This blogger is no fan of Brett Kavanaugh whose appointment has probably swung the court securely to the right for years to come. On the other hand the resulting backlash energized the left and enabled the democrats to capture the House, and in two years the Senate will be in play. At this date however a gridlocked Washington is inevitable.
A lot of famous people were heavy drinkers. Civil War hero and President Ulysses S. Grant and England’s famous Prime Minister, Winston Churchill were borderline alcoholics. Once when accused by a woman as being drunk, Churchill replied “My dear you are ugly, but tomorrow I will be sober and you will still be ugly.”
Many actors and performers in my day believed that they needed whiskey to perform at their highest levels. Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra would actually come out on stage with a drink in hand. Sinatra was called the “Bourbon Baritone.” His daughters are said to have buried him with a bottle of Jack Daniels.
“Alcohol and Film”
Heavy drinking in the movies dates back to the thirties café society films when a drinker was always the life of the party.
Born in 1929, Geoff Nate was a depression era baby. Prohibition, certified via the 18th Constitutional Amendment in 1919, was in effect at the time. It was the era of the “bootlegger,” the “speakeasy,” the “flapper,” and “bathtub gin.”
In the forties and fifties however, Hollywood began treating the subject of alcohol seriously with such films as “The Lost Weekend” (1945), “A Star is Born” (1954), “I’ll Cry Tomorrow” (1955), “The Days of Wine and Roses” (1962), “Long Day’s Journey into Night” (1962) and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?” (1962).
Movie stars like John Barrymore, Errol Flynn, William Holden, Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton were heavy drinkers, as were entertainers Billy Holiday and Hank Williams. Hank died at the age of 29 on his way to a concert in Ohio after mixing prescription drugs and alcohol.
Geoff Nate remembers well the 1962 movie “The Days of Wine and Roses” in which Jack Lemmon introduces a beautiful young teetotaling Lee Remick to the then popular chocolate flavored Brandy Alexander. Be our guests… Check out this short clip. You can probably rent the complete film but don’t expect a happy ending. (Click Play below.)
Click Play below:
I don’t remember any big drinkers in either my mother’s or my father’s families. Dad might have had a beer while out fishing on a hot day, but that’s it. Though they did keep a small bar in the house and a few bottles of whiskey, it was primarily for parties or visiting guests. Cigars were Dad’s family’s predilection of choice. After all the Nathansons were in the tobacco business. (Check out Blog 11 “Ike’s Boys.”}
Maybe it was the era or the neighborhood, but I don’t remember any of my high school buddies drinking anything stronger than an occasional beer. College was different. As an athlete drinking for this jock was off limits. I can’t say the same for most of my fraternity brothers. There always seemed to be a keg or case of beer in the rec room, and parties on weekends a la “Animal House” were no novelties.
I had a good friend, a delightful guy, who simply loved the stuff. He might get “happy,” but never surly or out of control. To my knowledge no one ever had to drive Sam home.
We had a couple of movie biz neighbors in Malibu who had “nasty drinking” problems. Lee Marvin and Jason Robards regularly hung out at one of our local saloons. Both tended to get surly when soused. A besotted Robards actually challenged me to a fistfight on the beach one evening. Fortunately someone intervened. The next day he didn’t remember a thing.
Our neighbor across the street, Irving Glasser, was a well-known bail bondsman whose colorful clients included gangster Mickey Cohen and wife murderer L. Ewing Scott. In his youth Irving “Kid” Glasser was an amateur boxer. His record indicated that he fought at 113 lbs as a fly weight. He had 20 fights; winning 11, losing three, and earning six draws. He retired to fight other people’s battles in 1923. Irving used to take my young son Dan fishing on the Malibu half-day boat. According to Dan, Irving was known to drink a fifth of Slivovitz, a plum brandy, before noon. We all well remember the time he smashed down his own garage after a morning’s fishing, virtually totaling his Rolls Royce.
The “Functioning Alcoholic”
What is referred to as a “functioning alcoholic” is usually a heavy drinker in denial who is too often enabled by family and friends who are willing to overlook his or her problem. They say that four drinks a day for men and three for women on a regular basis is possible evidence of an alcohol abuse disorder.
