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.

Papa Doble (and a giveaway!)

Bleeding Edge paperback PynchonThe paperback of Bleeding Edge comes out tomorrow in the US. That’s the updated cover passing on our right. The press release from Penguin Press reminds me (as I’m sure I don’t have to remind you) that the book is “dazzling and ludicrous,” “full or verbal sass and pizzazz … totally gonzo, totally wonderful,” “a necessary novel and one that literary history has been waiting for.” Which all sounds pretty dead on.

In celebration of the first appearance of this great novel in lighter floppier form, I have here (thanks to Penguin Press) five copies of the book to give you. Hopefully not all five of them to just one of you, but something more like maybe one each to five of you. If you want one, just leave a comment at the bottom here.

But first! The Papa Doble. In Chapter Six of BE, the appearance of political activist from way back March Kelleher gets Maxine reminiscing about their first meeting, “ten or fifteen years ago… when landlords were reverting to type and using Gestapo techniques to get sitting tenants to move.” They meet at a protest against their landlord, and head for a drink when it starts to get dark.

The nearest bar was the Old Sod, technically Irish, though an aging gay Brit or two may have wandered infrequently in. The drink March had in mind was a Papa Doble, which Hector the bartender, previously only seen drawing beers and pouring shots, assembled for March as if he’d been doing it all week. Maxine had one too, just to keep her company.

The Papa Doble is a drink with serious literary history, centred on that most famously boozed-up man of letters, Ernest Hemingway. In 1932, Hemingway was escaping prohibition living in Cuba, and frequenting a bar called La Floridita–the home of the Daiquiri. Hemingway, being Papa Doble Pynchon Bleeding EdgeHemingway, ordered his with double the rum and none of the sugar. Papa was Hemingway’s nickname in Cuba; doble is Spanish for double: the Papa Doble was born. Double white rum, lime juice, grapefruit juice, and maraschino liqueur. The WSJ has a great history here. As the BE Wiki points out, it’s an appropriate drink for civil activist March Kelleher, given Hemingway’s own fight against facism in the Spanish Civil War.

To get mine, I wandered last night into New Gold Mountain, a pretty well-hidden bar in Melbourne that I’d previously found by accident trying to go somewhere else. (This is a snazzy cocktail bar and not an unlikely Irish pub, but I figured March and Maxine’s experience was unrepeatable.) I resisted their beautiful drink menu, had a chat to the bartender about Papa Doble history, and whipped out Bleeding Edge for some sneaky photos. When he brought over our drinks he told me he “made it with sugar because if you drink it the way Hemingway had it it’s pretty unpalatable–he was a degenerate alcoholic after all.” Which, well, I’m not complaining. It was a mighty enjoyable drink. Sour and sweet and very nicely balanced. It’s not hard to see how old Hemo could have knocked back a dozen or so of the unsweetened version.

Oh but and I have books to give away! If you want to get your hands on the newly-portable paperback Bleeding Edge, comment below and include your email address so I can get in touch with you. Bonus points for photos with books and/or alcohol. Five people with US addresses will win. (If you can’t see a comments box, you might have to make sure you’re only viewing this post, and not my whole front page.) If you don’t need another copy, send your friends my way! Cheers!

Nero d’Avola

Nero d'Avola

Early in Bleeding Edge, Maxine pays a visit to the VC (which I’m assuming is venture capitalist) who’d supported hwgaahwgh.com (which address now conveniently directs one to the book’s wiki). The VC is Rockwell “Rocky” Slagiatt, who’s dropped his surname’s terminal vowel in order “to sound more anglo,” despite then “becoming disingenuously ethnic again” in Maxine’s presence. Slagiatt takes Maxine to Enrico’s Italian Kitchen, which she recalls “getting rave reviews in Zagat.” (Enrico’s unfortunately doesn’t seem to be a real place. Brings up a grand total of two Google results, both for the BE wiki. But I’m about as distant as can be from NYC anyway, so what’s it matter.) After some faux-Sopranos banter between Slagiatt and the waiter, they order:

Maxine ends up having the homemade strozzapreti with chicken livers, and Rocky goes for the ossu buco. “Hey, what kinda wine?”

“How about a ’71 Tiganello?—but then again with all the wiseguy dialogue, maybe just, uh, li’l Nero d’Avola? small glass?”

“Readin my mind.” Not exactly doing a double take at the pricey supertuscan, but a certain gleam has entered his eye, which is what she may have been looking to provoke. And why would that be, again?

DSC_9514Stozzapreti with chicken livers? Someone can start an every-meal-in-Pynchon blog. Not too bad being stuck with the drinks though–even if (like Rocky) I haven’t shelled out for the ’71 Tiganello, this Nero d’Avola is nice stuff. The bottle I have (from Feudo Principi di Butera) here claims on its reverse to be “a supreme expression of the indigenous Sicilian grape variety par excellence.” The winemaker’s website says they wrote the book on Nero d’Avola. Guess I’ve got no way to confirm or deny these assertions, but I can say I like the stuff. Maxine does too, even if her lunch investigation doesn’t go so well:

She can hear from inside her purse the as-yet-undeposited check laughing at her, as if she had been the butt of a great practical joke.

The Nero d’Avola on the other hand is not bad at all.

Mine is big, rich, and tanniney. Dry, but with an interesting tannin sweetness. A bit spicy, maybe some cherries. Not one to guzzle, but very drinkable. It’s making me wish I were sitting in an Italian place with a plate of livers to go with it. Or maybe not livers. Maybe I’ll take the ossu buco.

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