The Gingerbread Man’s Godson

Last month Hiram-Walker launched a couple of seasonal gingerbread and pumpkin spice liqueurs and they’re hosting a bloggers’ cocktail contest with the former. I agree with Lance’s take on the products, so visit his site for a longer review. In brief, they capture the right aromas, but they’re a little too thin for drinking on their own. In a fall or winter mixed drink, though, they can play a solid role.

Knowing I was up against a bevy of creative cocktail bloggers, my first attempt at trying a recipe far off the beaten path brought me back to our old friend the Dog’s Nose:

12 ounces warm porter or stout
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 ounces gin
freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish

Would it be possible to replace the gin with whiskey and Hiram-Walker’s gingerbread liqueur to make a warming winter drink? Maybe, but there’s a limit to how many bottles of good stout I’m willing to waste in the microwave to find out! And that limit is one, so after one horribly wrong attempt I dropped this line of inquiry and went in a more sensible direction.

I didn’t have much stocked in my new apartment’s bar yet, but I did have Scotch. This suggested a play on the Godson with the gingerbread liqueur filling in for amaretto. So here’s a drink we’ll call the Gingerbread Man’s Godson:

2 oz Scotch
.75 oz Hiram-Walker gingerbread liqueur
.5 oz whipping cream

Shake over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg. The substitution works and the peatiness of the Scotch stands up to the sweetness of the cream and liqueur. It fits the bill for a simple winter dessert drink.

Samantha Harrigan is writing up all the cocktail entries on her weblog, Cocktail Culture. Head over there to check out the other drinks.

Links for 11/17/08

New Watchmen trailer

Bad times for the personal blog

A night of all-nude dining

Dixit for the Nobel

Rethinking food miles

Unsavory side effects of campaign finance disclosure laws

Koreans arrested for selling marked cards

Photos from NZ’s ag and pastoral show

Darcy’s Imbiber’s 100

Darcy O’Neil (whom I always get mixed up with Darcy Olsen) has posted The Imbiber’s 100, featuring a hundred drinks to imbibe before you expire. It’s a fun list, but where’s the Dublin Dr Pepper? I’m up to 79, with the items not in italics the ones I still need to try. None are crossed out because there’s nothing on here I wouldn’t sample if given the chance. The list and annotations are below the break.
[Read more...]

Recounts of no significance?

It’s been more than a week since the polls closed and we still don’t know who the winner is in three Senate races. Georgia is headed to a runoff. Minnesota is going to have a potentially ugly recount, with only 206 votes out of nearly 3 million separating Coleman and Franken. Alaska is still counting and the difference there could also be small enough to trigger a state-funded recount. Supposedly these new tallies in Minnesota and Alaska will tell us who “really” won the elections. But will they actually mean anything?

Leonard Mlodinow writes about an election strikingly similar to Minnesota’s in his excellent book The Drunkard’s Walk:

In the 2004 governor’s race in the state of Washington, for example, the Democratic candidate was eventually declared the winner although the original tally had the Republican winning by 261 votes out of about 3 million. Since the original vote count was so close, state law required a recount. In that count the Republican won again, but by only 42 votes. It is not known whether anyone thought it was a bad sign that the 219-vote difference between the first and second vote counts was several times larger than the new margin of victory, but the upshot was a third vote count, this one “entirely by hand.” The 42-vote victory amounted to an edge of just 1 vote out of every 70,000 cast, so the hand-counting effort could be compared to asking 42 people to count from 1 to 70,000 and then hoping they averaged less than 1 mistake each. Not surprisingly, the result changed again. This time it favored the Democrat by 10 votes. That number was later changed to 129 when 700 newly discovered “lost votes” were included.

Neither the vote-counting process nor the voting process is perfect… Elections, like all measurements, are imprecise, and so are the recounts, so when elections come out extremely close, perhaps we ought to accept them as is, or flip a coin, rather than conducting recount after recount.

It might be true that, for procedural reasons, later vote counts really are more accurate than the initial one. For example, running the ballots through a counting machine a second time picks up votes that were missed due to infamous hanging chads. In that case a recount could be worthwhile (see a discussion here as it relates to Florida in 2000). Even so, there’s some level at which the difference ceases to tell you anything reliable about who actually received more votes. There’s appeal in this idea of choosing an acceptable level of statistical significance and, when it’s not met, simply letting the original count stand or deciding the election by a random process.

