Yesterday, a colleague passed along a request for some information about Robert H. Bork’s position on Martinis. Since Bob’s death in December, we have seen many reflections about his opinions regarding the law. Next week, Encounter Books, where I hang a hat, will be publishing Saving Justice: Watergate, the Saturday Night Massacre, and Other Adventures of a Solicitor General. This memoir about Bob’s tenure as Solicitor General and Acting Attorney General during the Watergate crisis provides a fascinating glimpse into the engine room of American politics in the tumultuous year of 1973. This period, too, has received its share of commentary.
Rather less ink, however, has been dispensed to explain Bob Bork’s philosophy of the martini. A full disquisition would doubtless be lengthy. Here I will confine myself to sharing with readers the comments I sent on to that journalist who is doing research into what H. L. Mencken called “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.” “The first thing to be understood,” I wrote, “is that Bob Bork was an originalist when it came to martinis, just as he was about the law and many other things in life.
There is a recipe, whose exact origins are lost in the mists of time, but whose lineaments have been passed down through the generations. We introduce innovation into this hallowed process at our peril.
I once suggested Bob write a book with the title: Martinis: The Original Understanding. He was partial to The Road to Hell is Paved with Olives. Bob observed that the original martini was a careful mixture of three or four (or five or six) parts gin (preferably Bombay or Tanqueray) to one part vermouth. The whole was shaken (not stirred) over ice in a cocktail shaker, served in a chilled martini glass, and garnished with a twist of lemon. A twist of lemon, mind you. That is what a martini was.
On the occasion of his eightieth birthday, I gave Bob a silver vermouth dispenser in the shape of an tiny old-fashioned oiling can (you can get them at Tiffany’s). He found it amusing, but he regarded the unbridled diminution of vermouth, favored by many asking for a dry martini, as dangerously latitudinarian.
He recognized, however, that the battle to preserve the martini had far more radical enemies than the vermouth minimalists. One large heresy concerned the very foundation of the martini: gin. People might ask for a “vodka martini” (let’s say) but that concoction, though possibly delicious (my concession, not his) was not a martini.
When it comes to adding a shot of alcohol to your cold or flu remedy, it’s hard not to wish those boozy concoctions are doing some good for your health. As it turns out, they are.
Drinks like hot toddies, which traditionally contain whiskey, lemon and honey, can actually give cold and flu patients relief from their symptoms, said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.
It just can’t prevent or cure a cold or flu virus.
“It would not have an effect on the virus itself, but its effect on the body can possibly give you some modest symptom relief,” Schaffner said. “The alcohol dilates blood vessels a little bit, and that makes it easier for your mucus membranes to deal with the infection.”
Since Sept. 30, more than 5,100 influenza cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including 40 cases of H1N1.
Schaffner said warm moisture from a steaming mug of any beverage can offer symptom relief.
“That’s part of why chicken soup is thought to work,” he said.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
No discussion of classic rock (especially among aging female baby boomers) can be complete without mentioning Yusuf Islam or “the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens.”
(We all need to thank Prince for that phrase commonly used after he changed his name to a symbol.)
If you need your memory refreshed after over four decades, here is what Wiki says about Cat Stevens:
Yusuf Islam (born Steven Demetre Georgiou, 21 July 1948), commonly known by his former stage name Cat Stevens, is a British singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, educator, philanthropist, and prominent convert to Islam.
His early 1970s record albums Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat were both certified triple platinum in the United States by the RIAA. His 1972 album Catch Bull at Four sold half a million copies in the first two weeks of release alone and was Billboard‘s number-one LP for three consecutive weeks. He has also earned two ASCAP songwriting awards in consecutive years for “The First Cut Is the Deepest“, which has been a hit single for four different artists.
Stevens converted to Islam in December 1977 and adopted the name Yusuf Islam the following year. In 1979, he auctioned all his guitars for charity and left his music career to devote himself to educational and philanthropic causes in the Muslim community.
Now that you have been reminded of the pertinent Cat facts, it is time recall all the memories and emotions attached to his songs. Here are mine.
Besides Led Zeppelin, (which I have discussed ad nauseum) Cat Stevens, representing the mellow side of life, was also a sound track of my 1970 – 1973 years at Needham High School. (Needham is close – in a suburb of Boston, MA.)
During those years, Cat Stevens music consumed numerous hours of my time when I was alone in my room avoiding my parents or with my friends.
Four decades later two particular memories are invoked — lost teenage love and lost teenage job.
First the lost love.
It was during my junior year, when a song from the album Teaser and the Firecat, called “How Can I Tell You,” exemplified my dilemma as it related to the secret love I had for my friend who lived across the street.
(This is the same young man whose car my girlfriends and I “stole” as chronicled in the Three Dog Night, Joy to the World installment of this series.)
Now the lost job.
