Five to nine

Have a drink.

November 18, 2004

Lowballs

Lowball is a generic term that refers to heavily alcoholic drinks with a small amount of juices, bitters or liqueurs of some sort. These are served in shallower, wider glasses in smaller portions than a highball, but still with plenty of ice. They are the good ol' boys of the drink world. They go great on hot summer evenings where a cocktail (to be discussed soon) would warm up much too quickly. Drinking a good lowball might be compared to receiving a good stern talking-to. The kind that lifts your spirits. You have a notion, you take a sip, you learn something new about your brandy or your whiskey, and then you take a moment and think about what you did.
Whiskey (of any sort) goes well with vermouth in a Manhattan on the rocks. Vodka or gin with a spoonful of Rose's sweet lime juice in a gimlet. Sweetened bourbon with some muddled mint sprigs for a julep.
The thing about lowballs is, they tend to be ordered by a more discerning, more demanding less pleasant kind of people. (People like me). The drink should be very good, but if you're unsure about your mix, err on the side of caution. Caution in this case means more Liquor. If you're still not sure, you can take the wind out of the sails of any criticism by garnishing them perfectly. A post on proper garnishment is forthcoming as soon as I can get digital pictures up here again.
Cheers to drinking well with the good ol' boys.

November 17, 2004

Highballs

I would like to introduce the first of a four part series on they types of mixed drinks with the kinds of mixed drinks that most people are introduced to drinking in a mix with.
Highballs are the soda-pop of the adult entertaining world (not to be confused with the adult entertainment world, which is vulgar, and shall never be mentioned on this log. except for right then). They are designed to make people comfortable with drinking, which in turn makes them comfortable with your party. They are relatively low in alcohol concentration and high in mixer content. The basic formula for highballs is as follows. An eight ounce glass, on the tall side, filled with Ice, 1.5oz of your selected liquor, or two ounces of a liquor-liqueur combination, and filled again to the top with your desired mix. or your guests desired mix. The ice cubes should be as big as possible to prevent diluting your drink too quickly. Don't skimp on the ice, it's not a trick to give people less drink, rather it's an essential part of the flavor of the drink as a whole. This fact becomes increasingly apparent as you get nearer the end of your drink. If there wasn't enough ice, there will be a boozy-syrupyness sticking to the back of your tongue in an unpleasant manner. If the ice was too small, it will melt over-quick and your diluted drink will become less delicious as you progress.
Popular highballs include the screwdriver, which we all know, the cape codder, often referred to as a vodka cranberry, cuba libre a.k.a. rum and coke, sex on the beach, which is delicious, girly , and delicious. it does in fact deserve a careful mention; .75oz peach schnapps, .75oz vodka, and OJ and cranberry juice to the top.
There are highballs which are drunk I am sure just because people like the nomenclature. Many of those have dirty sounding names like "Sloe comfortable screw against the wall" and as I said before, shall not be discussed in a modest blog.
It's as good a way as any to begin practicing amateur home bartending, but careful. The temptation will be to mix before you have the company of your friends to make sure you did it right. It's all well and good, none of us want to serve our guests a bad drink, just don't make a habit of it.

"You're always saying you're a slave to highballs"
"but I am, potentially"
-This side of paradise

November 15, 2004

One. Two. Many.

While searching the web for booze-related knowledge, sometimes I come across some excellent booze-related promotional events. Last week, the good people at Chivas were sponsoring an open bar and whiskey tasting at Pearl, a chic restaurant and bar in West Hollywood. You could sign up for the early or the late tasting on wednesday or thursday, you were allowed to enlist up to three people, but you could only sign up once. Well, I'm not great at math, but this one was easy. I signed up for wednesday, Jared signed up for thursday, we invited each other so we could drink twice. On wednesday I invited a certain friend with whom I had a bet to account for. A friend who had just recently been very upset with me. I thought rivers of whiskey together would be just the thing to smooth over the rough. He ended up canceling on the last minute, but since we were in his neighborhood, he told us to come over after the tasting. Brother Klein would be around, and there was South Park. Score. When we arrived at his house, I suddenly realized the error in not having anything to eat beforehand, but it was too late. The process of gastric dumping had begun, and I had no choice but to hang on for the ride. I was ill, and it was obvious. To make matters worse, I am told i spilled a coke and made a mess on his lovely balcony. The straw that broke the camels back. I received a message the next morning informing me that I was to consider myself persona-non-grata.
So, it was thursday afternoon i had pissed of one of the big Jews, and Jesus, can you believe it? I was going to do it all over again! Whiskey tasting number two was under Jared, and the guest this time was of his choosing.
Allow me now to elaborate on the oh-so-important details of the event. The open drinks at the bar were chivas neat, chivas and water, chivas on the rocks, chivas and ginger ale, and a surprisingly tasty chivas apple cocktail. The cocktail waitresses were very shapely, very pretty, all in black, and most importantly, came by very often to replenish our drinks. The restaurant had indoor space for people to mingle or something, and tables outside for people to enjoy fresh air or cigarettes, whichever they prefered. The tables were under propane-fueled heat lamps, to ward off that chilly night desert air, which made them just right. And the hors d'oeuvres! oh, those appetizers. They included (but were not limited to) grilled ham and cheese sandwich bites (honey-cured ham, brie cheese), fried duck dumpling, roast beef and horseradish on some bread, parmesan crackers with sharp creme cheese, grilled shrimp, spring rolls, &c. Oh, and the music selection was very good two. (they played The gift by Way out West. It's the only specific track I remember, but it's one of those random tidbits that has won a permanent place in my heart. If you believe in electro-music, I suggest you check it out.) This, my friends, is how you get people to remember your brand.
My guest missed out on all this, and it cost me dearly. Jared's guest did not. I got to meet a chill dude whose name was, I kid you not, Swap. He had a good understanding of the value of such a big ticket open bar. And after the tasting he also had a good idea of what to do next. Introduce us to the Manhattan Beach bar scene. We went to some place called Dragon which had a long line, expensive beer, and was much too loud. This was not the place for anything less than a huge rowdy group, and that, we were not. I hate standing around staring at strangers almost as much as I hate strangers. We abandoned hope and drove a little further up the beach. We found a nice quiet and empty place in which to enjoy a nightcap. We did and then really enjoyed the slow cruise home. I was glad to have met Swap.
The moral of the story is: while moderation in all things would be ideal, in a pinch a good averaging of trouble and success will do.

November 09, 2004

The thing about your first time is,

sometimes it's embarrassing to remember but impossible to forget. Awkward dialogue, clumsy posturing, nervous sweat, like all things it takes much practice and experience to achieve the very romanticized effect you see in movies. But they never tell you that when they're about to get you started.
The circumstances for my first time were perfect. My best friend's older brother had just graduated from University and he and his seven closest friends (All newly minted mechanical engineers) had planned a trip to Puerto Vallarta. At the last minute there were not one but TWO dire emergencies, and the package was for eight people, so to avoid having to pay very much extra, my Best Friend and I were recruited to fill in the gaps. In the sumer of ninety five, I was thirteen years old and my best friend was fifteen. I was always a late bloomer, and he was always early. At fifteen he looked about seventeen and at 13 i looked about 11. Maybe. This along with the fact that the youngest of the engineers was 23 and the oldest 28 and I certainly had occasion to feel out of place. And there was of course, much ribbing. I wish I could say it was good natured, but much of it was in very mean spirits. And since the Mexican spanish vernacular is rife with double entendre (known in spanish as "albur") I had to watch very carefully every single thing I said and did. Somewhere between the stage a boy feels compelled to dig for treasure and before the stage where he plays with fire, he must go through a similar gauntlet to ensure that he is rightly constructed for the next phase of his life.
The package we signed up for included 4 days three nights stay, three meals a day in the hotel restaurant along with an open bar and an open snack and beverage bar at the beach. I don't need to tell you that 6 out of 8 were more concerned with the free drinks than the free food. Still, even being too young to drink it was a great way to spend $60 USD.
The second day at lunch when I started feeling the warm sunshine in my brain, when the waiter asked me what I wanted to drink, I said half-jokingly a "chi-chi", which is kinda like a pina colada, but with vodka instead. The waiter could not accomodate me, so I asked if I forwent a drink if my older buddy could have two? After I was forced to accept a delicious coke, and the waiter had gone, I received the third of many important lessons on this trip. "You shouldn't say things like that, because it's insulting the intelligence of the waiter. You're too young to get a drink, and if 'anything is going to happen' on this trip, that certainly isn't the way to go about it." (you must imagine all this in spanish)
After lunch, while all this was sinking in, I saw the ward of two babes our group had noticed during dinner walking alone with a new pet iguana (a common thing in vallarta) on a leash on his shirt. Serendipitousley, I said "your iguana is going to die kid" as kind of a joke. I was a bastard back then I guess. When he stopped dead in his tracks and turned to me, looking scared and asking why, I felt bad, and proceeded to tell the youg'un everything i knew about reptile care. Once I had gotten the attention of the women who were taking care of him, Mayito, one of the handsomer engineers stepped in and having had a snake in his own childhood, loaded junor with all the information he needed to care for the reptile the rest of its life. The women, who turned out to be the boys mother and godmother came and introduced themselves. MILF and GMILF then proceeded to pick two of the engineers out of the lineup and made dates with them. Even at 12 I was not Naive enough not to know what went on during beach dates.
The next morning we went out to breakfast and then the beach minus one of the two lucky daters last night who was still recovering. There was a change in the mood of the group. All the focus had shifted away from me and toward the people who had gotten laid the night before. And this time, the ribbing was totally good-natured. After breakfast, while on the beach, I had gotten a surge of confidence like I had never felt before. All of a sudden, when checking out the hot blondes and wondering if any among us (them) were going to go and talk to them, I said I'd bite the bullet and just marched on over there. The women were two hot blondes from Frisco it turned out, and I told them I was with a few young professionals who wanted to practice their english, but were a little embarrassed about their skills. The women were good-natured and waived them over. After it was obvious that my skills of interpretation were no longer needed, I moseyed over to where my own peer was hanging with the oldest engineer of the bunch. They asked me what was going on and I pointed to our party making gestures at the hot blondes. He thought it was hilarious, then turned to me very seriously, and asked if I wanted to share in the caballitos. Caballitos, meaning horseys, is Mexican slang for shots. The way they do it is pour the shot (in a bigger glass with a salt rim) and squeeze a half lime in there, then chase it with a back of coke. Yes Coca-Cola! My friend had already tried one.
My first drink was good. Warm nose, crisp finish and on top of that the favorite seasoning of the Mexican people for all things fresh, Salt and lime. It warmed my stomach and didn't make me gag. After just a couple of shots our heads were already spinning and we were feeling great! My dear friend and I went to our room to wait out the effects and chill while those that were no longer under the attention of the blondes went "sight-seeing".
There would always be more drinks, but this was my first. And by gaw, I earned it.

