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.

Tequila Zombie

Tequila Zombie Inherent Vice PynchonI’m maybe 50% of my way through a tequila zombie as I begin this post, and I must confess to feeling a little woozy. These past months of drinking along with Tyrone and Maxine and Jeremiah and Katje and Benny should have warmed up my liver a bit, but this one does ratchet the alcohol up a good few notches. Which is the main point with zombies. The original one was supposedly concocted to help a businessman through a hangover—not so much hair of the dog as just swallowing the mutt whole. Doc and his (maritime) lawyer Sauncho order them in Inherent Vice, along with some disturbing sounding food (p. 91-92):

“I’m Chlorinda, what’ll it be,” A waitress in a combination Nehru jacket and Hawaiian-print shirt, just long enough to qualify as a minidress, and with a set of vibes that didn’t help sharpen anyone’s appetite.

“Ordinarily I’d go for the Admiral Luau,” Sauncho more diffident than Doc expected, “but today I guess I’ll just have the house anchovy loaf to start and, um, the devil-ray filet, can I get that deep-fried in beer batter?”

“Your stomach isn’t it. How about you l’il buddy?”

“Mmm!” Doc scanning the menu. “All this good eatin’!” while Sauncho kicked him under the table.

“If my husband dared to eat any of this shit, I’d throw him out on his ass and drop all his Iron Butterfly records out the window after him.”

“Trick question,” said Doc hastily. “The, uh, jellyfish teriyaki croquetters I guess? and the Eel Trovatore?”

“And to drink, gentlemen. You’ll want to be good and fucked up by the time this arrives. I’d recommend Tequila Zombies, they work pretty quick.” She walked away scowling.

Forgive any weird spelling errors—they do work pretty quick. Oh and is anyone game to take on Tom Pynchon’s Kitchen? I’m reviving the Quimporto, someone else’s gotta handle the Eel Travatore.

We should also note that Doc and Sauncho are drinking their zombies at lunchtime. Day drinking is delightful, but I’m feeling weird enough trying to get through this thing at 2AM, let along having it pre-5pm. It oughta be reserved for late nights in loud clubs in tropical party towns. But then again, Doc doesn’t have much binding him to a regular employment/daylight based timetable. Dude can drink what he wants.

The tequila zombie is not a common drink. A typical zombie is three or four different types of rum, apricot brandy, vodka, and juice of some tropical kind (although recipes seem to vary widely). If you google tequila zombie, you mostly get a game in which you blast shotguns at sombreroed zombies. But you can also find QuirkBooks getting in ahead of me in the Pynchonian alcohol game, providing not just a tequila zombie recipe but one based on their love of Inherent Vice. I basically followed their recipe here, except I swapped out orange juice for pineapple. That gave me:

  • 3 oz tequila
  • 1.5 oz apricot brandy
  • 1.5 oz spiced rum
  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • 3 oz grapefruit juice
  • 3 oz pineapple juice

And it makes a hefty drink. I gave Drunk Pychonette one, and despite my warnings her first sip still brought a sharp “Holy shit!” Maybe some kind of expert mixology could mask the alcohol better. I’m not sure how. It’s good though! Just tastes like very serious party.

Pynchon Tequila ZombieDoc and Sauncho’s scene with the zombies makes it into the movie, which I finally at last after interminable waiting saw and enjoyed last night. It felt nicely Pynchoney, good and weird and funny with the right mix of sadness and optimism at the base. (I copied my zombie garnish from the movie zombie, so thank you to whatever set dresser was responsible for that.) I look forward to seeing it again and I hope I’m not hungover tomorrow.

Inexpensive (airborne) vodka

Of all the bars in Pynchon, Kahuna Airlines’ airborne tiki bar must be one of the most colourful:

Each 747 in the Kahuna Airlines fleet had been gutted and refitted as a huge Hawaiian restaurant and bar, full of hanging island vegetation, nightclub chairs and tables instead of airplane seats, even a miniature waterfall.

Zoyd gets a job with the Kahuna Airlines playing “lounge synthesiser” on flights across the Pacific Ocean. There’re hula dancers and flame eaters, plastic tikis and shrubbery, oversize paper-parasoled drinks. Infuriatingly though, no specific drink references–even when the plane is boarded by mysterious alien pirates, prompting a free-drinks-for-all bonanza. Here’s the closest it gets:

The alcohol flowed torrentially, and soon it was necessary to switch over to a reserve tank of inexpensive vodka, located in the wing. Some passengers fell unconscious, some glazed out, others kicked off their shoes and partied, notwithstanding the grim shielded troopers working slowly, methodically among them.

As much as it pains me, I must accept that the airborne Tiki bar produces nothing more interesting for me to drink than inexpensive vodka. And I can’t even drink it out of the wing of an aeroplane.

Vineland vodkaHowever! I recently found myself on a flight across the Pacific, and while it wasn’t Kahuna Airlines, it was Fiji Air, which is pretty close in spirit, right? The business class cabin I was mysteriously upgraded into didn’t closely resemble a tiki bar, but the air hosts were wearing a Pacific Island print, and I had just had Wahoo for dinner, so I figured I was in the ballpark. The sad probability is that Fiji Air was the closest I will ever come to an airborne Tiki bar. So let’s have this inexpensive vodka.

The menu (which the friendly/obsequious Pacific-clad host brought around before takeoff) listed the vodka as Absolute with an e. Unless there’s an affordable Fijian knockoff by that name, I’m going to assume it was Absolut. I ordered a vodka lemonade. It showed up after takeoff not looking too inexpensive at all with its business class glass and ice and slice of lime. I admit that this deviates perhaps from the spirit of Kahuna’s wing-stored vodka, but hey, it was free man, how much more inexpensive does it come?

I enjoyed the thing a great deal too. Seemed at the time so beautifully mixed as to not be mixed at all, but rather some new spirit entirely, magically smooth. Sweet, a quininey note, lime of course, but something else too… Or something of just being impossible to separate into parts, into tasting notes. Goes down easier than the Chivas and dry I’d mixed myself in the business class lounge pre-flight. Goes down easier thanks to that too, I suppose. And it sure is nice to have something to suck on gazing down at the gridded city lights, at the ocean. My inexpensive vodka wasn’t the party Zoyd’s was, but it sure was nice.