Wednesday, April 11, 2012


One of the questions children seem to ask with mingled wonder and pity is, “What did people do before the Internet?” Well, some of them drank. People still do, of course, but there used to be a fairly elaborate culture of mixed drinks. I have recently received a 1957 paperback guide to mixing “nearly 400 drinks.” Some of the names I knew, or at least recognized. I couldn’t have told you that a Gibson was five parts dry gin and one part French vermouth, but I knew it was a type of martini. But I had never heard of a No Comment (one part rum, one part Swedish punch, one part applejack), a Sidecar (three parts cognac, two parts Cointreau, one part lemon juice), or a Pallas Athena (one jigger Ouzo, one pony Metaxa brandy, and two splashes cold water). (What’s a pony?) The little book also defines types of liqueur made from fruit, such as the Norman hard cider called Calvados. Then there is this one: “Barack. A colorless, fragrant spirit distilled from apricots and crushed apricot kernels. A favorite in Central Europe, Hungary, and the Balkans. A Czechoslovak brand is available in the American market.”

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