Friday, February 21, 2014

North By Northwest (1959)

Cary Grant...Alfred Hitchcock...Booze and Cocktails...Where do I start. North by Northwest (1959) is a movie that, though I've watched a number of times, is quite the treasure when it comes to booze and cocktails. Cary Grant plays Roger O. Thornill, a Mad Men type advertising executive before the term Mad Men became a common part of the English language. Thornhill fits the bill by being a hard liquor drinking, womanizing son of a gun who gets involved in a case of mistaken identity and murder with competing spies led by Philip Vandamm (James Mason) and the mysterious spy who simply goes by the name of The Professor (Leo G. Carroll). His attempts to clear his name takes him across the country from New York City to Mount Rushmore, South Dakota and points in between. Even while on the run, Thornhill finds the company of a beautiful woman in the form of Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) and a couple of cocktails. Onward we go in the world of North by Northwest.

The first instance of cocktails in the movie happens at the Oak Bar in the currently closed Oak Room which is located in the landmark Plaza Hotel in Midtown New York City. Thornhill is there for a meeting and the gentlemen who are there to meet him are already into their liquid meeting. It looks like they are having dirty Gin Martinis. 
When one of the men states that "We've gotten a head start here, Mr. Thornhill" [Referring to the drinks], he responds with "That won't last long".

Thornhill comes to the realization that his secretary will not be able to contact his mother as per his request. As he looks around for one of the stewards, he inadvertantly catches the attention of two agents who are looking for a George Kaplan. The steward that Thornhill calls over to ask about sending a telegram (yes folks, a telegram. This is 1959 after all) is paging George Kaplan, which further adds to the confusion. He is taken by the agents to meet Vandamm in Glen Cove, Long Island.

Vandamm believes that Thornhill is Kaplan, even though Thornhill shows him his identification and tells Vandamm who he is. Unconvinced, Vandamm directs his agent Leonard (Martin Landau) to serve Thornhill aka Kaplan a drink. As Leonard opens the cabinet, he offers the following: Scotch, Rye, Bourbon, Vodka. From what I can tell, the first row of bottles are Chivas Scotch, Old Overholt Rye, an unrecognizable bottle of bourbon and Smirnoff Vodka. 

Thornhill demands to be taken back to town to which Leonard suggests that his ride has already been arrainged but first, a libation is in order. Naturally Leonard picks the unrecognizable bottle of bourbon. Thornhill is held down and forced to drink the entire bottle of bourbon.

He is next placed in a car with the belief that he would drunkenly run himself off of the road and over the cliff. That's quite the inventive way to do so. I don't think today's plotlines would go so far as to do this to someone. But I digress. Unknown to the his assailants, Thornhill is quite the drinker and due to his tolerance, he is able to escape certain death. I hate to gloss over a chunk of the plot, but they don't contain either booze or a cocktail. I will say things happen and the steps are put in motion for his trying to find Kaplan and to clear his name. I'll let you watch the movie to find out the missing plotlines.

Thornhill sneaks aboard the New York Central Railroad 20th Century limited train leaving Grand Central Station to Chicago. As you can see to the right, the ad called for a train ride leaving from New York City to Chicago in just 16 hours. (For more information on the 20th Century Limited, check out the 20th Century Limited page on the American-Rails webpage). 

As per the images of the train in the movie, the ride was quite comfortable down to a full dining car with cocktails if desired. It is here when Thornhill officially meets Ms. Eve Kendall, who bribes the train steward $5 dollars to seat Thornhill at her table. While at the table, Thornhill orders a Gibson. 

Now I want to go into depth on the Gibson in a separate post. But for now, simply put, the Gibson is a variation on your classic Martini. It is made with Gin (or Vodka), Dry Vermouth and unlike a standard martini that would have a lemon twist, or a dirty martini that would have an olive garnish, the Gibson has either a plain or pickled Pearl Onion. You can clearly see the onion in the picture.

Once again, I jump ahead in the movie to Eve Kendall's hotel room (after the iconic scene with the cropduster) where Thornhill says he needs a drink. He asks for a Scotch and water with no ice. She serves herself a scotch and water with ice. 

