Make Americanos Strong Again

few-negroni

As the story goes, around 1920 in Florence, Count Camillo Negroni was at his regular joint Bar Casoni when he decided he needed to beef up his usual Americano cocktail by replacing the club soda with gin. Thus was born one of the best drinks ever made, the Negroni. (Gaz Regan has a whole book on it that is a great read.)

At about the same time as Count Negroni was making Americanos stronger, a fellow Italian was writing down ideas that would help make Americans stronger nearly a century later. Julius Evola came home after fighting in World War I and rejected the church, bourgeois institutions and developed a worldview with an overriding animosity toward the decadence of modernity, according to the NY Times. He was one of the intellectual leaders of Italian Fascism and a favorite of Il Duce, and today he influences our very own Cheeto-Mussolini and his key advisor Steve Bannon.

The combination of Trump’s Corporatist/Kleptocracy ethos and Bannon’s Evola-inspired Traditionalist worldview has had an unexpected effect on a great many Americans. Across the country many Americans are taking to the streets, the airports and filling Congressional constituent meetings to protest the actions and proposed actions of Trump and the GOP.

Unlike the actors cheering Trump’s announcement of his presidential run, those marching today are not paid, but deeply concerned about the future of the country. The hostile crowds greeting Republican Town Halls today are often compared to the raucous Town Halls of 2009 when the Tea Party came out against Obamacare. The difference here is that the Tea Party was stoked by partisan (if not racial) animosity, lies about death panels, and misrepresentations of costs and a private insurance program as “socialized” medicine. Today, Republican Congressmen are facing angry constituents because those constituents are facing the reality of improvements in their quality of life being taken away.

In fact, the Republicans in Congress have accomplished something heretofore unimaginable, they have become even more spineless than Congressional Democrats. Their craven disregard of the truth and reality in the service of their donors may now be a step over the line since republicans control all the levers of government.

The reaction to Republicans that many in the pundit class are missing is something that every Chicagoan/Illinoisan understands. We expect a certain level of corruption in our politicians (hey, everybody’s gotta make a living), but when you become an embarrassment, it’s time to go. See Dan Rostenkowski and the long list of former IL governors who moved on to license plate manufacturing.

There is action and organizing across the country to counteract the embarrassment that our leaders have become. And yes, this includes the yet-to-be-determined potential treason at the highest level of our government. Real aiding a hostile power type of treason, too, not fake Ann Coulter treason because of a liberal food stamp program.

As Michelle Goldberg put it recently in Slate, “To talk about Trump as a menace to our democratic way of life understates the crisis.” So as you get ready for this weekend’s protests, have a strengthened Americano to fortify.

Negronis are easy and contain ingredients every American should have. It is equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, with an orange twist and/or a dash of orange bitters. Build over ice or one nice cube, stir with your finger.

It is hard to screw up a Negroni. Any type of gin will work, I typically prefer Plymouth Gin but FEW Spirits American Gin seemed appropriate tonight. You can use vodka if you don’t like gin, but that becomes a Negroski and there’s enough Russian influence right now. Any sweet vermouth will do as well, each making the drink a little different, but all good. Campari is the one constant.

Happy Friday!

Cheers!

Evening Edition

nocturnal

The Washington Post unveiled its new slogan a little more than a week ago, with the phrase “Democracy Dies in Darkness” appearing under its name.

And yet, for the eternity that has been the first six weeks of the Trump presidency (and stretching back into the transition, too, I guess), darkness seems to be bringing a good deal of activity in defense of democracy. It has been hard to sleep, in fact, because of the light being shed after dark. This is not simply the blue light emanating from glowing rectangles interfering with slumber, but the words within that glow.

I’m not talking about the 3 a.m. words from the Tweeter-in-Chief here either. Unlike his Orangeness, I don’t grab the phone for that 0’dark-thirty bathroom trip.

I am talking about the increasing occurrence of major stories breaking In The Evening. I’m almost afraid to look at Twitter after 9 if I have a particularly early morning the next day. If, like me, you have wondered what is going on, then today’s story in The Atlantic is for you. In her story “Why Do the Big Stories Keep Breaking at Night?” Adrienne LaFrance lays out the case for why the rhythms of print publication are still impacting the news cycle.

