Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Quoi de neuf, Pussycat?

Where has the time gone?!? I have no idea. But it's summer now, and even though things are gearing up (in my personal life) they are also mellowing out. So, after finding a good rhythm, I am back! What's coming?

More in the Mad Men Cocktail series! Some Fourth of July festivities! Wedding season!

For now, have a gin and tonic and cool off.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

M├ęchant jeune fille

Let's get another thing out of the way: the Dirty Martini is still a Martini. Treat it as such. But it is a different beast; I'd even venture to say that while the Martini is sexy, the Dirty Martini is a little slutty. But in a good way! I'm not going to include a recipe, only because it's the same as a basic Martini with a little something extra. And that something is the briny, slightly salty, always naughty olive juice. As much or as little as you like.

Of course the origins are are unclear, just as with the Classic Martini. What I've always wonder about is the "why?" Consider that the original was a very sweet drink, which was typical at the time (1800's), so why would anyone think to toss in olive juice?! By the end of the century a lot of the sweeter ingredients had been eliminated, leaving a very clean canvas. So I guess the real question at the time was: "Why not?"

Whatever the reasoning, I'm glad someone had the brilliant idea. This is a solid summer drink, so get crackin' and make up a pitcher!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Un livre pour vous!


Mad Men Unbuttoned: A Romp Through 1960's America
by - Natasha Vargas-Cooper

One of the most fascinating things about Mad Men is how mired in reality it is. No matter how lush the photography and costumes may be, the show is simply about the day-to-day lives of regular people. No one on the show is a glamorous movie star or controversial political figure. Most of these characters are fairly average middle class working folks.
It was just a different time. The way people spoke to each other and even the smallest chore seems fascinating. Mad Men Unbuttoned peeks behind the curtain and gets into the little things.

The book is broken up into 9 sections, with various essays about each subject.

1. The ads and then men who made them.
This section was really interesting because it not only showed you who Don Draper and company were based on but gives you an idea of how advertising worked back in the day.

2. Style
As a fan of mid-century and Mod fashion, this section is one of my personal favorites. And it goes into both male and female fashion.

3. Working girls
Not hookers, thank you. But women and the careers they had. Stewardesses, secretaries, and housewives - oh my! The best essay has to be the one dedicated to Carla, the Draper's housekeeper/nanny.

4. Sex
There's a little more to it than just sex. Being a single and sexually active young woman. The history of condoms. Being gay and lesbian in a time when homosexuality was thought of as a mental disorder. And so, so much more.

5. Smoking, drinking, drugging
"Puffing While Pregnant" is not only an essay but the name of my new band.

6. Decor
This is a great section because it's so diverse. Essays on Jackie Kennedy, Regency, and Japonisme.

7. Literature
Some very important and culturally relevant books came out during the time Mad Men takes place. These essays cover Lady Chatterley's Lover, Ayn Rand and Frank O'Hara.

8. Movies
Hollywood has always influenced the way we dress and speak, among other things. But there was no greater time than in the late 1950's and early 1960's. The 50's were a glamorous time that gave us many leading me and the "Snow-covered Volcano" Grace Kelly. The 60's birthed the counter-culture movement and a plethora of deep, weepy foreign films.

9.In Progress
Here is the section you'll want to turn to if you have any questions about the social and political changes of the time.

The essays are fairly short but are well-written and concise. Plus, there are a lot of yummy pictures. It's a quick read but an enjoyable read.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Prenez la boisson et, comme lui!


Let's get the obvious out of the way: JamesBondJamesBondJamesBond. Sir Ian Flemming's infamous spy did drink a sort of martini. But it's not the sort we are going to talk about today. The Martini is the Little Black Dress of the cocktail world: simple, chic and effortless. When well constructed, it can make you feel like a million bucks.

For such a well known beverage, the origin is fuzzy. One story reaches back to the late 1800's in cosmopolitan San Francisco; the Martinez cocktail, served at the Occidental Hotel, may be the grandfather of this drink. Another story suggests the cocktail was named after a bartender at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City, circa 1911. And there's also the possibility that it was simply named after Martini brand Vermouth, which is an ingredient. Nothing too flashy, which seems awfully fitting for this drink.

