Category: pegu club
Political Controversies
Rule 4

The Real Pegu Club… and How to Pronounce It

UPDATE: Welcome, New York Times readers! I hope you look around while you are here.
Pegu-Club-Burma Source: The Irrawaddy
That picture, my friends, is a sight to make me weep. That is the courtyard of the mighty Pegu Club itself in Rangoon, Burma. Nativity-place of the World's Greatest Cocktail™. Once once of the great gentlemen's clubs (the kind where the brass poles run horizontally along the foot of the bar) of the British Empire at its height, the club was last put to use as a military audit office and flop house for bureaucrats in the 1990s. Now, it rots as an abode for stray dogs. And the Burmese website that has this story (and many other beautiful, tragic pictures you should look at) describes its signature cocktail as "Gin and Rose's lime juice".... If you happened upon this post without knowing about the Pegu cocktail, it is not gin and Rose's. That would be a Gimlet. Pegu-Club-Burma-Exterior Look at that magnificent exterior, which is likely already past preservation. The building has been designated as a "heritage building" by the government, so I guess that's something. As opposed to such actions here in the US, the protection of the Pegu Club consists entirely of a hand-written piece of paper held down by a brick that has fallen out of the wall which asks visitors to please not wreck the place. The pictures I've shown you so far are from, I think, an anti-government outlet, and are designed to show the Pegu Club's decay. Since first posting this, I got a tip from Ginger Bar Magazine about another set of photographs by Jacques Maudy and Jimi Casaccia on commission for the Yangon Heritage Trust. (They are apparently a preservation NGO who are endeavoring to preserve glorious architecture like thins in the area. Sadly, their website is currently the dreaded "under construction") These photos are designed to help evoke how beautiful building like this could be, and evoke their past glory. Below is a quite different view of the Pegu Club. You can find many more, higher resolution photos on their website, or even buy their soon-to-be released book, Yangon a City to Rescue. Jacques Maudy and Jimi Casaccia This sad story brings to mind something else I've been meaning to post about for a long time now. How the heck do you really pronounce "Pegu"? Back when I discovered the Pegu in Paul Harrington's Cocktail, a discovery that ignited my obsession with cocktails in general, I surmised that it was pronounced PEE-Goo. Then in 2000, we visited the American Bar at the Savoy in London, where my wife and I had a marvelous long conversation at our table with the legendary Peter Dorelli about the drink, which he thought was pronounced Pee-Zhou. I've always pronounced it thus since. But since Audrey Saunders opened her Pegu Club in Manhattan, most of the cocktail world has pronounced it PEG-oo, under the completely sound expectation that if Audrey says it, it very likely is so. But I wondered. So I picked up the phone and called the embassy of the Republic of Myanmar (what the communist junta renamed Burma to legitimize itself) in Washington, DC. I spoke to a marvelously helpful, if somewhat perplexed, young lady who had never heard the word Pegu or seen it written, at least not in English lettering. She agreed, however, to seek out someone at the embassy who was familiar with it, and call me back with the correct pronunciation. She did call back, (pro tip: say you are a "writer" working on a "story", not a "blogger" writing a "post" if you want a call back) to tell me that a man in the embassy who lived nearby explained to her that the actual pronunciation is Puh-GOO. So there you go. With that earth-shattering piece of investigative journalism out of the way, you can go back to calling the drink a PEG-oo, and I'll keep right on calling it a Pee-Zhou, because I'm a creature of
Lime Juice
Mixology Monday

MxMo: Lime – Garnish

The fifty-first installment of Mixology Monday (a.k.a. The Carnival That Created the Cocktailosphere) has the theme of Lime, and is being hosted at... well, here! I'll thus skip all the general introductory discussion, leaving that for the announcement and the eventual roundup, and delve right into my offering. I'm a fan of Audrey Saunders' Pegu Club, for numerous reasons beyond just the obvious, and I've reviewed the place twice. But one perfect detail of the joint is the magnificently crafted garnishes they offer, each used to highlight but one or two of their signature cocktails. In particular, I love the tattooed lime wedges that perch on the rim of their Pegus. While there is virtually nothing Tiki about Pegu Club, this garnish does produce a subliminal sense of Far Eastern (as opposed to Polynesian) exoticism. The wedges, which look very like the one pictured above, evoke the region of the Pegu's origin like some totem of the Thugee cult. Of course, I don't think the Thugees extended their reach into Burma, and I'm sure they didn't accept citrus fruits as members.... I was mystified as to how they made these little rim-hugging gems, until the Peguwife had a chance to look at them. It took her about thirty seconds to figure how to at least approximate the results. Making a lime's worth of wedges takes but a few minutes at most, and they are a great way of showing off without going the Full Penguin. You will need the following:
  • Cutting board
  • Serrated knife
  • A good, beautiful, richly green lime. The bigger, the better.
  • A five hole citrus zester (like this one, for example.)
You will use the zester to tattoo the whole lime, then slice it into wedges. (This order of things may seem obvious to you, it wasn't to me!) I could get really wordy about how you create various designs (shut up, Guy!) but instead I decided to make a video tutorial of the process. Behold the awesomeness of the Pegu Blog's first vlog entry! As you get some experience with this technique, you'll see that you can make your cuts in ways that will look better when you cut the wedges, and conversely that you can choose where to cut to make whatever design you have carved look better. It is especially a good idea not to run scratches very far longitudinally. They will likely take up an entire wedge and leave very little visual complexity. Even simple patterns will look very complex after slicing if you do them right. You can do this method with any citrus wedge or peel, though I think it looks best with limes and worst with lemons. The lemons don't give enough contrast to really look good. And it works with any cocktail (including lots of tiki drinks) but you are honor-bound to mix a Pegu for the first drink you decorate with
New York Adventure