Replacing recounts with with a random selection process would be a tough sell though. One objection is that potential voters may not participate unless we make sure that “every vote counts.” That’s a nice ideal, but we know it’s not achievable in practice. That’s why we have recounts in the first place — we don’t know how to make every count. The best we can hope for is that the recounting process will be more accurate than the initial tally. If we instead accepted the chance that a random event would decide the outcome, people would still have an incentive to vote for their candidate; the baseline would simply be moved from winning by at least one vote to winning by a significant margin. In either case a single vote has a vanishingly small chance of making a difference and voters will presumably be motivated by the same things that motivate them now, such as civic duty, the desire to express their beliefs, or showing support for their party.

Another objection is that deciding a hotly contested election by a coin toss would decrease faith in the democratic process. That might be true, but so do recounts and other tight races. Many Democrats complained throughout the Bush presidency that he stole the 2000 election in Florida and the 2004 election in Ohio. Similarly, Republicans suspected voter fraud long after the resolution of the Washington governor’s race described above. The opposing camps in Minnesota are already gearing up to follow a similar path, with lawyers ready to take their arguments to court when the counting’s through. Regardless of who is declared the winner, we can be sure that the other side will doubt the result and allege wrongdoing. None of this would happen if the winner were decided randomly. He would go to office with the knowledge that he didn’t win a clear mandate from the state’s voters and the voters would know that he at least was given the position through a transparent and fair procedure.

And then there’s the fiscal savings. Minnesota’s Secretary of State Mark Ritchie pegs the cost of the recount at 3 cents per ballot, or a little over $86,000. That’s small change in government terms, but the lawyers’ fees, court challenges, and time consumed add up too. And for what? A result that will likely remain disputed and may not tell us anything about Minnesota voters that we didn’t already know. (Hint: They’re closely divided.) A coin toss costs only a quarter, which can then be given to the loser as a consolation prize.

Regardless, proposals like this aren’t going to gain any traction. That’s partly because people don’t understand statistics, but perhaps more so because they enjoy a good spectacle — and that’s one thing our system of recounts provides with absolute certainty.

Links for 11/14/08

Yes to sympathy, no to auto bailouts

Related: Where’s my journalism bailout?

Feel free to posthumously baptize me. I really don’t care

New food blog from Ezra Klein and friends

Three cheers for ugly produce

Time to sell federal lands?

I feel dumber for having read this

Damn you barista, why must you be so cute?

Campus smoking bans spreading like cancer

Tequila diamonds are forever

Free to Booze

Do you have plans for Repeal Day yet? This year’s the big one, the 75th Anniversary of the 21st Amendment. Cato’s marking the occasion with what looks to be a fun and informative policy forum:

Featuring Michael Lerner, author of Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City; Glen Whitman, author of Strange Brew: Alcohol and Government Monopoly; Asheesh Agarwal, Former Assistant Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Policy Planning; and Radley Balko, Senior Editor, Reason. Moderated by Brandon Arnold, Cato Institute.

On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, thus ending our nation’s failed experiment with Prohibition. Organized crime flourished during Prohibition, but what were the other effects of the national ban on alcohol? How and why was it repealed? Please join the Cato Institute for a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition and a discussion of its legacy and continuing impact on America. Drinks will be served following the discussion.

Note the “drinks will be served” line. These won’t be just the usual Cato beer and wine. Though we’re still working out the details, the plan is for me to be there mixing up a menu of classic pre-Prohibition cocktails.

But that’s not the best part. A few weeks ago I was at a friend’s bar in Eugene when he mentioned that he’ll be visiting DC the very same weekend. I told him about the Cato event and asked if he’d be interested in tending bar with me there. And lucky for us, he said yes. So you won’t just be getting drinks from this lowly libertarian cocktail blogger, but also from the man himself, Mr. Repeal Day, Jeffrey Morgenthaler.

It’s going to be a fun afternoon and we’d love to see you there. If you’re going to be in DC on December 5, RSVP for the event here, and be sure to also check out Jeff’s site RepealDay.org for more Repeal Day updates.

And out of hope, cynicism

Ezra Klein notes disapprovingly that Obama will likely appoint former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack to Agriculture Secretary:

If the Department of Agriculture sees large farmers and farm producing states (like Iowa), rather than individual eaters, as their primary constituency, then we’ll have a farm policy geared towards those interests. But eaters have interests here too, as do taxpayers, and parents, and energy advocates, and the public health community. They, however, are not well represented in Iowa politics. The fact that Obama is already signaling that his chief agricultural appointment will hail from the land of corn, and whose agricultural experience will mainly have been keeping powerful corn interests happy with him, is not a good sign. Vilsack could surprise, of course. But the indication here is that Obama will not upend the ag subsidy apple cart.