At this point Kendall tells Thornhill to just leave her and to never see her again. Obviously Thornhill doesn't and continues on getting himself in trouble right down to the end of the movie.

Here ends the booze references but hey, I suggest watching the rest of the movie. You don't want to miss the rest of the flick. So what are you waiting for. Go get it and have yourself a couple of cocktails while you're at it.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Thursday, February 20, 2014

African Dry Martini

I recently finished reading the latest James Bond book entitled Solo written by William Boyd. Throughout the novel, there are many booze, wine and cocktail references but one in particular stood out to me. Bond is in the fictional African country of Zanzarim with former CIA agent Felix Leiter. They are in a bar in hotel the town known as Port Dunbar when Bond has the following conversation with the waiter:
'Do you have gin?' he asked.
'Yes, sar. We have everything now. Gordon’s or Gilbey’s.'
'Good. Bring me a bottle of Gordon’s, two glasses, a bucket of ice and some limes. Do you have limes?'

The ingredients were brought to their table. Bond filled the glasses to the brim with ice then poured a liberal few slugs of gin on to the ice and squeezed the juice of half a lime into each glass. ‘It’s called an African dry martini,’
Now at quick glance this is basically a Gin Rickey without the club soda and a Gin Gimlet without the sweetener of Rose's Lime Juice. But since I am game I decided to make it as the book states. Here is my rendition of the African Dry Martini:
African Dry Martini
2oz of Bombay Sapphire Gin
Juice of Half a lime

Build over an ice filled glass. Stir.
Now I know James Bond is a professional drinker but this is one ass kicker of a drink. The first swig kicks you in the mouth. The second one isn't so bad (probably because my mouth is numb LOL) but is still strong. Bond puts down at least three of these as he runs down his version to Felix of what happened.

I used Bombay Sapphire. I can only imagine how much stronger this cocktail would be if I used Gordon's or Gilbey's as was available at the bar in Port Dunbar. As it is I'm already sweating after one cocktail.

I guess I'll leave the African Dry Martini to Mr. Bond.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Zodiac (2007)

Zodiac (2007) is a David Fincher film about the Zodiac attacks and murders that terrorized the San Francisco area during the early 1970's. The movie focuses on the role of Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhall) who is a cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle and becomes an amateur detective while investigating the murders. Graysmith would pen the book Zodiac (1986) highlighting who he thought the killer was.

Chronicle reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr) and Graysmith are in a bar discussing the particulars of the case (among other things) when Avery focuses his attention on the almost neon blue colored drink that sits in front of Goldsmith. When Avery asks what that drink is, Graysmith tells him that it's an Aqua Velva (like the old school aftershave for those of you who are too young to remember Aqua Velva).

Graysmith then proceeds to tell him "You wouldn't make fun of it if you tried it". Avery reluctantly tries it.

In the next scene, the focus shifts to four empty hurricane glasses being bussed.

The table is left with two empty glasses and with each character finishing one off.

I guess Avery liked it after all. Here is the generally agreed upon recipe for an Aqua Velva. Though you can also add tequila and rum to make it a sort of a Blue Long Island Iced Tea type drink.
Aqua Velva
3/4 oz. vodka
3/4 oz. gin
1/4 oz. Sprite
1/2 oz blue curaçao
1/2 oz. Sprite (Top)

Shake vodka, gin, blue curaçao and Sprite with ice. Pour/strain into glass and top off with Sprite. Cocktail umbrella optional.
Now I know there are many websites out there that have covered the Aqua Velva cocktail, but I have an edge. I have someone who will drink the cocktail and let me know how it is. The Famous Mayor of Bleecker Street Bar: The Kahuna!!!!

For his I used Rum and Tequila instead of Vodka and Gin. Why? To be honest, I don't know. I do know that the Mayor is drinking rum as of late. What did he think of it? Like the famous Mikey of the Chex commercials: He likes it. The fact that it had well Tequila and he didn't mind it (unlike the last time he was served well Tequila). He said it was quite tasty.

