Super Bowl Punch Out!

Apparently there is some kind of sporting event happening this Sunday. Thrillist Portland invited Jeff McCarthy from TenTop/Kitchen Cru, Janis Martin from Tanuki, and me and the Brewing Up Cocktails team to contribute a few recipes for readers’ Super Bowl gatherings. We all managed to make things just a little bit weird: a fermented beef sausage from Janis, Doritios encrusted wings from Jeff, and a gin, IPA, and Galliano punch from us. Any host that makes all three of these is guaranteed to have a memorable party.

Visit Thrillist for all three recipes. Here’s the punch:

2 12 oz bottles IPA or pale ale, chilled
6 oz gin
6 oz orange liqueur
3 oz lime juice
2 oz Galliano
1/2 cucumber, sliced

Combine ingredients in a punch bowl, add ice, and serve. Some dilution is beneficial here so if you’re using a large ice block consider adding a few smaller cubes as well. We didn’t want to call for specific brands in the Thrillist post, but in my own testing I used Damrak for the gin, Mandarine Napoleon for the orange liqueur, and Full Sail IPA for the beer. I like this combination but feel free to make substitutions.


We’ve created a monster

This Bone Luge thing is getting out of control! The new issue of New York Magazine ranks the Bone Luge on its weekly Approval Matrix, declaring it slightly highbrow and mostly despicable.

K103 reporter Felicia Heaton has a friendlier take on the topic. She stopped into Metrovino for her first taste of marrow and followed it up with a madeira Bone Luge, declaring both delicious. Watch the video below and click over to K103 for the full story.


Links for 1/21/12

Long read for the day: 2010 Jacob Sullum piece on why Citizens United was essentially correct, protects speech, and changes much less than people think it does.

A brief history of Super PACs from Paul Sherman.

Chris Snowdon on the spread of campus smoking bans. There are now more than 600 smoke-free campuses in the US.

Derek Brown contemplates binge drinking.

The Bone Luge captured on video! The crew at Ludivine in Oklahoma City shows you how it’s done:


Smoking: More than just a vice

horsebrass 021

Something Not Unlike Research” is a health care blog I recently came across written by two university professors. One of them, Bill Gardner, wrote this week in defense of employers choosing not to hire smokers. He concluding by noting that “Smoking is a vice that benefits no one.” I took him to task for this last line on Twitter:

“Smoking is a vice that benefits no one.” — @Bill_Gardner Oh please. I like it. It benefits me! Arrogant assumption.

To my surprise, he responded in a new post:

My point is that I do not see a compelling argument against employers choosing not to hire them. By extension, we should have no public policies protecting access to employment for smokers (or bone lugers). This is, I believe, consistent with Mill’s view that

The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.

I do want to see smoking go away, and I think social pressure is what makes that happen. (“Social pressure” is not, I think what Mill means by “exercising power”.) To that end, I think it is legitimate to ban smoking in public places, and for employers to refuse to hire smokers if they judge that to be in the interest of their firms.

Having conceded that smoking may benefit Jacob’s subjective well-being, can I still say that “smoking is a vice that benefits no one”? I certainly can, if it’s understood that benefit refers to the long-term well-being of smokers, and those who depend upon them, rather than immediate subjective well-being. In that sense of benefit, there is nothing to be said for smoking or binge drinking.

(NB: The binge drinking reference is about the bone luge, which happened to be the top post on my site when he visited. The photo definitely makes his post more awesome but I’ll stick to the smoking discussion!)

I’ll elaborate in more than the 140 characters allowed by Twitter. To start, I agree with Bill that smokers shouldn’t be a protected class of worker. I think refusing to hire smokers is generally a silly policy but that’s something the market can sort out. Where we disagree is in our assessment of smoking. He says that smoking is “a vice that benefits no one” in the long term, that “there is nothing to be said for smoking,” and that “I do want to see smoking go away.”

I know where he’s coming from because I used to make the same assumptions. I grew up believing everything bad about smoking and made it through high school and college without taking a single puff from a cigarette. My interest in tobacco began shortly after I started working as a barista. In conversation with a cigar-smoking friend, I realized that he talked about his stogies the same way I talked about coffee. The varietal of the plant and the origin of the leaf mattered, a Cameroon wrapper tasting differently than one from Nicaragua. Flavors ranged from light sun-grown tobacco to deep, dark maduro, much as coffee roasts came on a spectrum from light to dark. And he suggested that there was just as much difference between the hand-rolled cigars he was smoking and the mass produced cigarettes of Big Tobacco as there was between Folgers and the small batch beans I brewed.

