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Who is Rachel Maddow?


JAZ
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Okay, being an amateur cocktail maker myself, let me start by saying that I know amateurs can know a lot about cocktails. This forum is proof of that. (Also, to set the record straight, I do know who Rachel Maddow is now, although I didn't two days ago.)

But it puzzles me that someone with no apparent experience, much less expertise, in making cocktails is, all the sudden and seemingly everywhere, being presented as a "mixologist."

First, on the cover of the latest issue of Imbibe was a teaser that read, "Cocktails with Rachel Maddow." A friend and I were looking at it and we both said, "Who's Rachel Maddow?" Turns out that it was just an interview with her about what cocktail bars she likes and what she likes to make at home -- reminiscent of the interviews at the back of what was it -- Gourmet? Bon Appetit? -- where someone thought it would be interesting for us to know what Richard Gere or Meryl Streep cooked at home.

But then, within two days three friends sent me this link from Grub Street, entitled Rachel Maddow: Mixologist.

So it's one thing for Imbibe to interview her, but a Grub Street video showing her making a Jack Rose, and not very well? Now, I know there are bad cocktail videos out there, and I'm not surprised that there's yet another one. I also know that every cook with a cocktail shaker thinks he or she knows cocktails (Bittman on cocktails), but still.

What's the deal? Is it just that cocktails are in and everyone is now jumping on the bandwagon? If Rachel Maddow is a mixologist, who isn't?

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Cocktails- especially DIY cocktails- are in. Rachel Maddow (not Maddox) is very in. Magazines can sell more copies, and websites get more hits, if they feature celebrities doing what's in.

I guess I'd save my indignation for real crimes, like if Gwyneth Paltrow got a TV show about Spanish food. But that's a notion so crazy it could surely never actually happen, amirite?

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That's Rachel Maddow, MSNBC talking head and left-leaning pundit. She is a political reporter, and was probably doing this because Obama recently had a cocktail party at the White House. I wouldn't make much out of this, she took over for Keith Olbermann.

Edited by Batard (log)

"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

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What's the deal? Is it just that cocktails are in and everyone is now jumping on the bandwagon? If Rachel Maddox is a mixologist, who isn't?

JAZ - I don't want to turn the flame mode on here... but had you known anything about Rachel Maddow before writing this, you would probably know that the Grub Street title calling her a mixologist was tongue in cheek... because she's known to most to such a wide segment of America (and Europe for that matter as I was surprised to find out) as a political analyst who surged to national visibility during the election.

So, calling her a mixologist was a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor... and asking her to do a video on Grub Street was because, well, people find her interesting. Though we haven't crossed paths in Boston - everyone says that she's an avid lover of cocktails and really respects the craft. In many politically aware circles, she's a bit of a celebrity - and because of that, many people are interested in what she is into when she's not at her day job.

Now, with that said - her technique for making a Jack Rose at a radio studio was pretty much heads and tails above what most bars are doing... and I have a sneaking feeling that there was a good amount of John Gertsen (No. 9 Park, Drink) in there - from the cobbler shaker all the way down to the Oxo graduated measuring cup... and John is a pretty good person to learn from. Of course, this is just speculation.

Personally, I was stoked to see her Imbibe interview, and now I have to put that Grub Street video on my iPhone so I can ensure a properly made Jack Rose when I'm out and about...

Avery Glasser

Bittermens, Inc. - Producers of Bittermens Bitters & Extracts

Bittermens Spirits, Inc. - Purveyors of Small Batch Bitter Liqueurs

Vendetta Spirits, LLC. - Nano-Importer of Hand-Produced Spirits

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She is the host of her own show on MSNBC and, as I learned in this interview in the NY Times, among others, a self described 'hobbyist bartender', and hardcore cocktail geek. She's even worked a few cocktail references into her show. She did a two part segment on Repeal Day (for that, she recommended a Sazerac), and the other night she made an analogy (I can't remember the exact context) describing something as being like the Cherry Heering in a Singapore Sling.

Personally, I freakin' love her. I watch her show every night, and keep holding out hope that she has an equally witty straight twin sister.

ETA:

her piece from Repeal Day. Edited by jmfangio (log)

"Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other." - W. Somerset Maugham

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She is the host of her own show on MSNBC and, as I learned in this interview in the NY Times, among others, a self described 'hobbyist bartender', and hardcore cocktail geek.  She's even worked a few cocktail references into her show.  She did a two part segment on Repeal Day (for that, she recommended a Sazerac), and the other night she made an analogy (I can't remember the exact context) describing something as being like the Cherry Heering in a Singapore Sling.

