That’s right. Stop reading now if you haven’t seen last evening’s episode.
Before I get into the cocktails, was anyone else shocked when Don took a temporary turn for the dark side last night? I hadn’t expected him to sleep with Andrea, let alone strangle her. I was, of course, relieved to discover it was a fever-induced delusion. But perhaps we did take a turn for the darker side of things last night. Don has discovered that it is probably within him to kill someone who might destroy his happiness. Sally has been exposed to the “real world,” with the brutal murder of 8 nursing school students in Chicago. To combat this? Grandma just splits a sleeping pill with her. So yeah, maybe we are walking a bit on the dark side this season. I said to someone this morning that I find the 60s to be one of the most confusing times. Civil rights, the beginnings of the women’s movement, the shadows of different wars hanging over the country like a spectre, whether it’s Viet Nam or WWII. I can’t imagine growing up in the middle of all that, and I wonder how it will affect Sally.
Then there is Joan. She has her own darkness with which to contend. In case we’d forgotten what an ass her husband is, the writers brought him back for an episode. I admit, I’d been waiting to find out he’d been killed in action. I’d forgotten that he has very low self-esteem, that he failed at landing the job of his dreams, and that he made up for the lack of faith in himself by raping his now-wife. Joan hadn’t forgotten. “You were never a good man.” Go Joanie! I was rooting for her! I get that he re-upped because the military is the first place he’s felt useful and knowledgeable. That counts for a lot. But Joan is right; that’s just not a decision you make without consulting your wife. I wonder if now that she’s kicked him out if they’ll get a divorce or if the writers will kill him off. Either way, Joan is effectively a single mom now , and lest we forget, that’s really Roger’s baby.
When Joan first found out about the re-upping, they were in a restaurant with her in-laws. Everyone else ordered wine. “That one,” he said, pointing at the menu. We never did find out what wine “that one” might be. Joan, however, bucked the wine trend and ordered a gin fizz, so that’s what we’ll talk about today.
Sloe Gin Fizz (from Cocktail Times)
Sloe Gin is a red gin-based liqueur infused with sloe berries. It is usually bottled at between 15 to 30 percent alcohol by volume. Some sloe gins are made with neutral spirit flavored with sloe berries.
Garnish: orange slice and maraschino cherry
Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a tall glass over fresh ice. Garnish with orange slice and cherry.
Ramos Gin Fizz (from Gumbopages.com)
Years ago, Kevin and I spent New Year’s Eve at the cocktail lounge in Arnaud’s in New Orleans. I drank a variety of champagne cocktails, but the bartender took Kevin on his own personal tour of New Orleans cocktails. The one that sticks with me is the Ramos Gin Fizz because it was the first drink I’d seen ever made with an egg white. The drink was invented in the 1880s by Henry Ramos at New Orleans’ Meyer’s Restaurant. It later became the signature drink of the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans and New York, thanks to Governor Huey Long, who happened to be a fan. This recipe calls for shaking at least one minute. I’ve read that you can shake up to 10 minutes and because of that, it often takes a bartending team to make a large number of Ramos Gin Fizzes.
According to Gumbopages.com, you need to be very careful when adding orange flower water to the drink because it can easily overwhelm the cocktail.
Shake all ingredients except the soda water WITHOUT ICE very vigorously for at least one minute, preferably longer — the longer the better. Then add ice and shake for 1-2 minutes, as long as you can manage, until extremely cold and frothy. Strain into a tall thin glass, or a very large old fashioned glass, and top with soda water. Stir gently.
My thanks also to GumboPages, who pointed me towards this great video on making a Ramos Gin Fizz:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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