Would You Believe…


The most frequently used word in headlines over the past week has been chaos.

Between tariffs, North Korea, staff defections, the Russia investigation, and legal actions around Trump’s porn star hush money, to name a handful of the top stories, the disarray at the White House has been more than usual.

As Dan Balz notes in The Washington Post today, however, Trump promised just this kind of presidency. But for all the commentary that tries to liken the Trump presidency to a reality show, this week may point to a different TV genre and show.

We may be in an episode of Get Smart. Nevertheless, the past year and definitely the past week, has certainly been a battle between CONTROL and KAOS. Trump is absolutely the Mr. Big of KAOS right now, and Sebastian Gorka is straight out of Mel Brooks’ central casting for KAOS agents. (Not saying Mueller is Agent 86, btw.)

All of the chaos of the past week has led to a nearly universal feeling of being on the road to ruin. On one side are people fearful of the negative effects of a trade war, destruction of our democratic norms and atomic annihilation, on the other side are Republicans facing this fall’s elections.

While we watch Trump walk back meeting with Kim Jong Un and maybe not impose tariffs on allies, adding to the long list of erratic policy behavior, have a Smooth Operator cocktail.

Via Kindred Cocktails, the Smooth Operator is:

2 oz Plantation Stiggin’s’ Fancy pineapple rum

.25 oz orgeat

.25 oz Allspice Dram

2 dashes aromatic bitters (I used Dr Adam’s Orinoco)

orange twist

Stir, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish



News Dump Bittersweetness


It’s Friday evening, do you know where your Special Counsel is?

The last several days have been an onslaught of news. From gun control to trade wars to scandalous cabinet secretaries to Jared Kushner losing his security clearance and using his position as Trump son-in-law/Senior Advisor to secure massive loans to his family business, the past week has felt like months worth of major stories.

Even when you get outside of the White House, our institutions of government have run amok. The House Intelligence Committee is leaking texts of Senators for partisan gain. The end game of Mitch McConnell’s Senate obstruction is soon to play out in the Supreme Court with a union-busting case. Collective bargaining for public unions is hanging by a prayer.

We are definitely living the curse of interesting times. If Trump is draining the swamp, then we’re all in the sewer it’s running through.

Of course, some of this overwhelming pace of breaking news is not the kind that Trump wants to hear, either. Robert Mueller is tightening the noose around the Trump campaign and it ties to Russian election interference. Trump may have lost Hope (Hicks), but Mueller gives hope to the rest of us.

Whatever the news tonight, good or bad, it is sad we are even here. So while we wait, have a Bittersweet Symphony cocktail, put on some redemption songs, and think about how we might recover some of what we’re losing.

From Gaz Regan’s great book The Negroni, the Bittersweet Symphony is a tasty Negroni variation:

1.5 oz London dry gin

.75 oz Punt e Mes

.75 oz Aperol

Stir, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, lemon twist.



Hail To The Chief?


As we celebrate 44 of the 45 U.S. chief executives on this Presidents’ Day, it is worth revisiting the El Presidente cocktail. It seems even more appropriate today.

When I posted the cocktail for Presidents’ Day 2017, Michael Flynn had just been dismissed as National Security Advisor because of his dubious ties to Russians and his lies (supposedly to Vice President Pence) about it. Now, of course, Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about those contacts and is cooperating with the Special Council investigation. The whole post from last year is here.

Today, “conservatives” are calling for Trump to pardon Flynn, but these Treason Weasels are fighting against the ever increasing flow of evidence of Russian interference in our electoral process. Just last week, Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three organizations laid out very detailed specifics on the “information warfare” campaigne that played out on social media.

While Trump initially claimed these indictments were vindication for him — “no collusion” — it is clear they were targeted at only one aspect of the investigation and much more is yet to come. Trump seems to realized this as well as his Tweeting has been even more unhinged than usual.

So raise your El Presidente cocktail this Presidents’ Day, Hail to the Chief and good health to Robert Mueller. A good recipe to follow comes from Beach Bum Berry’s Potions of the Caribbean. You can also get some history on how the cocktail was named for a Cuban president who cozied up to foreign business interests (U.S., not Russian, in this case, but you can also check out the New Yorker article on Trump’s ties to Russian business interests).

1.5 oz aged Cuban rum (Havana Club Añejo 7 Años)

.75 oz Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Blanc

.75 oz curaçao (Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curaçao)

.5 teaspoon grenadine (Not part of Berry’s recipe, but a variant I enjoy)

orange twist

Stir on ice for 30 seconds, strain into a cocktail glass, twist.


Gerrymander & The Top Bananas


As El Caudillo Trump dreams of his military parade, the Republican Party is going about the more fundamental work of undermining American democracy and our electoral process.

Leaving aside for the moment the way Republicans are doing nothing about clear evidence that Russia interfered with the 2016 election — and appear to be ready to do so again this year — last week saw another GOP authoritarian outburst on gerrymandering. When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the Republican drawn electoral map violated the state’s constitution and a fairer map must be drawn, a GOP state legislator called for the Justices to be impeached.

Meanwhile, over in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker is refusing to hold special elections for two open state legislature seats after another special election in January saw the Democratic candidate win a heavily Republican district.

Of course, Walker’s move is strategic, at the core of GOP efforts to gerrymander the Karl Rove vision of a permanent Republican majority. He can’t let those Wisconsin seats fall to Democrats and endanger the Republican ability to draw the electoral map.

Gerrymandering isn’t new. It comes from the 1812 redistricting map of Massachusetts where one redrawn district was likened to a salamander which, when combined with Gov. Elbridge Gerry’s name gave us a new word.

However, this effort has accelerated and been refined with technology. After the 2010 census and the new maps it created, the 2012 election saw 1.4 million more Americans vote for Democrats for Congress, but Republicans won a 33-seat majority. Then, in 2016, despite winning fewer than half of all votes for Congress, Republicans again won a 33-seat majority.

The problem of gerrymandering spurred former Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., with support from President Obama, to create the first-ever strategic hub for a comprehensive redistricting strategy, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. The NDRC is working to ensure the next round of redistricting is fair and that maps reflect the will of the voters.

The importance of this effort cannot be understated, and was highlighted by an important piece in the NY Times over the weekend. Patrick Kingsley’s piece on Hungary’s slide toward autocratic rule is a very important look at the danger liberal democracies face around the world today.

To understand how Prime Minister Viktor Orban has reshaped Hungary, start with the private meetings in 2010. Fidesz had just won national elections by a margin that qualified the party for more than two-thirds of the seats in Parliament, even though it had only won a slim majority of votes… Weeks later, Mr. Orban and his lieutenants began a legislative assault on the Hungarian Constitution, curbing civil society and, to less fanfare, diverting billions of euros in European Union and federal money toward loyal allies.

First, he moved simultaneously to curb the Hungarian media and the judiciary. Next came the erosion of the country’s checks and balances, which has helped Mr. Orban share the spoils of power with close friends and important businessmen.

And then, came the electoral process. The restructuring of Hungary’s election system, including a redrawing the electoral map, has helped him remain in power, even as his party has won fewer votes.

The electoral foundation of American democracy is in peril not because of Trump, but because of the GOP’s long-term attacks on the electoral system that can be accelerated under Trump’s general disregard for the rule of law.

In fact, the GOP acquiescence in Trump’s attacks on the rule of law prompted Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes to write in The Atlantic a call to boycott the Republican Party from top to bottom in this year’s election. They have come to regard the GOP as an institutional danger because “it has proved unable or unwilling (mostly unwilling) to block assaults by Trump and his base on the rule of law. Those assaults, were they to be normalized, would pose existential, not incidental, threats to American democracy.”

That is where we are now with Republican efforts to restructure our electoral process. While their gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts may have once been incidental threats to our democracy, they have now become existential.

The instability and tin pot dictator approach of Trump and the Republicans is steering the ship of state dangerously close to banana republic territory. So while you’re thinking about how much to donate to the NDRC, have a Banana Clipper cocktail. Via Kindred Cocktails, the Banana Clipper is:

1.5 oz Barbancourt 8 rum

.5 oz Plantation Stiggin’s Fancy pineapple rum

.66 oz Cynar

.25 oz Giffard Crème de Banane

1 dash Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters

lemon twist (expressed and discarded)

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, twist




Amazingly enough, it is a Saturday and Cheeto Mussolini is in the White House and not at one of his properties. (He’s probably just too engrossed with his military parade autoerotic fantasies.)

During his first year in office, Trump wasn’t in the office much, spending one-third of his time at one of his own properties. And, according to trumpgolfcount.com, this has cost taxpayers more than $52 million so far. Much of that, of course, goes right into Trump’s pocket as the government pays Trump’s businesses.

As Swindler-In-Chief, Trump is leading by example as we watch our democracy slide into kleptocracy. A couple of weeks ago the Ben Carson nepotism news broke, Jonathan Chait wrote that was only one of four new corruption stories coming out of the trump administration that day. “Donald Trump is a grifter who paid a massive fraud settlement shortly before assuming office. He has surrounded himself with like-minded grifters,” Chait wrote in New York magazine.

Not that any of this is a surprise. In October, Margaret Carlson wrote a piece in The Daily Beast titled: “Trump’s Not a ‘Moron’—He’s a Grifter, and He’s Created an Administration of Grifters.” A month later, The Nation published the article: “Trump Is Creating a Grifter Economy.” There seems to be a theme here.

The Trump Organization hotel businesses remain at the heart of the issue. Earlier this month was the report that Trump’s DC hotel was caught directly benefiting from taxpayer money. Just today, Newsweek reports that the Trump Organization’s Dominican Republic projects could be grounds for Trump’s impeachment.

There are many distractions right now, like wife beaters in the White House and the drama around the fate of John Kelly, but we can’t lose sight of the foundational scandal of Trump and Russia. At the same time, as Caroline Orr (@RVAWonk on Twitter) noted in her report on Trump’s DC hotel: “While the Russia investigation is rightly making headlines, it’s more important than ever not to overlook the rampant corruption happening right under our noses.”

So tonight would be a good time for a cocktail from a hotel not affiliated with Trump. Several good ones can be found in Beachbum Berry’s Potions of the Caribbean. I suggest the Queen’s Park Hotel Super Cocktail. This cocktail from Trinidad simply tastes like the Caribbean, which is helpful in early February.

1.5 oz gold Trinidad rum

.5 oz sweet vermouth

.5 oz lime juice

.5 oz grenadine

4 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with lime


A Fool and His Memo


Congressman Devin Nunes’ foolishly dangerous memo is out, proving nothing except perhaps things that don’t help his buddy Trump.

Trump, being advised by Fox News fool Sean Hannity, of course, thinks the memo will help him do away with the Russian Conspiracy Investigation. It won’t. And Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post conservative columnist, nails a truth about  Trump’s declassification of the memo allowing its release of information around intelligence gathering tools.

“This appears to be the second time (the first in the Oval Office with Russian officials) that Trump has handed the Russians classified material. If Trump is not a Russian agent, he surely is acting as effectively as one.”

Trump is being Trump, like the good Russian asset he is. However, what is the excuse for Nunes, Speaker Paul Ryan, and most of the rest of the GOP? As Obi-Wan Kenobi said: “Who’s more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?”

As we learn about all the things the release of this memo compromises (and how #MemoDay is the top trending hashtag for the Russian bots), it is best to have one of the worst named drinks according to the staff at New York’s Death & Co, Le Bateleur.

Le Bateleur is French for The Fool, and let’s face it, tagging these idiots with foreign-named drinks would annoy them. From the Death & Co book, it is a tasty concoction of:

2 oz London Dry gin

.75 oz Punt e Mes

.5 oz Strega

.25 oz Cynar

1 dash Angosturra bitters

Orange twist garnish

Stir, strain, garnish


This Is Not A Drill


The erroneous Hawaiian ballistic missile alert is yet another example of the far too frequent stupid, funny, scary events of the past year.

As The Washington Post reported, a little after 8 a.m. local time Saturday, many Hawaii residents and visitors began posting screenshots of alerts they had received, reading: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

It took 10 minutes for notification of the false alarm to get out.

It appears to have come from a state civil defense system that had recently reactivated Cold War era alerts due to the threat from North Korea.

Not to sound like a cranky old man, but we used to be better at this stuff. Decades of denigrating government and all of its functions seems to have taken its toll, down to just getting details like a missile alert right.

As someone pointed out on Twitter, at least this didn’t happen with blaring headlines during Fox & Friends. President Shithole was safely on one of his golf courses and away from the big button on his desk.

This is also a reminder that I really need to visit Hawaii. In the meantime, time for a Royal Hawaiian cocktail. Taken from Dale Degroff’s The Essential Cocktail, the Royal Hawaiian is:

1.5 oz gin

1 oz unsweetened pineapple juice

.5 oz lemon juice

.75 oz orgeat

Shake over ice, strain into a cocktail glass, no garnish.