A LIFETIME OF FUN WITH ALCOHOL ABUSE
Drink Recipes Included!
Per the title, this is hardly a think piece that traces imbibing through historical and cultural context. It’s more of an appreciation of all the drunks I’ve had the pleasure of partying with over the years. Or maybe it’s “confessions of a drinker,” or a cry for help—whatever. Drinking is as necessary a thing in American middle class life as ever, despite the current ethos of responsibility and healthy living. I came to understand this by once attempting to go without drink for a month...a whole damn month! Not fun. You realize how the calendar is structured around it—the receptions, the after work happy hours, the crab feeds, and dinner parties. Honestly, I struggled, concluding that there are better struggles and easier ways to take a stand.
I have early memories of my dad making wine in the basement--the musky, earthy aroma of winemaking brings me back to that time. Over the years he continued this hobby in the various apartments and houses he moved through. A chemist by trade, he enjoyed the process—sourcing grapes, measuring sugar levels, the techniques around aging and bottling. His tinkering sensibility was more low-key than a lot of wine guys, with their fussy concern for finer points—all the excruciating comparative and metaphorical detail. Everyone knows someone like this. At some point, overly serious connoisseurship obscures the more primal aspect of drinking alcohol—wanting to enjoy a good buzz.
Most other dads in the neighborhood had simpler tastes dictated by the blue collar character of Pittsburgh. Typically this meant a case of Iron City beer in the basement, and maybe a bottle of rot gut whiskey pulled out on the holidays. In a town where the Whiskey Rebellion went down, the boilermaker was a traditional macho group bonding ritual. This is where you drop a shot of whiskey into a half full mug of beer and down the whole thing. There’s a great scene, I think it's the Deer Hunter, where a bunch of steel workers are slamming boilermakers in a neighborhood bar.
My mom and grandma would allow themselves a little nip of slivovitz around Christmastime. This is the clear plum brandy that was a part of their Croatian tradition. The rapidly changing world may have been overprinting much of their heritage, but in that bottle they were clinging to a little symbolic piece of eastern Europe.
But my parents were never the drinkers that I am. I got drunk for the first time at an Episcopal church camp with a bunch of kids from other neighborhoods whom I didn’t know very well. It’s always at some legit thing like church camp or band camp. We had sneaked out onto a country road. There were sixers of tall boys. I guzzled one and stood up and everything tilted. Hey, what’s this?!
High school in the late 1970s was all about partying, the tail end of that wild era, right before all the anti-drunk driving campaigns and stern cautionary tales. We were always trying to get served at beer distributors and State Stores. Pennsylvania still had strict Blue Laws dating all the way back to Puritan thinking. So the places where you could buy alcohol was pretty limited. Getting served was a high art that involved affecting a nonchalance and rapport with the guy behind the counter. Think the nerdy-cool character McLovin from Superbad, when the cop asked him how old he was, and he cooly replied “old enough to party.” If you couldn’t get served yourself, the fall back plan was to get someone to buy booze for you. You’d stake out the corner store, assessing the patrons as to who might have sympathy for a high school kid trying to get his party on.
There was one evening my friends and I were so desperate to get a bottle of whiskey we approached the biggest baddest meanest dude in town, an ex-con, biker named Griff, who had a pony tail, ratty beard, leather vest, the whole dirtbag Greg Allman look. He was surprisingly sympathetic to our mission, and so we drove him over to the State store. As he got out of the car he asked what we wanted. We had no idea, and deferred back to him. He suggested Old Grand Dad, assuring us that “it will blow your doors out.” That descriptor became a mantra for the rest of our high school days. My buddies and I would go to parties out in fields, or on golf courses. Or we’d just drive around with a fifth and beer, chasing after the elusive teenage goalposts of getting laid.
While I would never suggest booze as a psychological remedy or builder of self esteem, I will say, it unlocked a social confidence in a shy kid who was crushingly self conscious. After 10th grade when I joined the club, it allowed me to fit into situations...created a sense that we were all in this thing together...the party, the group. It had an equalizing effect.
During freshman year of college up at the Penn State branch campus in Erie, there were Friday afternoon runs over the New York state line for booze. The drinking age in NY was still 18. These trips typically resulted in a nasty Cool-Aide and grain alcohol punch being stirred up in a big garbage can for dorm room parties. And there were the endless kegs and cases of Old German, a nasty swill whose chief attribute was affordability.
