On Monday, I spent some time talking about Piper-Heidsieck. My thanks to Eric who sent me an image of a beautiful vintage poster of a Piper-Heidsieck bottle. It’s so appropriate considering Mad Men is set in the world of advertising. This print ad is from 1953, displaying the 1949 vintage. The bottle is appears identical to the one Pete opened in Sunday’s episode. If indeed it was a 1949 vintage, I have no doubt it cost our fictional character a fair amount of his fictional 1960s dollars. I bet it tasted pretty darned good though.
One item I’d like to point out about the above ad is that the bubbly is poured into a regular wine glass and not a champagne flute. Now, maybe the good folks at Piper-Heidsieck can shed some light on that choice for me. In fact, the classic tulip shaped champagne flute was in wide use by the 1930s. However, a lot of people were still using the champagne coupe, from the late 1800s. (A myth states the coupe was molded from the breast of Marie Antoinette.) In fact, in 2009, we found the characters of Mad Men enjoying some Veuve Clicquot in coupes.
To end on a note of utter whimsy, you’ll notice there is a miniature circus, including a rather talented giraffe, taking over the ad. Piper-Heidsieck is a Champagne House that’s always been slightly unconventional, even when everything was conventional in the 1940s and ’50s. In 2008 they embraced their inner Lewis Carroll and released an upside-down bottle designed by Viktor & Rolf. If you were feeling exravagant, you might also pick up an upside down ice bucket and flutes.
Screen capture, AMC TV’s Mad Men, 2012
In last night’s Mad Men, I was given a lot of options. I could write about cocktails, about Canadian Club, Jack Daniel’s, Stoli, or even Chivas Regal. But near the end, I was given the perfect opportunity to wax on a bit about my favorite beverage of all … champagne.
Near the 40 minute mark, Pete is announcing the Mohawk Airlines win and deftly putting down Roger, all while opening a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck champagne. I can’t zoom in far enough without going blurry, so I can’t tell you whether it’s a vintage year or not. So let’s start with a quick refresher on champagne itself.
There are a lot of tasty sparkling wines out there, including cava and just good ol’ sparkling wine. It’s not uncommon for these to be made using the age old Champenois process. However, in order to be called “champagne,” it needs to come from the Champagne region of France, no matter how many bubbles are racing to the top.
Champagne is divided into vintage and non-vintage (NV) wine. NV Champagnes are the most common and often include grapes from 3 or more harvests. Every so often, a vintage is so remarkable that the winemaker will declare it a vintage year. Remember that while one House may declare a vintage, another may not. Vintage and NV wines are at the discretion of the winemaker.
Bubbly is made from any one or more of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes. It also comes in several different styles that you’ll see on the label. Blanc de blancs means that the wine was produced from all white grapes. In Champagne, this means the wine is 100% chardonnay. Blanc de noirs means the champagne is produced from pinot noir, pinot meunier, or a blend of the two.
You should also pay attention to the sweetness levels, denoted by French terms on the label. Extra Brut is usually very dry champagne, whereas Brut is dry, but may still be a bit rich on the finish. Extra-Sec and Sec are usually medium dry wines and Demi-Sec is usually the sweetest style you’ll find on the market.
To tie it all back into our episode, let’s talk a little about Piper-Heidsieck. Piper-Heidsieck is in the Reims region of Champagne and has been around since 1785. Now one of the largest Champagne Houses, it started as the house of Heidsieck with Florens-Louis Heidsieck at the helm. Florens-Louis passed away in 1828 and his nephew Christian took over, with help from his cousin, Henri Piper. The House didn’t become a hyphenate until 10 years later, when Christian died. Cousin Henri took this chance to marry the newly widowed wife of Christian (oh yes!) and the house of Piper-Heidsieck was created.
Piper-Heidsieck has had some fun over the years, but in 2009 they really attracted my attention with Le Ritual - a collaboration with Christian Louboutin. Really, shoes and champagne … of course I noticed this.
Le Rituel is a box set containing a glass stiletto, complete with signature red sole, and a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck. The collaboration was in homage to an odd period in the 1880s when there was an strange and decadent high-society “ritual” of drinking from women’s shoes.
We’re back! After more than 500 Mad Men-free days, Season 5 returned last night with a two-hour episode.
There’s so much I could talk about in our 1966 episode: Joan’s baby, Don’s marriage, the missing Betty and Henry, the fact that the wardrobe people didn’t give Peggy a new dress … But I’m here to write about the alcohol our overindulgent friends imbibe.
It’s going to be another frustrating season for me from the alcohol standpoint, unless the writers start adding in more cocktails to the mix. It looks like Mad Men retained the sponsorship of certain companies, therefore on every bar you will see any combination of Wild Turkey (Don and Peggy), Macallan (Pete) and Stoli (Roger), amongst others.
What I really want to talk about … and what completely captured me in this episode, is Megan’s surprise party for Don. The artistic direction behind the entire party sequence just blew me away – from the cocktails and the clothing to the music and then entire set and blocking. You see, one of my all-time favorite artists is Shag. All I could think of when I watched the party scene was that it was a Shag painting brought to life.
Don’s loft alone was simply stunning. Pure 1960s Manhattan goodness … the perfect lifestyle for the 40-year old ad executive/part-time dad and his 26-yr-old secretary turned wife.
Megan, at 26, wants to party. She simply cannot comprehend how Don, at 40, has no interest. She also doesn’t seem to get that her little rendition of Zou Bisou Bisou was just slightly inappropriate, enticing every man (except Don) in the room and slightly horrifying the women. (As an aside, I truly loved her dress.)
Per usual in this show, we can’t see what type of wine our girls (in this case, Jane) might be drinking. We know it’s red. I was happy to see it’s in a decanter though (see the above “bar” photo). I want to believe that Don has a nice cellar somewhere in that Shagadelic loft and that perhaps it’s an older bottle that Megan pulled and appropriately decanted to open up the vintage.
The cocktails at the party were endless. I saw a Manhattan (Trudy), Roger’s vodka martini, a sidecar, and of course, a lot of bourbon on the rocks. I also glimpsed some red wine and beer, although I couldn’t read the label.
What I found fascinating is that while there was a live band, there wasn’t a bartender. Yet everyone there was adept at making cocktails. Pete easily tossed together a Manhattan and someone made Ken’s wife a sidecar without a problem. Today we have amazing people who are “mixologists,” making us cocktails. But with the exception of when I get to hang out at Julie’s place, I know of very few people who can actually toss together a sidecar, a manhattan, or even a simple martini without grabbing a recipe. The everyday art of making and consuming cocktails has been lost in exchange for two-ingredient mixers.
Next week we should get to see more of Betty, and perhaps further along a little bit of Peggy’s story. I’m holding out hope for the return of Faye, the brilliant analyst from last season who was so cruelly dumped by Don. We’ve got Roger’s baby to content with and Lane’s weird new obsession with a woman he’s never met. As far as this blog goes, I’ve already started researching the history of the martini. Season 5 is shaping up to be quite interesting!
I don’t have much to say from the perspective of alcohol. The standbys made their appearances, including Canadian Club and Stoli. At one point Don was drinking a beer that might have been a Michelob, but I couldn’t tell for sure. Thanks to product placement, writing about the drinks on Mad Men might just be a thing of the past. Right now, I suspect it will be an as-needed post next season. As in, when they actually break out something other than Canadian Club and Stoli.
As for the show itself, the characters definitely went through a lot of changes this season, and at least an entire year passed. Are we in 1967 now, 1968?
How do you feel about Don’s proposal? I was so angry at him. This is a terrible move. He’ll never be able to tell Megan about Dick, and he’ll end up sleeping around all the time again, and probably have yet another kid. For me, Faye should have been his obvious choice. She’s a brilliant career woman and she understands him like no other. Megan? If she keeps working, she’ll only get her job because she’s now Megan Draper. California makes Don so vulnerable; New York does not.
My girl Peggy was thinking the exact same thing, I bet. What is it with these men and their secretaries? If I’m not mistaken, earlier this season Faye predicted he’d be married within a year.
Betty is finally selling the house, but she’s still weird about Glen. I don’t blame her for being freaked out by the kid, but I also think there might be a better way for her to handle it. She’s sad about Don’s remarriage, but not overly surprised it’s his secretary. I think she knows better than anyone what Megan can expect in her new marriage.
I know Don descended deep into depression this season, and appears to have risen again. But I don’t understand why he is trying to recreate what he had instead of starting anew.
What are your thoughts on this season?
On the penultimate episode of Mad Men this season, I was gifted with something special: a whiskey other than Canadian Club. It wasn’t completely historically accurate, but I can live with it.
When Don is at the apartment of heroin-addict Midge, her pathetic husband comes home from the store with whiskey. Not just any whiskey, either. I spent a long time paused, trying to verify that indeed, the bottle in his hands is Four Roses Kentucky Straight Bourbon.
Before I talk about the history of Four Roses, I want to tell you the legend. Or rather, I’ll let the Four Roses legend sort of speak for itself:
It began when Paul Jones, Jr., the founder of Four Roses Bourbon, became smitten by the beauty of a Southern belle. It is said that he sent a proposal to her, and she replied that if her answer were “Yes,” she would wear a corsage of roses on her gown to the upcoming grand ball. Paul Jones waited for her answer excitedly on that night of the grand ball…when she arrived in her beautiful gown, she wore a corsage of four red roses. He later named his Bourbon “Four Roses” as a symbol of his devout passion for the lovely belle, a passion he thereafter transferred to making his beloved Four Roses Bourbon.
Now, I have no idea how much of that is marketing and how much of that is real. I don’t really care. From the moment I heard that little fairy tale a few years back, I’ve been rather enamored of this whiskey. We have several bottles of it on our home bar, from the Single Barrel to two different years of Marriage and some special yeast strains from The Party Source. It’s a favorite.
Four Roses was trademarked in 1884, although they were apparently making whiskey back in the 1860s. It survived Prohibition because it was granted a special dispensation to make whiskey for medicinal purposes. (Yeah, right.) In 1943, it was purchased by Seagrams, primarily for the Four Roses Brand although the company (at this point the Frankfort Distilling Company) had other labels as well. Then this happened:
Even though Four Roses was the top selling Bourbon in the U.S. in the 30s, 40s and 50s, Seagram made the decision to discontinue the sale of Kentucky Straight Bourbon here, and Four Roses was moved to the rapidly growing European and Asian markets where it quickly became the top selling Bourbon.
Technically, no one in Greenwich Village in the late 60s was going to walk to the corner market and pick up a bottle of Four Roses.
I don’t care. I love the bourbon and I was thrilled to see something other than Canadian Club.
As for the episode, well, I liked Don’s idea, even if I credit it to Peggy (why don’t we change our name?). He didn’t change their name, but he changed how they appear. Interestingly, none of the partners really get it, proving once again that those who are great at marketing are often poor at marketing themselves. This is a switch though – Don is building a brand for his company, yet at the beginning of the season, he was shying away from that sort of thing.
My big question? How does Don have $150,000 just sitting around (his share plus Pete’s share)? That’s a lot of money now; it was even more money back then. Pete’s dilemma, trying to come up with $50K, was much more realistic than Don simply having it in triplicate.
What did you think of the penultimate episode?
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