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Thread: Cocktails At Noon.

  1. #1
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Cocktails At Noon.

    Cocktails At Noon.

    Chapter 1. Introduction.

    If you ever get into those old silver screen movies; and working on the assumption that the reader is not averse to the pros and cons of the drinking culture; I personally find myself jealous of the sipping in the heady twenties & thirties, of exotic cocktails by high society both sides of the Pond.

    I think that one cannot fail to admire those slender ladies dressed to kill and men attired in evening dress, spats, waistcoats and even the odd monocle.

    There is a story, I am sure, behind every gathering.

    And indeed, there was.

    Bette Davis as “Margo Channing” in “All About Eve”; cigarette poised at an angle in silk gloved hands, sipping a “Gibson” with full eye contact to her leading man.

    For those of you unacquainted with this drink; one fills a mixing glass with ice and pours in a few drops of dry vermouth, (normally Noilly Prat.) Stir for 15 seconds, or until the vermouth has coated the ice. Then strain out the liquid, top up the mixing glass with ice, add 50ml of gin or vodka, and stir until the glass is frosted and the mixture is well chilled. Pour into a chilled Martini glass and garnish with a pearl cocktail onion. There you go; a bit more involved than pulling a pint or drinking a Bud from the bottle like a “good old boy.”

    The scene was also more relaxed, and one might even say “civilised.” No quaffing of cheap liquor, perched on a stool, endeavouring to either: remain alone, hunched and morose, or to hold a somewhat questionable and intelligible discourse with a drunk fellow neighbour.

    And talking of talking, the conversation seemed more appreciative then. Thus, Margo to male companion, “I admit I may have seen better days, but I’m still not to be had for the price of a cocktail like a salted peanut.”

  2. #2
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Hi, Mani!
    Hope you are fine!
    It´s good to read you again!
    "I seemed to have sensed also from an early age that some of my experiences as a reader would change me more as a person than would many an event in the world where I sat and read. "
    Gerald Murnane, Tamarisk Row

  3. #3
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Thanks buddy. All's well this end.

  4. #4
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Chapter 2. Shaken Not Stirred.

    Which brings us with effortless ease to that jewel in the cocktail crown, the “Dry Martini.”

    Forget 007 for the moment. It is irreverent as to whether this sublime creation is either shaken or stirred. The raison d’etre lies in not overdoing either; in the ultimate pursuit of getting the drink cold. It would lose its concentration otherwise.

    I’d never had a dry martini until quite late in life; and was initiated by an ex-US marine that I worked with in Qatar. It was, he explained, a bit like taking holy orders; when. as a child in Chicago, he was given the awesome responsibility of knocking them up, (excuse the crudity of language) for his father and friends. The secret lay, he explained in what constitutes “dry.” In his case, it was just whispering the name “vermouth” over the top of the glass. In other words, pure liquor apart from a green olive & a touch of zest.

    The result was that I subsequently acquired a tremendous respect for what was termed back in the States as the “three Martini lunch.”

    On the silver screen the 1935 film “After Office Hours” comes to mind; with “Clark Gable” as “Jim Branch”, a newspaper editor with less than honourable intentions over “Constance Bennett” as “Sharon Norwood,” the socialite reporter for the same paper, as they try to solve a murder mystery.

    In the verbal foreplay over drinks, she asks “Why did you lie to me?”

    The response from a brooding Jim; “If you were looking at what I’m looking at, you’d know why I lied to you.”

  5. #5
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Fascinating explanation about the "dry Martini".
    "I seemed to have sensed also from an early age that some of my experiences as a reader would change me more as a person than would many an event in the world where I sat and read. "
    Gerald Murnane, Tamarisk Row

  6. #6
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Chapter 3. Reflections.

    I was lucky enough in my job to have to work and live in many locations worldwide. And drink there too.

