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September 23, 2002

Glenn Reynolds says that Jesse James “stood up for ‘the people against the powerful.’”

I wonder how R. A. C. Martin, Frank MacMillian, Jr., or John B. Shaw would feel about that. Or Nicholas Gustavson. [09:56 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Glenn Reynolds says:

Glenn Reynolds ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2002, 11:22 PM:

I've gotten email from a lot of people -- including one whose name (at least on his email) is "Jesse James" and one who claims to be descended from Jesse James -- saying that he was a no-good scumbag. Well, yeah. I thought I was being tongue-in-cheek there, but if it's fooled you, Patrick, then it wasn't clear enough.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2002, 11:32 PM:

Well, it's possible to be so dry that it's no longer a martini, it's just gin.

I'll be the first to agree that the James legend is fascinating. The history of the uses to which people have put the story is much more interesting than the rather squalid story itself.

Glenn Reynolds ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2002, 11:54 PM:

And you know, I don't like dry martinis. I posted an update making things a bit clearer.

When I first started teaching someone told me: "You can never be too obvious." Sometimes I feel that way about blogging, too, but that takes some of the fun out of it. Oh, well. It's not like I don't get irate email when people do understand what I mean. . . .

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 12:29 AM:

Patrick:Well, it's possible to be so dry that it's no longer a martini, it's just gin.

And just what's wrong with that?

Glenn: When I first started teaching someone told me: "You can never be too obvious."

People have told me that about writing too. I think I'm being way blatant and over obvious and then they can't figure it out.


Glenn Reynolds ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 08:24 AM:

"I think I'm being way blatant and over obvious and then they can't figure it out."

Yep. Happens to me all the time. It's gotten much worse as my readership has grown, which I put down to (1) more readers means more people subject to potential confusion; and (2) more new readers means folks who haven't quite clued in to weblogging's stylistic and rhetorical quirks.

Or I'm just getting more confusing. Who knows?

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 10:12 AM:

Patrick:Well, it's possible to be so dry that it's no longer a martini, it's just gin.

Mary Kay: And just what's wrong with that?

Nothing, if you want cold gin. Everything, if you want a martini.

(FWIW, both PNH and I join Glenn in the "It's The Vermouth, Stupid" clade of martini drinkers.")

Jim Henley ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 10:25 AM:

I think it's awfully insensitive of both Glenn and Patrick to be dissing Jesse James like this. What if Warren Zevon reads this blog? How do you think he'd feel, given his condition?

They rode against the railroad and
They rode against the banks
They rode against the governor
Never did they ask for a word of thanks

One final question. What's all this dry stuff you guys are talking about?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 10:41 AM:

Warren Zevon's credit with me is so gigantic that it easily overcomes his minor song about the James brothers.

Besides, as with all things Zevon, it's obviously pickled in irony. I didn't take him as making a serious case for the desirability of headless Thompson gunners, either.

Christopher Hatton ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 10:58 AM:

A lot of people get that wrong. I remember a feminist lecture (Alix Dobkin, I think) about how appallingly sexist rock music is...she cited 'Excitable Boy' as an example. Jeez, this guy is saying we should excuse people who rape and kill, then dig up the body and build a cage with the bones! What a bad man!

That said, I think Jim was being ironic too...especially given his final line.

Christopher Hatton ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 10:59 AM:

Oog. What a badly written sentence that is...I suppose an "ex-citable" boy is one who can no longer be cited. Sorry.

Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 11:26 AM:

Mary Kay: The "gin" part.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 11:46 AM:

Patrick, Erik, Mary Kay and Glenn:

Beefeater? (Please don't say Bombay Sapphire...)

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 12:25 PM:

And what's wrong with Bombay Sapphire?

Greg van Eekhout ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 12:29 PM:

It was a bitter moment when I first realized that Bombay Sapphire isn't actually blue.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 12:48 PM:

I've been thinking a lot about martinis lately, mostly because I've been drinking them a lot lately. I consider a martini to be gin, vermouth, ice-melt, and something dropped in. I think the gin and the ice-melt are the most important parts, the vermouth and something dropped in can be dispensed with. Of course, I like gin quite a lot and mileage varies. I prefer my marintins made with Plymouth gin, my gin and tonics with Tanqueray. For drinking on the rocks either of those or Bombay. After a recent Really Bad Day, I went to a local bar and asked what kinds of gin they had, to receive an arrogant, "What do you want?" They didn't have Plymouth of course, so I settled for Boodles in my martini. It was okay. However, a drink involving vodka, Godiva liqueur, and Chambord is by no stretch of the imagination related to a martini, I don't care what you call it. (An otherwise nice bar in Seattle does this calling it a Chocotini--or something like that. I'm trying to blot it from my memory.)

Warren Zevon is wonderful. My current favorite is The Envoy.


John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 01:05 PM:

Nothing wrong with Bombay, but I find it a little oversold for something that doesn't have the edge of Beefeater. (Boodles I haven't tried, but would like to.)

I'm with you Mary Kay when it comes to the "real" thing. Not that I don't mind a cosmo once in a while (and my wife loves them) but we don't pretent they're martinis.

Myself, I do the shaker with lots of ice (shake until it's too cold to handle) and add a twist of lime. Easy on the vermouth. The rest of my family thinks it's like drinking gasoline, but not me....

Glenn Reynolds ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 01:50 PM:

In fact, Beefeater is my favorite gin. I don't drink martinis much (sadly, I don't drink much period these days -- goes with parenthood, I guess) but when I do I like a classic 4-1 or even 3-1 ratio.

I think the whole dry martini thing started because it's fun to make jokes of the "so dry there's dust on the olive" variety, rather than because they taste good.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 02:33 PM:

For a proper wet martini, I find Tanqueray, with its bolder taste, to be better. (That's why Tanqueray works so well with Tonic.)

In place where I can't convince them that I really do want vermouth, honest, I'll go with Sapphire.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 04:09 PM:

Much more of this and I'm changing this blog's name to MartiniPundit.

Anyway, our preference is for Tanqueray chilled to temperatures normally found in the outer solar system, topped with a few millimeters of Martini & Rossi, and an olive. For a "dirty" martini, add a homeopathic quantity of the brine the olive was packed in. Shaken of course, except that some wretch has misplaced our martini shaker. Probably it was Warren Zevon, who seems to be lurking at the edges of a lot of conversations lately.

A big shout-out of interpersonal validation (as we Big Sur rap stars say) to Mary Kay, however. "Martini" does not mean "anything served in a triangular glass." Hmf. (Exit, waving cane.)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 04:18 PM:

Oh, and by the way, Glenn, I can't remember where I read it, but just recently I was reading someone who observed that the cult of the "dry" martini correlates to the gradual improvement, post-Prohibition, in the quality of everyday, non-premium gin.

Which makes perfect sense. From the way people talk about even legitimately-manufactured American gin in the years before and just after Prohibition, it was clearly, ah, bracing stuff. You'd want a lot of vermouth. Also, perhaps, tranquilizer darts.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 05:50 PM:

Much more of this and I'm changing this blog's name to MartiniPundit.

Well, post about martinis, and we'll probably talk about Jesse James.

And a good point about the, ahem, quality of old gin. Also note that the canonical English drink was bad gin added to something that tasted worse.

Sam Coppersmith ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 06:17 PM:

I think the theory about the dry martini cult developing out of improvements in post-Prohibition gin appeared in Roger Angell's recent article about the martini in The New Yorker's "food issue" (no link available, so I can't confirm until I get home).

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 07:42 PM:

Sam Coppersmith is exactly right. And, of course, the article's not available on the New Yorker's fershlugginer web site.

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 08:42 PM:

All of this is reminding me that while I like martinis just fine, my true passion is bourbon. Maker's Mark for mixing, Booker's for sipping. Manhattans have the extra benefit of not yet being freighted with the significance people assign to martinis (although any *true* Manhattan has to have bitters).

Jay C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 10:06 PM:

Yes, the blogosphere is truly a wondrous place: a comment thread that began with pasting Glenn Reynolds over whether or not Jesse James was a scumbag or not ends up as a serious discussion of martinis.I love this medium....
But seriously: Patrick is right, imo, when he points out that changing tastes and practices in our drinking habits cannot be unrelated to the general improvement, over the last (?) half-century, of the quality of the liquor we put into them [comments re tequila, anyone?].And gin, must certainly, be one of the ones that needs the most help! Full disclosure: I am a Tanqueray guy myself. Has anyone done a serious study of this issue? Would appreciate any links.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2002, 11:20 PM:

Bourbon? Did someone say bourbon? You simply must try Woodford Reserve. The Beam small batch bourbons are pretty good - I like Maker's Mark, as well.

James Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2002, 12:32 AM:

Martini, schmartini. I prefer Gibsons.

But back to the James brothers:

Frank's real name was Alexander, but his mother called him Buck. She called Jesse "Dave," but among Quantrill's boys, he was known as "Dingus."

Which leads us to:

They went to a crossing
Not very far from there,
And there they did the same;
With the agent on his knees
He delivered up the keys
To the outlaws, Buck and Dingus James.

Now, time for another martini.

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2002, 12:38 AM:

I'm pretty sure I've had Woodford Reserve. I haven't seen it in many bars around here, though. One of these days I need to find a bar with a really fine selection and just start going through the bourbons, since I'm not usually willing to shell out upwards of $75 for a bottle of something I've never tasted before.

I'm a big fan of the Beam small-batch stuff, although Knob Creek I can take or leave; the charred flavor doesn't entirely work for me.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2002, 12:58 AM:

John F: I'm coming to your house for martinis. Never tried lime but I bet it's good. I've always preferred a twist to an olive because I only like ripe olives.

Jay C: Hah! This is nothing. For true thread drift you need to check out rec.arts.sf.fandom. We figure anything sf fans want to talk about it on topic, except sf--there's rec.arts.sf.written for that.

All: A New Yorker food issue? Want badly. Really must re-subscribe to that magazine.


John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2002, 09:18 AM:

Mary Kay, I do prefer limes--although I freely admit, I tend to do more of a wedge than a twist. I have not really taken the time to give the olive a chance (and it sounds tempting based on PNH's recipe); so I think I'll weave down to Murray's and pick up a jar....

Josh--I hear you on bourbon! (or as John Wayne irresistibly calls it in The Cowboys, "that old Kentucky sour mash...") But I'm just a beginner. At my dad's place a while back I found a very dusty bottle of Old Forester. Now, for all I know, it's crap. But I never heard of the stuff. Would appreciate any info from those more acquainted....


Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2002, 09:42 AM:

Five facts about Old Forester:

(1) It was at one point the best-selling bourbon in America.

(2) Despite legend to the contrary, it's not named in honor of Confederate general and Klan psycho Nathan Bedford Forrest.

(3) In its hundred-proof version, it continued to be manufactured throughout Prohibition, under special government license, for medicinal use.

(4) It's the only bourbon that insists on the spelling "whisky." (Generally, Scotch and Canadian distillers spell it "whisky"; American distillers spell it "whiskey.")

(5) It's entirely average among mass-market American bourbons. On the sweet side, but most of the big brands are.

(Credit for facts 2 and 3 to the durably useful Signet Encyclopedia of Whiskey, Brandy, & All Other Spirits, by E. Frank Henriques.)

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2002, 10:08 AM:

(6) It's one of the few bourbons left that is "Bottled in Bond" -- which means that it must be "regular whiskey", bottled from one season, at 100 proof, and held in a goverment regulated warehouse for at least 4 years.

And, as a class, bourbons are sweeter than other wiskey/whiskys -- one of the reasons I like them.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2002, 11:45 AM:

Thanks, Patrick and Erik. It came in a great looking bottle, too, virtually a decanter. (I'll have to get a copy of Henriques book.)

Jack Womack ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2002, 04:49 PM:

I hasten to say that back home, we'd have used Old Forester only to pour on the holiday fruit cake whenever it began to look inedible. But each to his or her own.

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2002, 05:48 PM:

As you know, Bob, gin was the preferred drink of the English lower classes in the 17th-19th Centuries or so (give or take a century or two on the leading edge). It was a foul and nasty liquid, suitable for getting drunk and not much else.

It was the first distilled alcohol that Europeans had - until then, they'd been drinking weaker wines, beers and meads and such, with MUCH lower alcohol content. And the social effects were terrible - Europeans just weren't ready to ingest alcohol of that potency, and gin-drinking split up families, led to violent crime, and all the other bad things we Americans associate with the heroine epidemics of the 1960s and 1970s and crack in the 1980s.

Elise ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2002, 05:27 PM:

Didn't Trina Robbins do a comic about those heroine invasions?