Saturday, September 22

Jack & Ginger: A Clarification

FIRST, let me affirm that Ms Dowd reports that her father entered this country as a 19-year-old Irish immigrant who earned his citizenship by fighting in WWI. This would place him somewhere in his mid-50s when Maureen was born (in 1952). Not an impossible feat at that age, I can attest, but certainly more exhausting.

Now then. Jack Daniels™ is a young man's drink. Young, because it is sweetened, and because the inferior effects of its chemical aging, compared to maturation in barrel, ought to become apparent as one ages oneself, chemically or otherwise (that "Old No. 7" used to read "7 Years Old", kids). And Man's because it is marketed with playing cards and bandanas and suchlike, "I'm a Rebel" geegaws that no Woman in her right mind would fall for, unless she had already exhibited signs like stitching her Prom dress together from Confederate battle flags. Which, come to think of it, suggests she'd already been sampling the stuff by the onset of menses at the latest.

I'm not impugning anyone's taste. I myself have enough juvenile food and drink preferences to fill the kiddie menu at a middling steakhouse, and if you happen to prefer Chef Boy-R-Dee™ ravioli to the genuine item it's your own business. But if you decide to write about it you ought at least to acknowledge that yours is a minority opinion akin to a preference for driving everywhere in reverse.

Personally, we rarely drink highballs, which are designed to keep the steady drinker from consuming quite as much alcohol, as we prefer to patronize the distiller, the brewer, and the viticulturalist of distinction and to sample his or her wares as intended, with little or no dilution, and often straight from the bottle. Again, we do not impugn the use of alcohol as social lubricant, and we are not unaware of those times ("cocktail parties") when one drinks, in part, from the obligation to keep up. Nor are the charms of the genre totally lost on us; the occasional friendly buzz from a vodka-and-lemonade makes a welcome and refreshing Summertime addition to some suburban croquet or al fresco mate swapping.

But here we begin to scratch the surface of the complaint. While we are under no obligation to live by The Rules, it's a nicer point as to whether we're exempt from even recognizing them if we trip over them. There would be nothing "wrong" about drinking Chopin vodka and lemonade. There are at least two things wrong with calling it. Premium vodkas are made, with great care, generally, to exhibit individual characteristics. Domestic vodkas (which, by law, must be odorless and taste-free) are more amenable to blending. The showy adulteration of, let's say, Grey Goose, with, let's say, Hi-C, is pretentious, wasteful, and the opposite of connoisseurship, unless Vodka and Grapey Grape happens to be your drink and The Goose happens to be the only choice on the shelf.

With brown spirits domestic brandy is the choice for blending (and not Hennessey VSOP, let alone a decent Cognac). Even a bourbon-ish spirit with as little real claim to distinction as Jack Daniels is misused under the circumstances; if one idiosyncratically prefers its blowzy charms to superior products, why hide it at the bottom of a sea of mix (and why does one sweeten a Coke)? There's a Catch-22 quality to the call, which leaves us to conclude that the drinker, or in this case the writer, is in thrall to the pitiless master Mass-Market Advertising.

It's an inescapable condition, our modern servitude, and one does not blame the slave for his chains, unless one is a Movement "Conservative" pundit, in which case one generally tries to qualify it. But aside from a permanent sunless imprisonment, there's no real excuse for him not to look at the blue sky sometimes, or the starry night, and ask himself What If? Dowd is fifty-five years old. She's successful, high-profile, and living in one of the world's great cities, and her job almost certainly permits, if not requires, sampling something of the good life. Yet the choice is suspiciously common, which I realize sounds like snobbery, but isn't; it's meant as a criticism of her writer's ear, however tinny. She could have said "wine spritzers" and I would have found it sorta humorous. She could have used "Cosmos" or "Appletinis" or "Cuba Librés" and it would have slid down easy. Okay, except for the Cuba crack, but that still would have shown some welcome writerly spark. I suppose it's possible that Hillary Clinton, a woman of intelligence, wide experience, and disposable income, drinks dilute rotgut, in which case I'm an asshole and it's not the first time, but I suspect the betting would run the other way. I suppose it's possible that Dowd snatched Jack and ginger from the advertising aether or some overheard remark at someone else's wedding and is herself a lifelong teetotaler. But assuming she proofreads her own copy, I sincerely hope not, for her sake.

None of which touches on the fact of an entrenchedly middle-aged New York journalist--with a set of gender issues more appropriate to a small-town, home-schooled fifteen-year-old named Rebekah--who appears to believe that pouring liquid depressants down a subject's gullet is the key to a revelation of True Self. But then, it's Saturday, and this started off to be a note.


FiniFinito said...

I'll have 4 whole fried chickens and a coke. And some dry white toast for my brother.

Anonymous said...

Mr Dog -- your contention amply reified by YT last week with the following (as it turned out) experimental procedure:

Hypothesis: are all gins just Bottled Stupid Liquid Harshness that are cynically marketed to brainless and tastebudless anglophiles? Izzat why there are like 4 dusty bottles of the stuff still on the shelf of my local top-of-the-bell-curve supermarket, apologetically peering out from between the mango schnappes and Everclear?

