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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)
Nov 02

Mad Men Mondays: A Little Cocoa for Comfort

Last night’s Mad Men was amazingly depressing. Not only did it bring back memories, for me, of how I reacted to 9/11, it was just plain sad. And could someone please explain to me why, despite the fact that he is a jerk and, at most, an anti-hero, I still want everything to turn out all right for Don Draper?

What did they have to drink last night? Well, there was “red wine,” which isn’t helpful. There was a return to champagne coupes for the wedding toast. There were nameless mixed drinks, made by a cast that is extremely skillful at hiding the bottle label from me.

But I’m settling on the hot cocoa, because it’s comforting. In the beginning of the episode, Pete’s assistant wakes him up and offers him a hot cocoa. It’s instant, made with water and not milk, but the thought is nice.

Personally, I’m not a coffee drinker (unless it’s an Irish Coffee). All year long I live on hot tea and/or chai, usually with milk for that latte kick. Around this time of year, I start breaking out the hot chocolate. Now, I agree with Pete – the best hot chocolate is made with milk. I even have a Hot Chocolate Maker that perfectly mixes and heats the milk and cocoa powder (it also works with Oregon Chai and milk).

But in the evenings, sometimes I want to add a kick. I thought I’d list my three favorite additives for hot cocoa. I’d love to hear yours in the comments;

  • Bailey’s Irish Cream: Baileys is this great winter mixer for me. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s an Irish whiskey and cream liqueur. It seems to go well with just about everything and a shot of this in hot chocolate can be just perfect.
  • Amarula: I’ve written about amarula before, and it remains one of my favorite liqueurs. This South African liqueur is a blend of cream and fruit from the Marula tree. I love to drink it over ice in the summer. However, it adds just a hint of fruit and caramel when added to hot chocolate.
  • Peppermint Schnapps: This is an old standby I first started drinking in college. Around the holidays, it’s like sticking a slightly alcoholic candy cane in your cup of chocolate, and it works beautifully.

What are your favorite mixers in warm drinks? You can’t go wrong with bourbon and honey in hot tea or Irish Whiskey and cream in coffee. Any other ideas?

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 6:52 am in Cocktails, Mad Men Monday | Permalink | Comments ()
Oct 05

Mad Men Mondays: Asti Spumante & Moscato d’Asti

Last night our favorite couple took a whirlwind trip to Rome during a hot summer at home. When Betty first arrives at her table, looking all Audrey Hepburn, she orders (in fluent Italian), a glass of Asti Spumante.

image from farm4.static.flickr.com
The first thing into my head is the jingle from when I was a little girl: "Martini & Rossi Asti Spumante, a celebration in a glass." I searched all over The Internets and could not find that ad anywhere (although I was highly amused by a few Angie Dickinson, Burt Bacharach, and Jaclyn Smith Martini & Rossi ads). I did find one with the right attitude though:

Are you done laughing now? I laugh nonstop every time I watch it. And don't you just want to break into the jingle there at the end?

Thanks to years of ads like the one you just watched, Asti Spumante gets a pretty bad rap, and in fact, most of it is mass produced. Betty should have ordered a Moscato d'Asti.

Both Asti Spumante and Moscato d'Asti are made from the Moscato Bianco grape and come from an area to the south of the town of Asti in Piedmont, Italy. How is Moscato d'Asti different? Well, aside from smaller production, Moscato d'Asti is lighter, more fizzy than bubbly.  

Additionally, the production process is different. After all, there's more fizz than foam in a Moscato d'Asti. When making our moscato of choice, the winemakers stop the fermentation earlier than they do with a Spumante. The result? Less sugar is consumed by the yeast, so you get a sweeter, low alcohol wine.

A Moscato d'Asti is a drink-now sort of wine, tasting fresh and easy. It's a perfect light summer drink, for instance. And of course, perfect if you're in Rome in August.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 2:56 pm in Knowledge, Mad Men Monday | Permalink | Comments (1)
Sep 21

Mad Men Mondays: the Champagne Coupe

Last night's Mad Men featured Don drinking a Budweiser and later, an office party with champagne. While it's great that Bud was around in 1963, I'm not sure it's changed all that much, so let's focus on the champagne and, in particular, the glasses.

Peggy: "This is good champagne."
Don: "I don't think so."

