Category - blogging

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Space Cocktails
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SideBlog: Why American Eggs Would Be Illegal In A British Supermarket, And Vice Versa
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Lime Wars
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SideBlog: Zombie Apocalypse Tribute Beer Goes a Bit Too Far
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Controversy Over Tennessee Whiskey
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New Cocktail Blogging Tool

Space Cocktails

The Zero-Gravity Cocktail Project from the Cosmic Lifestyle Corporation
I have written before that mankind cannot successfully make it all the way to Mars without taking along Gaz Regan. It’s Science. It’s Settled™. Forget it at the peril to the mission. Astronauts need a good drink, but once you establish that, the details get pretty intense.

NASA keeps doing study after study (of the Well, No Duh results variety) that show that astronauts would benefit greatly from a small belt or two from time to time because Space is boring, and stressful, and if you eat the food for so much as three days in a row you will find that you have “lost the will to live.” Most ordinary adults know that the solution to all these things is booze in rational amounts.

Ordinary adults, that is. When NASA was readying the first space station mission, they determined that sherry was an excellent choice to fulfill this basic human need, since it is stable in difficult conditions like zero-gravity. But then they caved to pressure from people who screamed about astronauts being role-models, and as such should not be seen drinking like Niles Crane. You will note that the Russians, in addition to such crazy expedients as retaining actual manned space travel capability, do allow their cosmonauts to have a drink for mental health reasons.

There is no way that you are going to get a crew of the alphaest of alpha males (and females) all the way to Mars, though, without sending along either some booze or dueling pistols. When the prohibitionists come back at NASA again, I suggest that they lock said protesters together in a metal can for five hundred days. They might go in Baptists, but they are a comin’ out Episcopalians.

But the therapeutic nature of a good drink is about more than just the ethanol intake. (Note that even the Russians don’t take up vodka, they bring along cognac.) It is also the joy of the aesthetic experience of a good drink that will help people make it to far destinations. Thus, to my way of thinking, the keys to the aesthetic drinking experience are variety and presentation.

If you want variety, that means your ethanol vehicle of choice is the mixed drink. Mass restrictions would restrict taking beer, and they would certainly prevent laying in any kind of broad-appeal cellar. But a relatively small number of low-mass ingredients can create a dazzling variety of cocktails. Thus my call to have Gaz sent to Houston for training, stat.

But, like everything else, the tools needed to prepare and consume a good cocktail, like everything else from pens to toilets, need to be updated or even reinvented for use in zero-gravity.

An essential tool, the shaker, appears to not have an elegant solution for zero gravity yet. The following video from Stoli should show any reasonably educated drink mixer the multifarious problems that surround trying to whip up a Pegu in outer space.

Clearly, there a significant effects from zero-gravity on most any beverage container/dispenser, as the following video reveals…

In all seriousness, terrestrial tools for mixing a cocktail are totally unsuited for space. Newton is going to bang the bartender all over the walls when he goes to shake. A strainer will do nothing but break up the drink blob and spray it all throughout the atmosphere. And gin does not mix well with integrated circuits.

Still, I think that re-engineering the mixing component will be fairly easy. I envision a flexible rubber box which you can fill with ice, then inject ingredients into. Attach it to an agitation platform affixed to the wall to mix and chill, then use a tube to dispense. Eject the ice into the recycler, and it is time for the next round. Astronauts will miss the Flair and Hard Shake experiences, but you can’t have everything.

The final piece is actually getting the maximum enjoyment out of your Space Martini™. To do that, it needs to look and feel like a Martini. You need a stemmed cocktail glass. To see why this presents problems, look at the video above. (The first one, not the one with the nice stems). But man is ingenious. Behold the Zero Gravity Cocktail Project, from the Cosmic Lifestyle Corporation.

zerogravity-cocktailglass-web-7Source: Make

Stem, check.
Click-in base so you can set it down, check.
Proper shape, check.
Open top, so your beverage will float out and ruin all the electronics on the space station, leading to the plot of Gravity 2, not so fast.