The drink has, of course, evolved over time. Originally the Martinez consisted of sweet vermouth, sweet gin, maraschino, and bitters; it was served shaken and with a twist of lemon. By the end of the 19th century, the drink was streamlined and consisted of only orange bitters, French vermouth and English gin - stirred and served with an olive.

Ironically, the event that made this drink so popular was Prohibition. Gin was relatively easy to manufacture (illegally). It wasn't until the late 70's - early 80's that the drink fell out of fashion. By then, the Martini was seen as "old fashioned" and was passed over in favor of intricate cocktails or spritzers. The explosion of "-tini" drinks during the mid - 90's helped usher the Martini back into the spotlight. But make no mistake, just because "-tini" is at the end of a cocktail, doesn't mean it has anything to do with a classic Martini. It's usually tacked on because those drinks are often served in cocktail glasses, the traditional vessel of the Martini. Also, they can be kinda gross.

Classic Martini
(recipe by Equire.com)

1 ounce dry Vermouth
4 ounces gin

"Fill a metal shaker with cracked ice. Pour in the dry Vermouth, stir briefly, and strain out (this may be discarded). Add 4 ounces gin. Stir briskly for about 10 seconds, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with an olive."

It's simple! The important thing is to have the best ingredients. At the risk of sounding a little too Ina Garten, you want "good" Vermouth and gin. Esquire suggests Noilly Prat Vermouth (and I agree) and Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, or Beefeater gin (I like all of those but Beefeater has been my favorite for a little while now). Try these out and do some of your own taste testing - it's important that you find something that you like.

Normally I talk about variations right about here and I was wrestling with the idea of leaving it be. The Martini is a classic and should be treated as such. But there are a few that Esquire recommends, and I trust those guys. So, we have the Third Degree which has a couple drops of Absinthe in it (I could think of worse ways to chase the Green Fairy) and a cocktail onion for garnish. There's also the Hoffman House; sub Plymouth gin (it's a specific kind of gin, not just a brand) and add a few dashes of orange bittters. And the Hearst, which uses Italian vermouth.

There's one more, which I will get to in the next installment. But for now, go forth and drink!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Panier de Baisers

Right off the bat, let me be honest: I rarely ever wear lipstick. The most make up I wear is restricted to the eyes, but I am a fan.

Lipstick goes back a long way. Mesipotamian women supposedly crushed precious jewels to decorate their lips. Huh, kinda makes Ke$ha seem like less of an asshole.

(Nope. Still an asshole.)

Ancient Egyptians extracted a purple dye from fucus-algin, iodine, and bromine mannite. As you might have already figured out, that wasn't exactly FDA approved. Cleopatra's method involved crushing carmine beetles and ants for a base. On a side note: does anyone else feel weird writing "beetle" instead of "Beatle"? Anyway. But my favorite has to be the use of fish scales to achieve that pearlescenct effect.
It was the Arab Andalusian cosmetologist Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi that invented solid lipsticks, as we know them today. It took awhile, but Medieval Europe managed to bring the party down by banning lipstick, since it was an "incarnation of Satan." It was strictly reserved for prostitutes.
Lipstick gained some popularity in 16th century England when Queen Elizabeth I made bright red lips and a stark white face fashionable.

(I do love those redheads)

But that didn't last very long; only wealthy women and actors wore lipstick and by the late 1700's Parliament moved to have marriages annulled if the bride wore any cosmetics before her wedding day. It was Queen Victoria that put the final kibosh on everything - once again, it was only acceptable for prostitutes to wear make up, specifically lipstick. As dumb as all this sounds, keep in mind how dangerous make up was at the time, often loaded with lead and vermilion. So, you know, there's that.
Anyway, the French figured out how to make a cosmetic that wouldn't maim and kill you and make it available to the masses.

Even as late as the 19th century lipstick was still considered inapropriate for day-to-day wear and was found mostly among prostitutes and stage performers. Sarah Berhardt wore it frequently in public, even applying it in public.

(Sarah Bernhardt)

1915 saw the invention of the swivel lipstick tube that we use today; this made the makeup very easy to use, since it didn't require a lipstick brush, which made the product much more popular. The rest is fun and games!

