At the Pegu Blog?
I know. I’m shocked too. It has been a while. Honestly, I haven’t written about Pegus here much because my mission is largely successful. After 13 years of blogging, the Pegu Club cocktail is generally recognized once again around the world, most high end bartenders are again familiar with it, and most decent bars routinely have the means to make one for anyone who is in the know. I take full credit for this….
Or so I thought. But then my fellow OG cocktail blogger, SeanMike, had to come along and ruin my idyl with news that Arkansas is still out there. Specifically, Good Afternoon Arkansas on Little Rock’s ABC 7 and 42 Bar and Table, the house watering hole of the Clinton Presidential Library is still out there….
On July 19th 2019, Thomas Spencer of 42 Bar and Table appeared on ABC7 to promote his latest cocktail menu by demonstrating a classic included thereon — the Pegu Club.
The initial aim of this blog was to highlight every appearance of the Pegu in popular media, and rejoice in it. The video you are about to watch (if you dare) should be a grand slam. It is both a Pegu on a major restaurant menu, and it is on TV.
I do not know Thomas Spencer, and after this post I suspect we will never be friends, but to him I quote the CW’s Green Arrow: “Thomas Spencer, you have failed this city!”
I mean, really! The slow motion catastrophe of this segment is mind-boggling. Every time you think it can’t get any worse, it gets exponentially more so. I want to thank KATV for giving me such a rage boner that I am moved to do a long-form post outside of Tiki Month for the first time in quite a while. Lets dig in!
Let us introduce the cast of our little disaster film. On our left is nattily attired local restaurateur Thomas Spencer. In the middle we have Elicia Dover, co-host of Good Afternoon Arkansas and the hapless heroine of the piece. On our right is… Cade? Cate? Some dude who appears to have been dragged in straight from his vacation on the Las Vegas Strip. This is how you dress to be on TV? I am guessing that he is a camera man or lighting engineer or something, and since he is probably the station’s champion day-drinker, they have him on to keep the on-air talent sober during segments like this. I have lots of bartender friends, so I’ve gotten over making fun of murses, but for this guy I will make an exception. What is this leopard skin monstrosity, and why for the love of Jerry Thomas are you wearing it on camera?
Right out of the gate, we have to say “Pegu” out loud. There are a lot of ways I’ve heard it pronounced. The generally accepted way in the bar world is “PEGG-ooh”. Peter Dorelli himself, over drinks at the American Bar, taught me to pronounce it as “Pee-zhoo”. The Myanmar embassy in Washington DC told me over the phone when I called them that it is pronounced “Puh-GOO”. Spencer manages to careen across all three of these lanes and end up backward in the “Pay-jew” shoulder.
It is a very minor nit-pick, not worthy of notice really.
I’m sorry I pointed it out.
Enjoy your apologies while they lasted, dude.
Thomas does correctly identify the word’s origin as being from Rangoon, Myanmar, to which Cade sagely agrees that is does “sound French”.
They start with Bombay Sapphire as the gin. Yay! All is well. Sapphire is in my opinion the single best global gin for a Pegu. We are back on the track and rolling! Ten points to Slytherin, and all that.
As Spencer starts to describe how he wants our game heroine to mix the drink, I am distracted momentarily by the site of the glass he has set out in front. It is a cocktail glass with half an orange wheel… and a sugared rim? “Please,” I thought, “that has to be for the Sangria that they are doing next, right?” My fear on this front is immediately forgotten when I hear his instructions, “and you know me. We just pour.” What? Free pour a delicate sour? There isn’t even a spout on the bottle. Thomas apparently revels in the adventure of never knowing the recipe presented, or the amount he is serving a customer. Cate inquires if this is a “Four count? Five count?” Without a pour spout, you can count all you want, kiddo. You still don’t have any idea. My best guess is Dover gets maybe an ounce and a half in there.
Next, Thomas presents orange curaçao as the modifier. At this point, I no longer have any hope, and am just watching to see how bad it gets. First off, no. I strongly believe that you use a neutral base, clear orange liqueur like Cointreau in a Pegu. I am willing to stipulate to the court that that is merely an opinion, don’t @ or fact-check me. But what is this bottle of off-brand hooch he is using? You can’t at least spring for Hiram Walker or DeKuyper? And what happened to the label? Was it left around in a cooler for an afternoon in the back of a pickup?
I will pass on discussing his pronunciation at this time. This is a Clinton employee in Arkansas, after all. I also just shook my head at the discussion of why it isn’t blue.
But he lets Elicia, who clearly can sense that this is all wrong, but gamely rolls with it, pour at least as much orange liqueur as she did gin. Then he tells her to pour in more! Again, only God, Satan, and Gaz Regan know how much of each ingredient she gets in there, but if there isn’t at least fifty percent more curaçao than gin in that tin, I’ll eat my fez. No. No. Just… no!
Lime juice! Hallelujah! It looks fresh squeezed! Something is right. Then Spencer takes the bottle and squeezes a tiny dash in the tin. That’s it. He puts it in himself, as if afraid that Elicia might accidentally put an appropriate amount in there. Head. Desk. Repeated assembly required.
Wait! Simple syrup? What? It was at this point, on first viewing, that I began concocting ways to convince John Wick that Thomas Spencer had killed his dog. Listen, to anyone out there who thinks simple syrup should be the “bartender’s best friend”, as Thomas so gleefully relates: This is wrong. Simple syrup behind the bar is like a chainsaw on a demolition site. It isn’t always needed, and it is always dangerous. Hundreds of thousands of drinks are botched in America every day by the use of too much simple syrup, or indeed, by letting it get anywhere near the drink at all (as in this case). So of course, he lets Alicia go to town with the simple, to the tune of two to three times the lime juice he used….
At last it is over. My agony is finished. Time to shake. It can’t get any worse. I am momentarily distracted by the fact that Spencer has apparently taught our plucky anchor on prior visits how to operate a Boston shaker. Bravo. With a little work, she could get a good shake and not look so ridiculous doing it. I begin to unclench my tee….
Where. The. Hell. Are. The. Bitters?
For the first time in my life, I understand the kid’s today, and their “I just can’t even!” I am ashamed. I have to get off my own lawn….
No. I won’t. I’m back.
He did not simply forget the bitters. There are no bitters on the table! He was never going to put bitters in this drink. Bitters are the whole goddamn soul of a Pegu, buster! And don’t you forget it!
I will burn your crops, steal your livestock, and free your women, Thomas Spencer.
Oh crap. That glass is for the Pegu. And it’s not an accident. He puts a Pegu with copious simple syrup, almost no lime, and absolutely no bitters into a sugar-rimmed glass with an orange. I will salt your fields once I burn them.
Well, at least it has the right color. We are done.
Oh no! We are not! In likely event that you have been unable to bear watching this disaster all the way to this point, kids, he tops it with Sprite!
My right eye may never stop twitching as long as I remain alive.
Cate, or Cade, or Craig, or whatever his name is is then forced to sip this concoction calling itself a Pegu Club. He gamely does so twice, makes a comment that I wish I could make out, and then hits that monstrosity again. His utility on set is now clearly what I suspected it was. He will drink anything, and smile doing it. Poor guy.
I miss JaNee Nisonger.