To temper all of this low rent stuff, along came mister Gerald Kelly with Châteauneuf d’ Pape, good Bordeaux and Cote d’ Rhone...teaching us how to appreciate a fine wine, and single malt scotch too. He was an army brat who grew up in Germany, spoke several languages, and had travelled extensively in Europe, Asia and Africa. We just found this quiet intellectual in the dorms late one night drinking tea and listening to the BBC on a shortwave radio. He was an eccentric oddity among suburban jocks and bros on our dorm floor. He was hardly a wine snob. Rather, he just knew and enjoyed the good stuff. A chance encounter one night, and then you have a lifelong friend!
Another friend in college, Regis, was the classic Irish drunk, a charismatic genius of the first order who rallied us on innumerable adventures, real and intellectual. He was a highly magnetic guy who owned every room he walked into, but he was a guy constantly at battle with dark, gothic Irish demons, and his strict military father. This resulted in renegade stands against authority and ‘the man.’ With Regis, we had adventures, hitchhiking trips, bad decisions, carelessness, anger and transcendent moments. Spirit of youth.
There is one other college pal, who I reconnected with a few years ago over the virtual medium of Skype. These days Brady and I enjoy cocktails and cigars online, two middle aged dudes telling war stories, sharing writing, ideas and bull shit of all kinds late in the evening, seeking refuge from family and work responsibilities. Brady was a theatre major in college. By way of a path through film and commercials, he became a big success in the world of infomercial product development and marketing. He lives an expansive life, ever the optimistic fellow, artistic, musical, well connected. For a few years he owned a classic cocktail restaurant near Pasadena.
After my freshman year, my mom had pity on my lack of summer job employment prospects, and sent me to this trade class for bartending. From there I got hired at a joint in downtown Pittsburgh called Alexander’s Graham Bell—a place that in its heyday was known for the gimmick of phones on every table, allowing one to hit on someone at a nearby table. By the time I got there, it was going out of business and had the whiff of failure. The owners struggled to meet daily expenses by pulling money out of the register. The staff was coked up and stealing what they could. Later that summer, I tended on the Gateway Clipper, a tourist paddle wheel boat that plied Pittsburgh’s three rivers. The customers was geriatric, mostly ordering umbrella drinks in some attempt to sync up with the nautical theme. We waiters and bartenders spent our tip money after every shift out at after hours joints downtown, mingling with an older and boozier crowd of professional drinkers.
Booze figured prominently into the literary facination of a romantic English major who chased after the chic of American twentieth century writers—Gatsby at the Ritz, Kerouac's beats with their jug red wine, the manly exploits of Hemingway, and the high priests of literary drinking, Faulkner, Dylan Thomas and John Cheever, chronicler of suburban dysfunction. All the alcoholic geniuses and their doomed characters. I can't leave out Hunter S. Thompson, the inventor of first person gonzo journalism, with his Wild Turkey, among other substances: "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
Fast forward from Pennsylvania out to California, by way of a circuitous path through my early 20s. My first job in Sactown was working as a clerk at Tower Books right at the tail end of Tower’s legendary run as a cultural touchstone. Here, I met circles of artists, musicians, and assorted midtown scenesters, eccentrics and slackers. This lead to meeting a group of bohemian hillbillies who loved to hang out in a remote Nevada ghost town. We’d drink Rebel Yell bourbon chased with canned beer—Pabst, Hamms, Miller High Life, Natty Lite—and then the obligatory “rebel yell” into the wide desert. So many liquored up afternoons and nights slamming shots and beers in an old blacksmith shack we called “The Saloon.” We’d listen to the band play homespun honky tonk music on a ratty standup bass and guitars. I can still hear those lonesome cowboy ditties, hill country standards, and murder ballads. Someone in this scene invented a variation of a shandy, called the “Sacramento Treat.” It is simply a macro beer on ice in a frosty mug with a big chunk of lemon squeezed in. In the desert or in Sacramento triple digit summer heat, it is the ultimate in thirst quenching goodness!
I met my wife Megan through this midtown Sacramento crowd. It was at her sister Amy’s wild house party in the Curtis Park neighborhood. That night, Megan and Amy “made” me do shots of Jagermeister with them. Who would say no to pretty girls offering up a Germanic herbal elixir with supposed medicinal properties? I don’t know about its effectiveness on wellness, but I readily acknowledge the part this liquor played in sealing a marriage of 24 years and counting.