During the Korean War I was stationed in Laredo, Texas on the Mexican border. It was was predictably hot and dry year round, and Mexican beer, “cerveza,” was consumed in great quantities. The whiskey of choice was of course tequila. It was cheap; no ID necessary. One of my jobs in the Air Force was to rescue GIs from Mexican jails. The charge was usually “Borracho y alborotador” (“Disruptive activity under the influence.”) (See Geoff Nate’s Blog #4 “War Stories.”)
Though they are not reputed to be big drinkers, Jewish families have a long history in the liquor business dating back to 19th Century Eastern Europe. Some of today’s major liquor companies were founded by such prominent Jewish families as The Bronfmans of Canada (Seagram’s), The Bernheims of Kentucky (IW Harpers) and The Rosenstiel family of Ohio (Schenley).
Today however, these, like many other liquor companies are owned by large conglomerates that also control the importation and distribution of beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages produced overseas.
A recent article in the New York Times referenced a problem that exists in many restaurants where alcoholic drinks are offered. Like the chef who tastes his latest preparation it probably makes sense for a bartender to sample his newly mixed libation. It’s not recommended however, for the waitress, bus boy or kitchen help who may be tempted to “taste” an unfinished cocktail. According to the “NY Times” the food service business has the highest rate of substance related disorders at nearly 17 percent of its work force.
Serving underage patrons is a misdemeanor in California. A bar or restaurant can lose its license. Food servers must be eighteen or over, and bartenders and cocktail waitresses must be twenty-one. In this state a bar, restaurant or even a private host or hostess can be held responsible should a departing guest be involved in an accident or stopped for drunken driving.
Restaurants, clubs and retailers are expected to “card” anyone who even looks under the age of twenty-one. However, there’s no one at the door of private homes to check IDs which is where 60% of underage drinking takes place. In most states failure to do so is classified as a Class A misdemeanor, and the violator is subject to a fine. However, should an inebriated guest leave your house and injure or kill someone in an automobile, you the host can be held responsible. It is considered to be a class 4 felony which could result in a stiff fine or even jail time.
“Binge Drinker or Alcoholic… The Disturbing Stats”
Binge drinking and its popularity is a reality that this octogenarian just can’t figure out. Sure, we had so-called “beer busts” in college, but beer in excess was always too much of a challenge for this frat boy’s bladder.
Many of today’s millennials (ages 22-36) indulge in the binge drinking game. Binge drinkers are not necessarily alcoholics. A binge drinker might consume as many as five or more drinks over a period of two or three hours or less, often in response to a challenge. On the other hand, alcoholism is a condition in which a person has a controlling physical and or emotional compulsion to consume alcohol, even though it has a negative impact on his or her life.
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; 15% of Americans are so-called problem drinkers, and 30% have had an alcohol disorder at some time in their lives. They say that alcoholics are six times more likely than non-alcoholics to have a family history of addiction.
Thirty-seven percent of sexual assaults, and forty percent of inmates who are incarcerated for violent offenses of any kind were under the influence of alcohol at the time.
Drinking, especially binge drinking, and driving don’t fit. The stats are against you, especially during the holidays and certainly that period between Memorial Day and Labor Day. As expected the roads take their highest tolls over Thanksgiving and on Christmas and New Years Eves.
When a heavy drinker can’t control his or her habit, most experts advise that their friends or loved ones check out Alcoholics Anonymous. AA is an organization that encourages its members, men and women, to avoid all alcoholic beverages in hopes that they might achieve sobriety.
Members usually gather at weekly meetings. The meetings are informal, and it’s expected that “recovering alcoholics” will openly discuss personal problems and provide or receive encouragement from one another.
Recognizing the power of alcohol addiction, few long-term AA members consider themselves “recovered” even though they might not have had a drink in months or even years. Nevertheless, they often remain active and continue to mentor new AA candidates.
“SO NAME YOUR POISON!”
Smoking, at least here in California, is becoming socially unacceptable, but despite its sorry history and the problems associated with the habit, it appears that booze is here to stay.
Geoff Nate doesn’t smoke but he has been a Scotch drinker since he was able to pass for twenty-one at the “right” places. They didn’t “card” much in those days. I was introduced to an inexpensive blended version of the whisky by a young golf-pro buddy who worked, as I did, one summer at Breezy Point Lodge, a resort in the Minnesota Lake country (See Blog 3 “Whizbang”).
