Friday, June 29, 2012

If you can't stand the heat - thank God for Gorrie, the lies and secrets of the ice trade business, and the Heat Wave Cocktail

The temperature in Hill City, KS topped out at 115 degrees on Wednesday, (8 degrees above its previous record for a June 27) making it the hottest spot in the country that day. Unfortunately, the Midwest town is located in the center of the most recent heat wave and has had the nation's highest temperatures for five days in a row.

Over 1,000 temperature records have been broken around the county this week, 251 on Tuesday alone.  As I write this on Thursday, here is what the temperature map of the country looks like.

Image: Map of temperatures

On this day in 1855, physician, scientist and inventor John Gorrie passed away. He designed the first system to refrigerate water to produce ice and conceived the idea of using his refrigeration system to cool the air for comfort in homes and hospitals. His Patent No.8080 was the first issued for an ice making machine and Gorrie is considered the father of refrigeration and air conditioning.

A black and white photo of Dr. John Gorrie.

Educated at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Fairfield, New York. Gorrie would later move to Apalachicola, Florida, and become a resident physician at two local hospitals. He would also serve as Postmaster, President of the Bank of Pensacola's Apalachicola Branch, Secretary of the Masonic Lodge, and was one of the founding vestrymen of Trinity Episcopal Church.

Dr. Gorrie's main focus in Florida was medical research involved the study of tropical diseases such as yellow-fever and malaria. Gorrie hypothesized the cooling of sickrooms would aid in the recouperation of patients as well as control the spreading of the diseases. He noted that “Nature would terminate the fevers by changing the seasons” so he cooled the hospital sick rooms with ice in a basin suspended from the ceiling. Cool air, being heavier, flowed down across the patient and through an opening near the floor.

Ice, at that time was not easy to come by, it was cut out of the northern lakes in the winter and stored in underground ice houses, then packed in sawdust, shipped to where it was needed. The ice trade was huge business at that time and ice from the crystal clear lakes of New England were shipped around the world. Even Henry David Thoreau, while watching ice cutters at work on Walden Pond recorded these remarks in his journal: The sweltering inhabitants of Charleston and New Orleans, of Madras and Bombay and Calcutta, drink at my well. . . . The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges.

In 1844, Gorrie would begin experiments on making artificial ice and in 1845, he left his medical practice to pursue refrigeration projects full time. On May 6, 1851, Gorrie was granted Patent No.8080 for a machine that would artificially produce ice and obtained a partner to manufacture the machine.

Unfortunately, this was the height of the ice trading business. Traders such as the "Ice King", Frederic Tudor were aware of Gorrie's machine and hopes of getting financing to mass produce it. The story goes that Tudor launched a smear campaign against the new machine that could possibly put him and the many other traders out of business.

Gorrie's partner passed away suddenly and he was never able to raise enough money to bring his invention to market. Gorrie died in seclusion and poverty on June 29, 1855, but his technology lives on.

The Historical Inebriant:  The Heat Wave


1 oz. Coconut Rum
1 oz. Peach Schnapps
Pineapple Juice
Splash of Grenadine

Pour the coconut rum and peach schnapps into a glass with ice. Fill it with pineapple and add the splash of grenadine.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Junior Johnson, NASCAR and Midnight Moon Moonshine

On this day in 1931 Robert Glenn Johnson, Jr. (better known as Junior Johnson) was born. A NASCAR legend, Junior won 50 NASCAR races before retiring in 1966. He then went on to become a racing team owner; and sponsored NASCAR champions as Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip.

We all know how NASCAR started, the reason you would need a fast car was that you were runnin' moonshine, trying to get from one drop off point to the next without the law pulling you over.  Got to have some pretty good driving skills just to stay in business, and so it was with Junior Johnson.

The Historical Inebriant:  Midnight Moon

While your great granddaddy was firing up a pipe, Junior Johnson’s was firing up a copper still. Few family recipes carry a jail sentence, but to the Johnson family, it was a way of life. With whiskey in his trunk and the law on his heels, Junior ran the finest moonshine in Appalachia to the dry Rural South.

Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon follows the Johnson family’s moonshine recipe. Every batch is handcrafted in very small batches, made from corn and born in a copper still. Midnight Moon is triple-distilled to deliver an ultra-smooth, clean-tasting spirit that is often preferred over the world’s best vodkas. Enjoy Midnight Moon straight over ice or in a variety of cocktails.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fillmore East, John Entwistle and The Rock and Rye

On this day in 1971, the Fillmore East would close it's doors after only three years in business. Operated by rock promoter Bill Graham and the sister concert hall to Graham's Fillmore in San Francisco the Fillmore East in New York City would be known as the "Church of Rock and Roll".

Originally built as a Yiddish theater, the Fillmore East had a deceptively small footprint but held almost 3,000 seats. It's location in the East Village made it a favorite concert venue in a neighborhood that contained so many musicians and fans. Bill Graham, the most successful promoter of his time, brought the biggest names touring at that time to the Fillmore that would have two shows a night.


The excellent acoustics at the Fillmore East also made it the place to record a live album.
The Allman Brothers Band, Joe Cocker, Miles Davis, Derek and the Dominos, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, King Crimson, Taj Mahal, Frank Zappa And The Mothers and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young all recorded live albums there.

Bill Graham, citing changes in the concert business would close the Fillmore in San Francisco the Fillmore East in New York City but after a short hiatus would continue to promote music and concerts until his death in a helicopter crash while returning home from a concert in 1991.

