Living life between the barrel staves in Bourbon Country

Posts tagged “Cocktails

Extraordinary Popular Libations and the Madness of Crowds


“Men it has been well said,  think in herds; it will be seen they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly and one by one.” ~ Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1852)

In the early 19th century Charles MacKay examined how groups of people could quite spontaneously develop a communal form of self-delusion, or even madness.  If one were to sit at a bar over a period of hours and observe, from the early fluctuation of post work cocktail sippers to the rowdier crowds of late night, one might see a transformation as  fantastic as that of Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.  The later the hour grows, the more the madness sneaks into the crowd, like a contagion passed – usually in liquid form – from one person to another.  It will start out innocently enough, and the first to succumb rarely expects to as they are in the safe confines of their group of friends.  But that is how the madness works, by eluding us into believing there is strength in numbers.  The truth is we would have been safer drinking on our own.



On Mint Juleps and Margaritas

A true Kentucky Mint Julep, from The Bluegrass Tavern in Lexington, KY

In social settings, regardless of what city I’m in, one question comes up repeatedly as soon as I reveal that I hail from the Bluegrass State.

“Do you drink mint juleps?”

It could be the third Thursday in November, and for some reason all anyone wants to talk about from that moment forward is the Kentucky Derby and its ubiquitous cocktail.  Inevitably someone in the crowd either makes “the best mint julep” or knows someone else that does.  Sidebar conversations tend to break out at that point over whether the julep should be “strong” or “sweet”, whether the mint is incorperated as an essential element or used more as garnish.  It’s no wonder there is confusion among outsiders over how to make a proper mint julep.  Kentuckians can’t agree on the correct preparation either.  Books have been written on the subject.  It would not surprise me to discover a thesis at the University of Kentucky has been written on “The Psychological and Social Aspects of the Proper Preparation of the Mint Julep Cocktail”, such is the level of diverse opinion on the subject.


Tipping the Glass

There isn’t a part of our lives that hasn’t been touched by the economy in the last few years.  For some, it’s manifested itself as fewer dinners out, or maybe less expensive choices at the market.  For others, it’s meant the difference between a meal and no food at all.  Some – if not many – have been forced to part with cherished belongings to keep the more important bills paid.  That a food scene has survived at all in this chaos, much less thrived, is nothing short of surprising.  But no matter where you look, even if you just scratch the surface, you’ll find casualties.


The Alternative Derby Cocktail

The Keeneland Bloody Mary

In my home state horse racing in general and the Kentucky Derby in particular means bourbon and mint juleps. My fondness for the former is almost as legendary as my disdain for the latter, and it is always a surprise when my track guests see me sipping anything other than bourbon on the rocks. Truth be told, my favorite drink at the track is a Bloody Mary.


Happy New Year!

Whether you follow by blog or by Twitter, I thank you for your interest. In 2010 may we all #1 eat better, #2 stay healthier and #3 drink just enough to mitigate the positive effects of #1 and #2.

The problem with being known for a drink or a dish is that is often all anyone wants you to bring to a party. Such is the case tonight where I’ve been asked for batch of my famous Black Marlin Hurricanes, my adaption of the signature drink from the Black Marlin Bayside Grill in Hilton Head, SC. For a New Year’s Eve twist on the known, make the Hurricanes as usual (you can find the recipe at Instead of serving over ice, fill a champagne flute 2/3 full of Hurricane then top with Champagne. I prefer Bollinger NV Brut Special Cuvee. And remember, should old acquaintance be forgot – it was probably the fault of the drink.

Happy New Year’s to everyone!

Name Your Poison: Culinary Icons of Halloween

Price Kitchen 2

Would you let this man cook for you?

It had really started to bother me to the point that I resolved to do something about it. Like every 7 seven-year old boy my son is well acquainted with the Star Wars universe and I couldn’t, in good conscience, continue to let him associate one of my favorite actors with the almost comical character of Count Dooku. The time had come, I decided, to introduce him to the real reason movie goers around the world know the name of Christopher Lee. You see while I despise the modern take on horror movies, which are really nothing more than two hours of torture scenes strewn together with dialogue, I have a certain affinity for the classics of old. More properly called monster movies than horror, they came from a time when there were still such things as literary classics to inspire actors and film makers. Peter Cushing, who along with Lee made Hammer both a house hold name and one synonymous with horror, got the better turn in George Lucas’ double trilogy when he was cast as Grand Moff Tarkin in the original Star Wars. Lee had to settle for Dooku, but then again, throughout the dozens of films the pair made together, Cushing always had the better lines. Famously, Lee complained to Cushing that he had no dialogue in Hammer’s 1957 The Curse of Frankenstein. “You’re lucky,” Cushing replied, “I’ve read the script.”

In the 1930’s through 1950’s when many, if not most, of the best of these films were made, the meal still held an important place in daily life and ritual. This was even more true for the days of the mid to late 19th century when many of the literary works on which the movies were based were originally written. It is therefore no surprise that eating and the requisite drinking played a more important role in these stories than just to supply a background scene. In many ways, the communal meal represented the normalcy that was about to upended when shortly, in a literal sense, all hell broke loose.


Not My Fault


I swear it’s not my fault, really. Some weeks ago I received a rather disconcerting letter in the mail, insinuating as it were, that I was somehow to blame for the imminent shortage in one of Kentucky’s native spirits. Apparently, I drank the distillery out of Knob Creek. Or at least that’s how I interpreted the correspondence. Had I really been consuming that much bourbon? I mean, the economy has been tough, work was stressful, and I had been enjoying a Wednesday night cocktail more often than in times past. I had even, on the occasional night out, enjoyed a second. But could one person have really made that much of an impact on the bourbon supply chain? Was I one of those people who had crossed the line from indulgence to addiction? Did I need, (gasp), intervention?