With that I leave you with an old Aqua Velva ad with Marilyn Monroe as the spokeswoman. Why? Well, why the hell not. Its Marilyn after all. Enough said. Makes you want to become an Aqua Velva Man just for the hell of it. ;) Enjoy.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ian Fleming's Goldfinger (1964) Part II

As I stated in my prior post Ian Fleming's Goldfinger Part I, this Bond movie was the first to have a plot point be located in the United States of America. While in the prior post I focused on Champagne and Brandy, this one would focus on Bourbon. What was also interesting that in the same year that Ian Fleming's Goldfinger hit the big screen (1964), the United States Congress was passing legislation that made Bourbon the official native spirit of the United States of America.

According to the statute 78 stat 1280 dated May 4, 1964 [S. Con. Res. 19]:
- Whereas it has been the commercial policy of the United States to recognize marks of origin applicable to alcoholic beverages imported into the United States; and
- Whereas such commercial policy has been implemented by the promulgation of appropriate regulations which, among other things, establish standards of identity for such imported alcoholic beverages; and
- Whereas among the standards of identity which have been established are those for "Scotch whisky" as a distinctive product of Scotland, manufactured in Scotland in compliance with the laws of Great Britain regulating the manufacture of Scotch whisky for consumption in Great Britain and for "Canadian whisky" as a distinctive product of Canada manufactured in Canada in compliance with the laws of the Dominion of Canada regulating the manufacture of whisky for consumption in Canada and for "cognac" as grape brandy distilled in the Cognac region of France, which is entitled to be so designated by the laws and regulations of the French Government; and
- Whereas "Bourbon whiskey" is a distinctive product of the United States and is unlike other types of alcoholic beverages, whether foreign or domestic; and
- Whereas to be entitled to the designation "Bourbon whiskey" the product must conform to the highest standards and must be manufactured in accordance with the laws and regulations of the United States which prescribe a standard of identity for "Bourbon whiskey"; and
- Whereas Bourbon whiskey has achieved recognition and acceptance throughout the world as a distinctive product of the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate {the House of Representatives concurring) That it is the sense of Congress that the recognition of Bourbon whiskey as a distinctive product of the United States be brought to the attention of the appropriate agencies of the United States Government toward the end that such agencies will take appropriate action to prohibit the importation into the United States of whisky designated as "Bourbon whiskey"

Agreed to May 4, 1964.
For an interesting article on the origins of Bourbon, feel free to read Springs and the Origin of Bourbon
by Alan E. Fryar. In terms of Bond and Bourbon? Well, here we go.

Once Goldfinger's private jet touches down in Kentucky, Bond tries to charm Pussy Galore once again. Bond mentions since they are in Kentucky, maybe they should have a Bourbon and branch water.

What is branch water? According to the listing for branch water at
branch water
1. Plain water, especially when mixed with a liquor such as whiskey.
2. Chiefly Southern U.S. Water from a stream.
[branch, stream + water.]
With his advanced rebuffed, Bond is taken away by Oddjob to Goldfinger's estate. After breaking out, eavesdropping on Goldfinger's plan to knock off Fort Knox, getting captured and Goldfinger realizing that he's being watched by Bond's friends, he decides to invite Bond for a cocktail. Adhering to the adage of "When in Rome", Bond orders what might be Kentucky's state cocktail: The Mint Julep.

What's odd is not that Bond would order a Mint Julep, its how he orders it that stands out to me. Bond orders one with Sour Mash but not too sweet. This got me curious as to what is the difference between Bourbon whiskey and Sour Mash whiskey.

According to Laura Reynolds in the article The Difference Between Bourbon Whiskey and Sour Mash:
Bourbon's unique character comes from the 51 to 79 percent corn in its recipe. The addition of water to crushed or rolled grain begins the fermentation process, and the fermented mash is distilled to produce a spirit that is no more than 80 percent alcohol by volume. Bourbon may be double-distilled and aged at least two years in charred oak barrels. The result is a mellow, woody blend of flavors that may be bottled straight out of a single barrel or blended from a number of barrels in a small batch.

