Links for 11/28/11

Slaughtering horses for food is once again legal in the US (but don’t get any ideas about using them as your personal Tauntaun). This is surely a sad day for my favorite commenter on this blog.

I’m generally willing to believe the worst about government, but there’s no need to posit conspiracy when incompetence is an adequate explanation.

Creative scams department: Why hailing a cab for strangers is illegal in New York City.

Yet another dubious heart miracle study that garners headlines despite its shoddy methodology.

Freakonomics on the limits of locavorism.

Jeff Alworth visits Belgium to report on the real state of Belgian beer. Big dependence on US market, high premium on getting any sort of association with an abbey, no matter how tenuous.

The case against Pi.

MxMo Retro Redemption Roundup

mxmologo1The theme for this month’s Mixology Monday was Retro Redemption, with the challenge being to revive a drink from the lost decades of mixology, defending it from detractors or giving it new life with better techniques and ingredients. Our merry band of cocktail bloggers came through big time with lots of creative takes on some old standards.

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Frederic at Cocktail Slut takes one for the team by trying out a packet of powdered Pink Squirrel mix from sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s. That drink ended up getting poured down the drain, but a scratch version using homemade peach pit ratafia came out much better. Hats off to Frederic for his bravery.

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Mackenzie at Spirit Imbibing writes that he wasn’t even alive during the 1980s. Hey Mackenzie, you’re not supposed to make the host feel old! He makes up for it by saying that my site was one of the ones that inspired him to get into cocktail blogging. Aw, shucks. His high-end take on the wine cooler, the Racer X, sounds downright delicious. (And having lived through the 80s, I can vouch that wine coolers were the beverage of choice for my mom for a while. I’m glad to say she’s traded them in for craft brewed beers today.)

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Dominik, the Opinionated Alchemist, tries his hand at the Scarlett O’Hara with his own Buttons and Cuffs, a homemade and awesome-sounding version of the ubiquitous Southern Comfort.

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Janice at House Made gives us the first of three Harvey Wallbanger variations, the Mr. Wallbanger, I Presume? This one keeps the Galliano but swaps out everything else, bringing in tequila, crema de mezcal, Aperol, grapefruit juice, vanilla syrup, and grapefruit bitters.

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Zach at The Venture Mixologist takes on that TGI Friday’s staple, the Mudslide. His updated version, the Filthy Irish, tones down the sweetness with the use of Irish whiskey, Averna, and mole bitters. Though he says a coffee liqueur less sweet than Kahlua would improve the drink, the idea works nicely.

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Elana at Stir and Strain uncovers a drink I’d never heard of, the Cola de Lagarto, or “Tail of the Lizard.” The original mixture of vodka, white wine, creme de menthe, lime juice, and sugar does indeed sound horrifying. Elana’s new version with Lillet, gin, and mint bitters sounds a lot better, and pretty refreshing.

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You probably think Paul Clarke knows a thing or two about cocktails. But guess what? Dude has never even tried an Appletini. Nonetheless he demands that the drink lives up to its name by creating it with gin and vermouth infused on the spot with fresh green apple. Honestly this sounds really good. But still, if you see Paul out and about in Seattle, somebody please buy him a “real” Appletini so that he knows he’s been missing.

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Chris at 1022 South sends in not one but two entries, the Hilltop Slammer and the Hilltop Iced Tea. Which reminds me, I really need to get up to Tacoma so I can try some of Chris’ drinks in person.

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The Sea Breeze blows Rowen at Fogged In Lounge in a Scandinavian direction, with aquavit standing in for vodka. I have a not-so-secret love of aquavit cocktails, so this sounds delicious.

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Jordan at Chemistry of the Cocktail revives the Long Island Iced Tea as the Isle of Seven Cities. It has better ingredients and more sensible proportions while still maintaining the spirit of the original. Fun fact: When I first started drinking cocktails, I turned down a Long Island because I “didn’t like tea.” Ah, how much I’ve learned since then!

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Marc at A Drinker’s Peace provides our second Wallbanger variation, the Hairy Headbanger. Marc travels back in time to mix Strega, Jager, and orange juice. Proportions? Who cares. So metal!

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This MxMo wouldn’t be complete without one drink served “against the wall.” Ed at Wordsmithing Pantagruel takes Plymouth sloe gin for a spin in the Sloe Comfortable Shag Up Against the Wall.

