Homemade grenadine and the Ward Eight

A few weeks ago I got an email from POM, the pomegranate juice company, asking me to try out some of their promotional cocktail recipes. These drinks are more on the fruity side than I usually go for in my drinks, but one thing I have been wanting to do is experiment with homemade grenadine. They were nice enough to send me a box of POM so I could make a few batches and taste them side-by-side.

Most modern grenadines are pretty much just high-fructose corn syrup and red food coloring, so you wouldn’t know that they’re supposed to taste like pomegranate. (Hence the name from the French for pomegranate, grenade, from which hand grenades are also named.) It’s a cocktail ingredient I’ve tended to ignore because of the poor quality of commercial brands, so making my own opens up many new possibilities for mixing.

My guide in this is Paul Clarke, who compared two recipes back in 2006. I’ll go over those briefly and then add one variation of my own; click over to his site for more details.

Cold Process — The first method is the easiest and Paul credits it to David Wondrich. Pour one cup pomegranate juice and one cup of sugar into a tightly sealed jar and shake vigorously. Then add another ounce or two of sugar and repeat. There you go, a simple grenadine.

Hot Process — The second method takes a little more work but is still very easy. Pour two cups of POM into a saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer until reduced by half. Stir in one cup of sugar and now you’ve got another simple grenadine.

Like Paul, I think both methods have their virtues. The first is light, fruity, and sweet. The second is thicker and more intense, but with a noticeably cooked flavor. Either one could serve admirably in the right cocktail and they’re both much better than bottled brands I’ve tasted. They’re also very easy to make. For anyone mixing drinks at home, I’d highly recommend buying the juice and making your own instead of settling for commercial varieties.

If you want to tweak things a bit further, here’s the third method I tried:

Hot Process II — Make the hot process recipe above, but finish by adding a very small amount of citric acid (start with 1/8 tsp).

Including pure citric acid in a homemade recipe might seem like a step backward, but there’s nothing scary or unnatural about it. We add it to cocktails every time we squeeze a lemon or lime into them; this is the same stuff in purified form. It restores some of the brightness to grenadine that’s lost in the hot process. If you don’t like the cooked taste that comes with the latter, try adding a bit of citric acid. Go easy though: A little bit goes a long way, and I completely ruined my first batch by using too much. (If you’re lucky you can find the acid at a good grocery store, otherwise you might need to look online.)

At some point I’d like to try this again with fresh pomegranates, but they take a lot of work, are messy, and are not always available. Usng POM is much easier and makes a tasty grenadine. If you want to try this with whole fruits, check Robert Love’s blog for some tips. (Note that he adds citric acid too, in the form of fresh lemon juice.)

This post wouldn’t be complete without a cocktail. My favorite recipe using grenadine so far is the Ward Eight, its creation generally credited to the Locke-Ober Cafe in Boston around 1898 to celebrate the victory of corrupt local politician Martin Lomasney:

2 oz rye or bourbon
.5 oz orange juice
.5 lemon juice
1 tsp grenadine

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass for a refreshing variation on the whiskey sour.

As I said above, grenadine is an overlooked ingredient for me and I now have a ton of it to experiment with. What are your favorite grenadine cocktails? I’d be glad to try your recommendations for how to use it next.


Thank you, senator, for proving my point

I swear I hadn’t read this story when I wrote the previous post. Frank Lautenberg, a senator from New Jersey and a supporter of the bill giving the FDA authority over tobacco, is urging the agency to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the product, e-cigarettes deliver nicotine without tobacco smoke, making them much safer than real cigarettes and a potentially useful tool for quitting smoking. Predictably, the response from government officials is to ban anything that could make the enjoyment of nicotine less dangerous. As Michael Siegel sums up the situation:

One company has a product on the market which delivers only nicotine. There are potentially serious health effects of this nicotine, especially with regards to heart disease. However, there are no other toxic chemicals and no carcinogens, so there is no risk of cancer or chronic obstructive lung disease.

Another company has a product on the market which delivers nicotine plus more than 4000 other chemicals and toxins, including over 60 proven carcinogens, and which we know kills over 400,000 people a year.

Our health groups’ response: prohibit the first company from marketing its product, but officially provide government approval of the products manufactured by the second company.

