Gin Fizz: Booze, Bonfires and Beach Parties

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The 1960s were an awakening. Young people were revolutionizing music, fashion, art and sexuality. Men of business, who had boldly taken the reins, were racing full speed towards the future. With a burgeoning economy, they were howling war cries, pounding their chests, and feeling like masters of the universe. All this I know from watching the show Mad Men, and sipping gin fizzes with Mr. Z, another bad-boy product of the 60’s era.

 

MadMen party scene

 

After a few more sips of his cocktail, Mr. Z was ready to lead me even further down memory lane.

Bonfires and Beach Parties

Back in the late 1800’s, there wasn’t much around Lake Coeur d’Alene, except for a few cabins, a lot of trees, fish, sandy shores, and possibly the occasional Yeti sighting.

Much of the property on Del Cardo Bay had belonged to his grandmother’s family. His grandmother, an “it” girl of the beach party set, threw some of the biggest and best in the Pacific Northwest, including at the bay, where Mr. Z and I were having cocktails.

 

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Back then, supply ships would travel between the quaint little towns of Coeur d’Alene and Harrison, Idaho. To get to Del Cardo Bay, his grandmother’s party guests would pay supply ships to tow their row boats to the bay, which was conveniently located along their route. When the parties were over, guests would row out to the middle of the lake, wave a white flag at a passing supply ship, and get towed to the next town.

 

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At this point, you may be wondering, what happens when a bunch of beach party guests gather away from civilization and uptight neighbors? The revelry could be heard echoing across the bay, and one could only imagine what shenanigans were running amok. Naked dancing around bonfires? Drum circles and peyote? Maybe. Decades later, people still whisper about how the tents and vacation cabins not only housed the guests, but also accommodated their…sexy time (wink).

Booze

With such lofty lineage, it made sense that the bawdy, adults-only shindigs Mr. Z threw at his fabulous homes in the 1960s were the swingin’-est among the party circuit back in the day. It was that winning combination of booze, broads and bartending badassery. Mr. Z’s creative twists to popular and classic cocktails made them not just better, but also more, shall we say, effective. Good times rolled and drinks flowed – gin martinis, bloody mary’s, gimlets, and so forth.

 

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At 92 years old, he looks back at his youth with a playful grin, a twinkle in his eye, and oh so many stories to tell. Amazingly, he has an excellent memory and knows all his cocktail recipes by heart, as well as dastardly details about his parties and guests, I’m sure.

 

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He allowed me to print the recipe for this deliciously refreshing gin fizz we were enjoying if I promised to leave out one ingredient, what he calls the “pièce de résistance”. His daughter poured some into an unmarked jar for me use to make Mr. Z’s giz fizz at home, and for other cocktails that I’d want to experiment with.

 

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Have fun trying to guess that secret ingredient. And above all, enjoy all the gin fizzes you’ll make during “research”.

Cheers!


Mr. Z’s Gin Fizz

6 oz. Minute Maid lemonade frozen concentrate (they come in 12 oz. cans so use just half a can)
6 oz. Dry gin with a high alcohol proof, like Beefeater Gin
6 oz. Whole milk
1 Raw egg
1 Tsp Unnamed secret ingredient

Fill a blender halfway with ice. Add all the ingredients listed. Blend until completely mixed and frothy. Enjoy.

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Photo credits

Photo of gin fizz version without the milk and egg by Alexandria Julaton

The Steamboats of Lake Coeur d’Alene
http://www.harrisonidaho.org/steamboats.html

Party scenes from Mad Men tv show and Breakfast at Tiffany’s movie

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Cognac: A Warm Beautiful (Cocktail) Memory

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It was a bright summer morning in Victoria. I was sipping coffee in the balcony, and watching planes skim over the water when I got a text from my brothers. They had all decided to go downtown right after an early breakfast. No doubt, I’ll meet up with one or all of them later today, after their afternoon of selfies and shopping.

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Until then, I decided to go exploring on my own. A five-minute walk later, I was at the Inner Harbour and Empress Hotel. As I wandered in and out of alleys along Government Street, I briefly checked out a number of trendy bars and cheery pubs, making mental notes of which ones I’ll visit later.

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One shop I popped into sold beautifully-cut crystal liquor decanters imported from Ireland. I had lunch at a patio on Trounce Alley, and chatted with a sous chef from Montreal on his smoke break. He gave me his card and suggested, with his heavy French accent, that we have dinner at his place some evening. “I cook for you, we have some wine and…”, he let the sentence trail off with a nodding smile and a crook of his brow. I kept the card.

My brother Arthur texted me that he was cocktailing at a bar in Chinatown. He invited me to join him if I was nearby, before meeting up and dining with family in a couple of hours. Past the fruit stands and tea house, I found an alley that looked almost too narrow for two people to walk through, shoulder to shoulder. I took my time exploring the tiny shops and fragrant varieties of burning incense. It was summer, warm and perfect. And I had no intention of rushing anywhere.

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I found the bar just a block and a half away. Arthur wasn’t seated at the counter, where I expected him to be. I saw through a glass partition that he was sitting at a table, staring at an oil painting hanging directly in front of him.

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I wish I knew the name of the artist who did this painting

He was completely absorbed by that gorgeous painting of what appeared to be a sort of costume party, which took up half the wall. He could barely look away, even as he spoke or took pictures of it with his phone. More interesting to me was the cocktail my brother was sipping. He called it the Warm Beautiful.

The cocktail

The Beautiful is a delicious, potent and citrusy cocktail made of cognac and Grand Marnier orange liqeuer. Arthur preferred it topped with a lemon zest. Having worked part-time as a bartender while in medical school, he knew that cognac’s flavor and aroma deepened when warmed. Cognac lovers would often just cradle the snifter in the palm of their hand, warming the cognac with their body’s heat. My brother wanted something a bit more imaginative.

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The cocktail was served in a snifter. He then asked for a “heater”, a small glass half-filled with hot water. Arthur placed the snifter on top of the water-bearing glass. As my brother waited for the cognac cocktail to reach the proper temperature, he rotated the snifter now and again, still gazing in awe at the absurd yet fascinating painting across from us.

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Age of the cognacs

According to the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), there are three official classifications of cognac, depending on how long the cognac had been stored in casks:
VS (very special) – At least two years
VSOP (very superior old pale) – At least four years
XO (extra old) – At least ten years

Other classifications have also been used by producers when the cognac had been stored beyond official age scales, such as Extra and Hors d’age (beyond age), which can be as much as 100 years old.

“Rules” of enjoyment

Cognac connoisseurs have very strong feelings about cognacs being used in cocktails. One forbes.com article mentioned that, whereas it is acceptable to use a young VS or VSOP cognac as part of a cocktail mix, it is considered a tragedy to do so with an exceptional-tasting, wallet-busting XO or older cognac. Those can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars per bottle.

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My brother’s Warm Beautiful cocktail was created using Hennessey VS, but a Courvoisier VSOP could have also been used, instead. On the other hand, Remy Martin’s $3,000-a-bottle Louis XVIII, which is very popular in China (along with all the other premium cognacs), is an example of one that should be showcased as a solo act.

All drinking aside (for the moment), younger cognacs should also be used for flambe, marinades, sauces, chocolates and fruit preserves.

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And if you’re in the mood to immerse yourself in all things cognac, the French town this liquid luxury was named after hosts the annual La Fete du Cognac , where you can party for three days with cognac cocktails, crowds, cuisine and concerts.

Cheers!

The Beautiful cocktail recipe

1 oz Hennessey or Courvoisier VS/VSOP cognac
1 oz Grand Marnier orange liqueur

Add both ingredients into a brandy snifter, mix and serve. Optional: Top off with a lemon zest, the way my brother and I like it.

Enjoy!


All photos of Victoria BC, Canada by Alexandria Julaton
Remy Martin shop photo by Weng lei – Imaginechina/AP
Still shot of Cognac Festival, courtesy of La Fete du Cognac YouTube video