Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the Society.

Photo

Hooch


  • Please log in to reply
38 replies to this topic

#1 Daily Gullet Staff

Daily Gullet Staff
  • host
  • 152 posts

Posted 30 May 2006 - 07:46 PM

hspace="8" align="left">by Chris Amirault

When I skidded into my late thirties, I went through a predictable, even clichéd series of life upheavals that revealed, among many other things, that I was drinking way too much. Starting around 5:00 pm every day, I’d enter a state of intense anticipation, awaiting the cool bite of scotch or the warm wash of red wine. It didn’t matter whether I was at a business dinner in an increasingly unpleasant, anxious job or at home in an increasingly unpleasant, anxious marriage. I always had at least two drinks -- usually three or four -- work days and weekends.

Over the span of several tumultuous months, I changed many things in my life for the better -- work, marriage, home -- and my drinking changed, too. I didn't drink at all through the first months of this transition, and when I started again, I drank less frequently. After sustaining this change for a couple of years, I got a phone call from a researcher who wanted me to participate in a six-month study about alcohol consumption. I agreed right away. You see, my reform was wholly my own; I hadn't needed a helping hand from any twelve-step programs, therapists, or medications. If science wanted me to help needy others by modeling my superior awareness and control, I’d provide that service, humbly, to humankind.

As part of the study, I started recording my drinking, and over the course of the first couple of months I noticed a pattern. Occasionally I had nothing to drink. Occasionally I had two drinks. But on all other nights, week in and week out, I had exactly one drink, whether at home or at a restaurant, stressed out or happy, in town or on the road. By the time the survey wrapped up, I didn't worry about keeping my records up-to-date; I'd just try to remember those exceptional drink-free or multi-drink days at the end of each two- or three-week period, mark them down, and fill in the rest of the calendar with ones.

I was smug about those numbers. I‘d reduced my daily drinking from two, three, even four drinks down to a single drink most nights, and I had the scientific data to prove it. That single evening drink was not only evidence that I was drinking less, it was evidence that I was drinking a healthy amount, like, you know, the French. One evening drink was the 21st century version of an apple a day, right?

When the study wrapped up, my hubris made the beginning of my exit interview pretty fun, as I rattled off my last few weeks of ones. But the hubris didn't last long; science wanted a final datum, not of counted number but of measured amount.

"When you have a drink at home," the researcher asked, "how many ounces of alcohol do you usually drink?"

"Oh, you know, a regular serving," I sputtered.

"So, when you have a bourbon, say, your glass has about two or three ounces of liquor in it."

"Yeah, that's right," I replied, feigning confidence. "You know, one drink."

She asked her final questions, thanked me, and hung up. But I was pretty sure I’d just sold science, and my pride, down the river.

For a while I pretended that her question hadn’t bothered me, but it kept nagging, particularly when I pulled down one of the glasses I used for drinks at home. Months after the survey had ended, I took one of those glasses out of the cupboard to split an Anchor Steam with my wife. I nearly filled my own glass and handed the bottle to her.

"Not exactly half," she said, tilting the bottle and finishing it off.

She was right: there had been no more than an inch of beer left in her bottle. I’d stiffed her because I assumed my drinking glass held six, maybe eight ounces max. Surprise: it held exactly twelve ounces of liquid. I was now shaken and stirred. A few days later, when no one was around, I grabbed a glass from the cabinet, placed four ice cubes into it, poured in my usual amount of bourbon, and then strained the bourbon into a measuring cup. This one drink -- bourbon on the rocks, the one I enjoyed most consistently -- consisted of more than three two-ounce drinks.

It was little consolation to realize that I was, by any measure, drinking far less than I had been back when I regularly knocked back three or four of these bombs. But I knew I’d been deluding myself about my drinking, and I invested a lot in my seeming self-awareness. I stood at the sink, looking at the glass full of bourbon and ice, more deluded than I’d been moments before.

Turns out that, most nights, I had a three-drink minimum.