“Scotch Whisky (or ‘ey’)”
The basic components in Scotch whisky (or ‘ey’) are barley, water and yeast. It’s distilled in two or three copper pot stills utilizing what they call a “batch process” and aged in used bourbon or sherry wine casks.
Blended Scotch whiskey, as the term implies, is the product of multiple distilleries. Bars, restaurants and clubs usually carry a wide selection of “the blends.” Some of the most popular brands include Johnny Walker, Dewars, Chivas Regal, J&B and Cutty Sark. Most are reasonably priced in the $15-$30 range. Even Costco has joined the club.
Note: * Whiskey with a “y” or “ey?” Call it tradition if you will, but the “y” only spelling is exclusively a single malt Scotch priority.
Single Malt Whiskies
Any of the above with soda was my highball of choice for 30 years until someone introduced me to the single malt version of Scotch whisky which I continue to enjoy in the evening with a handful of mixed nuts before dinner. Single malt Scotch, as the name implies, is the product of one individual distillery. It’s aged for a minimum of three years. Some however have been aged for as many as twenty. They tend to take on a darker color the longer they remain in the cask.
Because no two single malts are the same, I have accumulated a revolving collection of perhaps two dozen or more different whiskies from various distilleries throughout Scotland.
As expected, the darker the dearer ($). The retail price of a fifth of single malt increases significantly with its barrel age. Popular 12 year old single malts such as Glenfiddich or Glenlivet can be purchased for as little as $30 at discount retailers. We have five different single malt Macallen whiskies in our collection. Depending on the year their cost at retail could vary from $50 to $300 plus.
A friend recently gifted me with a wonderful bottle of Macallen Elegancia, a collector’s item which has been out of distribution for years. I tell folks that I’m saving it for my bar mitzvah.
One’s Scotch preference is a matter of taste. The flavor might vary due to the water used in the distillation process. For example, whiskies emanating from the islands off the coast of Scotland have a smoky flavor due to the fact that the soil there is heavily peated.
The experts say it takes years to educate one’s palate and appreciate the subtle differences between single malts. Geoff Nate was fortunate to visit Scotland and tour several distilleries in the company of a professional. My suggestion would be to check out some of the exclusive retail stores here that specialize in fine wines and whiskies. Sometimes they offer tastings on selected dates under the guidance of a knowledgeable whisky specialist.
The internet is another good source for recommendations. Visit Scotch Noob at http://www.scotchnoob.com. Much to my surprise, they even rate Trader Joe’s and Costco private labeled whiskies.
The ingredients in Irish whiskey are similar to those in Scotch. Both are aged for a minimum of 3 years. However, whereas Scotch goes through the distillation process three times, Irish whiskey is distilled only twice. Though both Irish and Scotch whiskies use malted barley, an Irish distiller may sometimes employ other grains.
This popular American whiskey is made in the USA (usually Kentucky). Its primary ingredients are corn (at least 51%), malted barley, rye or wheat. It’s aged in new charred oak barrels for at least two years. I can relate to Brett Kavanaugh’s hard drinking experience with cheap bourbons, a category that includes such reliables as Old Grandad, Old Crow, Early Times, Four Roses, Wild Turkey and Old Forester.
Question: If Geoff Nate is a Scotch drinker what is he doing in a Walker’s Deluxe Bourbon ad?
The distillation process for the above and its primary ingredients are the same as bourbon, however it is filtered through sugar maple charcoal. The most popular label is Jack Daniels which is aged a minimum of three years.
This whiskey’s distillation process is similar to bourbon, however its primary ingredient is rye, to which fermented corn and barley are added. Aging is done in used oak barrels for three years.
CANADIAN RYE WHISKEY
The Canadian product is similar to its American counterpart, however it is usually a blend of rye and bourbon style corn whiskey.
The primary ingredients in gin, the martini’s classic base, are fermented barley and other grains which are re-distilled by adding juniper berries and other flavorings (i.e. orange peels, licorice, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.) Gin is usually not aged.
VODKA, Russia’s contribution is very popular with millennials. It’s made from fermented grains, fruits and potatoes. Vodka is distilled many times but not aged. The old standby vodka martini is currently the rage with the younger crowd.
