Friday, January 31, 2014

Shōga Mitsubachi Hiza aka The Ginger Bees Knees

In my last post I wrote about the old school Roaring 20's cocktail known as The Bees Knees. Now I wouldn't be me if I didn't try and make my own variation of the Bees Knees. Since I have a bottle of the Bombay Sapphire East Asia Gin that I have been playing around with as of late, I've decided to use that Gin rather than the Bombay Sapphire. I also substituted your standard Honey Syrup with a Ginger Infused Honey Syrup that I've been fooling around with. I've decided to name the cocktail the Shōga Mitsubachi Hiza which literally translates to Ginger Bees Knees in Japanese (East Asia Gin. Get it?). Here is that recipe:
Shōga Mitsubachi Hiza (生姜ミツバチ膝) aka Ginger Bees Knees
2oz Bombay Sapphire East Asia Gin
0.5 oz of Fresh Lemon Juice
0.5 oz of Fresh Orange Juice
0.75oz of Ginger Infused Honey Syrup

Build over ice in shaker, double strain into a champagne glass.
The spiciness from the ginger coupled with the extra kick of the Bombay Sapphire East Asia Gin gives this cocktail a little more complexity than your standard Bees Knees cocktail. This might be my go to drink whenever I have company come over. Give it a try. Let me know what you think.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Bees Knees

Since I seem to be on a gin kick as of late, I've decided to make a classic cocktail from the Roaring 20's which contains Gin as the base spirit known as The Bees Knees. To be perfectly honest with you, I don't know when exactly this cocktail was created. Everything I seem to find online and in books states that it is from the Roaring 20's. The era is significant since this cocktail seems to be flavored in a certain manner as to mask the taste of the cheap bathtub gin that was being made in illegally during the Prohibition era. The blog page Savoy Stomp: Stomping Through the Savoy Cocktail Book, Erik Ellestad (@ellestad) has an interesting history behind which bartender it was believed to be the first to publish the recipe for the Bees Knees in their respective cocktail books. In addition, two recipes seem be the prominent ones used.

One is from the book Boothby’s World Drinks and How to Mix Them by William T. "Wild Bill" Boothby. The recipe in Boothy's book called for:
1 oz (2 tbsp) honey simple syrup
¾ oz (1 ½ tbsp) gin
½ oz (1 tbsp) freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ oz (1 tbsp) freshly squeezed orange juice
Combine 2 tbsp of the honey simple syrup (use less for a less sweet drink), gin, lemon juice and orange juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a small chilled cocktail glass and serve.
The second recipe as described by Ellestad is from Trader Vic's 1947 Bartending Guide:
1 oz Gin
Juice 1/4 Lemon
1 tsp. Honey

Shake with crushed ice; strain into cocktail glass.
It would seem to me that the first one indeed masks the Gin since there is so much of the honey syrup combined with the juices as opposed to so little of the Gin. That's a count and a half of Gin by today's standards of three to four counts (1.5oz to 2oz). The second one comes closer to modern proportions of ingredients.

Most websites have the modern version with two ounces of Gin instead of the three quarters or one ounce of Gin in the aforementioned recipes. In addition, one version contains orange juice, one does not. It seems that modern bartenders have chosen to use the version with more Gin and chose to either use or omit the orange juice. To me this meant that I needed to make both versions (with and without orange juice) and see which one I liked the best. I made the version without orange juice first since I did not have any fresh oranges at home. Honey syrup is made with equal parts of honey and water, simmered and left to cool. Here is the recipe for the first cocktail:
The Bees Knees #1
2oz Bombay Sapphire Gin
0.5 oz of Fresh Lemon Juice
0.75oz of Honey Syrup

Build over ice in shaker, double strain into a champagne glass.
I double strained the cocktail since I used fresh squeezed lemon juice that had a seed or two and some pulp remaining. This cocktail somewhat bears a resemblance to Trader Vic's version since the proportions seem to be double for the Gin and Lemon juice. The honey syrup portion is bumped up much higher though Trader Vic's recipe calls for straight honey while this one uses honey syrup.

I found this cocktail to be somewhat tart. Not the expected flavor that many people online seemed to describe as "Too sweet". I can only imagine how tart Trader Vic's version was with less honey/sweetner than my cocktail had. I found that I had to raise the amount of honey syrup to one ounce. That seemed to neutralize the tartness somewhat but I found that it was still unbalanced. On to cocktail number two with orange juice.
The Bees Knees #2
2oz Bombay Sapphire Gin
0.5 oz of Fresh Lemon Juice
0.5 oz of Fresh Orange Juice
0.75oz of Honey Syrup

Build over ice in shaker, double strain into a champagne glass.
Again, I used the double strainer method to strain out any extra pulp that was contained in the orange and lemon juices. I prefer the version with the orange juice than the one without. I find that this one plays better with my palate I find that the orange juice helps to balance out the tartness in the cocktail while not adding much in the way of sweetness. If I was to make this at work, I would definitely use the version with orange juice than without.

For my next post, I came up with a variation on the Bees Knees known as the Shōga Mitsubachi Hiza. Want to know what's in that cocktail? Then you need to come back and read the next post when it is published tomorrow. ;)

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Boondock Saints (1999)

Poster by Chadtrutt
The Boondock Saints (1999) is one of the most entertaining movies that I have ever seen. I only watched this movie a few months ago for the first time and have since watched it a number of times. Its one of those movies that are a "go-to" flick when I'm bored and need a few laughs. In addition, since I am wearing my SiscoVanilla at the movies rose colored booze filled glasses, it gives me another opportunity to go back and re-watch the movie for the sake of "research".

The movie starts on St. Patrick's Day in Boston (South Boston?). Now all of us who work in bars know what happens on St. Patrick's Day: DRINKING. So the plot is set in a local bar called McGinty's where the protagonists, fraternal twins Connor MacManus (Sean Patrick Flaherty), Murphy MacManus (Norman Reedus) are joined by their buddy Rocco (David Della Rocco) and other bar patrons who are putting back pints of Guinness and shots in celebration of the life and efforts of Irish patron saint Pádraig aka St. Patrick. The movie jumps back and forth in time to move the story along and after we're introduced to Federal Agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe), we have more of the story fleshed out to us with a meeting between Smecker and the MacManus brothers, It is at this point that we find out what happens in the bar after closing hours.

The bar is empty with the exception of the MacManus brothers, Rocco and a few other friends sitting at the bar with the Tourette syndrome suffering bartender Doc (Gerard Parks).

Doc lets them know that he has to close the bar since the Russian mob has been buying up all the buildings in the area including the one where the bar is located.

Almost on cue, a trio of Russian mobsters come in led by Ivan Checkov (Scott Griffith). Checkov tells everyone to leave. After some back and forth banter, the MacManus brothers come to the conclusion that they need to do something about Checkov and his backup. They proceed to do a shot together and then the donnybrook starts.