Sour mash whiskey uses the bourbon recipe but starts the mash with leftovers from a previous batch, much like the starter in sourdough bread. The sour mash process gives a sweeter, deeper flavor to the final product. The alcohol by volume content of bourbon and sour mash is adjusted to between 40 and 50 percent (80 to 100 proof) at bottling time.
For more information on the distinction between Corn Mash and other designations of Bourbon, watch this video by Brendan Coyle of the High West Distillery in Salt Lake City, Utah describes the differences between Bourbon whiskey and Sour Mash Whiskey

Want to make a Mint Julep? Watch Jason Pyle of the Sour Mash Manifesto make a Mint Julep. His video is quite informative and very easy to follow:

In the end, Bond saves the day, defeats the villain, survives the plane crash and gets the girl. All is well in the world...until the next Bond movie which by the way just happens to be Thunderball. See you next time at the movies.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Pomegranate Cosmopolitan

Though I am not one to celebrate Valentine's Day, never let it be said that I won't exploit a corporate created "holiday" in order to make a cocktail. So just in for Valentine's Day, here is my Pomegranate Cosmopolitan.

I used the Pomegranate liqueur that I recently finished infusing in the following posts: Pomegranate Infused Liqueur Part I and Pomegranate Infused Liqueur Part II. I replaced the triple sec that is commonly found in a Cosmpolitan with something that I am using for the first time using the St. Germain Elderflower liqueur. Not sure what Elderflower Liqueur is? According to the article St. Germain Liqueur: What It Is, And What To Do With It from the Huffpost Taste website dated June 13, 2012:
The liqueur is made from elderflower, a small, white starry flower that blooms through the spring and summer...Saint Germain liqueur seems to bottle the taste of the these warm floral notes. Still produced in an artisanal manner, the liqueur is made from flowers that are gathered from the hillsides in the French Alps during a short four- to-six-week period in spring. According to the company's website, the picked flowers are bicycled to a collection depot (yep, bicycled) where they are immediately macerated to preserve the fresh flavors of the bloom. Extracting the flavors of this flower is not an easy process, and the Saint Germain company keeps theirs a family secret.
I also used Cosmopolitan ingredients Cranberry juice and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Here is the recipe that I came up with:
The Pomegranate Cosmopolitan
2oz. Homemade Pomegranate Liqueur
1oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1oz. Cranberry Juice
.5oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice

Build in ice filled coctkail shaker, shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
The cocktail has a nice reddish hue to it apropos for Valentine's Day. There is a nice blend of sweetness from the Pomegranate Liqueur and the St. Germain along with a tartness from the lemon and cranberry juices. I like how all the ingredients blend nicely in this cocktail. Normally I find that I would have to tweak a cocktail a bit to get the right proportions. Not so with this one. This one is just right. Not bad if I do say so myself.

Well, for those of you who are out there doing your Valentine's Day thing. Salud to you. Enjoy. Upcoming I have a number of movie posts to enlighten you gals and guys on, as well as some spirit tastings and brand new cocktails.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Monday, February 10, 2014

Spy Game (2001)

Rendering by RNZZZ
What is it about spy movies and drinking that goes hand-in-hand. Is it the allure of the pubs, bars and casinos as centers of information that causes spies on all sides to congregate? Is it the loud nature of pubs, bars and casinos that lends some discretion? Spy Game (2001) who stars Robert Redford and Brad Pitt is one such movie where this is true. There's not much specified drinking in the movie but when there is, its in a social environment like a bar.

The scene is set in West Germany in 1975. Makes you wonder how many people today remember that prior to 1991 there were two separate countries of Germany: East and West Germany. But I digress. Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) has just recruited Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) into the C.I.A. and they are discussing parts of Bishop's duties when Redford takes a sip of something that he clearly doesn't like. He says something to the bartender in German. The bartender shows Muir a bottle that causes Muir to nod in acceptance.

The following lines of dialogue follow between Muir and Bishop while the selected spirit is being poured for Muir:

Tom Bishop: I thought spies drank martinis.
Nathan Muir: Scotch, never less than twelve years old.
Tom Bishop: Is that right? Agency rules?
Nathan Muir: My rules.

