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Port Cocktails: The Suburban

“Drink more Port, boys and girls. Drink more port,” said Wesly.

“I like that,” I said. “May I quote you?”

“It wasn’t terribly profound; it just came out.”

“Sometimes the stuff that just comes out is the best stuff of all.”

“That’s what SHE said.”

Welcome to my life.

Ever since he saw that episode of “The Office” on the plane back from Spain, I hear that line at least once a day. But I digress.

Getting back to more relevant quotes from Wesly, he adds that “what the world needs now is more more rye cocktails,” one of my favorite expressions of his. Since this is a cocktail that’s been around for going on a century and one you’ve likely never heard of (I certainly hadn’t), in this case it’s a rye cocktail that just needs to be brought to more people’s attention. It’s also a Port cocktail that needs to be brought to more people’s attention as well — cocktails containing Port wine are delicioso. We’re still working on that bottle of Port I picked up the other day, and since it won’t keep forever I want to finish it within a few weeks. Hence, we shall continue posting about cocktails featuring ruby Port until the bottle is drained. Then I shall buy more.

See how that works? I like it.

I came across this one while browsing through Dave Wondrich’s Esquire drinks index, and it caught my eye for the same reason Dr. Wondrich finds it unusual. Rye whiskey and dark rum in the same drink, that’s a big fat yes. But with Porto as well?! That’s wacky! (In the best kind of way.) I wanted to try it right away.

The drink originated at the old Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, named for a wealthy gent who raced horses, and for the horse race in which his steeds figured prominently. What does that combination of spirits and wine actually taste like, you may ask. From the above link: “If you could distill carved-oak paneling and club chairs, leather-bound volumes and three-cushion billiard tables, this is what you’d get. Mellow, robust, comfortable. The rum mellows the tang of the rye, the port tames the raw edge of the distillates, and the bitters add a touch of the exotic, like the stuffed head of that rare Asian gazelle that hangs over the doorway.” Well … no gazelle heads at our house. The closest we come to that are the jackalope heads looking down on us when we drink at Seven Grand. We do, however, have a club chair and leather-bound volumes, both appropriate company for this lovely drink.

The Suburban is more of an autumnal or wintery drink, and not one for the summer, as Dr. Wondrich notes. As I write this summer is still a month off, and our spring has been fairly cool — we’re still getting lows in the 50s at night, so it’s still snappy and bracing enough to sip this tipple. (I’m a New Orleanian after all, and as my friend Robb once said, that means that for me anything under 70°F is “cold,” and anything under 60°F is “very cold.”) And sip it we did, and did indeed enjoy it.

The Suburban Cocktail


1-1/2 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounce dark rum
1/2 ounce ruby port
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Combine with cracked ice in a mixing glass and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.

Godsdammit … this and the Curari and the others I’ve been making recently are so good that I’m going to need to keep an open bottle of Port around all the time. Can we not have stasis boxes, like in Larry Niven’s “Known Space” sf novels, boxes inside which time does not pass, so that my myriad aromatized wines won’t go bad?


“Treme” Explained, Episode 6: “Shallow Water, Oh Mama”

I’m going to start linking to Dave Walker’s columns explaining all the references in “Treme” episodes on a weekly basis now, plus other interesting tidbits I find. Here’s the one for this past Sunday’s episode 6, “Shallow Water, Oh Mama” … a few excerpts:

The title of Sunday’s episode, “Shallow Water, Oh Mama,” is a traditional Mardi Gras Indian call-and-response chant first recorded in 1988 by Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, according to this 2003 essay by John Sinclair.

The banjo player and bandleader is Don Vappie.

The song Don’s performing in his first scene, “Salée, Dames” is on his album Creole Blues as well as my Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol’ Box of New Orleans set.

The band playing in baggage claim of Louis Armstrong International Airport was a program organized by the New Orleans Musicians Clinic.

“In December 2005 the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic and Assistance Foundation created our own version of the WPA, believing (as we still do) that for New Orleans musicians a vital mental health initiative is to be paid to perform, and for our community, hearing New Orleans music is the heartbeat of our recovery,” says Bethany Bultman, director of the foundation. “We wanted to make sure that when donors gave us money, it would go into the pockets of those musicians struggling to keep the music alive, not sit in the bank. $100 per musician per gig seemed like the most equitable way to distribute donations.”

Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews also plays trumpet.

The Lake Charles cop who walks Toni to the abandoned NOPD patrol car is Don Yesso, who played kitchen assistant Shorty La Roux in “Frank’s Place.” Yesso got his start as an actor when he met “Frank’s Place” co-creator Hugh Wilson on an airplane. His credits since then include “My Two Dads,” “Guarding Tess,” “Dudley Do-Right,” “K-Ville” and “The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans.”

It had been so long since I’d seen Don Yesso in anything that I didn’t recognize him at first, but I was struck by his voice. I thought that that cop sounded much more Yat than Lake Charles.

Davis McAlary salutes college professor and New Orleans blogger Ashley Morris, on whom John Goodman’s Creighton Bernette character is loosely based, during the concluding Krewe du Vieux sequence. For the 2006 parade re-created in this episode, Morris dressed as a street mime and rode on a float themed as a plea to France to buy New Orleans back. Pictures of the 2006 parade, including one of Morris as the character he called Mime-boy. Morris’ post about the parade. An account about what it was like to re-create the parade for “Treme.”

Photo of Ashley Morris by emily, http://www.flickr.com/photos/79977933@N00/

Photo of Ashley Morris by emily, http://www.flickr.com/photos/79977933@N00/

Oh, and Blue Plate mynez on the Bernettes’ table!


“Treme” – Beyond Bourbon Street

Before you watch “Treme” this Sunday (and you are going to watch it this Sunday … right?), check out this terrific half-hour behind-the-scenes special for historical background, creator commentary, the Mardi Gras Indian tradition, the food and music scenes, and much more.

Steve Zahn, actor (“Davis McAlary”): “It’s post-Katrina, but it’s really about life after, it’s not about Katrina. Katrina is the backdrop.”

John Goodman, actor and New Orleanian (“Creighton Bernette”): “[It's about] dealing with everyday things that just become insurmountable.”

David Mills, co-exec. producer (R.I.P.): “This show is an argument for what’s best about the American city — a city gets knocked down, but there’s that impulse to stand back up.”

Full-screen version



Gulf Aid Benefit Concert this Sunday, May 16

If you’re in the New Orleans area, there’s no other place for you to be on Sunday of this weekend, May 16, than at Mardi Gras World‘s River City Plaza for Gulf Aid, a benefit concert to raise funds to stop the oil from destroying our wetlands and provide financial aid to affected fishermen and their families. It’s a presentation of WWOZ 90.7 FM New Orleans in conjunction with Mardi Gras World, SDT Waste and Debris, Rehage Entertainment and others, and the lineup of talent will be stellar.

NASA photo from the International Space Station, showing the giant oil slick approaching the Mississippi Delta (top right)

NASA photo from the International Space Station, showing the giant oil slick approaching the Mississippi Delta (top right)

An aerial view of the oil leaked from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead, May 6, 2010.

An aerial view of the oil leaked from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead, May 6, 2010.

Unemployed commercial fishermen and their families wait in line to receive charity handouts in Hopedale, La.

Unemployed commercial fishermen and their families wait in line to receive charity handouts in Hopedale, La. (via the Boston Globe)

See all 40 photos at the Boston Globe.

As David Torkanowsky said on ‘OZ yesterday, this is to raise money to support people who, along with our musicians, are the mainstay of our culture — the people who provide our seafood. A lot of them are out of work right now, and we need to make sure they can feed their families — families that comprise multiple generations of fishermen from Texas to Florida. (Aside from that, we can hope and pray that there’ll still be safe seafood for them to catch after the disaster in the Gulf.) Beside the impacted seafood fishing families, the benefit is for the families of those who lost their lives in the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig, and also to provide for wetlands protection and restoration.

If you can’t attend the concert, you have two other things to do. First, donate online to the Gulf Relief Foundation — it’s important. Every single penny of your contribution will go to where it’s needed. Next, the entire concert will be broadcast on WWOZ, at 90.7 FM locally and online to the planet, from 12 noon to 10pm Central Time.

Here’s the lineup of musicians: Shamarr Allen & the Underdawgs, MyNameIsJohnMichael, Irvin Mayfield’s Playhouse Revue, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Honey Island Swamp Band, Beausoleil, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers with Jeremy Davenport, ReBirth Brass Band, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, Soul Rebels Brass Band, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Zachary Richard, Happy Jack Frequency, Allen Toussaint, Voices of the Wetlands All-Stars (featuring Tab Benoit, Dr. John, Cyril Neville, George Porter Jr., Waylon Thibodeaux, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Johnny Sansone, Johnny Vidacovich and Marcia Ball), Ani DiFranco, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Mos Def and Terence Blanchard, John Legend and Lenny Kravitz.

It’s amazing that this whole festival was planned and put together in about a week’s time — an awesome effort on the part of all concerned. Help make sure it succeeds and gets the job done. Go, donate and listen.


Cocktail of the Day: Doctor’s Orders

Just in time for the final day of World Cocktail Week is another new one from Chris McMillian in New Orleans.

This is one Chris had initially concieved for a cocktail contest. He wanted to start with a Bourbon base and did lots of trial versions until he came up with something that clicked for him. After all that (as I recall the story), he never got around to actually entering it in the contest, and from what one of the judges said afterward, it probably would have won! Ah well, at least we still have this gorgeous drink, which isn’t nearly as sweet as it sounds.

The key to keeping control over the sweetness is by choosing the right crème de cacao. Marie Brizard is the only one you want — it has a rich chocolate flavor but reins in the sweetness that inevitably dominates cheaper brands. The extra bit of spice you get from a couple of dashes of Bénédictine is the secret ingredient to this prescription … wish my childhood allergy medicine had tasted like this, rather than like green mold with a dash of Fernet. (C’mon, I hadn’t developed a palate for Fernet yet when I was a kid.)

And yes, the photo below actually depicts a cocktail that’s been consumed by 2/3 of its initial volume. After the first sip all I wanted to do is drink it, all other thoughts more or less swept to the side, until I realized, “Crap … if I want to write about this drink at this bar, I’d better take a picture.” Better late than never.

Doctor's Orders

by Chris McMillian, Bar UnCommon, New Orleans

2 ounces Bourbon
1/2 ounce white crème de cacao (Marie Brizard)
2 dashes Bénédictine

Combine with ice in a mixing glass, stir for 30 seconds, strain into chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.


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