* * *

My maternal grandfather was one of those Mainers that you read about -- a great accent, rough hands, wry humor, and a prodigious belly on a wiry frame. Grampa bounced around in different jobs from the Depression through the 1970s, baker to farmhand, bus driver to janitor. Though I never became close to him, I’ve got vivid, important memories dating back decades. I remember sharing a Fanta orange soda in a glass bottle with him after a hot afternoon of work in his beloved garden, where he wrung tomatoes, peas, and rhubarb out of the Maine clay. I remember standing next to him at a table covered with old newpapers, bowls, and cups of melted butter, greedily consuming the clam necks that his dentures, which had bitten off the tender steamer bellies, hadn't allowed him to chew.

And I remember his daily ritual. When he arrived home from work at the school he cleaned, he'd putter furtively by the kitchen sink and the surrounding cabinets. My brother and I spent many weeks at their house near Waterville each year, particularly during the summers, and I grew familiar with the strange rhythms of my grandparents’ life. I never quite understood many of those rhythms; tip-lipped Yankees both, they had little interest in self-reflection and offered few insights to kids. But even when I was young, I sensed that his habit of heading straight for the kitchen sink held odd, perhaps troubling, meanings.

I was eight when grampa first asked me, soon after getting home, if I was ready for a bit of hooch. Gramma, a teetotaler, overheard this, and scolded him, completing an exchange I found baffling. So, the next afternoon, I rushed to my grampa's car the moment he arrived, and asked, "What's hooch?"

He grinned and walked me from the driveway through the back door into the kitchen, glancing around to confirm that gramma was in a back room. He reached up to the cabinets above the sink, extending his hand to the back of the top shelf, and brought down a small glass. It was clear and thick, with an indented bottom, encircled by a thin white line just below the rim.

He reached under the sink and pulled out a large, unfamiliar bottle. Showing me the turkey on the label, he said, "This is hooch," and he poured a splash of liquor into the glass. He handed the glass to me without speaking, letting me decide what to do; I didn't taste it, but just stuck my nose into the glass. And, all at once, I figured out what hooch was: hooch was what my grampa smelled like every night of his life.

He took back the glass, filled it, and drank, slowly enough to savor it but quickly enough to wrap things up before gramma popped in for a look-see. He rinsed out the glass, wiped it with a dish rag, and placed it back in its place on the top shelf, out of sight.

As I grew older, the familial tensions I’d sensed when I first heard the word "hooch" recurred with greater urgency. Now and then, I'd hear my grandmother say something to him under her breath. He'd snap at her to mind her own goddamned business. On the car ride back down to Massachusetts, my parents would whisper when they thought my brother and I had fallen asleep, asking each about his threats to "lie down on the train tracks and be done with it." In the year or two before lung cancer destroyed him, there had been family discussions about alcoholism. By then I was old enough to know what that meant.

But on summer nights when my gramma was reading in her bedroom and my brother and I watched the Red Sox at my grampa's feet, hooch was just a wisp in the warm air that floated through the living room screens. And sometimes, during a Schaefer commercial between innings, my grampa would go around the corner into the kitchen, squeak open cabinet doors, twist on and off a bottle cap and then the spigot, squeak open the cabinet doors again, and settle back into his easy chair, having turned one drink into two -- or maybe three -- with no one the wiser.

* * *

For a few weeks after discovering that I’d been knocking back double scotches or triple bourbons most nights, I decided to go cold turkey once again. Lacking the zeal that had filled my veins during my divorce, I failed miserably. Though I knew I didn't crave the alcohol-based depressants, I wasn't sure what, if anything, I did crave.

To figure it out, I started wondering about my relationships to other quasi-addictions. I had been one of those smokers that real smokers hate, lighting up only when I would enjoy it entirely and able to go without a smoke for days, even weeks, at a time. The nicotine did little for me. However, tapping the cigarette on table or thumbnail, deciding how I'd hold this particular smoke, exhaling through the nose, mouth, or both: that stuff I loved.

I still missed the rituals of smoking, so I decided that I missed the rituals that surround drinking. I needed the most obsessive mode of drinking I could find, one that would provide me the satisfaction of alcohol, while cutting back on the amount. Since beer holds no romance for me, and serious wine consumption breaks my bank, I turned to the playland of vintage cocktails.

