Beer, Wine and Spirits

Tuesday, 24 October 2017 00:05

Absinthe, the Green Fairy and Tulips

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro, as Syndicated to the AMI Sun Published on October 22nd, 2017 in Beer, Wine and Spirits
 

I think we should run Absinthe for President.

Everybody loves Absinthe. The Absinthe fan club reads like an A-list of intellectuals and artists from the last two hundred years.

Hemingway, Renoir, Oscar Wilde, Vincent Van Gogh, Toulouse Latrec, Frank Sinatra, Roosevelt, Mark Twain, Picasso…They all loved absinthe.

If Absinthe created a cabinet from its supporters it would be an intellectual giant compared to the cabinet we have now.

Most of the Absinthe cabinet notables would have to confess that at times their Absinthe president drove them crazy.

Nothing new there.

Absinthe is best and most dramatically served from an Absinthe fountain.

The fountain is a sculpture supporting a large glass vessel of ice water suspended above a network of tiny taps. Absinthe glasses are placed under the taps. Small slotted absinthe spoons containing a sugar cube are balanced on top of the glasses.

The tiny taps are operated by the patron to drip water over the sugar into the absinthe.

As the sugared water drips into the clear green absinthe it creates a swirling cloud bespeckled with twinkling crystals from the dissolving sugar.

The crysta cloud is quite beautiful. Centuries of absinthe protagonists swear to the presence of a green fairy dancing in the swirling, sparkling cloud.

Absinthe fans rejoice in the whimsical experiences they have had in company with the Green Fairy.

Oscar Wilde spent an evening of sipping absinthe with friends. He was the last to leave the bar.

At end-of-night cleanup the bartender threw buckets of water onto the stone floor.

The water sprouted beautiful tulips from the stones.

As Oscar floated out the door he could feel the tulips brushing against his legs.

I love tulips.

Many distillers of spirits and liqueres add flowers to their creations.

The significant flower in absinthe is the flower of artemis absinthium, - wormwood.

The flowers were used in sacrifices to Egyptian gods as early as 1500 BC.

The psychotic properties of Absinthe may be traceable to thujone from the flowers. Thujone is a trace chemical associated with certain physcological capabilities – like maybe it can make you forget to breathe.

Absinthe became crazy popular in the nineteenth century and then was outlawed through most of the twentieth.

Absinthe was made illegal as a concession to winemakers. It became such a popular pillar of French culture that by 1850 the wine industry grew apprehensive about loss of market share to absinthe. They began a program of fake news to damage absinthe’s reputation. They were finally able to have it banned.

The cause celebre that put lawmakers in the wine producers’ pockets was Jean Lefay’s murder of his family in 1904.

The wine guys blew up the fact that Jean drank two glasses of Absinthe just before killing off the wife and kids.

They obscured the fact that Jean was a professional drinker who earlier that day had consumed a bottle of brandy and two bottles of wine. It sounds like Jean drank all the liquor in the house and then went crazy when he found out his wife and children were tippling his absinthe.

Lefay may have been just another angry redneck who has discovered that the kids have been stealing his beer and watering his bourbon.

Absinthe became rehabilitated around 2000.

Scientists began to downplay the dangers of wormwood and

liquor marketers could recognize a great marketing opportunity when they saw it.

I found my first absinthe fountain in a tiny absinthe bar in Nashville. The dimunitive bar sells chocolate all day and at night converts to an absinthe bar.

One look at that absinthe fountain and I had to get one.

So I did.

It’s at the Doctor’s Office.

Come visit and sip. We will introduce you to the green fairy.

We will walk through tulips.

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro - as syndicated to the AMI SUN

Monday, 31 July 2017 15:56

Demon Rum

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro, as Syndicated to the AMI Sun Published on October 22nd, 2017 in Beer, Wine and Spirits
 

Demon Rum

The British navy ran on rum.

Winston Churchill was at one time the First Lord of the Admiralty.rum barrels on boat

When asked to make a toast to the “Great Traditions of the British Navy”, Churchill scowled and toasted “To rum, ……., and the lash”. (Ask me about the second one when you see me.)

By the mid-1700’s a sailor’s ration of rum was a half-pint per day.

It was mixed with lime as a precaution against scurvy and with water as a hedge against mutiny.

While Sir Francis Drake was scouring the Caribbean coast looking for stuff to steal, he was sitting on the afterdeck sipping a cocktail named after him - the “Draque” - rum, lime, and sugar - a Daiquiri.

