July 19, 2007

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Booze free association
The hot-weather libations of our forefathers
By Tim Protzman tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

It’s been too hot to drink.

Wow, now that’s hot.

And who needs alcohol when The Simpsons Movie is coming to Springfield, Vermont? Up till now Springfield’s only been known for its dedicated but slightly wacky group of telescope makers who inhabit a hilltop compound making and testing their creations.

In case you want to go, Stellafane, a combination of two Latin words, meaning star shrine, hosts a convention Thursday, Aug. 9, through Sunday, Aug. 12. It’s devoted to telescope making and star watching.

And for all you Simpsons fans, Stellafane, on Breezy Hill, has a brand new pavilion for events appropriately named the Flanders Pavilion.

And who needs drinks when life’s so funny? Of course I’m talking about the “Branch Bandit,” the guy who duct taped branches to his body and tried to rob a bank disguised as a tree. What a sap. Thank goodness they got him. I’d hate to have him running around at larch!

But that reminds me of a time years ago when Woody Allen movies were actually funny. In Take the Money and Run he plays a loser robber who tries to hold up a bank only to be yelled at by the teller who can’t read his note.

“You have a gub? What’s a gub?” She asks.

Twenty-eight years ago the same thing happened to the bank my mother worked at. A wacko came in and handed the teller a note. She thought he wanted to use the bathroom, mistaking “I gotta gun” for “I gotta go.” When she told him the bathroom was just for employees, he went next door to the CVS, shoplifted a woman’s bathing cap, the old-fashioned kind with plastic flowers on it and a squirt gun. Then he tried to hold that place up.

There was this great little luncheon place called Sally & Bob’s Deli-ette across the street. The place was so old the built-in wooden cutting board was worn away, leaving a scoop out, just like the kind you make in your mashed potatoes to put the gravy in. Everybody smoked back then including Helen the gravel-throated waitress. No matter what you ordered she answered, “Excellent choice!”

“Tuna fish on raisin bread with ketchup?”

“Excellent choice!”

And they served Moxie. Moxie is an earthy soda that, like most other sodas, was created as a patent medicine. It was good for hangovers and “loss of manhood.” It tastes like root beer with a bitter, dry aftertaste. And the Moxie trademark’s owned by a New Hampshire company, Cornucopia Beverages, which is owned by Coca-Cola Bottling of Northern New England, which is a subsidiary of Kirin Beer of Tokyo, Japan. Kirin is really good beer with light hop flavors and that slightly dry, bitter finish that I think comes from using a small amount of fermented rice in the mash after the barley and wheat are malted. Great with sushi and hot dogs.

Moxie fans will descend on Lisbon, Maine, this weekend for the 23rd annual Moxie Festival. There will be pancake breakfasts and car shows and floats and parades. The theme is Moxie on Broadway. And here’s a new one on me: Downeasters use Moxie as a mixer. Jack Daniels is supposed to go wonderfully with Moxie, just like a carbonated Manhattan.

Before Moxie there were other ways our ancestors imbibed and beat the heat.

The ones from the early Colonial period seem pretty wretched. Calibogus was rum and beer. Mimbo was rum, water and unrefined sugar. No umbrellas in these cocktails, they were designed to, in the words of my beer expert Steve, “get the job done.”

Mead was popular and so was its cousin Metheglin, a fermented honey with herbs (oregano, thyme, lavender, clove, etc.), the colonial equivalent of the cosmo. Cider was popular, but wine was kind of scarce because it took too much time to make. Here’s and interesting colonial cocktail recipe called Grape Wine.
2 quarts boiling water
2 pounds brown sugar
2 quarts grape juice
2 cups raisins
1 yeast cake
Boil water in stone crock. Dissolve brown sugar in boiling water. Add grape juice and raisins. Allow mixture to cool. Separately, dissolve yeast in a little warm water.

When mixture is lukewarm, add in dissolved yeast and let stand for 10 days, stirring once each day. Strain out raisins from mixture. Mash these raisins into a pulp and let dry. Add raisin pulp back into mixture. Let stand for three more days. Strain mixture into bottle, and cork.

Yummy!
I’ll get right on it after work, and have a cocktail on Labor Day. Blackstrap, another “get the job done” concoction, was rum and molasses. Which is known today as Gummy Worms.And there are a few that sound nice.

• Cold spring water, lemon, sugar and vinegar made a thirst-quenching, dust-clearing beverage for the farmhands.
• Sherry Cobbler was elegant and served in the drawing rooms of colonial Portsmouth.

Half fill a tall glass with cracked ice. Add 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar. Add 1 sherry glass of sherry. Stir with a spoon until glass is frosted. Decorate with choice of sliced fruit: orange, lemons, pineapple, cherries, etc.

As good as these drinks sound I’ll take a gin and tonic with ice from my refrigerator. Even in this day and age of bank-robbing bushes and giant rolling doughnut movies, the Colonial times just have too much work.