Test: bought a stubby of Hendrick's at my favorite goofy wine-connoiseur emporium. Concocted absolutely the tastiest gin&tonic that ever sluiced down my esoph.

Time passes. Thirst reawakens.

Suspicion: how about taking the Real Plunge? ...i.e., no Schweppes.

Exp'm't the Second: Hendricks on the rox.

Result: what in farkination was I doing corrupting that wondeful ambrosia with a treacly substance sold by a guy with a gray goatee in the '60's?

Full disclosure: (1) the week before, my guardian angel, in his/her/its wisdom, caused me to stumble upon a sympathetic barkeep who mixed me a g&t using Boodle's, thus reawakening my wonder;(2) Hendrick's is a noble product of Dufftown, which is in Banffshire, which is in ... Scotland. Contempt for clueless anglophiles can thus remain at previous Code Orange levels with never a thought of regret;(3) I'm having a right rough old time trying to buy me my very own bottle of Boodle's from some hip vendor; which led me hence: (4) I discovered a veritable Galaxy of Gins online, none of which unfortunately are able to be legally purchased and shipped to YT (YT being endemic to the USA), from Holland and Switzerland (if I read the weird Eurolanguage correctly). No claims as to tastiness of course.

Anonymous said...

Humm, in college, in Indiana of all places, my drink of choice was Peppermint Schnapes and Mountain Dew.

yes, I am much better now, thanks for asking...

Anonymous said...

In a strange bar last weekend (not for professional reasons, yet surely not for fun either) and bored with beer (I'd already had three beers, yet the people on stage hadn't ceased to exist), I ordered a Jack and Coke. I felt at the time that I was doing something wrong, but wasn't quite sure what. Thank you for educating me so eloquently; next time I ask for the vodka and Grapey Grape.

--Oscar, who shall log in properly someday

Anonymous said...

Thenkew for confirming my long-held suspicion that Jack Daniels was a "sugared" bourbon/sour mash. The headaches from wee overindulgence suggested that. Never had the experience with Beam, Maker's Mark, Wild Turkey, etc. Years ago, I drank bourbon and ginger ale, believing that the ginger ale brought out the oak flavor of the bourbon. However, on a first-class flight from NY to MIA many years back, the fellow next to me, a famous clothing designer, pointed out that the combination really did no justice to either beverage, and suggested bourbon with a splash of water (if necessary) would enhance one's appreciation of the distiller's art far better. He was totally correct, of course, and, if I could fit into his jeans, I would buy them out of sheer gratitude for the advice.

As for Dutch "jenevir," which they keep in a freezer always, it is purely awful stuff. My martinis are blessed with Boodles (a la Travis McGee) if I can get it. And vodka, I have learned from my War Department's Russian relatives, is best served alone, and undiluted with anything. Also kept in the freezer to avoid the necessity of (gasp) ice.

Mo MoDo said...

Dowd just wanted to get the word "ginger" into her column as much as possible. I'm shocked she didn't make a Gilligans Island reference.

I have never had a Jack and ginger, but I started drinking Jack and Coke after visiting the Jack Daniels factory in Lynchburg, Tennessee.

They make a big deal over the charcol filtering, but I don't recall any sweetners being added. It can't be called a bourbon because it is made in Tennessee instead of Kentucky, but it is a whiskey since it is made from sour mash. I think you are confusing it with Southern Comfort which is technically a liqueur since it is sweetened.

Jack Daniels did recently lower its strength from 86 proof to 80 proof, so you can call it watered down.

Anonymous said...

Ginny update for Those who might Actually GAS ...

My enterprising purveyor came thru yesterday: I am as of 14 hours ago the smug Possessor of 9/10 of a bottle of Boodle's.

And I am chagrined to report that that I must humbly "think again" vis-a-vis my loudmouthed anglophobia: Boodle's is both Of Britain Proper and delicious. Thus my next mission will be to conjure a bottle of Plymouth's into my meaty paws, which spirits, originating from the western-shore borders of fairest England, and not from crass London, seem worthy of at least a three-quarter-hearted effort at procuring a critical guzzle or two.

For Those Even Fewer Beings Among Those Original Alkys who might Actually GAS, I'll "OT" update on some random future Doggy thread, should success in this endeavor be achieved, with the results of the Taste Test.

Anonymous said...

My drink? Benedictine and Pluto Water, with a sprig of mint.

Anonymous said...

If it weren't so early in the day, and I were feeling better (what ARE the symptoms of appendicitis?) I'd toast you all now.

yellojkt said...

Laying in bed all day with vague discomfort in the lower right abdomen is the biggest sign. We learned that right after we rushed our son to the emergency room with a busted appendix.

Anonymous said...

think you are confusing it with Southern Comfort which is technically a liqueur since it is sweetened.

Ah, no.