1940s Archive

Here’s How

Originally Published October 1942

Last month we guided GOURMET’s readers on a leisurely sipping junket around that charming necklace of Latin American republics lying to the South of us. This month, let’s climb aboard our magic jigger and whisk about the world, at home and abroad, searching for “specials” and “bests” from club, ship, yacht, hotel, and personal hearth that seem worthy of recording in the bar log.

To this skeptical mind, a special is any drink known or preferred in any locality, and approved through test of time. Some specials are immortal; some, but average; and some are freaks fit only for the drain. By and large those specials of club, hotel, and ocean liner average far better than personal inventions, for these professional conceptions are traded for cash, and can gain fame only through the critical approval of strangers unbiased by any strong personal affection for the parent.

But I regret to report that when it comes to sampling and passing on the more personal type of specials, the kind that is cooked up during sane or insane moments by friend, future farther-in-law, boss, fiancé, landlord, creditor, or debtor, we try chancey ground. Each step must be suspect, each sip taken cunningly, carefully, each verdict rendered with the quintessence of tact, or we become hoist—or flattened—by the petard of our own trusting soul! Just why some inventive ghoul of the corkscrews should believe that all good drinks must have six ingredients has never been clear; just why we need to dump equal parts of gin, Cherry brandy, Bénédictine, Cointreau, Grenadine, Cayennne pepper, and Absinthe into his Waring Blender—along with a casual egg white and half a lemon—and call it the John Smith Leopard’s Milk Special, you will never know. But beyond first gulp—and first gripe—it may cost you a life-long friendship to convince the author that his fruit of the jigger has no patent on immortality.

Yes, personal drink specials are like limericks. To whip one up is in trifling; but to compose something that catches on, that sooner or later may come bouncing back from say. Bombay, Buenos Aires, or even Brooklyn, is just about as heady wine as any man can expect from this rather scrambled existence in which we live and have our being. It so happens that I have but two American friends who have composed limericks worthy of passing notice. Oddly enough, one of these is the proud father of three very fair limericks now in general circulation from coast to coast. Like these limericks, the personal drink special must have merit to catch on; and even then, through mildly reckless flourishing of the jigger, both the famous and the lesser one sometimes must be approached with the careful technique that is advisable in trying to find a wounded African lion in tall elephant grass.

One and all, these personal liquid whimsies are admittedly cooked up for three purposes, and three alone: to pick you up, to mow you down, or concerning those whose names appear on the distaff roster, to remove—putting it mildly—the more comely, nubile samplers from the ranks of those still able to claim a veritable biological integrity. Any drink inventor claiming otherwise, lies in his teeth! But inasmuch as the latter condition seems to have been more or less cricket straight down from the days of Adam’s cider mill, let’s not judge too harshly. Out of affection for GOURMET’s readers, however, we shall label all such liable formulæ, so that that they may be approached discreetly and advisedly, with forewarning and forearming, or else, in the instance of such case-hardened alimentaries as mine, boldly and come what may—pull-devil-pull-Baker, catch-as-catch-can or Græco-Romon style, best two falls out of three, take no prisoner, use no hooks, and bury your own dead.

To begin with, there march three specials based on Tequila, now available on the shelves of most spirit dispensers, the first of which, for no particular reason, is the Mexican itch, which is merely our old affliction, the Swiss Itch, in Latin clothing, and which has not the slightest thing to do with any epidermatic disturbance.

Place 1 jigger decent Tequila before you. In the small valley between thumb and forefinger—pressed together—place ½ teaspoon salt. In the right hand hold a cut half of small green lime. Lick up the salt, suck the lime, and while this is more or less on the tongue, toss off the Tequila in typical frontier days fashion.

Actually I met this physical shock one chilly February morning in a cantina on the Vera Cruz water front, after a full hour wrestling with a heap of baggage obviously gaining neither value nor beauty by standing uncovered in the rain. Without offense to our brothers South of the border, I can testify that Vera Cruz owns no claim to operating-room cleanliness; and to insure bald truth this listening post must state that Vera Cruz lower town runs Djibouti, Benares, and King David Street in Jerusalem a fine photo-finish for top honors in dirt. But this Mexican itch gave me strength to collect my family and take the train for Orizaba—and this speaks more volumes that you well ever know.

Tequila Fresa, or Strawberry Tequila, is another Mexican thought that is a cinch to do. Our party had two bright young Mexican friends who lived out near the odd, moderne concrete structure that Diego Rivera and his striking wife evidently consider a residence of distinction and originality. Their names were Xavier and Perico, and they had adventured even more than the rest of the Mexican chaps we had met. They had traveled around the world, hunted ducks on the chain of lakes dotting the Valley of Mexico, shot turkey and deer in the hills, spent summers in their mild, walled-in palace in Cuernavaca, dodged sliding snow and rolling boulders climbing the snow-capped volcano (active) of Popocatepetl, and even followed for miles under a range of mountains a subterranean river that the natives shunned as being haunted. We pumped them for recipes for food and drink, this strawberry-hued affair being one they recommended. I mentioned it last month, but it bears ample repeating.

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