Look at all those ridges. Astronauts have discovered that when you have a crease in a container, the angle of which is less than 90 minus two times the contact wetting angle, surface tension will keep the liquid inside. More importantly, it will wick that fluid along the crease and you can suck it out, i.e. have a sip. The technology is based on the way liquid fuel tanks can restart a rocket in space. It has already been proven as a beverage drinking technology (in primitive form) with coffee cups.

Look at the cocktail glass. Its entire surface is a series of channels, each of which I’m sure is contact wetting angle-appropriate, which cover most of the inner surface of the glass. These all eventually come together at a single spot on the rim, which is, I’m assuming, the point from where you must drink. The only question I have is what material is the vessel made from? It obviously isn’t glass, as you can tell by looking, and I’m sure this is for prototype fabrication reasons. But if you are going to make a number of these, I’m assuming the final product can’t be glass either, for safety reasons. What can you make it of, so the rim is properly thin and cold to get the sipping experience just right?

I’ll wrap by noting that this technology is important for more that distant exploration. It’s going to make a difference in commercial space tourism as well. Over the long run, how many rich as Croesus tourists are going to any hotel, even one in orbit or on the Moon, where they can’t enjoy a quality Manhattan?

playboy-club-space-station-exteriorSorry, still not going unless I can get a decent Sidecar…

SideBlog: Why American Eggs Would Be Illegal In A British Supermarket, And Vice Versa

Why American Eggs Would Be Illegal In A British Supermarket, And Vice Versa. Different means to the same end, but mixing the methods would be a disaster. Related: New pasteurization method coming for eggs to make them more like fresh. Whiskey Sour lovers, rejoice.

Lime Wars

Darcy O'Neil and his Acid Phosphate

This man may be our only hope….

If you give a damn about drinks, you have likely noticed that the price of limes has gone berserk recently. They clocked in at a buck a piece yesterday at my favorite supermarket. That is twenty cents more per fruit than lemons. I don’t remember seeing that ever. It is making amateur mixers like myself rather grumpy, forcing menu changes on fresh ingredient cocktail bars, and absolutely killing Mexican restaurants and tequila bars. It has gotten so bad that, in another sign of the mainstreaming of cocktail culture, the situation is being discussed on national morning chat shows like Live! with Kelly and Michael.

Why are we in this pickle? The answer is a perfect storm of forces, ordinary, extraordinary, and chronic.

First off, this time of year most of our limes in the US come from Mexico, and the areas there where limes are most heavily cultivated saw an unusual amount of rain last Fall. This apparently inhibited the formation of flower buds on the trees, resulting in a reduced yield. Weather happens, and alone this would likely have created but a blip in prices, not a shock.

Of more serious concern is Huang Long Bing. This is a bacteria spread by insects which first ruins the fruit of citrus trees, then kills them entirely within a few years. It is taking hold in Mexico’s lime-rich Colima area and will likely affect lime production for the foreseeable future. If that doesn’t make you shudder by itself, how does the fact that Huang Long Bing has settled into Florida, and its carrying insects have been found in quantity in California?

So the one season weather problem and the longer-term bacteria problem have driven up lime prices in other Mexican areas that do have produce coming off the trees. Which has drawn the attention of Mexico’s largest plague: Drug cartels. They look and see all that green moving through their territory and do what any criminal entrepreneur would: Grab automatic weapons and set up road blocks to extort “tolls” from trucks full of limes, or even just outright hijack them to sell the fruit themselves. There are even reports of the Knights Templar narco gang going right to the source and outright taking over entire farms for themselves!

So yeah, the argument can now be made, similar to the old one about cocaine, that that Margarita you are enjoying is supporting drug lords.

What is to be done? Well, perhaps America’s forlorn cocktailian eyes will have to turn to Canada for help in the fight against citro-terrorism. Pictured atop this post is Darcy O’Neil (some Photoshop may have been applied), who stands ready to help you fight back. Darcy makes Acid Phosphate (and Lactart) an acidifier for cocktails that, while not a direct replacement for lime juice, alas, is well worth exploring to assuage your taste for tart in drinks. And it is 100% free of interference from, and subsidization of Mexican drug lords. At least until they start hijacking trucks from Amazon.com. Lest this give the Knights Templar any ideas, they should remember that Bezos has drones….