RUM, the famous “pirate’s brew”, is made from distilled sugar cane and aged in oak barrels for two years or more. Rum is available light, dark or spiced. Choose your poison before walking the plank.
This gift from Mexico, our neighbor to the south, is a product of the blue agave plant whose juice is both fermented and distilled. Tequila, the margarita’s base, can also be enjoyed with a lick of salt and lime. Mixed variations also include a ‘Bloody Maria,’ ‘Tequila Sunrise,’ and ‘Paloma.’
BRANDY and France’s COGNAC, are the products of fruit that is distilled instead of fermented. Brandy (a favorite of Napoleon) is a “gentleman’s drink” usually associated with a good cigar. Cognac is currently the choice of hip hop artists, Puff Daddy and Busta Rhymes. How about that?
Then of course there are the homemade whiskies that humans have been making and drinking for 3000 years, since the days of the caveman. Here in the states they called it “moonshine” because it was usually the safest time of day to make bootleg whiskey.
Today’s Millennials have an amazing potpourri of alcoholic libations to choose from. Back in Minneapolis in the late 1940s our beverage menu was pretty much limited to beer, wine, and if we could afford it, bourbon or gin mixed with Coke or 7UP. Some of us undergrads might have enjoyed a brief high in the course of an evening, however overindulging in unusual mixed drinks either upset one’s stomach or knocked you out or both. Scotch, vodka, tequila, rum and the cocktails associated therewith came into popularity a few years later.
The following are some of Geoff Nate’s generation’s old favorites.
- Old fashioned Bourbon, whiskey or rye, sugar, bitters, orange, cherry (Tequila old fashioneds with mole bitters have become popular.)
- Martini Gin (or now vodka), dry vermouth, olives, onions or a twist
- Daiquiri Rum, lime, sugar, crushed ice
- Margarita Tequila, lime, triple sec, sugar, salted rim (there are many variations including, strawberry, jalapeno, mango and even Grand Marnier)
- French 75 Gin, champagne, lemon juice and sugar
- Bloody Mary Vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire, horseradish, pepper, lemon juice
- Irish coffee Irish whisky, coffee
- Mint Julep Bourbon, mint, sugar
- Mai Tai Light and dark rum, orange curacao, pineapple
- Mojito Rum, mint, lime, soda water
If you are a straight whiskey imbiber you will be pleasantly surprised to know that the impact on your waistline will be minimal. The calories start to climb when you begin adding flavors. See below.
Though a daiquiri clocks in at only 220 calories, the Mint Julep will cost you 475, and Trader Vic’s famous Mai Tai will clobber you with 780 big ones.
Not satisfied with Geoff Nate’s era’s broad selection of mixed drinks, today’s hip bartenders, have developed a menu of their own. The assortment of ingredients has been expanded to include numerous varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spirits, bitters and liqueurs.
All of the above libations are served in the best bars, cocktail lounges and related “watering holes.” However, today’s young drinking population demands more of a bartender than simply one of the “old favorites.”
My beautiful Jen was a professional server for many years. I have counted on her to provide up-to-date booze news.
For so-called trendy places, just providing a professional barkeep isn’t enough. Today’s popular watering holes hire so-called “mixologists.” These are men and women who have made an “in-depth study of the art and craft of mixing creative alcoholic medleys.” In this new cocktail culture old fashioned speakeasies are making a comeback. There are a number of upscale establishments in the Los Angeles area that now specialize in mixology.
Most are open to the public; some come complete with secret entrances. To mention a few we might include “Davey Wayne’s,” “No Vacancy,” “La Descarga” and “Dirty Laundry” in Hollywood, “The Basement” in Santa Monica, “The Blind Barber” in Culver City, “The Roger Room” on La Cienega, and “The Edison” in Downtown LA. Actually, “Yelp” lists over 40 in greater LA. Patrons can expect to pay as much as $18 to $20 per craft cocktail.
One of Jen’s favorite joints in Santa Monica, which is appropriately named “The Misfit,” features farm to table share plates and a line-up of unique cocktails. It’s located on Santa Monica Blvd east of Second Street. The following are a few of their specialties.