Perhaps, I thought, there was more to tobacco than I realized. When I eventually tried a cigar for the first time I took to it at once. Doing that required getting over my own prejudices that had led to me viewing smoking as pure vice, an unhealthy and addictive habit without redeeming qualities.

I am not addicted to tobacco. I go weeks and months without it. Of the three mood-enhancing drugs I enjoy — caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine — the last would be by far the easiest to never again partake of. It’s unlikely that my occasional indulgence in a cigar will have any significant effects on my health, though there is a small chance that it will. In exchange cigars have given me wonderful experiences, both in taste and in the friendships that have deepened over contemplative, smoke-fueled conversations. I expect that cigars are a net benefit in my life on both the short and the long view. Perhaps additional evidence could persuade me otherwise, but it can’t simply be assumed that I’m mistaken.

Admittedly I don’t fit the median profile of a smoker. However the value that smokers get out of smoking is almost never acknowledged by anti-smoking activists, who treat smoking as inherently wrong. Unlike them, and perhaps unlike Bill, I don’t want to see a completely smoke-free America. I want to see smoking substantially reduced. I’d like for people to smoke less and smoke better, using products other than cigarettes, which seem to be the most dangerous form of tobacco. (It’s also worth noting that the employment policies that inspired these posts are enforced via urine tests for nicotine, which wouldn’t discriminate between pack-a-day smokers and those who smoke rarely or those who are trying to quit with the aid of nicotine patches or gums.)

Semantics aside, activists’ unwillingness to consider the benefits of smoking leads to excessively restrictive policies. Let’s take smoking bans for example. Consider two businesses:

Business 1 is a tobacco shop with an attached lounge that offers beer and wine. Customers are allowed to smoke there. It’s a freestanding building with no immediate neighbors, so no one except customers and employees is affected by the smoking. Four people are employed serving drinks in the lounge. A smoking ban passes that forces the business to eliminate drink service. The day the ban takes effect those four employees lose their jobs.

Business 2 is a restaurant that serves Dungeness crab caught in the Pacific Northwest. Commercial fishing has one of the highest fatality rates of any occupation and crabbing in this region is often the highest of all. For comparison, the average annual fatality rate for all occupations is 4 per 100,000 workers. For fishing as a whole the rate is 115/100,000. For Dungeness crab fishermen in the Pacific Northwest the rate is 463/100,000. (Source here.) There are no proposals to forbid restaurants from serving Dungeness crab.

The comparison might seem silly, but why? Dungeness crab is delicious but it’s hardly a staple in the food supply. Fishermen are literally dying to put it on our plates. Though the level of risk associated with secondhand smoke exposure is in dispute, it would be astonishing if the danger of pouring beer in a smoky room was at all comparable to crabbing on a stormy ocean. So again, why the disparity in how we treat these workers?

The number of actual deaths resulting from Dungeness crabbing is low since it’s a small industry, but it provides a model for how we normally regulate occupational risk. We don’t ban dangerous jobs, we try to discover reasonable rules to make them safer. Safety regulations have apparently been successful in reducing the fatality rate among Alaskan Dungeness fishermen.

Let’s accept for the sake of argument that banning smoking in some places to protect patrons and employees is justified under Mill’s proviso. It’s much harder to argue that smoke-friendly businesses should be banned entirely. Our normal approach to worker safety would allow people to work in smoking venues, subject to reasonable rules about ventilation to minimize risk.

Yet exceptions to smoking bans are often unreasonably narrow, preventing consenting adults from making free exchanges with each other. This is because policy makers view smoking as inherently without value. The thought process goes something like this:

1) Smoking has no value.

2) Protecting workers has value.

3) Therefore it’s OK to ban smoking everywhere without worrying about smokers’ preferences.