Once the Roaring 20's rolled around, Flappers locked onto lipstick (and other make up). They wore it as a symbol of independence, paving the way for the masses. Usually in dark reds and worn in the popular "Cupid's Bow."

Lipstick was still considered an adult product at this time. Women wore it as an expression of their sexuality and to emulate the glamorous actresses on the silver screen. Elizabeth Arden began exploring more colors, though reds were still very popular. The "Cupid's Bow" was still en vogue but fuller and with flares in the corner - similar to Joan Crawford.

By now lipstick was widely accepted in society, though it would become somewhat scarce during WWII. Teenage girls started wearing lipstick, though they were heavily discouraged. These two factors combined, created the idealized "natural look." Lipstick was painted on to match the natural lip shape (though the top lip was still a little fuller than normal). Two kinds of colors were popular: the first was a "monotone" that supported the natural look and the other was a "contrast" which accented the face.

The natural look remained popular into the mid-century. Pastel, or simply light colored lips, came into day-to-day wear, while red remained a night time staple. Women still looked to actresses for style tips and those actresses were glamor goddesses, like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.
Marilyn Monroe Elizabeth Taylor

Interestingly, the Civil Rights movement helped broadened the make up landscape. With more black artists working in mainstream entertainment, make up needed to be created to accommodate them. The Pop Art movement also introduced more elaborate and exciting shades. Many black female singers would wear white or very light lipstick (and eyeshadow), and soon, white girls were following suit.
What many people associate with the 1960's from shows like Mad Men is really much closer to make up from the 1950's. "Mod" make up was something teenagers wore; "older" women, like Joan and Peggy, still wore traditional make up.
The natural look continued to stay popular, especially when the Hippie movement began later in the decade.
Ironically, make up (lipstick in particular) had become so popular and a part of everyday life, that, if a girl didn't wear any of it, she was considered a lesbian or even mentally ill.
Sixties Make up 1960s make up
(every day look and bold Pop Art look)

More and more color was introduced during the disco era, emphasizing the decadence of the time. Though day-to-day wear remained subdued, Woman's Lib gave women the freedom to wear make up however they pleased. In some cases, that meant none at all.
(everyday look and night life Disco look)

Similar to the 1960's, makeup focused almost entirely on the eyes. Later in the decade attention was paid to the mouth. Full, glossy lips in bold, bright colors became popular. On the alternative scene was black lipstick, popular in the Goth and Punk world.

Once Nirvana put the nail in the glam rock coffin, glam make up followed suit. "Heroin Chic" or the grunge look became hugely popular, even making it's way to the runways of Paris and New York. Red and metallic colors were popular shades for the mouth.

There are so many option when it comes to make up and it all starts with what look you want to go with. Emulating a specific decade can be fun, so take a little time and look into a style that you think suits you. Try it for a night out and then slowly work it into your day-to-day wear. If you're not sure how to go about putting together a look, try some video tutorials. And if you want someone to walk you through, in person, check out your local beauty schools or community colleges. They often have salons in those departments and the students and teachers will show you whatever you like. Enjoy!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Achetez-moi Un Verre?


For something that looks and sounds like a fussy-fuserton, the Brandy Alexander is a pretty simple drink. Like most beverages, the Brandy Alexander is part of a family of drinks. The original is The Alexander, a gin-based cocktail - same ingredients, just a different liquor. Then there is the Panama, which uses brandy and white creme de cacao, instead of brown. Beyond that, there are variations on the recipe (I'll talk about those later).

The drink was born in the early 20th century, possibly at a royal wedding. The longest running story is that the cocktail was created at the wedding of Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood and Viscount Lascelles in London, 1922. All this means is that you're just going to have to hold out your pinky when you drink it.

As with most old school sweet drinks (panty peelers!), the Brandy Alexander found a resurgence in the mid-century and early 1960's. It's an easy drink to knock back and not even realize it's actually your third. Most importantly, it's even easier to make.

The Brandy Alexander
one part Cognac (or any brandy)
one part brown Creme de cacao
one part Half-and-Half or heavy cream (heavy cream, please!)

