Tag: cocktails

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This cocktail is my riff on a very old drink called a Blue Blazer, the preparation of which is usually more enjoyable than the actual taste of the cocktail. The liquid, an admixture of scalding hot water and alcohol, really is on fire, and that’s why this cocktail is challenging and somewhat dangerous to make. […]

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What Is Moonshine?


If it shed any light on the subject at all — and it doesn’t remotely — I might be tempted to elaborate on the actual term “moonshine,” and where it originated (i.e., rural England, circa 1780), when country smugglers hid illicit barrels of French brandy in shallow ponds to avoid the taxman, but were discovered one fated summer night, when the moon shone down so brightly on the surface of the pond that it looked as if a wheel of cheese were floating there. These bootleggers told the taxmen that they were raking the water not for contraband but for a creamy piece of that cheese.

This, however, is all rumor and rodomontade, easily sliced with an investigative blade. It is in any case generally agreed that the term “moonshine” comes from the term “moonraker,” which indeed comes from this legend.

It is also generally agreed that moonshine — or white-lightning, if you prefer, or white-whiskey, or mountain dew — entered America in the early 1800s, when Scots-Irish immigrants, who back home often made their whiskey without aging it, began settling the Appalachian region of America.

The Sudsbuster


He was one of the mellow, the soft-spoken, the tawny-haired — one who preferred to be alone. His name was Mark, a dishwasher at age 45. He was a drifter, a loner. He valued his freedom above all; dishwashing jobs he could always find.

Our paths crossed and re-crossed at the Café Claire, where I was tending bar. The Café Claire stood on the outskirts of an industrial town, near the railroad tracks, beside his temporary home. Sometimes he’d sit at the end of the bar, before his shift or after, and drink black coffee. Sometimes he’d speak to me, and sometimes he would not.

He was a tidy man, and orderly. He organized things in an oddly geometrical way. He did not drink, he did not smoke, he did not use drugs. He was clean-living and in good shape, neither depressed nor its opposite.

Brandy: The Brown-Eyed Beauty of Distilled Spirits


Brandy is the brown-eyed beauty of distilled spirits, the one from whom you can never quite get away, despite her flawed and fugitive nature. What I like most about brandy is what I like most about people: the almost inexhaustible versatility.

The Dutch didn’t invent brandy, but the name comes from a Dutch word: brandewijn — or brandywine — which means “burnt wine.” Most (though not all) of the world’s brandy comes from wine. And yet it’s significant to note that brandy can be made from any macerated fruit or fruits: apples, for instance, or pears, or apricots, or cherries, and many other things as well.

It’s not precisely known when in human history people discovered that we can convert food into alcohol through the process of fermentation. It is ancient. A strong argument can be made that the first distilled spirits were horse-milk brandies, whose alcohol was separated by freezing water out of the fermented horse milk during those long Mongolian winters (i.e., it was cold distilled, not heat distilled).