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[ 78 ] December 25, 2012 |

My brother bought me Jason Wilson’s Boozehound for Christmas. In the introduction is a 1959 quote from A.J. Liebling that should be good for a few comments here:

The standard of perfection for vodka (no color, no taste, no smell) was expounded to me long ago….and it accounts perfectly for the drink’s rising popularity with those who like their alcohol in conjunction with the reassuring tastes of infancy–tomato juice, orange juice, and chicken broth. It is the ideal intoxicant for the drinker who wants no reminder of how hurt Mother would be if she knew what he was doing.

Since the book also discusses the “overrated” in spirits, I assume there will be a whole chapter on absinthe, a liquor that so far as I can tell has its primary value in its small but important role in the sazerac. Otherwise, it’s entire value comes from pretending like I’m in a Hemingway novel.

So I hope you enjoy your Christmas drinks. Just remember that we here at LGM are judging your choices.

Comments (78)

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  1. Linnaeus says:

    Liebling clearly did not grow up in an Eastern European-descended household.

  2. Matthew B. says:

    Exactly where is tomato juice a “reassuring taste of infancy”?

  3. Murc says:

    I’ve never understood the vodka hatred I often encounter from liquor and wine snobs.

    I mean, do people make fun of the Long Island because you go to the trouble of mixing a bunch of different boozes together to get something that tastes more or less like ice tea? They do not. But god forbid you mix up a cosmopolitan, the implication is that you might as well be swilling some PBR.

    Sometimes you just want a nice mixer, and vodka is amazing for that.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      I’m happy to make fun of the Long Island Iced Tea if you are requesting it.

    • mark f says:

      Vodka is always in a mixed drink. Take that recipe exactly as it is except trae the vodka out for gin. Even if the gin is Gordon’s you’re winning.

    • Vance Maverick says:

      Sometimes you just want a nice mixer

      I have not, myself, found that to be the case. I would rather have a glass of cheap and cheerful anonymous white wine than almost any cocktail I’ve ever tasted.

    • Rhino says:

      Actually I dabble a bit in the classic cocktails craft as a hobby. The Cosmo and variations upon it are respected aperitifs, a bit cliche, but certainly in the pantheon of the modern recipes.

      Of course the kings are the old fashioned, the sidecar, the true Martini, the jack rose and modern variations on me.

      So I guess I’m claiming both less and more pretentious hipsterism wrt cosmos

      • Richard says:

        I’m also a craft cocktail dabbler. I have no problem with vodka/fruit juice concoctions or vodka/fruit liqueur combinations. As long as they aren’t too sweet. Do they obscure the taste of the alcohol – sure, thats the point. I simply don’t understand the aesthetic that finds them somewhat reprehensible because of that. I like the taste of alcohol in most forms, like most fruit juices and like them mixed together as well.

        Best recent drinks I’ve had were the melon martini (as served at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans) and the Jake Walk, a modern concoction by noted booze writer David Goodrich consisting of equal parts lime juice, reposado tequila, white rum and St. Germains liqueur. Very potent and extremely tasty.

  4. DocAmazing says:

    Absinthe is actually wonderful stuff, Sazeracs aside. A bottle of St. George’s Absinthe isn’t cheap, true, but after a long day of dealing with irritations and stressors, a small glass of absinthe with a small amount of icewater drizzled into it is unbeatable. (Playing around with flaming sugar cubes and the like is largely wankery, I’ll concede.)

    • Richard says:

      I just got my son a bottle of Mata Hari absinthe for Christmas. He’ll be trying it this weekend. Since its 120 proof, a little goes a long way.

      Its been a long time since I read Liebling but he’s one of my favorite writers on food and drink (despite the fact I think he’s wrong about vodka). As I recall, he was convinced that calvados (apple brandy) was far superior to grape brandies and wrote a fair amount on that subject.

  5. Caesaigh says:

    I feel so pedestrian guzzling mere Lagavulin…

  6. Scott P. says:

    i am one of those extremely sensitive to (and repelled by) bitter flavors, which is why I like my bear with as little hops flavor as possible and my liquor mixed with Coke or juice. Thewriter is probably not one such, which is why he is puzzled by my being able to taste something he is not, and thus attributes it to a weakness of character.

  7. Caesaigh says:

    Last time I hopped a bear It left a scar.