The rum that Drake was drinking was probably Cachaça - a Brazilian rum made from sugar cane. When the British learned they could make rum from sugar cane they began to ship slaves to the Caribbean to grow the cane. The rum was cheaper than Dutch gin or French brandy and the trade in rum and slaves took off.

Rum sowed the seeds of rebellion in the North American colonies. By the mid-1700’s America had hundreds of distilleries making rum from molasses and competing with British distillers. The Brits did not like the competition and decided to tax the colonies’ sugar and molasses.

The American colonists began grumbling about the taxes over their rum punches. The rum enthused them to toss a bunch of tea into the harbor and we were off to the races.

During the American Revolution, British Navy Rum was passing through Nova Scotia in big barrels.

The barrels were sold as “almost empty” to the Nova Scotians. The barrels held dregs and drippings and rum that had soaked into the oak and pine.

The Noveys poured in a couple of gallons of hot water and rolled the barrels up and down the hills to dilute the dregs and soak up the rum from the wood.

In Nova Scotia the dreadful concoction was called “Swish” and in Newfoundland it was called “Screech”.

The name Screech pretty much says it all.

I had buddy who drank a boatload of Screech on a Saturday, woke up on Tuesday and could not hear until Thursday. We had to talk him out of joining the priesthood.

When the British army got kicked out of Boston it went to Nova Scotia. Then it left again to link up with Cornwallis to attack New York. When the army left, the Nova Scotians rose up and attacked a British fort.

Two war canoes loaded with gunpowder were sent from Maine to help.

The Mainiacs in one of the canoes got into the rum and didn’t make it. The Nova Scotians ran out of powder, the uprising failed, and the Noveys went back to their Swish.

Churchill’s was known to nip a little rum himself. It helped with his oratory. He was the greatest orator in modern history. To be fair, McCain looked good last week.churchill

My favorite Churchill story treats of his opposition to the “appeasers”, the financial elite and fascists in Britain who wanted to make a truce with Hitler.

Lady Astor was a leading appeaser.

In the House of Commons Churchill attacked Lady Astor and her appeaser friends.

He said they would make a deal with the alligator if the alligator agreed to eat them last.

Lady Astor was not pleased.

That night Churchill was her guest at dinner at Astor House.

Lady Astor was pouring coffee.

When she poured Churchill’s coffee she said to him, “Winston, if you were my husband, I would put poison in your coffee.”

Churchill replied, “Lady Astor, if you were my wife, I would drink it.”

The coffee would have been better with a little rum.

The poison might have been Screech.

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro - as syndicated to the AMI SUN

Monday, 24 July 2017 16:10

Rocks

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro, as Syndicated to the AMI Sun Published on October 22nd, 2017 in Beer, Wine and Spirits
 

The milestones of my life have been marked by rocks.rocks balancing rock in nova scotia 2

Sounds redundant, but it is true.

I grew up on the rocky shores of Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia is just one big rock sticking out into the North Atlantic. The native peoples were Micmac. “Nova Scotia” is Micmac for “Land of Big Rocks and Little Trees.”

(No it's not. It's Latin for “New Scotland” - but the Micmacs can't be blamed for not knowing Latin.)

My first memory is of rocks and water.

I was swinging from a rope hanging off a rock wall.

The incoming tide had me in its sights.  

My mom had put me in a harness and tied me to a tree near the rock wall to play. The rope was a little too long. I had toddled over the edge of the wall and was swinging to and fro above the rising waters when my grandmother found me.

Some wish she had left me.

Others claimed that the swinging from a rope was a precursor to a later, fitting judgement.

I grew up on the cove with about forty cousins.

The cove was surrounded by rocks the size of Volkswagens that we climbed on and smaller rocks that we threw at Protestants.

Slate rocks were the best chucking rocks for distance but they would swerve and change direction. If your Protestant had a good head start you just whipped one out there and asked the Holy Ghost for guidance.

The best stones for medium distance accuracy were flat round beach stones. There are lotta guys wandering Nova Scotia with little dents in their heads from those smooth stones.

A major milestone in my life was being able to throw a rock across the cove.

We spent entire days throwing rocks across the cove.  I can still remember the satisfying clink as that first rock cleared the water.

Another milestone was swimming across that rocky cove. You were not a “made” cousin until you swam the cove and you weren't tough until you could swim it while the other cousins threw rocks at you.

One of the more recent milestones in my life is about another kind of rocks.

The Beach Bistro – Eat Here team has opened a craft cocktail bar. A lot of thought has gone into the rocks in the cocktails.

Opening a craft cocktail bar is a natural extension of operating an award-winning restaurant. Like any great culinary creation, a truly wonderful cocktail requires exceptional, authentic ingredients crafted by a skilled artisan. A great cocktail has become an integral part of a memorable dinner with loved ones sharing life’s milestones - first dates, engagements, weddings and anniversaries.

And great cocktails are all about the rocks.spherical ice ball

The rocks in cocktails have three purposes...cooling, diluting and presenting.

Different cocktails are inclined to different rates of cooling and degrees of dilution.

Small-batch bourbon is happy to cool slowly and disdains dilution. Beachy Margaritas are best cold immediately and diluted to reduce the inclination to wander dazed in the hot sun.

The “presenting” is the rocks biggest impact. A giant sphere in your aged rum is not only cooling but looks cool.

A cylindrical rock with pretty flowers frozen inside will make your mojito go “wow”, and inspire you to send pictures back home.

My favorite rock is the perfect sphere made in a heavy, metal ice baller. The weight of metal in the two halves of the baller rapidly melts a cylinder of ice into a perfect sphere right before your eyes.

The melting may not improve the efficacy of the sphere but the theatre is amazing.

They also throw well.

So far, I have been able to launch one of the spherical ice rocks damn near the length of Becky’s lumber yard next door.

And the evidence is gone by morning.

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro - as syndicated to the AMI SUN

Monday, 15 May 2017 16:34

Bar Talk ... "Warm Coats"

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro, as Syndicated to the AMI Sun Published on October 22nd, 2017 in Beer, Wine and Spirits
 

Bartenders are listeners.

You sit at the bar. You drink. The Bartender listens.

The topics can be tricky.

The patron’s ex-wife.

This one is real tricky. 

The bartender has to try to kill this conversation because the person to the left is somebody’s ex-wife and the guy to the right is going out with an ex-wife. 

The patron talking about his ex-wife is not a happy guy.  He gets a couple of drinks in he will get morose and then the bar will get morose and morose people tip poorly.

Politics. Not good right now. Republicans are morose.

Religion. Fire and damnation. Morose.

 

The Floridian’s Favorite Warm Coat. This is one of my favorites.

Every Floridian has one warm coat he wears during those coupla weeks in December when the Canadians slip us a couple of those too-dam-cold “Canadian Cold Fronts.”

This week that one warm coat is heading to hibernation in the back of the closet but next October it will be back again.

By October we will be sick of the heat and overjoyed to welcome that first, refreshing cool front.

People will laugh and drink and dance naked in the streets.

By December some of those cold fronts will get fiercer and colder and more belligerent.

There will be bitterly cold “Canadian Cold Fronts”. Dam Canadians.

Those warm coats will climb back out of their closets and the locals and their warm coats will march into the bar like critters marching into the ark – arm in arm – two by two.

On those cold nights it is as if every bar stool has two guests – the patron and their coat.

The coats are introduced to the bartender and the other patrons in the bar.

“I got this coat from my sister’s ex-husband - he played football at Notre Dame. SOB is still behind in alimony and I’m keeping the goddam coat.”

“I got this coat from the mayor of Buffalo – we got raided in a poker game and he had to rush out without it.”

“I got this coat in Failene’s basement for a dollar in ’72.”

There is always a lady in a great big fur – testimony to acres of forest denuded of small animals.

The lady with the fur loves her coat – as martinis slide down she begins to slide deeper into the fur and the warm, romantic memories of her lost youth.

“Ralph gave me this coat after he got back from Vegas”. 

A guilty fur coat.

I’ll miss the winter coat talk. Memories of winter coat convesations will keep me cooler in the hot days from now until the next “big chill” in October.

One dog day in September, when the heat is cruel and relentles and crushing, I will dig around in the trunk at the back of the closet for my special warm coat.

I will slide into it like an old boot and go sit by the pool in the white hot sun and I will dream of cold fronts and all my friends around the bar in their special coats - shiny suede, broken zippers, mismatched buttons and matted sheepskin collars.

I will look forward to cooler days again and I will wonder what Ralph did in Vegas that was so bad he had to buy that fur.

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro - as syndicated to the AMI SUN