Now we know what reference Bishop is bringing up with the martini comment (Paging Commander Bond). The scotch that is shown on screen is The Glenlivet 18 Year Old. Here is how the Glenlivet 18 is described on their website:
The rich palate of the 18 Year Old is the result of a combination of several different cask types. The Glenlivet Master Distiller Alan Winchester has a wealth of quality casks to choose from when creating this complex expression, with American and European Oak, first and second fill, all playing their parts. European Oak imparts spicy hints and brings additional complexity. First-fill American Oak adds tropical fruitiness.

Character: The balanced and elegant one

Colour: Old gold with apricot hues
Nose: Rich fruit aromas and toffee notes
Palate: Wonderfully balanced, with bursts of sweet oranges
Finish: Long, with spice and moist raisin notes
I have yet to have any of the Glenlivet 18 (only the 12 as of yet) so I've decided to refer to the fine people over at Master of Malt to get their impression of the Glenlivet 18. Here is what they have to say:
Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt
The nose is quite big and well-rounded. There are notes of chewy sultanas and sherried peels, barley sugars and toasty cereals with petals and apple blossom. A touch of fudge and gentle wisps of smoke. The palate is full and rich with notes of chewy, tannic oak. Manuka honey and walnut with Cox’s apples and orange peels. Cut herbs; fennel and spearmint. The finish is long and dry with a spicy oak note.
When I come across some Glenlivet 18-year old scotch, I'll let you know what I think of it. I'll just keep my eyes open for any spooks that might be around. ;)

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Friday, February 7, 2014

Spicy Flavored Salted Rimmed Cocktails

I recently came across a blurb by Chef Mario Batali in the One Page Magazine of the New York Times Sunday Magazine. In a column called "What I'm Drinking", Batali talks about what he's drinking at the moment or reflects back on something that he has drank in the past. In this particular entry, Batali whipping up some flavored salts while on the set of Iron Chef. He feels the salts add complexity to cocktails. Here is the blurb in its entirety:

I decided to make the flavored salt with one difference. I wasn't sure how spicy it would be with three tablespoons of Chipotle powder, so I lowered it down to two tablespoons. It was spicy enough for me with two tablespoons. I can only imagine how much three tablespoons would add to the spiciness scale. I kept the dimensions the same for the kosher salt and the brown sugar. Following the rest of his recipe, I decided to make the Spicy Salty Dog as directed.

A Greyhound is a very basic cocktail which contains vodka (or gin) and grapefruit juice. To make it into a Salty Dog, you would make it as you would a Greyhound but just adding a salt rim to the glass. Here is how I made the Spicy Salty Dog:
Spicy Salty Dog
2oz Grey Goose Vodka
5oz Freshly Squeezed Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice

Wet the rim of a glass with a lime wedge, dip into the flavored salt covering the rim of the glass. Build the drink in the rimmed glass with ice and stir.
I decided to try the cocktail first without the rim. I found the cocktail to be somewhat plain. Though the addition of the Ruby Red Grapefruit juice helped to make it a tastier, less bitter cocktail as you would get by using a canned grapefruit juice. I personally wasn't impressed by it. Trying it with the spicy salt rim, I found that the flavored salt dominated the entire cocktail. It added nothing to it. Possibly using gin would add to the cocktail. I'll have to experiment with that at a later time. But I do know a cocktail that this flavored salt would compliment perfectly: the Margarita.

Here is how I made my version of the Spicy Margarita:
The Spicy Margarita
2oz El Espolón tequila blanco
1oz Homemade Sweet and Sour
.5oz of Agave Syrup
.5oz of Gran Gala Orange Liqueur
Splash of Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice.

