Just as my relationship with meat has changed over the years, so has my relationship with alcohol. I never drank in high school. I had this notion that beer kegs and homemade Long Island Iced Teas when you’re 16 kept you from the more important things in life. I’m probably right because I still don’t think there’s much value in a wasted 16-year old experience at a house party but when it comes to college-aged bar-hopping in New York City, well, bring it on. I should say to each his own experience but I’ll bet you that the few good nights I had, I have better stories than those who got drunk in suburban New Jersey.
Now this isn’t a blog about my drunken college experiences and honestly I still didn’t drink as much as friends of mine but I made a few horrible choices and two in particular come to mind. Champagne and whiskey. Red wine and tequila. I get a little nauseous just writing those down. On more mellow days, cheap white wine did it for a while and then give me a well vodka-soda with a splash of cranberry and I was set for the night. Other than that, it’s the always-needy Skinny Virgin - aka the Diet Coke.
My job here in Austin and one nice happy hour out turned my drunk world upside down or right-side up for that matter.
Bartending and spirits have a fascinating little history and life of its own. Production, history, worldly flair, flavors, and recipes are very similar to what we do with food but with a little bit more buzz. Fino’s cocktail bar has recently gotten mention in the October issues of GQ magazine for being imaginative, smart, and chock full of quality ingredients. It’s a good mix of fun new ideas but classic recipes that haven’t died since Pre-Prohibition. I headed to a Happy Hour recently at Peche in Austin. I looked at their cocktail menu and saw Corpse Revivers and Bee’s Knees similar to the Fino menu and then was pleasantly surprised with (free) French 75’s which I so remembered fondly at Freeman’s on the Lower East Side of New York. Here we have recipes carefully concocted that have traveled across the country, across bars, and across Prohibition laws. That’s pretty impressive. Since then, I’ve been delving into old vintage recipes and trying to learn about liqueurs made by Benedictine monks and absinthes that have only recently become legal.
It just paints this picture of dressing up in 1920’s garb and a new bob walking down an old cobblestone New York street in stilettos and into a dark, candlelit, and smoky speakeasy. Intoxicated with the thrill of breaking the law, I just want to get a little buzzed with some dangerous, mustached lover over a martini. I don’t know if that’s how it went but that’s how it goes in my head. That to me is sexier than red wine and tequila and gives me a whole different feeling than vodka-sodas. These bars reviving and giving homage to the past just might be my new obsession along with searching out those who also have a dedication to quality ingredients and well-balanced recipes for the sake of bartenders past. It’s a nice, new twist in my world of food and drink.
So begins a journey into vintage bar recipes and a whole lot of heavy drinking..