Later, raising our kids in East Sacramento, I moved through an upscale catholic school culture dominated by the brown liquor, all the time the grade of bourbon and rye getting a bit more refined and expensive: Blanton's, Woodford, Four Roses single barrel, Weller, Henry McKenna, Basil Hayden, Buffalo Trace, among many others. And of course, above them all, the unattainable cult distillate, Pappy Van Winkle. This is a bottle I have long aspired to, but I realize I am clearly not worthy of it. A group of us dads would drink bourbon at the neighborhood tennis club between sets, and during sets, flaunting our fun, unorthodox approach in front of the club’s more serious members. There was a keg one time at a back-to-school night at Sacred Heart. The key takeaway here is that no religious group drinks as heavily as the Catholics...and I mean that in the best possible sense!
In East Sac there are a few drinking buddies that I’ve spent many a night with--cheerful, cocktail-loving inebriates, if you will. The first is a guy named Chet, but affectionately known by his nom de guerre, Colonel C. Griffin Davis. The Colonel hails from Gainesville, Florida and wears his southern pride on his sleeve. He has an outsized, free associative party mode that at times seems to slip in and out of a latter day Foghorn Leghorn persona. Plus, Chet has the singular ability to break dance and perform Rapper’s Delight by Grandmaster Flash, to great comic effect. The Colonel is one of these rare specimens who can drink and smoke cigarettes all night, and then wake up and run a marathon without much care. He lives in a big old historic house. Many an evening we have sat out on his Antebellum style front porch with our buddy Godby, drinking tall juleps, sazeracs, whisky sours. All's right with the world when you’re out on the porch with the Colonel watching life go by.
There is Stan Spencer, a keg guru well versed in all manner of jockey box, tap and refrigeration technology. Stanley and I go way back, since our wives are high school friends. He and I used to have a semi-regular “Bourbon and Power Tools Night” where we’d hole up out in the garage and build shelves and other furnishings, employing a crude circular saw seat-of-the-pants method...aided by lots of brown on ice. Measure twice, cut once! Somehow, there are no missing digits or limbs.
There were wasted early holidays with my brothers, Andy and Mike, when we didn’t yet have the logistical expertise to pull off a big holiday meal. We compounded this deficit by drinking way too much, way too early. Add to that the infamous martinis stirred up by Andy’s wife Jen’s grandfather, Buzz. The nickname wasn’t a booze reference, rather something from WWII. He was a real man, a flyer of rescue missions to pull B-52 crews out of the ocean...at least one time under enemy fire. When a guy like that puts a triple martini in your hand, you goddamn well drink it like a man. Some Thanksgivings got pretty sloppy, and we struggled to get through the meal. The James Thurber quote applies here: “One martini is all right. Two are too many, and three are not enough.”
The martini is one of a whole category of so called classic cocktails that have made a comeback In recent years, part of a craft movement in food and beverage. The bartender, once an unsung service provider, is now star of the show. You know, suspenders-guy with statement facial hair shaking up complicated recipes from exotic bottles: luxardo, flavored bitters, amaro, small batch gins, house-made bitters, interesting variations on old fashions and Manhattans. These new cocktail practitioners lapse into unintentional self-parody with their fussiness and affectation. But they do have a ritual, reverent approach to the process, and they make tasty concoctions. My brother Andy and our friend Anders have become fascinated with classic cocktails, and have attained a reasonable proficiency at such mixology.
The vintage appeal of the craft cocktail trend coincided with another cultural touchpoint—what drinker wasn’t captivated by the midcentury chic of MadMen? The show captured the heyday of American drinking, and centered around the darkly brilliant ad guy, Don Draper, who would pour himself a wake-me-up Canadian Club on the rocks after a long night bedding women. Then he’s somehow manage to plumb the depths of the consumer psyche on behalf of his advertising clients.
As the show progressed through 1960s, the traditional advertising guys were being overrun by hippies, war protesters and a whole new shoot-the-moon zeitgeist...but they still had that morning whiskey ritual, safe in their fancy corner offices. Another show character, Roger Sterling, summed up the changing times through the lens of booze, articulating a last stand for the old guard ethos:
“You don't know how to drink. Your whole generation, you drink for the wrong reasons. My generation, we drink because it's good, because it feels better than unbuttoning your collar, because we deserve it. We drink, because it's what men do.”