Sometime during my senior year I visited Cape Cod with some friends and did things kids in the ’70s used to do on weekends. Cat Stevens albums were playing non-stop, when as an irresponsible 17-year-old, I called my boss at the local drugstore where I worked part-time to inform him that I was at the Cape and was not planning to make it to work on Sunday. He told me this meant I would be fired and I told him I understood.
What is it about music that imprints moments like that in your memory bank for decades?
That is the question of the week and one about which you can ponder and comment as you recall your own Cat Stevens music memories. (Sometimes I get the impression this weekly series is turning into a therapy session on lost youth. But that is OK because there is no charge for occupying my virtual couch.)
Now, out of respect for Yusuf Islam, and his Muslim faith which abstains from alcohol, there will be no cheap wine recommendation this week.
Instead, here is a novel idea — why not conger up old Cat Stevens memories without any help from the “fruit of the vine?” Or try the fruit of the vine in another form, as in a nice warm glass of prune juice. Get a head start on a drink all aging baby boomers can look forward to imbibing in the coming decades while you listen to Cat Stevens singing, “Morning Has Broken.”
Besides sex, politics and religion no topic stimulates aging baby boomer cocktail party conversation more than classic rock music. For this is our music; we grew up with it and it is the soundtrack of our lives.
Previously, I have written that asking baby boomers to name their first rock concert is always an engaging conversation starter.
And here is another musical topic, just as engaging – ask boomers to name their five favorite classic rock songs.
Fueled by some adult beverages, this discussion could last until it is time to go home, which for aging baby boomers always seems to be around 11:00pm.
(Ahh, I remember the good old days when 2:00am was my departure time!)
Do you need a few minutes to name your top five favorites?
(Think of this as a Sudoku exercise for brains over the age of 50.)
While the wheels inside your head go round and round, here are my top five:
Kashmir by Led Zeppelin
Question by Moody Blues
While My Guitar Gently Weeps a Beatles song by George Harrison
Imagine just how much you can learn about a person by knowing their top five classic rock songs! (Obviously my selections prove that I am a complex, confused individual with a colorful past and zest for life!)
Now with the election finally coming to a close next week (at least we hope it will be over next week) this means 50% of your friends and family will be ticked off by the results.
So with family holiday gatherings just around the corner here is some useful advice.
Rather than stab your liberal uncle/aunt/sister/cousin/brother-in-law with the turkey carving knife when the dinner conversation turns to the election results, why not change the topic by asking folks to name their five favorite classic rock songs?
Try this friendly topic changer when the heat begins to rise, because if your family is anything like mine, I wish I had thought of this idea a long time ago.
Are you still contemplating your five favorites? If so, what shall we drink to stimulate the thinking process? Correction, what is in my refrigerator?
The answer is sake! Gekkeikan Haiku Sake with its 15% alcohol content.
Lately, I have enjoyed sipping cold sake on the rocks. The bottle, I just noticed has been partially consumed, a sure sign my husband has endorsed my new fad. (After all, he is married to a “complex, confused individual with a colorful past and a zest for life,” so the poor guy needs some relief.)
Gekkeikan Haiku Sake is according to the label: “light, with just a hint of dryness Gekkeikan Haiku brings hundreds of years of sake making experience to the modern palate.”
So when your gathering is boring and needs some lively conversation or it is too lively and relatives are at each other throats, then pour some Gekkeikan Haiku Sake over ice and ask folks to name their five favorite classic rock songs.
This is guaranteed to have the desired effect.
That is until someone yells Freebird and all hell breaks loose!
If you ever want to start a lively conversation among aging baby boomers just ask the question, “What was your first rock concert?”
There is a definite pecking order of impressive answers.
First, is the Beatles. (I have a close friend who wins this prize.) Second, is Led Zeppelin and then there are many possible answers for third place.
For example, my husband’s first concert was The Who, an acceptable contender. Mine was Jimi Hendrix and if you continue reading you might decide to award me the bronze medal for third.
It was June of 1970, and to celebrate our graduation from Newman Junior High in Needham, Massachusetts, three girlfriends and I went to see Jimi Hendrix.
Hendrix was performing at the now iconic Boston Garden, torn down in 1997, but then the home of basketball’s Boston Celtics and hockey’s Boston Bruins.
As we left the subway station and walked towards the concert, a store with the name Now Shop caught our attention. As 15-year-olds we were attuned to all the social and cultural changes taking place, but this store actually offered us the opportunity to change our look from suburban school-girls to “now.”
Shelves were lined with everything needed to dress like a hippie. There were tie-dye shirts, headbands, sandals, peasant blouses, fringed vests, peace symbols and of course piles of love beads. We all were salivating at the merchandise and bought as much as our meager budgets would allow.
My purchases included a small suede pouch with rawhide ties and two love bead necklaces. Now that the Now Shop transformed our look and our attitude, we were ready for Jimi Hendrix.