What Senator Lautenberg and the health groups are trying to do is ban a much less harmful type of cigarette but to give an official government seal of approval to the much more toxic one that we know is killing hundreds of thousands of Americans each year.

Siegel goes on to hypothesize that opposition to e-cigarettes is driven by money from pharmaceutical companies who stand to lose from competition to their nicotine gums and patches. I have thus far been skeptical of this idea, but I am beginning to find it more plausible.

In any case, this example demonstrates the dangers of allowing the FDA to control which tobacco-related products Americans may or may not legally consume.


Links for 3/30/09

Obama opens rallies with vetted prayers; a national prayer czar?

Obama’s fascist footsteps

Vid: Your government at work in the financial sector

Markets and liberalism

A visit to Cuba

How to avoid leeches and enjoy networking

Ethiopian government halts coffee exports

Caffeine, the legal performance enhancer

UK attacks “extreme” beer

California proposes ban on black cars

What would Gene Healy say about this?


The Post gets duped by Big Tobacco

The Washington Post editorial board, which has never seen an anti-tobacco regulation it doesn’t like, pushed again on Friday for giving regulatory authority over tobacco to the FDA. Their editorial includes this line:

These sensible restrictions are why more than 1,000 organizations — even tobacco giant Altria, the parent company of Richmond-based Philip Morris — support the legislation.

How incredibly naive does one have to be for Philip Morris’ support of a tobacco bill not to raise a few red flags? The proposed regulations sound reasonable as The Post describes them, but their unintended consequences would be deadly:

If this becomes law, makers of alternative tobacco products, such as smokeless tobacco, will be explicitly forbidden from mentioning in advertising or any other forum that their product is safer than cigarettes, even though this is true. The development and marketing of safer cigarettes could be blocked and “low tar” labels eliminated. The FDA could mandate lower nicotine levels, causing current smokers to inhale more cigarettes to ingest the same dose. Smokers who prefer flavored cigarettes are completely screwed, as every flavor except for menthol will be banned. This is all to the good of Philip Morris, maker of the popular Marlboro menthol brand; new restrictions on advertising and the costs of complying with new regulations will prevent smaller companies from eating into its market share, while denying consumers valuable information about the relative safety of other forms of tobacco will keep other competition at bay.

The Post misleadingly describes this as a consumer safety bill, comparing unregulated cigarettes to recent peanut contamination. But the perverse effect of FDA oversight would be that consumers would be even less informed than they are now, and demonstrably safer cigarettes could be kept off the market if regulators believe they would induce consumers to smoke more frequently. In short, the bill empowers the FDA to decide that it’s better for current smokers to die than for new smokers to enjoy a safer alternative. Call that what you like, but it isn’t consumer protection.

Freshly minted bias


“Nice sign ya got there…

… be a real shame if something was ta happen to it.” That, in essence, is what City Commissioner Randy Leonard is saying to the University of Oregon, which wants to change the text on the White Stag sign it currently leases and pays to operate:

Mayor Sam Adams and Commissioner Nick Fish have co-sponsored an ordinance Leonard introduced late Thursday for City Council discussion next week that would, in essence, take the sign. The city would pay fair market value for the sign, estimated at $500,000. Other costs include maintenance and a lease on the rooftop space.

City ownership would ensure control over what has become a “national signature” for the city and state and part of the cultural fabric of Portland, Leonard said. It’s visible to Interstate 5 travelers and to millions who watch nationally televised Blazer games and other events.

It’s an admittedly aggressive move, but is a last resort, Leonard said. City Attorney Linda Meng said the use of eminent domain is warranted if the taking serves a public purpose.

“It’s not your ordinary condemnation, but the ordinance does a good job explaining what the public purpose is,” she said.

It’s amazing how such thuggish behavior becomes praiseworthy when it’s done by politicians, isn’t it?

My case for allowing the sign to change is here.


Smoking in Portland

It ain’t easy, but it is possible. Tomorrow Broadway Cigar is hosting its grand opening celebration, featuring cigar rolling demos, free beer (of the root variety), barbecue, a beer and spirits tasting, and raffles. I got to preview the space a few months ago and it’s very nice: flat screen TVs, free wi-fi, and big, comfy leather chairs. Check their site for details.


