Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Squid Mixes: Gin Sling

A gin sling could hardly be simpler: gin, sugar, water and ice.  Mix it all in the serving glass.  If you like gin, it's nice and the sugar is just enough to take the edge off.  Perhaps due to the simplicity, slings were extremely popular in the late 19th century.

The Scamp was late for the photo shoot, then wouldn't stick around once she finally showed up.  Cats...

Friday, March 15, 2019

A Window Above: Pastime Paradise

Song: "Pastime Paradise"
Writer and Performer: Stevie Wonder
Original Release: September 28, 1976
Album: Songs in the Key of Life

If I have written this before, it's always worth repeating: if you wish to understand modern music, you must know Stevie Wonder's work from the early- and mid-1970s.  His legacy extends to pop, rock, R&B, hip-hop and beyond, both in terms of musical elements and technological innovation.  "Pastime Paradise" was one of the first songs to use a synthesizer to sound like a full string section.  The recording features both a gospel choir and Hare Krishna musicians as chanters and bell ringers.

"Pastime Paradise" has been sampled and covered by numerous musicians, most famously by Coolio in "Gangsta's Paradise":

"Weird" Al Yankovic, "Amish Paradise":

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Squid Mixes: Joe Rickey

"Colonel" Joe Rickey was a Democratic lobbyist from Fulton, Missouri.  During the 1880s, he invented this simple drink combining whiskey with lime juice and soda then had bartenders make it for him.  Later, people started making the drink with gin, which ultimately became more popular.  But Joe was always faithful to whiskey.

I used bourbon for our drink, as recommended by David Wondrich in Imbibe!, from which I also got the above history.  We've had gin rickeys before and my wife says she prefers it that way.  I like the bourbon.  Gin doesn't stand up as well to mixers as whiskey does.  I like the fact that with whiskey, you always know it's there.  Even if the flavor fades, that warmth in the back of the throat remains.  I can see how the mellow bourbon is the right choice.  A sharper rye, for instance, might clash more with the lime.

Friday, March 8, 2019

A Window Above: Caravan

Song: "Caravan"
Writers: Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington
Premier: 1936
Original Performer: Duke Ellington

"Caravan" is one of numerous jazz standards written or co-written by Duke Ellington, the king of all bandleaders and arguably the most important musician in American history.  The exotic sounds were unusual for the era and have certainly contributed to the piece's enduring appeal.  Irving Mills wrote lyrics, though they are rarely performed.

The song has been covered by, essentially, every important jazz musician since.  That's why they're called standards.  There are dozens of recordings by Ellington alone.  It would be absurd to attempt an exhaustive list so I offer only a few of the more unusual renditions.

Ella Fitzgerald with the Ellington Band:

The Mills Brothers, a cappella - not exactly an enlightened piece of flim by 2019 standards but musically, wow:

Gordon Jenkins - Mad Men fans may recognize this one:

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Squid Mixes: Gin Sour

This is the same recipe employed two weeks ago for the brandy sour.  Both came from Imbibe! by David Wondrich.  I will admit to being a little skeptical of the gin, lemon combo but it was fine.  The lemon is dominant enough that there's no clash.  My wife described the result as "almost summery," though that did not discourage her from drinking it in winter.

Friday, March 1, 2019

A Window Above: The Gambler

Song: "The Gambler"
Writer: Don Schlitz
Original Release: 1978
Original Performer: Bobby Bare
Album: Bare

While on the Paris subway last summer, I made a joke to my wife and daughter that I would ask a group of buskers if they could sing "The Gambler."  This prompted a Google search for the French lyrics.  After all, the internet was invented for just such a quest.  It became a running joke of our trip.

No, I never did get up the nerve to ask them.

Now, "The Gambler" is one of the iconic songs of 1970s country music but it took a while for the song to catch on.  It took two years of shopping around for Schlitz to find a musician to record it.  Bobby Bare took it on at the urging of children's author Shel Silverstein, of all people but never released it as a single.  Johnny Cash gave it a shot, including it on his 1978 Gone Girl album - again, no single.

Finally, Kenny Rogers got a hold of it.  Whereas Cash's star had faded by the late '70s, Rogers was an industry titan.  "The Gambler" was the second of five consecutive singles to hit the top of the country charts for Rogers.  The record even enjoyed what was, at the time, rare crossover success, reaching #16 on the pop charts.  It is most assuredly the song most closely associated with Rogers now and the one most likely to carry his legacy into the future.

As one who's played a lot of poker over the past few years (see here), the advice in the song is good.

How could I not include the Muppets?

Bobby Bare's original:

Johnny Cash:

No, I never was able to find French lyrics.  But if you're interested, here's a link to a line-by-line translation.

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Squid Mixes: Tweety Bird

A tweety bird combines orange juice, grapefruit juice, pineapple juice, lemon-lime soda and bitter lemon soda with a pineapple garnish.  I got my recipe from Zero-Proof Cocktails by Liz Scott.  The author recommends the drink as a margarita substitute with Mexican or other Latin American fare.  I would go further and say the flavor is superior to most margaritas.

Zero-Proof is fun, more realistic than other mocktail books.  While Scott stresses that fresh juices are best she concedes that store-bought will do in a pinch.  She also makes suggestions for alcoholic additions for several recipes, though not this one.