Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Anniversaire heureux, Le Mixeur!!!

Yes, it was one year ago today that, on a lonely night in some dimly lit, chilly room in Seattle T.Mixeur made one last, desperate attempt to reach out to the world and grab hold of someone. The result was this blog, which like my former cat "Meat," is just the sort of ragged, moronic, flatulent type of entity to live on for many, many, many years...whether we want it to or not.

So yes, Le Mixeur - the blog - is one year old today!

It may seem as though this blog is some sort of free-wheeling, stream-of-consciousness scroll with serious difficulties on focusing on the topic at hand, which of course is....hang on I know this...oh! Cocktails. Yes, cocktails.

However, it might surprise the reader to know that when I sat down that lonely night and decided to start a blog, I composed a specific list of topics and themes that I planned to cover in the first year of existence. This was part of my 50 year plan for Le Mixeur. I would like to now, on this anniversary, present you with a copy of that list:

  • William Holden and the Mount Kenya safari Club in Nanyuki
  • TS Eliot's use of defecation themes in "The Waste Land"
  • Feast Day for Saint Basilic
  • Matisse's 139th birthday
  • Francisco Franco's 1940 victory over the Republicans
  • The Persian Sun God Mithras
  • Aymara and Queychua peoples, and their sacrificing of Llama fetuses
  • "Parties" and their contribution to fascism
  • Toulouse-Lautrec's genitals
  • Former Florida State Representative Berny Papy Jr. and his protection of the sanctity of key lime pie
  • Poetry about El Salvador by Sonia Sonchez
  • Frank O'Hara and his death by dune buggy
  • How Normal Lear stole my Uncle Chuck's stories
  • Gary Regan, LeNell Smothers, and the Marquis de Sade
  • 18th century nomadic Acadians, and their contribution to New Orleans cocktail culture
  • An original poem titled "Drunk Descending Staircase"
  • The merits of union suits
  • The Bodhisattva of the Mixeursphere
  • Herman Hesse , Siddartha, and transcendence into Mixana
  • French translations of Eddie Murphy poems
  • The farewell of Ziggy Stardust
  • Hemingway's disdain for blouse-wearing sissy boys
  • A toast of mourning for Eight Belles
  • Our aversion to cocktails that cause yeast infections
  • Hostmaster John, Johnastic Hosting, and the Johnastic Method
  • Ajeticha's survival of the Great Destroyer Appolyon, with reflections from WB Yeats
  • Walt Whitman writes of love buds
  • The Salish tribe's ritual of scrubbing themselves with blackberry bushes prior to spirit dancing, and the possible translation of this tradition to cocktail culture
  • Bainbridge Island Strawberry farmers and their time in concentration camps
  • The loudest man in the world and his move from Texas to Redmond, WA
  • Graham Greene, reality, and martyrs
  • How to make punch in a washing machine
  • Wayne Curtis getting Tiki guys to huff fusel oil
  • What the guys in Barbados do to you if you put Walnut liqueur in their rum
  • William Faulker: Sissy Boy Who'd Never Survive Tales of the Cocktail
  • How the Bionic Woman would have juiced lemons
  • Scandinavian Warlocks named Thoth and Grobbendonk
  • Senator Edwin Murray's speech: "hrmm-hm, hurra hurra hum, rim rem rom...SAZERAC!"
  • Keith Waldbauer's benzedrine binge in the Sierra del Ajusco-Chichinauhtzin
  • Duggan McDonell's peyote binge in Coahuila
  • C.Mixeur's proposed "cannonball" on Duggan at the Boca Loca pool party
  • Pink-livered sissy-boys who don't drink all my Singapore Sling mix
  • Monastic Ireland and doing simple things with perfect love
  • Pictures of fuzzy kittens sleeping together
  • Little girls from Georgia witnessing the Cascades for the first time
  • Distance of Alpha Centauri to the Earth as compared to the moon, and the foolishness of the phrase "shoot for the moon and miss and still end up among the stars.
  • Dead Moon
  • Don Quixote: Mixologist, creator of The Balm of Fierabras
  • The Scorn of Saint Germain
  • Charteuse that smells like curry
  • Kevin Diedrich's back alley battle mixes
  • Lance Mayhew's black market kidneys
  • MLK on Gandhi's bartending skills
  • Jose Gomez and his work with Cesar Chavez
  • Rummalemmotang!
  • Allen Ginsburg's advice to beginning bartenders
  • My grandfather's mini fridge
  • The word munat meaning "testicles" in Finnish
  • Being fisted by Hellboy

