Sunday, June 22, 2014

Where did Mr. Collins go?

I think most of us are very familiar with the Collins glass. That tall, thin glass, taller and thinner than a highball glass, used for most "long drinks" from Iced Tea to those beverages of a more adult nature.

But what ever happened to the drink which gave its name to that glass?

The Tom Collins first appeared in drink recipe books in the 1876 edition of Jerry Thomas,' "The Bartenders Guide or How to Mix Drinks." The drink was incredibly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Originally made using a sweet style of gin called Old Tom, is was similar toa drink called a John Collins, and hence the name Tom Collins. There is also a story about a "Tom Collins" hoax which gave rise to the drinks name, but I won't go into that here. Regardless of how it got its name, the drink was very popular from the late 19th century well into the 20th century. It has even returned for a guest appearance in the PBS drama "Mr. Selfridge."

But the Tom Collins became a victim of its own popularity as bartenders, professional and amateur began to look for shortcuts. Collins mix, in bottle form or packets became a regular sight in shops, but now even finding these0 Tom Collins mixes is far from easy. Falling from popularity and new drink creations, as well as a new found love for wine, you must search high and low to even find the mix, and even bartenders sugar can be difficult to find today. (Note - Bartender's Sugar, also sometime know as Caster Sugar is super fine sugar and will mix well in drinks. Do not try to use confectioners sugar as it also has corn starch added. Use a simple syrup if you cannot find bartenders sugar)

These shortcuts, like so many shortcuts in life may make things easier, but they rarely make them better. The Tom Collins is a classic drink if made correctly which means using the correct ingredients. And they are very simple.

Juice half a lemon into a highball glass with lots of ice. Add a teaspoon of bartenders sugar or simple syrup, more or less, a jigger of gin, and a few ounces of club soda water. That's it! Now just sit back and enjoy the simple pleasures of a classic cocktail crafted in the days before air conditioning. A drink from a time when how you dressed, how you acted and what you ate and drank were dictated by the weather. This is one very special way to enjoy the summer. Cheers!

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A New Gin for a New Summer...

I'll begin by starting that I am NOT someone who seeks out organic products, but simply quality products. I've never really thought much about organic foods and when I do consume them, it is generally by accident rather than design.

Recently I fell into an organic product and must say that I'm hooked, on it at least.

Juniper Green Gin is a certified organic London Dry Gin and perhaps the best gin I have had the pleasure of trying.

It is certified organic by the Soil Association, the UK's leading membership charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use. Through their non-profit business Soil Association Certification, they inspect and award organic certification to farms and businesses that meet their organic standards. Any product sold as ‘organic’ must comply with strict rules which assure consumers they are buying genuinely organic products that can be fully traceable back to the farm. Organic standards cover all aspects of organic food certification including production and packaging, animal welfare, wildlife conservation, and ban unnecessary and harmful food additives in organic processed foods. Their standards not only meet the UK government's minimum requirements but exceed them, especially in areas concerning the environment and animal welfare.

Juniper Green is produced at the Thames Distillery and is the last gin fully produced and bottled in London. Truly the only London Dry Gin.

With aromas of lemon soufflé, fresh juniper, hay and dried herbs which follow through with a silky entry to a fruity medium to full body gin. It finishes with a long, dried citrus peel and quartzy mineral fade. This is a well crafted and balanced gin almost light and elegant. But no mistake about this gin, this is not for those who do not like the flavor of juniper.

Juniper Green has a very short list of botanicals, including only four in its makeup: juniper, angelica root, coriander and savoury.

I've tasted Juniper Green in Gin & Tonic using both the American Schweppes Tonic Water as well as the British Schweppes Indian Tonic Water, against two other brands of gin, Tanqueray and Gordon's. Personally I prefer Juniper Green, using either of those two tonic waters, to the other gins which I tried. And while it might not be my everyday or entertaining gin, it certainly is what I will reach for when I want to enjoy a nice quality gin, especially in a gimlet or martini. Cheers!

