from the cider mill and into our fermentation vessels. We use a special champagne yeast to start fermenting our fresh, sweet cider into dry, hard cider. Our resulting hard cider has a 5-6% alcohol content.

First Distillation

After filling the kettle with hard cider, we heat the liquid just higher than the boiling temperature of alcohol (79†C) and below the boiling temperature of water (100†C). The steam that boils off the first distillation is 50% alcohol. Since our kettle is only 100 gallons, we must make 20 “first distillations” to get through 2000 gallons of hard cider. This is the most time consuming part of the process.

Second Distillation
The result of running the hard cider once through the still is 100 gallons of 50% water and 50% alcohol. We put this mixture back into the kettle, add some fresh water and heat it again just below the boiling point of water. The vapor boiling off this time is 90% pure. The resulting distillate is separated into 3 separate tanks, the beginning of the batch (called “heads”), the middle (“hearts”) and the end of the batch (“tails”). We discard the heads and tails. 20 “first distillations” produces enough alcohol for only 2 “second distillations”.

Harvest LineThe Harvest Spirits line on display in the distillery at Golden Harvest Farms.

Third Distillation
Our third distillation is performed in the same manner as our second, using the entire reflux action of our still. During the third distillation we repeat our heads and tails cuts further refining the spirit. At this time the alcohol vapor is 190 proof (95% pure alcohol) allowing our end product to be designated as a vodka.

We dilute the remaining 40 gallons of “hearts” alcohol with 60 gallons of pure water, thus achieving 40% alcohol by volume. We purify our water with a pH corrected reverse osmosis filtration system. We run our vodka over activated charcoal and finish filtering through a super-fine 1 micron filter.

Filling four bottles at a time takes more than an afternoon to complete. Bottles are filled, capped, sealed, marked by batch and bottle number, wrapped with an informational tag, boxed, shipped, and tagged carefully by hand. 2000 gallons of cider make 100 gallons of vodka, roughly 4 gallons per 750ml bottle of Core Vodka.

When we visited the distillery, we tasted and purchased Core and the two brandies. Core, which scored 92 in the 2008 International Review of Spirtis in Chicago, has just a hint of fruit flavor to reveal its origins and actually has a sort of smooth, buttery taste. It’s probably best served on the rocks or up with a citrus garnish. The fellow who gave us our tour suggested that it would make an excellent gimlet base and would also work well with basil- or thyme-infused cocktails. We both liked the brandies, though not enough to buy them on the first trip.

The distillery is open for tours and tastings from noon to 5 p.m. on most Saturdays and Sundays.

Core and the other Harvest Spirits products are widely available in the Capital District and the northern Hudson Valley and in Manhattan and Brooklyn. At present, the line isn’t being marketed in the city’s suburbs, but we were told that they would be in due course. We suggested they consider Stew Leonard’s. We’ll see.

Harvest Spirits
3074 U.S. Route 9
Valatie, NY 12184

COCKTAILS | The Jack Rose and Antoine’s Smile both delight

The SmileJerseywoman that she was, my grandmother had an abiding affection for Jack Rose cocktails. Coming of age during prohibition in the 1920s, the first liquor she might have tasted could have been “Jersey lightning,” or unaged applejack.

With this in mind, I’d been meaning to pick up a bottle of either applejack or calvados for the better part of a year. Two weeks ago, on a liquor run to Stew Leonard’s, I came across Laird’s and struck. The Laird family has been devoted to apples and their distillation since 1698, when William Laird first distilled applejack in Monmouth, N.J. In 1780, the Lairds became the first licensed distillery in America and today, they continue their family tradition at Scobeyville, N.J., a hamlet in Monmouth County’s Colts Neck Township.

With Laird’s added to the bar, we whipped up some Jack Roses with Charles Schumann’s recipe, which calls for a blend of apple jack, lime juice and grenadine. They were swell. Last night, we tried a variant, Antoine’s Smile, a specialty at Antoine’s, the New Orleans institution.

I’ve never been to Antoine’s — call me a Galatoire’s or Arnaud’s man — but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect the place or its bar. After all, it’s the oldest family-run restaurant in the country. The Smile is allegedly the creation of Antoine Alcatoire, who founded the venerable restaurant on Rue St. Louis in the 1840. The Smile substitutes the Rose’s lemon juice with lime and yields a much subtler and frankly, more sophisticated result.

Still, we strongly recommend both.

2 1/2 ounces applejack
3/4 ounces lemon juice
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
Dashes grenadine

Mix all ingredients over cracked ice, shake thoroughly and serve into a cocktail glass. Garnish, if you like, with a slice of MacIntosh or Empire.

For the Smile, substitute the lemon juice with lime juice and drop the sugar.

FIND| ‘Gin and Titonic’ lend new meaning to ‘on the rocks’

CubesOcean liner- and iceberg-shaped ice cubes add an extra splash to any cocktail hour.

Sent along by the old Carl, these ice cube trays from World Wide Fred,“>World Wide Fred will add just a bit of extra sink into every drink. Shaped like ocean liners and the icebergs that menaced them, these cubes will make an excellent addition to any cocktail-loving ocean liner nut’s collection.

The set includes a tray that will ice up four ocean liners and four bergs and is available for $6.99 at Perpetual Kid.

Sink or swim.

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