Shake together in a mixer half filled with ice cubes. Strain into a glass and garnish with nutmeg. Make sure the glass is chilled, duh.

The nutmeg garnish is actually my favorite part. I like nutmeg, so I say the more the merrier. You can dust the drink with grated nutmeg; get a rasp or microplane and grate a fresh nutmeg over the beverage. Really try to use fresh nutmeg here - it makes all the difference. Most grocery stores sell fresh nutmeg in the baking isle and  the container it comes in has quite a bit. It's a good value, especially since you can use nutmeg in all sorts of baking and cooking.
If you want to get fancy, dip the rim of your cocktail glass in some brandy and then dip it in fresh grated nutmeg. Looks wicked cool.

When it comes to variations, there are some stand outs. A Coffee Alexander substitutes coffee liqueur for the gin (which, by the way, is my absolute favorite booze). Blue Alexander's switch blue Curacao for creme de cacao. It's fun but not necessary. You do whatever you want; my philosophy with drinking boils down to: what a man (or woman!) does with his/her drink is between him/her and God.

As I mentioned in the last cocktail post, this is Peggy's favorite drink (though last season she was drinking straight from the hip - Don's protege for sure). It speaks of her: sweet-looking but packs a punch. Panty peeler, yes. Girly drink? Not even close.

"My name is Peggy Olson and I would like to smoke some marijuana"

Next installment, we deal with a classic!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I have a weird thing for blue drinks. The color is so serene, I could just stare into it for hours. It brings to mind tropical beaches and there are worse things I could be thinking of. And typically, they have rum in them. We all know of my love for rum.

Appropriately enough, the Blue Hawaii was created in Hawaii. Specifically, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki, Hawaii. Harry Yee (legendary head bar tender at the Hilton) was asked to create a drink that highlighted the blue coloring Curacao liqueur lent to beverages. The original recipe differs from today's popular drink; though the blue color, pineapple wedge, and cocktail umbrella remained. Yee named the drink after Leo Robin's 1937 hit of the same name. Not after the Elvis Presley movie, as is most commonly thought.

Usually, the cocktail is served over ice - which is how I like it. But you will see a blended variation; as I've mentioned before, Tiki cocktails always get a free blended pass. As in all Tiki cocktails, the Blue Hawaii should always be served in a Tiki glass or another whimsical variation. The most "straight-laced" vessel would be a Hurricane Glass (as seen in the picture above).

As mentioned above, this drink usually has rum in it. You may substitute vodka if you prefer, but that liquor has very little flavor and rum is more traditional. Flavored rum and vodka are acceptable and can add a little kick; Malibu Rum is a good one that adds the flavor of coconut without using actual coconut milk or creme, which would change the drink entirely (then it would be a Blue Hawaiian - totally different!). Other substitutes include sweet and sour mix for pineapple juice. You could do that, but, really, why would you?

Blue Hawaii
3/4 ounce light rum
1/2 ounce blue Curacao
3 ounces pineapple juice, unsweetened

Combine all ingredients with ice and stir (in a glass) or shake (in a shaker). Pour into a Hurricane glass with the ice. Suggested garnish: score a wedge of pineapple and a wedge of orange and inert onto the rim of the glass; spear a maraschino with a toothpick or (even better) paper umbrella and attach to the fruit. If you don't want all that, you can just float any of the fruit in the drink.

As with the Bloody Mary, you can find pre-made mixes of this drink but what's the point? This drink is so easy to make. And you can serve it as a punch if you have a big enough party going on; dump a bottle or two of plain or coconut flavored rum, a bottle of blue Curacao, a can of pineapple juice and a bag of ice into a large punch bowl. Give it a stir and maybe float some of the fruit in it and Bob's your uncle.
Ah, yes. Be aware that the pineapple juice make the drink a little more green. It's science!

The only real variation (aside from the vodka for rum) is the Blue Hawaiian. Substitute creme of coconut for the pineapple/sweet and sour mix and you're done. That's it! Oh, and only use rum.

With summer on it's way, this is the perfect drink to get ready for it! Next week we celebrate Peggy Olson's favorite cocktail!