As a last resort, if you have a lime tree of your own (lucky stiff), there are business out there who need your help!

SideBlog: Zombie Apocalypse Tribute Beer Goes a Bit Too Far

Zombie apocalypse tribute beer goes a bit too far, if you ask me. Dock Street Walker, an American pale stout brewed with wheat, oaks, barley, cranberry… and brains. Might as well say it…

BRAAAAINS!!!

Controversy Over Tennessee Whiskey

“… and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In case you missed it, there is a big legislative slap fight going on in Tennessee right now between corporate distilling giants Brown-Forman and Diageo. Diageo makes George Dickel brand whiskey, and Brown-Forman runs a little micro-distillery called Jack Daniels. (Disclaimer: I happily own a chunk of Diageo stock.) The dust-up is over a new bill currently pending in Tennessee that would remove all restrictions on how distillers make whiskey that will be labeled as “Tennessee Whiskey”.

Diageo is pushing the new law, and while their motives are murky (Dickel is already made in compliance with the current standards), please don’t think that this is some corporate ninja assault by Diageo on long-time tradition. It is a corporate ninja assault by Diageo on a very new law, which was itself a corporate ninja attack by Brown-Forman to begin with.

Estimable whiskeyblogger Chuck Cowdery has posted both company’s press releases on this pissing match, and a bigger pack of disingenuous corporate posturing you will not see this side of the insurance industry or government labor unions. Cowdery explicitly refrains from commenting on the debate (though his post titles reveal his leanings rather amusingly), so I will jam my oar in here.
Chuck’s post of the Brown-Foreman press release: Diageo’s Latest Mischief: Screwing Up Tennessee Whiskey
Chuck’s post of Diageo’s reply: Diageo Says It Supports “Return to Flexibility, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in American Whiskey”

First off, in a remarkably amateur mistake, Brown-Forman lists the wrong house and senate bill numbers! The listed legislation is about liquor licenses and repeat offenders. Blame the PR firm here. I can’t find the germane bill myself, but it appears to be a simple removal of any restriction on what can call itself Tennessee Whiskey. (Correction: See update below)

The Brown-Forman release glosses the current restrictions, but here they are in detail:

  1. Manufactured in Tennessee
  2. Made of a grain mixture that is at least fifty-one percent (51%) corn
  3. Distilled to no more than 160 proof or eighty percent (80%) alcohol by volume
  4. Aged in new, charred oak barrels in Tennessee
  5. Filtered through maple charcoal prior to aging
  6. Placed in the barrel at no more than 125 proof or sixty-two and one-half percent (62.5 %) alcohol by volume
  7. Bottled at not less than 80 proof or forty percent (40%) alcohol by volume

On the merits, this mostly makes sense. Without the charcoal filtration, you essentially have bourbon, for instance.
But as for being aged (and manufactured) in Tennessee, I don’t see it. A rick house being located in Tennessee, as opposed to North Carolina for example, imparts no unique flavor or character to the product. It is at best pointless state pride used to help pass the designation, and at worst it is protectionism.

Designations, like Trademarks, are often misunderstood. They are not created in order to provide special rights to makers of products, though they do provide those rights. They are in fact a form of consumer protection, designed to eliminate confusion in the marketplace by ensuring that certain words and phrases, and images, always something specific. In this case, adding restrictions which do not affect the end product weakens the usefulness of the designation. It also in some ways ghettoizes the designation. Bourbon does not have to be made in Kentucky, which makes that designation more robust. But whatever problem I or anyone else may have with items One and especially Four, remember the debate here is whether to have any required characteristics or not.

