Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Okay, I just can't resist commenting on this one. Trump's Most Excellent World's Finest Super Premium Cadillac of Vodkas? I can't comment on the quality of his vodka - not having tasted it, for one, but also because I think I'm a poor judge of which brand of the tasteless, odorless liquor is best - I'm sure it's sans pareil, but I think his use of superlatives a little excessive.

Many will be quick to point out that the guy is a teetotaler and question the wisdom of this particular brand extension. I would, instead, like to draw everybody's attention to the fact that this man has gone on record supporting the civil cases against tobacco companies and urged lawyers to sue liquor companies as well.

TRUMP: No, no, no. They're taxed. I'd like to see them sued. You know what I don't -- I hope a lot of lawyers are watching tonight. Why is it that everybody is suing the tobacco companies and nobody sues the alcohol companies. I mean, you have the car crashes and the kids that get killed by some drunk that's, you know, riding on the road. It's just terrible. So, I would like to see something happen with alcohol.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Right after Ghost of a Flea posted an interview with me, I checked and found this intriguing note: Only 1 left in stock--order soon (more on the way).

Now it could be that Amazon only ordered two in the first place, but I am taking this as a very promising sign. The power of the Flea!


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Found this link at Gawker - a site devoted to finding free booze in Manhattan. You might think I'd be more excited that somebody has decided to spend their days in pursuit of open bars but, in general, I'm against free booze. Well, it's okay sometimes if it comes your way by accident - for example, if in a bar the house suddenly buys you a round, it's a great moment when you know you've made the cut. That's okay, but going out and looking for drinks is well, unseemly.

At my local, where I worked for some time, we always shake our heads at the behaviour exhibited at Christmas and regulars' appreciation parties. That guy who drank coffee refills all year has suddenly acquired a taste for single malts; the woman who has a glass of red wine once a week is ordering rounds of B52s - which I'm sure she doesn't even like. I never want to be associated with that sort and tend to avoid venues where I might get confused with them. Perhaps my reaction is extreme - I was traumatized by an evening out with a group who ordered a round of the cheapo shooters which were advertised as undrinkable. They drank the stuff and then proceeded to complain (in all earnestness) that they were atrocious and should be taken off the bill. Management agreed they were awful shooters and offered to buy the table another round of the exact same shooters by way of an apology. My friends accepted. The shame stayed with me for years like a foul odor.

At any rate, the whole Manhattan bar thing reminded me that I have never written of the cocktail trail in New York in late September and that I certainly have fallen behind. In my defense, I did have a book to launch.

The first stop was the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis. Gateway to America for the Bloody Mary (then known as the Red Snapper) I had to order one. It was excellent and I certainly had to have the Snapper for obvious reasons, but while sipping my drink I would occasionally stop examining the beautiful mural in order to watch the spectacular bartender - whose movements would have been envied by Balanchine - make a martini. He even had me second guessing my longstanding ideas about shaken, not stirred. In the words of Jack Nicholson, he made me want to be a better bartender. Or, was he the guy who said take the celery stick and hold it between your knees?

My reverie was interrupted by the sudden realization that I was late to meet my friend at the Monkey Bar. Now she knew better but I had made such a big deal about drinking in Tennessee Williams' old haunt that she condescended to go with me. It's not a bad bar, exactly, it's just that the bartenders, unlike the poetry in motion I had witnessed at the St. Regis, were just your average sort making up primate-themed drinks, heavy on the banana liqueur, and couldn't even answer the burning question: "Do you think Talullah really stripped here?" The crowd, who were practically spilling out onto the street, were surely the sort of people our forefathers had in mind when they coined the term hoi polloi. It was so crowded I couldn't properly enjoy the spectacular jungle murals.

So, we headed for dinner at Cowgirl where they made a decent enough Margarita and wound up at a nondescript bar near the hotel.

The next day, after lunch at Steak Frites and fighting elbow to elbow with millionaires for clothing bargains, I was rejuvenated by one of the best blood orange margaritas I have had in my life at a place called Sensa. Strength restored, we made our way to the Delta Grill in Hell's Kitchen (now Clinton?) for an adequate bourbon sour and a first-rate filet mignon.

Siberia was the next stop. Known for being a place you'll enjoy in part for its lack of velvet ropes, we were dismayed to see velvet ropes almost immediately. This would be a turn off anywhere but is most disconcerting when the club is across from the Port Authority. Fortunately, the bouncer saw our dissapointment and sent us around the corner to Bellevue Bar. What luck - cause this place goes down as one of my all-time favourite bar experiences. Motorhead and Peggy Lee on the jukebox, a stand up Galaga machine, cheap drinks, what more could you want? I strongly urge anybody in the area to go check out the bar known as the "last dive bar left in Manhattan." Tremendous.