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Ian at Tempered Spirits gives us another Alabama Slammer variation, the Frank Bama. Trading bourbon and peach bitters for Southern Comfort, orgeat for Amaretto, and real sloe gin for the fake stuff, this comes out looking like a tasty sour.

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Dennis at Rock and Rye channels The Dude with an updated take on the White Russian. Like Dennis, I feel no shame indulging in a Caucasian now and then. His Black Drop, featuring coffee-infused bourbon, coffee liqueur, creme de cacao, and cream sounds tasty too though.

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Felicia at Felicia’s Speakeasy gets nostalgic exploring a hand-written recipe from a copy of Mr. Boston inherited from her parents. With fresh juice, the Apricot Sour comes out tasting pretty nice.

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Louis-Florian Tatsuhito at Le Trou d’Argent makes the Daisy Shell, a tequila take on the Brandy Crusta, with Ocho Blanco, lime, orange, maraschino, agave syrup, and salt.

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In a guest post at this site, my friend Paul Willenberg provides a new take on the Kamikaze featuring aquavit instead of vodka. I sipped on this recipe making a few substitutions based on what I had at home: Gammal Krogstad for the Linie and Mandarin Napoleon for the Grand Marnier. The half ounce of orange bitters in this drink is a great touch.

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Finally, in my post I give my own take on the Harvey Wallbanger, the Harvey Weissbanger, which omits the vodka and turns this drink into a beer cocktail.

Thanks to everyone who submitted drinks for this month’s Mixology Monday! It was a pleasure to host after so many times being involved as a participant.

MxMo Retro Redemption guest post

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We have one guest post for this Mixology Monday. This one’s from my friend Paul Willenberg, who gives the Kamikaze a new twist with aquavit and a healthy dose of orange bitters. Take it away Paul:

I’ve never participated in a Mixology Monday but this topic, along with the fact that my friend Jake is hosting, is too good to pass up. Now I’m no professional bartender, I just have a little bierstube.

Here are Jake’s Rules and here are mine. When revisiting a cocktail, you must honor one or more but not all or none of the following of the original:

1) base spirit
2) adjuncts
3) proportions
4) profile
5) intent

Now the original Kamikaze is equal parts vodka, triple sec, and lime juice, and the intent is a sweet drink that can be done as a shot to get chicks drunk. For my revival, I’ve chosen to honor #’s 5 and 4, and not flout 2 and 1. pSo I’ve replaced the vodka with a flavored vodka (aquavit) and the triple sec with a combo of (actually) orange things, and asked the lime to sit down a bit. The result is a very spice-forward and sippable, but also shot worthy drink.

2 oz Linie Aquavit
1/2 oz Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
1/4 oz Grand Marnier
1/4 oz lime juice

Shake all ingredients and garnish with peel.

MxMo Retro Redemption: Harvey Weissbanger

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This month’s Mixology Monday theme, as chosen by me, is Retro Redemption. The challenge: To resurrect a cocktail from the Dark Ages of mixology that fell between Prohibition and the contemporary cocktail renaissance, defending it on its merits or giving it new life with the addition of better techniques and ingredients.

This is a fitting theme for me to choose, because part of my job as a brand ambassador for Lucas Bols is promoting Galliano, an Italian liqueur flavored with anise, vanilla, and other herbs. Galliano was absolutely huge in the 1970s, showing up in a variety of cocktails served “against the wall” and by far most prominently in the Harvey Wallbanger. My parents, who don’t drink much but do keep a well stocked bar for guests, include a bottle of Galliano in their collection. They estimate they acquired it around 1978. I am pleased though not surprised that Galliano has shown up in several of the MxMo entries that have been sent in so far.

In the year-and-a-half that I’ve been working for Bols I’ve thought off and on about how to update the Harvey Wallbanger, which is made with vodka, orange juice, and Galliano. There’s a good flavor pairing there. Vanilla and orange go very well together. Look at the Creamsicle cocktail or the success of the Orange Julius chain. This combination works. The ingredient that doesn’t bring anything except alcohol to the drink is vodka. It’s just there in the background, not doing anything aside from getting people drunk. So to modernize the Harvey Wallbanger, the obvious thing to do is replace the vodka with something else.