    Some were a bit of a bummer. Saudi, where alcohol was forbidden for example. Yet whiskey could be brought for about £100 a bottle if you had the right contacts. Then there was the “sidiki,”; a home brew, mainly concocted by the Filipino or Thai workers, whose quality depended on how many times it had been distilled. It either gave a kick to the mixer being used, or turned you blind.

    Iran was also officially booze taboo. But strange memories of going into town for a kebab, and Iranian companions producing Indian whiskey in a can, that was discretely slipped into one's coke.

    More celebratedly drinking holes included the ground floor bar at the Peninsular Hotel in Manila. Best range of bourbon I have ever come across.

    I was in there once and Daniel Craig tried to slip in unobserved in a big cap and turned up collar. But of course, the word soon spread, and a security guy was posted on his alcove booth to stop him being bothered. I asked the bar maid, “Is he on vodka martini, shaken not stirred?” “No” she responded. “He’s on a Heineken.”

    My favourite bar in Yokohama was a small upstairs joint down a backstreet, with subdued lighting, high quality alcohol, samurai swords on the wall, a fish tank on the counter and the most proficient bartender I had ever come across. Invariably quiet; I could sit for hours in my bubble, along with the fish, sipping Manhattans.

    It was also the unlikely meetup with a slim Japanese lady who approached one evening and asked if we could talk. She worked in a restaurant on the ground floor, but the barman was her friend who allowed her to relax at the bar.

    Perhaps talking to someone who is a stranger from a different culture is easier than sharing things with those close to you.

    But anyway, it all came out bit by bit: a husband consumed by his job, no children, and the formality of Japanese life, especially for a woman.

    Or perhaps it was that I was just a good listener?

    At the office the next day, the boss Sugimoto san asked about my evening and I related the story. For some reason, he seemed irritated.

    “How you get Japanese lady to talk to you?” he said abruptly.

    “I smiled.” I responded.

    “I smile also,” he said, “but no result.”

    I nearly added that, you either have it or you don’t, but on this occasion, I held my tongue.

  7. #7
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Great stuff, Mani
    I’m enjoying it immensely
    Looking forward to chapter 4.
    In my own experience, I’ve found that day drinking leads to conversations with members of the constabulary.
    Uhhhh...

  8. #8
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Thanks Sancho.

    In fact you have just refreshed my memory of drinking with said members of the law in an unofficial police bar in Montego Bay. Yet another chapter!!!!

    Take care. Bail in the post.

  9. #9
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Chapter 4. Our Canadian Cousins.

    I worked for two years in Fort McMurry in Alberta, on the Oilsands Complex. Never experienced cold like it, especially through the long dark winters. It was so sub-zero that if I moved my jaw, the ice crackled on my beard.

    Which brings us to the social scene. The town revolved around the oil and the work it provided. It seemed to me that the inhabitants were 90% male. Hence, a lot of: bars, strip joints, casinos, drugs and whatever else the men wanted. Daylight seemed to be from 11am – 3pm in the winter and vice versa in the short summers, when you could play golf in daylight at 10,30pm. Distances were vast, moose & elk steaks were sold in the market at the weekends; and when forest fires broke out the Mounties would tour the bars to round up any “volunteers” to assist.

    Canadian beer is great. But for a Limey like me it took a bit of getting used to the bar etiquette.

    For a start, (and I’m highlighting winter with deep snow), some patrons arrive on skis or snowmobiles. Chains on auto wheels are “de rigueur.”

    I had a flat from which I could enter one of the main town watering holes, “The Podollen” via an adjacent laundry and backdoor.

    Never forgot the first time. A complete novice.

    Approached the bar and was asked by the bar lady, “Do you want a tab?”

    “No” I replied, “I want a beer.”

    Obviously, I had been drinking in less trusting joints overseas. In Nigeria, its money first, then they bring the beer. Even in England they pour the beer and you pay. Anyway, the young lady was tolerant and explained the procedure.

    My next “faux pas” was not tipping. We don’t in the UK. As a consequence, next day when I went in the bar, I was basically ignored. Subsequently advised at work that the pay for bar staff is low and they depend on tips.

