For the Spirit of the Orange Gin Blossom

Fresh OJ, vermouth and gin
Freshly squeezed OJ makes a wonderful difference!

Every drink has a tale. What’s yours?

Too much of what drink made you throw up in the bushes?

Which one gave you your biggest hangover?

Many people, all over the world, have a tale to tell of this drink – of their indulgence, whether it was entertaining or painful.

In the spirit of National Orange Blossom Day, the characters from one tale has been brought to life…..

FICTION OR TRUTH?

No one knew I hid in the bushes that night. Nobody bothered to question me. I could have told them what happened but they didn’t think to ask lil ol’ me.

Two hours earlier, I had poured a heavy dose of father’s gin and vermouth into a metal canister and topped it with a bit of the orange juice mother had prepared for tomorrow’s breakfast. I’ll just tell her I got thirsty in the night.

Worthy of a cuff upside the head and a belt whipping from father for arming myself with some of his bootleg, what with the new law and all, I crept from 403 Alvarado Street, giddy as a school boy. Which I was. My swagger kicked in mid-way up the road, feeling more like a grown up with every step. 

That silent film director lived a few more houses over. Tony, Tay something. I didn’t care about names. I only cared about the interesting goings-on in that house. 

I passed by here everyday on my way to father’s hardware and bicycle shop where I stocked, dusted, swept, helped customers, well, you name it, I did it. Father didn’t do much of anything except read the daily news.

Today, I had seen Fatty Arbuckle’s name blazed across the top. Probably something about his murder trial. Poor Fatty. I say he was framed.

I didn’t dare try to read the whole headline. Father catches me slacking off and I’m liable to getting a kick in the arse. Believe me, he can kick pretty damn hard. Last week, he sent me flying down the aisle into the bicycle parts. 

Father always lingered over those articles about the pretty film starlets, looking all innocent with their big doe-eyes. Let me tell you, they aren’t so! I’ve seen things. 

And most of it from the bushes at the side of that famous man’s house. It has a great view, what with the window that reaches the second floor. 

Young ladies prancing about with barely a stitch of clothing on, kissing each other, touching and fondling. Some nights, they swim naked in his pool right after the sex. The bushes got a little more than a watering on those nights.

Once in awhile, he had full blown parties and everyone danced to the music on his gramophone. Tonight was like that. When I arrived at my usual spot at the bushes, someone had been kind enough to leave behind a full glass of some orange concoction, right there on the table. Lucky me, within reach. I knew by the smell it would taste the same as what I carried in my canister. So I downed it. 

I settled on my haunches out of sight and waited for the festivities to begin. 

One of the guests dumped out something from a small bag onto the glass table by the chesterfield and handed the lady next to him a tiny spoon. All the ladies took their turn. Things got wild after that!

Not three weeks ago, I had my first taste of these Orange Gin Blossoms, or so mom called ’em.

I was on my way home that day and two lovely ladies half-stumbled, half-skipped down the hill from the golf course towards me. Well, they sang at the top of their lungs, something about oranges and gin. And they skipped right past me. 

“Afternoon, Ladies,” I says to them because they were awfully pretty and I sure fancied the younger one. 

Didn’t she stop and ask me my name. I told her. Then I told her how sweet and lovely she smelled. 

She swatted at me and blushed. “Oh, that’s the Gin Blossoms, lil Freddie. They’re all the craze! Here, try some.” 

I couldn’t help but stare at her bosom, when she let me sip some straight from her pitcher. Those beauties were close enough to touch and I thought about giving one a quick squeeze. Before I found my courage, the other lady tugged at her friends’ sleeve. 

I licked the delicious juice from my lips, watching them zigzag up the road, laughing and singing when a car pulled over and the driver got out. The older lady squealed and threw her arms about the man’s neck, so happy to see him. 

That night, I had leafed through the crisp pages of father’s bar book of cocktails until I found it. Orange Gin Blossom. Mom was right and now I knew how to make it. Father’s cabinet in the parlor contained all the ingredients. Ever since then, I’ve been helping myself to it. 

I suppose he will be looking for me but I ignored those thoughts. 

The Director’s party, in full swing now, did not disappoint. The ladies dragged and pushed the furniture back to the walls so as to clear some space to dance the Charleston. The only two men at the party took a front row seat, on the wing chairs, to enjoy the bouncing and jiggling.

I reveled in their breasts, free from their brassieres, some of them small and some not so small, while I sipped from my canister. Patient as a Saint, I waited for the sex. And it came. Ladies first then the men joined in. 

My own urges took over and, now that it was dark enough, I could drop my drawers and go at it until the bushes well-watered for the night.

By then, the party started breaking up. One of the ladies cursed at The Director and left. Finally, only one lady friend remained. Or so I thought. 

The Director mounted her upon the chesterfield.

My heart pounded and the tingling down there started again. 

The urgent sounds of the lady’s cries reached all the way out to where I hid. If he didn’t finish her off soon, I would have to have another round, too. 

With a loud holler, he slumped over her, panting and dripping sweat. I adjusted the crotch of my pants and stood to stretch.    

He put his trousers back on and helped her dress. Envious of their closeness to each other, of his ability to touch her soft, delicate, pale skin, I slugged back a huge mouthful of my orange cocktail. 

They went out the front door to her waiting car. The driver tipped his hat to The Director and drove off. 

Back in the comfort of his living room, he ignored the filth-encrusted tables, the empty crystal glasses and brassieres scattered throughout, and poured himself what looked like Scotch or maybe it was Bourbon. 

It didn’t seem fair that everyone else wasn’t allowed to hold stores of liquor in their own homes but this man, rich and famous, could keep their collection for all to see. 

He didn’t see the lady come up from behind. The lady with the revolver. It all happened so fast, I had no time to warn him. To call out, behind you, or watch out! That familiar hair, I knew her from somewhere. One of the neighbors, perhaps. 

The Director sensed her presence too late. She was so close, close enough that when he turned, the barrel dug into his rib cage. 

I heard no words but knew, from the long pause, that they spoke. He remained calm but stiff. Her lips moved in a frenzy of words. Her free hand wild with gestures. The scowl on her face apparent even from where I huddled in the darkness. Then the gun went off. 

The Director slumped to the floor. 

The murderess woman stood over him a moment, as though trying to decide what to do, shrugged then went to pull a coat from his closet. She put it on and wrapped his muffler round her neck and topped her head with a plaid cap. 

She slid open the patio door, nearest me, and stepped out. 

I scrambled back into the shadows, knocking over my canister and spilling the rest of my cocktail. She headed down the side path towards the street and encountered a nosy neighbor, who had come out to see what the noise was all about. 

They had a quick exchange and the woman hurried off. 

No sirens could be heard. 

I followed the woman dressed up as the man she had just gunned down until she slipped around the back of Miss Charlotte’s house, my neighbour. 

Back down the road, a few people mingled about the front of The Director’s house so I didn’t go back. They would have smelled the booze on me. They’d throw me in jail on account of breaking the law. Or worse, father would find out I took his booze. 

I staggered home. No one knew I had been hiding in the bushes tonight so no one would come to question me. I could have told but I wouldn’t. For my own safety. This secret would have to die with me. Though it drives me crazy keeping it in. There, I’ve let it go. God help me if my father finds this. 

In her great great grandmother’s trunk, she found this letter, this confession of sorts, tucked within the pages of Tony’s Bar Book, 1903 Edition. It bookmarked a cocktail by the name of the Orange Blossom. She folded the brittle pages and returned them to their hiding place. 

How to Make The Orange Blossom Cocktail:

Gin – 1 oz

Sweet Vermouth – 1 oz

Orange juice – 1 oz

That’s it! Easy-peasy!

Read more….

 

Published by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on February 10, 2021 

National Orange Blossom Day!

So simple to create, even easier to drink, but don’t let the Orange Blossom fool you. Delicious but deadly….

1921

During Prohibition era, Virginia Rappe, famed for being on the cover of the sheet music for You Can Call Me Sweetheart, met her demise on the night she downed way too many Orange Blossom Gin Cocktails. Bootleg gin was used in making the cocktail at Hotel St. Francis in San Francisco at that time. But that’s not what killed the poor girl. The wild and infamous Labour Day party of 1921 ended on a sour note. Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, perhaps having had too many drinks himself, allegedly crushed Virginia beneath him.

What was she doing underneath him, you ask? Must I explain?

According to another party-goer, Maude Delmont, “They were in the room a quarter of an hour when we heard a terrific scream.” Miss Delmont found her on the bed. She claims Virginia cried out, “I’m dying. He did it, Maude.”

Five days later, she passed away due to an infection in her ruptured bladder.

However, the story doesn’t end there. After Fatty Arbuckle’s trial, a letter, written by Miss Delmont, came into being. It read, “We have Roscoe Arbuckle in a hole here. Chance to make some money out of him.”

In the end, he was acquitted but ruined as an actor.

1922

Wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald and fellow drinker, Helen Buck, wandered, lost and singing, through a golf course in New York. They had polished off a full pitcher of Orange Blossom at lunchtime then proceeded to the golf course with a full thermos of more before being found by Ring Lardner who drove them home.

1922

Right around the time of Fatty Arbuckle’s trials, Silent Film Director, William Desmond Taylor and his friend, Mabel Normand, enjoyed an evening of Orange Blossoms together. Hours later, he was found dead. His murder remains unsolved.

The Leftovers of Some Orange Blossoms
The Leftovers of Some Orange Blossoms

One loose theory puts Mabel, herself, in the spotlight. Miss Normand, allegedly went to his home to retrieve love letters that she had written to him. Ones, she thought, might be misinterpreted. A little on the wild side, Mabel would spend about $2,000 per month (in the 1920’s!) on drugs. Mr. Taylor had arranged for her to stay at a rehab facility. Would she have arranged to eliminate him so she wouldn’t have to go? Her chauffeur is witness to her getting into her car after the party, leaving Taylor behind. But hitmen existed then too.

Another possibility could be from a drug ring directly. Mr. Taylor fought against drug use at the studios and was Chairman of the Board of an organization to eliminate them. Could the drug dealers off the man that threatened their lucrative business?

The crime scene at Mr. Taylor’s home itself was heavily compromised. The studio executives had stepped in before the police and cleaned up the scene. With botched evidence, the only answer might be in those letters from Mabel Normand.

Mary Miles Minter, another writer of love letters to Mr. Taylor, was in the spotlight for a short time. Mary’s letters were the only ones made public since they were the only ones found. Passed off as schoolgirl crush jargon, they were proven invalid. She was, after all, only 20 years old, 29 years his junior.

Fresh OJ, vermouth and gin
Freshly squeezed OJ makes a wonderful difference!

Read the full, fascinating story here.

1925

Charlie Chaplin and Louise Brooks, plastered on Orange Blossoms, spent a wild night in their hotel suite, chasing each other, and no doubt disturbing the peace and damaging property. Thankfully, though, on this occasion, no one died.

1934

Esquire magazine names the Orange Blossom one of the worst drinks of the decade. Personally, I enjoyed it. The juice does a good job of masking the harsh taste of gin which is what it was intended to do.

1955

“The reason there were so many hasty marriages during Prohibition.”                                                                             – Authentic and Hilarious Bar Guide by Ted Shane

The Original:

1 oz gin

4 oz of freshly squeezed orange juice

1/4 oz grenadine. But any flavour of simple syrup will do.

“This was invented at the old Waldorf to honor a visiting Irish poet. He never got to his dinner.”                                      – An excerpt from Irvin S. Cobb’s Own Recipe Book.

See The Bartender Guides on the side menu for his full vintage book for page turning fun.

An Orange Blossom with Vermouth
Delightfully refreshing! The Gin and Vermouth cut down the sweetness.

The Waldorf-Astoria’s version:

3/4 oz gin

3/4 oz vermouth

3/4 oz fresh orange juice

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

I much prefer this version. The vermouth cuts the bitterness of the gin and the sweetness of the orange juice.

If you’re planning a visit to New York in the near future, scratch The Waldorf off your list. It is currently closed due to major renovations. They are restoring historical parts and creating condos and luxurious guest rooms. It is set to re-open in a couple of years.

Walk three blocks down 50th Ave., you will pass the St Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Centre and the infamous Radio City Music Hall.

I remember going to Radio City Music Hall as a child with my parents. Back in those days, there were more live shows and they presented movies on a huge screen. The biggest I’d ever seen! It was Cybil Shepherd and Burt Reynolds. Now I have to google the darn thing. Ah, that’s it, At Long Last Love.  Burt Reynolds fans, if you like the idea of him singing, check out the musical number, Well, Did You Evah.

During Prohibition, the Orange Blossom became popular due to the lower quality of bootleg gin being produced. Orange juice was a good choice to mix with gin to cover up the poor taste.

For now, let’s stick with New York as the locale for this cocktail since Prohibition was such a big deal here.

Who invented the drink remains to be determined. If you have any knowledge of where or who originally made this cocktail, please leave me a comment.

But make sure to have an Orange Blossom or share a pitcher of it today in honour of those who suffered at the hands of this cocktail.

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on June 27, 2017.

 

National Moonshine Day

 

Where Did It All Start?

In the 1700’s, the United States struggled from financing the American Revolution so the government placed a federal tax on liquor and spirits.

Not taking too kindly to this tax, Americans continued to make their own whiskey without paying the tax. The war that just ended was supposed to free them of the British taxes. Why would they be happy about a new one?

For those making their own whiskey, it was their livelihood, not a hobby or a way to cushion meager incomes. This was their income. If farmers had a bad year for crops, they used the corn to make whiskey. The sales from their moonshine made it possible to survive and feed their family. If they paid the required tax, they couldn’t eat.

They even fought off the federal agents who came knocking, going so far as to tar and feather some of them.

The American People established a Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 and stormed Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. George Washington’s army dispersed the mob and captured the leaders, putting an end to the rebellion.

They were not deterred. The production of moonshine continued across the United States, especially in Kentucky, Virginia and the Carolinas.

Nor was the government deterred from upholding the taxes on alcohol which led to legendary gun fights.

The government needed more money to fund the Civil War when it broke out. Their battles with the delinquent taxpayers increased. Moonshiners and Ku Klux Klansmen joined forces and stepped up their methods of intimidation. They attacked IRS officials and their families and anyone who might reveal the location of the hidden whiskey stills.

The early 1900’s saw the beginning of the laws that banned alcohol sales and consumption. Once 1920 hit, Prohibition swept the nation. You couldn’t get your hands on any legal alcohol.

The demand for moonshine went through the roof. Production went into high gear. To keep up with demand, distillers did whatever they could to increase profits. They added sugar and watered down their moonshine.

Speakeasies and organized crime touched every city, every state in back rooms and basements. Some were built on a pier for easy access of shipments through the floor. They crafted secret rooms, rotating shelves, trap doors, fake walls, secret passages, camouflaged doors, and emergency disposal shafts.

Club 21 in New York, fashioned collapsing walls and revolving bars so the doorman could alert them of an oncoming raid. All of the liquor would be hidden from sight. Their secret passages led to the basement of No. 19. Authorities never found alcohol on their premises! Club 21 is still in operation at 21 West 52nd Street, New York.

Why was it called a Speakeasy? From the phrase, Speak Easy, Man which means lower your voice. Or it could have been from the ‘speakeasy’ in the door, to announce yourself.

In 1933, Prohibition was repealed and the demand for moonshine dwindled. The production of moonshine continued but on a much smaller scale even into the 60’s and 70’s. Today, you don’t hear too many stories of it.

If you ever come across a lil brown jug with 3 X’s on it, it was likely used for moonshine. One X for each time the liquid was distilled.

American Prohibition Not The First?

Long before the American Prohibition, England had its own run-in with government bans on alcohol in the 16th Century. The term Moonshine is said to have come about from the late night excursions to avoid the law. The product: Moonshine. The Movers (bootleggers): Moonrakers.

Speaking of terms, it’s also called hooch, mountain dew, white lightning. Other unusual names are corn in a jar, blue john, bush whiskey, donkey punch and popskull.

Where Did The Term Bootlegger Start?

During prohibition, people could walk across the border from Maine into Canada with a couple of bottles hidden inside their boot.

Where Is Prohibition Still In Effect?

According to wikipedia, there are a number of countries enforcing prohibition. Afghanistan, Bangledesh, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, some states in India, Libya, Kuwait, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Somolia, to name a few.

United States 1920-1933

Canada 1918-1920. But not Quebec. Apparently, Canadians liked their liquor too much, it only lasted 2 years!

Faroe Islands 1907-1992

Russian Empire and the Soviet Union 1914-1923

Iceland 1915-1935

Norway 1916-1927

Finland 1919-1932

And the award for the shortest prohibition period goes to……..

Hungarian Soviet Republic March 21 to August 1, 1919

Visit any local spirit distillery and chances are they will have an unoaked whiskey/whisky aka moonshine sitting on their shelf.

Where To Get It, Legally!

North of 7, in Ottawa, produces White Dog and packs a good punch. You want to be careful with that stuff! Yet, strangely, kind of tasty. At least now it’s off my bucket list.

North of 7 In-Store Products

Dillon’s, in the Niagara region, produces a white rye among other flavoured liquors.

Distilleries are not hard to find near your city or town, they are everywhere nowadays.

Just make sure you get your Hooch from a reputable source. Impurities, such as methanol alcohol, gather at the top of the batch so the first cup should be tossed by the distillers. You may want to stay away from the backwoods distilleries just in case they don’t perform this task.

Happy Moonshine Day!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on June 1, 2017