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

In Love With the Old Widow... Veuve Clicquot

For those who enjoy Champagne, I think each of us has our favorite, and if not a favorite label, we have a favorite style. Like all foods and beverages, we also have our own preferences for taste and flavor. Thankfully there is a wide variety of choices from which we can choose.

For me the first style of champagne I look for is Brut Champagne. Brut is the second driest style of Champagne, with Extra Brut being the driest. Don't let the term Extra Dry fool you. Extra Dry is slightly less dry that Brut, despite what you might think reading the name.

My next step is to select the brand of Brut Champagne I wish to buy. For the past 20 years, that choice has been simple. Veuve Clicquot.

In 1772, Philippe Clicquot-Muiron established the original winery which, in time, would become Veuve Clicquot. In 1775, it was first Champagne house to produce a rosé Champagne, using the method of adding red wine during production. Philippe's son, François Clicquot, married Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin in 1798, but died in 1805, leaving his widow in control of a company involved in banking, wool trading, and Champagne production. Veuve is the French word for widow. Madam Cliquot became the first woman to take over a Champagne house. Under her guidance, the firm focused entirely on the champagne production, to great success. By the time she died in 1866 Veuve Clicquot had become both a substantial Champagne house and a respected brand.

Easily recognized by its distinctive bright yellow labels, the wine holds a royal warrant from Queen Elizabeth. And since 1987 the Veuve Clicquot company has been part of the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy group of luxury brands, where its distinctive yellow label can be seen at various social events worldwide.

Veuve Clicquot is a yeasty style of champagne and is tightly knit, focused by racy acidity and a streak of minerals. It offers subtle notes of white peach, anise, biscuit and kumquat with a refined finish.

Champagne might not be for everyone, but if you enjoy a yeasty style of champagne, this is definitely one which you should try if you have not already done so. Cheers!

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Monday, June 16, 2014

When The King came to America...

Seventy-five years ago, as Europe teetered on the edge of a Second World War, a series of important meetings occurred between King George VI of England President Franklin Roosevelt of the United States of America. While I don't plan on going into the political aspect of the visit, I will go into a few of the more esoteric aspect of the trip.

From May 17, 1939 until June 15, 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured Canada, marking the first visit of a reigning monarch to visit Canada. And from June 7th to June 10th, they took a short trip into the United States as a part of that visit, marking the first visit to the United States by a reigning British monarch.

Accompanied by Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, they entered they United States at 9:05pm by train at Niagara Falls where they de-trained and were greeted by Secretary of State Hull and British Ambassador Lindsay. From here they traveled on to Buffalo over the New York Central Railroad where they arrived at 10:59pm. From there they traveled over the Pennsylvania Railroad to Harrisburg and on to Baltimore, where they changed from steam engines to the GG-1 electric engines for their trip into Washington, D.C. 

There were no plans for an official visit to Baltimore, as they would only be stopped for six minutes to allow for an engine and crew change. Mrs Emma D. Price of Ten Hills in Baltimore thought that Baltimore should do something to greet Their Majesties, but was denied official permission from the State Department to do so. She then approached officials with the Pennsylvania Railroad who wired her request to York, Pennsylvania. She waited in the train shed and when the train arrived was told that The King and Queen had agreed to meet with her. she presented the American Beauty Roses to Queen Elizabeth on behalf of the Mayor of Baltimore and his wife. 

Mrs Emma D. Price, of Ten Hills in Baltimore, presenting Queen Elizabeth with a bouquet of American Beauty Roses at Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore
Baltimore Sun Photo

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on the platform of their Royal Train
at Pennsylvania Station as they prepare to depart Baltimore.
International News Photo

With the engine and crew change complete, The King and Queen continued on to Washington where they arrived at Union Station on track 20. There President Roosevelt greeted them in the President's Waiting Room, part of the station recently occupied by B. Smith's Restaurant.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at Track 20 in Union Station as they prepare to meet 
President Roosevelt.
AP Wire Photo