Maybe Don likes small-grower champagnes (or he's just irritated with management). As far as I can tell (by pausing and peering intently at my television), the British management  of Sterling Cooper brought in a case or so of orange label Veuve Clicquot, which currently retails for around $75-$110.

image from farm4.static.flickr.com

What I really want to talk about isn't the expensive champagne, but the glasses from which they drank it. More often than not, we drink our champagne today out of flutes, but in Mad Men, they're using coupes throughout the doomed office party.

image from farm4.static.flickr.com

The champagne coupe has a wonderful legend associated with it, but unfortunately, it's just a legend. It's said that the shape of the glass was molded on the breast of Marie Antoinette, or occasionally, Madame de Pompadour. While romantic, it remains just a myth.

image from farm3.static.flickr.com

The coupe was designed in 17th century England and came into fashion again in the 1930s. However, it's not a recommended glass for the drink – it simply looks pretty. The broad surface means the bubbles disappear faster. The preferred glass is a champagne flute, a tall skinny glass that is designed to increase the flow of bubbles to the top and that helps concentrate the aromas of the wine.

It really does make a difference. About a year ago, Kevin and I experimented with several types of glassware, including an old champagne coupe. Aside from being hard to handle (the champagne sloshed out of the glass), the champagne went "flat" a lot faster in the coupe than in the flute.

When it comes down to it, I'll drink champagne taking swigs from the bottle, if need be. But I'm often reminded that glassware really is something to consider when tasting wine.

Mad Men: photos from my tv screen
Coupe: Taken by Fir0002, flagstaffotos.com.au,
used under the GNU License

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 1:06 pm in Mad Men Monday | Permalink | Comments (2)
Sep 14

Mad Men Mondays: Johnnie Walker Red

It's time for our latest installment of Mad Men Monday. Last night on everyone's favorite retro television show, Betty had the baby. Back then, the guys stayed in the waiting room the whole time. I have to admit, I'm surprised Don even stayed and didn't head to the office until he officially had a son.

However, he did wait and in the process, he met Dennis, a prison guard. If it wasn't obvious from the uniform, accent, and whiskey, I think they were trying to drive home a point that Don and Dennis were in slightly different social classes. And yes, I saw it reflected in the whiskey. Dennis brought a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red.

Johnnie Walker is a blended scotch whiskey that has been around since 1865, when it was Walker's Old Highland. Johnnie Walker Red Label, as we know it today, was introduced in 1909. If you're not familiar with your whiskey, Johnnie Walker comes in different levels (and prices) that are denoted by the label.

About a year ago, Kevin and I were invited to a Johnnie Walker dinner at Boi Na Braza. While I didn't enjoy the restaurant, I did enjoy the whiskey. We got to taste through the entire portfolio, including the Blue.

The label spectrum is as follows, per Wikipedia. They get more expensive as you head towards Johnnie Walker Blue.

  • Red Label — a blend of around 35 grain and malt whiskies. It is intended for making mixed drinks. 80 proof. 40% ABV. According to William Manchester this was the favorite Scotch of Winston Churchill, who mixed it with soda. (Currently retails around $22)
  • Black Label — a blend of about 40 whiskies, each aged at least 12 years. 80 proof. 40% ABV
  • Green Label — a vatted malt that is a blend of about 15 individual single malts, the signature malts being Talisker, Cragganmore, Linkwood, and Caol Ila – Aged 15 years. 86 proof. 43% ABV. Previously sold under the name 'Pure Malt'.
  • Gold Label — a blend of over 15 single malts, including the
    very rare Clynelish malt. It was derived from Alexander II's blending
    notes for a whiskey to commemorate Johnnie Walker's centenary. His
    original efforts were thwarted by a shortage of these malts following
    World War I. Gold Label is commonly bottled at 15 or 18 years. 80
    proof. 40% ABV.
  • Blue Label — Johnnie Walker's premium blend. Every bottle is
    serial numbered and sold in a silk-lined box, accompanied by a
    certificate of authenticity. There is no age declaration for Blue
    Label. 80 proof.
    (Currently retails around $200)

So Dennis brought the working man's Johnnie Walker. Don, never one to turn away a drink, didn't seem to mind. The Red Label is quite popular for mixing with Coca-Cola and they are even being offered together in a limited edition can. At our Boi na Braza dinner, we drink the Red Label on the rocks, with a splash of guarana soda, with our salad course.
The soda sweetened the scotch but there was still a nice light peat
flavor on the finish once the sweet faded.

Based on Johnnie Walker press materials, more than 33 million bottles of Johnnie Walker were purchased in 2004 and Johnnie Walker Black Label seems to be the most popular, with approximately 43 glasses of Johnnie Walker Black Label enjoyed by consumers each second. We occasionally have Black Label in our house, as Kevin sometimes purchases it as an "everyday scotch." 

Overall, great episode and great product placement for Johnnie Walker.

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Posted by Michelle at 12:18 pm in Mad Men Monday, Pop Culture, Scotch & Whiskey, Television | Permalink | Comments (4)

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