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Sep 27

Mad Men Monday: The Playboy Club

I was so excited last night when our ad men ended up at the Playboy Club. I’ve always had a strange fascination with the place.

Photo from AMCtv.com

The first Playboy Club opened in Chicago on February 29 (Leap Year), 1960 and was a success from the moment the doors were opened. The Playboy Club was a classy (no kidding) place that Newsweek eventually called “Disneyland for adults.” Early entertainers in that first Playboy Club included before-they-were-famous Aretha Franklin and Barbara Streisand.

Photo by O'Rourke at explayboybunnies.com, from Playboy June 1965

The Playboy Club eventually expanded to include more than 40 clubs and resorts. In Cincinnati, our own Playboy Club opened in September, 1964. It was located at 35 East 7th Street (current address of The Lodge Bar) and was in business for 19 years. Headliners in our own Club included Henny Youngman, Red Foxx, and Flip Wilson. You might have even heard Bootsy Collins performing in the lounge. From what I’ve read, the best years were between 1964 and 1976. In 1976, the Playboy Club concept moved from classy joint to more of a disco club and continued to change with the times. Our local club closed its doors in September, 1983.

I collect swizzle sticks and there are several Playboy sticks in my collection that I can only assume came from my parents. I called my Mom this morning and, to my surprise, my parents had a membership to the Cincinnati Playboy Club.  My Mom won the membership from a radio station contest around 1975. Mom says she always enjoyed the club because “it had a great atmosphere. You would take an elevator up, as it wasn’t on the ground floor, and then just step into the club.”  She remembers plush surroundings, with couch areas for conversation. Apparently my parents went to the club and restaurant quite often. I tried to find out what they used to drink. Mom thinks she drank something with vodka in it that tasted like lemonade.

Playboy Bunnies were by far the most famous part of the Clubs. Bunnies underwent strict training and weigh-ins. They also had to be able to identify 143 types of liquor and garnish over 20 cocktails. Bunnies were not allowed to date or mingle with the customers and, on the part of the customers, touching a Bunny was forbidden. A move I’ve always loved is the Bunny Dip. It’s a graceful way of bending slightly backwards to deliver and pickup drinks without bursting out of the Bunny Bustier. Something I always loved is that Playboy Bunnies were curvy girls, which was attractive back in the 60s. Famous bunnies include Deborah Harry (Blondie), Sherilyn Fenn, and Lauren Hutton.

In 2006, the Playboy Club reopened in (where else?) Las Vegas at The Palms. Some friends and I visited the Club in 2009 and I loved it. It’s classy and lush, with plenty of couches and a rich gold and red decor. One entire wall is digitized, displaying randomized images of Playboy magazine covers throughout the years. The Bunny costumes are still classy and the Bunnies still do the Bunny Dip.

Playboy Club, Las Vegas 2009

The Club is near the top of the Palms tower and overlooks all of Las Vegas. You can take a private escalator up to Moon, the nightclub with a retractable roof and always-open patio section. Personally, I preferred the Playboy club though – classy cocktails and an environment where I could chat with my friends. If you ever go, cover can run up to $40 on a weekend night. When we went (a Thursday, I believe), the guys each paid a $20 cover and I’m pretty sure the girls were all free.

Playboy Club, Las Vegas 2009

Perhaps the reason I love Mad Men is the same reason I’m fascinated with the Playboy Club. It’s a piece of history where women weren’t a size 2, bars were classy and encouraged cocktails and conversation, and the clothes were amazing. Could I live back then? No. I’m far too independent. I probably relate the most to Faye on Mad Men. But I love the chance to relax in the 60s now and then.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Aug 16

Mad Men Monday: Cocktail Culture iPhone App

The folks at Mad Men are making it hard for me to write this weekly column. I blame the marketing folks who have turned Don from a bourbon and rye drinker into a Canadian Club drinker this season. It does seem to be the drink of choice in his office.

I do realize that Pete ordered a Dewar’s on the rocks, but do you really want me to struggle through scotch again? Instead, I noticed an ad go by for the Mad Men Cocktail Couture iPhone app. Well, I don’t have an iPhone, but I have an iPad, so I downloaded it and started to play.

The app is restricted by age, so keep that in mind. Can’t have the kiddies downloading the cocktail guide, you know. It is a cocktail guide, but it’s also a game.

You get one “drink” for free – Betty’s vodka gimlet.  The point of the game is to mix the drinks, including shaking your iDevice and pouring, using the correct amount of each ingredients. The novice level pretty much tells you what goes into the drink and then you just need to remember. The expert level expects you to know. (So, Molly and Josh, you guys better rock at Expert level of this game.)

I like that the game tells you where or who to associate the drink with in the show. For instance, Betty has had a vodka gimlet when out with Don and when she went to pick up a guy in a bar.

In order to score points you have to use the accelerometer in the phone to pour the exact amount of vodka, which is fun. If a shaker is required, you have to shake the phone, and so on.

At the end of it all, assuming you have made a successful cocktail, you can tip your iDevice and “drink” your creation.

The game really is fun and it does include recipes, which could be useful on the spot, but off the top you can only access the vodka gimlet. To view and play the 20 other cocktails (including a Manhattan, Tom Collins, and Old Fashioned), you need to pay $1.99. I have mixed emotions about this. In essence, you’re paying AMC and iTunes $1.99 to be marketed to. On the other hand, if Don Draper were working for Ogilvie or BBDO in 2010, he’d probably think that was a great idea. It does sort of work with the show.

As far as the show last night, I’m rooting for Peggy. I rather like that she’s stumbling into 60s era “fun” New York and is seeing a little more of what’s out there beyond a husband, kids, and house in the suburbs. Allison? Well, she should have known better than to even assume there was a chance with Don. Let’s just cross our fingers that she isn’t pregnant. Why can’t all of the office girls be as in control of themselves as Joan? Finally, I sort of miss Betty. There’s a certain brand of evil that she has mastered and I miss seeing it. Based on next week’s show, she may be back in the picture a bit. What did you think of last night’s episode?

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 11:53 am in Cocktails, Entertainment, Games, Mad Men Monday, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (13)
Jul 26

Mad Men Mondays: On the Rocks

Appointment television began again for me last night with the return of Mad Men, and of course, Mad Men Mondays! If you’re new to the blog, I try to fill you in a little bit on whatever our favorite ad men had to drink on the most recent episode. Sometimes they disappoint me, and I never catch a name or a label. Sometimes, it’s an amazing selection of potential bottles and cocktails.

Last night fell somewhere in the middle. Everyone was drinking something on the rocks, but it was primarily Don. In the past, he’s definitely been a bourbon and whiskey guy. Last night, they very purposely let us see the bottle of Canadian Club. (Think, for a moment, how liquor brands must be lining up to get their label on this show …)

Don Draper and Canadian ClubWhen I think of Canadian Club, I think of my Grandma. She always had some sitting around (although she was more of a bourbon girl – I take after Grandma). But Canadian Club has been around forever. It was originally created in 1858 in Detroit by distiller Hiram Walker. But even in the 1850s, the winds of Prohibition were beginning to blow. Hiram moved his distillery across the border to Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

Walker aged his whiskey in oak barrels for a minimum of five years, which was revolutionary at the time. By doing this, he was able to pitch his whiskey as a premium drink. It became quite the rage in Gentlemen’s Clubs across the US and Canada, thus becoming Club whiskey. American distillers insisted that the word “Canadian” be included on the label, in hopes to deter people (buy American!). It didn’t work out quite as planned, however, and Canadian Club became an exclusive and sought after beverage. During Prohibition, one of Walker’s biggest clients was Al Capone, who made a fortune smuggling Canadian Club into Chicago from Windsor.

I suppose it’s only appropriate that Don has a bottle of Canadian Club on his office bar.

Roger, on the other hand, is a vodka drinker. Last season he was pretty excited over a bottle of Stoli vodka, another bit of alcohol that’s been around a while. There is, of course, some Stoli on Don’s office bar, apparently just for Roger.

Stoli (or rather, Stolichnaya) was introduced to the world sometime in the mid-1940s, although the actual date is under debate. Produced in Russia, it is fermented with wheat and rye grains, as well as artesian water from the Kaliningrad area. Once fermentation is complete, the spirit is distilled four times before being diluted with more fancy water.

Stoli was pretty hard to get in the 1960s, so when Roger scored his bottle or so last season, it was quite a coup. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that Pepsi struck a bargain with the Russian government to export Stoli to the west on a regular basis.

On a final note about the show, am I the only one really creeped out by little Sally?

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 8:00 am in Cocktails, Entertainment, Mad Men Monday, Television | Permalink | Comments (5)
May 27

SATC2 Cocktails!

I admit that I enjoyed the Sex & the City tv series. In fact, it was the SATC girls who introduced me to what may be my favorite cocktail of all time: the Bellini.

The SATC movie (the first one) didn’t appeal to me. I was watching it while luckily flying first class to San Francisco and despite the free flowing wine and halfway decent food you get in first class, I still lost about 2 hours of my life to that movie. That said, the trailers alone for SATC2 look better than any of the first movie. My fingers are crossed.

Anyway, I sort of owe those lovely ladies for introducing me to the Bellini. I was inundated with press releases this week about the second movie release. Two of those press releases included some decent cocktail recipes, which I’ll share.

(Oh, and before you ladies ask – I’m a “Charlotte.” I love her clothes and her attitude.)

The first is a cocktail created by the mixologists at The London NYC – The Sexy London.

The Sexy London

2 oz. Green Cardamom Infused Vodka
1/2 oz. Triple Sec
1/2 oz. Rose Syrup
1/2 oz. Cranberry Juice
1/4 oz. Lime Juice
1 pinch of mint

Shake and strain into martini glass!

Next, of course, variations on the Cosmopolitan – often a favorite of the SATC girls.

The Cosmopolitan Dreams (created by Dale DeGroff)

3/4 ounce Citrus Vodka
3/4 ounce Cointreau
3/4 ounce Cranberry juice
1/4 ounce Fresh lime juice
2 1/2 ounces Piper Heidsieck Champagne

Assemble the vodka, Cointreau, and juices in a boston shaker with ice and shake well to chill.

Strain into a champagne glass and fill with champagne.  Garnish with a flamed orange peel.

The Original Cosmopolitan (created by Dale DeGroff)

1 1/2 oz vodka
1 oz Cointreau
1 oz cranberry juice
3/4 oz lime juice

Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.

Garnish with a twist of orange

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 9:33 am in Cocktails, Entertainment, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (1)
Feb 04

Blood Into Wine: Maynard James Keenan

Once upon a time I wrote for the (now defunct) Taste Magazine. I was working on an article about celebrity-branded alcohol, although that article got scrapped when I took over the Wine Academy column for the magazine. In the process of researching that article, I somehow managed to get in touch with the publicist for Maynard James Keenan, and eventually, I interviewed him. It’s just as well my article got scrapped, because my recording of the interview wasn’t very good. It was so bad, I have yet to be able to clean it up and use it. (Since then, I’ve improved my recording equipment.)

For those unfamiliar, Maynard James Keenan is the front man for rock bands Tool, Puscifer, and A Perfect Circle. Until I met Kevin Keith, I had no idea who he was, so don’t feel bad, and I think that Maynard actually preferred my lack of knowledge of his music during the interview. If there is anything I got out of that conversation, it’s that he doesn’t like being called a “Rock Star.” Well, that and Maynard James Keenan is the most intense person to whom I have ever spoken. I believe that he does everything with the same intensity – be it music or wine, which should tell you something about his wine.

When Kevin and I went to Arizona in 2007, we visited Cornville, AZ as we drove south towards Phoenix from the Grand Canyon. It’s off the beaten path a bit, but Cornville was an absolute delight for us as wine lovers. We started at Page Springs Cellars, where it just so happens that Maynard had worked with the wine maker to learn everything he could about wine. At the time, Page Springs Cellars was also selling Maynard’s labels, Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards. (Our Photos from Arizona Wineries) We have several Maynard-created wines in our wine fridge.

When I interviewed Maynard, he was working on launching Arizona Stronghold, a winery in the southern Arizona ghost town of Jerome. (A lot of grapes are grown in southern Arizona.) Last summer, an article in Decanter.com alerted me that Maynard and his winemaker Eric Glomski have officially launched the new winery.

Turns out, the process of creating Arizona Stronghold is the basis for a new documentary called Blood Into Wine. It premieres in Arizona (of course) on February 19 (full list of theatres is after the jump – mostly West Coast I’m afraid). But the DVD will be released on May 4 Sept 6. Check out the trailer. Even if you don’t like his music, how can you resist a documentary like this? It’s got music, wine, and a lot of humor, I think.

Blood Into Wine arrives in select theaters on Feb. 19 with a Phoenix-based premiere at the W Hotel Scottsdale.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by Michelle at 8:05 am in Entertainment, Meet the Winemaker, News, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (3)

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