Saturday, April 24, 2010

Raising a (Small) Glass to the Movies

I love Turner Classic Movies, at least in theory; I record 10 or 15 every month and usually wind up erasing to make room for the next batch that I won’t watch. This morning as I was about to erase some Humphrey Bogart movies, I decided to watch one first. Hmm, African Queen, Casablanca or All through the Night? I chose the latter because it was the only one I’d never seen. It came out a month or two after The Maltese Falcon and a few years before Casablanca, so Humphrey Bogart was just establishing his hard-boiled noir credentials.

In one scene, Gloves, as he’s called in the movie (there’s also someone called Spats), drinks a martini out of a tiny glass that looks like something left over from the set of The Wizard of Oz, if they had speakeasies in Munchkinland. Three-and-a-half ounces, four tops.

And why does a martini/cocktail glass need to be bigger than that? The standard martini recipe is 3 oz. or so of gin (or vodka, these days), and some trace amount of vermouth. The recipe for a cosmopolitan (l.5 oz. gin, .75 oz. each of three remaining ingredients) makes a 3.75 oz. drink. So those big glasses Barbara has (which we measured the capacity of last week and were shocked to find held around 11 ounces) are when full the equivalent of almost three standard cocktails.

Reader Judy had commented via email about glass size a few weeks ago: “As you might remember, my favorite cocktail glass is a vintage cut-crystal stemmed bowl like Bette or Myrna dripping in satin and sashaying around would be holding. And they are tiny by comparison to today’s martini boat.” During my photo search today I saw one of Bette Davis in All About Eve holding a martini glass that looks a little bigger than the one Humphrey “Gloves” Bogart drank from, but still no bigger than 5 oz., I would say. I also found one of James Bond pouring a shaken-not-stirred martini into a glass less than half the size of the ones Barbara and I generally use at her house.

You may have read reader Brian's comment that Nick and Nora would be scandalized at an Atlantic Monthly column stating today’s cocktails are “too strong;” when you consider that today’s cocktails are two to three times bigger than the ones Nick and Nora were drinking, maybe they wouldn’t be so much scandalized as drunk off their asses. Or should I say more drunk off their asses. On the one hand, today I came across a movie poster for The Thin Man that shows they were drinking mini martinis, as was the custom at the time. On the other hand, the movie includes several exchanges like this one: Nora (to Nick): How many drinks have you had? Nick: This will make six martinis. Nora (to waiter): All right. Will you bring me five more martinis, Leo, and line them up right here?

I’m tempted to switch out my glasses (which are “only” 7 oz.) for some vintage smaller ones. We could have the psychological advantage of being able to have two, yet still be able to stand up. And each of those two would be ice-cold, instead of room temperature like the last several sips from the “boats.”

Tomorrow Barbara is hosting a porch-side cocktail party. Barbara wondered what the theme should be (sometimes there’s a theme), and her husband said, “The French Resistance.” And she decided to go with that. I’m bringing a tureen of vichyssoise. The reason I bring it up is that I just realized that Casablanca, one of the movies I could have watched today, revolves around the wife of a prominent leader of the French Resistance. Everything is related. Here’s looking at you, kids.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Comments on Comments

Hello Readers,

For some reason, it didn't occur to me that good netiquette dictates that bloggers reply to comments. The thing is, most of the comments Barbara and I receive are via email, and we've responded in kind. But from now on, I will be commenting on comments in a timely fashion, and Barbara and I will at least once a month sit down and report on the emails. Starting right now:

Here's a note from Julie, a reader in Winston-Salem:

I’m unofficially manning the southern desk of “Searching the Cosmos."

So far, results are dismal and I haven’t even thrown the gin curve ball yet!

I had high hopes for The Inn at Biltmore Estate as they pride themselves on top drawer everything. The price came out of the top drawer but the drink itself came out of the cranberry-lemonade pitcher – nicely presented, of course.

Recently, I spent a week with my sister on Hilton Head Island and we frequented one of our favorite hole-in-the-wall, right-by-the-water fresh seafood places (Hudson’s). I wasn’t expecting much - the place is much more suited to sweet tea and beer but a girl’s gotta try! You know you’re in trouble when they don’t list the drink prices on the menu and the drink they bring you is in a rather small (but stemmed!) glass. Good thing I was much more focused on the fresh, steamed shrimp and only ordered one. At $8.50. (For comparison: a whole order of shrimp was $14.)

I’m way behind on my issues of MORE (I pass them on to your sister after reading and I’m sure she hasn’t seen one in six months) but I’m sure to have my feathers ruffled by the “Does this drink make me look old?” article. [I bet the editors secretly drink Green Apple Martinis anyway. Eewww!]

Finally, I LOVE that you rated Nobody’s Fool above the other Richard Russo books. My personal fave.

As I wrote to Julie, she should have her own blog; great writing! Barbara and I will be doing a cost-based posting soon; we'll figure out how much it costs to make one at home. And by the way, an $8.50 cosmo would be a steal in Manhattan, where I (Mary) frequently see them for $15. Julie, we hope to hear more from you! (I will be visiting Winston-Salem, Julie's hometown, in May and we will be having a Southern cocktail party: cosmos, daiquiris and cheese straws. We will be indoctrinating my sister Kathleen, who has never had a cosmo of any stripe, let alone gin. There will be a report.)