    So back again, and tipped generously. So generously in fact that on future occasions I was greeted upon entry, and the beer was being pulled before I even got on my stool.

    I became very fond of that bar over two winters, and was inducted into watching ice hockey on the TV; where what seems like a minute puck is hurled around faster than the speed of sound, between burly players attired like Michelin Men. The rules were lost on me, let alone trying to follow the progress of the puck after a few pints.

    I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter how cold it was. Which is strange, because when ordering a beer, the glass is removed from the deep freeze covered in a layer of ice. Canadians are masochists when it comes to the cold. They can’t beat it, so they embrace it by taking it to another level.

    The compensation however came at the weekends when Mandy & Brandy came up from Edmonton to serve in the Podollen.

    Nobody could ever work out the sexual vibes between either; these two nubile sirens, or the customers. But let's just elaborate that Mandy had the tightest little glutus maximus in tight jeans that the Good Lord had ever created, whilst Brandy had, what the Victorians termed “a fine neck,” which went well with a low-cut top.

    At Wimbledon tennis heads go from side to side following the ball. When Mandy went down and up getting glasses out of the fridge, all male heads at the bar moved in unison. As for Brandy she had the disconcerting habit of direct eye contact, which in many a customer was not always reciprocated.

    Which brings us finally to cocktails in this part of the woods. The “Rusty Nail” is 50ml of Scotch & 25ml of Drambuie and is one of the strongest drinks I know, (apart from “Slivovitch” or plum brandy in Yugoslavia).

    A few “Rusty Nails” will quickly dull the senses into a pit of oblivion; although the sweet, dark brown Drambuie softens the kick of the Scotch, giving it a beguiling undertone. I found this out on Canada Day on this occasion, when the drinks were flowing freely.

    But upon reflection this cocktail in the long term would be best for men who live lives of quiet desperation. I can’t take quiet desperation.

  10. #10
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    …Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
    I cremated Sam McGee…

    Canadians have always treated me warmly. Also it’s been always my policy to over tip everybody, even the Japanese, which seems to anger them - weird.

    Anyway I got invited for drinks once at the RCMP HQ in Whitehorse, Yukon. Evidently the military and the police don’t have the strict separation that we do; I reckon because they all more or less work for the queen. So they’ve got (or had) an O-Club in the basement of the police station. It was awesome. I was sitting there, tilting a few Molson’s, and trying to remember the last time I got polluted at a cop station. (So far it’s been the only time)

    The conversation went something like this -

    How come you guys always treat us so well when we come here? We treat you guys like sh*t whenever yous come to our place.

    Yeah, why is that?

    Donno.

    Yeah, donno.
    Uhhhh...

  11. #11
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Hi Sancho

    I agree with your observation of Canadian / American treatments of each other; but with one exception. Americans working overseas I found are akin "frontier" Americans; the type you want riding shotgun: larger than life, generous, welcoming and invariably good company. Canadians are welcoming anyway, whether domestic or otherwise.

    Back in the States, (which I must admit was a one off transit at Miami airport), my views were coloured by my experience there. I'd flown London to Miami, in transit to Montego Bay Jamaica. Immigration asked where was my visa. I replied I was in transit. He persisted telling me that I needed a visa to enter the USA. Getting a bit agitated I countered that I was not entering the USA, but was flying in one hour to Jamaica. But he would not have it. Asked if I had an attitude problem, which by now I definitely did have. Started to get a bit personal with me explaining that I was not swimming the Rio Grande to get into America, but wanted my flight the other side of the transit lounge to get out of America. To cut a long story short, I eventually went under escort, (gun carrying John Wayne, in a security uniform, with an array of badges) to eventually get out. My sum experience of America !!!!. I guessed he had in his life, never crossed the State line.

    By the way, most Japanese are totally confused by tipping, even the taxi drivers. And that's a first. I had to explain to my boss the difference between paying 10% or 15%.
    Last edited by MANICHAEAN; 09-02-2022 at 03:27 AM.