This is not surprising. All you had to do was look at Obama’s consistent support for subsidies, his campaigning in the Midwest, or the prominent New York Times article discussing his advisors’ ties to the ethanol industry to know that his mantra of change is not going to extend to our wasteful agricultural policies. Klein, to his credit, was not unaware of this, though he hoped for better once the pressures of the election were removed. But why? The fact that Obama reads Michael Pollan and buys arugula at Whole Foods doesn’t mean he’s going to pursue the kinds of policies preferred by people who also read Michael Pollan and buy arugula at Whole Foods.

If Vilsack is indeed the nominee, that doesn’t bode well for Obama’s willingness to challenge conventional politics. A week after the election we’ve already seen signs of continued subsidies to corn growers, support for corporate welfare for automakers, and a more conservative approach to halting intelligence and civil liberties abuses than many were hoping for. I never had high hopes for Obama, but even I’m surprised at how quickly he’s managing to show that, however inspiring he may be, he’s still just another damn politician.

That said, I’ll forgive the rocky start if he throws us civil libertarians a big bone to chew on sometime soon.

Links for 11/13/08

Coffee community discontent with certifications

Cocktail tips from Dale DeGroff

Change I can believe in: Allowing adorable dogs in pubs

Nothing wrong with a “Big Two”

Midway airport gets privatized

Secular pol wins election in Jerusalem

Cultural pressure and longing for “the cut”

Writing with the dead

Siegel’s plan for federal tobacco legislation

Chicago Tribune covers we’d like to see

Cake fial

Big money in miracle fruit?

This blog’s favorite magical berry is listed as one of the hot new seed imports in Indonesia:

New comer fruit from overseas such as black sapote with black flesh, lulo with fine thorny skin, and butternut of which seed resembles peanut are indeed the mainstay for fruit seed cultivators. Those immigrants become a bewitching source of income. Eddy Soesanto gained IDR213,5-million turnover from common fig, IDR75-million from miracle fruit, and IDR210-million custard apple new variety for 2 years.

Have I missed out on a major business opportunity exporting miracle fruit seeds? Probably not. According to Google, 75 million rupiahs comes to just under $7,000.

Previously:
Finally, sampling miracle fruit tablets
Miracle fruit: I’m a believer

Links for 11/12/08

Now that Obama knows intelligence powers will be he is, he might rather like them

If only all Mormons were as cool as Robert Kirby

Corruption no obstacle to congressional reelection

P. J. O’Rourke is funnier when he’s optimistic, but this essay is worth a read

Hey God boy, it’s your fault we atheists are mean

NJ: No new barber licenses since 1984

The Joker reads Ayn Rand? (Page 3)

The latest MxMo roundup

Links for 11/11/08

Fire aimed at the Democrats

The benefits of membership

What FDR can teach Obama

P.Z. Meyers on skepticism about Obama

The election in typeface

The best Palin t-shirt

A microplane I’d like to try

PA smoking ban exceptions

MxMo made from scratch

Kentucky Woman

This month’s Mixology Monday is hosted by Doug at Pegu Blog. His theme is made from scratch ingredients. This one sneaked up on me, so I didn’t have time for anything requiring long infusions. Bitters? No time. Tonic water? Brandied cherries? Done those already. With not many options left, this seemed like a good opportunity to try out the honey lavender syrup from The Art of the Bar:

1 cup hot water
.5 cup honey
.25 cup dried lavender

Keeping the water off boil, briefly infuse the lavender into it. Remove it from heat and pour it over the honey, stirring until mixed. Let it steep until cool, then pour through a sieve to remove the petals. You’re left with a sweet and distinctly fragrant syrup.

(Random aside: When I was in elementary school I developed an irrational dislike of honey. I don’t know if it was the fact that it came from bees or the silly bear jars or something else entirely, but for some reason I decided I did not like it. It wasn’t until the past year or so that revisited this belief and realized that honey is pure, sweet deliciousness.)

The guys at Absinthe used this syrup to make a lavender Sidecar. That’s a good drink, but a bourbon-honey combination struck me as a more natural pairing. After a bit of experimentation I came up with this Kentucky Woman cocktail:

1.75 oz bourbon
.5 oz honey lavender syrup
.25 oz lemon juice
2 dashes orange bitters

The ingredients all play very well together. The bourbon blends with the honey, the lemon adds a touch of acidity and brightness, and the lavender gives the drink a lovely floral aroma. It shines with its own kind of light; you drink it once and a day that’s all wrong looks all right. And I love her, God knows her I love her.