I started stocking up on all of the requisite fetish objects and elixirs with fervor. Soon, I’d accumulated a Hawthorne strainer and barspoon to accompany my fine Boston shaker, several obscure mail-order bitters and hard-to-find liqueurs, and a set of genuine 1950s cocktail glasses wrapped in tissue paper that I’d discovered, unloved, at a local yard sale, four for three bucks. Those glasses were the turning point, for they held just the right amount for a single, stunning drink.

I find deep pleasure in drinking a single, stunning drink most nights. Though my knowledge is slight and new, it’s well-rounded, thanks to a number of sources, primary among them Gary Regan's Joy of Mixology. Regan's book provides many deep, persnickety truths, just the sort with which a novice can legitimate his own prejudices and peccadilloes. With a few weeks of practice, I developed a solid, if rudimentary, ritual.

First, I ponder what's on hand: Do I have Tanqueray, Plymouth, or both? Did I use all of the lemons? How much of that homemade grenadine is on the refrigerator door? Then I search for a recipe that corresponds to both supply and desire.

With recipe in hand, I choose the right glass for the occasion and chill it. I select the necessary tools and lay out the bottles I'll need: my liquid mise en place. I measure (I always measure) a half-ounce of this and two ounces of that, pouring each in sequence into my shaker. Even if they aren't in the recipe, I squirt in a dash of bitters -- two, if the recipe asks for one.

I stir, counting to forty, or I shake, counting to twenty. Each count is one-half second; I've timed it. I strain. And, only then -- after I've performed a meticulous, pleasurable ritual that may not rival a Japanese tea ceremony in complexity of meaning but does in anticipation -- do I drink.

Following that engaging, satisfying, and obsessive process, I find I want to have only one drink almost every night -- but what a drink it is. I spent a full week marveling at the perfection of the Pegu Club. I've had my world opened to the dry backbone that maraschino adds to gin and lemon in the Aviation Cocktail. I've come to understand why Gary Regan calls the Manhattan, a concoction I’d been throwing together for years with little thought, "the finest cocktail on the face of the earth."

Over the last few weeks, I've been intrigued by one particular vintage cocktail. While it’s a great drink, its recipe makes it legendary, a ritual so involved and contentious that debate about it continues to this day. After reading about it in Regan, on-line, and elsewhere, I decided that I had to try the glass-rinsing, sugar-muddling, rind-twisting procedure that makes the Sazerac the Kama Sutra for cocktail ritualists.

There are dozens of recipes for this famous drink, but for my first time out I decided to go with Regan's less intricate recipe. I had lemons and simple syrup on hand, and I've been fortunate to find a regular source so I can keep Peychaud's bitters in stock. In a moment of criminality that would make a New Orleanian cringe, I dug a bottle of Pernod from the back of my liquor cabinet as a substitute for the essential Herbsaint -- impossible to find in my hometown.

That left me with one item to find: a bottle of rye. I'd never had rye; didn't have a clue about it. Conversations with liquor store clerks didn't help much, as they hadn't ever seen a bottle of the stuff. After trudging all over town, at the eighth store I visited, I spotted a bottle of Old Overholt, lurking on the bottom shelf behind the register. I drove straight home and set to work.

I filled my cocktail glass with crushed ice and water to chill it. I measured out the rye and simple syrup into my shaker, and I splashed in several dashes of Peychaud's bitters. I trimmed off a thick curl of lemon rind with care, lest I spray the precious oil on my fingers instead of atop the drink's surface, and set it aside.

Working quickly, I dumped the ice and ice water from my glass, dried it, rinsed a capful of Pernod around the inside, and poured out the remainder. I added crushed ice to the shaker, stirred while counting to forty, and strained the drink into its anisette-lined glass. Finally, with pride, I twisted the lemon rind over the glass and dropped it in.

Even without the lovely, tortured ritual, the Sazerac is an elusive drink to describe, complex at some moments and simple at others. It starts quick and bright in your mouth, the lemon and anise sitting on top, and turns slow and dark as the rye releases and lingers.