Personally, I freakin' love her.  I watch her show ever night, and keep holding out hope that she has an equally witty straight twin sister.

I was going to link to that NYT interview too. LOVE HER (even more than originally since she's into cocktails).

Edited by daisy17 (log)
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But she's apparently into poorly made cocktails.

As Mark Twain noted, "a good lie will have travelled half way around the world while the truth is putting her boots on." It's even more true today. Rachel Maddow is small potatoes in the context of cocktails and their history. But we should defend good food and drink against sloppiness where we can -- we certainly do it when it comes to every other celebrity out there. Having a large public platform doesn't excuse you from accuracy -- quite the opposite, I think (and it doesn't mean that anyone outside of New York City should be required to intuit a lame title. If Grub Street wants to do that, they need to get better writers).

What's with caving on real Applejack in favor of Calvados-- for an American cocktail -- followed by a lecture about fresh lime juice, then using crap grenadine? Put that on your iPhone and you'll get . . . a lousy drink.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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What's with caving on real Applejack in favor of Calvados-- for an American cocktail -- followed by a lecture about fresh lime juice, then using crap grenadine? Put that on your iPhone and you'll get . . . a lousy drink.

Sorry - I'll wholeheartedly disagree with you. Take the historical element out of it, and if I can't get Laird's Bonded Applejack, I'd rather do a good Calvados or a mix of Calvados and Applejack. Bluntly, I don't really like the standard Laird's blended. The Bonded is one of the amazing spirits of the world, but given a choice to work with standard Laird's and Calvados, I'll take Calvados.

For Grub Street, which is a consumer publication, the video hit the main points which tend to screw up a decent cocktail: shake adequately and vigorously, measure and use fresh citrus. Could the grenadine be better? Yes. Is that a reason to discount the video? No. Did she say to use bonded applejack and if you can't find it use Calvados? Yes - as do many bartenders.

Avery Glasser

Bittermens, Inc. - Producers of Bittermens Bitters & Extracts

Bittermens Spirits, Inc. - Purveyors of Small Batch Bitter Liqueurs

Vendetta Spirits, LLC. - Nano-Importer of Hand-Produced Spirits

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They can't find Laird's bonded and decent grenadine for Rachel Maddow? Then why do a Jack Rose at all? How many great cocktails are there that don't require scarce ingredients -- any of which I would order before a Jack Rose made with Calvados -- but still have an interesting history (not that she did well by the Jack Rose)?

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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They can't find Laird's bonded and decent grenadine for Rachel Maddow? Then why do a Jack Rose at all? How many great cocktails are there that don't require scarce ingredients -- any of which I would order before a Jack Rose made with Calvados -- but still have an interesting history (not that she did well by the Jack Rose)?

Pray tell, have you even done a tasting of the three: a Jack Rose with Laird's Bonded, one with Laird's Blended and one with Calvados? I've done it with a few bartenders and it always goes Bonded, Calvados and then Blended.

I'm just personally really confused about the vitriol regarding her use of Calvados. Here's the exact quote: "If you can't find the Bottled in Bond [Laird's Applejack] you should probably just substitute Calvados." Lots of bartenders feel the same way. Note the word: probably. That means, it's your choice in the end. I've blind tasted and if I can't get Bottled in Bond, I think the Calvados route makes a more balanced and true to the original taste Jack Rose. Again, that's my opinion.

In response to lime, how many bars have you gone to where the "lime" available is either just Rose's or some pasteurized pre-bottled lime that lacks any of the essential oils to make it pop?

The exact quote: "If your lime is actually secretly plastic and filled with lime juice and it sits in your fridge, that's not a lime and it doesn't count. If your lime isn't a lime and instead it's a little bottle that says Rose's something on it? That's not a lime, it doesn't count. It has to be an actual piece of fruit." Again, to me, that's advice that many people need to hear on a regular basis.

By the way, just to be historically accurate, if we want to be traditionalists, in the 1920s, the Applejack would have most likely been 100 proof and the limes? They would have been Key Limes - since the Persian Lime wasn't developed until the 1920s and didn't make their way to this shore in any great quantity for some years after that (if my memory serves me). That means that to "do right" by the Jack Rose, you'll have a much drier, more acidic and more aromatic drink.

Edited by BittermensAG (log)

Avery Glasser

Bittermens, Inc. - Producers of Bittermens Bitters & Extracts

Bittermens Spirits, Inc. - Purveyors of Small Batch Bitter Liqueurs

Vendetta Spirits, LLC. - Nano-Importer of Hand-Produced Spirits

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Guess my title was too cryptic -- it really was tongue-in-cheek, just as (apparently) Grub Street's was.

I do know who Rachel Maddow is (and I apologize for my typo in the original post, which I've corrected). I don't watch much TV and haven't ever heard her radio program, so I haven't seen her in her real job, but I know who she is.

Don't get me wrong -- I think it's great that she's into cocktails, and it's great that she's popularizing them. I just wish that if she decided to make a cocktail video, she'd be more careful about it.

Talking about using real lime juice was good, but given her focus, she should have mentioned that there's a pretty substantial question about using lemon v. lime with the Jack Rose. And considering her vehemence about real lime juice, I really can't understand why she uses an industrial Grenadine -- Boulaine, which goes for $5.99 per liter.

And as for Calvados vs. Applejack -- gotta disagree. Maybe it's just that I'm used to the Jack Rose made with Lairds Bonded, but Calvados has an entirely different flavor profile. For me, it's not a good match for the Jack Rose. I'd rather use the regular Lairds. I don't have a problem if she doesn't like regular Lairds in the drink, but it's odd that she didn't even talk about it.

All of this is beside my original point, though, which is: what makes celebrities experts in cocktails?

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All of this is beside my original point, though, which is: what makes celebrities experts in cocktails?

Wow. Really, you take issue with this? I don't think cocktails have been better represented by a celebrity since William Powell in the Thin Man movies. She's obviously into it (she had me at "Measure...trust me you owe it to the liquor").

"Wives and such are constantly filling up any refrigerator they have a

claim on, even its ice compartment, with irrelevant rubbish like

food."" - Kingsley Amis

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I met Rachel Maddow on one of my visits to Death & Co. about a year ago. She was sitting at the bar just a couple of seats down from me. It was driving me nuts that I couldn't figure out where I knew her from - did we go to school together? Work together? Have a mutual friend? It was maddening especially since her voice was so familiar to me as well. I finally just leaned over to her, introduced myself and asked her if we knew each other. She looked bemused and I asked whether she lived in Philly, where she'd gone to college, etc. Finally her companion (whom I later realized was her partner) said, "She's on TV - that's probably why you recognize her." "Ahhhh", I said, "that explains it." We proceeded to chat for a while and talk about our drinks a bit. She couldn't have been nicer and was quite interesting to talk to. She definitely takes her cocktails seriously, and I respect that. I also really enjoy her point of view and am a fan of her show. Although her leanings are clearly toward the left, she isn't afraid to call the liberals out on their own crap either. She's really quite brilliant (a Rhodes scholar with a Doctorate in Philosophy dontcha know) and articulate, yet wry and amusing at the same time, without taking herself too seriously in the process. I'm honored to have met her and had the chance to chat with her, however briefly. I hope her interest in cocktails as well as her experience in front of the camera allows her to bring cocktails to the masses. I wish her luck in that endeavor.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Read the comments for the video, people obviously love her and it's not for her cocktailian acumen. That said, she does pack some pretty good info into a two and a half minute video: what "bonded" liquor is; the importance of fresh juice; what calvados is and the difference between that and applejack; the importance of measuring; the importance of proper shaking (even down to the too cold to hold rule of thumb).

Why does she use glow in the dark industrial grenadine? Probably so as not to extend the video by a minute or more so she can explain how to make some. Or so that she doesn't recommend a grenadine that most people can't find so they can actually make the drink. Remember, she's not speaking to eGullet, she's speaking to people who love Rachel Maddow and who probably know nothing about drinks. She's given them some tips to produce a better drink, even, I'd argue, with the flawed grenadine and calvados. This is probably a better drink than most of the target audience of the video are used to.

In this case, the ends probably justify the means.

nunc est bibendum...

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Okay, I get that everyone loves Rachel Maddow.

But lets say that -- oh -- Katie Couric, Anderson Cooper or Bob Edwards made a video demonstrating how to make a Margarita and he or she did the following:

  • explained what 100% agave tequila is and then said that if you can't find 100% agave tequila you should probably use mescal;
  • extolled the virtues of measuring ingredients and then measured only two of the three;
  • Stressed the importance of using fresh lime juice and then poured Hiram Walker triple sec.

Would I be hearing how Katie is the best ambassador for cocktails since William Powell in the Thin Man? How if I used Anderson's recipe I'd get a better Margarita than most bartenders in America make? Or that Bob is speaking not to eGullet members but to people who love Bob Edwards so he can use cheap, bad triple sec?

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I think it all depends on who you're talking about. When Mark Bittman did this crazy annoying video on cocktails, it was infinitely more wrong than it was right, and people had a lot to say about it. It irritated the crap out of me. I thought Rachel's video was fine, she's cute, it was not intended to be completely serious, she clearly gets some of it. Since food/cocktails aren't her career (yes, Mark, I'm looking at you), I was really able to let it go.

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I don't think your point is very well made here, Janet.

First of all, you can't compare Rachel Maddow to Katie Couric, et al. when it comes to cocktails. Rachel is someone who is a major cocktail enthusiast, who has mentioned her love of cocktails and NYC top cocktail spots many times in the media, and who is known to pass the time at NYC top cocktail spots such as Pegu Club and D&C with some frequency. She is a political pundit by trade, and one who is known for her casual, irreverent persona. So, as far as that sort of thing goes, a more relevant point of comparison might be any number of the people who post in this very forum.

Second, recommending Calvados if one cannot find Laird's bonded applejack is not in any way analogous to recommending mezcal if one cannot find 100% agave tequila. Her recommendation is apt for any number of reasons. It is a simple fact that the majority of New Yorkers can't find Laird's bonded on a regular basis, never mind people in Peoria and Knoxville. It's also a fact that Laird's blended applejack simply doesn't have sufficient strength of flavor to work particularly well in a Jack Rose (in contrast, there are plenty of mixto tequilas out there with sufficient strength and quality to work in a Margarita). Clearly, in my opinion, an inexpensive Calvados is the right choice over Laird's blended if one is making a Jack Rose. Importantly, she does go to the trouble of mentioning what applejack is, and that bonded applejack is the correct spirit for the drink. (She also uses my favorite way of explaining the difference between whiskey-like applejack and cognac-like apple brandy, Calvados, etc.)

Third... yea, she uses crap grenadine. Given an impromptu 2.5 minute throw-together in a radio studio, I am willing to forgive her for not working in the time for a lecture on the evils of bottled grenadine and how to make your own at home (never mond the fact that she probably couldn't get her hands on any).

So to sum up...

On the plus side:

1. She tells us that bonded applejack is the historically correct spirit of preference

2. She recommends the best alternative spirit if one cannot find bonded applejack

3. She tells us what "bonded" is (mostly)

4. She mentions the importance of measuring*

5. She talks about the importance of fresh juice

6. She talks about putting some real energy in to shaking

7. She gives good advice about shaking until it's "too cold to hold"

8. Her formulation seems reasonable

* I dispute that she didn't measure the lime. She uses half of a lime, and it seems likely that mention of this was edited out since they do a jump-cut right there.

On the minus side:

1. She doesn't say much about blended applejack

2. She doesn't devote time to grenadine and making at home, and uses bottled crap

3. She doesn't mention the possibility of using lemon instead of lime

All in all, I call this a clear win. If Katie Couric did something this good, we'd be dancing in the streets. Hell, if Mark Bittman had done something this good, we wouldn't have complained about him so much.

Honestly, I don't know how we could possibly want something more from a clearly off-the-cuff little segment like this.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

--

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Okay, I get that everyone loves Rachel Maddow.

But lets say that -- oh -- Katie Couric, Anderson Cooper or Bob Edwards made a video demonstrating how to make a Margarita and he or she did the following:

  • explained what 100% agave tequila is and then said that if you can't find 100% agave tequila you should probably use mescal;
  • extolled the virtues of measuring ingredients and then measured only two of the three;
  • Stressed the importance of using fresh lime juice and then poured Hiram Walker triple sec.

Would I be hearing how Katie is the best ambassador for cocktails since William Powell in the Thin Man? How if I used Anderson's recipe I'd get a better Margarita than most bartenders in America make? Or that Bob is speaking not to eGullet members but to people who love Bob Edwards so he can use cheap, bad triple sec?

There are some false analogies in your argument.

Mescal and calvados: I can't find Laird's BIB in my area, so I'd have to use calvados. The issue is availability and I don't think the availability of bonded applejack is the same as the availability of 100% agave tequila in this country. So subbing one apple brandy for another just doesn't seem like that big of a deal. If anything, it shows the cocktail neophyte that there are acceptable and non-acceptable substitutions.

Triple sec and grenadine: Again, there are a number of widely available choices in the triple sec area but not so much for grenadine. Not everybody wants to make their own grenadine, no matter how easy it is.

And again, she's not speaking to eGullet. I could make a better drink, using calvados, right now if I wanted to, easily. But I've been making drinks for a while, have a reasonably well stocked bar, and have my own homemade grenadine. When I make drinks for people or talk to them about it, they're always blown away. I tell them how easy it is and then spend the next five minutes or more telling them every ingredient, step, and technique they need to use for a great drink. About half way in, I realize how detailed and painstaking it all is and their eyes have glazed over. I've realized that if I can teach them how to make an Old Fashioned, that's the best way to start. Getting them to realize things like "respecting the ingredients" is a revelation to most people.

Is Rachel Maddow a great cocktail ambassador? Obviously not to you, but maybe to others. On the whole, does she seem to know and convey some good information? I'd say yes. Did she convey any wrong information? I'd say no.

Also, I should note, I don't have cable television and even if I did, I wouldn't have time to watch Maddow's show anyway. She seems like a different, and interesting choice for a news program though, but I don't go for that kind of thing usually. I just don't see what's so horribly wrong about this video and I've seen much worse things done in bars that what she did there (which is one reason I stopped ordering drinks at them and decided to make them myself).

edited due to some double posting

Edited by Alcuin (log)

nunc est bibendum...

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I think we can give Rachel Maddow a pass for not using homemade grenadine. If she were pushing a cocktail book or representing a bar, I'd be more critical but the context is that she is a cocktail fan. It also looks like New York Magazine arranged to do a quick shoot at her studios, so there may have not been enough time or planning to make a totally proper Jack Rose, i.e. tracking down Lairds BIB or going into detail about how to make homemade grenadine. Compare the Rachel Maddow video to Mark Bittman (who actually represents himself as a culinary professional) and see exactly why the latter is so irksome.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/25/dining/25mini.html

"Wives and such are constantly filling up any refrigerator they have a

claim on, even its ice compartment, with irrelevant rubbish like

food."" - Kingsley Amis

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Rachel is someone who is a major cocktail enthusiast, who has mentioned her love of cocktails and NYC top cocktail spots many times in the media, and who is known to pass the time at NYC top cocktail spots such as Pegu Club and D&C with some frequency. 

Great, so I'm STILL not spending enough time at D&Co?

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Is Rachel Maddow a great cocktail ambassador? Obviously not to you, but maybe to others. On the whole, does she seem to know and convey some good information? I'd say yes. Did she convey any wrong information? I'd say no.

She may not be a cocktail expert, but she certainly is quite an enthusiast. Anything that raises public consciousness about cocktails is probably a good thing. I'd like to see more high profile people talking about it. Maybe cocktails will become more mainstream again, and we'll start getting better cocktail choices in smaller US towns.

"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

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She was on the Martha Stewart show today making a cocktail. I didn't pay attention to the name of the drink, but apparently she collect old cocktail books, nor did I look for the info on the marthastewart website. I just thought the timing was funny as I would have never paid attention to the Martha Stewart show while it was on in the background today if I hadn't noticed the topic on egullet.

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She may not be a cocktail expert, but she certainly is quite an enthusiast. Anything that raises public consciousness about cocktails is probably a good thing. I'd like to see more high profile people talking about it. Maybe cocktails will become more mainstream again, and we'll start getting better cocktail choices in smaller US towns.

Along those lines, Drinkshop is opening in downtown Atlanta this week (today?), and may help to fill that void.

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She is the host of her own show on MSNBC and, as I learned in this interview in the NY Times, among others, a self described 'hobbyist bartender', and hardcore cocktail geek.  She's even worked a few cocktail references into her show.  She did a two part segment on Repeal Day (for that, she recommended a Sazerac), and the other night she made an analogy (I can't remember the exact context) describing something as being like the Cherry Heering in a Singapore Sling.

Personally, I freakin' love her.  I watch her show every night, and keep holding out hope that she has an equally witty straight twin sister.

ETA: 

her piece from Repeal Day.

Glad to see my gaydar was bang on!!!

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