So OK, what else pairs well with orange? If you read this blog you know that I love beer cocktails, and people have been putting oranges in wheat beers for years. Sometimes they do this in the brewing stage, as with Belgian witbier that’s flavored with coriander and orange peel. Sometimes a wedge of orange is simply added to the rim of the glass, as with some less complex American wheats. Either way, this is another flavor pairing that works.

Putting these pairing ideas together, you can omit the vodka and replace it with beer. Then you get the Harvey Weissbanger:

1 oz Galliano
2 oz orange juice
6 oz quality wheat beer

Build in an ice-filled collins glass, stir gently, and garnish with a strip of orange peel.

You can make this with just about any wheat beer, but the more flavorful ones work best. At my beer cocktail seminar with Ryan Conklin last month we served it with the Upright Four made here in Portland. For something more widely available, the classic Weihenstephaner is also fantastic. Give it a try. I think it’s a refreshing beer cocktail for sipping on the patio or knocking back at brunch.

[Photo by John Valls.]

Signs of Occupy Portland

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Last Saturday I went down to the Occupy Portland camps to have a look at what was going on there. This was the last day of occupation at the initial camp before the city ordered their eviction later that night. I’ve made my share of jokes about the Occupy movement, and I have a hard time taking any political movement too seriously, but I did want to give it a fair shot. As a friend of mine said in an “Appeal to Libertarians Concerning Occupy Wall Street,” we share significant common ground and shouldn’t dismiss the movement:

But, hold on a second. Last time I checked, aren’t we against bailouts and crony capitalism (a.k.a. capitalism), too? Remember how we have gay friends, and immigrant friends, and how we like freedom of expression, and we hate thug cops, and all that good stuff?

It was in that spirit that I walked through the camp. So first some good things, then some things I can’t get on board with.

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One encouraging observation from the camp was the almost complete absence of signs promoting politicians. This is probably due in part to the fact that Obama faces no serious challenge to the Democratic nomination, so there’s no one campaigning hard left for Occupiers to get behind. But still, a lot of the people protesting were probably pretty excited about Hope and Change a few years ago, and today they are disillusioned with government, or at least with the current crop of politicians. Who knows how long it will last, but it’s heartening to see.

I didn’t notice any signs for Lyndon LaRouche, so hey, progress! There were limited signs of support for Ron Paul, presumably for his strong anti-war and anti-bailout stances. Unsurprisingly, there was nothing for Gary Johnson. He’s a successful two-term governor of a Democratic state. He’s anti-war and wants to cut defense spending. He’s liberal on abortion, same-sex marriage, and drug legalization. He’s against crony capitalism. He’s Ron Paul with actual executive experience and none of the social conservative baggage. Unfortunately he’s running as a Republican and not receiving any media attention, so he’s not getting any traction here. Or anywhere else for that matter. So if any Occupiers feel like getting behind a quixotic presidential campaign and totally confusing the narrative, well, here’s your guy.

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Another interesting thing about the movement is its experiment in spontaneous order. A bunch of people setting up semi-permanent camp in a public park creates all kinds of logistical problems, like resolving conflicts, finding lost people, and taking care of basic sanitation. What it reminded me of is Hernando de Soto’s description of how extra-legal tent cities develop, which he analogizes in The Mystery of Capital to putting on your shoes before your socks:

Consider what it takes for a new migrant from a rural area to create a home for his family in a shantytown outside a large city. First, he not only has to find a spot for his house but also has to occupy the land personally, with his family. The next step is to set up a tent or shelter made from, depending on the country, straw matting, mud bricks, cardboard, plywood, corrugated iron, or tin cans — and thus stake out a physical claim (because a legal one is unavailable). The migrant and his family will then gradually bring in furniture and other household items. Obviously, they need a more livable and durable edifice. But how to build it without access to credit? They do what everyone else does — stock solid building materials and begin to build a better house, stage by stage, according to what kinds of materials they can accumulate.

Once the inhabitants of these new buildings have organized enough to protect their holdings or the local authorities take pity on their deprivation, they can bring in pavement, water, waste disposal, and electricity — typically at the cost of having to destroy parts of their houses in order to hook up the utilities. Only after years of building and rebuilding, and saving construction materials, are these owners finally in a position to live comfortably.