That first Sazerac was unlike anything I've ever tasted, but I recognized it immediately. The lemon gave way to the rye, my tongue became my nose, and once again I inhaled the hooch on my grampa's breath.

#2 Pan

Pan
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 15,544 posts
  • Location:East Village, Manhattan

Posted 30 May 2006 - 08:00 PM

Very interesting article, Chris. It didn't end the way I might have expected, either. You truly savor your alcohol.

#3 MarketStEl

MarketStEl
  • participating member
  • 3,722 posts
  • Location:Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

Posted 30 May 2006 - 09:15 PM

All in the family, eh, Chris?

On more than one occasion, I've said to my partner that we were replicating our respective parents' marriages with our own relationship. Where I had expected to read a story about grappling with addiction, which is what your lead set me up for, instead I get a wonderful piece in which you replicate your grandfather's relationship to alcohol--a pleasure made guilty only by the idea that someone is watching over your shoulder.

Of course, no one replicates their ancestors perfectly, and neither do you. You do not hide your pleasure, but rather raise it to a quasi-religious exercise. Given your granddad's approach, and your own throttling back when you realized you were drinking too much, I'd be curious to know how you came to turn alcohol from a habit to a practice.

As a heavy boozer-turned-teetotaler-turned-social drinker, I took no little pleasure in reading a tale of a similar journey, with a twist--and a little Pernod in place of the right ingredient.

A toast to you, Sir.
Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia
"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen
My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

#4 Chris Amirault

Chris Amirault
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 19,626 posts
  • Location:Rhode Island

Posted 31 May 2006 - 05:09 AM

Thanks, Michael and Sandy!

Given your granddad's approach, and your own throttling back when you realized you were drinking too much, I'd be curious to know how you came to turn alcohol from a habit to a practice.

View Post


That's an interesting distinction, Sandy, and I'm not sure how to parse it out. One difference between habit and practice would be relative levels of openness; as you've probably realized, the act of writing this down and publishing it here is part of the shift from furtive to, well, less furtive. And certainly habits are less intentional than practices. While I can claim great intentionality and like thinking that I have some awareness, I try not to embrace the fantasy of total, intentional self knowledge (though, as you can see, that's hard for me to resist at times). So perhaps it is a practiced habit, eh?

I've no answers about how this all happened, really, and I'm loathe to generalize or moralize about it. If I had to describe the process, I guess I'd say that I wanted to figure out what my drinking meant and what it could be instead of deciding that it was bad and trying to excise it. So I think that embracing drinking as a pleasurable, healthy part of my life was the key step -- one that, of course, some people would see as a step into delusion.
Chris Amirault
camirault@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics Signatory
Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

#5 Gary Regan

Gary Regan
  • participating member
  • 131 posts
  • Location:New York

Posted 31 May 2006 - 05:44 AM

Very interesting! Thanks for the kind words.

I find that my 20-ounce shaker glass works very nicely for my after-work Manhattan on the rocks. Not full, of course. always leave that 1/4 inch vacant space at the top of the glass so you can get it to your lips without spilling . . . :raz:
“The practice is to commence with a brandy or gin ‘cocktail’ before breakfast, by way of an appetizer. Subsequently, a ‘digester’ will be needed. Then, in due course and at certain intervals, a ‘refresher,’ a ‘reposer,’ a ‘settler,’ a ‘cooler,’ an ‘invigorator,’ a ‘sparkler,’ and a ‘rouser,’ pending the final ‘nightcap,’ or midnight dram.” Life and Society in America by Samuel Phillips Day. Published by Newman and Co., 1880.

#6 Chris Amirault

Chris Amirault
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 19,626 posts
  • Location:Rhode Island

Posted 31 May 2006 - 05:59 AM

Sounds like one perfect drink, Gary. :wink:
Chris Amirault
camirault@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics Signatory
Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

#7 NYC Mike

NYC Mike
  • participating member
  • 540 posts
  • Location:Alpharetta, GA

Posted 31 May 2006 - 06:27 AM

So I think that embracing drinking as a pleasurable, healthy part of my life was the key step


Awesome for you man! Thanks for sharing!
-Mike & Andrea


#8 lancastermike

lancastermike
  • legacy participant
  • 1,354 posts

Posted 31 May 2006 - 07:05 AM

Great story, Chris. I too went from real big drinker to nothing at all. And now I have returned to the joy of a drink.