This is why I vehemently object to statements such as Bill’s. They create an environment in which the rights of smokers, business owners, and workers are too easily violated. I’ve seen too many of my favorite places completely altered by smoking bans, to the dismay of owners, patrons, and employees. See my ode to one of them, the Horse Brass, in DoubleThink magazine. Business 1 above is another example; it’s an actual establishment outside of Portland.

In sketch form, here are two other arguments for how ignoring the benefits of smoking skews our thinking and leads to bad policy.

Electronic cigarettes — The view of many in tobacco control is that tobacco is inherently bad and that quitting should be smokers’ only goal. It would undeniably be a good thing if more smokers quit, but the obvious truth is that quitting is difficult and relapse is frequent. A new study concludes that even with increased use of nicotine replacement therapy and quitlines, the rate of successful cessation has remained unchanged.

E-cigarettes are a promising alternative for smokers who find it difficult to quit. They are undoubtedly safer than actual cigarettes and offer a substantial opportunity for harm reduction, whether used to quit entirely or just to reduce use of real tobacco. Their popularity is likely due in part to their similarity to cigarettes: their appearance, the ritual of lighting them up, the ability to manage nicotine levels through their use. They deliver many of the same benefits smokers’ get from cigarettes at a fraction of the health cost. Yet precisely for this reason they are treated with outright hostility by many in tobacco control, who blind themselves to e-cigarettes’ potential because of their puritanical view of smoking — including acts that mimic smoking — as inherently bad.

Flavored cigarettes — The legislation giving the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco included a ban on all flavorings except for menthol. The reprieve for menthol may only be temporary. Flavors are treated as dangerous additives but they’re essentially being banned because they make smoking more appealing and enjoyable. This is pure paternalism. If a consenting adult wants to have a clove cigarette, he should be allowed to buy a clove cigarette.

The preferences of smokers were never given a voice in this debate. Because smoking was simply assumed to have no value, smokers were dismissed as addicts who could only benefit from this legislation. Perversely, those of us who support consumer choice on menthol are accused of racism since menthol cigarettes are popular among African-Americans. It’s unclear at this point how FDA regulation may affect more artisanal forms of tobacco, but the industry is understandably worried: If the agency views tobacco as inherently bad, it’s unlikely to pass regulations in the interest of pipe and cigar consumers.

The costs of smoking are undeniably high, yet smoking has persisted even in the face of penalties as harsh as death. The habit is here to stay. Unfortunately, smoking has become synonymous with Big Tobacco and the lowly, lethal cigarette. There is much more to it than that, and more to say on its half behalf. But that will have to wait for a future post.


Year of the Bone Luge


2012 is becoming the year of the Bone Luge even faster than I’d anticipated. The official Bone Luge Tumblr blog is taking submissions. Metrovino has Bone Luge pairing suggestions on the menu. In Denver, Tim Tebow fever has led to T-Boning, taking a Manhattan cocktail down a bone while assuming the Tebow position. And today Tasting Table picked up the story, introducing the Bone Luge to a sometimes skeptical world.

For the record, credit for taking the very first Bone Luge that I’m aware of goes to Danny Ronen on a night when he and I were enjoying copious amounts of tequila at Laurelhurst Market. It started as a joke, spread to the dining room via Twitter, and is now hitting the big time.

Ultimately, the Bone Luge is about increasing happiness in the world. Read the manifesto here. Above: Things get even sillier at Irvington Bierstube with the crab leg luge, paired with a late harvest riesling.


Links for 1/14/12

What is Austrian economics all about? Peter Boettke explains in Five Books.

How art history majors power the US economy.

The organization’s support for smoking bans and higher tobacco taxes is enough reason for me to never contribute to Livestrong. Contrary to popular perception, it turns out the group doesn’t channel the money it raises into cancer research.

Chris Moody scores the best presidential campaign interview: RuPaul on Ron Paul.

Lake Oswego realizes it actually can’t afford a streetcar.

Why your cat might have a craving for mushrooms.

The ballad of @horse_ebooks.


Genever is genever


The title of this post doesn’t promise anything informative: Genever is genever. Yet when I hear people explain what genever is, they usually say something like “Genever is Dutch gin.” Or a kind of gin they drink in Holland. Or a malty style of gin that was popular in the United States before London dry took over. Gin gin gin gin gin. Look, I enjoy gin too — the gin shelf in my apartment is filled to overflowing — but genever is a different thing. Genever is genever. Labels are admittedly somewhat arbitrary, but I’d like to persuade you that there are good reasons to think of genever as its own distinct category of spirits.

