The Oxford Companion, Part 13

In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria. Benjamin Franklin, supposedly. Except the first recorded use of the word “bacteria” occurred in 1864 and Franklin died in 1790. read more »

The Oxford Companion, Part 12

I had so much fun reading The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails (TOCSC) that I could continue writing about it for months. But don’t worry, I won’t. read more »

The Oxford Companion, Part 11

Tennessee whiskey

Back in 1981 two songwriters, Dean Dillon and Linda Hargrove, were sitting in the Bluebird Café in Nashville drinking a lot of Tennessee whiskey. Dillon told Hargrove he had an idea for a song about the whiskey and so, at four a.m., they headed off to Hargrove’s place and wrote “Tennessee Whiskey,” a terrific song read more »

The Oxford Companion, Part 10

Fern bars

When I first reached legal drinking age most bars were designed to be patronized by men – that is, by people who couldn’t care less what the places looked like. As a result, most bars looked and smelled terrible. (But I quickly got used to it.) read more »

The Oxford Companion, Part 9


Vodka is unlike other forms of alcohol in that there is no justifiable excuse for drinking it … you might as well inject vodka into your bloodstream. Russian writer Viktor Yerofeyev read more »

The Oxford Companion, Part 7

The classic cocktails (continued)

The Manhattan

This mixture of whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters, garnished with a maraschino cherry, is believed to be the original “cocktail” in the modern sense of the word. Invented around 1880, the Manhattan became almost instantly popular, with the Boston Herald calling it “as good as anything that can be manufactured.” read more »

The Oxford Companion, Part 6

The martini (continued)

Global consternation erupted when, in Dr. No, James Bond ordered a Smirnoff vodka martini. He then compounded this felony by instructing that it be “shaken, not stirred.” read more »

The Oxford Companion, Part 5

The Daiquiri

The Daiquiri is one of those terrific drinks that happened by accident. Around the turn of the twentieth century an American engineer named Cox, working in the small town of Daiquiri in Puerto Rico, was entertaining some American visitors. He was about to whip up some drinks but realized he was out of gin. read more »

The Oxford Companion, Part 4

The Tiki phenomenon (continued)

As I mentioned, I came of legal drinking age at a time when you could only get tiki drinks at Chinese restaurants. The pioneering Don The Beachcomber was no more and as far as I knew all the Trader Vic’s had closed, except for a few locations abroad. read more »

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