Here's a recent comment from my sister-in-law Jean:

I see from your cosmos blog that you are still wearing your foot boot. Does it hurt? "Searching the Cosmos" always reminds me of the Clemmie quote, "Hey Mom, tell me again, whats the universe?" or some such quote words to that effect. I also love the thing you wrote about feeling your age. Great play of words there. Thanks for doing that!

Yes, the foot boot: I had to wonder what people who don't know me (which is way more than half of our readers, since Barbara is a much better promoter of it than I) thought about that. I broke my foot in early January. How, I don't know; I didn't turn my ankle or do anything noticeable. I was in that boot until this past Monday.) Thanks for the comments, Jean.

Here's one from my sister Carol to Barbara, since Barbara is who sent her the link:

Museum and Planetarium Director that I am, I see searching cosmos, and I am thinking telescopes and planetarium and billions and billions of stars. Shows where my head is at. Maybe it would be better off in your universe.

That's it for today. More to come. Here's a suggestion to everyone who sends email comments: think about commenting directly on the blog. All of your comments are so funny and interesting that everyone would enjoy reading them. You don't have to use your real or complete name, if that's a concern to you. It would be fun to have dialogues going on.

Barbara and I have just finished our Sunday afternoon cocktail. We thought we'd be doing it porch-side, but it turned cold all of sudden. So we're sitting in her family room, thinking about how bad it would be to spill a cosmo onto my brand new MacBook. So far so good.


Barbara and Mary

Friday, April 16, 2010

Play Ball: How Our Local Teams Stack Up

I don't normally have a drink at a baseball game because I don't care for beer and anything besides beer seems wrong. But a few years ago my daughter Clementine and I went to a Yankee game at the old Stadium courtesy of tickets our friend Joel had gotten from a client. The seats were in a fancy section along the third-base line, so close to Alex Rodriguez we could practically touch him. In-seat wait service was available, so were cosmos, so I ordered one. It arrived in a shrink-wrapped plastic martini glass. Deep red, it looked like Jello. After peeling off the plastic and taking a sip, I found it tasted like Jello as well. I have since seen those cosmos-to-go at our local liquor store. I guess they serve a purpose, but I'm not sure what it is.

Last June at the Mets' new stadium, Citifield, I was sitting in even fancier seats for a Mets-Yankee interleague game. Once again the seats were courtesy of Joel, who attended the game along with a client from Spain and the client's wife. The wife spoke no English, but I was amazed at what I was able to convey with my grade-school Spanish: "Numero trece, A-Rod, esta el novio de Kate Hudson, la hija de Goldie Hawn. Madonna esta su novia tambien."

Our seats were in a section that had its own private wood-paneled bar and restaurant, so we went in for a pre-game cocktail. Since it was a real bar with top-shelf brands, I thought I'd be getting a real glass, but the drink was served in a plastic beer cup. Swing and a miss.

The only other time I had alcohol at a baseball game was when Joel gave us tickets to watch a game from the Mickey Mantle suite in the old Yankee Stadium. Clementine and I went, along with our friends Cathy and Mary. The suite was a room overlooking the field, with comfy reclining chairs, two big-screen TVs (even though the game was being played right beyond the big windows in front of us), a hot and cold buffet and a full bar, complete with bartender. I had a gin and tonic or two. (Or three; there was a 90-minute rain delay, so we were in that box for about five hours.) It was an odd experience, very much like being at a baseball game, but not quite. Last year, Joel gave us tickets that included access to the Jim Beam suite at the new Yankee Stadium. Clementine and I got food there, but didn't bother with drinks since the glasses were plastic. Wait, I take that back; she had a beer, because that's what you do at a baseball game.

I think it's clear what the lessons are here: Everyone should have a friend like Joel. And no one should order a cosmpolitan if Alex Rodriguez is in the vicinity.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Should we save time and just break these here?

Before Barbara introduced me to cosmos, I had no experience with cocktail glasses. No one I hung around with drank cocktails (beer, wine, gin and tonics yes, but no martinis or cosmos). I didn't even own any cocktail glasses. I had never seen cocktail glasses in use in a party situation, had never washed one, had never put one down on the table and then turned to pick up the remote. So I had no idea they were disposable.

Barbara and I together go through about 8 glasses a year. After I knew they were fragile but before I realized how much, I bought Barbara a pair of beautiful German crystal stained-glass-looking glasses that reminded me of other glasses of hers that we had broken. They were $48 each. I found and bought the exact ones for a lot less than that on eBay, but the point is that within about two months $100 worth of glasses was history. Now that I know better, I don't like to pay more than $2 a glass. My sister Carol found some nice ones at the Salvation Army for a buck a piece (she bought six and two years later there are five left, some kind of record). I recently got four at the same price at Fishs Eddy (great place; I went to the store, but the website is Barbara had some nice striped ones (gone) and ones decorated with fish (gone).

Certainly we could start using stem-less cocktail glasses. (I had one last week at Tabla, Danny Meyer's "new Indian" restaurant on Madison Square Park. Loved the food, but the cosmo was the lemonade-y kind, and the stem-less glass didn't help.) But I'd rather not. It's not all about the glass, but it's a lot about the glass, which was reinforced last summer when Barbara brought a thermos full of cosmos when we visited my sister in the hospital. We drank them from paper cups, and it just wasn't the same.

So the glasses are a necessary evil. As long as we are drinking cosmos, there will be a string of broken cocktail glasses. May they rest in pieces.