On candid camera

Yesterday I spent a few miles driving alongside this truck:

Camera truck

That’s a camera array on top. From what I can tell, it belongs to a company hired by Microsoft to obtain photographs to go along with its mapping software (like Google Street View). Maybe I’ll end up on their site soon.

This may be unrelated, but it sounds like they have some interesting things planned for a program called Geosynth:

The service will take the images and metadata from geotagged imagery supplied by the public to a special database and form them into Streetview-like world view application. Microsoft Virtual Earth expert Johannes Kebeck explained that the system will apparently be moderated somehow, so the “system would take the best images from a location to create a single image of a specific landmark,” when talking to PocketLint.co.uk. If the scheme takes off and generates enough crowd-sourced images, it’ll eventually be possible to view pretty much anywhere on the planet.

Incidentally, there are worse ways to be spotted in an online mapping program than in a Pontiac Aztek.


Reassessing Atlas

Like many libertarians, I have a love/hate relationship with Ayn Rand’s books. There’s no doubt that reading them in high school was a transformational experience that, along with studying economics, put me on the path toward liberal ideas and political advocacy. But the books can be a little too transformational, luring inquisitive minds into the trap of ideology; I’d suggest that young people reading them do so with a healthy dose of criticism. Reading news like this, however, tilts the balance strongly in Rand’s favor:

The House voted this week to reauthorize and reform national service laws, which could open the door for compulsory national service. The plan will explore whether to establish a “volunteer corps” to see if “a workable, fair, and reasonable mandatory service requirement for all able young people” should be developed.

Translation: Think military draft, only you don’t get a gun and you still have to do it if you have flat feet.

At a time when the government is seriously considering coercing all Americans to toil in its service, I’ll take my doses of radical individualism wherever I can find them. Leo Grin captures what’s great about her books in an otherwise critical roundup of perspectives at NRO:

At base, Rand’s fiction is the stuff of fantasy and myth, in the best sense. Howard Roark and John Galt fill outsized roles once occupied by the likes of Achilles and Odysseus, Arthur and Lancelot. Impossibly brave and resourceful, towering in their loves and hates, they stand as sterling exemplars of treasured traits. The need for such larger-than-life heroes is evergreen.

How quickly we have forgotten the unutterable darkness of the shadows cast by various strains of collectivism throughout the 20th century! More than a hundred million dead, entire populations subjected to inhuman servitude: Against that monstrous, encroaching gloom, Rand crafted tales that sanctified freedom and individualism, burning away the saccharine happy-face of liberalism and exposing the fangs and poison sacs beneath. True, outside of Rand’s fevered imagination, Atlas is unlikely ever to shrug with such thunder and panache. But for more than 50 years, countless readers have been quietly transformed by the strength and resonance of her capitalist clarion call.

Still relevant in the Age of Obama? With all due respect to Whittaker Chambers, if we didn’t already have her, we’d have to invent her, double-quick.


Miracle fruit medicine

Another miracle fruit story? Yawn. But this one has an interesting tidbit:

About five months ago, a Miami, Florida, hospital began studying whether the fruit’s sweetening effects can restore the appetite of cancer patients whose chemotherapy treatments have left them with dulled taste buds.

“What happens in patients is the food tastes so metallic and bland, it becomes repulsive,” said Dr. Mike Cusnir, a lead researcher on the project and oncologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center. “Most of the patients undergoing chemotherapy have weight loss. Then they cut further into their diet and then this furthers the weight loss. It causes malnutrition, decreased function of the body and electrolyte imbalance.” […]

Cusnir filed for an investigational new drug application, which is required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to use an unapproved product in a new patient population. His study seeks 40 cancer patients.

“The majority have given good feedback that it did improve taste,” Cusnir said. “A few patients felt there wasn’t much change. The feedback is mixed as it usually is in any situation. It’s been encouraging, but we haven’t analyzed the data so far.”

The FDA has stonewalled journalists seeking information about why the agency shut down efforts to market miraculin, the protein in miracle fruit that causes sour foods to taste sweet. Hopefully being faced with a new application will force them to be more transparent, or at least to give the berry another chance. Meeting safety standards for medicinal use might also pave the way toward getting it approved as a food additive in consumer products.

[Thanks, Julian!]


