Selecting a Wine for Thanksgiving

A husband and wife are walking back and forth in the wine section just before Thanksgiving. They are obviously having a hard time deciding what to buy.

wine shop 2

Wine makingAt a different time and place somewhere in the world, the owners of a vineyard have worried about the harvest, pressing, Wine making 2fermentation, testing, blending, fining, filtration, bottling and dozens of other things the vintner and owners are concerned about. They taste, refine and taste again. On and on it goes until they are satisfied. A great wine is born.

At the same time, the marketing and sales people are concerning themselves with the name, packaging and brand identity. They fuss over the label; they agonize about the back label copy; they pray for good reviews.

We now return to the retail shop where this wine is on the shelf. Our consumer couple is staring blankly at the shelves. We eavesdrop on their conversation:

He: What difference does it make? Pick one.

She: I’m confused. Should we pick it by price? Or, based on these little cards with ratings?

He: I don’t know. Price doesn’t always mean anything. Do you know what the Johnsons like?

She: No idea. Let’s ask the sales guy.

He: Are you kidding? Does he look like he knows anything about wine? I might ask him about beer but… It’s like asking for directions. Forget it. Let’s decide ourselves.

She: How about this one? It’s a cute name.

He:  Dancing Elves? Looks more like Fornicating Elves to me.

She: If it were up to you, you’d probably pick Farting Bears.

He: Okay. Enough. Just pick one.

She: I got it. Look at this bottle. It’s all in earth tones. Marge’s dining room décor is orange, yellow and brown — this one will match her table setting!

He: Great. Let’s go. The game starts soon.

Somewhere in the world there is the sound of gunfire. Another vintner has blown his brains out.

vintner shooing himself

(This posting originally appeared on December 10, 2010. I thought it appropriate for the season. By the way, it is my 200th posting.)

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Brooklyn Moonshine War – A Staged Reading

BMW-309x400Dear Reader,

I’ve been “off the air” for the past few weeks working on a Staged Reading of my play. Many of you have written to ask me about the absence of postings lately and that’s one the reasons. The reading is today (July 23rd), and I’ll be back on the air soon.

The Play is Brooklyn Moonshine War, a full-length play that is being read as part Midtown International Theatre Festival.


Set in post Civil War America, a timeless story of love, betrayal, death and taxes. 

In 1869, desperate for revenue, the US government tried unsuccessfully to collect taxes from the illegal distillers in Brooklyn. Frustrated by repeated failed efforts, a cadre of tax collectors, US Marshalls and 1,500 soldiers invaded Brooklyn. The mission was to collect the taxes or destroy the stills and confiscate the liquor. (Based on an actual event.)

In a part of Brooklyn known as Irish Town, distillers Liam and Colleen O’Brien thought they finally had it made in America, albeit as moonshiners. Making a living and trying to attain the American Dream was hard enough without the additional burden of “unfair” taxes.

Suddenly, the world of the O’Brien’s falls apart as two soldiers barge in and detain them until the taxman can show up. While they wait, they try to manipulate the soldiers to avoid their fate. Colleen uses her charm and guile on one, while Liam tries for subterfuge and conniving with the other.

The result is a four-way tug of war with violence, love, betrayal and unexpected outcomes.

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Gibson Martini – What are those things doing in my drink?

gibsonThe Gibson Martini is generally made with gin (or vodka), vermouth and a few pickled onions referred to as pearl onions.

In the great debate as to how to garnish a martini – what type of olive, stuffed or plain, how many – the Gibson, known for pearl onions, has been somewhat obscured. While originally branded for the association with Gibson Gin, the Gibson is now identified for those cute little white things regardless of the booze used.

As a public service to drinkers everywhere, here is the Gibson story. Or, should I say, stories.

First, while martinis are found all over film, books and TV (think James Bond), the poor Gibson is kind of obscure. Best I could come up with was the occasional drink by Roger Sterling in Mad Men, Cary Grant in North by Northwest, a Frasier episode (Stoli Gibson with three pearl onions) and not much else.

What I find fascinating about the Gibson, are the stories about how the drink came about. I found three.pearl onions

The most common one is linked to the 1930s and Charles Dana Gibson, the illustrator known for the Gibson Girl images. As the story goes, he challenged a bartender named Charlie Connolly at New York’s Players Club to create a “different drink.” The result was garnishing a martini with cocktail onions that became know as the Gibson.

Nah, I’m not buying it. Sounds like it came from some old school press agent.

The second one goes back 40 years prior to this. Mr. Walter D K Gibson is supposed to have had the first martini named in his honor at the Bohemian Club in San Francisco. Apparently, this gentleman didn’t like the way they prepared gin martinis so he specified the brand and had them add pearl onions. Also, he believed eating onions would prevent colds.

I’m not buying this one either.

The story I subscribe to came from a good barman friend and we all know that the stories told over a bar are more accurate than anything on the Internet, not to mention other sources.

As Adam D. tells it, a savvy businessman and banker in the 50’s and 60s often found himself out with clients for the proverbial three-martini lunch. Unable to function during and after the meal, he had the bartender serve him cold water so he could remain sober while his clients got shit-faced. The cocktail onion was used as garnish so his beverage could be distinguished from the others. The banker’s name was Gibson.

Now, there’s a story I can believe.



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