And upon reflection, I find that I have managed to cover all of these topics. So it's truly been a successful first year. I've even managed to occasionally introduce the topic of spirits and cocktails from time to time. And there are plans afoot to include even more spirits and cocktails in the coming year...maybe...we'll have to see. No promises.

Thanks to you all for reading, and holding out hope that one day this will all come together and make sense.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hellboy Was My Barback

A few months ago, a teacher named T.Mixeur undertook the project of taking a student under his wings. The purpose was to develop a barback to assist with the increasing demands of Le Mixeur. But more than that, it was a new and bold spiritual journey. The student and barback-to-be was a young man known as Anung un Rama in his village of Grigori Rasputin's Lab, but to the Mixeurs he was known simply as, "Hellboy."

Successful training of a barback must be based upon a bedrock composed of research, techniques, and historical appreciation of bar culture. The first point to observe in training the barback is to build up character, bringing to light the subtler faculties of prudence, intelligence and dialectics...

Philosophy and literature form the chief part of the student's intellectual training; but even in the pursuit of these, it is not objective truth that he strives after—literature is pursued mainly as a pastime, and philosophy as a practical aid in the formation of character...

And there is only so long that the barback pursuit can remain cerebral. At some point the intellectual principles that have been absorbed must be put into action, so the union of mind body and soul can begin to transpire...

By maintaining discipline and utmost focus, the barback avoids being robbed by the egotistic, conventional mind, allowing the fundamental mind to - uh-oh.

Vous idiot! Je ne peux pas l'acheter dans cet état! Trou du cul!
(You idiot! I cannot buy that in this state! Asshole!)

It is essential that the teacher witness the student without judgment or comment. When one task proves to be too difficult, the teacher must effortlessly shift the student's energies to another. In this case, muddling...


Imbécile! Ce n'est ni technique appropriée, ni sanitaire!
(Fool! That is neither proper technique nor sanitary!)

Que faites-vous maintenant ? C'est juste dégoûtant! Ce n'est aucune façon de remuer une boisson!
(What are you doing now? That's just disgusting! That's no way to stir a drink!)

When the teacher reaches a point where he or she realizes the student is no longer in a receptive state to learning, it is important that the teacher not press on in vain. This point is a prudent time for the teacher to take a walk, clear the mind, and possibly visit a liquor store and/or bar.

Hellboy, meanwhile, stirred some cocktails and invited a lady friend over...

Laid on the charm...

Did VERY well...


Yet when his lady friend excused herself to the restroom to freshen up, the untrained, undisciplined mind of Hellboy lead him astray. Unable to calm the mind, his urge for excitement betrayed him. He began to drink...

And drink...

And drink...

And so...

The teacher returned home, and upon finding Hellboy in such a state, did some serious soul searching...

And re-assessed the approach he had been taking with his student...

And somewhere in the doldrums of their mutual inebriation, things went terribly, terribly wrong...

They both were stunned as they realized that certain boundaries had been violated...

And certain sacred places had been defiled...

And this was the last the teacher ever saw of his barback Hellboy....

(Pourquoi toujours de telles histoires tristes ? Oh bien!)



Monday, November 10, 2008

WSBG Knows How To Party

Usually, when there is some sort of cocktail event or get-together in Seattle, Paul Clarke is there. At these events, as I gleefully intoxicate myself, blissfully unaware for the moment that I am keeper of a cocktail blog, invariably I will spot Paul with a small notepad, nodding smartly and jotting down letters, words, and sometimes even sentences, as someone speaks to him earnestly about something terribly important.

At these moments, I think to myself, "ah yes, we are writers, I should be taking mental notes and formulating ideas for what to cover in the blog, because I want to use the blog as a means to promote the local cocktail scene, and this is a perfect opportunity, Paul's on top of it. I'll just write some testicle jokes and post some photos of me harassing local religious organizations."