The Occupiers were living out the first parts of this process. I was impressed by the ingenuity required to set up a semi-functional community in the middle of a downtown park. Yet the protesters also demonstrated how the basic rudiments of capitalism — secure property rights and an accessible legal system — make it so much easier to get things done and can make the poor immensely better off. To be fair, this isn’t the sort of capitalism that most of them are protesting, but from a global perspective the Occupiers have to acknowledge that they have it pretty good. I’m not asking for three cheers for capitalism, but how about just one?

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traitors

It’s signs like the above, and the “Capitalism is Destroying Our World” sign at the top of the page, that ensure I’ll stay politically homeless. The anti-intellectualism and social conservatism of the Tea Party prevent me from getting on board with that group. Similarly, no matter how much I agree with Occupiers about some of the flaws in our current system, I can’t ever march under banners like these. Capitalism and the pursuit of profit remain the most reliable methods we have of improving people’s lives. The trick is to differentiate between profits earned by creating value and profits taken via subsidies, tax breaks, and regulations that cripple one’s competitors. I realize it’s trite to point out the irony of people damning capitalism while tweeting from their iPhones, but what else can you do?

“People Not Profits” is not the answer. “People And Profits, Not Subsidies” is a mantra I could get behind. Alas, not catchy.

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“Corporate personhood is not the issue here, Dude!” — What I feel like yelling at a lot of people lately. If you follow the Occupy hashtags on Twitter or walk through the protests you hear a lot of anger directed at corporate personhood, and it’s as facepalm-inducing as the “People Not Profits” signs.

As Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry helpfully explains, corporations are persons, not people. This means that “they’re recognized by the law as entities that can have a name, sue in court, be a party to contracts and have property.” And that is incredibly important. This doesn’t mean that corporations must be given all the rights enjoyed by flesh and blood people. The law is perfectly capable of recognizing different rights for different types of persons. See for example the different treatment of natural born citizens, naturalized citizens, non-citizens with visas, and undocumented workers. They’re all legal persons; they don’t all have the same rights. If the government has a compelling interest in restricting rights of corporations, it can do so.

Since corporations are persons, not people, why give them rights at all? Another way to ask the question is, why should people forfeit their rights just because they organize in the corporate form? Corporations would be useless if they did. It’s emphatically a good thing that the government cannot seize corporate assets without due process. It’s emphatically a good thing that it can’t take corporate-owned land for public use without paying just compensation. And yes, it’s emphatically a good thing that corporations have at least some speech rights to express the interests of their shareholders.

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Which brings us to the real issue here, Citizens United. Reasonable people can disagree about where to set the limits on corporate speech rights, but this case was a fairly perfect example of the sort of speech the First Amendment was designed to protect. Citizens United is a non-profit advocacy group funded mostly by individuals that sought to air a movie criticizing a presidential candidate. If that’s not protected speech, what is?

The Court arguably ruled more broadly than it needed to in Citizens United, but it’s worth pointing out how much didn’t change as a result of the ruling. Corporations are still forbidden from contributing to political campaigns. Citizens United addressed the relatively narrow question of whether corporations could pay for broadcast ads mentioning a candidate by name 60 days prior to a general election or 30 days prior to a primary. That’s it. Before and after Citizens United, corporations had and still have many other ways to speak politically. They can form PACs. They can broadcast issue ads. Wealthy individuals who work for or own corporations can spend as much of their own money as they please. Corporations can promote their messages in other media. Hell, they can become media by purchasing a newspaper or a TV station. And that’s just speech; this list doesn’t even get into the numerous other ways corporations can gain influence. About half of the states were already operating without laws similar to those overturned by Citizens United.

I happen to think that Citizens United was decided essentially correctly, but I also don’t think it’s quite the disaster for progressives that some of them think it is. It’s worth noting too that the decision also extends rights to unions and non-profits whose speech rights had also been restricted.

Fundamentally, beyond limits on direct campaign contributions and requirements of disclosure, it’s just not easy to limit expenditures on speech without violating First Amendment rights of deserving speakers. Even Lawrence Lessig now says:

Of course money equals free speech. And we should ask the people who are railing against the idea of money being free speech: “What if congress passed a law, and the Supreme Court allowed it, that said ‘Nobody can spend more than a thousand dollars challenging an incumbent.’”? You’d say, wait a minute, that’s a pretty effective way to guarantee an incumbent will always win, and I want to use my money as a way to speak freely about my desire to challenge the incumbent.