“Jumping Jack Flash” Old Forester Bourbon, Cocchi vermouth, ginger, mint
“Mezcal Yellow Jacket” Mezcal, lemon, honey, serrano chilies
“One Night in Babylon” Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin, cucumber, lemon, za’atar herbs
If you happen to be in the neighborhood at lunch time Jen suggests the “Barfly Lunch,” their crispy chicken sandwich.
Some of today’s popular mixed drinks might include a few newer cocktails such as:
- Blow job (Popular with females) Baileys and Kahlua topped with whipped cream
- Sex on the Beach Vodka and peach schnapps mixed with juices such as pineapple, cranberry and orange
- Espresso Martini Vodka, coffee liqueur and a shot of espresso
- Kamikaze Vodka, lime, triple sec
- Amaretto Sour Amaretto and sour mix garnished with a cherry and an orange peel
- Long Island Vodka, gin, rum, tequila, triple sec, sour mix and a splash of coke (Jen thinks they should call it a “Suicide.”)
The booze industry is starting to catch up to the evolving tastes of the millennial generation with a plethora of exotic vodkas. In addition to flavors like mango, lime and cherry, how about prime selections like “caramel apple,” “peachberry cobbler,” “pecan pie,” “peppermint bark,” “salted caramel,” “pumpkin pie,” and “rainbow sherbet?”…… “Cannabis cocktail.” Anyone?
It won’t be long before they start bottling the stuff in 6-packs. Coca-Cola may be in for some real competition.
Brett Kavanaugh’s reputation for beer consumption is no surprise. For golf pro John Daley, a famous beer drinker, six cans per nine is par for the course.
Most bars, clubs, and some restaurants carry a wide selection of beers, including domestic, imported, and so-called “house brews.” When Geoff Nate was in the Air Force on the Mexican border his choices after 18 holes in the Texas sun were limited to national brands like Budweiser, Pabst, Schlitz, Millers, and a couple of regional brews, Lone Star and Pearl. Mexican beers such as Corona, Bohemia, Pacifico, Modelo and Geoff Nate’s favorite Tecate, were available across the border but today have broad distribution in the United States.
Folks back in Minnesota were big beer drinkers. In my day locally produced Schmidts, Hamms and Grain Belt were popular as were Schlitz and Pabst Blue Ribbon, the latter a Milwaukee beer that sponsored the weekly TV fights from Madison Square Garden. When I was in the TV business in the 1960s and 70s the F.C.C. prohibited the advertising of liquor on radio and television. Today, especially with the proliferation of cable TV, it’s almost a matter of self-regulation. However, broadcast licenses and cable TV franchises are subject to challenges upon renewal.
There are hundreds of beers; domestic, imported, and a plethora of so-called “craft beers.” There are even brew-it-yourself recipes.
Note: Our celebrity neighbor, Pamela Anderson, was said to have been discovered in the crowd at a Canadian football game and got her start as the poster girl for Labatt’s beer.
As for wine, the subject is far too vast for this blogger. However, if wine on a budget is your thing, and you run out of cheap options like Trader Joe’s “Two Buck Chuck,” you can always check out Nathanson Creek of Lodi, California. There is no family connection, but I might as well give them a plug. They bottle Chardonnay, Cabernet or Merlot. Just look for the frog on the label.
According to the wine’s review on the “Cheapskate Wine Guide” website, Nathanson Creek Merlot is “Not too bad, not great, but OK, and it smells good. It’s smooth enough, no bite or bitterness and only mildly acidic…” Hey at $5 to $10 a bottle the price is certainly right.
*Interesting Note: They say one five ounce glass of wine is equal to the buzz you get with a single shot of whiskey.
Believe it or not there is a way to party with the gang and not touch a drop of alcohol. The idea is nothing new. In Geoff Nate’s day bartenders prepared look-alikes for the kids that they dubbed “Shirley Temples.” Mocktails look like their fancy cocktail counterparts sans alcohol so even adult teetotalers can fake it.
They have actually given these virgin concoctions fancy names. How about an “Orchid Thief” which consists of orange juice tinged with vanilla and fizzed up with club soda? Then again there’s the “Mumbai Mali” which is an even fancier concoction of ginger beer seasoned with turmeric, coriander, cumin, paprika, cayenne and honey mixed with coconut milk and finished off with curry leaves. Hey, don’t knock the idea. Give it a try, especially if you are in for a long evening. There’s a good chance you’ll wake up the next morning sans hangover.