Closing the Book on 2013

Each year, every year, December comes and goes too quickly to be fully appreciated.  This year, it felt especially blurry: finding the time for all the holiday cheer, travel, and glad tidings, before the 25th arrives and before plunging into the cornucopia quivering with desire and ecstasy of unbridled avarice (thanks Jean Shepherd).  Not to mention the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in our front window (yes, we have a nearly four-foot tall replica).

Christmas flashes by, then it’s New Year’s, which for me has never caused much of a to-do.  Sure, I used to go out and drink and actually care about doing something.  Yet it was never as much fun as hoped and always absurdly expensive.  Even the most epic eventualities cannot reduce the annoyance of waiting 10 minutes for a cocktail,  delivered weak and in a plastic cup while skinny girls step on your toes to get faster service.  Such is hell.

But I won’t get ahead of myself.  December, even with its hurry and bustle, still remains and was indeed enjoyable.  I spent time off from work, with family near and far, and poured a fine drink or two.  So before the clock strikes midnight and 2013 concludes, here are a few late year discoveries and favorites.  To you and yours, Happy New Year.

– Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter.  Difficult to find a bad brew from this old, traditional English brewery.  Much like their Oatmeal Stout, the porter is another fantastic cold weather beer – perfect for sipping in front of a fire.

– Devils Backbone Kilt Flasher Scottish Ale.  This wee heavy ale is another hit from this new-ish craft brewery located near Shenandoah National Park, a few hours southwest of Washington, D.C.  (Read my take on their Vienna Lager here.)

– Barrel Trolley Amber Ale.  Brewed by the Genesee Brewing Company, in Rochester, N.Y., this amber is fairly sweet and light bodied, especially considering the range of amber ales these days.  Decent overall, but finishes too weakly.

As per usual, here are a few additional selections, for the interested reader and drinker.  Not all booze related, but mostly.

– PUNCH.  This new online wine and spirits magazine ( seeks to “bring the worlds of wine and cocktails together,” as stated in a Wall Street Journal feature earlier this month.  The site is a creation of Brooklyn-based writers Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau and is backed by a small division of Random House Publishing.  I particularly enjoy the site’s long-form writing, a format similar to my own.

Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary, by Tim Federle.  2013 saw much writing published on the intersection of literature and drinking.  Here it continues, but with a more lighthearted touch (a Christmas gift from the wife).  Mr. Federle’s short text proffers literary-inspired cocktail recipes: impress your friends the next time you host book club.

Endgame, 1945: The Missing Final Chapter of World War II, by David Stafford.  Professor Stafford shines a bright light on several often overlooked months following the Allied victory in Europe.  Although formal hostilities with Nazi Germany ended, chaos, uncertainty, and death did not.

Shake Out Your Head

A Few Old School Hangover Remedies

I’ve previously discussed the misery of hangovers, stating my preference for a large breakfast at the nearest greasy-spoon diner.  More recently, I highlighted a new medicine specifically designed to prevent hangovers from ever occurring.

Since a consensus has yet to be reached on the best hangover remedy (will it ever?), I thought I’d pass on some words of wisdom from several noteworthy authors and drinkers.  But first, let’s set the stage with a few words from The Proverbs and Epigrams of John Heywood (A.D. 1562): “I pray thee let me and my fellow have a haire of the dog that bit us last night/And bitten were we bothe to the braine aright.”

From Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwork Orange:

Hangman’s Blood: “Into a pint glass, doubles of the following are poured: gin, whisky, rum, port and brandy. A small bottle of stout is added and the whole topped up with Champagne … It tastes very smooth, induces a somewhat metaphysical elation, and rarely leaves a hangover.”

George Kappeler, author of Modern American Drinks:

Silver Fizz: “A tall cocktail made of gin, lemon juice, sugar, an egg white and soda water — paired with a variation on the Prairie Oyster.”  The New York Times helps explain the Prairie Oyster part: “An American preparation dating at least to the late 19th century, it usually consists of egg yolk, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, salt, pepper and vinegar… Under no circumstances should it be confused with the similarly named comestible known as Prairie Oysters: bull-calves’ testicles.”

And finally, a pair from Ernest Hemingway, without which any list would be incomplete:

Death in the Afternoon: “Pour 1 jigger of absinthe into a champagne glass. Add iced champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.”  Or, Death in the Gulf Stream (according to Charles H. Baker): “Take a tall thin water tumbler and fill it with finely cracked ice. Lace this broken debris with 4 good purple dashes of Angostura, add the juice and crushed peel of 1 green lime, and fill glass almost full with Holland gin… No sugar, no fancying.”

Now you’ve got no excuse to shake out your head, wring out your liver, and get the new year started right.  Here’s to 2012!

Last Call for 2011

This time of year is meant to be spent with family and friends, gathered around the dinner table or next to the Christmas tree, sipping warm beverages, and eating too many sweets.  All while digging out from beneath piles of wrapping paper, empty boxes, bows, and ribbon.  

It’s been difficult finding time to write with all the new toys, gadgets, bottles, and books vying for my attention.  Thus, this post will be my final of the year.  Better to enjoy my delicious new gifts with those close to me than to sit alone writing about them. 

There are certainly plenty of new treats to enjoy: bottles of Auchentoshan scotch and Libertine absinthe; a pair of crystal champagne coupes; several books – F. Scott Fitzgerald’s On Booze, Charles Coulombe’s The Muse in the Bottle, and most hilariously, Marty Beckerman’s The Heming Way; even some new socks.  Santa was very generous this year.

So, we close the book on 2011 and look forward to the New Year – 2012.  And what might 2012 bring to The Hip Flask, you might ask?

– The return of recurring series such as the ever-informative Booze News, Recommended Reading, as well as my continuing attempt at fiction and humor, A Drink With… 

– New multi-post series, including my re-creation of Benjamin Franklin’s 18th Century Milk Punch recipe.

– Topical and current content, including upcoming posts on: investing in beer production in developing countries; drinking lessons from celebrity chef and world traveler Anthony Bourdain; and a few thoughts on wine from France’s Côtes du Rhône region.

And of course, my own considerations, explanations, observations, and ramblings regarding all things drinking, both here in Washington, DC and where ever else I find myself.  While I look forward to all the writing and drinking the new year will bring, I must conclude with a word of thanks – for the comments, correspondence, criticism, and kindness from you, my readers.  Happy New Year!

Published in: on December 29, 2011 at 12:22 am  Comments (2)  
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Happy New Year

Days and hours fall from the clock; the last drop fills my glass.  The year concludes and the bottle is finished.  So begins a new year.

New adventures, new challenges, new flavors, new contemplations.  2011 is fresh, unblemished, pristine – waiting to be experienced.  New brews to taste, cities to see, and friends to make.

May you enjoy fine drink and have the happiest of new years.

Published in: on January 1, 2011 at 3:50 pm  Comments (1)  
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