There’s no simple solution for reducing the influence of money on politics. Lessig proposes a sort of voucher system of public financing. Libertarians say we need to reduce the scope of government so that its favors are less important. Regardless, while Citizens United may work as a symbol for too much money in politics, I take Lessig to be right about this much: We’re better off finding new ways to enable speech than seeking new ways to restrict it. It’s disappointing that one of the more popular ideas among the Occupiers is a desire to reduce the scope of the First Amendment.

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One of the most frequently noted difficulties with the Occupy movement is figuring out exactly what it’s fighting for. The spontaneous order that it has successfully used to organize tactics has been less useful for building consensus about political ends. The camp in Portland became a place to air a mish-mash of complaints. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but it makes it hard to hold together a coherent protest. Protests work best when there are specific wrongs to be righted. Stop denying people’s right to vote. Stop denying people’s right to marry. Stop executing people when there is untested DNA evidence that could exonerate them. Or in this example of a sit-in that worked, stop your university from investing in companies that do business in Apartheid era South Africa. These are demands that can be acted on and goals that can be met.

It’s not clear that the same is true for Occupy, whose goals seem to be much more nebulously grouped around a loose concept of economic justice. At what point does the economic system become sufficiently just for protesters to stop occupying? Without articulated aims the movement never gets to declare victory and go home. Already, in reaction to evictions, it’s hard to tell if occupation is a means to an end or if it’s becoming an end in itself. What are the occupations accomplishing now that couldn’t be accomplished through regular meetings, smart online advocacy, and well-planned protests?

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Post-eviction, the best thing going for Occupy Portland is that they provoked a response from the police. They got a chilling photo of cops in riot gear shooting pepper spray into the face of an unarmed woman. Things are even uglier in other cities. You look at those photos and videos and whose side are you going to be on? I have my share of disagreements with the Occupiers, but I’m absolutely disgusted by cops using excessive force against non-violent protesters.

But longer term, the movement needs to figure out what it’s doing. Prior to the evictions last weekend it was a point of pride for Occupy Portland that it was only protesting on public space. And while it’s a dubious proposition that the right of peaceable assembly includes setting up indefinite camp on public land, I’m all for people getting out there and protesting crony capitalism. Protest away! I was glad to see the Tea Party emerge and I’m glad to see the Occupy movement echoing some of the same themes.

But please, keep it to peaceful protests in public venues. I can’t tell you how much sympathy I lost for Occupy Portland when I saw the mob shutting down private bank branches, and from scanning local tweets I wasn’t the only one. Interfering in the private commerce of ordinary individuals is no way to advance a cause. An appeal to the Occupiers: By all means, persuade the customers of big banks to switch to local credit unions, but don’t become so certain of your views that you feel you have the right to force them on your fellow citizens.

Ultimately, the Occupy movement is going to have to accept that it doesn’t speak for the 99%. The 99% is divided. Support for Occupy is only around 33%. The consensus that groups can arrive at in a General Assembly is much greater than what they can pull off among the general population. Achieving anything in practice is going to require the much more prosaic business of working changes through the democratic process. Julian Sanchez says this more eloquently than I could:

[...] if disagreement is real—if large numbers of my fellow citizens sincerely hold very different views about what policy is best—then protest, however vital as a consciousness raising tool, can only be a preparation for the more humdrum enterprise of convincing your neighbors with sustained arguments (or being convinced yourself), electing candidates, and all the rest. To imagine protest not as prologue to politics, but as a substitute for it, suggests a denial of the reality of pluralism, and an unwillingness to find out what democracy actually looks like.

I’m afraid the alternative is going to be a self-defeating conflict between Occupiers and anyone who disagrees with them or is unwilling to sacrifice for the movement. There is some sign of this in the indifference shown to the many Portlanders, almost surely in the 99%, who couldn’t get to public transportation or their bank branch. Or in the decision of Occupy DC protesters to forcibly prevent people from leaving an Americans for Prosperity dinner where they listened to contrary views. Or in this reaction to Oakland workers who just wanted to get past the protest and to their jobs:

“These people tried to kill us. I can’t believe they are being that aggressive over a paycheck, over your own people fighting for you.”