I also smoked for mostly the same reasons. I haven't smoked in 20 years now and I still miss my Zippo lighter. I ghave no desire for a smoke, but would love to have my Zippo.

I was able to understand why I drank to excess. When I did, I stopped. No treatment, no programs. Now that I understand those issues I am glad I have been able to return to the joy of a drink.

Thanks for sharing.

#9 Melianne

Melianne
  • participating member
  • 22 posts

Posted 31 May 2006 - 07:13 AM

I absolutely loved this - what a great piece of work.

Thank you so much.

#10 Peter Green

Peter Green
  • participating member
  • 1,990 posts
  • Location:Middle East/Bangkok

Posted 31 May 2006 - 08:02 AM

A very good piece. It's far better to enjoy one very fine drink and the experience that goes with it, than to promiscuously tip back anything at hand is what drinking should be about (and many other things)

#11 MarketStEl

MarketStEl
  • participating member
  • 3,722 posts
  • Location:Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

Posted 31 May 2006 - 08:56 AM

I was able to understand why I drank to excess.  When I did, I stopped.  No treatment, no programs.  Now that I understand those issues I am glad I have been able to return to the joy of a drink.

Thanks for sharing.

View Post


I was seeing a therapist for depression when I quit--on my therapist's advice. (I still remember exactly what he said to me: "Before we see whether you need antidepressants, let's take you off the depressant you're taking and see what happens." As my therapist was a Penn psychiatrist, and Penn is the High Church of Cognitive Therapy, there's a chance I might not have gone on antidepressants anyway had quitting not produced the desired result. But it did, and I'm thankful for that.)

I guess you could say that I too was replicating my father's life in going down this path, for after my parents divorced, my Dad--though I didn't realize this at the time--began a long, slow descent into severe depression, which grew worse after he retired from the Post Office and withdrew from everyday social life. The last time I saw him alive--at a memorial service for my mother, whom he never stopped loving--he lit up the room with his presence. The very next day, it was back in the black hole. He died just about a year to the day after Mom did, and while it wasn't listed on the death certificate, I'm sure his depression hastened his demise.

Whatever else I may have been thinking when I started seeing my therapist, I knew I didn't want to go down that same path. That probably helped me to quit--though I did quit smoking just as abruptly some 15 years earlier.

But there is a difference between alcohol and cigarettes: Used in moderation, alcohol is good for you. It is also a useful social lubricant (and a door to understanding, as that well-known Latin motto suggests). Given this, it seemed to me--somewhere around my 20th month of sobriety--that if I understood my limits, there would be little harm in having a drink every so often.

So far, that has been the case. What I see in your story, Chris, is a similar understanding. Again, congrats on not totally following in your grandfather's footsteps.
Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia
"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen
My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

#12 ivan

ivan
  • participating member
  • 407 posts

Posted 31 May 2006 - 09:10 AM

Testimonials about how too much of a good thing can be really bad are a dime a dozen. How nice to read one about how a little bit of a bad thing can be really, really good. Thanks for the inspiration, Chris! Is that glass in the photo the glass with the white line?
--
ID
--



#13 Chris Amirault

Chris Amirault
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 19,626 posts
  • Location:Rhode Island

Posted 31 May 2006 - 09:14 AM

That's the type, yes, but not the actual glass. And, again, thanks, folks!
Chris Amirault
camirault@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics Signatory
Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

#14 johnnyd

johnnyd
  • participating member
  • 2,321 posts
  • Location:Portland, ME

Posted 31 May 2006 - 02:36 PM

Your Sazarac creation brought back the night I and eG member Jack Rose paid eG mixologist fatdeko a visit at Oolong, Portland, back in March. I had never had one but had heard quite a lot about it. It was just past Mardi Gras so on Mr Myers suggestion I went for it. As I read your piece I could see John make that magical cocktail all over again.