Now, based on assumptions and personal experience with St. Patrick's Day here in New York City, I would have thought that the brothers were shooting an Irish Whisky of sorts. Possibly a Jameson or a Powers. As I did with my post on The American (2010), I decided to go back to the source material for more information. I found the script to the movie on the Daily Scripts website. After going through the script, I found the part that describes the fight and found something very interesting:
Connor: Calm down, Doc. I'm sure they're reasonable fellows.

He and Murphy each grab a Guinness and a shot of Hennessey and they approach the Russians with the peace offering.
After the peace offering is rejected by Checkov and it seems that the proverbial line was crossed:
They clink the glasses together, throw back the Hennessey, ball up the thick glasses in their fists, drop to one knee and both deliver a devastating blow to each of Checkov's quads. Murphy on the left, Connor on the right. He's down for the count, writhing on the floor.
Now some of you might be thinking, why would these good old Irish boys be drinking Cognac on St. Paddy's Day instead of some Irish Whisky. Allow me to elaborate on that. Back in 2012 in a post entitled Threesome at Isla Verde Cafe, I wrote the following paragraph about Hennessy cognac:
I would hope that you would know what Hennessy is, aside from a popular girl's name here in the Bronx (I kid you not), one of the leading Cognac brands in the world and has been in existence since 1765 when Irishman Richard Hennessy built the first Hennessy distillery. See that is interesting, an Irishman created Hennessy. Gotta love the backstory.
This is the right time to elaborate on the backstory. According to the Hennessy family name page on the page:
Richard Hennessy (1720-1800)
Hennessy brandy was first distilled by Richard Hennessy (1720-1800), who was born in Ballymacmoy House near Mallow in north Co. Cork. He went to France in 1740 and became an officer in Dillon's Irish Regiment in the French Army. In 1765, he went to the Charente departement and set up the distillery that produces Hennessy brandy. The distillery continues to this day, as does the Hennessy line in the company. The Hennessy house at Killavullen near Mallow, overlooking the River Blackwater, can still be seen today.
In addition, history page on the Hennessy webpage states that by 1794 Hennessy was shipping his cognac to the recently independent American colonies plus the following countries: 1818 Russia, 1819 India, 1855 Australia, 1859 China, 1867 Malaysia, 1892 South Africa, 1925 Czech Republic.

Based on the fact that Hennessy was created by an Irish officer in the French army, it really isn't that surprising that the MacManus brothers would be shooting and using Hennessy to burn the arse of Checkov while tied to the bar on St. Patrick's Day.

The label is different but it looks like a Hennessy bottle
At a later part in the movie, the MacManus brothers and Rocco are planning their future in crime fighting, when I notice that Connor is swiging from a bottle. I was able to get a screen capture which shows that the product is Wiser's De Luxe.

I have never heard of any spirit known as Wiser's De Luxe so off I went to research it on the information superhighway. What I discovered was that Wiser's De Luxe is a Canadian Whisky distilled by a man who went by the name of John Phillip Wiser aka J.P. Wiser. According to the Wiser's Canadian Whisky's website:
John Philip Wiser, or J.P. as he was fondly known, was the son of a Dutch farmer from New York State. Like his father, J.P. was a man of integrity, strong values and an exceptional work ethic.

In the late 1800s, Wiser set out in eastern Ontario at a deliberate and steady pace to build a company that was known for its quality, craftsmanship and premium products...Wiser's ambition for his distillery was simple - to produce the highest quality whisky "that pleases the nose, tongue, and eye".

In the hands of J.P. Wiser, this process was one that could not be sacrificed by rushing. According to J.P. Wiser, "Quality is something you just can't rush. Horses should hurry, but whisky must take its time."

Using only superior ingredients, he aged his whisky to distinction in premium white oak barrels. Over the years the tradition has been passed down, and even today, Wiser's whisky is the same whisky envisioned and developed by J.P. Wiser himself. It is still handmade using traditional methods to ensure that the final product still lives up to the standards set out by J.P. Wiser almost 150 years ago.
In terms of the Wiser's De Luxe whisky, the website describes it as such:
This full-flavoured Canadian whisky offers a rich aroma with a body that is complex and perfectly balanced. It is an exceptional blend of oak, toasted grains and rich toffee, with a finish that is smooth and enduring.

COLOUR: Rich amber
NOSE: Full, rich fragrance of dried fruits, caramel and vanilla. Well balanced mature oak
BODY: Full and round
PALATE: An exceptional blend of oak, toasted grains and rich toffee
FINISH: Full, warm and enduring, smooth finish
It would seems to me that you can only get this product in Canada since there was no option for the United States in the age verification process on the website. In order to get an opinion on Wiser's De Luxe, I decided to call on the Whisky Lassie for some information. I reached out to her on Twitter (@whiskylassie) asked what she thought about Wiser's De Luxe. Here is what she said:
It's marketed as "premium" but IMO, it falls a bit short of that.. Same price as AP dark horse (Alberta Premium), not same quality. I prefer small batch if comparing prices. they changed it a few years ago, now a NAS (No age statement), not as good as it used to be. At one point I recall it was a 10 yr old.
To further illustrate the point of it being a 10-year old whisky. I've found some images like this one here that has the number 10 on the label (on the left) to illustrate it being a 10-year old whisky. While the picture of the bottle on the website (on the right) has no such designation.

I guess I'll have to keep searching to resolve this mystery. Well, that's all for now for SiscoVanilla at the Movies. I have a bunch of movies in my queue that I will be writing about. Again, if you have any recommendations on what I should watch, feel free to drop me a line, to my Twitter @SiscoVanilla, my Google+ at SiscoVaniila and at my Facebook Page SiscoVanilla

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Stupid Conversation Concerning Fireball and Goldschläger

Sometimes in my line of work as a bartender I find that I engage in very interesting conversations. Conversations like these can make an otherwise quiet night into something very entertaining. This post is not about one of those conversations.

I had a customer want to get into an argument with me about all things: Goldschläger and Fireball Cinnamon Whisky. In the discussion that occurred at 3:25 am, the customer interjected himself into another conversation that I was having with a fellow bartender. My fellow bartender-in-arms was asking me how well does Fireball sell at our bar (since his bar doesn't carry it). For the record, it sells...ALOT!!!! We can go through three to five bottles on a busy weekend shift. The customer (who happens to also be a bartender, albiet at a Michelin rated restaurant) who is from overseas was stating that Goldschläger was the real deal not this new Fireball whisky. I related to him that Fireball was not new at all.