Summer New York Adventure: The Pegu Club

(See the end of this post for what is going on with this series) While I have written about the Pegu Club before, no trip to New York would be complete without a visit and a post. For more reasons than just the name and the drink. Pegu Club is genuinely one of the nicest places to drink I have ever entered. If Audrey Saunders is the Leonardo da Vinci of the modern cocktail lounge renaissance, then Pegu Club is her Mona Lisa. When I first entered it a few years ago, I confess that I was a little disappointed. It was, to be honest, just a bar. There are no monkeys or parrots flitting though the rafters. The clientele tends more to the ordinary (like me) looking, rather than super-models. In short, the Vegas is notably lacking. In the interest of full disclosure, the first time I visited, my bartender was an undead zombie, but that was Halloween. No, Pegu Club is just a bar, with the things that make bars nice. And Pegu Club does those nice things better than just about any place else I've been to date. (Note: the point of this trip is to see if New York's other watering holes can top Pegu. Stay tuned.) Maggie was surprised at how low-key the street entrance is, just a single glass door with security shutters. Like Cleveland's Velvet Tango Room, I imagine that if you walked by Pegu during the day, you'd think you were looking at an abandoned address. In the best speakeasy tradition, you won't find Pegu Club unless you are already looking for it. There is ample seating away from the bar, with low chairs and tables ideal for a cozy date or a small party of friends. There is a delicious-looking menu of food, but I have always made sure I had a full stomach before visiting, so I cannot comment further on that. The bar has wide, heavy wooden stools, and the bar top is made of a gigantic, three inch thick slab of natural wood with uneven edges. Behind the bar is a vast selection of liquors and liqueurs, on glass shelves and behind South Asianesque sliding wooden lattices. More impressive is the bewildering collection of house made syrups, tinctures, and bitters which populate the nooks and crannies behind and between the larger commercial bottles. In the speed racks behind the bar are myriad other bottles, containing premixed components of the various drinks on the excellent cocktail menu. As with the tiki masters of yore, most are largely unlabeled. While the menu, which is not posted online, will tell you what is generally in your drink, you will not be able to duplicate it exactly just by watching it be made. The menu is a simply fabulous perambulation through modern retro cocktailia. It begins (of course) with the Pegu Club, then touches on nearly every archetype of cocktail. As a Certified Cocktail Snob(TM), I usually feel obliged to sneer at at least half of the cocktails on even the best cocktail menu. But not this one.... The bartenders are fun to watch as they go about their craft. While nothing they do could remotely be equated to what people call "flair", there is a subtle, marvelous showmanship in what they do. For hobby mixologists like me, there is a lot to steal here! If you want to go off the menu, they have you covered. Ingredient-wise, they have it. No really, I bet you twenty bucks they got it. In they unlikely event you stump the bartender on what you want (I did, hah!), they have a custom house reference manual which will unstump them. The one thing I find curious is this: If you want to modify a drink that is on the menu, you practically have to put the staff in a hammerlock to make it happen. Both times I've been there, I have asked for a Pegu with a gin other than what they use (Tanqueray). It is not easy to get this fulfilled. The prices are remarkably, er, reasonable. I was fascinated by the simple fact that cocktails at the Pegu Club are a buck or three cheaper than drinks at our, admittedly nice, hotel lobby bar. The bottom line is this: Pegu Club is simply a perfect neighborhood bar, forget it's legendary status. The staff is uberknowledgable and friendly. The atmosphere is neither pretentious nor distracting. The decor is understated, yet beautiful. And the clientele is friendly. A great crossroads to visit, be you a local or a visitor from far away. The Summer New York Adventure is the first truly kid-free vacation Maggi and I have taken since, well, we've had kids. By day, we'll be exploring Manhattan's Garment District, buying fabric for Maggi's coture workings, and by night we shall explore the SoHo dining and drinking offerings, which should give me some of the best material to blog about in a good long while! Cheers!abc
Political Controversies

Now *THIS* Is Getting Alarming

Over at Bostonist, they notice something scary: One Horseman has become three! Three horsemen of the cocktail apocalypse the bitterlypse times three First, the world nearly lost Angostura Bitters. Here and there, shortages still rend lamentations from the throats of woeful cocktailians. If AB can be threatened, then no ingredient can be truly safe, can it? I dubbed this the Bitterlypse, but Bostonist points out that it was merely one horseman of a wider cocktail apocalypse. Second (third in Bostonist's reckoning) came the Egg Nazis, descending on that Citadel of Good, Pegu Club in Manhattan. Really guys? I've eaten in New York City. The Gotham health inspectors have more important concerns than the threat of a little raw egg white being served in glasses full of disinfectant. And it still gets worse. Third comes a fell horseman, sweeping away all the OXO two ounce mini measures from stores, and none appear on the horizon to replace them! These truly are dire times. But here's the really creepy part. There are four horsemen. What pestilence will this guy bring? abc
@DAWInship on Instagram