Our final night started right after brunch. We were enjoying a Bloody Mary at the Blind Tiger on Hudson (which I'm sorry to say is closing or at least relocating) when we decided it was time to redouble our efforts. Passerby was on my list but not open for afternoon drinking so we waited out the rain at a Belgian-style brasserie in the meat-packing district. Then we high-tailed it to the Flatiron Lounge, which I'm pleased to say had about the best cocktails I've ever had in a bar. The Juniperitivo was only perfect, as was the entire flight Julie, our superb bartender, prepared for us.

A quick drink at the laid back beat landmark Kettle of Fish, followed by a truly excellent pork dish at a Cuban place on Christopher (I look forward to returning and trying a mojito when they get a full license) and it was on to Employees Only, where Henry entertained us for a couple of rounds. We ended the evening at Pegu, where Toby lived up to his reputation as the best bartender in New York. We never quite made it to Milk and Honey that night. It seems the days of coming home just in time to shower and get a cab to the airport are over for us. A blessing in disguise, perhaps; now we have something to look forward to when we return. And, always good to know that other Canadian cocktail aficionados agree about where to drink in NY.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Well this is certainly good news. It's reassuring to know that even in civilized England (where it's rumoured that people still get drunk without facing an intervention the next day) news of longer pub hours is immediately met with a concerned party who are alarmed about binge drinking. I was beginning to think our Puritanism was a total anomaly. Just partial, turns out.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

No matter how up to date you try to make your book...

...there are always innovations in the cocktail world. So much for the world's most expensive cocktail being a Sidecar:

Condé Nast Traveler reports, for example, that at the Teatro Euro Bar in the MGM Grand Las Vegas, you can have a High Limit Kir Royale, which combines Champagne, 140-year old Cognac and raspberries. The price is $2,200.
The Bar Giardino d'Inverno at the Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan offers Liquid Luxury, which is a combination of Grand Marnier Cuvée du Cent Cinquantenaire and rare wild Sicilian berries. It goes for $4,225 a glass.
And for those who want to provide their loved one with a drink while they pop the question, the Piano Bar at the Sheraton Park Tower Hotel in London has a suggestion: the $7,200 Louis XIII Diamond Cocktail, which is a mixture of Champagne, Angostura bitters, sugar and Cognac along with a one-carat diamond ring.


Monday, November 21, 2005

In case you missed my appearance on TVO's More 2 Life this afternoon, I believe it airs at 5am tomorrow. In the past, when I get up at five (which is unfortunately a lot more frequently than you might imagine) I usually watched Law and Order on the grounds that it was the only thing on. But now that I know TVO's More 2 Life is on at that hour, my early morning TV habits are altered forever.

The promo on their website:

MORE 2 LIFE-The holiday season is upon us but before you take that next cocktail, have you ever wondered where the tradition started? York University lecturer Christine Sismondo has written the definitive social history of the cocktail: Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History. She'll be in to mix a tale or two.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

More on food and foodie books for those who are into that kind of thing. Powell's book was a great read, by the way.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

From Embassy: Canada's Foreign Policy Newsweekly:

Mondo Cocktail By Christine Sismondo McArthur & Company 246 pp. $24.95

Its subject matter is that of legendary drinks -- from the first sip of an aperitif, to a night cap known as the Side Car -- and their place in history. Throughout, the book is overflowing with urban myths, futile facts and interesting tid-bits about some of the tastiest alcoholic imbibes.

With only a dozen recipes, this self-described "bartending book," is more of a conversation piece than an instruction manual. But a fascinating read for any drink lover nonetheless. -- Sarah McGregor

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Q: But wasn't that just an excuse to drink bourbon?

A: Yes!

Well, we had a little party on Tuesday, and judging by the fact that I'm only posting on Sunday, it must have been a good one. People came from as far away as Syracuse, Kingston, Manhattan, the Bridlepath and even the Annex. (Special thanks to those who ventured from Annexia to the land of Parkdale - I know how difficult it can be to leave the vortex of those three blocks.)

Crowd was estimated at 100 and the bartenders were heroic in their efforts to serve the hordes their Mint Juleps, Daiquiris, Martinis and especially Sidecars. Penny was even seen helping to bus at several points so we thank her for going above and beyond the call.

Shaun Smith from Pages on Queen hosted the event and he was happy to tell me at the end of the night that we not only sold out but also broke the record for books sold at a This is Not a Reading Series event. So, thank you so much to everyone who came out and supported the event and bought books. It was sincerely appreciated.

If you are one of the few who arrived late and couldn't get a copy, or if you have friends and family who you think would like to receive a copy of Mondo Cocktail for Christmas, I encourage you to visit Pages at Queen and John to pick a few up. Alternatively, Book City on Bloor has signed copies and I'm headed down early this week to sign all the warehouse copies for that chain so they'll all be autographed.

And, in case you're agoraphobic like me, you could always order it here. For my American friends, the book is available here. It would be nice to see it move up past the millionth most popular mark, even if only for a day!

Finally, for those of you whose drug of choice isn't alcohol at all, there's a nice little review in the Toronto Star of Ian Mulgrew's excellent new book Bud Inc: Inside Canada's Marijuana Industry.