As I wrote in my post 60's Era Cold War Cocktails A-La Mad Men Part I from November 15, 2013, Fireball Whisky was originally the old Dr. McGillicuddy's Fireball Canadian Whisky of the 1960's. He scoffs at my answer and then turns around to me and states that Goldschläger is older. His reasoning was due to Goldschläger being some old German liqueur to which I respond that I don't know how old it is or where its from but that I only know of it since the 1980's here in the States. I guess that got his Anti-American feelings up since he was about to start to rant that why did it matter when it was sold here in the United States. I stopped the potential rant by saying that it didn't matter, since at 3:25 am I didn't care and walked away leaving him with the other bartender who made in initial query on Fireball. A day later the curiosity got the better of me. I decided to do some research on Goldschläger.

Ah Goldschläger, the favorite of many a frat boys wanting to do shots of an Oatmeal Cookie (Equal parts of Goldschläger® cinnamon schnapps, butterscotch schnapps, Bailey's® Irish cream, Jagermeister® herbal liqueur. Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes. Strain into a shot glass, and serve) is a Cinnamon schnapps. To be perfectly honest, I couldn't find anything online to tell me when Goldschläger was created. I found a quick blurb about Goldschläger in the book Gold: A Cultural Encyclopedia By Shannon Venable. Here is what was written about it:
Goldschläger is a flavored schnapps liqueur with the taste of spicy cinnamon that has gold flake leaves added to it as a novelty. The fancy liqueur was originally produced in Switzerland until the 1990s, when the U.K. multinational wine beer and spirits distributed Diageo acquire the brand and transferred its manufacturing to Italy. Originally developed with 53.5% alcohol content equivalent to 107 proof, Goldschläger now contains 43.5% alcohol at 87 proof. Each 750 mL bottle contains less than 0.1 g of gold leaf. The German name means "gold beater" in reference to gold leaf manufactures who pound bricks of gold into thin sheets.

The addition of the gold to the clear liqueur originates from a long tradition of adding gold flakes to food and beverage for both prestige and presumed health benefits. There is evidence that the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt may have added gold for the wine. The nobility of medieval Europe added gold to their alcoholic beverages as a lavish display of wealth. Goldwasser ("Gold water") is another gold flecked beverage manufactured in the Polish city of Danzig since it's invention in the late 16th century. A variety of contemporary champagnes and sparkling wines also contained gold flakes for celebratory flair.
I've never heard about Goldwasser. Now I was definitely curious. Speaking of Goldwasser:
Goldwasser, The Original Danziger
Since 1598 - The timeless fascination of a delicious gold experience. Original Danziger Goldwasser (Gold Water of Gdansk) was first created in 1598 in the city of Gdansk and ranked as the favourite liqueur of the legendary Russian Tsar Peter and Catherine the Great. The popularity of this famous Danziger Liqueur - featuring suspended genuine 22 - carat gold flakes - soon spread internationally and quickly became a favourite liqueur of high society. To this day, this delicious gold liqueur remains a uniquely bitter sweet experience that glows in the splendor of this precious metal and which has lost none of its fascination. The exquisite Original Danziger Goldwasser Liqueur was once regarded as an unaffordable treasure on account of its genuine gold leaf content. As an exclusive gift, it stood as a shining symbol of affection, friendship and esteem. Its secret original formula from the 16th century remains unchanged today and is the seal of its provenance and authenticity
Now I don't know if Danzinger Goldwasser was indeed the favorite liqueur of Tsars Peter and Catherine the Great or just hyperbole but I have to say that pushing that little nugget of history is pretty cool. Never let it be said that a stupid conversation at 3:25 am can't lead to something educational. Though the combative customer was wrong about Goldschläger being from Germany, his nosiness helped me find out about Goldwasser and the history behind it. So I guess I owe him thanks. Thanks.

For my next post I go back to the movies with my liquor filled glasses analysis of The Boondock Saints (1999).

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Scotch Drink By Robert Burns 1785

Scotch Drink By Robert Burns 1785
From the website
Type: Poem

Gie him strong drink until he wink, 
That's sinking in despair; 
An' liquor guid to fire his bluid, 
That's prest wi' grief and care: 
There let him bouse, an' deep carouse, 
Wi' bumpers flowing o'er, 
Till he forgets his loves or debts, 
An' minds his griefs no more.
Solomon's Proverbs, xxxi. 6, 7.
Robert Burns from the Library of Congress Webpage

Let other poets raise a fracas
"Bout vines, an' wines, an' drucken Bacchus,
An' crabbit names an'stories wrack us,
An' grate our lug:
I sing the juice Scotch bear can mak us,
In glass or jug.

O thou, my muse! guid auld Scotch drink!
Whether thro' wimplin worms thou jink,
Or, richly brown, ream owre the brink,
In glorious faem,
Inspire me, till I lisp an' wink,
To sing thy name!

Let husky wheat the haughs adorn,
An' aits set up their awnie horn,
An' pease and beans, at e'en or morn,
Perfume the plain:
Leeze me on thee, John Barleycorn,
Thou king o' grain!

On thee aft Scotland chows her cood,
In souple scones, the wale o'food!
Or tumblin in the boiling flood
Wi' kail an' beef;
But when thou pours thy strong heart's blood,
There thou shines chief.

Food fills the wame, an' keeps us leevin;
Tho' life's a gift no worth receivin,
When heavy-dragg'd wi' pine an' grievin;
But, oil'd by thee,
The wheels o' life gae down-hill, scrievin,
Wi' rattlin glee.

Thou clears the head o'doited Lear;
Thou cheers ahe heart o' drooping Care;
Thou strings the nerves o' Labour sair,
At's weary toil;
Though even brightens dark Despair
Wi' gloomy smile.

Aft, clad in massy siller weed,
Wi' gentles thou erects thy head;
Yet, humbly kind in time o' need,
The poor man's wine;
His weep drap parritch, or his bread,
Thou kitchens fine.

Thou art the life o' public haunts;
But thee, what were our fairs and rants?
Ev'n godly meetings o' the saunts,
By thee inspired,
When gaping they besiege the tents,
Are doubly fir'd.

That merry night we get the corn in,
O sweetly, then, thou reams the horn in!
Or reekin on a New-year mornin
In cog or bicker,
An' just a wee drap sp'ritual burn in,
An' gusty sucker!

When Vulcan gies his bellows breath,
An' ploughmen gather wi' their graith,
O rare! to see thee fizz an freath
I' th' luggit caup!
Then Burnewin comes on like death
At every chap.

Nae mercy then, for airn or steel;
The brawnie, banie, ploughman chiel,
Brings hard owrehip, wi' sturdy wheel,
The strong forehammer,
Till block an' studdie ring an reel,
Wi' dinsome clamour.

When skirling weanies see the light,
Though maks the gossips clatter bright,
How fumblin' cuiffs their dearies slight;
Wae worth the name!
Nae howdie gets a social night,
Or plack frae them.

