MxMo, special stimulus edition

Horatio cocktail

Back in the fall, cocktail blogger Matthew Rowley suggested that a good Mixology Monday theme would be “hard drinks for hard times.” Paul Clarke says he had doubts about the idea. The next available MxMo slot wasn’t available until February and by then the economic hard times might be over, right? Hahahahahahaha. But that’s all right, Paul was just worried about planning a blog event. It’s not like he quit his job and decided to move to the West Coast with no particular plan in mind and has been massively underemployed for six months. *Ahem*

Yes, well, moving on. Matthew, unfortunately, has been laid off, and we’re all feeling the pinch from the recession. Well, not all of us. If you’re connected to the federal government, there’s $787 billion up for grabs. Why shouldn’t bartenders get a slice of the pie? Last week I sent my representatives in Congress, Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and Representative Earl Blumenauer, a letter making the case for allocating some of that stimulus package to my proposal for a lame vodka bar:

Dear [Congressman],

It is my understanding that Congress has set aside $800 billion to help stimulate the economy and is looking for ways to spend it. There are many “shovel-ready” projects like bridges and hospitals competing to receive these funds. These are all great ideas — you can never have enough bridges and hospitals — but they take a long time to get going. I have my own project in mind and I’d like to propose spending some of the stimulus money on it.

I am a bartender and moved to Portland about four months ago, before the economy tanked completely. I’m only working one night a week. I have a lot of experience and creativity though and I’m confident that I could start up a really awesome bar. I have some great locations picked out and am ready to start anytime. The only obstacle is obtaining funding. Since banks are more interested in getting a return on investment than making sacrifices to stimulate the economy, I figure we should work together on this. There are several reasons why opening a bar would be excellent stimulus for the economy.

Bartenders have a big multiplier effect: For stimulus to be effective, we have to be sure that the money is re-injected into the economy and not socked away in savings. Nobody spends money like bartenders. If we work together to open a bar, you can be sure that my employees will spend 100% (or more) of their earnings. Most of that money will be given directly to other bartenders, or maybe strippers, who will also spend it right away, continuing the cycle. I’m confident that my staff would multiply spending far more than people in more responsible professions.

Production is fast: Spirits like whiskey can take years, even decades, to age. My bar will focus entirely on vodka and flavored vodka, which is ready to sell almost immediately after distillation. Our vodka purchases will encourage producers to increase production, buying grains from our nation’s farmers and equipment from our manufacturers. And we’ll be sure to only serve American vodkas, not those from Russia or, even worse, France. (I’m willing to make this a condition of receiving stimulus funds.)

We spill a lot: My bartenders will specialize in flair, juggling bottles in an amazing display of alcoholic dexterity. This requires hours of training and we’re sure to spill a lot vodka and shatter a lot of bottles while we’re practicing, forcing us to buy much more liquor than other bars. This will stimulate the economy even further.

We create positive externalities: Keynes argued that “animal spirits” are an important factor in macroeconomic behavior. By inebriating and entertaining our customers, we will excite their animal spirits and dull their judgment so that they are once again eager to invest. (Obviously my bar alone won’t save the economy, but similar bars could be opened throughout the country. Maybe we could franchise?)

We’ll name a drink after you: Everyone remembers great leaders like General Manhattan, Captain James Daiquiri, and Colonel Sazerac thanks to the cocktails that bear their names. In honor of your leadership during this economic crisis, I would gladly name a drink on our menu after you.

I realize this is an unorthodox proposal, but extreme times call for novel thinking. My bar is shovel-ready. As a sign of my commitment, I’ll even buy the shovel. I look forward to working with you to save the American economy.


Jacob Grier

Sadly, not one of the congressmen has responded yet. I was ready to stimulate the shit out of this economy, but instead I have to mix drinks at home. You fail, legislators.

This is a cocktail I’ve been playing with a lot recently, and it uses only ingredients I had on hand — nothing new purchased for this MxMo. I call it the Horatio:

2 oz Krogstad aquavit
.75 oz Cointreau
1 barspoon Fernet Branca*
2 dashes Angostura orange bitters

Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a round of orange peel expressed over the drink. I don’t always include brand names in a recipe, but in this case each bottling is distinctive. That’s not to say you can’t make substitutions, just know what you’re dealing with.

The name references aquavit’s Scandinavian heritage. Aquavit is the primary ingredient, but with the powerful Fernet Branca hailing from Italy, you might say this cocktail is more an antique Roman than a Dane.

If you don’t have aquavit and Fernet on hand, fear not. A bottle of Jack and a couple of ice cubes will serve you just fine.

*Update 3/9/09: I’ve tinkered with this recipe a bit since originally posting it, cutting down slightly on the Fernet Branca. This gives it a less syrupy mouthfeel.


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