The piece takes off from the major reports that hit last night. First was The New York Times story about how Obama administration officials worked to preserve intelligence on Russia in their final days. This was followed shortly, and overshadowed by, the Washington Post article reporting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not disclose communications he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States, despite saying there were no contacts when asked at his confirmation hearings in the Senate.

As LaFrance notes, print deadlines are creating publishing targets, and in effect creating evening editions of the newspapers. (As someone who once worked at an evening newspaper, this makes me smile.) So, to keep making sure that all of those major investigative news stories make the deadline to be in your morning papers, it may remain difficult to get to bed at a decent time if you are easily distracted by breaking news.

As the Post and the Times go about their nightly, Tonight, Tonight, news war, may I suggest a cocktail to help counteract the rays of blue light and disturbing information about our purported leaders; The Nocturnal cocktail. This one comes from Kindred Cocktails.

1.5 oz Bourbon

.75 oz Fernet Branca

.5 oz Maraschino liqueur

.5 oz Cointreau

1 dash of Angostura (or my favorite alternative, Dr. Adam’s Dead Rabbit Orinoco bitters)

Orange twist

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe

Cheers!

Too Much, Too Little, Too Late

 

too-muchSaturday, fast approaching at this point, will bring the vote on a new Chairman for the Democratic National Committee. Leading contenders being the more establishment-backed frontrunner Thomas Perez (former Labor Secretary) and Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the Bernie Sanders camp candidate.

I don’t have a dog in this fight. Other than wanting someone strong leading the opposition party (in our two-party system) to stand up to the Kleptocrat-Fascist group that has now fully taken over the national GOP.

Of course, Democrats being Democrats, it is hard to get your hopes up. Even the Washington Post headline “Democrats brace for backlash as they vote on new party chairman” provides a glimpse of the petty infighting likely to derail organized resistance within the government.

Rehashing the Hillary-Bernie Primary is a luxury for a simpler time. People are in the streets, and at Republican Congressional Town Halls, vocally resisting this regime. We need Democrats to get with the people already motivated to stand against Trump and his GOP enablers. Those already in leadership position in the government and the party need to lead.

This will take some of that establishment organizational and institutional experience and know-how. This will need to be combined with the experience of the grassroots organizers who know something about insurgent campaigns. As EJ Dionne said about the DNC Chair race,”Whoever prevails will have an unusual opportunity and a large burden…The hard part will be convincing the newly mobilized that the Democratic Party knows what to do with their commitment.”

The leadership it will take to provide the direction people need and making the right decisions to turn back the worst of this regime will be critical.

Trump continues down his path and today’s banning of specific news organizations from a press briefing while again calling them enemies of the American people only takes this authoritarian tendency to another level. Hopefully we’re not too late.

So the nightcap to finish off week 5 of the Duke of Orange’s rule is Too Much Too Little Too Late from Kindred Cocktail.

1.25 oz gin

1 oz Cocchi Americano

.75 oz Gran Classico

.25 oz Apricot Liqueur

Dash orange bitters

Stir over ice, strain into a coupe

Cheers!

El Presidente

prez

We are now four weeks into Trump’s Reign of Error.

We are now down one national security advisor of questionable ties to Russia, though we did pick up a new head of the EPA who doesn’t think the EPA should exist. As Flynn was being ousted from his national security post, and his access to classified material was cut off by the intelligence community, the NY Times and CNN reported on a numerous contacts between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian intelligence officers.

All of this has raised the question, again, of Trump’s own Russia ties. A Russian spy ship was spotted off the coast of our submarine base in Connecticut. It is unclear if its mission was surveillance or asset extraction. The Administration response was simply, “Emergency, everybody to get from street.

Republican leaders in Congress, the same guys who spent two years, $7 million and some 30-40 hearings investigating Benghazi, said its all fine, no need to investigate.

Our Narcissist-in-Chief then held a long, strange trip of a press conference yesterday that has most us still feeling a little hungover.

As an appropriate hair-of-the-dog to fortify us all for this Presidents Day Weekend’s protests, it’s time for an El Presidente. ¡Azúcar!

This cocktail is perfect for it’s orange color, Spanish name, and (in my case) using the once banned illegal immigrant Havana Club rum. Some versions of the cocktail’s origin story even have it named for Cuban  President Gerardo Machado y Morales, who was elected president in 1925, became a powerful dictator and was exiled in 1933.