When neibors anger at a plea,
An' just as wud as wud can be,
How easy can the barley brie
Cement the quarrel!
It's aye the cheapest lawyer's fee,
To taste the barrel.

Alake! that e'er my muse has reason,
To wyte her countrymen wi' treason!
But mony daily weet their weason
Wi' liquors nice,
An' hardly, in a winter season,
E'er Spier her price.

Wae worth that brandy, burnin trash!
Fell source o' mony a pain an' brash!
Twins mony a poor, doylt, drucken hash,
O' half his days;
An' sends, beside, auld Scotland's cash
To her warst faes.

Ye Scots, wha wish auld Scotland well!
Ye chief, to you my tale I tell,
Poor, plackless devils like mysel'!
It sets you ill,
Wi' bitter, dearthfu' wines to mell,
Or foreign gill.

May gravels round his blather wrench,
An' gouts torment him, inch by inch,
What twists his gruntle wi' a glunch
O' sour disdain,
Out owre a glass o' whisky-punch
Wi' honest men!

O Whisky! soul o' plays and pranks!
Accept a bardie's gratfu' thanks!
When wanting thee, what tuneless cranks
Are my poor verses!
Thou comes-they rattle in their ranks,
At ither's a-s!

Thee, Ferintosh! O sadly lost!
Scotland lament frae coast to coast!
Now colic grips, an' barkin hoast
May kill us a';
For loyal Forbes' charter'd boast
Is ta'en awa?

Thae curst horse-leeches o' the' Excise,
Wha mak the whisky stells their prize!
Haud up thy han', Deil! ance, twice, thrice!
There, seize the blinkers!
An' bake them up in brunstane pies
For poor damn'd drinkers.

Fortune! if thou'll but gie me still
Hale breeks, a scone, an' whisky gill,
An' rowth o' rhyme to rave at will,
Tak a' the rest,
An' deal't about as thy blind skill
Directs thee best.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Ian Fleming's From Russia With Love (1963)

From Russia With Love (1963) holds the distinction of being my favorite of all the Bond movies. Something about this movie says non-stop action. It starts with Grant (Robert Shaw) stalking the man made to look like James Bond to the final battle with Colonel Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya). What I find is that the movie is missing are many references to alcohol. I can't fully say this with certainty but this might the Bond flick that has the least amount of instances where Bond has a drink.

After the opening sequence, the scene shift to Bond having himself a nice afternoon off with his squeeze Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson). Trench has the honor of being the only woman to be involved with Bond in two consecutive movies. While lounging by the stream where a rowing crew glides by, Bond has a rope wrapped around his foot. When he pulls up on the rope, he lifts a bottle of Taittinger Brut La Française from the water and claims that its not cold enough and puts it back in the water.

According to the Taittinger website:
Taittinger Brut La Française is composed of Chardonnay (40%) and Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (60%) from over 35 different crus and various harvests matured to perfection. This high proportion of Chardonnay, unique among the fine non-vintage Champagnes, and a minimum ageing of three years in the cellar where it reaches full aromatic maturity, make Taittinger Brut La Française a delicately balanced Champagne known for its consistent quality acclaimed worldwide. It is the proud of Champagne Taittinger to produce such an exceptional non-vintage Brut.
In terms of taste:
A brilliant golden yellow in colour. The bubbles are fine, while the foam is discreet yet lingering. The nose, very open and expressive, delivers aromas of fruit and brioche. Fragrances are reminiscent of peach, white flowers (hawthorne, acacia) and vanilla. The palate is livey, crisp and harmonious. This is delicate wine with flavours of fresh fruit and honey. Taittinger Brut La Française, which acquires its maturity during three or four years of ageing in the cellar, offers excellent aromatic potential.
After Bond is sent to Turkey, he meets his contact: Head of Station T Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendáriz). After some reconnaissance with Bey, he joins him at the gypsy camp. They are seated at the elder's table and served some Raki.

According to the website:
In the near and middle east countries the drink is known by different names such as Araka, Araki, Ariki which obviously come from the same origin. Some claim that it is called Iraqi (from Iraq) because it was first made in this country and spread to other regions. Others say it got its name from the razaki grapes used in producing it. Both theories are acceptable. Another theory is that arak in Arabic means "sweat" and araki " that which makes one sweat." If one drinks too much raki one does sweat and when raki is being distilled it falls drop by drop like sweat, so the name could have come from Arabic. In neighboring countries different kinds of raki have different names. In Greece gum is added to it and the drink is called "Mastika". Duziko which comes from the slavic word "Duz" means raki with aniseed. In Turkey, raki made from grape residue used to be called Düz Raki or Hay Raki. Zahle raki has taken this name because it is made in the city of Zahle in Lebanon. Raki is not a fermentation drink like wine and beer but a distillation drink, so more technical knowledge and equipment are necessary for its production. Encyclopedias write that in "Eastern India a drink produced by distilling fermented sugar cane juice is called "arak" and the same name is given Ceylon and Maleysia to an alcoholic drink made by the distillation of the juice of the palm tree. It is also noted that in Iran the drink made in the same way from grapes and dates is also called arak.

The drink made in Anatolia and known as Turkish raki has a history going back 300 years. The art of distillation which started in the Arab world and spread to the neighboring countries was implemented when people thought of making use of the sugar in the residue of wine processing. With the addition of aniseed, raki took on its Turkish characteristic.
Though Raki has was at first made from the leftover grapes used to make wine, today Raki is made from different fruits within different regions with grapes, figs and plums being the main fruits used for Raki production. How should you drink your Raki? Once again according to the Raki website:
The best way to drink Rakı, which is famous as the Turkish national drink, is with flat cylindrical glasses and cold (8-10 degree). One can drink it with water, straight, with soda or mineral water.

Although Rakı which is a distilled alcoholic beverage strongly aromatized with lots of anise, it can be consumed as a cocktail, but more commonly it goes best with cold hors d'oeuvres
What does Raki compare to in terms of other spirits? Kayla Webley in the Time Magazine listing for Raki in the article Top 10 Ridiculously Strong Drinks describes Raki as such:
Originally developed as an alternative to absinthe, raki — its still potent cousin — is popular in Greece, Bosnia and other Balkan countries and is called the national drink of Turkey. Similar to Greek ouzo and Italian grappa, the nonsweet, usually aniseed-flavored spirit was originally produced from the solid residue of the grape — the skin, pulp, seed and stem — that remained after the fruit was pressed to make wine. Today it is made from a variety of fruits, like figs, and is typically served with mezze and makes an especially good complement to fish, feta and cold hors d'oeuvres. When mixed with water, as it is commonly served, the drink turns a milky white, which has resulted in the powerful drink — said to have up to 90% alcohol content — becoming known as lion's milk, or the milk of the brave.
Not only is Raki a suitable apéritif comparable to Ouzo and Grappa, it is also used as an antiseptic as we see when Bond applies some to Kerim Bey's gun shot wound during the gypsy camp's firefight =)

The last reference to an alcoholic beverage is in the scene where Bond, Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), and Grant under the guise of British agent Nash are ordering dinner in the restaurant car on the Orient Express train headed towards Trieste in Northeastern Italy. Bond orders a bottle of Blanc de Blancs while Grant orders a bottle Chianti Red, which tips Bond off since Grant orders the wrong kind of wine with his meal which is fish.

According to's page on Chianti:
Today, Chianti is a source of world-class wines. It has begun to move away from its long-associated image of fiaschi (the squat, straw-covered bottles), and most producers now use the traditional Bordeaux-style bottles that tend to indicate higher-quality wines...Chianti's winemaking zone stretches into the provinces of Prato, Florence, Arezzo, Pistoia, Pisa and Siena....Chianti is characterized by its red and black cherry character, intermingled with notes of wild herbs, mint and spice, supported by a racy acidity and mellow tannins. It must be aged for a minimum of four months, and for the added designation of superiore, it has to age for an additional three months before release. The label riserva indicates that the wine has been aged for at least 38 months.
Food pairings include beef and chicken with pasta and tomato-based sauces. See Grant, had you read up on your wines, you might have gotten the Lektor Decoding Machine after all.

In terms of the Blanc de Blancs, the brand on the table is a Taittinger. According to the's page on Blanc de Blancs:
Blanc de Blancs is Champagne made exclusively from the white grape varieties permitted under the Champagne appellation. Chardonnay is by far the most common, but Pinot Gris (aka Fromenteau Gris), Pinot Blanc and Arbane are also sanctioned for use under the appellation laws. That said, only a very small number of producers make Blanc de Blancs Champagne from anything other than Chardonnay...The style of any Blanc de Blancs is distinct from other Champagnes – most of which are made with high proportions of black-skinned Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. Blanc de Blancs means literally 'white of whites' and is thus the exact opposite of Blanc de Noirs. (© All rights reserved, Wine-Searcher.)
The Taittinger website states that while the Blanc de Blancs is a celebratory and ceremonial wine, it is a perfect accompaniment for first courses of seafood and shellfish.

That's that for liquor references in my favorite Bond movie of all. Please feel free to contact me if I missed anything at, to my Twitter @SiscoVanilla, my Google+ at SiscoVaniila and at my Facebook Page SiscoVanilla.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The East Asian Pond Water Cocktail

I recently got a hold of this book called called Park Avenue Potluck: Recipes from New York's Savviest Hostesses by Florence Fabricant. In the libation section there's a recipe for a cocktail called Pond Water by Miss Anne Grouse. She describes a cocktail as such:
I love to serve my guests a fun cocktail at the start of a party. My husband, Mario, and I created this one doing a long hot summer in Millbrook, New York, at our house, Frog Pond. My sisters also had a hand in it. But this time that word not "too many cooks, or bartenders!"

Since the vodka is the base for this cocktail, do not skimp on quality. A premium vodka is what you should use.
Here is the original recipe:
Pond Water (Original for four servings)
1/3 of a cup of sugar
1 cup of vodka
1/2 of Limoncello
1/2 cup of lime juice
five sprigs of fresh thyme
four slices of lime

Place the sugar and 1/3 cup of water in a saucepan, bring to a simmer, and cook just until the sugar dissolves. Alternately, combine the sugar and water in a glass measuring cup. Microwave for one minute, just until the sugar dissolves. This is simple syrup. Set it aside.

In a large cocktail shaker or a 1 quart canning jar, mixed of vodka, Limoncello, and lime juice. Pour in the simple syrup, fill the jar with ice, and shake.

Rub the rims of 4 martini glasses or wine goblets with one of the thyme sprigs. String a cocktails into the glasses and serve each garnished with the spring of time and a slice of lime.
I didn't have any fresh thyme so I decided to forgo it and I chose to follow the author's suggestion to use a premium Vodka. I decided to use Grey Goose vodka. This is what I came up with:
Pond Water (Scaled down to one serving)
.75 ounces of simple syrup
2 ounces of Grey Goose vodka
1 ounce of the Limoncello
1 ounce of fresh lime juice

Build a cocktail shaker full of ice, shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
The original recipe called for four servings I scaled-down the dimensions for four to make it for one. I find this cocktail to be light but it's very tart. It is very unbalanced. Since the vodka is the base, it doesn't add anything to the cocktail aside from just being an alcohol content. The author notes that when made with a good gin instead of vodka it's herbaceous flavor is delightfully intensified. With that in mind I decided to use the bottle of Bombay Sapphire East Asia Gin that I have yet to crack open. I decided to use the same dimensions to see how much of a difference the gin made in comparison to the vodka.
East Asian Pond Water
.75 ounces of simple syrup
2 ounces of Bombay Sapphire East Asia Gin
1 ounce of the Limoncello
1 ounce of fresh lime juice

Build a cocktail shaker full of ice, shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The addition of the gin made a BIG difference in the cocktail. I may have added just a smidgen more of simple syrup than what the recipe called for, but I find that it helps to bring everything together. The tartness seems to be balanced in this version of the cocktail. It doesn't overpower the taste buds on each sip. I much preferred this cocktail with the Bombay Sapphire East Asia Gin. Other Gins that might be higher on the florals similar too a Hendricks gin or a Dorothy Parker Gin would compliment the lemon and lime flavors.

If you happen to have the ingredients, please feel free to make yourself one. Let me know what you think.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

People Need To Properly Advise Young Drinkers

I believe that I was lucky. How so you might ask? I was lucky enough to have gotten good advice when it came to drinking. Now this doesn't mean that I didn't make the same mistakes that all drinkers make. I did. But I took to heart what was advised to me when I was in my early 20's and I think that made me a smarter drinker. Case in point. My dad told me that if I didn't have money to go out then you don't go out. Very simple, no? He also advised me that you should never settle when putting something inside your body. That I should drink quality spirits as opposed to rotgut. Makes sense, right? Well here is why I mention this.

This past Sunday night, we had a young guy at the bar order a round of shots for him and his friends. He asked for six shots of vodka and one of tequila "The cheapest you have". Now I normally don't interject my personal views when serving drinks at work past the recommendation of a possible spirit as opposed to another. But I felt compelled to tell this young man that he should never settle when putting things into his body. I'd serve him the well, but if he's willing to spend the money, better to spend it on a better product. He stated that he didn't care since they just wanted to get "fucked up". So I shrug, pour and charge him for the shots. Now here is the other piece of dispensed advice.

I had served him a beer earlier in the evening and he paid me the exact amount of what the beer cost and he felt the need to tell me that he "would tip me at the end". Now this is what I find is the case in my experience. While there are people that do tip when they leave rather than with each transaction, those who choose to make mention of it never tip. It is the same with those who feel the need to tell you that "I'll take care of you" or "I'll hook you up". They never do. It is best to not say anything and let your actions (or lack of actions) speak for you. Back to the same guy.

After I give him his tab for the aforementioned shots, he signs the slip, leaving the tip line blank. He punctuates it by telling me again that he would take care of me later. Telling me once, I let it drop. Telling me twice I felt the need to say something. I told him that he doesn't need to tell a bartender that he's going to tip them later. Just to do whatever it is that he's going to do. If you're going to tip then do so without the show. If not, then don't. But to keep harping on the point that you are going to tip later only shows that you won't. Its all smoke and mirrors. Lo and behold, the kid left with his friends. Guess what, as expected...HE DIDN'T TIP.

I find it sad that these young drinkers just don't learn how act in a public setting like a bar. Partially I blame the fact that they just haven't had the proper advice. Now when they are given the proper advice and choose to ignore it, then I blame them entirely. Here's another example of this.

A few months ago a young man would regularly come to the bar. He'd order a Bacardi Gold and coke. He'd punctuate his order with the statement "Make it strong". Now those three words, along with someone asking for a buyback are the statements that will rub a bartender the wrong way. In case you didn't know, asking a bartender to "make it strong" or asking for a buyback will only cause the bartender to NOT do so. It causes the opposite effect. Back to the make it strong guy. Now as with the other guy that I mention above, the first time I let it slide. The second time he mentioned it, I felt the need to comment. I told him that if he asks the bartender to make it strong, ON PRINCIPLE, he was not going to make it strong. Now I won't make it any weaker to spite him. That's not my style. But as I told him (as with the other guy): let your actions speak for themselves. You take care of your bartender with your conversation, bar etiquette and tips then a bartender will not only remember you but also take care of you in potentially stronger pours and/or a free drink. So what does he do?

Not only did he not heed my words by not tipping, but the next time he came in he ordered the same drink with the request for me to "Make it strong". As my dad would say: Pobre America. What a sad state we find ourselves with these young drinkers and their lack of bar etiquette. All we can do is just shake out heads and keep pouring the rotgut. =)

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Monday, January 20, 2014

The American (2010)

The American (2010) is a movie starring George Clooney based on the Martin Booth book A Very Perfect Gentleman: A Novel (1990). In the book, Clooney plays a brooding assassin/gunsmith who is undertaking what he hopes is one last job in the mountains of Italy. The movie is a slow paced, moody piece that seemed to have turned many people off. I like the flick. I love the look of locales used in the movie. The architecture of the small village in Italy simply is amazing. Plus the movie moves along on its own without force feeding the viewer the plot. There are a couple of instances of spirits in the movie that I wanted to touch on.

In the opening scene the camera slowly brings to our attention to a cabin within a snowy scene in Sweden. In said cabin we find the protagonist Jack (George Clooney) in the company of a lovely lady (Irina Björklund) and a glass of a dark spirit lit by the fireplace that was burning and crackling offscreen. Now there is no way of knowing whether he's drinking Scotch, Whiskey, Bourbon or any other dark colored spirit. We can only take a guess. I wonder how many women (or some men for that matter) wish they were in that scene with Mr. Clooney. I digress.

What we do see early that Jack is quite the brooder, which is a look that we will see throughout the movie. Nice beard you're rocking there Mr. Clooney.

As the movie moves from Sweden to Italy, Jack aka Edward ends up in the village of Castel del Monte awaiting his assignment. While on a public phone in the village, he meets the local priest, Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli). Father Benedetto is quite the curious bugger who welcomes Jack to the village and invites him to join him in a drink. The scene shifts to both Jack and Father Benedetto sitting at a table where Father Benedetto starts to describe the brandy that they will soon be enjoying.

Father Benedetto says that the quality of the Brandy is good, smooth
and the only good thing to come from the francesi 
At first I was unable to decipher what kind of brandy the bottle on the table was. I originally thought the bottle was possibly a Martell Cognac. While the bottles were of a similar shape, the labels didn't match up. All I could see that the brand name consisted of seven gold or yellow letters on a black label with gold trim. I decided to go back to the source material to see if I could find a clue. Luckily for me I did.

As I mentioned earlier, The American is based on the book A Very Private Gentleman: A Novel (1990) by Martin Booth. In the book, Booth describes how Father Benedetto loves his Brandy:
Father Benedetto drinks brandy. He likes cognac, prefers armagnac, yet is not too fussy. As a priest, he can ill afford to be: his small private income is subject to the vagaries of the stock market...So long as the quality of his brandy is good, the liquor smooth and the glass warmed by the sun, Father Benedetto is satisfied. He likes to sniff his drink before he sips it, like a bee hovering over a bloom, a butterfly pausing on a petal before taking the nectar. ‘The only thing good to come of the francesi,’ he declares. ‘Everything else...’

We are sitting on this patio. It is four o’clock in the afternoon. Two-thirds of the garden is in shade. We are in lazy, soporific sunlight. The brandy bottle—today, we have armagnac—is globulous, made of green glass and bears a plain label in black printing on cream paper. It is called, simply, La Vie.
Something in that passage stood out to me. It wasn't the name of the brandy in the book that caught my eye. It was the kind of brandy that stood out: Armagnac. I though I have seen the word before, I have no experience with this or for that matter many other kinds of brandy. To be perfectly honest, the only time I've used brandy is in egg nog and in the Between the Sheets cocktail. I decided to dig a little deeper on this Armagnac.

According to the website of Charles Neal, importer of fine French wine and spirits:
Armagnac is a grape brandy from the Gascony region of southwestern France. Its closest relative is Cognac, another grape brandy from an appellation located about 100 miles north of Armagnac.

Even though it is related to and often confused with Cognac, Armagnac is very different with regards to its grapes, terroir, distillation, élevage, blending, aromas, tastes and textures. In truth, France's two finest brandies made from wine are not very much alike at all.

Armagnac pre-dates Cognac by about 150 years but never achieved the widespread sales figures that its relatives in the Charente obtained. In contrast to commercial sales, however, the independent producer of Armagnac has always commanded a more important restaurant presence and level of connoisseur appreciation.
With my research leaning towards Armagnac, I decided to look for Armagnac brands that match the bottle on the screen. Lo and behold, my hunch of going back to the source material worked. The bottle on the screen is NV Janneau V.S.O.P. Grand Armagnac.

According to the Master of Malt website's listing for Janneau V.S.O.P:
[Janneau V.S.O.P is] A blend of Armagnacs aged for at least 7 years in Montlezun oak. Janneau VSOP is packaged in a Basquaise bottle and it has a smooth, aromatic style.
I tried to access the main website for the Janneau brand but currently they are under construction. In order to find out more about the brand, I decided to check the listing for Janneau from the Here is their listing for the history of Janneau:
Founded in 1851 by Pierre Etienne Janneau, Janneau is the oldest of the great Houses of Armagnac. Janneau's vast stocks and unparalleled collection of old Armagnacs enables the skillful blending of several different Armagnacs to create consistent, award-winning styles. Two different methods are allowed by regulation to distil Armagnac, the continuous distillation method called 'Armagnacais' and the 'Double Distillation' method using pot stills. At the House of Janneau they blend brandies produced by both methods, a characteristic which distinguishes their Armagnac from all others. Janneau continues to lead the field within Armagnac providing excellent quality, innovative contemporary packaging and labelling which clearly defines age and quality.
For those who are wondering what V.S.O.P. stands for? Total Wine & More's Guide to Cognac explains it in fairly simple terms:
Labels on Cognac bottles use special abbreviations that are designed to denote the quality of the spirit inside: V = Very S = Special O = Old P = Pale F = Fine X = Extra C = Cognac E = Especial. The final blend determines the label designation. V.S. Has Cognacs that are aged at least two years. V.S.O.P Cannot have Cognacs that are aged less than four years. X.O. All the Cognacs in a blend are aged more than ten years.
So there you go. Now go out there and try to have a taste of some Janneau V.S.O.P. Armagnac. If you have a hard time find some, check out the Master of Malt's website. They can ship sample drams of this and many other spirits. Give them a go and let me know what you think.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Martinez at The Peacock Alley Restaurant

As I sit here at the trusty laptop listening to La Vie En Rose by the legendary Louis Armstrong, the song brings me back to one of the cocktail highlights of this recently past year. I was able to cross off the proverbial cocktail bucket list a classic cocktail that I had been wanting to try in a location that I also wanted to visit all in one fell swoop. On a date night with Momma-San in late October, a last minute stop had us visit the famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and had me having a Martinez. Before I go into the cocktail, I wanted to touch on a little history of the Peacock Alley Restaurant which is located in the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria.

The original Peacock Alley Restaurant (301 Park Avenue New York, NY 10022 212-872-1275) was located in the original Waldorf-Astoria that was demolished in 1929 to make room for the building of the Empire State Building. When the new hotel was built on its current location on the square block of Park and 5th Avenues in between 49th and 50th Streets, the Peacock Alley was recreated. But why was it called "Peacock Alley"? I'll let the restaurant's website tell you how the term was coined:
When the term “Peacock Alley” was coined by a scribe to portray the daily promenade of notables through this original colonnade between The Waldorf and The Astoria hotels, it inspired a tradition that continues today. Then, the beau monde strutted and strolled to showcase the latest fashions to the public and their peers.

Throughout its history, Peacock Alley has been a place to see and be seen. Shortly after its “birth,” Peacock Alley became so famous and popular that its moving population on any day could total 25,000 or more. On days when a president, prince, or other notable visited the hotel, upwards of 35,000 people might visit the grand promenade. In February 1903, New Yorker writer William Marion Reedy commented, “The place is like Port Said as Kipling described it in the phrase, ‘if you stopped long enough there everybody in the world that is worth knowing would eventually happen along.’
Now I would say that Momma-San and I hardly qualify as peacocks but there we were looking for a seat at the bar that is described as "an elaborate, 30-foot-long bar with tan leather bar chairs reveals cast-glass female silhouettes, commissioned by Brooklyn’s Flickinger Glassworks". The place is exquisite. Simple and elegant. The piano player was a nice touch, which to tie in the original point of La Vie En Rose, she was playing that as we were walking in. I'm not sure why I remember that. It just stands out. What also stood out to me were the bartenders.

The two gentlemen behind the bar were professionals. A little disclosure here. For those of you who haven't done so, working behind a bar can get a little hot. Especially if you are head down making drinks and pouring beers. Now, I can imagine that the pace at the bar at Peacock Alley is of a much scaled down speed but the bartenders were working behind the bar in full suits and ties. I can't imagine working any bar in a full suit and tie but these gentlemen made it look easy. It was quite an impressive display. Now onto the cocktail: The Martinez.

Now as with many older cocktails, the origin of who created and named the Martinez is hazy due to the passing of time. Some associate the cocktail with legendary bartender Jerry "The Professor" Thomas. Some associate the cocktail with French bartender Julio Richelieu who owned a bar on Ferry Street in the California town of Martinez. David Wondrich in his book Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar gives his pros and cons on these two theories and a number of others as how they pertain to the Martini/Martinez origin. The classic recipe as found in Jerry Thomas's Bar-Tenders' Guide (1887) is as follows:
The Martinez Cocktail.
(Use small bar-glass.)
Take 1 dash of Boker's bitters.
2 dashes of Maraschino.
1 pony of Old Tom gin.
1 wine-glass of Vermouth.
2 small lumps of ice.

Shake up thoroughly, and strain into a large cocktail
glass. Put a quarter of a slice of lemon in the glass, and serve. If the guest prefers it very sweet, add two dashes [1/2 tsp] of gum syrup.
The version the Peacock Alley serves is slightly different from the one listed above. The cocktail menu was created and adapted by Frank Caiafa and the Martinez was built as such:
Ransom Old tom gin
Noilly Prat Sweet and Dry Vermouth,
Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

The Martinez was a nicely balanced cocktail. It had a nice amber color and was quite pleasant on the nose. It was sweet without being overly so. I thoroughly enjoyed this cocktail, the ambiance, the experience and the company (yes Momma-San, that means you). It was definitely an experience that I would like to enjoy again.

Hotel bars are something that I want to focus on in this upcoming year...when I finally get back to going out and imbibing.

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ian Fleming's Dr. No (1962)

Ian Fleming's Dr. No is iconic in number of ways. While not the first James Bond story in both print and on the small screen. That honor belongs to Casino Royale published in 1953 and produced for American TV in 1954 (for more information of the TV program read The Curious Legacy of Casino Royale from the website). Dr. No introduced us to the James Bond character that 50 years later is still captivating audiences worldwide. While a number of actors were desired for the role (including Cary Grant by Ian Fleming himself) the movie helped to catapult relative unknown actor Sean Connery to superstar status. In terms of cocktails, the term "Shaken, not stirred" was uttered on film, forever changing how the Martini is made both in terms of Gin versus Vodka debate and in terms of preparation of said cocktail.

We find out early in the movie that Bond prefers his martini as a medium-dry Vodka martini, shaken, not stirred. The medium dry part comes in with using less of your standard portion of Dry Vermouth. The drier the Martini, the less Dry Vermouth used.

Our First Glimpse at James Bond's Medium Dry Vokda Martini
"Shaken not stirred" made with Smirnoff Vodka
In the entire movie, the Vodka used in the aforementioned Martini and on the rocks by Bond is Smirnoff Vodka. That got me thinking. Why Smirnoff and not another brand. I think the answer comes in the form of a man named John Gilbert Martin.