  12. #12
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    I haven’t done customs in Miami in a while, but they used to have a reputation for being the biggest pain in the arse of any of the major airline entry points to the US. I’m not sure why, but that sort of thing generally filters down from the top. It’ll take the cop at the top retiring before everybody else can get back to normal. At any rate Miami is definitely not the place to smuggle in Cuban cigars. Too many ex-pat Cubans living there, they take it personally. Or so I’ve heard. By contrast I once got caught in Atlanta bringing in Cuban cigars. The agent opened my suitcase, saw several boxes of cigars, and said “are those Cubans?” I said, “Yep.” The agent said, “Well, I’m going to have to insist you destroy those by fire.” So I gave him a couple of cigars, just to be neighborly, and eventually complied with with his directive.

    Anyway, M, I didn’t mean to hijack your story with reminisces about US CBP. I’m looking forward to chapter 5.
    Uhhhh...

  13. #13
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Chapter 5. Rum.

    I suppose I received my initial education in rum in one of the Mecca’s of that spirit, namely Jamaica. Purely by accident actually. I had at the time wanted to escape an English winter and saw an advert in the paper about the balmy tropical temperatures in Montego Bay. So, booking a flight from London Heathrow I duly arrived.

    Two things hit you on your first trip to the island: its hot / humid, and everything slows down. Everything: talking, walking, even thinking. The bus is late, “Soon come.” The person is not available, “Soon come.”

    Six feet tall immigration officers, (not sure if it was red stripe or blue stripe down the side of their trousers) were charming. Even recommended a hotel and how much to pay for a taxi outside.

    One of my first priorities after sleeping off jet lag on a long flight is to find a watering hole. Luckily, just around the corner from the hotel was one “Liquor Cabin” run by a Mr Wiggins, known to all as “Wiggy.” Quiet small joint, dark wood panelling with ceiling fans and frequented by; the local police, an American expat tourist diver and the odd Rastafarian.

    Jamaica, looking back, has some of the best barmen in the world. Where else would they ask “How do you feel?” before proceeding onto “How do you want to feel?” Wiggy was in that class, but serious with it; one might almost say reserved, until you got to know him.

    Which, considering that I drank rum & coke there every lunch time and evening, the barriers soon came down. He had two girls assisting; Norma & Joyce; very pleasant and deceptively unassuming. On later trips for example, I would fly in after perhaps one year away, and Norma would ask “Same as before?” as if I had called in yesterday.

    Wiggy took me through the rums: Appleton, Wray & Nephew, Myers’s & occasionally the white variety; drinking together if the bar was empty & even sharing his wife's food. He is dead now, but fond memories, and I even met his daughter working at the Mo Bay Airport.

    Thus, perhaps I was a bit cocky about knowing my rums after that; until it was, (of all places), drinking at the site bar on a petroleum construction project in Qatar.

    The Camp boss introduced me one day to “Pussers Rum”, otherwise known as “Nelsons Blood.” An interesting tale. When Nelson was killed at Trafalger, to preserve his body on its journey back to England, it was placed in a barrel of rum. Upon arriving at Portsmouth, the body was removed, but the sailors aboard drank the rum. Hence the name.

    On another occasion, at the same camp, the Pussers dried up, and I was offered something called “Old Monk” made in India. I was sceptical of it for obvious reasons, but it turned out to be quite delicious. Subsequent research revealed that its makers were a brewery set up by the British in colonial times. Thank God for the legacy and benefits of Empire!!

    One other thing that has just occurred to me. Have you noticed the extent to which many liqueurs, (e.g., Cointreau, Benedictine, Chartreuse) have either ecclesiastical origins, or are named with some linkage? Perhaps the vow of chastity had to be compensated by other worldly indulgences?

  14. #14
    Registered User Steven Hunley's Avatar
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    Love the Yokohama story. Love to read your stuff, no matter what it's about.

  15. #15
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Thats because you are an old romantic buddy.

    Take care.
    M.

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