The closest I’ve ever come to a real life Don Draper has got to be my pal Mr. Hayes. The comparison is mainly in terms of his effortless charm with the ladies. Unlike Draper, he has an gregarious, Irish personality. A smart and big-hearted guy, he connects across many circles of people in the worlds of politics, advertising and business. But all the fast living caught up with Hayes, and these days he’s on the wagon, which is a good thing. Although I remind him what a selfish move that was in terms of my need for a carousing partner. There’s a whole book of Mr. Hayes stories waiting to be written, unbelievable stories. They are omitted here to protect the partially innocent.
A more recent friend and brother in liquor is a guy named Kevin Eggleston, otherwise known by his action hero name, El Blanco. We met just a few years ago as parents of players on the high school baseball team. Between games of a long double header in the East Bay we both pulled cans of beer out of our ice chests. It was clear from that moment that we were kindred spirits. At first he struck me as an overgrown frat boy, with preppy, upscale tendencies and a certain largesse. But upon a better understanding, I came to realize El Blanco is grounded in a good-natured, genuine love of life and sense of adventure—such as barreling out into the backcountry in a jeep with a SAT phone and a cooler of Coors Banquet Beers; or boating, snowmobiling, randonnée ski trekking, hiking and any number of other bold enthusiasms. This Colorado guy unapologetically drinks “jumbo reds” in the morning—a gringo variation of the Michelada, mixing macro beer and Clamato juice. El Blanco attacks life with gusto, and is famous for formally proclaiming his affection for a good “cocktail beverage.”
This narrative is pretty cavalier in its treatment of a sometimes heavy subject. In the interest of balance, I have to acknowledge the darker side of booze just beneath all the good times. It can take a destructive toll, all the excess, the punking, the overserved sloppiness. Stupid, loud drunks. Angry drunks. Most people can’t function through booze for a sustained period of time. It is a complex psychological landscape in which people sink unawares from social lubrication into escape, dysfunction and dependence. We tipplers walk a tightrope of risk factors that have destroyed generations.
The story of my mom’s sister, Aunt LaVerne, provides a cautionary tale. She was this pretty, dynamic, witty woman, a larger-than-life figure from our childhood. She and her husband, Ray, ran in a fast-living country club crowd. Their stories of high times and exotic trips fascinated us. But eventually the living and the drink took its toll. She ended up in and out of hospitals battling cirrhosis, and she spiraled into erratic behavior that ruined lifelong relationships. RIP LaVerne. The ghost of this family tragedy haunts me even as I enjoy my own drinks and good times.
If there is a good versus bad calculus of drinking, I’ll go with Winston Churchill, who said, “I have taken more out of alcohol than it has taken out of me.” Drinking is some combination of flavor, altered consciousness, and social bonding. Any deeper psychological analysis will be left to those more learned than myself.
If you can reasonably keep your wits about you, alcohol is an interesting, expansive realm that criss crosses world traditions and encompasses an absurd variety of cultural touch points. Jesus, consider the wild nomenclature alone:
Firewater, hooch, rotgut, redeye, death in the afternoon, porch crawler, corpse reviver, zombie, stinger, horse’s neck, moscow mule, London fog, salty dog, the last word, damn the weather, bushwacker, between the sheets, bloody Aztec, harvey wallbanger, mudslide, agent orange, kamikaze, rusty nail, slippery nipple, vesper, sidecar, bees knees, grasshopper, brass monkey and so many more. And we’ll enjoy a drink in any number of spots: tavern, snug, cove, saloon, speakeasy, joint, lounge, lair, corner bar, taphouse, dive, pub, honky tonk, watering hole...on and on!
Reading this, you can see how booze has been something of a glue holding my life story together... and you’re rightly saying, “get a life you pathetic sauce hound!” Touché.
In a world endlessly productized, branded and status-obsessed, booze is no exception. It has its showy elements of upmanship. As a counterpoint though, I return to the social part of it: that it’s less about what’s in the bottle, and more about who’s around the table. And with that, dear friend, I bid you happy tippling. Enjoy the recipes below. Cheers! Mazel Tov! Slainte! Nostrovia, Proost! Salut! Sante! Skal! Bottoms up!
Fernet and Coke
We were introduced to Fernet at our favorite little, off-the-beaten-path Italian restaurant in North Beach, San Francisco. Fernet is a type of amaro, a bitter herbal liqueur made from a centuries old secret Italian recipe. It’s supposed to aid digestion and have certain medicinal properties. In SF they shoot it with a ginger ale back. Later, we discovered the Argentinian style of mixing it with coke. Sort of sweet, with a minty undertaste. Squeeze a lemon wedge in if you like.