In the article Smirnoff White Whiskey -- No Smell, No Taste by Bill Ryan from the New York Times dated February 14, 1995, Ryan describes how, Martin as the head of the Hueblein Corporation, was able to make Smirnoff Vodka an international spirit:
By the late 1930's, with World War II impending in Europe, threatening to cut off liquor imports here, Martin was the president of Heublein, which was still a small company.

Then came Smirnoff.

Martin had learned that in the town of Bethel, about 50 miles from Hartford, a man named Rudolph Kunett was manufacturing vodka on a very small basis. Kunett had fled Russia during the revolution there two decades before. He brought to Connecticut a great quantity of rubles and a patent to make Smirnoff, the only vodka served at the Imperial Russian Court. Unfortunately, the rubles were worthless on the world market and the Imperial Russian Court did not provide much cachet because it no longer existed.

Nevertheless, Kunett had set up a small vodka plant in Bethel and was trying to build an American market. He was enjoying a notable lack of success. Americans did not drink vodka. Most had never even heard of it. Martin offered Kunett a deal. He would buy Kunett's equipment for $14,000, give him a job and a royalty of 5 percent on each bottle of Smirnoff sold for 10 years. Kunett took the offer and Martin set out to see if he could sell Smirnoff, the vodka of the czars, in an age when there were no czars.

Smirnoff vodka is basically a mixture of pure grain alcohol and water filtered through charcoal. It requires no aging and production and sales started in Hartford in 1939 even before Heublein had any caps for the vodka bottles. Instead, caps labeled "whiskey" were used.

One of the first out-of-state sales was to a distributor in Columbia, S.C., who bought 10 cases. A short time later, the distributor ordered 50 more cases, then 500 cases. And Martin went to Columbia to check on the marketing phenomena. He later recalled, with more than a bit of delight, what he had found.

"We had a salesman down there and he had put up a great streamer: 'Smirnoff White Whiskey -- No Smell, No Taste,' " The Hartford Times quoted Martin as saying in a 1964 article. "It was strictly illegal, of course, but it was going great. People were mixing it with milk and orange juice and whatnot."
Martin, in conjunction with restaurateur Jack Wilson of the Cock-'n-Bull in Hollywood, created an iconic drink that combined Smirnoff Vodka and Ginger Beer known as the Moscow Mule. The combination of the Vodka and Ginger Beer helped to further popularize Vodka within the United States. It wasn't until the Cold War began post World War II that Smirnoff Vodka became the most popular and best selling vodka of its time:
It was early in the cold war with Russia, and New York bartenders, in a parade down Fifth Avenue, carried a huge banner: "Down with the Moscow Mule -- We Don't Need Smirnoff Vodka." The Daily News put the poster on the front page. Martin later recalled that Heublein employees rushed in to see what he was going to do about the bad publicity. "Do! It was great," Martin said. "All the people who saw the sign were rushing into the bars to buy the drink."

Martin began a campaign to get people to drink the vodka with not only ginger beer but practically anything else, including iced tea and beef bouillon. It was all promoted by exotic high-gloss magazine ads showing Smirnoff with celebrities or in strange and wondrous places. Smirnoff, thanks in part to the campaign, eventually became the world's best-selling vodka, and it still is.
It would make sense that by 1962 Smirnoff Vodka would be the vodka used in Dr. No.

The next spirit that was featured somewhat in Dr. No was a scotch whisky that was noticeable by its distinctive use of Black and White Scottish terriers as their mascot: Buchanan's Black and White Scotch Whisky. As you can see in the picture, the bottle to the left of Bond has a small black diamond with a white circle inside with the aforementioned black and white terriers.

Buchanan's Black and White Scotch Whiskey is seen to the far left
while Bond and Quarrel interrogate Dr. No's agent
At first I had difficulties in trying to figure out what this spirit was. Luckily for me I know someone who is one of the most knowledgeable people that I know when it comes to whisky: The Coopered Tot.

After finding out that the bottle was indeed a bottle of Buchanan's Black and White, I asked whether it was still being sold or if it had been rebranded. According to Joshua the scotch was popular here in the United States from the 1930's until the mid 1970's. The distinctive feature of the long running ad campaign were the same black and white dogs that you see on the label in that screen picture from Dr. No. According to the Alternative Whisky Academy:
This brand was first known as House of Commons, but the customer simply asked for the black bottle with the white label. Therefore it was renamed Black and White.
Now both Joshua and I were unsure about where the dogs came in aside from the dogs being Scottish terriers. They were cute. Maybe that was the reason. There is an 1968 ad entitled The Story of the Black and White Scotties: And the man who made them famous which would give us the answer we are looking for. Unfortunately the text in the screen shot is blurry and hard to make out. I guess I have some more research to do.

The last item that I noticed in Dr. No was during the scene where Dr. No is "hosting" dinner for both Bond and Honey Ryder. Dr. No has his servant bring James Bond a medium dry Martini with a Lemon Peel Shaken, not stirred while Honey Ryder is served what looks like a red wine which is not mentioned.

While at dinner, Bond is served some Dom Pérignon '55 to which Bond tries to get under the skin of Dr. No by saying that he prefers the Dom Pérignon '53.

The Dom Pérignon '55 being served by Dr. No's servant
The Dom Pérignon website describes the origin of this brand:
In 1668, young monk Dom Pierre Pérignon took office as the cellarer and procurator of the Benedictine abbey of Hautvillers on the northern slopes of the Marne, in the heart of Champagne. Under his watch the abbey prospers, especially the vineyards.

Until his death in 1715, he makes no exception to his ambition for perfection, to create "the best wine in the world" as said in his own words on September 29, 1694. Dom Pierre Pérignon invents, perfects and passes on the enhanced techniques to create a wine whose reputation is second to none.
In terms of why the champagnes of Dom Pérignon are dated with what seems oddly numbered years, here is the explanation:
Dom Pérignon is Vintage only. Each Vintage is created from the best grapes grown in one single year. To reinvent itself in interpreting the unique character of the seasons. To dare to not release the Vintage when the harvest does not meet the ideal. Such is the commitment of Dom Pérignon.
The first vintage of Dom Pérignon was the 1921 and a total of 40 vintages have been produced (1921, 1926, 1928, 1929, 1934, 1943, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004).

A number of these been featured in a number of Bond films.

Well, there you have it folks. I hope you like my first installment of SiscoVanilla at the movies. I look forward to watching more movies with a keen eye to what is being consumed and served. If you have any recommendations, feel free to drop me a line at, to my Twitter @SiscoVanilla, my Google+ at SiscoVaniila and at my Facebook Page SiscoVanilla.

I leave you with two more pictures of James Bond enjoying some Smirnoff Vodka in Dr. No.:

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla