Friday, July 31, 2015

This Blue Moon is celebrated by a piece from E. M. Cook, composer, and one-hit wonder. Well, the internet would have you believe. about Mr. (I assume it's Mr., but it just as well may be Ms.) Cook. Cook published Blue Moon Two Step in 1913 and it's a pretty typical little rag. The tempo's nice and the syncopation good, but unlike it's namesake, it's nothing unusual. I do love the cover, though, and you can hear a MIDI of it here.

Cell Mates - Blue Moon Baby

It's blue moon time again and to honor the second full moon of July 2015, I figured I'd throw on a little rockabilly. Here's Blue Moon Baby by the Cell Mates!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Thirsty Thursday - Once in a Blue Moon

Somewhere in the nearly 1000 posts I've written for this blog I've touched on the subject of the blue moon. A blue moon is defined as the second full moon within a single calendar month, and the next blue moon will be coming on July 31, 2015. So, to welcome our dear cerulean sphere, I'm recommending a taste of moon juice - a blue moon cocktail.

According to Imbibe Magazine, the blue moon was the house cocktail of a New York establishment called Joel's Green Room. Joel's was a bohemian hangout, pimped by its owner, Joel Rinaldo, as being to New York what Maxim's was to Paris. According to Joel its cabaret floor show featured 20 singers and the restaurant seated "1000 diners including 500 show folks always at Joel's after the show." If you were into more cerebral pursuits, any of the waiters would happily sell customers a copy of a book penned by Joel himself on what he called the "polygeneric theory of life", basically disavowing the legitimacy of the theory of evolution. Yes, in short, Joel was a huckster.

What can be said for certain is that Joel's Green Room did pull in actors and actresses from the New York theater scene. Most of them probably starred in supporting roles or featured in the chorus, but there were exceptions to the rule. O. Henry and Emma Goldman wound up at Joel's and there's even a story of Enrico Caruso singing O Sole Mio to a Charlie Chaplin violin accompaniment, though like Joel's theories on the origin of man, nothing can be proved.

The Blue Moon supposedly was described by N.Y. columnist O. O. McIntyre as "high powered in action", whatever that means. It was a Prussian blue persuader, the lubricant for Bohemia in New York, and its true recipe is lost to time because Rinaldo never wrote it down. There are multiple versions printed in various publications, all with their own interpretation, but none truly is the original. So, I present two versions, first the Imbibe translation which is boozier and then the Cocktail Parade version printed in 1933.

Imbibe's Blue Moon
2 oz. dry gin
1/2 oz. Crème Yvette or crème de violette
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
Add the above to a cocktail shaker with ice, shake, and serve with a twist of lemon in a martini glass.

Cocktail Prade's Blue Moon (or Contented Cow)
1/3 Gin
1/3 Whole Milk
1/3 Grenadine or Heavy Raspberry or Strawberry Syrup
Add the above to an ice-filled cocktail shaker, shake, and serve in a martini glass.

My personal opinion is the Imbibe version probably is more accurate, in spite of being reconstructed much later. I know that milk played a role in many drinks of the 20's and 30's, but grenadine, raspberry, or strawberry syrup would produce a pink drink, not the purple-blue described by period drinkers. Either way, here's purple in your eye old moon.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Funnies - Bedtime (1922)

"Mamma! Will you make Freddie stop? He asks God to bless me, then he says things under his breath."
Life Magazine, 1922

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Funnies - Special Edition: Happy National Cowboy Day

"Was there any good movies in town?"
"Naw - I'm fed up with these Western pictures."
Life Magazine, 1922

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Funnies - Special Edition: The 90th Anniversary of the Scopes Monkey Trial (1922)

"It's a Lie!"
Life Magazine, 1922

Though it'd be another three years before the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial put evolution and religion at odds in a court of law, Life Magazine already was in the business of parodying William Jennings Bryan. The trial would come down in the sweltering Rhea County Courthouse in Dayton, Tennessee. The case matched perennial presidential candidate Bryan against famed defense attorney Clarence Darrow and ended in substitute teacher John Thomas Scopes being found guilty of violating Tennessee's Butler Act. The verdict would be overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Funnies - Photographic Evidence (1922)

Binks (looking at photo proof): I don't like it. I look like a runt.
"Ah! But you must admit that the likeness is excellent."
Life Magazine, 1922

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Thirsty Thursday - The Daiquiri

A summertime staple, drink of beach bars around the world, and quencher of the sun's fiery power, the Daiquiri is a drink with a long and complicated history that belies its fluffy rep. It all starts on a certain island just 90 miles from the southernmost point in these United States, the tropical island of Cuba. The Spanish long used Cuba as their foothold in the Americas. Christopher Columbus claimed it for the Spanish crown and Spain fought to keep their foothold, doing battle with the French and the British to retain control. Cuba repaid its monarchs with the financial rewards reaped from tobacco and sugar.

Fast forward to 1823 and the Monroe Doctrine and its edict that European powers should keep their hands off the Americas. Having survived the trials and tribulations of its conflicts with France and Britain, Spain still was the ruling power in Cuba, a fact that wasn't so popular with Cubans. During the Spanish-American War, America landed troops in Cuba, coming ashore on a beach named Daiquiri. The end result, American occupation of Cuba and Cuban tobacco and sugar filling American coffers for a change.

In the wake of the war, Jennings Cox moved in to profit from an iron mine not far from Santiago and Daiquiri beach and its Mr. Cox who is credited with creating the original Daiquiri. Supposedly, Jennings was entertaining one night and ran out of gin. Not wanting to let the festivities die, Cox resorted to the most readily available liquor on the island, rum. He added lemons, sugar, and mineral water and to his pleasure, his guests loved the result. Pressed for a name he initially called it a rum sour, but eventually he switched to the fancier moniker, the Daiquiri. Through the Bacardi website you can even view Mr. Cox's original recipe.

Allegedly Admiral Lucius W. Johnson, a US Navy officer, fell in love with the Daiquiri and introduced it to the Army and Navy Club in Washington DC as well as the University Club of Baltimore (the Admiral apparently got around). By the 30's the Daiquiri began to come into its own courtesy of two famous American writers.

F. Scott Fitzgerald gave the Daiquiri a cameo in This Side of Paradise, but Ernest Hemingway was more associated with the cocktail. Hemingway loved the Daiquiri so much that even diabetes wouldn't stay his appetite. Instead he swapped grapefruit for the sugar, added maraschino liqueur, and doubled up the rum, creating the Papa Doble served at El Floridita. He penned on the wall of La Bodeguita "My mojito in La Bodeguita. My Daiquiri in El Floridita."

The Papa Doble (Hemmingway Daiquiri)
3oz White rum
1oz Lime juice
.5 oz Grapefruit juice
.25 oz Maraschino liqueur

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and gently shake with ice.. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Ah, but time waits for no man and it has a habit of playing holy hell with his drink of choice. In the 1930's two things changed the Daiquiri forever: the refrigerator and the blender. Back at Hemingway's favorite Daiquiri haunt a bartender by the name of Constantino Ribalaigua Vert was transforming the drink from shaken cocktail to slushy with a kick. With a good blender a barkeep could puree any fruit he wanted and add it to the mix and soon there were banana, mango, and strawberry Daiquiris made to order with the slush-like consistency of something you might find at your local 7-11. Soon vodka replaced gin and America moved into its Tiki mid-life crisis making the Daiquiri the drink of choice for sloshed co-eds at every spring break beach party. By the end of the 80's the Daiquiri was just another washed up has been on cocktail Skid Row.

But, as this blog shows again and again, nothing old stays that way for long and the past never really leaves us forever. The resurgence of drinking culture in the 90's brought back an interest in making cocktails the way granddad did. Out went the corn syrup mixes, fresh fruit juices and in-house infused liquors came into vogue, and soon the drink that blew in from the Spanish American war had been returned to its glory.

Regardless of what you think of the United States' re-imagining its relationship with that island 90 miles offshore, summer's a great time to rediscover the Daiquiri. Leave the bickering and phony politics to the politicians, let us have lime and rum and happy memories.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Funnies - Haircut Envy (1922)

Little Johnny: Can't I have my hair cut with a hole in the top like Dr. Story?
Life Magazine, 1922

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Funnies - The Artist (1922)

"He draws pictures for advertisements, doesn't he?"
"Yes. But he's also an artist."

Life Magazine, 1922

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy 4th of July!

Little Timmy always was a sicko, now he's got a job at the Pentagon and mom and dad are so proud! Happy 4th everyone!

Special Edition The Funnies - Old Friends Meet (1914)

Life Magazine, July 2, 1914

Apparently the lady finger was the early 20th century equivalent of the atom bomb. At least you'd think so by the number of cartoons Life Magazine ran depicting the Grim Reaper selling pyrotechnics.

Special Edition: The Funnies - Bike Meet (1894)

In honor of the beginning of the 2015 Tour de France

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Thirsty Thursday - Absinthe

Few cocktails carry the mystique and infamy of the green, wormwood and star anise flavored curative-come-beverage of intellectuals invented by French doctor, Pierre Ordinaire, absinthe. Dr. Ordinaire brewed his first batch of absinthe in the small Swiss town of Couvet where he'd taken refuge from the upheaval (and beheadings) of the French Revolution. Absinthe was a sort of snake oil cure-all, distilled from a combination of local herbs, star anise, fennel, and Artemisia absinthium (wormwood), and the good doctor claimed it would alleviate just about any ill the imbiber could think up. From flatulence to rheumatism, dropsy to infertility, a dose of Dr. Ordinaire's green tincture would set you right. When Ordinare died, his recipe passed to the Henriod sisters who continued to sell the emerald-green potion as a patent medicine until 1797 when one Major Dubled entered the picture. The Major purchased the rights to Dr. Ordinaire's recipe and, with the help of his son Marcellin and son-in-law Henry-Louis Penrod, opened the first absinthe distillery, Dubied Pére ed Fils. It would be Penrod who would bring absinthe to the world when he open a second distillery in Pontarlier, France and brought what would become the drink of artists, writers, and intellectuals to the nation from which it would conquer the world.

In the beginning, absinthe retained its medicinal reputation. In the 1840's French troops carried absinthe along as a treatment for malaria. They returned having acquired a taste for the liquor just at a time where mass production and distribution made absinthe affordable to just about everyone. Absinthe became so popular that, by the end of the 19th century shortages made it a fashionable item and mark of class. Five o'clock became l'heure verte (the green hour) in French cafes and by 1910 absinthe had become the drink of choice in France. The Green Lady spread her wings and influence the globe. She became a popular and welcome guest in Spain, Great Britain, the Czech Republic, and the Old Absinthe House in New Orleans could never have served a sazerac without absinth. is one of the city's most prominent landmarks, but its growing popularity would soon lead to its demise.

With the demand for absinthe at an all-time high, disreputable manufacturers saw an opportunity to strike it rich. They began substituting grain alcohol for cheaper grape alcohol making their product more popular and increasing consumption. Due to the glut of cheap absinthe and two types of blight attacking vineyards and running up the price of wine, absinthe eventually became more popular with the French working class than wine. By the turn of the century France's vines were on the mend and vintners were sick of taking a beating at the hands of the Green Fairy. They were up for revenge and their first strike was to start a smear campaign against absinthe which they decried as an unnatural and inferior product. Ignoring rampant alcoholism as a potential cause, they pointed to absinthe as the root cause for the chronic drunkenness, destitution, and hopelessness that ruled over the lower classes and by the 1860's the term "absinthism" emerged.

Anti-Absinthe Propaganda in the San Francisco Call
The disease described by Dr. Falentin Magnan of the St. Anne Asylum in Paris sounded horrible enough:

" In absinthism, the hallucinating delirium is most active, most terrifying, sometimes provoking reactions of an extremely violent and dangerous nature… the absinthist cries out, pales, loses consciousness and falls; the features contract, the jaws clench, the pupils dilate, the eyes roll up, the limbs stiffen, a jet of urine escapes, gas and waste material are brusquely expulsed."

Oddly the symptoms the doctor described generally apply to alcoholism in general, a fact dismissed out of hand by Magnan because it didn't support his personal crusade. Soon abolitionists and the press joined in the fray and before long absinthe was accused of causing madness, criminality, tuberculosis, and epilepsy. The final blow would come from a sensationalized murder committed by an alcoholic laborer named Jean Lanfray who slew his pregnant wife and children after a binge that happened to include two ounces of absinthe.

“Lanfray consumed seven glasses of wine, six glasses of cognac, one coffee laced with brandy, two crème de menthes, and two glasses of absinthe after eating a sandwich. He returned home drunk with his father, and drank another coffee with brandy. He then got into an argument with his wife, and asked his wife to polish his shoes for him. When she refused, Lanfray retrieved a rifle and shot her once in the head, killing her instantly, causing his father to flee. His four-year-old daughter, Rose, heard the noise and ran into the room, where Lanfray shot and killed her and his two-year-old daughter, Blanche. He then shot himself in the jaw and carried Blanche’s body to the garden, where he collapsed.”

In 1906 absinthe became illegal in Brazil and Belgium, in 1908 in Holland, in 1910 in Switzerland, in the US in 1912, and finally in France in 1915. The Green Fairy wasn't dead, though. In 1990's she began a resurgence, returning to the UK and by 2004 she'd returned to Amsterdam and in 2012 the French brand Lucid officially was legal for import into the US. Now, with the long and sordid history of absinthe out of the way, let's get down to tacks (brass or otherwise) and talk about how to drink the stuff.

If you go into a modern bar that serves absinthe, it would (basically) be served in the American style. That is a pony of absinthe, a carafe of water, and a cube of sugar. The absinthe will be served in a tumbler or reservoir glass. A special, slotted spoon will be balanced on top of the glass, on which there will be a cube of sugar. The carafe of ice water is poured over the sugar cube, sweetening the absinthe, diluting it to the strength desired by the drinker, and producing the classic louche (milkiness and opalescence). Here are the instructions as described in Harry Johnson's 1888 New and Improved illustrated Bartender's Manual.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Poem for July

Fourth of July
John Brehm

Freedom is a rocket,
isn’t it, bursting
orgasmically over
parkloads of hot
dog devouring
human beings
or into the cities
of our enemies
without whom we
would surely
kill ourselves
though they are
ourselves and
America I see now
is the soldier
who said I saw
burning on my
chest and tried
to brush it off with
my right hand
but my arm
wasn’t there—
America is no
other than this
moment, the
burning ribcage,
the hand gone
that might have
put it out, the skies
afire with our history.

July Quote

"I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on summer humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives."

Ann Voskamp

100 Years Ago - Beech-Nut Peanut Butter

Now you don’t think of the name Beech-Nut when you talk about peanut butter, but 100 years ago the company’s products included everything from ham to chili sauce.

Beech-Nut was established by Raymond P. Lipe and Dr. John D. Zeiley in the Mohawk Valley town of Canajoharie, NY in 1891. It started out as the Imperial Packing Company, producing Beech-Nut ham and for the company's first seven years it principally produced ham and bacon.
In 1899 the company was incorporated as the Beech-Nut Packing Company and Beech-Nut engineers patented the first vacuum jar that could remain intact in transit. The company gradually expanded its product line into peanut butter, jam, pork and beans, ketchup, chili sauce, mustard, spaghetti, macaroni, marmalade, caramel, fruit drops, mints, chewing gum, and coffee.

The Boy Scout references in this ad probably tell you it came from Boy’s Life. I can’t honestly imagine feeding a hungry troop of Boy Scouts on peanut butter and crackers. I think you might have a revolt on your hands!