On stage he lived up to his reputation playing all his great hits including my two favorites, Foxy Lady and Purple Haze.
Hendrix was an amazing performer, but it was the entire rock concert experience that blew me away. The smells, (you know what I mean) the energy of the crowd, and above all, the excitement of being 15 and feeling a part of something that was so hip, cool and “now.” Yes, the times were a changin’ and we were part of that change.
Just seeing Jimi Hendrix would have been memorable enough, but, as fate would have it, this Boston Garden concert on June 27, 1970 was to be his last.
Less than two months later on September 18th, Jimi Hendrix died at the age of 27 of a drug overdose.
Throughout my life I have felt an emotional connection to Jimi Hendrix since his last concert was my first. In fact, I even mentioned this concert as one of my classic rock credentials in the first installment of this silly series.
Now, what shall we drink as you listen to the actual recording of Jimi’s last concert, showcased at the top of this piece?
Since you are reading about an event that happened to me 42 years ago, that means I am old and old people must drink lots of red wine to sustain their heart health.
The cheap wine recommendation this week is Acacia Pinot Noir. The label reads: “An elegant wine with strong black cherry flavors and an unexpected hint of violet and spice that we believe conveys the essence of California Pinot Noir.”
Yea, yea, who writes this label dribble? I just like the stuff, especially when it is on sale, but can never taste the flavors the label says I am supposed to taste.
So let’s raise our glasses to the legendary music of Jimi Hendrix and a group of once “hip” 15-year-olds who wore love beads to their first rock concert that turned out to be both historic, tragic and unforgettable.
Classic Rock & Cheap Wine: A Three Dog Night Without ‘Joy to the World’ After a Trip to the Police Station
What is it about the power of a song that upon hearing it decades later instantly brings you back to a memorable moment in your life?
So now that I have your attention….
As a1 6-year-old high-school junior I found myself secretly “in love” with my close friend and neighbor, a handsome senior, who lived across the street. Dan (not his real name) and I had grown up together, but now as a blossoming teenager I saw him differently and fantasized that he was destined to be my future husband.
Dan had absolutely no romantic interest in me but started “going out” with my girlfriend Donna (not real name). That meant I was thrust into the position of gossip go-between, a position I relished.
Not too long after Dan and Donna became an item, Dan’s father bought a new Cadillac and handed Dan the keys to his old one.
Keep in mind that in 1972 it was rare for anyone in my high school to have their own car, especially a Cadillac. Therefore, Dan’s Cadillac, (which by today’s standards was the size of a gunboat) became a major status symbol and the ultimate party vehicle.
One day after school my three girlfriends and I started walking toward the town center when we spotted Dan’s Cadillac in the school parking lot. It was then Donna proudly proclaimed, “I have Dan’s keys,” so without any hesitation, we all jumped in the car for a harmless spin.
On the radio Joy to the World was playing and I remember us singing the famous lyrics: Jeremiah was a bull frog, was a good friend of mine, and the Joy to the World chorus at the top of our lungs while having a totally terrific time.
That was until we were stopped by the police.
It starts around one minute in, but watch the whole thing for the setup. And it’s amazing. Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Tormé presenting together at the 1976 Grammy Awards, but performing a scat duet of “Lady Be Good.”
A couple years later, Tormé would record this number with Buddy Rich, with the lyric re-written as “Ella Be Good.” What an amazing record.
But this live performance? I can’t put it any better than one of the YouTube commenters, who wrote, “OH MY GOD. My face hurts from smiling SO HARD.” Yeah. That. The best part is, every single person in that auditorium, including that year’s winner, knew they just got absolutely schooled by two of the finest vocal performers in all of jazz history. And the ones who didn’t know it? They didn’t deserve to be at the Grammys.
To drink, we need something smooth, sophisticated, and sweet enough to match all the smiles.
Only — only — a Manhattan will do.
2.5 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1 maraschino cherry (preferably with the stem still on, but my jar didn’t have any like that)
A cocktail shaker
Plenty of ice
Fill the shaker halfway with ice, then pour in your bourbon and vermouth. I happen to like Maker’s Mark for my Manhattans — anything fancier tends to get lost in the vermouth, so why bother?
Stir slowly and gently for ten seconds. Thou shalt not count to 11, nor count to nine, excepting as to then proceed to ten.
Do not break or chip the ice.
Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a single cherry.
Now rewind the video and play it again with your Manhattan. You’ll find both are improved immeasurably, along with your attitude.
Here’s the one I just made.
This is it, the last weekend of summer. Sure, that’s not what the astronomers or the meteorologists will tell you. But you know when you see Labor Day on the calendar, and feel that first chill in the afternoon winds, that this is it. Our music needs to be something breezy, and maybe a little melancholy.
