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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.

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  • Linnaeus

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

    • sparks

      Gee, my parents both grew up in Eastern Europe and neither could stand Vodka.

      • Linnaeus

        Oh, I don’t doubt that. Not saying everyone in that part of the world likes vodka, just that this:

        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.

        certainly doesn’t reflect how vodka was regarded in my family and that of many others we knew. But anecdote does not equal data, yadda, yadda, yadda…

        • sparks

          Kids drank vodka in my junior high for just that reason, to hide it from adults. Vodka covered by a few Tic-Tacs was a routine there.

    • At least some central Europeans have a more interesting standard for vodka than “no color, no taste, no smell”.


    • Halloween Jack

      Chicken broth?

  • Pedant


    • Pedant

      Ok, but now you use “value” twice ;)

  • Matthew B.

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

    • Manju

      Wherever ketchup is a vegetable. They don’t call ’em “red states” because of Pete Seeger, after all.

    • sugarteat

      The reassuring taste of infancy for many Irish Americans of that time period would probably still have been sugar or cod liver oil. Whiskey goes better with the sugar.

      • Halloween Jack

        Both Bob Geldof and John Lydon spoke in their autobiographies about being given Guinness as children because they were “sickly”.

    • Informant

      Thank you, I came here to ask that exact question!

  • Murc

    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.

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

    • mark f

      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.

      • Linnaeus

        Disagree to an extent. Some gins are good, others are liquefied pine bark.

      • James E Powell

        When I was in the old CCCP, the people I drank with we’re horrified to learn that Americans mixed vodka with anything. Straight up & cold was the only way to go.

        • Murc

          With a pinch of pepper, yes?

          • The Dark Avenger

            A bit of red pepper in it, like Greta Garbo would have after finishing her daily walk.

        • mark f

          Pff. Commies.

      • Halloween Jack

        Fail for not knowing that gin was originally shitty vodka that was adulterated with juniper berries to hide the taste.

    • Vance Maverick

      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

      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

        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.

        • Scott Lemieux

          I’m not a big fan, but cosmos are a perfectly decent drink. Vodka “martinis,” on the other hand…

          • I agree. I’m not personally a big fan of the cosmo. But the wife likes them and when I sip hers, it’s completely fine.

  • 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

      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.

      • rea

        A Degas character, surely.

  • Caesaigh

    I feel so pedestrian guzzling mere Lagavulin…

    • Linnaeus

      Nah, Lagavulin is still cool. I was drinking Glenlivet 12 year yesterday. That’s “pedestrian” among the single malts.

      • Lagavulin is the bomb!

        Talisker is a close second.


  • Scott P.

    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.

    • Vance Maverick

      So your taste runs to gamey flavors, rather than bitter….

  • Caesaigh

    Last time I hopped a bear It left a scar.

    • Exactly my experience with tequila.

    • Halloween Jack

      On both of you, I’m sure.

  • 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

      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.

  • Common Sense

    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

      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?

  • STH

    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.

    • thebewilderness

      I use it for vanilla bean infusions. Works a treat.

  • STH

    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: http://nymag.com/news/features/republican-caribbean-cruise-2012-12/

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

    • Jameson’s, period, and feck off.

      • Not Tullamore Dew?

        • Scott Lemieux

          The neighborhood liquor store sells Tullamore Dew in the proper jug format…

          • Linnaeus

            Hm. I like Tullamore Dew, but I’ve never seen it sold like that.

      • Anonymous

        Power’s is perfectly fine, knave. (And Tyrconnell for when you’re flush.)

        • Hogan

          Clontarf, ya eejits.

      • pot

        Red Breast or Green Spot if you have room in your carry-on

        • Scott Lemieux

          I took a Green Spot home to the local bartender, earning many favors. Alas, that was the last bottle they had; getting it in Cork was not easy.

      • mds

        What’s with all these Irish distilled liquors with the extraneous “e”? There’s Scotland! There’s Ireland! There’s the bloody sea! They’re different, now get out!

  • UberMitch

    Wait, what vodka drink tastes of chicken broth?

    • Vance Maverick

      Chicken Kiev?

  • bradP

    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

      “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

        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.

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

      • wanker

        You might change your mind the first time you get laid.

        • Why choose?

        • Halloween Jack

          Then again–based on my first time–maybe not.

  • 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

      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).

      • Bill Cross

        Well there’s the Velociraptor — Chicken Broth, Tabasco and Vodka

        Evidently Meat Cocktails have been a thing recently


        • DocAmazing

          Hilariously, in Emeryville, California, there has been a sign over a restaurant for a decade that advertises “vegetarian drinks”. Now we know why.

      • heckblazer

        I’ve seen chicken broth cocktails in cookbooks published in the 1950s (IIRC The Joy of Cooking and/or Better Homes and Gardens), so they’re real. IIRC they also were suggested for women.

  • greylocks

    Vodka has the best bottles.

    • Sherm

      I have bought expensive tequila as presents a few times, and I think tequila might have vodka beat. Some tequila bottles look like something from an expensive sex shop.

    • Vance Maverick

      Better than grappa?

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

    Except for Ginger Brandy Extra Sharp.

  • OmerosPeanut

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

    • Hsve you tried vodka and mother’s milk?

      Speaking of great containers . . .

  • Halloween Jack

    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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