November 03, 2004

Hangover's a bitch, huh?

When you started, you were imbibing very slowly, and then, as you picked up steam, and courage and confidence, it only seemed like more and more people were coming to your Party. It got easier to drink heavily, and you scolded the moderate drinkers for not caring as much as you did about the booze. You showed them what real commitment to the Party was by doing 3 shots and an ice luge, and some of them seemed to understand. But now, the party is over, it's the morning after and you feel like shit. All the wind is knocked out of your sails, and you want to vomit. You can't believe it's over. You wonder if there were any solutions or recipes you could have looked up before you got so into it. It seems the people suffering least from the hangover are the moderate drinkers. They had something else important to do the next day, and just sorta took it easy. They're gonna be fine.
The fact is, there's not a whole lot our scientists know about hangovers. Since throughout all of history, the hangovers have just been seen as just deserts for getting carried away, it hasn't occurred to a lot of doctors that how we react to a hangover might be a big factor in how we develop a tolerance and dependency on alcohol. Some unpopular theories claim that it is actually the first stage of alcohol withdrawal. More common, is a notion that it is a complicated combination of dehydration, malnourishment, and toxicity. Besides the obvious "stay away from booze" advice, there's a couple of things that can be done to head it off at the pass (the ancient Romans believed in fried canaries). Only a few have shown real statistically significant promise in the world of smart scientist people. First and foremost is the obvious, don't drink on an empty stomach. You should drink plenty of water with your booze, vitamins B, and prostaglandin inhibitors, like aspirin or ibuprofen during your party.
Failing this, the symptoms of a hangover vary greatly among the population based on a million factors of physiology, none of which I understand completely, and include Headache (the most common), sensitivity to light and sound, nausea (my least favorite), decreased cognitive functions (even after you don't feel sick), fatigue, diarrhea (eww), and in extreme cases, physical shaking.
By some -probably exaggerated- estimates, the loss to the american economy because of hangover related loss of productivity is about two grand per working adult per year. Most of this loss is, surprisingly, because of moderate, non-habitual drinkers. Drunks are more likely to be able to function close to capacity, even while hungover. So the lesson here is, if you want to avoid being counter-productive, when you start drinking, just don't ever stop.

November 02, 2004

Cheers to Life, Liberty and security of Property

Tonight, at about 8pm central time (Cause the mountain and pacific time zones are all a lock right?) everyone in America will have occasion to drink. Either to celebrate, or to drown the sorrows. Cheers to four more years! Cheers to America doing better! Cheers to Hillary in 2008, Cheers to Arnold in 2008! Half of us will be celebrating, the other Half drinking to forget. Politics over pints is a classic of American (and really all civilized nations) life. Tonight, when half are happy and half are sad, I do not want to hear any whining. If I hear "I'm leaving the country cause some redneck won" or "The coward godless communists are in again, I'm going on the welfare" I will never again pour you a drink. Losing is no excuse to stop caring, and tonight half of you will. Lose that is. When the time comes to make the peace, I want the right side of the bar to look left, and the left side of the bar to look right, and all toast to four more years of working hard for what you believe. Because this is still America, and that will always be an option.
Cheers, because they are our countrymen once more.