If I counted myself among the Occupiers, I’d be looking very closely at the Tea Party right now. Despite all the jokes directed at the Tea Party it has endured as a political force. What it hasn’t done is produce a credible candidate for the presidency. Here’s Conor Friedersdorf explaining this failure:

[...] the actual tea party isn’t savvy. It overestimates its clout within the GOP, fails to appreciate the many obstacles to winning a general election, let alone implementing its agenda, and is therefore careless and immature in choosing its champions. It elevates polarizing figures of questionable competence like Sarah Palin because doing so is cathartic. [...]

Why couldn’t the tea party produce a viable candidate? Its partisans put fiery rhetoric ahead of substance, judged GOP politicians based on the extravagance of their promises more than what they’d actually accomplished, failed to demand of its champions some baseline level of competence, and insisted on pols who deliberately piss off outsiders rather than Reaganesque communicators intent on converting them. Tea partiers got drunk off the pleasure of hearing their prejudices echoed. They’re now waking up to face their hangover. And his name is Mitt Romney.

Is Occupy up for the challenge of doing better?

Mixology Monday LXIII: Retro Redemption!

mxmologo Contemporary cocktail enthusiasts take pride in resurrecting forgotten cocktails of the past — unless “the past” refers to the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, or 90s. We sometimes refer to these decades as the Dark Ages of Mixology, eras not yet recovered from the violence Prohibition and a World War inflicted on American cocktail culture. The classic Martini, a flavorful blend of gin and vermouth, had morphed into a glass of cold, diluted vodka. Other drinks were just too sweet, too fruity, too big, too silly.

But still, it wasn’t all bad. People ordered these drinks for a reason. Despite the now annual “burial” of a disfavored drink at Tales of the Cocktail, not all of them deserve to die. Perhaps, as they said of the Six Million Dollar Man, we can rebuild them. We have the technology. So the theme of this month’s Mixology Monday is Retro Redemption! Your task is to revive a drink from mixology’s lost decades. Perhaps you feel one of these drinks has a bad rap; tell us why it deserves another shot. Or maybe the original concoction just needs a little help from contemporary ingredients and techniques to make it in the big leagues. If so, tell us how to update it.

Post your cocktail recipe on Monday, November 21, along with a photo, the Mixology Monday logo, and a link back to this site and the Mixology Monday homepage. Then post a link to your post in the comments here or send me an email at feedback@jacobgrier.com. Don’t have a blog? Feel free to send me your photo and recipe and I’ll collect it in a second post.

I look forward to seeing what you all come up with.

Update 11/21/11: You may notice a glitch trying to comment but your comment should go through. Please refresh the page to check.

Links for 11/13/11

I have a ridiculous numbers of tabs open right now. Note to self: More links posts.

“Of course money equals free speech.” An interesting and sometimes surprising interview with Lawrence Lessig.

Just when you think you’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel of studies linking smoking bans to reduced heart attacks, Stanton Glantz is there to prove you wrong. In 2009 the rate of heart attacks in North Carolina fell by 10.5%. In 2010, the first year of the state’s smoking ban, the rate of heart attacks fell by only 5.5%. So how does Glantz publish a study showing that, according to his statistical model, admissions for heart attacks fell by an astonishing 21% in 2010 from what they would have been without a smoking ban?

It’s good to see John Tierney reveal the absurdity of trying to ban e-cigarettes in The New York Times.

Department of Unintended Consequences: DC City Council bans sales of single bottles of beer in some neighborhoods. Merchants respond by selling inexpensive two-packs instead.

The fascinating story of why Grade B maple syrup is better than the more expensive Grade A.

Corduroy appreciation photos

Here are a couple of my favorite photos from Corduroy Appreciation Day. This first one was sent to me by Portland resident Adam Schafer. He wasn’t able to attend our party but he may have outdone us all with this amazing Corduroy Appreciation Cake.

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Second, here’s my friend Ed Ryan sporting the reversible corduroy smoking jacket from Betabrand. Casual on one side, party on the other. We put it to its intended use in the El Gaucho cigar lounge at 11:11 pm, where it was the envy of all present.

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Hail the Wale!

Sherry cocktails at Culinate

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My latest column at Culinate gives a little sherry 101 and suggests three ways to mix with it, along with the newest addition to the Metrovino menu, the PX Flip:

2 oz. Pedro Ximinez Sherry
1/2 oz. Angostura bitters
1 whole egg

Shake hard with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg. For the sherry I suggest the Lustau San Emilio PX, which is balanced by more acidity than some other PX sherries.