The Presidential Waiting Room in Union Station. The Walls of the room were cream, trimmed in gold and a deep green.
AP Wire Photo

President Roosevelt greets King George VI in the Presidential Waiting Room at Union Station. Left to right: Mrs Roosevelt, President Roosevelt, Brigadier General Edwin Watson, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, and Secretary of State Hull
Wide World Photos

After the visit to Washington, which included a trip down the Potomac to Mount Vernon, they continued on to Red Bank, NJ, over the Pennsylvania Railroad, From here Their Majesties traveled by motor coach to Fort Hancock. Here they boarded a US Navy destroyer for their trip into New York City and the 1939 New York World's Fair.

From New York, they continued on to Hyde Park by car, eventually returning to Canada at Rouses Point by way of the New York Central Railroad and the Delaware and Hudson Railroad.

Route of the Royal Train in the United States of America

The cars of the Royal Train were decorated in royal blue with a car-length band of aluminum running across the window area. The aluminum panels were applied in diamond-shaped designs to flash more brilliantly in the sun. Above and below the windows were thin gold bands running the length of each car. The last two cars, where The King and Queen stayed, carried the royal coat of arms in the center under the windows. Each car featured a radio and telephone. The six Canadian National cars were prepared at their Point St. Charles shops. The six Canadian Pacific cars were prepared at their Angus shops. All but the last two cars of the train carried the royal cypher and crown centered below their window lines and a royal crown at each end of the blue stripe above the window line.

Joseph Charbonneau completing the transfer work on the Royal Coat-of-Arms
at the Canadian National Shops at Point St. Charles
Wide World Photos

The two cars occupied by The King and Queen were as follows.

Canadian National Governor General's Car #1 - Open end observation car. Contained two bedroom suites for The King and Queen, a sitting room overlooking the rear platform, and two bedrooms for members of the royal staff. The car carried the royal coat of arms centered below the windows.

The King's Bedroom
Associated Press Photo

Canadian National Governor General's Car #2 - This car featured a large sitting room, and, ahead of that, a dining room with seating for 12. The car carried the royal coat of arms centered below the windows.

Royal Sitting Room complete with Radio and Telephone
Associated Press Photo

Private Dining Room for the King and Queen seen from the Royal Sitting Room
Associate Press Photo

The follow are the remaining cars which made up the Royal Train on this visit.

Canadian Pacific End Door Baggage Car 4473 - This car contained a small Bellis & Morcom generator to supply the train with electricity, powered by steam from the locomotive. Also contained a set of six floodlights to illuminate the train and its surroundings at night.

Canadian Pacific Baggage Sleeper 4484 - This car contained refrigerated food storage and a telephone PBX switchboard to connect the train with telephone service at various stops. Also contained a steam pressing table, ironing board and storage for uniforms and linens. The car also provided sleeping quarters for some of the train's staff.

Canadian National Dining Car 1330 - This car was the latest type of dining car in service with seating for 40.

Canadian Pacific 8 Section on 4 Bedroom Sleeping Car "Viceroy" - This car provided sleeping quarters for several Canadian Mounties, plus a barber shop.

Canadian Pacific 14 Bedroom Sleeper Car "Grand Pre" - This car held the Train Office and provided sleeping accommodations for several officials.

Canadian National Business Car 99 - This car was used by the Lord-in-Waiting, John Scott, The Earl of Eldon, and the Lord Chamberlain, David Lyulph Gore Wolseley Ogilvy, The Earl of Airlie.

Canadian National 6 Compartment Lounge Car "Atlantic" 1196 - This car was used by other members of the royal party.

Canadian Pacific Private Car "Wentworth" - This car was used by the Prime Minister in attendance, William Lyon Mackenzie King, and his staff.

Canadian National 6 Compartment Lounge Car "Pacific" 1197 - This car was used by other members of the royal party.

Canadian Pacific 14 Bedroom Sleeper Car "Grand Manan" - This car provided accommodations for the personal servants of Their Majesties.

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