George Benson’s “Breezin’” is a too-obvious choice — but so what? It’s still damn good music. Here he is performing live in the UK, an unbelievable 35 years ago. Benson had himself a crossover hit with “Breezin’,” which was all over the Top 40 stations the summer I turned eight. It was almost certainly the first jazz tune I ever heard on my own radio — a tiny olive green handheld AM relic powered by a nine-volt battery I used to remove so I could stick the contacts on my tongue. The fact that it played on my radio gave it an acceptability factor it never would have gotten had Mom or Dad tried to force me to listen. And a lifelong love was born.
For the occasion, we need just the right drink. It’s a little something I came up with for my lovely bride, and I call it — of course — Breezin’. (Melissa vetoed “Passing Wind.”)
Any decent brut champagne
2 ounces Citron vodka (Ketel One Citroen is excellent, priced right, and mixes well)
1 ounce pomegranate juice
1 teaspoon simple syrup
Six leaves of basil
In the bottom of a small cocktail shaker, muddle the basil in the pomegranate juice. Add the simple syrup and vodka, then a handful of ice. Shake gently until chilled, then divide evenly between two champagne flutes. Top off each flute with champagne. Give it a quick stir, then garnish with more basil. They’ll come out a sunset color, which seems sadly appropriate.
Serve with George Benson turned up to six and the last Saturday of the summer.
Here are the two I just made.
Louie Armstrong, “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans.” This is a live performance, but I haven’t been able to figure out where or when. I do know the musicianship on display here is breathtaking.
We have a choice here between a Hurricane or a Mint Julep, but Melissa still has all that mint growing in the garden. So, Mint Julep it is.
We also have to hurry up and play this one — and drink this one — before we lose the very last of the summer weather. Monument Hill cooled off a couple weeks ago, and doesn’t look likely to warm back up very much before the autumn sets in.
2.5 ounces Kentucky bourbon – Maker’s Mark preferred
2 fresh mint sprigs
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon water
If you happen to have your wife’s grandmother’s old julep glasses, by all means give them a quick polish and use them. If not, a Collins glass will do. My wife likes hers a little weaker and a little sweeter, so I double the water and sugar for her.
Trim your mint sprigs so that they’re the right height to serve as garnish. Trim off all the lower leaves, then muddle them in the bottom of the glass with the sugar and the water. Muddle them hard and release all that minty goodness.
Fill the glass all the way to the top with shaved or crushed ice, pour in the bourbon, then top off with a little more ice. Stick in a straw (we’ve got to get silver ones to go with the glasses!) then garnish with the sprigs.
Here are the two I just made.
AND ANOTHER THING: I’d usually leave it at that, but sipping at my cocktail and listening to Armstrong got me thinking. Or, as close to thinking as one can do on a sunny Saturday afternoon spent sipping at a cocktail and listening to Armstrong. What I’m thinking is, the huge debt we owe to Louis Armstrong.
Without Armstrong, jazz and pop as we know them simply wouldn’t exist. He did more than any other single artist to define them both — and he did so as an instrumentalist of unparalleled talent and as a vocalist of sublime and restrained emotiveness. Without Louis, how do you get to Charlie Parker? Without Louis, how do you get to Ella or Frank? He’s the guy who started it all.
Oh, and he wasn’t a bad actor, either, with 18 movies to his name.
We’re lucky we had him. I’m going back to my cocktail now.
Some folks like to brew their own beer. Others like to ferment wine. To me those drinks are candy, as in the old line: “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” These days I’m a hard liquor man, favoring martinis and Manhattans, both done just so.
Toward that end I’ve been doing my own safari across country in search of the best ingredients. When it comes to martinis, I favor Plymouth gin kept in the freezer with a quick splash of Noilly Prat vermouth (the straw-colored kind). Add to that a secret ingredient I discovered at a bar in Charleston: celery bitters. Sprinkle some in, depending on taste. Of course, it’s then all shaken, not stirred, Mr. Bond. And served as icy cold as possible, straight up with, in my case, two olives. Others prefer, as Robert Mitchum would famously say, “No vegetation.” That’s up to you.
On the Manhattan front, things are a bit more complicated. I was originally a Maker’s Mark man, but lately I’ve been gravitating to Buffalo Trace bourbon. But more of the bourbon in a minute. The other ingredients for an unforgettable (I’ll take…) Manhattan that Dorothy Parker never had (I know, I know – she preferred martinis) are Antica Formula dal 1786 Vermouth (incredible stuff, a little pricey but worth it – you don’t use too much) and Luxardo, an Italian liqueur made of maraschino cherries. Use two parts bourbon, one part of that fancy vermouth and maybe slightly less than 1 part Luxardo (depends on how sweet you like it). Again, use a shaker with ice and pour over another maraschino (or not – it’s fine without it). Kick back and listen to Bobby Short or some equally “Manhattan” sound.