That is EXACTLY what goes on in my head.

But yesterday, the newly formed Washington State Bartender's Guild put on one hell of a hoop-dee-doo, and Paul Clarke was off in New York City, hob-nobbing with his new fancy pants friends because he's too good for us now.

About four hours into the event, it occurred to me that this might make me the man of the blog-house. Upon making this realization, I responded swiftly: I immediately started the process of panicking, which I then addressed with excessive drinking.

And so here is my official, journalistically impeccable report on the affair.

9 November, 2008

Seattle, WA - A gathering of many of the area's finest bartenders, bar owners, cocktail enthusiasts, culinary journalists, and distillers happened today at the Bemis Building in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood. The occasion? The launching of the Washington State Bartender's Guild.

The Guild was formed in recent months by a group of industry stalwarts, including Guild President Andrew Friedman, owner of Liberty, and Vice President Keith Waldbauer, bartender at Union. The guild was founded with the goals of...uhm...I think having awesome parties, and going to meetings on Sundays, and all getting to hang out more...wait hold on a sec...

To form a state-wide collaborative community of bartenders and supporters, advance the highest level of service standards within the bar industry, create an educational platform within Washington State through community programs, seminars, festivals and media outreach...there's more, but you know what, just go to their web site.

The event was hosted by guild members Zane Harris and Anu Apte, both of Vessel, in the same loft space that recently held the now-legendary, epic cocktail odyssey Le Mixeur Cinq – the brain child of Seattle Legend Ted Munat, or as the locals know him: The Fuggin' Guy.

All those previously mentioned (except The Fuggin' Guy) took turns behind the loft's six-stool, fully-equipped bar, along with fellow guild members Andrew Bohrer and Jim Romdall... Andrew B. cuts really incredibly long lemon twists that pretty much remove the entire skin off the lemon, twists the whole thing at once, then snips it into segments and garnishes a bunch of drinks at once with it. He also had a French press that worked perfectly with the Oxo Hawthorne strainer and was making 4 or 5 drinks at a time with it. It was totally badass....And Amy asked for tequila but they weren't serving any so Jim put a bunch of things together to mimic the flavor profile of tequila and it tasted like tequila. That's so rad. It's like, why do they even bother making tequila when there are Jims in the world? You know?

The bartenders were mixing up the Martinez, the Bobby Burns, and an original creation called a 44, which featured Bulleit Bourbon and a homemade orange tincture, among other things.

Oh Snap! Nailed the drink menu! Nailed it! No notes, no nothing – nailed it, first time out of the box. Yah baby! Yah!

Also among the crowd was Marc Bernhard, owner and master distiller of Pacific Distillery in Woodinville, WA. Pacific, one of a tiny handful of artisinal distilleries to have recently opened in Washington state, has just finished the bottling of their Voyager gin and it's set to hit the market. Voyager is a dry gin, in much the same mode as a classic London Dry, bottled at 84 proof, and is truly the product of a family-run, hand crafted process from start to finish.

Oh, I am on a roll now. Spelled Marc's name right – first and last – got his title, name of the distillery is correct, name of the city it's in, big-boy sounding line about distilleries in the state, remembered what Andrew F. told me about the style of gin it is even though I'd been drinking, remembered the proof...

On. Point. Yes I am today. Let's name the distillery one more time and slap a hyperlink on that bad boy:

Pacific Distillery, Woodinville, WA

So anyway, here's what really happened: it started at 2 but I got there at about 4:30 because I had things to take care of, and I have to take care of the things that I have to take care of. There was a bunch of people there and you could hear them all the way down the hall. They did the thing with the table cloths over the tall table tied to the table post, which automatically exudes class and professionalism.

Andrew F. is the president and so he was presiding. Keith is vice president so he was vicing – booze and smokes mostly, maybe something else, hard to tell with that guy. Andrew B. is secretary, and there is no doubt he was secreting. Casey Robison is treasurer, and golly do we treasure him.