Sherry has appeared in a few other cocktails on this site, including the Decatur, Walking Spanish, and the Two Item Rule.

Gojee Drinks goes live

Today is the launch of Gojee Drinks, a new site for discovering cocktail recipes. It’s a cool concept: Simply input the ingredients you own or crave, and Gojee will return drinks made with those ingredients. The recipes are sourced from cocktail bloggers including Paul Clarke, Matt Robold, Michael Dietsch, and myself. When you see a recipe you like you’ll be directed to our sites for the full background and instructions for mixing it. I’ve been trying out the already popular Gojee Food in preparation for the launch and am a fan of the site. Visit Gojee Drinks to take it for a spin.

Hail the Wale and the Two Item Rule

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Long time readers know that I have a possibly unhealthy love of corduroy fabric. I have corduroy pants, jackets, and hats. Even my laptop case is lined in corduroy, which was a big selling point for me when I bought it. When I first considered moving to Portland from Washington, DC I thought, “That is a city with a relaxed sense of fashion and many cool rainy days. I could probably wear a lot of corduroy there.”

In some sense every day is a day to appreciate corduroy, but in another sense there is only one true Corduroy Appreciation Day, as declared by the venerable Corduroy Appreciation Club. That is 11|11, the date that most resembles corduroy. And this Friday being 11|11|11, it is the date that most resembles corduroy, ever. (Except for 11|11|1111, but I’m pretty sure the people of that time had yet to discover essential comforts like modern medicine, indoor plumbing, and finely waled fabrics.)

Corduroy Appreciation Club founder Miles Rohan has planned an amazing series of celebratory happenings in New York this week, including the installation of the Corduroy Messiah. Unfortunately I cannot be there. However I have teamed up with Portland’s The Hop and Vine to organize a celebration of our own. From 5-8 pm this Friday, The Hop and Vine’s new chef will be serving a special menu of twists on food from the Golden Age of Corduroy, with items such as smoked pork, beef, and lamb Swedish meatballs. We’ll also have a special Two Item Rule cocktail for the occasion, named after the Two Item Rule in effect at the Club’s official meetings. Wear one item of Corduroy, get a dollar off. Wear two items and get two. Wear three and, well, you still only get two dollars off, but you will have won the admiration of all who gaze you upon you.

What’s in a Two Item Rule cocktail? In a nod to the fabric’s reportedly English origins, I aimed to use only English or English-inspired ingredients to create a drink as smooth and lush as corduroy itself. It features the very lightly sweetened Old Tom style gin, authentic sloe gin, and cream sherry, a type of sherry originally targeted to the British market.

1 1/2 oz Ransom Old Tom gin
1 oz Dios Baco cream sherry
3/4 oz Plymouth sloe gin

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon twist. The Dios Baco cream sherry is not too sweet, so adjust the recipe if using a different sherry. And definitely use real sloe gin, not the cloying artificial stuff from the liquor store’s bottom shelf. Consume while wearing at least two items of corduroy or while reclining on a corduroy couch.

If you’re in Portland, join us this Friday to toast the world’s greatest fabric. Details are here. For last minute corduroy needs, Bonobos and Betabrands make good stuff. And be sure to check out the official page of the Corduroy Appreciation Club for all things corduroy.

Hail the Wale!

Links for 11/4/11

Is junk food the next tobacco? Diet paternalists are taking pages from the anti-smoking playbook.

In Australia, a law that banned smoking by mental health patients is likely to be reversed due to its cruel effects:

Reports have shown some involuntary patients were even swapping sex for cigarettes and poking electricity sockets with paper clips to get a spark and light up. [...]

Ms Morton said the total smoking ban was harming patients and hindering their recovery, as well as endangering staff who had to deal with patients desperate for a cigarette. She said there was widespread support from stakeholders in the mental health area for a lifting of the smoking ban, which she hoped to change by next year.

Christopher Snowdon follows up on Oregon’s heart non-miracle.

Now that’s a leave of absence:

Last fall, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed decided to use vacation days he had saved up in his eight years as a regional compliance specialist in the Buffalo office of the New York Department of Transportation. He told his co-workers he would be traveling to Mogadishu—the city he was born in, but had not seen since 1985—and that he would return in three weeks. What he didn’t reveal was the purpose of the trip: to interview to become prime minister of Somalia.