Important Update: The debate may have already advanced beyond where I thought it was this AM. I was wrong that Brown-Forman’s PR department got the wrong bill number. It is in fact SB2441. It was the right one in that it simply showed the proposed Chapter and Section of existing law, with all the language reserving the label for certain manufacturing processes stripped out. But now Chuck Cowdery has posted a new version of the bill that puts back all the restrictions with the critical omission of the word “new” in the barrel clause. This newer version does not, as of right now, appear on either the State of Tennessee’s legislative website or LegiScan. This probably just means that they haven’t updated the sites yet, or the amendment has not been approved. In any case, the overwhelming majority of the important stuff and the snark in this post stand. I do apologize to the PR firm in question for mocking their numeric acumen.

Brown-Forman goes on to don its tinfoil hat and describe Diageo as a bunch of scurrilous furriners who are out to destroy Tennessee Whiskey’s good name so they can sell more bourbon and scotch instead. Personally, I doubt this. Remember, Dickel is Diageo’s brand, and one they have invested heavily in making into a legit competitor to Jack Daniels, to some extent successfully. They may have decided to give up this effort and Seagrams-ize Dickel as a product. I hope not. I suspect that Diageo has other motives.

Whatever Diageo’s motives are, they do not include a sincere love for the tradition of craft whiskey distilling in Tennessee. Giant British conglomerates do not spend good money to buy, er, lobby state legislators on behalf of small-batch distillers it does not own. (Lobbying is really more of a rental operation, isn’t it?)

Diageo’s response leads with an example of political chutzpah worthy of David Axelrod with a blank check from George Soros or Karl Rove on a Koch binge. In reply to Brown-Forman’s contention that new oak barrels (expensive items, these) make Tennessee Whiskey a premium product, they say

Interestingly, according to the website of Brown-Forman owned Early Times whiskey, the brand is aged and barreled in “used oak barrels”. Therefore, by their logic, Brown-Forman has deemed its own product inferior.

They go on to add

Despite being a competitor to Early Times, Diageo has rushed to Early Times’ defense.
(emphasis mine)

Lee Atwater just called from the Great Beyond to say, “Oh well done, y’all!”

A further disclaimer: My father drank Early Times. A lot. Too much, in fact. Any attempt to call Early Times an “inferior whiskey” around these parts is fightin’ words.

That said, Early Times is inferior whiskey. Dad knew it, too. Everybody knows Early Times is an inferior whiskey. But Brown-Forman (who knows this better than anyone) does not want, under any circumstances, to call Early Times a bourbon. This is because it would be illegal, but more importantly because doing so would dilute the premium reputation of every real bourbon Brown-Forman (and everyone else) makes. Incidentally, BF does make an Early Times straight bourbon whiskey. I’ve tasted it. It does enough on its own to damage the reputation of bourbon all by itself, thanks.

Diageo’s second, less ballsy but just as immaterial, major point in their release is, to paraphrase, “hey, Scotch is aged in used ‘rejuvenated’ barrels, and no one would argue scotch is inferior!” Again, in the same vein as anything James Carville says, this sounds extremely fair to the uninformed.

Scotch is not Tennessee Whiskey. Besides the fact that it stays in the barrel for at least twice as long, if you laid up your scotch in new oak barrels, it would taste nothing like scotch when you took it out. Chemistry tells political and economic desires alike to piss off with the same breezy ease that Math told the Indiana legislature it could not make Pi equal 3.2 just because they wanted to. Macallan’s use of used barrels has as much to do with Tennessee Whiskey as nixtamalization has to do with Creme of Wheat.

Look, both companies, tumescent prose of their PR firms aside, have some good points, and both certainly know how to make good, even great booze. Likewise, both have screwed with consumers and with their own products on multiple occasions. Whether Diageo is trying to destroy the Tennessee liquor industry to save the scotch and bourbon varieties from the Tennessee Whiskey juggernaut (spoiler: This is not the reason), or wants the chance to ruin its own George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey (again, I doubt this), or if they just have plans to manufacture an Early Times analogue in Tennessee (this is my guess), it is immaterial to whether this existing law, and ones like it, are good government or not.

I happen to think such laws are good government, absent immaterial restrictions like the Tennessee aging provision that isn’t even the controversial element here (I think).