Build in an ice filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and pour into a glass that has been rimmed with the Spicy Salt.
I personally like my Margaritas a little more on the sweeter side. If you don't, feel free to lower the amounts used for the sweet and sour and agave syrup. Though I find that the agave syrup gives the drink a nice color and I find that it binds the ingredients together. So lowering the amount used of Agave Syrup or even omitting it would change this cocktail. The spicy salt rim works very well with this margarita. The spiciness of the salt compliments the sweetness of the cocktail. One doesn't overpower the other. I would think that making the same cocktail with a Mezcal would add a level of smokiness on top of the spiciness of the salt and sweetness of the other cocktails.

To make the Agave syrup take equal parts of Agave nectar and water. Boil and let cool. To make the homemade sweet and sour mix, refer to the following post: Homemade Simple Syrup and Sweet and Sour Mix. Let me know if you whip one of these cocktails up. I'd be interested to know what you think.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Aperol Spritz at the Noho Star

On Superbowl Sunday, I decided to have a quick cocktail before heading into the storm at work. To stay close, I decided to go into The Noho Star (330 Lafayette Street, NY NY 212-925-0070). To be perfectly honest, I had never entered the Noho Star. It really is surprising to me since I have worked on Bleecker Street for the better part of over 12 years. In order to take the edge off of what I correctly surmised would be a stressful evening, I decided to order something light. A few months ago, I noticed that Aperol was making its rounds in the advertising of the Aperol Spritz, so I decided to order myself one. Before I go into the cocktail, I want to touch on Aperol itself.

The Aperol website describes its product as being "The Perfect Apéritif". Here is a more in depth description of what Aperol is:
The name says it all: Aperol is the perfect apéritif. Bright orange in colour, it has a unique taste, thanks to the secret recipe, which has never been changed, with infusions of selected ingredients including bitter and sweet oranges and many other herbs (including rhubarb) and roots in perfect proportions.
Aperol made its debut at the Padua International Fair which was describes as "exhibition devoted to all aspects of the good life; food, holidays, tourism, travelling, hobbies & interests….". Created by the Barbieri brothers, Luigi and Silvio who at a very low alcohol content (22 proof/11% alc) advertised their product to a demographic that was deemed to be fitness driven.

Here is the flavor profile for Aperol:
NOSE: Lightly alcoholic, zesting orange with appealing complex herbal scents harmonized with a touch of vanilla

BODY: Intense orange top with herbal and woody body notes, pleasantly bittersweet and salty

TEXTURE: Velvety and rounded, with long-lasting orange and wood memories

BACKTASTE: Herbal long pleasant typical bitterness
This is the official recipe for the Aperol Spritz:

Start by adding ice into the glass then pour in the Prosecco, the Aperol and add a splash of soda, top with a slice of orange. This serving avoids the Aperol settling at the bottom.

The cocktail itself was very light and bubbly though I am not sure if the way it was made at the Noho Star was the official way. The cocktail is described (in the cocktail menu booklet) as just being made of Aperol and Prosecco. The cocktail did not have a slice of orange to assist with the settling of the Aperol at the bottom of the glass. To be honest, I'm not sure if the Aperol did settle to the bottom. I like the hint of orange and other herbal flavors mixed with the prosecco and didn't find it to be bitter in the least. Which leads me into my next point.

Some people will see Aperol and think that it is similar to Campari. Now if you have had Campari in any form, you'll know that it is also an apéritif which can bring a shock to taste buds with its bitterness. While they have similarities, they are indeed different products. Since I have yet to taste Aperol on its own, I'll defer to the comparison that was written by the website Post Prohibition Handcrafted Libations.

In their post Campari and Aperol from April 21, 2011:
You’ve probably noticed conversations regarding the use of Aperol vs Campari in cocktail recipes. That’s because they have a lot of similarities, but I feel they are worlds apart. Aperol has a strong orange and mandarin orange flavor with a nice balance between a cinchona and gentian bitterness and an easy sugary sweetness. Campari kicks in with a bold woody bitterness, featuring more of a rhubarb and berry mid palette and finishes with a floral bouquet of potent herbs.

There are a couple things to consider when deciding whether to use Campari or Aperol in a recipe. First, Campari has a considerably bolder flavor, while Aperol has a higher sugar conent. If you prefer cocktails that are bitter then Campari will be your choice. It is harder to balance and needs an equal part sweetening agent like a sweet vermouth. On the other hand, since Aperol is smoother, it is also more versatile.

