October 27, 2009

One Ugly Monkey

Sorry for the delay in reporting these results. I've dropped twenty pounds and am way out of drinking shape. Experiments didn't used to hurt this bad.

Moreover, Death in the Afternoon is not something to trifle with. A heady mix of absinthe and Champagne rumored to be favored by, if not actually invented by, Ernest Hemingway (who wrote a book with the same title and only spells his name with 1 "M"). The drink involves a jigger of absinthe, newly legalized, and enough iced Champagne to obtain "the proper opalescent milkiness."

Hemingway favored French. So we used a very good, if not exorbitantly priced, grower Champagne from the grand cru village of Verzenay. A non-vintage Michel Arnould & Fils Grand Cuvee Brut. For the absinthe, we opted for a hand-crafted elixir from Berkeley, California called St George. It may be less "traditional" but it has dense herbal aromatics, a blend of anise, fennel, verbena and citrus. It also has a cool, scary spider monkey on the label.

The first thing you notice is the licorice. The smell reaches you even before you pick up the glass. The second thing is the milky opalescence (see above). The blend of liquids seems to gain substance in the glass. On the palate, the flavors spread thickly across the tongue, like the texture of a really delicious mix of peanut butter and lighter fluid. It's beguiling. You give the green fairy a wink and smile. Because the third thing you notice is how really good this is.

The fourth thing you notice is how bad your head hurts as you wonder who's bed you've slept in.

Whether Ernest chose this as a sea-sickness cure (as Champagne was generally thought to be back in olden times), because it was delicious or because it's the most effective way to get blood alcohol levels up to toxic levels, we may never know for certain.

But be careful of the monkey. He smells nice. But he's not your friend.

October 19, 2009

I Can't Believe I Misspelled Hemingway

I was an English major for Pete's sake (until boredom forced me to drop Victorian Era Poets and change my major to Economics).

How embarrassing.

(I did at least catch the mistake myself, and then fixed it below).

October 14, 2009

What Would Hemingway Drink?

To resuscitate our occasional forays into the history of drink, we set out recently on a bold experiment, one that broadens our original experimental mission.

One might, of course, argue that this is a departure from our prior tests of pre-phylloxera vines under the Thomas Jefferson rubric, or the Julius Caesar umbrella we employed for wines made in terra cotta amphorae. You could say this is more about nostalgia, less about historical inquiry.

I wouldn't disagree. But someone told me that Hemmingway's favorite drink was something called Death in the Afternoon, and I was immediately intrigued by the name. Google told me the drink was a noxious combination of absinthe and Champagne.

I'd like to point out in advance, given my recent illness, drinking this was a really stupid idea.

But absinthe has recently made a legalized comeback (2007) and the allure of chasing in Papa's boozy footprints was too exciting to resist.

Absinthe? From the Times: "a neutral spirit infused with myriad herbs and botanicals, centering around anise, fennel and a specific type of wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, from which absinthe takes its name. This wormwood contains small amounts of thujone, a compound once thought to affect the mind. It’s understood now that hallucinations and other health issues attributed to overindulging in absinthe were more a result of alcohol poisoning due to the high alcohol content, typically 50 to 70 percent."

Details of the "experiment" up next.

October 12, 2009

I'm Back!

But I'm damaged.

And it's not just about the virus that kicked me around all summer. I'm in the throes of a deeper crisis of conscience. More about that later.

In the meantime, my apologies to the Lab Staff and their families. I know how difficult this period has been for you all.

I will endeavor to bring the Lab's operations back to their former levels. But it may take a while to get fully re-started. As many of you noted when his calendar was released, I talk almost incessantly with Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner. If he's not on the phone with Blankfein, he's calling the Lab. He's very chatty and not all that interesting. But it's going to be increasingly difficult to buy Champagne with an ever cheapening dollar, so I'm doing my part in the lobby effort. I listen to Tim ramble on about unemployment, bank reserves and the fragile housing market and then I say the same thing, "Raise rates, Tim." He tells me that it's not his call, that Ben Bernanke is in charge of stuff like that. And I point out that we both know Bernanke couldn't find inflation if it were sitting on his lap like a Cocker Spaniel -- which it is.

So stay tuned. There's a big back log of experimentation to get through.