Actually, though, it was named for one of his predecessors, Mario Garcia Menocal. Menocal was president of Cuba from 1913-1921. His presidency started strong on a modernizing note, but his administration later deteriorated. Menocal stayed involved in politics and was part of an uprising against Machado’s dictatorial extension of power in 1931.

According to Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, the drink first appeared in a handbook for Cuban bartenders in 1924. Today there are many variations on how to make an El Presidente, different proportions of rum to vermouth, white rum v añejo rum, and how to garnish.

I went with the recipe from Jason Wilson in Boozehound.

1.5 oz aged rum (Havana Club Añejo 7 Años)

.75 oz dry vermouth (Berry is adamant it be Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Blanc)

.75 oz curaçao (Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curaçao)

.5 teaspoon grenadine

orange twist

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

Happy Friday,

Cheers!

Time to Pay Up

tax

The big news today is, of course, the resignation of national security advisor Michael Flynn for inappropriate discussions about sanctions with a Russian ambassador prior to the inauguration. (Or lying about it, or lying about it and leading Pence to lie about it. So was it the treason or making the VP look bad that forced him out?)

Clearly, it is a good day to drink a Moscow Mule. I am out of ginger beer at the moment, however, and I think there will be plenty more opportunities to make Moscow Mule the drink of the day.

Like every other of the 25 days of this Administration, there is more than one story worth a drink.

In this morning’s headlines was news of yet another court “issuing a strong rebuke” to Trump’s travel ban, this time in Virginia. While the courts keep knocking down Trump’s Muslim ban, he is making progress in a related campaign promise attack on the “other,” in this case undocumented Mexican immigrants.

The ICE raids of the past week have been, as VOX put it today, “both fairly standard and newly terrifying.” It is true that such raids took place before His Orangeness took charge, but the expanded use of “Collateral Arrests” are a part of the way these raids were designed to send a message. (They also don’t seem to be targeting Poles in Chicago, Irish in Boston, or the random hotbeds of godless Canadians.)

Whether this is the first stirrings of Der Gropenfuhrer’s Deportation Force remains to be seen. Regardless, it is as misguided as most everything else this group of Thieves and Liars is trying to do.

Like many before him, Trump has demonized immigrants to his supporters (all descendants of immigrants) that they are both stealing jobs and leeching off the state. This has been debunked many times over the decades, including in a piece in today’s NY Times.

While Trump looks to actually try to make good on his campaign promise (don’t know why people don’t believe fascists until it’s too late) it is very un-Republican. For all of the usual sound and fury, the businessmen in GOP generally know that undocumented immigrants are a good deal.

In “The Truth About Undocumented Immigrants and Taxes” in the Atlantic last fall it was estimated that illegal immigrants pumped $13 billion into Social Security and only got about $1 billion in benefits. A USA Today story last year said illegal immigrants pay more than $11.5 billion in taxes, a total that includes more than $6.9 billion in sales and excise taxes, $3.6 billion in property taxes, and over $1 billion in personal income taxes.

With that kind of tax burden, those immigrants are a lot like the citizens of states like New Jersey, New York and Illinois who send a lot more tax money to the feds than they get back, essentially subsidizing all of those Trump-supporting states.

It is also annoying to have such rhetoric coming from our tax-cheat-in-chief. So, unless you are the Cheeto-faced, ferret-wearing shit gibbon, you’ve got 9 weeks from today to get those tax forms in.

In support of all of our neighbors from the south coming across the wire to pay into our system, today we’ll have an Income Tax Cocktail. Essentially a Bronx Cocktail with bitters, I pulled my recipe from Gary Regan’s The Joy of Mixology:

2 oz gin (Sacred, a London craft gin in this case, one that came in illegally)

.25 oz sweet vermouth

.25 oz dry vermouth

1 oz fresh orange juice

Angostura (or Dr. Adam’s Orinoco Bitter) to taste

Shake, strain into a coupe, orange twist

Cheers!

 

Who Gets the Last Word

word

We have now made it through three weeks in the reign of Donald of Orange and the planet remains habitable for humans, and the democratic traditions of the United States are holding on, albeit barely.

To paraphrase President Jack Dale in Mars Attacks, I want the people to know they still have one out of three branches of government working for them, and that ain’t bad.

In Legislative Branch, those GOP statesmen in the Senate who expressed such pre-election concern have now almost unanimously supported each of Trump’s choices for the Cabinet of Horrors. (Three Senators have each voted no once.)

Meanwhile in the House, Republicans have gutted environmental protections, such as the Stream Protection Rule, and removed requirements for transparency that combat corruption in the oil, gas and mineral industries. They are removing regulations design to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, and continuing to work toward repealing Obamacare, despite getting an earful from their constituents.

As the Executive Branch makes steady progress toward the authoritarianism of rule by presidential fiat and tweet, it was met last week by the remaining (perhaps temporarily) functioning branch, the Judicial Branch. As the Washington Post reported: A three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled Thursday that the Trump administration’s restrictions on travel from seven majority-Muslim countries will remain on ice while the courts work through whether the restrictions are legal.

This will still take some time to fully sort out and to see who will have the last word, but unlike Dana Milbank, you don’t need to drink Everclear while you wait. You can have your own Last Word. The good folks at Sipsmith Gin (probably Jared Brown) have a great history of the drink here.

I made it with:

1 oz Sipsmith Gin

.75 oz Chartreuse

.5 oz Luxardo Maraschino

.5 oz lime juice

Shake and strain into a chilled coupe.

Cheers!

We Don’t Need No Education

root
Root of All Evil

The administration added its latest swamp creature today when VP/GOP High Priest Mike Pence blessed the contract of sale between 50 Senators and their donor Besty DeVos, allowing her to become the U.S. Secretary of Education.

Despite her $200 million investment in the GOP, DeVos’s staggering incompetence and utter unsuitability for the position only garnered her 50 Republican senators, necessitating Pence’s vote (the first time in history a cabinet nominee needed the VP tie-breaker). This glaring example of pay-for-play has me almost feeling sorry for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich who is still sitting in prison for corruption that now seems amateur by comparison. (But only almost, he’s still pond scum.)

As she becomes the latest brick in the wall of the GOP’s attempt to prove government doesn’t work, we’re now left with her for-profit charter school education schemes. At the same time that Trump is seeking to tear down the separation between church and state when it comes to political contributions, DeVos can now steer tax dollars to religious schools. (Some religious schools anyway. I suspect Muslim schools need not apply.)

I guess in all of their own religious education our pious GOP leaders have forgotten 1 Timothy 6:10. As it says in the King James Version: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

In keeping with the Good Book, may I suggest having a Root of All Evil cocktail. The recipe is from Cocktail Virgin, and calls for:

2 oz Bourbon
.75 oz Grand Marnier
.5 oz Fernet Branca
.5 oz Luxardo Maraschino
2 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters

Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Cheers!

Yo-Ho-Ho…

marque

We’ve made it to Friday, two full weeks into the Trump presidency. For a majority of Americans, a nightmarish Running Man journey through a game zone of ill-conceived executive orders and late night tweet rants.

But on Wall Street and in the boardrooms of banks, it is time to celebrate. Trump told a gathering of the Business Roundtable today that he is taking aim at regulations put in place since the financial crisis.

As the New York Times put it:

“President Trump mounted an all-out assault on financial regulation on Friday, announcing an array of steps to tear down safeguards enacted to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis and turning to the Wall Street titans he had demonized during his campaign for advice.”

Matt O’Brien at the Washington Post tells us that Trump’s “forgotten men and women” aren’t who we thought they were, writing:

“During the campaign, Donald Trump liked to brag that, unlike his rivals, he wasn’t in Wall Street’s pocket. And you can tell that by the fact that he’s stocked his cabinet with Goldman Sachs alums, has signaled that he wants to dismantle the post-crisis rules reining in banks, and will now allow brokers to go back to giving their clients deliberately bad advice. This is Wall Street’s kind of populism.”

For most of us, the so-called dumb money, our finances are now sailing with less protection. The Privateers are free to roam again, so look closely at the flags flown by bankers and financial advisors, and keep your fingers crossed they don’t raise the Jolly Roger after it’s too late.

Rum is what this Friday calls for, so we can join the pirates with our own Letters of Marque (the license granted by the government for piracy on the high seas), a cocktail from Brad Thomas Parson’s book Amaro.

This delicious, balanced drink is:

1 oz Scarlet Ibis rum

1 oz Cynar

.5 oz Pierre Ferrand dry Curaçao

.5 oz Galliano

Stir, strain, garnish with a flamed orange zest.

Have a few, the pirates are coming. Happy Friday!

Cheers!

 

Groundhog Day

earthen

Here we are again, Groundhog Day. By tradition, this is the day when a significant portion of the U.S. population believes in the long-range weather forecasting powers of omnivorous rodents. In 2017, Groundhog Day has the added attraction of our representatives in Washington, D.C., actively working to deny the forecasts of actual climate scientists from around the globe.

The last 24 hours have seen numerous reasons to reach for the liquor cabinet, from presidential phone calls pissing off the Australians and threatening an invasion to deal with bad hombres south of the border to presidential defense of the free speech of Nazis and threatening UC Berkeley over the violent protest that broke because of it. (For the record, I am in the pro Nazi punching camp.)

But today we saw Rex Tillerson begin his term as Secretary of State; an oilman with close ties to Russia who headed the oil company that worked to cover up research on the existence and danger of climate change in the name of profits.

In Congress, meanwhile, the Senate voted to remove the Stream Protection Rule opening the door to a return of coal mining pollution. New EPA chief nominee Scott Pruitt received committee approval for the post despite regularly suing the agency. And of course, scientists are being told not to release information on climate change.

Under these conditions, the drink for tonight is the Earthen Infusion. Despite the name, it has nothing to do with tracking runoff. Pulled from Kindred Cocktails, the drink is equal parts (.75 oz in this case) of Salers Gentiane, Campari, Cynar and Fernet-Branca.

The drink is herbaceous and bitter. It is not a strong drink, but what it lacks in alcohol it makes up for in bitterness. Just like the Earth is feeling now. This is a drink for the adventurous, those who know they like bitter drinks. Well worth it though. Just put the ingredients on ice, stir and strain.

Cheers!

Refresh and Restart

gintonic

A brief scan of the headlines or just a few minutes of TV news is all it takes these days to leave you feeling like you could use a drink. I’ll try to help with that.

The world is a different place than it was the last time I posted. As the band Firewater says, These are Dark Days Indeed. So I began rethinking my approach to this blog and what I wanted to write about.

As I came to the conclusion that nearly every day there were events practically crying out for the cocktail that would help make the day easier to swallow, someone at Quartz had a similar idea. On Inauguration day itself, Anne Quito wrote “Death in the Gulf Stream” to tell us Ernest Hemingway has a cocktail recipe for days when you’ve had just enough of the world.

Anne notes the drink, Death in the Gulf Stream, is strong and bitter as it is essentially gin, lime juice and Angostura bitters on ice. Hemingway called it his salve for the dark year of 1937, when he was a war correspondent in Spain.

The choice of 1937 to pull a drink from was appropriate, not simply because it was an even 80 years ago, but because Hemingway gave a speech that year that resonates with the events of the past couple of weeks. In his book To Have and Have Another, Philip Greene tells us Hemingway said: “There is only one form of government that cannot produce good writers, and that system is fascism. For fascism is a lie told by bullies. A writer who will not lie cannot live or work under fascism.”

Greene was making the point in talking about Hemingway’s short story “The Denunciation.” It is a very good, and often overlooked, story about responsibility set in Civil War Madrid, at Chicote’s bar (it is still there and on my list to visit should I ever get to Madrid). It is well worth the read, and timely as we are all being tested on our responsibilities to each other and ourselves.

Like Greene, I’ll turn my focus to the drink in the story, a gin and tonic. For Hemingway, it was Gordon’s gin and Schweppes tonic, and there is the suggestion that some Angostura may have been involved. For Hemingway, in besieged Madrid, it was a marvel. Today, however, Spain is the epicenter of amazing creativity in gin and tonic, or gintonic as it’s called.

Typically made in a copa de balón, Spanish G&T’s are known for a wide variety of garnishes. This could be fruits, veggies, spices, herbs or a combination. The end result is always refreshing, and refreshing is something we could all use right about now.

I made mine tonight with 2 oz of Opihr gin, Fever Tree tonic, juniper berries, and lime. You can find more recipes here and here.

Cheers!