Second, always consider your color palette. Campari is a darker ruby red, while Aperol has a lighter orange coloring. (An interesting side note: Campari used to get its red coloring from carmine, which is made from cochineal beetles. Yes that’s right, I said beetles)

Third, Campari hass nearly double the alcohol content of Aperol. Aperol lends itself well to a milder, more refreshing summer drink. Campari is often in boozier drinks that pack a punch.
Well there you go. If you want a cocktail with a light and fruity feel without worrying about getting drunk, give the Aperol Spritz a try. I leave you with a sexy commercial spot by Aperol from 2005 with Brazilian model Amanda Rosa Da Silva who in the words of the Aperol website:
Another memorable on-air spot features Amanda Rosa Da Silva in the leading role of a barmaid cat walking on a row of tables while serving Aperol Spritz to her customers. The closing phrase, “Happy Spritz, Happy Aperol” contributes to the explosive success of the drink in Italy.

Per la vostra salute. Saluti.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Monday, February 3, 2014

Ian Fleming's Goldfinger (1964) Part I

Illustration by Peter Lorenz
In my post on Ian Fleming's From Russia With Love (1963), I stated that From Russia With Love held the distinction of being my favorite of all the Bond movies. Now if there was ever a Bond flick to knock it off the top perch its this one: Ian Fleming's Goldfinger (1964). Goldfinger is a favorite of mine since this one takes a different tact than the prior Bond flicks. As Joseph Walsh (@NitrateStock) of the website Nitrate Stock describes it: Bond is basically held captive the majority of the movie. The action indeed unfolds around him up to the end, often with Bond just watching. In terms of alcoholic drinks, this movie stands out. Goldfinger is the first Bond movie where the setting shifts to the United States. With the action taking place here in the States, specifically in Kentucky, the movie sheds light on the true spirit of the United States: Bourbon. Before, I go into how Bourbon is shown in the movie, there are a few other instances where other spirits are shown in Goldfinger.

It seems that (at least for the first three Bond movies) that there is a swapping of Champagne brands. In Ian Fleming's Dr. No (1962) Dom Pérignon is the preferred Champagne brand with the '55 and '53 vintages being mentioned in the film. In From Russia With Love, Taittinger's Brut La Française and Blanc de Blancs are prominently shown. In Goldfinger, the pendulum swings back in favor of Dom Pérignon. In the scene where Bond is in bed with soon to be unemployed Goldfinger personal assistant Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton), Bond takes out an empty bottle from the ice filled champagne bucket. We see that it is a bottle of Dom Pérignon.

When Bond states that they need another bottle, and that he indeed has another bottle in the refigerator, he states:
"My dear girl, there are some things that just aren't done, such as drinking Dom Perignon '53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That's as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!"

I guess Bond isn't a fan of the fab four. Anyway, we see the bottle laying next to Bond after Oddjob karate chops Bond into La-la land. Bond wakes up to find Jill Masterson a victim of death by gold paint. Bond realizes that Goldfinger is a vicious adversary.

The scene shifts to London where Bond meets with MI-6 Head (Bernard Lee), orders Bond to accompany him to dinner with Colonel Smithers (Richard Vernon) to further discuss the Goldfinger situation. Colonel Smithers is ready to enjoy a cigar when he starts the following conversation:

Colonel Smithers: Have a little more of this rather disappointing brandy.
M: What's the matter with it?
James Bond: I'd say it was a 30-year-old fine, indifferently blended, sir... with an overdose of bon-bois.
M: Colonel Smithers is giving the lecture, 007.

M's snarkiness aside, I had no idea about what Bond meant in terms of this particular brandy. With that in mind, off I went to find out more.

According to the Le Cognac website's entry for Bon Bois:
Bons Bois: Cognac is rarely born of a single eau-de-vie or a single growing area, but generally from a blend of different ages and crus, sometimes up to a hundred of them. It can be made also exclusively from certain “cru”, for example exclusively from “Grande Champagne”, but of different ages.

Bons Bois : less chalky but more earthy soil of 16,000 hectares that is well reflected in the eau de vie. goes into further detail on the Bons Bois Appellation:
In the Bons bois crus, we find sandy soils on coastal locations, in certain valleys, and most especially in all the southern part of the vineyard. These are sands that have eroded from the Massif Central. Vines are quite dispersed, mixed with other crops, surrounded by forests of pine trees and chestnuts. The Bons Bois form a vast belt, of which 9,308 ha (hectares) are destined to Cognac production. 
In terms of what the term "Fine" means, Cognac World's article on Reading the Label (of a Cognac Bottle) describes it as so:
The term "Fine" is authorised by the law of 1938 and qualifies a vintage spirit. For example, a "Grande Fine Champagne" qualifies a Grande Champagne vintage cognac assembled with spirits that come solely from the Grande Champagne region.

On the other hand, the "Fine Champagne" appelation qualifies a cognac with at least 50% of Grande Champagne spirits and the rest from Petite Champagne.

A "Bons Bois" ou "Fine Bons Bois" cognac contains 100% of spirits from the Bons Bois area.
Well, I hope that clarifies to you what Bond meant when he described the brandy to M and Colonel Smithers. I have to say that I need to do some more hands on research on Brandy. Onward we go into Bond and Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe).

By the time Bond is on Goldfinger's personal jet headed towards the United States, he's beaten Goldfinger at golf, followed him to Vienna, been captured, almost had his bollocks (to use a British term) burned off by a laser, was sedated and woke up to the beauty of Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) staring him in the face. It is here that he is offered a drink by Mei Ling. Bond as to form orders his standard: Martini, shaken not stirred.

Now Bond doesn't specify the specify the spirit, but based on his track record up to now we can assume that he's having a Vodka Martini. In the background you can see the bar is stocked with a Martini and Rossi Rosso and Extra Dry Vermouth Bottles.

The Martini and Rossi name has been in business since 1863 producing vermouths and wines. Their website describes their origins as such:
The story of MARTINI® begins with the combination of three very different personalities. Alessandro Martini was a gifted salesman, Teofilo Sola the dependable accountant and Luigi Rossi, creative herbalist and liqueur expert. Any one of them could have made a solo bid for the company, but in the spirit of collaboration, they pooled their talents instead. ‘Martini, Sola e C.ia’ burst into life as a team; forward thinking and with everything to play for.

For wine expert Luigi Rossi, excellent vermouth was the top priority. He wanted to be close to the hills where he could source the best grapes and herbs, but he was also commercially minded, so he encouraged the team to step out of its comfort zone. Searching further afield, Martini, Sola e C.ia chanced upon a piece of land in Pessione, Italy, next to the Turin-Genoa railway. An ideal spot for a production plant which would be the key to the company’s rapid international expansion...Instead of playing safe, they shipped crates of their vermouth across the Atlantic Ocean to New York on a steamship named Hermann. A year later, the figures confirmed, ‘Martini, Sola e C.ia exported three quarters of the vermouth sold in the USA’.
In terms of the Extra Dry Vermouth:
Launched on new year's day in 1900, MARTINI® Extra Dry uses a complex blend that delivers the delicate key notes of the many botanicals it uses. MARTINI® Extra Dry is one of the two key ingredients in one of the most famous cocktails in the world: The Dry Martini Cocktail...
And the Rosso Vermouth:
Luigi Rossi's original vermouth recipe was developed in the 1860s and became one of the most celebrated of Piedmont's aromatic wines. A wine base is blended with rich Italian herbs such as Artemesia and Dittany and other aromatics. It is this special blend of ingredients that gives MARTINI® Rosso its unique taste and made it the original ingredient in many classic cocktails including the Negroni or Manhattan...
When I started writing this post, I didn't think that it would be so long. Especially since I have yet to even touch on Bourbon. For my next post, I will focus exclusively on how Bourbon is shown in Ian Fleming's Goldfinger (1964) Part II, including the cocktail enjoyed by many during the Kentucky Derby: The Mint Julep

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla