Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Happy Hour: Pink Squirrel

Some would call this a "girl drink" but we prefer to think of it more as a nip from Grandma's liquor cabinet.

Maintaining your self respect while having this drink is all a matter of timing and good judgment. A pink squirrel at the wrong time, at the wrong place, with the wrong person so easily ends in disaster -- and the rub is that almost all times are the wrong time, almost all places are the wrong place, etc. What a shame. We've been there.

Technically speaking, the right time is probably with dessert or as a late nightcap. It's a good idea to have it with people who can be open-minded enough to try something a little different. It's important to have it with a healthy sense of humor.

Or, failing that, have it by yourself, behind closed doors, with the shades drawn. Maybe even unplug the phone.

Because, here's the thing: you want this! For anyone with a sweet tooth (their name is Legion) this is a drink too good to be true. Sure, you want your stronger poisons for day-to-day use, but this little drink is the indulgent reward you want to give yourself. You won't know how you drank it so fast, and you'll want another almost as soon as you poured your first.

The recipe is simple:
1 oz Creme de Cacao
1 oz Creme de Noyaux
1 oz light cream

So, yeah, it's a girl drink. You can tinker with this, though. Add a shot of gin if you like, or reduce the light cream (that's half & half, incidentally, to speak more plainly). You can un-Grandma-fy it only so much, though, of course. It is what it is. It's not ashamed of itself, and you shouldn't be ashamed of it, either.

Or, you can full-on turbo Grandma-fy it by substituting the light cream with vanilla ice cream and mix it in a blender. Perhaps a dollop of whipped cream? Again, it's not ashamed, and you shouldn't be either. Please, though, at this point make sure you're not only doing this behind closed doors, but make sure the doors are locked.

Try it. Enjoy. If you don't agree that it's a unique treat, write a nasty comment. Grandma will smack you right back for sassing her favorite drink.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Great House, Unfortunate Address

This fine example of early-seventies Modernism was found in Evanston, and would be nothing short of perfect if not for the house number.

The Wilmette Public Library

The suburb of Wilmette is several miles north -- and more than a few rungs up the socioeconomic ladder -- from Rogers Park. But retro can be found all over Chicago's North Shore. The Wilmette Public Library is one nice example of mid-century civic design which we stumbled upon while estate saling one Saturday morning.

The building has undergone a number of additions, some more obvious than others. The two most recent are a bit unfortunate -- attempts to update the library rather than stay true to its classic Modernism. The front, shown here, is from 1994 and little more than a foyer that encases the original main entry in dark glass. Have you considered joining a reading club lately?

Walk around to the east side, however, and you can see what must have been considered pretty radical architecture at the time. The blocky, brick forms do a good job of expressing the library's interior spaces and functions, with reading rooms that jut out from the main body and a large boxy mass in the back. It probably housed the stacks once upon a time, but now contains an atrium and mostly administrative offices. The fieldstone planters are a nice touch that appear on several exterior corners.

Here's the atrium, a several story semi-circle that seems to be part of the 1986 update, judging from the Frank Lloyd Wright-style staircases that surround it, with touches of mauve and teal.

The interior is a bit maze-like, with a number of stairways connecting the floors of the separate masses. Fortunately, evidence of the early '50s interiors can be found all over. This stairway leads to a mezzanine where newspapers and magazines are archived.

Directly opposite it is another stairway leading down to the non-fiction area in the basement, and a passageway to the lobby.

These Wassily chairs surely date from the original building, judging from the degree of scuff and sag in their leather strips. They're still classics, however, no doubt originals, and probably worth a pretty penny. All it would take is a bit of polish and TLC to cover the wear and bring them back to life.

Though the '94 and '86 additions are proudly commemorated on large plaques, there's no obvious cornerstone for the original structure. Fortunately, some quick Internet research revealed that it was dedicated in 1951, and went on to win an award from the American Institute of Architects.

One of the librarians mentioned that the building is undergoing yet another renovation. I must have cringed a little when she said this, because she hastened to add that they were taking great pains to restore the original brickwork.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Happy Hour: A Perfect Manhattan

What was the first drink you ever ordered?

If you said "a Manhattan" then we have something in common.

Once upon a time, each of the boroughs of New York City had a famous drink named after it (except Staten Island). The only one left that people still order is the Manhattan -- although if you scratch the surface a little, you'll uncover how popular the Bronx was not too long ago into the past.

Maybe the Manhattan remains popular -- although a little grandfatherly -- because of its classic ingredients: bourbon and sweet vermouth. It can also be made with rye. Both bourbon and rye are venerable American spirits. Bourbon is a whisky made from at least 51% corn, a native North American crop. Rye, as you might suspect, is whiskey based on rye. George Washington, the father of our country, was a rye distiller.

The Manhattan is thus associated by its ingredients with Americana, by its name with sophistication and urbanity, and by its taste with clubby masculinity.

A Manhattan is 3 parts bourbon (or rye), 1 part sweet vermouth (a/k/a "Italian" vermouth), and a dash of bitters. It's garnished with a maraschino cherry.

Now let's talk about a "Perfect" Manhattan. A friend of ours tells a funny story about this: a lady at a restaurant orders a Perfect Manhattan. The waitress hustles back to the bar and orders "a Manhattan, and it has to be really good!"

The name Perfect Manhattan is misleading because it isn't a commentary on its quality, although it is really good. In a Perfect Manhattan, the 1 part sweet vermouth is substituted with half sweet vermouth and half dry vermouth. That's it -- that's the big secret behind a Perfect Manhattan. Maybe it's called "Perfect" because it's not too sweet, and not too dry -- maybe it's called "Perfect" because it is.

Perfect Manhattan

3 oz bourbon or rye
.5 oz sweet vermouth
.5 oz dry vermouth
dash of bitters

Stir (or shake) and serve with a maraschino cherry.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Word of Warning

We love a fancy drink as much as the next questionable pair of men living together in Rogers Park. Maybe more. But only within reason. There are, after all, consequences and cautions that deserve mentioning.

Fortunately, the work has already been done for us by the Kids in the Hall. Kids in the Hall was a delightful comedy skit show that ran during the early '90s, a time some of you may only dimly remember. It featured a cast of Canadians who, in M's opinion, are way funnier than the entire nation of Great Britain. Canadians are hysterical. That's just the way God made them.

The sketch is entitled "Girl Drink Drunk," and we offer it here as a cautionary tale, one best enjoyed with a Squash Strawberry Alley-Cat at hand.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Happy Hour: The Corpse Reviver

Corpse Reviver
3/4 oz gin
3/4 oz Lillet blanc
3/4 oz Cointreau
3/4 oz lemon juice
1 drop of pastis
Shake, pour, garnish with cherry, and serve.

Okay, that's the official version.

This is a legendary drink with a ghoulish name. And, no, this drink has nothing to do with Easter Sunday.

We'd never actually had one of these before, and it's not the kind of drink most bars would be able to make. Or, well, maybe they would -- let us know how it works out if you try. Indeed, some of the ingredients are a little rare, revealing how antique the drink really is. We'll admit that we substituted anisette for the pastis. Although, with absinthe being legal again, this is a perfect drink to celebrate that fact.

The Lillet blanc is another specialty ingredient -- worth having around for a few vintage drinks, not the least of which is the signature James Bond drink, The Vesper.

We read that the Corpse Reviver is one of those drinks where the sum far exceeds the parts -- that, in the proper proportions, the ingredients to this drink add up to something wonderful. It's true. This drink will win you points for your savvy and expertise when you serve it to your friends and guests, and it will earn their respect and love when they quickly realize what a wonderful new gift you have given them in the Corpse Reviver.

Today in Rogers Park history

June 12: North Shore Electric Line opens in 1896

Monday, June 8, 2009

Today in Rogers Park history

June 8: Cudahy Library at Loyola University is dedicated in 1930.