Posted Image

It was a memorable night... and a memorable cocktail! :smile:
"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II
Portland Food Map.com

#15 eje

eje
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 4,359 posts
  • Location:San Francisco, CA

Posted 31 May 2006 - 03:45 PM

Testimonials about how too much of a good thing can be really bad are a dime a dozen. How nice to read one about how a little bit of a bad thing can be really, really good.[...]

View Post

Chris,

I really enjoyed reading your piece.

I can't think of a better way to put how I felt about the article than Ivan's sentiment above.

Thanks for being honest and sharing a bit of your life!

Cheers!

~Erik

Edited by eje, 31 May 2006 - 04:15 PM.

---
Erik Ellestad
If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...
Bernal Heights, SF, CA

#16 Chris Amirault

Chris Amirault
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 19,626 posts
  • Location:Rhode Island

Posted 31 May 2006 - 04:52 PM

Johnny, I have to ask:

Your Sazarac creation brought back the night I and eG member Jack Rose paid eG mixologist fatdeko a visit at Oolong, Portland, back in March.  I had never had one but had heard quite a lot about it.  It was just past Mardi Gras so on Mr Myers suggestion I went for it.  As I read your piece I could see John make that magical cocktail all over again.

View Post

Care to share the details of the method? :wink:
Chris Amirault
camirault@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics Signatory
Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

#17 ludja

ludja
  • participating member
  • 4,440 posts
  • Location:Burque

Posted 31 May 2006 - 05:05 PM

Thank you for a thoughtful and well written article, Chris. I also enjoy that it features one of my favorite cocktails, the, as you say, elegant and elusive to describe Sazerac.
"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"


#18 pam claughton

pam claughton
  • participating member
  • 421 posts

Posted 31 May 2006 - 05:50 PM

Chris,

I really enjoyed this, and could relate as well. One generous glass of wine (or two) helps keep me on my diet, and is something I look forward to.

:) Pam

#19 johnnyd

johnnyd
  • participating member
  • 2,321 posts
  • Location:Portland, ME

Posted 01 June 2006 - 08:53 AM

I filled my cocktail glass with crushed ice and water to chill it. I measured out the rye and simple syrup into my shaker, and I splashed in several dashes of Peychaud's bitters. I trimmed off a thick curl of lemon rind with care, lest I spray the precious oil on my fingers instead of atop the drink's surface, and set it aside.

Working quickly, I dumped the ice and ice water from my glass, dried it, rinsed a capful of Pernod around the inside, and poured out the remainder. I added crushed ice to the shaker, stirred while counting to forty, and strained the drink into its anisette-lined glass. Finally, with pride, I twisted the lemon rind over the glass and dropped it in.


As I read this the other day, the memory of fatdeko chilling the glass, combining the ingredients (he has a stash of peychaud and Fee's), swirling the pernod to and fro, then a most deft assembly of the finished cocktail was a pleasure to behold. The man know's what he was doing. But to be sure, I would PM him on any extra flair he might have developed in his regimen. Geez, I might have to pop down to the old port and see him make one if things get more humid. :cool:
"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II
Portland Food Map.com

#20 Blair P. Houghton

Blair P. Houghton
  • participating member
  • 50 posts

Posted 01 June 2006 - 06:24 PM

Nice read, even if the denouement had the flavor of a writer taking off in a hurry to get a drink...

Brings up a couple of points:

1. I'm on the trail of the Sazerac myself, and coincidentally sidetracked into Manhattans while I wait for the ingredients to become available. As I'm thinking of using real Absinthe (the authentic choice), I won't have to worry about Herbsaint, but the Peychaud's bitters are a bear. I can either wait until the sole local liquor store that stocks it gets theirs, or I can go to the Sazerac Company website and order a bottle. I have no doubt I'm only trading time for money, as I have no doubt that's precisely where the store buys it, though they might get a wholesale discount to go with the volume savings on shipping. That's where the Herbsaint comes from, too, btw. The anise liquor is reportedly not in the original cocktail, so if you're trying to hit for the historical cycle, you need to try one without it, and then one with Absinthe, and then one with real Absinthe, if it can be found anywhere on Earth any more.