Red Beer (Jumbo Red, Michelada, Chelada)
There are lots of permutations of tomato juice and beer. Use any type of lighter lager or pilsner, mixing about two thirds beer with Clamato, V8 or tomato juice. Optionally, add some hot sauce. It’s a day-drinking staple, perfect for trips to the river or swimming hole. The mexican version is called a Michelada. Big, domestic factory brew operations now make an approximation called a “Chelada,” which comes in an impressive 24 oz. tall boy can. It has a nice tangy taste...an acquired taste according to many.
Fill a frosty mug with ice and cheap beer. Squeeze in a half lemon. It’s our version of a shandy. Easy drinkin’ in the California central valley heat. A midtown original!
Margarita (w avocado and pineapple)
The blended margarita is sort of a touristy thing, served in a fancy glass. A lot of tequila drinkers prefer the more straightforward version on the rocks. I’ve recently been experimenting with the blended version, adding a small chunk of avocado to give it a slightly creamy texture. And also a small bit of pineapple for tartness. The key to the margarita is to squeeze real lime juice from real limes. No prefab mixes made out of corn syrup. You need the tartness of the lime. Use blanco tequila and optionally a dash of triple sec for an orange flavor, although I usually omit this. Maybe half and half tequila and half lime. Add a touch of simple syrup if you like it less tart. In the blender, the liquid should come up just below the level of the ice to get a consistency that is not too thick and not too thin. Salt the glass with Tajin Mexican red lime salt.
The Manhattan is the quintessential bourbon drink, stately and traditional, served up in a stemmed martini glass or on the rocks. This version dumbs it down a bit with a float of coke on top. The coke gives it a little fizz and goes well with the other flavors. Fill a rocks glass with ice, two ounces of bourbon or rye, a half ounce of sweet vermouth, a shake or two of bitters, and a cherry. Don’t use the bright red maraschino cherries...spring for a darker candied cherry like a Luxardo. Stir and top with a float of coke. The name is an homage to all the grubby, greasy sweaty back of the house guys I worked with in the restaurant trade...the line cooks and dishwashers who enjoyed a whole different set of rules from the guys working the front of the house.
Mint Julep (the bourbon slushie)
Many years ago we made a pilgrimage to the Kentucky Derby and the bourbon country surrounding Louisville. We got juleps at Churchill Downs in the commemorative race glasses. We partied with a crowd of locals in the infield in a downpour. The julep is all about getting a tall glass full of finely shaved ice--think sno-cone! We use the Cuisinart to get ice that approaches what would be used for a sno-cone. Then you add three shots of good bourbon and a half jigger of mint simple syrup (made by boiling mint, sugar and water). It’s sweet and very drinkable. Warning to those not accustomed to juleps: it’s easy to drink three shots of booze very quickly due to the sweet flavor...Hence, you see people wasted people at the Derby unaware of the strength of the “few” juleps they’ve consumed.
Van Cleef Salty Dog
The Van Cleef is a little dive bar in a gritty part of downtown Oakland, California. It’s a dark hideout of a spot with knick knacks covering every square inch of the walls, and a bohemian, artsy clientele. It’s right down Telegraph Avenue from the Fox Theatre, so we like to stop there before music shows. Their signature drink is the greyhound, or salty dog if you prefer. No matter how crowded the place is, the bartenders take the time to pull big ruby grapefruits from a bin behind the bar and squeeze them in bar mounted presses. Freshly squeezed juice is the key to this deliciously tart classic. Mix with vodka and pour into a glass with salted rim.
There’s a different set of rules when you’re on vacation. Normally respectable standards get a bit relaxed. On a family trip years ago, Meg and I found ourselves out at a hotel pool with a container of powdered Tang and a bottle of cheap red wine. Yes we did…we mixed them and threw in some soda water and chunks of orange. The Tangria was born, bastard stepchild of the Spanish original. This low rent sangria actually tastes better than it sounds, especially lounging by the water. Purists be damned.
My former boss Rob is a friend and a fellow seeker after historical watering holes. Last year at a conference in Chicago, we hit lot’s of vintage spots: the Green Door, the Billy Goat Tavern, The Green Mile, Miller’s Pub, the Anchor Tavern, Berghoff, and an authentic basement speakeasy called the Drifter. In 1933 when prohibition was repealed, they sealed the place up because there was no longer a need for a basement joint. It was recently unsealed, now a perfectly preserved working artifact. Anyway, we were at Miller’s Pub downtown, and Rob ordered us shots of an obscure, local liquor called Malröt. Immediately the bartender regarded us with a bit more respect than the standard tourist-grade indifference. Rob explained that this stuff is a bitter Swedish drink derived from wormwood, and not really distributed beyond Chicagoland. It is infamous mainly for how nasty it is, and drinking it is a test of ones manliness. I love this description from Drunkard Magazine by Frank Kelly Rich: “Every country on this planet makes at least one evil hooch whose main function is punishing outsiders. It’s the drink the locals suggest while trading secret looks and suppressing cruel laughs. A booze so unrelentingly crude, so unmistakably vile that it resists exportation, meaning you’ll rarely get any advance warning.”
Tanq Ten Gibson, wet and dirty
Tanqueray offers a premium gin brand extension called Tanqueray Ten. It’s got a really herbal-forward flavor profile (as they say) and it's maybe a bit more smooth to my palette. It comes in a tall, elegant green bottle. I find it especially delicious base for a martini. Unlike the super dry method of barely putting any vermouth in a martini, I like a vermouth-heavy ratio, 3:1 with the gin. Use Noilly Prat vermouth. The vermouth, at a much lower 20% alcohol, makes it more drinkable. Shake the hell out of it to produce tiny ice flakes in the liquid. Strain into a martini glass--use a smaller 4 ounce glass, not the giant bird bath ones that are now popular. With the larger glass, the last part of your drink will be warm by the time you get to it. Add a cocktail onion and a touch of the pickled onion juice for a tangy edge.
The Gibson cocktail is thought to date to The Player’s Club one evening in 1908, when Charles Dana Gibson, the artist responsible for the iconic Gibson Girl, asked the barman at The Player’s to see if he couldn’t improve on a regular martini. Swapping out olives for silver skin onions, the Gibson was born!
My sister-in-law Greta and I reverse-engineered this warmer upper in Tahoe a few Thanksgivings ago. We used Makers Mark, but it works with rum or brandy too. Mix a shot of bourbon with hot water, honey, lemon and a small pat of butter. Add a cinnamon stick, a clove and a tiny pinch of allspice. This is best if it’s not too strong with the alcohol, so the flavors all balance out.
Our friend KP turned us on to this oddball float. Being the overachiever she is, she churned up a mint ice cream, added candied bacon bits, scooped into a mug and topped with Guinness Stout. It will also work with their newer draft variety, but the stout has a creamy texture that’s perfect for the ice cream. For a stoopid over-the-top finish, top with fresh whipped cream.
Gin & Juice (fancy style with sage and rosemary)
Gin & Juice was a hit single by rapper Snoop Dogg off his debut album Doggystyle. As you might gather, it depicts a house party filled with sex, weed, and alcohol. Sure, why not? The term has become a common reference in the hip hop world and beyond. I include it here simply because it’s got a light citrusy taste and is really drinkable. Squeeze lemons and limes, use soda water and a good gin. Muddle in some basil, sage or rosemary to take it from hip hop house party to fancy boy craft cocktail.
Across America right now the Moscow Mule is having its moment. You see the trademark copper mugs everywhere. We bourbon drinkers have adapted the original, and it’s equally good. Mix some brown with ginger beer and squeeze in a whole lime. Use the copper mug if you’ve got it. I recommend Cock & Bull brand ginger, which has a strong tart kick, but Bundaberg is also good. A metal Mexican lime squeezer makes quick work of the citrus—an indispensable bar tool.
The Novotny (fresca and tequila...Paloma)
Way back in the dark ages before we had kids, Meg and I used to party with a group of her high school friends and their husbands. There was a guy in that crew, Mike Novotney, who championed the tequila and Fresca. I now know it is a drink called a Paloma. Something about that Fresca taste makes it really good—grapefruity citrus and heavily carbonated.
The Kamikaze was a popular drink back in the 70s and 80s, but has sort of faded away. I include it as memory of all the high school and college parties. It’s equal part vodka, third triple sec, and lime, shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass or as a shot. Sort of a vodka margarita. There are competing origin stories, one going back to a Tokyo bar after WWII, and another story places the drink in the 70s disco era.
I'm throwing this one in to cover the category of rum, since I'm not a big rum drinker. The Mojito was invented in Havana in the 1940s, and made famous by Ernest Hemingway. It had a revival in the states in the 90s. Muddle mint leaves with fresh lime juice. Add white rum and soda. Best served with plantains, black beans, pollo, fresh fish, tortillas...all the tropical Caribbean food mainstays.
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