Tanqueray No. 10

Although it is fairly icy cold in Melbourne and probably best suited to a whiskey and a fireplace, today is World Gin Day and I do not wish to attract the displeasure of the World Gin Police. Drunk Pynchonette and I have a resolutely summery gin old-fashioned each.

IMG_0250.jpgThe particular gin is Tanqueray No. 10, pulled from the same top-shelf p. 303 Bleeding Edge bar (“elaborately carved in a number of neo-Egyptian motifs”) that brought you Stolichnaya Elit. Maybe head back to that post for the deets on the party.

I’m reliably informed that Tanqeray No. 10 is a fruitier, more floral version of the normal Tanqueray London Dry Gin. At the time of Bleeding Edge, Tanq 10 would have only been on the market for about a year—it was introduced in 2000. Now it’s August 2001, “microsoft XP has just emerged from beta.” The Tworkeffx honchos, or at least the “out of work hackers” and “street-level drug dealers” tending their bar, are up to the minute on their fancy booze as well as their technology.

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My gin old-fashioneds consist of a shot of the Tanq 10, a teaspoon of simple syrup, and a dash of angostura bitters, basically like the traditional bourbon Old-Fashioned we sipped with Slothrop. I’ve never been a gin drinker in the past, but I’m finding these mightily enjoyable. The first impression is a bit medicinal, but that unfolds into a complex subtle floral citrusy delight. They taste still recognisably like an old-fashioned, but an old-fashioned from a super-fresh alternative universe.

Happy world gin day. Now where’s my whiskey.

Stolichnaya Elit

DSC_4912.jpgProbably like plenty of other Pynchonites, I found the ’90s pop-culture bandwidth overload of Bleeding Edge pleasantly jarring. Not that it was really out of character—the books are all loaded with this kind of cultural flotsam and jetsam. It’s just that Pynchon’s usually rebuilding a pop culture expired well before my time. Catching lowbrow references comprehensible without wikipedia was a strange new delight.

Get this, for example, from a Silicon Alley party Maxine attends with Horst (p. 302):

The Soviet-era sound system, looted from a failed arena somewhere in Eastern Europe, is also blasting Blink-182, Echo and the Bunnymen, Barenaked Ladies, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, and other sentimental oldies while vintage stock quotations from the boom-years NASDAQ crawl along a ticker display on a frieze running the full perimeter of the ballroom, beneath giant four-by-six-meter LED screens onto which bloom and fade historical highlights like Bill Clinton’s grand-jury testimony, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” the other Bill, Gates, getting a pie in the face in Belgium, the announcement trailer for Halo, clips from the Dilbert animated TV series and the first season of SpongeBob

The list goes on. The nostalgia is both ironic and deeply felt, and hasn’t it just gotten more so (on both counts) since?

Maxine and the other revellers aren’t drunk only on nostalgia–this party is well stocked (p. 303):

The antique bar, elaborately carved in a number of neo-Egyptian motifs, was salvaged by Tworkeffx from the headquarters lodge of a semimystical outfit uptown being converted, like every structure of its scale in NYC, to residential use. If occult mojo still permeates the ancient Caucasian walnut, it is waiting its moment to manifest. What remains tonight is an appeal to fond memories of all the open bars of the nineties, where everybody here can remember drinking for free, night after night, simply by claiming affiliation with the start-up of the moment. The bartenders behind it tonight are mostly out-of-work hackers or street-level drug dealers whose business dried up after April 2000. Those who can’t help making with the free booze advice, for example, turn out to be Razorfish alumni, still the smartest people in the room. There is no bottom-shelf product here, it’s all Tanqueray No. Ten, Patrón Gran Platinum, The Macallan, Elit. Along with PBRs, of course, in a washtub full of crushed ice, for those who cannot easily deal with the prospect of an irony-free evening.

DSC_4883.jpgThat Patrón Gran Platinum will run you around $450 a bottle. Luckily for me, the other items aren’t quite so astronomically far above the bottom shelf.

I bought this Stolichnaya Elit a while back now, and it’s made cameo appearances in a couple other posts while I was getting around to this one. You can find it mixed deliciously with milk, vegetable soup, and watermelon juice here. Or playing its part in a heavy-duty tequila concoction here. It may also have contributed to a still-upcoming homemade beer post (spoiler alert: I put it in the airlock).

Straight, to a non-vodka drinker, it’s surprisingly tasty sipping. Creamy and sweet, not at all harsh. Stolichnaya calls it “ultra luxury vodka,” so I’m glad it doesn’t taste like paint thinner. Now someone send me a bottle of the Gran Platinum and I’ll compare them for you.

Rolling Rock

Anheuser-Busch brew houseA week or so ago, I had the unexpectedly excellent experience of visiting the Anheuser-Busch brewery in St Louis. The brewery complex was opened in 1852, and it has some terrific architecture to show for its long history, even if the beer itself is perhaps less exceptional.

I was of course curious as to what Pynchonian alcoholic connections I could make DSC_9185at Annheuser-Busch. The “case of warm Bud Light” from Vineland would have been the obvious option, but you’ll forgive me for just not having been quite in the mood. I did discover, however, that Ann-Bu are also responsible for brewing Rolling Rock (despite Rolling Rock’s website claiming they’ve been “celebrating independent spirits since 1939.”), which makes an appearance in Bleeding Edge.

In the book, Maxine has popped back into her apartment around lunch-time after some back-to-school shopping when her friend Driscoll shows up with a Rachel haircut and an invitation to the Geeks’ Cotillion ball. Maxine’s run out of Zima, but she finds them beer: “Rolling Rock, two bottles Horst has somehow overlooked, way in the back of the fridge.”

According to Wikipedia, they don’t actually brew Rolling Rock in St Louis. But they do stock Rolling Rock merchandise.

Rolling rock shirt

So yes, I bought the glasses, I bought the T-shirt. And then today (thanks to a generous benefactor), got around to sampling the beer. It’s a very pleasant lager, reminiscent of a smoother Budweiser. Not much flavour (I can see how Horst could find them easily forgotten), but definitely a workable option for a summer’s afternoon.

Rolling rock bottle