Friday, January 22, 2010


My eighth grade history teacher said it straight-out: if you make something against the law, people will crave whatever that thing is. My thirteen-year-old self didn't quite agree; at that point in my life, I was terrified to break rules. I did all my homework, and although I often argued with my parents, I never would have actually DONE anything they told me not to. It was too scary. But I wrote it down in my blue, three-ring binder anyway: Prohibition failed because of the Forbidden Fruit craving that is a basic part of human nature.

And although I have gone through some periods of mildly rebellious activity, I'd make a pathetically timid criminal. Even in my forties, when I was first moving in with my now-husband before we were married, it felt like a big deal to give our new, shared phone number to the English Department Phone Tree for snow days. It was the 1990's! I was LIVING IN SIN!

So let me say that I don't think I would have been drawn to bathtub gin back in the day. But I'm not everybody, and obviously plenty of people were. I do believe that we're not doing college students any favors by prohibiting them from legally drinking until they are 21, and many university presidents agree with me. By forcing alcohol consumption underground, we are encouraging culture of binge-drinking among young adults. When I went to college in the early 70's, my friends and I went to cocktail parties along with our professors--and got so see some of them setting a less-than-sterling example of How To Handle One's Drinks. We rolled our eyes. Seeing someone who could be brilliant and devastating in the classroom get sloppy was actually a pretty stern lesson in What Not To Do.

Were there Animal House-style frat parties? Yeah, but nobody cool went to them. You could get drunk if you wanted to. There simply wasn't any urgency about it, and that was the difference. The tragic stories of kids who die after chugging vodka or Jack Daniels just weren't as common in my generation.

Samey-same with grass, I think. Make it as corporate as Coca-cola, and it'll soon enough lose its patchouli and headshop appeal. Plus a lot of states will fix their budgets in a hurry, as it seems to be the biggest cash crop in more than a few of them.

I've been experimenting with writing some young adult fiction lately, and it's gotten me thinking a lot about the differences between my (boomer) generation and the generation of teens and young adults coming up now. This group of kids seems so much older, and so much harder than we were. I've decided that's a result of the hovering kind of hyper-parenting that much of our generation has ended up doing. We've forced our kids to grow old fast in order to defeat it. The Woodstock Generation did not bring about World Peace. We tended to elect centrist to right-wing Presidents while biting our fingernails to the quick about letting our children walk to the bus stop solo, or about food additives and allergies and play dates and bicycle helmets. No wonder some of them are doing the Janis-Joplin-with-the-Southern-Comfort thing--they can't even go down to the campus pub and order a beer.

Yeah, it's fine for me to say. I didn't have kids. But I sure taught a lot of them.

Well, this certainly HAS turned into a rant. And so I think I'll propose a toast for the week:

The Twelve Mile Limit

This is another Ted Haigh resurrection, although I believe it's also in the Savoy Cocktail book. It's named for the distance out to sea a Prohibition-era cruise ship had to be before the bar could open. Make sure you use decent grenadine--not the supermarket kind. It's easy enough to grab some POM and simple-syrup-ize it by simmering it with slightly less than an equal amount of sugar stirred in for a minute or two, just until it turns clear. That works fine, and it keeps for weeks in the fridge.

1 oz white rum (or you can use silver if that's all you have)
1/2 oz each:
rye, brandy, lemon juice, and grenadine (you may not want to add the full amount of grenadine at first, depending upon how sweet what you're working with is)

Shake good and hard with plenty of ice, and serve up in a cocktail glass. Some sort of lemon-y garnish works well.

See you on the air at 4 PM at

for a sip and some musical surprises!! I promise some Fugs and Holy Modals, too, in honor of Tuli Kupferberg, for whom a benefit is being thrown in Brooklyn tonight--which I sadly cannot attend due to church mouse activities in My Other Life.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Stiff Upper Lip

I never thought I'd be someone who worried about being too cheerful. I've always had a bit of an Eeyore-Donkey streak in me. My husband, on the other hand, is like the sun rising on a clear morning.

"You know what I HATE about you?" I snapped at him once, in the midst of an especially intense Personal Cloud of Gloom, "You're an optimist! I hate optimists!"

Fortunately, Ken has lived with me long enough to know that I don't really hate a) optimists or b) him. This despite the fact that I privately believe any airplane I board is doomed. This despite the fact that I have only recently developed unshakable faith in the power of two tablespoons of melted butter, two tablespoons of flour and one cup of milk to make a white sauce--even though I've been making tuna-noodle casserole that way since the 7th grade Home Ec. Somehow, it's always a miracle when the sauce thickens. I know, I know...

But I found myself in an odd role at a funeral last week. I'm a soprano in my husband's choir in My Other Life, and I was standing with the rest of the singers just before the service. And I was making very quiet, cheerful funeral jokes--perhaps you know the kind I'm talking about. Not disrespectful, nasty guffaws, but the kind of small talk about kitties and new cell phones and Life Goes On that you do when you're trying not to cry. And for a minute, I wondered if I was being uncool in doing that, and then I realized that I most surely was not. And in fact that I had quite possibly graduated to a new level of gal-dom. By gal-dom, I mean the state being a gal, which is in my current vernacular a higher form of being a Grownup Woman. A gal has spunk. She is someone with good taste in makeup, the ability to pick up heavy objects without calling for a male, and (get this!!) a stiff upper lip.

And a stiff upper lip requires--gasp--faith, if not optimism.

This week, the news has been unbearable. One must respond, give money, loan one's Facebook status to Docs without Borders...and one must keep a still upper lip.

A drink helps. I like Ted Haigh's take on The Millionaire for this purpose. It's a sunny name for a drink, and we'll be having one on the show on Friday. Here is my take on what the esteemed Dr. Cocktail proposes in his fine volume, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails:

For each drink:

1 and a half oz of Myer's Dark Rum (Gosling's would probably work fine, too)
3/4 oz sloe gin (London sloe gin is good)
3/4 oz apricot brandy
about one ounce of freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste.

Shake hard and serve up in a chilled cocktail glass. I garnished with half a lime wheel. The drink comes out an astounding shade of deep red, and is a tad tart, and should be. Add more lime juice if it isn't. A lime will give you a little over an ounce of juice, usually.

Do NOT serve this drink while wearing a white garment, optimist though you might be.

We'll be listening to a little Hendrix-inspired music from Haiti this week, and Mingus' wonderful Haitian Fight Song from his 1957 CD "The Clown". See you on the air!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Still Cold, Still Suggesting Bourbon

I'm on the air as I type these words, playing a cool cover of Yes' "Seen All Good People" by Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs--but I'm about to talk about a cocktail called a Derby. Yeah, it's from the Kentucky one, and it may be a warm weather race--but a Derby sure does taste good in January. Happy New Year, by the way--and here's the link to the Cocktail Data Base.

More writing later. Meanwhile, tune iin!!