Andrew informed the crowd, once he had inebriated them all, that they can join the guild for the low low coast of $90/year, and this can be done through the Guild web site...soon. Not yet. Any day now though. Bartenders may join as members, barbacks may join as provisional members. Bloggers, enthusiasts, distillers, and anyone else who wants to help promote the mission of the guild can also join for the same price. Their titles within the guild will be, “Stank Bitches!!”

Lots of people signed up to get on the mailing list, there was good food, and I'd swear we drank a bunch of really interesting things that tasted like certain things out of bottles with no labels, but I must have imagined that because those interesting things tasted like certain things that aren't on the market and therefore we wouldn't have been being naughty like that...

Everyone made fun of me because the day before I had stepped in a pile of human doo-doo.

I left to go to Oliver's Twist and found they were closed for “renovations.” So I got some food, called Anu, she said come back over, so I did. Lo and behold the boys from Oliver's Twist were there. Apparently they'd worked up quite a thirst working so hard on their “renovations.”

At that point the party had boiled down to the core group, also known as the officers and founding members of the guild. They had all taken to the customary manner in which the northwest's cocktail elite bask in the revelry of another successful event: huddling around Zane's computer and watching youtube videos of some guy making fart noises with his hands.

Then we all left and nobody helped Zane and Anu clean up because we're all complete bastards. I at least expressed feelings of remorse over the fact that I had no intention of helping them clean up. And they were very touched. I could tell.

And before we left, we all looked into each other's eyes in silence. We knew we needn't say anything. We were all thinking the same thing: “that...was one HELL of a hoop-dee-doo.”

OK, so there is my journalistic coverage of the WSBG kickoff party. I hope you all appreciated the consistent tone I maintained, and the clear and concise manner in which the information was presented. And I hope you noted how I came back around full circle to the hell of a hoop-dee-doo bit. It's called “skills.”

Uhm, did anyone take pictures? Shouldn't a journalistic piece of such integrity as this have some pictures?

I'll hand the responsible blogging reins back over to Paul Clarke now. My next blog post is going to be about Hellboy!



Monday, November 3, 2008

Granddaddy Howe

Through some apparent clerical error, I received an invitation to be part of a drink creation competition sponsored by Hiram Walker, and featuring their new Gingerbread Liqueur. I took them up on the offer, and soon thereafter found myself the proud owner of not only a bottle of Gingerbread Liqueur, but also of a bottle of Pumpkin Spice Liqueur.

At this point, I should interject about a very interesting phenomenon that has been occurring in my life, one known as "Amy." Amy was over one night a couple of months ago, regaling me with tales of how she plans to go to Argentina, and how miraculous an experience this surely will be. She asked, with great enthusiasm, if I knew any bartenders in Argentina.

I confessed, to my shame, that I did not. However, the following morning, I received a Facebook friend request from a well-connected bartender in Argentina.

A few weeks later, Amy was again over. She talked of how "dang delicious" she imagined a pumpkin liqueur would be, and wished such a thing existed. The following morning was when I received the invitation to be involved with Hiram Walker's project, though it was not until weeks later that I realized that would lead to the procurement of a bottle of pumpkin liqueur.

Amy's services, by the way, are available for hire. However, she reserves the right to wish for whatever she wants, and in no way guarantees this will meet with your needs or the needs of your business.

Anyway, back on track here...Gingerbread Liqueur. Upon sipping the liqueur, I was surprised. I imagined it would be a liqueur embodying the pronounced spices of gingerbread, such as...uhm...ginger I think, right? But this liqueur, while doing what I'd imagined, actually tastes like gingerbread. I haven't the faintest notion how they got the bread flavor in there, but they did. I'm thinking perhaps they macerated cookie dough and let it infuse in the base distillate, then infused the spices, but it's hard to say.

I immediately thought that this liqueur would be well-suited for some sort of Flip style drink, and reached for my eggs.

Incidentally, "Munat" means "eggs" in Finnish. The same Finnish term also is slang for "testicles." However, this is not the sense in which I meant the phrase "reached for my eggs." I need to point these things out, because we have some Finnish readers these days, and the Fins tend to have their minds in the gutter anyway. So for all you Fins and other sycophants out there, stop picturing me reaching for my eggs, and start picturing me handling some nice, smooth, brown eggs with the utmost of care, breathless with anticipation as I prepare to immerse them in...