Wait, what? Sorry, I got a little carried away there. But it is a tasty cocktail and a nice syrup. Generally speaking I’m not sure that infusing syrup is the best approach to this kind of drink. Doing so ties sweetness to flavor, so that to add more of one you must also add more of the other. A lavender tincture and a separate syrup might be the better way to go. But like I said, I didn’t have time for that, and in this case the syrup works just fine.

Thanks to Doug for hosting this month. I’ll post a link to the roundup when he gets it posted.

Update: Doug’s got the full roundup right here. And he’s right, I do need to get out more.

Job security

Keeping with the theme of the “rigging the system” post, my friend Ryan Young crunches the numbers from this year’s Congressional races and finds that, despite an approval rating of only about 17%, it still feels good to be a gangsta:

There will be 64 new members of Congress next year, along with 12 new Senators. That’s a total turnover rate of 14.7% in the House and 12% in the Senate…

But that’s total turnover. Some members left to run for other offices, like Biden and Obama. More than half of all turnover was caused by either retirement (31) or death (8).

A bum can only be thrown out if he actively seeks re-election. That happened 20 times in the House — thrice in primaries and 17 times in general elections. Three Senators were defeated this year. Removing open seats from the equation, which have no incumbent running, we see that the bums hardly ever get thrown out.

In short: if you’re an incumbent Congressman running for re-election, your chance of success is 94.9% (370 out of 390). If you’re in the Senate, your chance of winning another term is 90.0% (27/30).

Links for 11/10/08

Has the Tevatron found an explanation for dark matter?

Paving the way toward AIDS gene therapy

How red tape hinders adoption

This is really just a metaphor for what all politicians do, right?

Dear Obama: Listen to your economists

Electoral College: Just like any legislature

Where to buy liquor in Denver

Change we can believe in? Dem leaders ask for corporate welfare

Who killed the blogosphere?

Interview with Jon Huber of CAO

Smokers unfit for fostering

Several borough councils in London are considering banning smokers from taking in foster children, with one having just approved the measure:

Smokers are to be banned from becoming foster carers in one London borough, and other councils say they may follow suit.

Councillors in Redbridge, north-east London, voted unanimously for the ban at a cabinet meeting last night, to protect children from the dangers of passive smoking…

Children in the borough will not be placed with foster carers who smoke after January 2010. Existing foster carers will be given practical help and support to give up.

However, charity the Fostering Network has expressed concerns the policy could prevent good foster carers from coming forward.

“We certainly view this as a good move in terms of creating a smoke-free environment for a child, but we don’t agree that a blanket ban on any smokers becoming foster carers is the right thing,” a spokesman said.

While it may be sensible to require foster parents to not smoke indoors with their children, it’s hard to see any justification for bans like these beyond simple prejudice against people who enjoy tobacco. Having a cigarette on his patio isn’t going to do the slightest bit of harm to a child — certainly less harm than not having a caring foster parent at all would do.

These insidious bans have been spreading throughout the UK in the past year. As Michael Siegel notes, foster agencies normally exercise case-by-case discretion about who is suitable to care for kids. Smokers are put into unsavory company:

What Sheffield is saying here is that smokers are simply not fit to be parents. The city would rather take on a convicted criminal (as long as it’s not a sexual violence or child abuse-related crime) than a smoker. The city proclaims to be “so open” because “what matters most to a child is who you are as a person, your character and capacity to care.” But what seems to matter first and foremost is whether you smoke.

The city puts up very few categorical restrictions on foster parents. Even being a convicted criminal is not a categorical restriction. Your personal situation will be taken into account.

Not so if you are a smoker.

But it’s for the children, so it’s all good.

Links for 11/7/08

“It cannot be denied that this feels like a punch in the gut.”

Putin plans his comeback

Obama demands your service!

Obama supporters turned on, too shy to hook up

Why the wealthy voted Obama

Our Soviet school system

Spitzer gets off without charges

Washington gets a Bartenders Guild

Claire tests Google’s drunk mail protector

We come to praise Bush, not to bury him

LOLdog achieves new level of self-reference

Links for 11/6/08

Distributors rig wine ballot measure in Oklahoma

Vid: Palin really could have been worse than Bush

A note to Democrats

Nader trumpets win in high school vote; says Obama may be an “Uncle Tom”

Libertarian LOLcat is sad

Only you can prevent tea bag abuse