But Doug, many of your friends and readers are now scoffing at you, saying “You are Mr. Free Market! How can you justify restricting innovation and speech like this!”

I expect they are. But this law does not stifle innovation. It does not, despite the words put in the mouth of Dickel’s master distiller, restrict in any way the manner in which you can make whiskey in Tennessee. It merely restricts how you must make whiskey that you wish to call Tennessee Whiskey. And yes, that is an imposition upon a maker’s language choices, but words are powerful things, in sales and in politics. Both sellers, and especially buyers, are best served in a marketplace that ensures that words mean what they say.

New Cocktail Blogging Tool


Fresh citrus in her drinks or no, she’s not going to feel comfortable in the Craft Bartending game until she grows a beard and gets some tattoos….

The picture atop this post is a stock image from GettyImages, as you can easily tell from the information displayed below it. It represents an important new potential in online publishing and an advance in thinking on Intellectual Property (the latter being a bugaboo around these parts). Getty recently announced that many of the images in its online catalog are now available to embed, free of charge in media outlets like this one.

For some bloggers, especially food and cocktail writers, third-party photographs are a non-issue, as they only post their own photos as an illustration of their hard, creative work. I post plenty of my own photos here, of course… some of which I’m pretty damn proud of. But in my case, as is the case of a huge swath of blogs on all subject matters, I also write about a lot more than just recipes, and Blogging 101 says that it is nice to have an eye-catching hero pic to illustrate the theme of the post. If I need an erupting volcano picture, or one of businessmen arguing over a widget, or indeed, one of a smoking hot brunette bartender cutting limes, I don’t usually have the subject at ready hand to photograph myself.

Previously, to post the specific image embedded above in that approximate size would have cost me sixty five dollars. At that price, the chances of my using that photo would have been nil. And even if I had dropped the cash on Getty to post it, that would have been, given the practice of the day now, the last Getty would likely have gotten from most any source. Why? Because had I posted it here in standard host it myself fashion, when any other writer googles “smoking hot brunette bartender cutting limes” they would be likely to get either my post or, of course, this article about smoking hot, brunette bartender Keith Waldbauer. And they would likely grab “my” picture from here and then post it themselves, maybe linking back to here. Worse, for Getty, professional marketing types who needed a full-resolution version (around $500+) would likely have a hard time finding where this vision of loveliness can be purchased, given the likely proliferation of blog posts about her that don’t link directly back to Getty. Or, you know, they might just call their Seattle office and have them hire Keith….

It is also important to note that there are a zillion bloggers, Facebookers, and Pinsters out there who neither know as much as I do about intellectual property, nor give a damn to find out. They just want that pretty picture to put on their page, and they do know how to right-click…. Getty is getting nothing but damage from these people.

With this new embed policy, Getty is showing some real foresight. In virtually no case will someone using one of these embedded images be someone who would have actually paid to use it in the past. But now Getty will maintain a direct link back to themselves in many, if not most instances of use. Look below the picture.

Hey Mister!
My social media buttons are down here!

Um, dear…
That doesn’t sound right. It usually is said the other way, and you sound as if…
Never mind! Never mind! Forget I said anything!
Please?

See the Twitter, tumblr, and embed buttons? Or just click on the pic and go right to the purchase page. If you are a blogger and want her picture, you could still just steal the picture by downloading it. Surprisingly, they don’t even try to block that. But why bother, when you can click one button and save your own bandwidth, and your time?

Thus, when the guy at the Citrus Marketing Association sees Blue Tube Top Girl and falls in love with her, he can get that picture, and others of her, for his new print ad with a few clicks.

Getty is showing that they are learning the Apple message about content, a lesson most content providers, to their stockholders’ detriment, stubbornly refuse to learn: The way to profit from your digital content is not to surround it with guard dogs, but to make it so easy to buy that people won’t bother to pirate it.

I’m happy to be an unpaid salesperson for GettyImages. I’m glad because of course, I’m not unpaid. I get access to lots of good illustrative pictures for my general interest posts. So the next time I want to write about wild, over the top, borderline illegal office parties, I can use just the right picture, like this.

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