2. Rye. I could go on for days, and somewhere around this website I may have, about Rye. Suffice to say, many groceries will stock Jim Beam Rye, which comes in a bright yellow label. Wild Turkey makes a Rye in 80 and 101-proof models, which is available in at least one grocery near me, and several liquor stores. Old Overholt is the third-most-popular brand, and I have yet to try it, though I have seen it on the shelf, once. Rye makes the Sazerac and the best Manhattans. It's due for a comeback.

3. Nigglings of alcoholism. I've had my own doubts about myself, but, well, it turns out I'm a savant, not an addict. I'll get just as obsessed about root beer, orange soda, then plain water, then rye, then diet coke, beer, red and white wine, and so on. Alcohol is a flavor and I have a non-debilitating epicurean OCD. Knock wood (and check the specific gravity of the hooch that's aging within). But I didn't know this until I presumed I was an alcoholic and falsified that hypothesis. There's a whole universe of resources on the web to help you gauge your caste within the addict world. It can never hurt to check them out, call some experts, maybe go to a meeting or two, just to see; and it can help, a lot, to the point of adding decades to your life while saving you fortunes and relationships when your obsession turns towards detective work about your own personality. A real alcoholic is in denial, so his own research is suspect, and the objectivity of others is valuable.

#21 eje

eje
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 4,359 posts
  • Location:San Francisco, CA

Posted 01 June 2006 - 08:51 PM

[...]
1.  I'm on the trail of the Sazerac myself, and coincidentally sidetracked into Manhattans while I wait for the ingredients to become available.  As I'm thinking of using real Absinthe (the authentic choice), I won't have to worry about Herbsaint, but the Peychaud's bitters are a bear.  I can either wait until the sole local liquor store that stocks it gets theirs, or I can go to the Sazerac Company website and order a bottle.[...]

View Post

I do wish Buffalo Trace had a secure website for ordering.

However, while you're ordering Peychaud Bitters, you can also order some of Mr. Regan's bracing orange bitters for the Martinez cocktails in your future. I find those even more difficult to find than the Peychaud.
---
Erik Ellestad
If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...
Bernal Heights, SF, CA

#22 Jaymes

Jaymes
  • participating member
  • 7,298 posts
  • Location:Houston, Texas

Posted 01 June 2006 - 10:39 PM

Hooch. From Hoochinoo, an Indian (Tlingit) village in Alaska, which was famous for the liquor that the Tlingit distilled there. And drank. In great quantities.

Just in case anyone wondered....

Joan Rivers says she's starting a new charity - "Feels on Wheels" - a service delivering sexual contact to the elderly.


#23 MarketStEl

MarketStEl
  • participating member
  • 3,722 posts
  • Location:Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

Posted 02 June 2006 - 07:03 AM

There's a whole universe of resources on the web to help you gauge your caste within the addict world.  It can never hurt to check them out, call some experts, maybe go to a meeting or two, just to see; and it can help, a lot, to the point of adding decades to your life while saving you fortunes and relationships.

View Post


Do you know of a few URLs you can share off the top of your head?

Or should I just Google "alcohol addiction" and wade through the n-hundred-thousand-odd hits I will get in return?

--Sandy, curious to see where he rates now
Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia
"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen
My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

#24 FoodMan

FoodMan
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 4,315 posts

Posted 02 June 2006 - 07:24 AM

what a wonderful read Chris. Thanks for writing and sharing.

Did you ever hear back about the survey results? How did they even get in touch with you in the first place?


BTW, I am very surprised that Peychaud's is so dear in other states. Here in Texas I buy at at any liquor store and always have it on hand. I've never had a Sazerac, but the next cocktail I will make at home is going to be one...more or less.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com


#25 Blair P. Houghton

Blair P. Houghton
  • participating member
  • 50 posts

Posted 02 June 2006 - 08:15 PM

Or should I just Google "alcohol addiction" and wade through the n-hundred-thousand-odd hits I will get in return?