Hey! You're thinking filthy thoughts again aren't you! Knock it off! This is supposed to be a post about Gingerbread and my grandfather...Jesus!

Ah fuck it. Here's my drink:

Granddaddy Howe

1 oz bourbon
2 oz ruby port wine
1/2 oz Hiram Walker Gingerbread Liqueur
1/2 oz Cherry Heering
1 whole egg

combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker
shake, without ice, for 15-20 seconds
add ice, shake until chilled
strain into a goblet
grate fresh nutmeg across the top

All you super-slick cocktail types will no doubt spot that this is a riff on the Coffee Cocktail, and we're not really riffing that hard. 1 oz of brandy in the Coffee Cocktail becomes 1 oz of bourbon here, and instead of using plain old sugar to sweeten it up, we're using the Gingerbread and Heering.

No word can better describe this drink than "Nummy!" Except perhaps, "Dangerous!" That's 4 ounces of booze in there, and not only does it not burn, it has a tendency to accidentally slip down your throat in one slurp. Amy drank hers before she could even say "Dang Delicious!"

The drink also works with a variety of replacements for the Heering. I tried it with White Creme De Cacao...Nummy. Tried it with Benedictine...Nummy. Tried it with Pastis...Nummy-Anise.

(If you couldn't handle the "reach for the eggs" imagery, do yourself a favor and don't even go there with the "Nummy-Anise")

And on that note: what's with the name of this drink?

Ed Howe was my granddaddy on my mother's side. When I told Mom Mixeur I was to be in a drink competition for a Hiram Walker Gingerbread Liqueur, she told me (after first wiping away her tears of pride) that a) I don't know how to pronounce "Hiram" correctly, b) her father always had Hiram Walker products in his liquor cabinet, and c) don't get any smart ideas about how or why she knows so much about her father's liquor cabinet.

Ed Howe was a classic cocktail guy...two before dinner during the traditional hour only, thank you. For years, it was mostly Old Fashioneds, and I hear my Aunt Susie got to be quite skilled at making them. Later in life, he became a Martini man.

I wasn't old enough to join him in these cocktail hours before he died, but trips to his home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin held their own beverage pleasures for me. In the guest bedroom, up on a loft overlooking the rest of the unit, there was a mini-fridge, the first of its kind I'd ever seen. This fridge was always stocked, in anticipation of our arrival, with cans of all types of sodas. Sodas were not a permissible drink in my day-to-day life, only for special occasions such as the yearly trips to Lake Geneva.

I'd sprint up the stairs once given permission, pick out some magical, icy cold can, bring it back downstairs, and begin the ceremony. First, there was the selection of a rocks glass, always with some sort of etching or other form or ornateness...far more elegant than any plastic tumbler I'd swill juice from at home. Then there was the pushing of the rocks glass against the ice cube dispenser on the freezer door – again the only of its kind I'd ever seen. It would drop out ice cubes with one arched side and one flat side, one at a time, until the glass was full.

Next was the cracking open of the can, the little wisp of mist, and the pour. Key to finishing this ceremony was to quickly, upon finishing the pour, take a sip of the drink while the fizz was still spraying up from the surface of the drink, breathing in its effervesence.

And when Granddaddy Howe died, he left behind a nifty little cocktail book, which Mom Mixeur had the good sense to hold onto, then pass along to me when my love of cocktails came into full bloom.

(And yes, C.Mixeur, we know they got the recipe to the White Lady wrong.)

I was his namesake and some would say a dead ringer for him as a child. And he was a good man, a kindly grandfather, and he sure seemed to adore me. And so it just seemed about time to name a drink in his honor. And while he was mostly an Old Fashioned and a Martini drinker, he did love his Irish Coffees and the occasional Egg Nog. So from this, I think it's safe to say he would have liked this one.

So mix one up, during traditional cocktail hours please, and say a toast to Granddaddy Howe.

(and leave out the testicle and “anise” jokes, for god's sake. Granddaddy would not have approved)