  8. Vodka was the perfect drink for doing the ritual of getting drunk to celebrate turning 21 and actually being allowed to drink legally, while accommodating the fact that I, personally, have never actually liked the taste of any alcoholic drink that I’ve tried. And that’s the last time I’ve had vodka. After that I switched to accepting glasses of wine that I didn’t drink, since I really like the look and rituals of wine, even if I’m unable to appreciate the taste.

    • Eric says:

      Binge drinking as a high school and college student totally ruined vodka for me. I drank so much vodka to excess in various forms (from screwdrivers to vodka red bulls to the appropriately named Windex) that I now get nauseous just thinking about the taste of vodka.

  9. Common Sense says:

    Ah, yes, because citric acid and most infants get on like toddlers and hand grenades. We’re clearly dealing with the keen intellect of a talented food writer here.

    • mds says:

      Why, yes, since you asked, my toddler has a longstanding penchant for lemon wedges, but fortunately you are off the mark when it comes to the hand grenades.

      … Upon review, I think I detect some snarkiness in your comment. Perhaps you have inexplicably mistaken Professor Loomis for Erich Weavis, noted food writer?

  10. STH says:

    Well, I used vodka to make liqueurs for my boyfriend for Xmas (pear, black tea, and blackberry), and that’s the only use I’ve found for it.

    For drinking tonight we had mulled wine made with spices sent to us from a relative in France, and I enjoyed that very much. Lynn, you might try that sometime; I don’t appreciate red wine normally, but add a little sugar, orange peel, cinnamon sticks, and other spices and warm it up, and it’s delicious. Heated it up in the slow cooker for about three hours and we loved it. Interesting experience, cooking Xmas dinner while tipsy.

  11. STH says:

    Oh, and if you guys still haven’t quenched your thirst for schadenfreude, I recommend this about the National Review cruise a few weeks after the election:

  12. Thers says:

    Jesus fucking Christ, BOOZE IS GOOD. If you don’t like your first choice, have more booze.

  13. UberMitch says:

    Wait, what vodka drink tastes of chicken broth?

  14. bradP says:

    It is the ideal intoxicant for the drinker who wants no reminder of how hurt Mother would be if she knew what he was doing.

    Quite the catch-22 for the folks I ran with.

    We couldn’t afford to drink enough of the good stuff for our mothers to be upset in the first place.

    I love a good beer, but I can’t understand liquor for the sake of liquor.

    • Sherm says:

      “I love a good beer, but I can’t understand liquor for the sake of liquor.”

      Agreed. My response whenever I’m offered liquor — why would I want to ruin a good night drinkin with that?

      • bradP says:

        Agreed. My response whenever I’m offered liquor — why would I want to ruin a good night drinkin with that?

        There is one exception.

        I almost always reach a point at 5-6 beers when I’m drinking in the evening that either tiredness or fullness makes further drinking a chore.

        A shot of brown liquor can help me past that point. I’ve also had many a late-night poker sessions saved by an Irish coffee.

    • Djur says:

      There is nothing in this world quite as invigorating as a generous pour of high-proof bourbon with a few drops of cold water.

  15. Ken Houghton says:

    More or less What UberMitch Said: “chicken broth”? I would prefer to assume that’s Liebling’s sense of humor, but fear there might be a truth underlying.

    People who claim to like an alcoholic beverage but don’t drink it straight are like those who claim Starbuck’s makes good coffee because their iced mochaccino latte with a raspberry swirl and a Wilbury twist didn’t make them projectile vomit.

    • quercus says:

      I’d prefer to think that there actually were 1950′s cocktails that included chicken broth. Even a more horrific world is a more interesting one.

      I’m sadly concluding the more likely answer is author’s hyperbole. But if anyone does have chicken-broth cocktail recipes, please share (for horror-amusement only).

  16. greylocks says:

    Vodka has the best bottles.

  17. Any liquor you snobs don’t want, you just send over my way.

    Except for Ginger Brandy Extra Sharp.

  18. OmerosPeanut says:

    Careful, Erik, lest you next find Right Blogistan accusing you of trying to get infants drunk on vodka.

  19. Halloween Jack says:

    Even though I no longer have any skin in the booze game, I find comments like Liebling’s tiresome. He’s exactly right about the “(no color, no taste, no smell)” part, but the rest of it is no better than the vodka snobs that he’s mocking, and a kissing cousin to men who are deathly afraid of a girl drink touching their lips. I’d overhear guys–always guys–talk like that in bars in my drinking days, and wonder if there was any male figure in their lives who was authoritative and frank, and at least a little kind, who would turn to them if he were there and say, “Son, can you not just enjoy your fucking drink in and of itself?”

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