Recent reading

Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress — and a Plan to Stop It, Lawrence Lessig — The first thing I did when this book arrived is flip to the index and look up “public choice theory.” There’s no entry for it. Then I looked up James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock. Again no entries. Finally I tried Mancur Olson, who merits only a passing mention in the text and a very brief footnote. This was not a good sign: For a book that’s devoted to explaining how and why Congress has been captured by special interests, it’s bizarre that the branch of economics that studies precisely that topic is almost completely absent from the text.

Lessig focuses instead on campaign finance and makes a strong argument that our current system is very flawed. He’s also admirably cognizant that restricting spending is equivalent to restricting speech. His argument is at its strongest when discussing the pandering that results from forcing candidates to collect donations in tiny increments, although this could be ameliorated by simply lifting contribution limits and requiring disclosure instead of his preferred plan for public financing.

Ultimately the focus on the single problem of campaign finance makes Lessig’s diagnosis unsatisfying. It’s tempting to believe that by fixing one big problem we could achieve a much better democracy. However government fails for many additional reasons, perhaps the largest being that it’s simply irrational for voters to become informed and vote accordingly (see Caplan). I’m more sympathetic to Lessig’s suggested reforms than I was before reading this book, but it requires a much stronger case to show they would bring about anything more than marginal improvements in governance.

Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure, Tim Harford — Here’s one from the “don’t judge a book by its cover” department. Had I not already been familiar with Tim Harford’s writing I could have easily passed this by as just another business book. It’s much deeper than that, a compelling analysis of how successful adaptation requires allowing room for failure and feedback from the bottom-up, whether in government, private institutions, or personal life. I would give the chapter on climate change to everyone I know who favors piecemeal, top-down policies over a simple carbon tax. Highly recommended.

Thai Food and Thai Street Food, David Thompson — These are just incredible books. The first is indispensable for understanding Thai cooking. The second is full of stunning photos and recipes. Everything I’ve tried so far has been excellent, though many of the recipes require significant prep or hunting for ingredients. An exception is the neua pat bai grapao from the street food book, a stir-fry of beef loaded with basil, garlic, and fish sauce, then topped with a crispy fried egg, that has become one of my go-to dishes for a quick dinner.


Bitter End


After a couple of month’s hiatus, Mixology Monday returns today with a Tiki theme from Doug at the Pegu Blog:

The Tiki scene, like classic cocktails in general, is reviving nicely these days. The lush, decadent marriage of tropical flavors and exotic kitsch carries us away to a better, less dreary place. Please join in and add your words, images, and offerings to the Tiki Gods on the 20th. Since Tiki is more than just the drinks, feel free to post on whatever Tiki subject floats your outrigger canoe. I suspect most of you will want to offer up delectable drinks, but feel free to wax eloquent on aloha shirts, exotica music, decor, garnishes, food or whatever else moves you to enter the Tiki spirit!

The Bitter End is a cocktail I originally submitted to Portland Monthly for their Super Bowl drinks feature. Todd Steele, the owner of Metrovino, is a big 49ers fan, so this year’s football season came to a bitter end for him. In recognition of that we decided to make a cocktail with San Francisco’s favorite bitter liqueur, Fernet Branca. It just so happens to be a perfect fit for this month’s Tiki theme too:

1 oz Fernet Branca
1 oz lime juice
1 oz B. G. Reynold’s orgeat

Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into a glass filled with crushed ice, and garnish with a cocktail umbrella and cherries for bonus tiki points. Alternatively, just gulp the whole thing down quickly.

As far as cocktail construction goes, this is as basic as it gets: Equal parts of stuff that’s really bitter, really tart, and really sweet. Yet it all works. If the one ounce of Fernet is intimidating, worry not. This is actually a pretty sweet drink. If you’re making this with a different orgeat, you may need to adjust the recipe to account for relative sweetness.

For fun I also tried making this drink with the new Fernet Leopold from Colorado. This is a very minty take on the spirit, a bit more so than I prefer for sipping (though some of my friends love it), so I’ve been wanting to try it mixed. If you’d like to sample a mintier version of the Bitter End, give it a shot.

Finally, here a few other loosely Tiki-themed drinks from the archives:

Transatlantic Mai Tai — An all-grain version of the Mai Tai substituting rye and genever for the usual rums.

Kooey Kooey Kooey Cocktail — Rum, coconut milk, coconut porter, allspice dram, and a few other ingredients combine in this Tiki-themed beer cocktail.

Lazy Bear — One of the best-selling drinks at Metrovino, featuring the fantastic Smith & Cross rum from Jamaica.

Seigle Sour — It’s a whiskey drink, but the plantain syrup arguably takes it into Tiki territory.


Stillwater Artisanal Kopstootje launch tour

NOLA Kopstootje

If you’re a regular reader of this site, you know that ordering a Kopstootje, Dutch for “little headbutt,” will get you a tulip glass of genever and a glass of beer. Typically the beer would be a simple lager, but here in Portland we took the idea further by collaborating with the local Upright Brewery to create a beer specifically designed to pair with Bols Genever, Upright Kopstootje Biere. This lightly spiced biere de garde has been a hit two years running, but if you haven’t been in Portland to catch one of the fewer than twenty kegs produced each batch then you’ve had no way to try it.

We enjoyed this collaboration between distillery and brewery so much that we decided to bring it to more cities. To do that we’ve partnered with another rock star brewer, Brian Strumke of Stillwater Ales. Brian set out to create his own perfect match to Bols Genever. His Stillwater Artisanal Kopstootje is a saison-style ale made with barley, rye, wheat, and corn, spiced with botanicals to complement the spirit. Brian is a gypsy brewer who travels the world making unique beers, so I can’t wait to taste what he’s come up with.

Beginning later this month, we’re kicking off a seven-city tour to launch the pairing. We’re starting in New Orleans, then working our way up the East Coast, and finally wrapping up in Chicago. All events are open to the public, so please stop by and order a Kopstootje. I’ll personally be at the events in New Orleans, DC, Chicago, and probably Boston. Lucas Bols Master Distiller Piet van Leijenhorst will visit in New York. Brian from Stillwater and Tal Nadari from Lucas Bols will be attending events as well.

Below is our current schedule of events, which I will update with dates and times as they become available. I hope to see you there!

New Orleans
Monday, 2/27 at Cure, 5-7 pm.
Monday, 2/27 at Bellocq, 11 pm – late.
Tuesday, 2/28 at Avenue Pub, 6 pm.

Wednesday, 2/29 at Alewife.
Wednesday, 2/29 at Ten Ten.

Washington, DC
Thursday, 3/1 at Jack Rose. (6-9 pm)

Monday, 3/5 at Farmer’s Cabinet.

New York
Tuesday, 3/6 at Vandaag.
Wednesday, 3/7 at Alewife.

Dates and locations pending.

Wednesday, 3/14 at Bangers and Lace.
Wednesday, 3/14 at Three Aces.


Upcoming events in Colorado, Texas

Bols Genever

Over the next two weeks I’ll be traveling to put on a few events with Bols Genever in Colorado and Texas:

Bols Genever Denver Launch — Tuesday, February 7, 1-3 pm at Colt and Gray. Enjoy genever punch, cocktails, and a Kopstootje. Industry and press only.

Guest Shift at Bitter Bar — Wednesday, February 8, 5-7 pm at Bitter Bar in Boulder. I’ll be behind the bar with a guest menu of Bols and Galliano cocktails. Open to the public.

Bols Genever Austin Launch — Wednesday, February 15, 1-3 pm at Haddington’s. Enjoy genever punch, cocktails, and a Kopstootje. Industry and press only.

Guest Shift in Houston — Thursday, February 16. I’m still working on a venue for this one but hoping to make it happen.

To RSVP for our Denver or Austin launches, contact me here.

[Photo from our Portland launch courtesy of Lush Angeles.]


Links for 2/1 12

The Caging of America:

The scale and the brutality of our prisons are the moral scandal of American life. Every day, at least fifty thousand men—a full house at Yankee Stadium—wake in solitary confinement, often in “supermax” prisons or prison wings, in which men are locked in small cells, where they see no one, cannot freely read and write, and are allowed out just once a day for an hour’s solo “exercise.” (Lock yourself in your bathroom and then imagine you have to stay there for the next ten years, and you will have some sense of the experience.) Prison rape is so endemic—more than seventy thousand prisoners are raped each year—that it is routinely held out as a threat, part of the punishment to be expected. The subject is standard fodder for comedy, and an uncoöperative suspect being threatened with rape in prison is now represented, every night on television, as an ordinary and rather lovable bit of policing. The normalization of prison rape—like eighteenth-century japery about watching men struggle as they die on the gallows—will surely strike our descendants as chillingly sadistic, incomprehensible on the part of people who thought themselves civilized.

The Economist explains what’s at stake in a fight over proposed tequila labeling regulations.

Lucinda Williams, The Shins, and Bone Luge all in one NPR podcast. Anna Brones is not on board with the Bone Luge. New York Times editor Sam Sifton isn’t either, but he would still “totally do it.”

Metrovino’s new chef Victor Deras takes the reins today. Eater asks him what he has planned for the restaurant.

Cheers magazine takes a look at the beer cocktails trend.