The Historical Inebriant:  Rock and Rye
(the basic drink is quite simple, dissolve rock candy into Rye and drink,
but for something more adventurous, and an interesting read, see below)


1 bottle rye whiskey
3-5 tbsp rock candy
2 slices orange
2 slices lemon
2 pieces dried apricot
1 slice pineapple
1 tea bag full of dried horehound

Combine whiskey and sugar in a jar or decanter. All other ingredients optional. Allow all - except for horehound tea bag - to steep for a day or two or more. Leave horehound in for no more than two hours. When sugar is finally dissolved, strain and bottle. Then serve the Rock and Rye on the rocks.

Nearly a century ago, essayist Irvin Cobb decried the visual vagaries of modern art, a complaint that still has some resonance today: “I am one who is very easily satisfied,” he wrote in 1913. “All I ask of a picture is that it shall look like something.” Cobb griped about walking through miles of galleries in vain search of representational painting—and that was well before the age of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. “Once in a while we behold a picture of something that we can recognize without a chart,” Cobb wrote, “and it looms before our gladdened vision like a rock-and-rye in a weary land.”  Eric Felton - from the above WSJ article


On this day in 2002: John Entwistle, bassist for the band The Who, was found dead of a heart attack in his hotel room at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. The Who were to kick off their 2002 tour the next day.  Entwistle was 57 years old.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

On Christmas Day in the morning...

On this day in 1870, Christmas is declared a federal holiday in the United States.

There was a strong Anti-British sentiment after the American Revolution and many English customs fell out of favor, Christmas being one of them. In fact, if your were around on Christmas Day in 1789, you would have found the shops open and even the U.S. Congress in session.

Slowly there was a return to the twelve day celebration of Christmas.

The Historical Inebriant:  Whiskey Eggnog


2 oz. Blended Whiskey
5 oz. Milk
1 sprinkle Nutmeg
1 tsp. Sugar, powdered
1 whole Eggs
Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.
Strain into a collins glass and garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

For a historical glimpse into Christmas in America:

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Doctor, the Millionaire, the Architect and the Show Girl Cocktail

On this day in 1678, Elena Cornaro Piscopia becomes the first woman to receive a university degree.

Born into a noble Venetian family in 1646, Elena began the study of Latin and Greek at age seven and would soon learn Hebrew, Spanish, French and Arabic. As a young woman she would study mathematics, philosophy, and theology and in 1665 (at age eighteen) she became a Benedictine oblate, (a lay person who lives in accordance with a chosen monastic rule) but would never become a nun.

At her fathers insistence, she would apply to one of the most prestigious universities in the world, Padua, to earn a degree in in theology and philosophy. The catholic church would not allow a woman to carry a degree in theology so her request was denied, but she later reapplied for the philosophy degree alone and was accepted.

After completion of her studies, the final examination for the Doctor of Philosophy degree was to be held in the University Hall, but due to the sheer number of spectators wishing to attend, it was transferred to the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin in Padua, where crowds of students and intelligencia who came from near and far stood to witness the historic event. Her final exam would be to answer, in classical Latin, questions drawn from difficult passages of Aristotle. Upon completing her examination brilliantly, she was awarded the Doctor's Ring, the Teacher's Ermine cape, and the Poet's Laurel Crown for her achievements at the university.  

After receiving her degree Elena would leave Venetian society and, wearing the habit of a Benedictine oblate, devote her life to learning and charity work. She would die from tuberculosis just six years later.



On this day in 1906 Harry Thaw, while in a jealous rage, shoots and kills prominent architect Stanford White on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden . The son of the Pittsburgh coal and railroad baron William Thaw, Harry was born into a life of privilege but quickly became a heavy drinker and drug user. The story goes that he was the inventor of the speedball (an injection of morphine and/or heroin mixed with cocaine) and once, while on trial, consumed an entire bottle of laudanum (a morphine/codeine mix) in one sitting.

After being expelled from Harvard, Thaw spent most of his time with drugs and chorus girls. It was at a broadway show that he met Stanford White, the architect who designed the Washington Square Arch and the second Madison Square Garden. After a supposed snub by White, Thaw found out that White was interested in a chorus girl named Evelyn Nesbit and decided to court her.  Nesbit was famous in her own right as an artists model for painters and photographers as well as being a showgirl.

From here on it's an interesting story of drugs, society, jealousy, money and depravity fit for a Hollywood movie, (oh wait, they did make a movie out of it) and if you have time it's worth a read since all three of the characters involved are extremely interesting. For now, let's jump to 3 minutes before the credits roll.

Thaw marries Nesbit, but when he finds out that White had sex with her when she was only 16 (White was 47) he becomes slightly unhinged. When Thaw finds out that White will be attending a show on the rooftop theater of Madison Square Garden he attends the show with his wife. During the final chorus Thaw walked up to White's table and while shouting "You ruined my wife" shot him dead.

The Historical Inebriant:  The Showgirl Cocktail


1 1/2 oz light rum
1/2 oz unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz pineapple juice
1/2 americano or bitter apertif

Shake the first five ingredients hard with ice; strain into a chilled martini glass.
Sink the americano into the glass.
For garnish: Squeeze a large disk of lemon peel and rim the glass, then float on top.

On this day in 1910, The Mann Act, prohibiting interstate transport of females for “immoral purposes” is passed.

The Long, Colorful History of the Mann Act