Sep 23, 201012:00 AM
All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans
There are still some parts of America where people won’t touch a glass of wine or a mixed drink until 5 p.m. Yes, I know that is hard to believe, given our lifestyle here, where all manner of beverages seem appropriate at all hours of the day or night.
I guess when the state or local government strictly enforces closing time, at whatever moment that occurs, then you are more attuned to the clock on the wall. I write a column, Last Call, for New Orleans Magazine, and most readers think it’s called that because it is one of the last features each month in the magazine. The term “last call,” noted by a serving bar’s staff at about 1:30 a.m., has no meaning here. Last call in our community is whenever the last patron has deemed this is the right moment –– feeling good, not inebriated and time to go.
Timing is quite important in the enjoyment of adult refreshments, so there are, of course, appropriate moments to drink specific spirits or wines. Champagne for breakfast is fine, but actually champagne for brunch is better. Scotches and bourbons are best left for later in the day, while beer seems to cross a lot of time constraints. Some fishermen think that going out at 4:30 a.m. is the perfect time for a hearty breakfast: bacon, eggs, beer.
Heavy red wines are fine for late afternoon and certainly with dinner. Sweeter liqueurs, ports and cognac blend excellently with the satisfying feeling after a great meal.
Maybe we have not thought about this a lot. It just seems natural to focus the selection with the time of day. I understand from people who make alcoholic beverages professionally that the palate is at its daily best around 11 a.m. If you are a wine-taster, that’s the time of peak powers to discern subtleties, fruit, alcohol and oak. You are far enough away from toothpaste, breakfast, coffee and juice and not yet into the oils and greases of midday fare. Your tongue is fresh, and your nose is clear.
Also we perceive more enjoyment from alcoholic beverages when our mind is awake and fully functioning. That’s one of the reasons why early-morning mixed drinks are usually just simple drinks: We really are not in a fully conscious state after a long evening’s rest. The mind is taking it all in but not truly processing information. The same is true very late at night. Have you ever had one of those nights when you could not remember toward the end of the evening how many drinks you had?
(No, I was not talking to you. It’s the other guy I directed the question to. Of course you have never been in that position.)
There are, however, times of day when imbibing is essential to accomplishing a purpose. The purpose is never to become inebriated. That accomplishes nothing. OK, maybe there’s a short-term gain in feeling good or forgetting pain, but there is a big price to pay for that activity at a later point.
The purpose of some morning drinks is not to be social but to simply feel better. Early in the history of our community, men on their way to work would stop by the pharmacy to have the pharmacist whip up a little elixir so they could feel better, settle their upset stomach or stop a throbbing headache.
Somewhere along the way, these elixirs and concoctions became known as cocktails, and they moved from the pharmacy to the bar, which was appropriate because usually these medicinal elixirs were registering between 40 percent alcohol by volume to more than 60 percent. Oh, yeah, they’d feel better until just about lunchtime, when they would take down a few beers with bourbon.
The point is that sometimes in the morning, we really need something stronger than fruit juice to shake off the effects of the previous evening. Traditionally, Bloody Marys have been good for that, and then here in New Orleans, we have brandy milk punches.
Just to shake things up a bit, there are a whole group of drinks that come under the heading “corpse reviver.” I assume the name needs no explanation. What these drinks offer are strength to a tired body and calming to a throbbing head.
Back in the 1930s, bartender Harry Craddock, in his Savoy Cocktail volume, featured this category of mixed drinks that were a bit heavy on the sugars, easier on the alcohol and quite flavorful with fruit. Craddock noted, “These drinks should be taken before 11 a. m., or whenever steam and energy are needed.”
My thanks to Gary Regan, “Ardent Spirits Bartenders Bulletin Newsletter,” Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y., copyright Ardent Spirits, 2010.
Corpse Reviver No. 1
1 1/2 ounces brandy
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce apple brandy
Stir over ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Corpse Reviver No. 2
Craddock noted, “Four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.”
3/4 ounce gin
3/4 ounce Cointreau
3/4 ounce Lillet Blanc
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
2 dashes absinthe
Shake over ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Corpse Reviver No. 3
Adapted from a recipe created at Cocktails in the Country, Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y.
This is merely a variation on the Corpse Reviver No. 1, but this version calls for applejack to take the lead while the brandy sits in the backseat. The drink works best with Laird’s 100-proof (50 percent alcohol by volume) bottled-in-bond applejack, or you might want to try using their wonderful aged apple brandy or even a fine Calvados when you make this drink.
1 1/2 ounces Laird’s Applejack
3/4 ounce Hennessy Cognac
3/4 ounce Martini & Rossi Sweet Vermouth
Stir over ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
I’m certain you will not want to make a habit of starting days with these concoctions. But from time to time, this information may serve a worthy purpose.
The Wine Show with Tim McNally can be heard every Sunday from noon to 2 p.m. on WIST-AM 690.