Troy Patterson rounds up the year’s cocktail books and examines each through the lens of that enduring and infinitely varied cocktail, the Old-Fashioned.

Ken Jennings is the 99%.

Two more heart attack studies

As an addendum to the previous post, I should mention two more recent studies of smoking bans and heart attack rates. The first, from Brad Rodu, Nicholas Peiper and Philip Cole, published a couple months ago in Journal of Community Health, examines rates in six states and finds no effect:

The AMI mortality rate among persons age 45 + years (deaths per 100,000 persons, age-standardized to the 2000 US population) in the 3 years before adoption of the smoke-free ordinance (the expected rate) was compared with the rate observed in the first full year after the ban (the target year) in six US states. Target-year declines were also compared to those in states without smoking bans. Target-year declines in AMI mortality in California (2.0%), Utah (7.7%) and Delaware (8.1%) were not significantly different from the expected declines (P = 0.16, 0.43 and 0.89, respectively). In South Dakota AMI mortality increased 8.9% in the target year (P = 0.007). Both a 9% decline in Florida and a 12% decline in New York in the 2004 target year exceeded the expected declines (P = 0.04 and P < 0.0002, respectively) but were not significantly different (P = 0.55 and 0.08, respectively) from the 9.8% decline that year in the 44 states without bans. Smoke-free ordinances provide a healthy indoor environment, but their implementation in six states had little or no immediate measurable effect on AMI mortality.

The second unpublished study [pdf] looks at rates in 74 US cities that implemented smoking bans. It finds a decline of a mere 3% following implementation. Contrary to expectation, the effect disappears entirely when restricted to the 43 cities whose bans were meaningful. All things considered, it lends support to the idea that smoking bans have no short-term impact on heart attack rates.

[Thanks to Chris Snowdon and Michael McFadden for the links.]

Two years later, no heart miracle in Oregon

I have an op/ed up today at The Oregonian addressing the question, “Whatever happened to Oregon’s heart miracle?” Oregon’s statewide smoking ban took effect in 2009 and was predicted by many advocates to result in a steep decline in the rate of heart attacks of 17% or more. I contacted the Oregon Public Health Division to see if hospital data bore this out. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t.

For those who are curious, here is the age-adjusted rate of heart attack admissions for Oregon as provided to me by the state, with percentage change from the previous year in parenthesis:

2003 198.4
2004 181.2 (8.67)
2005 166.8 (7.95)
2006 166.6 (0.12)
2007 163.4 (1.92)
2008 152.5 (6.67)
2009 141.5 (7.21)
2010 137.1 (3.11)

And here is the same data in graph form:

oregonami

As I explain in the op/ed, the drop in 2009 is on trend with those in previous years and can’t be reasonably attributed to the smoking ban, and even under the rosiest interpretation it is still less than half of what ban advocates predicted.

The task of explaining this discrepancy fell to Ty Gluckman, director of clinical excellence for Providence Heart and Vascular Institute. It was Gluckman who wrote in 2009 that “[...] it’s highly likely that Oregon’s heart attack rates are already dropping as we near the law’s one-year anniversary. If we reduce the number of acute heart attacks by 17 percent, there will be at least 1,100 fewer hospital admissions in Oregon in just one year.” I said at the time that there was no way this was going to happen. You can read his entire response here.

Undaunted by contrary data, Gluckman suggests that Oregon’s less than stunning decline in heart attacks is due to two factors. One is that many bars were already banning smoking voluntarily before the ban. Another is that over this same period Oregonians were becoming more obese. However these confounding factors hold to some extent just about everywhere, which is why the only way to test the impact of bans is by 1) looking for increased rates of decline after implementation and 2) comparing these results with control populations that were not under a ban. This is essentially the method of the RAND study cited in my article, which found no impact.

The story in Oregon is consistent with that of other large populations that experienced no noticeable decline in heart attack rates following implementation of a smoking ban. See for example this New Zealand study, omitted from the meta-analysis Gluckman cites, or the publicly available data from many national governments.

Today’s article is my third Oregonian contribution on the subject of the state smoking ban. In 2008 I argued that the ban wasn’t actually about saving lives. In 2009 I argued that the its exemptions were unduly restrictive. Finally, also in 2009, I wrote for Doublethink about the last night of legal smoking at my favorite cigar hangout, the legendary Horse Brass pub.