Markets in everything, Portland bar edition

With apologies to Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok for stealing the title:

In Hollywood, it’s extemely common, if not extemely necessary, for young talent to rely on their agent and his/her inside connections, to pair them with likeminded creative projects and gainful employment. In that spirit, I’m looking to hire my own agent to help me find an “in” within the Portland bar scene. Nobody else besides me and you need to know about the financial arrangement we would have in this venture, however, there is nothing inherantly shameful in this proposition. I have the talent and skill and drive and labor power to be a rockstar bartender like this city has never seen. You, hopefully, have the connections that I don’t have. In exchange, I’d be willing to offer up a whopping 20% commission for the first three months of my employment in exchange for your valuable connections (which, including both tips and wages could easily add up to $800-$1,000). Following, is a brief accounting of why I feel I would make such a rockstar bartender.

No, that Craigslist post isn’t from me, but I can relate. The Portland hospitality job market has been extremely tight the past six months. In my search I’ve come across coffee shops that received more than 400 responses to one job ad, many from out of work accountants and lawyers. It’s hard to stand out in a crowd like that, and to make matters worse, if you stand out too much employers will not hire you because they fear you will jump ship as soon as a better opportunity comes along; I’m fairly certain I was rejected from several jobs for precisely that reason. The poster above is correct: Success right now is all about networking.


Links for 3/24/09

Matt Ridley on human progress

Finding inspiration in the kitchen

“Dubai will one day be seen as a punctuation mark on the architectural follies of the past half century”

Looking ahead at our fiscal prospects

Why to study econ, not business

Charles Lynch sentencing postponed

How one Portland bar sustains a cigar market

Foodies turn to Twitter

Interview with Jeffrey Morgenthaler

The case for free office coffee


Am I a drug paraphernalia-owning domestic terrorist?

No, I’m not. But our government thinks I might be. For I have in my possession a plastic bag with some pipe tobacco in it. That seems innocent enough, but people could also use such a bag for coins, or stamps, or even put their weed in it. From Philadelphia:

In the city’s toughest neighborhoods, narcotics officers routinely bust mini-marts and bodegas for selling tiny ziplock plastic bags.

Police consider the bags to be drug paraphernalia. But many store owners say they bought the bags legally from tobacco wholesalers and other distributors and thought they could sell them.

At issue is whether the buyer is using the bags for drugs or for legitimate items like coins, jewelry, stamps and small amounts of tobacco.

“The question is whether the item is for a legal function or an illegal function,” said Tennessee-based lawyer Robert T. Vaughn, an expert on drug-paraphernalia laws.

To be safe I should probably keep the tobacco in a shoebox or a paper bag. I would hate to have such a suspicious item in my car if a cop pulled me over for sporting a Ron Paul bumper sticker:

A new document meant to help Missouri law enforcement agencies identify militia members or domestic terrorists has drawn criticism for some of the warning signs mentioned.

The Feb. 20 report called “The Modern Militia Movement” mentions such red flags as political bumper stickers for third-party candidates, such as U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who ran for president last year; talk of conspiracy theories, such as the plan for a superhighway linking Canada to Mexico; and possession of subversive literature.

“It seems like they want to stifle political thought,” said Roger Webb, president of the University of Missouri campus Libertarians. “There are a lot of third parties out there, and none of them express any violence. In fact, if you join the Libertarian Party, one of the things you sign in your membership application is that you don’t support violence as a means to any ends.”

The latter story probably won’t cause any real harm, but the anti-baggie crackdown has had tragic consequences for Philadelphia store owners. Many of them are vulnerable immigrants who have been victimized by thuggish anti-narcotics cops. The corrupt officers have allegedly cut the wires to surveillance cameras while conducting busts, stolen property, and threatened victims who report them. All of this not even to prevent people from buying illegal drugs, but just to prevent them from having bags to keep them in. The absurdity of the War on Drugs knows no bounds.

[Links via Radley Balko, of course.]


Virginia’s Archaic Beverage Commission

Caleb Brown and Austin Bragg take on one of America’s most worthless regulatory agencies, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control:

Previous ABC idiocy has included banning beer pong, banning (and later allowing) beer popsicles, banning sangria until the legislature passed a law specifically allowing it (but not other beer and wine cocktails), and shutting down a small wine shop for not racking up enough food sales to go with its by-the-glass pours.

ABC’s contributions to society include… um… I’ll get back to you on that.