I should first disclose that I’m not a disinterested party on this matter. I work for the Dutch distillery Lucas Bols and my job largely consists of encouraging people to drink more genever. It’s a better pitch for me to walk into a bar and say, “You should carry at least one genever” than it is to say, “You should carry an additional gin, and it should be this unusual Dutch one.” However that’s not the only reason I’m urging this change in classification. The spirit is maltier and less botanical than gin and it doesn’t mix in the same way. Calling genever a type of gin creates confusion.

Consider a typical consumer. He walks into a liquor store, sees a bottle of genever in the gin section, and is intrigued enough to buy it. He takes it home and puts it in his favorite gin drink, a Gin and Tonic. This is a classic pairing for a London dry. But genever and tonic? Eh, not so much. The bottle gets tucked away and forgotten.

Or consider a bartender who finds genever added to the gin section of his employer’s menu. He makes a Martini with it. Is that going to make him enthusiastic about genever? Probably not.

Both of these drinks are excellent with gin. They’re not ideally suited to genever. It’s no fault of the consumer or the bartender that the cocktails didn’t turn out as they’d hoped: They were told genever was gin, so they tried mixing it in absolutely standard gin drinks. They were given the wrong expectations about the product. If they knew what genever is actually like and how to use it, that disappointment could have been avoided. The first step in that education is getting them to think of genever as genever rather than as a kind of gin.

Here’s an analogy I sometimes use to explain my work with Lucas Bols. Imagine that your job was to promote tequila before many people in the United States had any idea what tequila was. You might tell them it’s sort of like rum, produced in the southern latitudes and with an affinity for mixing with lime and other citrus. Or you might tell them it’s like whiskey or brandy, aged in barrels and very nice to sip neat. Neither of these descriptions is completely accurate, but they give consumers a starting point for enjoying the spirit.

In fact, that is pretty close to how some Americans first encountered tequila. Bottles arrived in the American market labeled “Mexican Whiskey.” You can see these in the Sauza Family Museum in Tequila or in this photo. It’s an interesting snapshot of how an unknown spirit reached many consumers in the guise of something more familiar. (The labeling regulations didn’t get worked out until the 1970s.)

When we encounter a new spirit, our impulse is to understand it by reference to spirits we already know. This is perfectly sensible. But eventually, if we really want to know a spirit, we need to understand it on its own terms. For tequila, we need to know about agave, not grain. Tequila would have never thrived the way it has in the American market if it was forever viewed through the lens of whiskey, if its essential “agave-ness” were never allowed to shine through.


Genever today is in a similar position to those early tequilas. As genever re-entered the American market a few years ago, people needed an existing spirit to compare it to. They needed a section of their menu or their liquor store to put it in. Seizing on the etymology and botanicals it shares with gin, they reasonably grouped the two together. My view is that this classification misses the essence of the spirit, that genever is to “Dutch gin” as tequila is to “Mexican whiskey.” (Above: A photo I took at a liquor store in Amsterdam. There’s a lot of genever and it gets it own shelf!)

So if genever is not gin, what is it? The spirits do have one thing in common: They are both flavored with juniper berries. Early Dutch distillers sold spirits flavored with juniper and other botanicals for their alleged medicinal qualities. The spirits were produced in pot stills, which retain much of the character of the grain, producing a product that was essentially whiskey with botanicals added. It was called genever, from jeneverbes, the Dutch word for juniper. English speakers shortened this to gin.

With the invention of the column still in the nineteenth century, Dutch genever and English gin began to diverge in style. The English went for the new, purer spirit, essentially making botanical flavored vodka. The Dutch stuck with their malty genever. To distinguish between the two, English speakers called the latter “Holland’s gin.” It was a useful distinction until the triple blow of changing tastes, Prohibition, and World War II reduced genever’s prominence in the American market.

Thus gin evolved from genever, but that doesn’t mean that we should declare genever a kind of gin any more than we should think of the blues as just a proto-form of rock and roll. Gin and genever are “about” different things. Gin is primarily about botanicals. If you line up three different gins and want to describe the differences among them, you’re going to talk mostly about their botanical profiles. This one has very assertive juniper, this one is more floral, this one has a licorice note, etc.

Genever is partly about botanicals, but it’s also about the malty base spirit. As agave is to tequila, this maltwine (moutwijn) is to genever. When tasting different genevers, the differences in maltwine and the effects of barrel ageing are at least as important as the botanicals, often even more important.

As I write this I am sipping on a glass of the Bols 10 year old Corenwyn, one of the maltier styles of genever. There is juniper in it, but its presence isn’t obvious in either taste or aroma. The flavor is of grain mellowed by a decade of barrel ageing. It’s very good neat. If I had to compare it to another popular spirit category, I’d undoubtedly choose whiskey over gin. However it’s not quite that either. The botanicals are there, and they do make a difference.

This particular bottling isn’t currently available in the states, but aged genevers are starting to appear. A few months ago Bols introduced Bols Barrel Aged Genever, which is aged for a minimum of one and a half years in oak. It’s more than 50% maltwine, as is the original Bols Genever. As these spirits arrive in the market, the classification of genever as a type of gin is going to become more and more inapt.

Take the 10 year old bottle I mentioned. Let’s say you went to Amsterdam and brought a bottle back for your bar. You could insist, if you like, that any spirit that has so much as kissed a juniper berry counts as gin. But you would have to explain that this is a very strange gin that’s made mostly from a whiskey-like grain distillate, that’s aged for years in oak barrels, that doesn’t really taste like juniper at all, and that’s good in cocktails but also very nice on its own with no chilling or dilution. You could say all that. Or you could say, “genever is genever.”

I think the latter approach is simpler and more sensible. Take a couple examples from the press this week. Today at The Atlantic Clay Risen has a good article about barrel aged gins:

My favorite so far (and the most widely available) is Lucas Bols’s Barrel-Aged Genever. Unlike most gins available in the United States, Bols and other Dutch gins, or genevers, use a maltwine base, a combination of corn, rye, and wheat. They are also less intensely distilled, and usually through pot, rather than column, stills, producing a robust whiskey-like quaff, which connoisseurs prefer to drink chilled and neat. It’s thick, like a liqueur; you wouldn’t think to mix it with tonic for a summer-day quencher.

I’m delighted that he enjoys our product, but that’s a lot of words to explain how unlike gin our gin is! The classification is straining at the seams.

Here’s another from The Oregonian, which on Tuesday published its annual list of “100 Things We Love.” Kopstootje Biere, our collaboration with Portland’s Upright Brewery to create a beer designed specifically to pair with Bols Genever, made the list. That makes me very happy. Yet here’s how they introduced it: “A traditional Dutch ceremony consisting of genever, a type of gin, with a beer back.” If you know about genever, or especially if you tried this pairing last year, you know that this is a tasty combination. But to everyone else, a glass of gin with a beer on the side probably doesn’t sound very appealing. Even if you like gin, you don’t ever drink it like that.

So let’s stop saying that genever is gin. If someone asks what genever is, say “genever is genever.” From there you can explain how the spirit is made, where it comes from, and what it tastes like. Maybe after that talk about its relation to gin. Gin is wonderful and its evolution is a neat story, but it is not the story of genever.


If you’ve read this far, the least I can do is offer you a cocktail. At the beginning of this post I mentioned that putting genever in gin cocktails doesn’t always work. Sometimes it does; I’ve had delicious twists on the French 75 and the Corpse Reviver #2, to name a couple. However at other times it makes a better stand-in for whiskey and substituting genever in your favorite whiskey cocktails is a promising way of coming up with new drinks.

This one is the latest addition to our menu at Metrovino, featuring Bols Barrel Aged Genever. It’s a fairly straightforward adaptation of one of my favorite rye cocktails, The Remember the Maine. In keeping with the sunken ship theme, it’s named the Flying Hart (Vliegenthart), after a notable Dutch shipwreck.

2 oz Bols Barrel Aged Genever
1 oz sweet vermouth (Dolin)
1/4 oz cherry Heering
2 dashes Brooklyn Hemispherical fig bitters
1 dash absinthe

Stir, serve up, and garnish with a cherry. Prost!