--Sandy, curious to see where he rates now


That's pretty much how it works. Check out the Usenet groups for AA, alcoholism, and recovery, too. And don't forget the wetware resources.

#26 Chris Amirault

Chris Amirault
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 19,626 posts
  • Location:Rhode Island

Posted 03 June 2006 - 07:01 PM

Thanks a bunch, Elie.

Did you ever hear back about the survey results? How did they even get in  touch with you in the first place?

View Post


They got in touch with me with an initial one-page survey in my doctor's office, about three months before the call. I had forgotten about it entirely. And, no, I haven't heard back about the survey results formally, but I did see an article in the local paper about the effectiveness of non-teetotaler/12-step methods for reducing drinking that might have included that data. Dunno for sure.

BTW, I am very surprised that Peychaud's is so dear in other states. Here in Texas I buy at at any liquor store and always have it on hand. I've never had a Sazerac, but the next cocktail I will make at home is going to be one...more or less.

View Post

It may be that proximity is the key, given that you're neighbor state makes it! We pretty much have Angostura everywhere, and Fee Bros or Peychaud's are hard to find. And Regan's orange bitters? Fuggedaboudit.
Chris Amirault
camirault@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics Signatory
Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

#27 Chris Amirault

Chris Amirault
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 19,626 posts
  • Location:Rhode Island

Posted 16 June 2006 - 11:24 AM

Speaking of availability of product, I just found this dusty bottle in the back of a local liquor store:

Posted Image

It still has the ATF labels from many years ago:

Posted Image

Any idea how old this bottle must be? It's age seems somehow appropriate to me.
Chris Amirault
camirault@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics Signatory
Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

#28 eje

eje
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 4,359 posts
  • Location:San Francisco, CA

Posted 18 June 2006 - 02:12 PM

[...]
Any idea how old this bottle must be? It's age seems somehow appropriate to me.

View Post

Chris,

Herbsaint has lowered its proof a couple times over the years before finally dropping it to its current 90.

Someone like Ted Haigh (drcocktail) might know the exact dates for those changes, so you could know how old it wasn't. Or you could drop a note to the Sazerac company, who might be able to date it from the style of label.

I'm not sure when they stopped using the ATF labels. The 80s, maybe?
---
Erik Ellestad
If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...
Bernal Heights, SF, CA

#29 Miss E

Miss E
  • participating member
  • 9 posts
  • Location:Washington State

Posted 15 August 2006 - 06:09 PM

I was pleasantly surprised to find this topic.

I used to think I drank because I was bored. Now I think I was bored because I drank.

For years I tried to moderate my consumption and yet still woke up most Saturdays facing a headache and a less-than-stellar outlook on the day. It took me a year or two to "get my mind right," and then I was ready to be free of the worry and obsession. Lucky for me my husband was at the same place - ready to quit. So we did. Some of our friends were puzzled. Some were jealous. Some are not really our friends anymore.

I miss it, sometimes, when I am frustrated, or pre-menstrual. I miss the taste of beer and wine, and scotch, and gin, and tequila. I miss the rituals. But I have been free of alcohol for more than two years, and the benefits (to me) have far outweighed the negatives. It's as if a huge space opened up in my life. I don't miss worrying about whether I could quit, or whether I have a problem.

I wish I had learned to drink like a normal person (whatever that is) but I developed bad habits early. I'm really glad my daughter seems to be finding a much more moderate way - perhaps we served as a negative example!

I guess my point is, you don't have to be a waking-up-in-the-gutter alcoholic to make abstinence a logical, reasonable choice.
When the universe gives you what you want, ask for more.

#30 Chris Amirault

Chris Amirault
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 19,626 posts
  • Location:Rhode Island

Posted 16 August 2006 - 05:59 AM

And you don't have to be a waking-up-in-the-gutter alcoholic to make regular drinking a logical, reasonable choice.

Ok, maybe just a reasonable one. Not so sure about the logic part.
Chris Amirault
camirault@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics Signatory
Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts