Thursday, August 30, 2012

International Day of the Missing, Maksymilian Faktorowicz, and The Lipstick Cocktail

Stop Enforced Disappearance

With armed conflicts occurring worldwide, we are constantly aware of the death tolls in Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Sudan.  What is not always publicized are those that simply vanish overnight with no knowledge of their condition or whereabouts.  Their fates will probably never be known and the families are left to wait, to wonder, to try and continue with their lives while living with uncertainty.

In China, Mexico, Somalia, Columbia, North Korea, the former Soviet Union states and many others, these disappearances are carried out by government authorities.  It can, however, occur almost anywhere.

See today's story in The Washington Post:

For more information:


On this day in 1938 Maksymilian Faktorowicz died. As a child living near Moscow he would sell hand-made rouges, creams and fragrances. When a well-known when theatrical troupe passed through town and wore his cosmetics to perform for Russian nobility people took notice and eventually he was appointed the official cosmetic expert to the Imperial Russian Grand Opera.

Being Jewish in Russia was not always easy and in 1904 he decided to leave for the United States. Upon arriving at Ellis Island his name, like so many others, was changed - to Max Factor. Factor would move to Los Angeles, to try to work in the cosmetic industry and work on the sets of the rapidly expanding film industry. But while the heavy greasepaint cosmetics worked fine on stage, they were not suitable for film where the hot lights used for camera work would make them cake and peel.

In 1914 Max Factor would perfect the first cosmetic (later referred to as Make-up) specifically created for movie set use. Although still basically greasepaint it was much thinner and in a cream form and sold in jars in 12 different graduated shades. It was the beginning of the make-up we still use today.

The Historical Inebriant: The Lipstick Cocktail

2/3 oz Bacardi® white rum
2/3 oz creme de bananes
1 1/3 oz cream
1 1/3 oz grenadine syrup

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker half-filled with cracked ice. Shake well, and strain into a small frosted hurricane glass filled with cracked ice. Garnish with a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry, and serve.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

For work...oh, I maintain the Universe, the Beatles Last Concert and The Abbey Cocktail

Today is the first day of Thoth, honoring the Egyptian God and the first day of the Egyptian calendar. As one of the most important dieties of Egyptian mythology his roles were maintaining the Universe and being the primary mediator between the forces of good and evil. Still think your job has a lot of responsibility?

By the way, he also authored the "Book of Thoth" in which he inscribed all of the secrets of the universe. Anyone who read it would become the most powerful sorcerer in the world, however, they would be horribly cursed by the knowledge. Luckily, the original text was never found.


On this day in 1966, The Beatles would perform their last concert before paying fans at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Formed in 1960, they would produce their first commercially successful single "Love Me Do" in 1962. Their debut album Please Please Me was released on March 22nd, 1963 containing the songs "I Saw Her Standing There", "Please Please Me", "Love Me Do" , "Do You Want to Know a Secret" and "Twist and Shout" which launched them to international success.

In December of 1963, they realeased the single "I Want to Hold Your Hand" which sold a million copies and was a number one hit in the US by mid-January. Their first ever live performance in the U.S., held on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9th, 1964 was viewed by 73 million viewers. By August 1966 however, they would decide to leave touring and concentrate on creating some of the best music of their age at Abbey Road.

The Historical Inebriant: The Abbey Cocktail

1 1/2 oz orange juice
2 oz gin
2 dashes orange bitters
maraschino cherry for garnish

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with the cherry.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Scientific American, The Day the Locomotive Lost to the Horse Carriage, and The Tom Thumb Cocktail

On this day in 1845, the very first issue of Scientific American magazine is published. In keeping with the magazine's mandate of publishing the latest that technology had to offer, it featured the cutting edge design improvements made in the newest model railroad cars with the following commentary:
There is perhaps no mechanical subject, in which improvement has advanced so rapidly, within the last ten years, as that of railroad passenger cars. Let any person contrast the awkward and uncouth cars of '35 with the superbly splendid long cars now running on several of the eastern roads, and he will find it difficult to convey to a third party, a correct idea of the vast extent of improvement. Some of the most elegant cars of this class, and which are of a capacity to accommodate from sixty to eighty passengers, and run with a steadiness hardly equaled by a steamboat in still water, are manufactured by Davenport & Bridges, at their establishment in Cambridgeport, Mass. The manufacturers have recently introduced a variety of excellent improvements in the construction of trucks, springs, and connections, which are calculated to avoid atmospheric resistance, secure safety and convenience, and contribute ease and comfort to passengers, while flying at the rate of 30 or 40 miles per hour.
Founded by inventor and publisher Rufus M. Porter in 1845 as a four page weekly newspaper, Scientific American is the oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S.  In the early years, much of the magazine's focus had been on new filings at the U.S. Patent office - where much of the new technology first emerged.

On the masthead of the first issue the magazine describes itself as follows:
Each number will be furnished with from two to five original Engravings, many of them elegant, and illustrative of New Inventions, Scientific Principles, and Curious Works; and will contain, in high addition to the most interesting news of passing events, general notices of progress of Mechanical and other Scientific Improvements; American and Foreign. Improvements and Inventions; Catalogues of American Patents; Scientific Essays, illustrative of the principles of the sciences of Mechanics, Chemistry, and Architecture: useful information and instruction in various Arts and Trades; Curious Philosophical Experiments; Miscellaneous Intelligence, Music and Poetry.
It has more than lived up to its description.  144 Nobel Prize Scientists have contributed 234 articles to Scientific American and it is read by 3.5 million people and institutions worldwide.  Although the coverage of the advancements in railroad car design were of great importance in 1845, the magazine now deals with slightly more complex issues.



As a side note to the previous story, on this day in 1830, Peter Cooper's new steam locomotive, The Tom Thumb, would lose a speed race to a horse drawn carriage, but the writing was already on the wall.

Cooper had invested heavily in businesses that would supply the new Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. When the railroad began to have problems with its engines, and thus jeopardizing his investments, Cooper designed a prototype steam locomotive with a barrel as a boiler and steam pipes made out of old musket barrels. While on a track at the railroad yard awaiting a demonstration for executives, a horse drawn carriage pulled up and challenged Cooper and Tom Thumb to a race to which Cooper agreed.

Cooper's locomotive easily moved ahead of the carriage at the start of the race and was far ahead when a belt slipped off a pulley and the steam engine lost power short of the finish line. Although the race had been lost the exectutives were impressed with the newly designed steam engine and it went into production.

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (also known to monopoly fans as the B&O Railroad) and Cooper's engine were both great successes.

The Historical Inebriant: The Tom Thumb Cocktail*


1 oz St~Germaine elderflower liqueur
2 large cucumber slices, halved
2 oz dry white wine
3 lime wedges
cucumber wheel for garnish

Muddle 3 lime wedges and 2 large cucumber slices in a shaker to release juices.  Add ice.  Add 2 oz of dry white wine and 2 oz St-Germaine liqueur.  Shake vigorously.  Pour into a glass and garnish with a cucumber wheel

*When I was googling for drinks at the end of this post, I searched for Tom Thumb and this drink came up.  Only when I went back much later to review did I notice that the site was Tom Thumb, a grocery chain, and the drink is actually named Cucumber Cocktail.  Apologies.  I like the drink, I like the grocery store's site and I'm keeping things as they are.  Try the drink, and if you live near a Tom Thumb grocer, let me know what you think of them.

Cucumber Cocktail

Monday, August 27, 2012

The World's Shortest War, and The Zanzibar Cocktail

On this day in 1896, the shortest war (Anglo-Zanzibar War) ever fought occurred. For many years prior to 1896 Zanibar, a small island off the coast of what was then German East Africa and British East Africa, had very friendly relations with the United Kingdom. Zanzibar participated in the lucrative slave trade that was predominant in the area and gave trading rights to Germany in the territory of Tanganyika and Britain in the territory of Kenya.

Britian was anti-slavery and so was Sultan of Khalifah of Zanibar and he worked with the British to ban all slave trade (although owning slaves was still legal). This upset the Germans, who were finding it very profitable and some Zanibar citizens who felt Britian was having too much influence in their internal affairs. Civil unrest and violence followed and in 1890 Ali bin Said became Sultan of Zanzibar and to keep the peace and prevent a possible invasion of the country by Germany declared Zanzibar a British protectorate and appointed a British First Minister to lead his cabinet. Also, the British were given veto power over any future appointments of sultans.

Peace lasted until 1896 when then Sultan Hamad died suddenly and his nephew Khalid bin Bargash, who some suspected of having a hand in his uncle's death, assumed the post. Pro slavery and anti-British Khalid did not seek approval from Britain before taking his role as Sultan and the British would not recognize him as Zanibar's ruler. Instead, on August 26th, with battle cruisers anchored in the harbor near the palace, they issued Khalid an ultimatum to lower their flag and to vacate the palace by 9:00am August 27th.


At 8:30 on the morning of the 27th, Khalid sent word to the British that "We have no intention of hauling down our flag and we do not believe you would open fire on us". At 9:02 the cruisers batteries opened up on the palace. The guns would go silent at 9:45 with the palace in ruins. The war had ended. The story goes that Sultan Khalid "fled at the first shot with all the leading Arabs, who left their slaves and followers to carry on the fighting". Khalid would escape but a few months later slavery in all forms was abolished.

It did recover.

The Historical Inebriant: The Zanzibar Cocktail


several dashes of orange bitters3/4 oz lemon juice
2-3 oz dry vermouth1 oz Plymouth gin1 tsp sugar syrup (or to taste)
lemon peel
Pour the ingredients into a shaker with cracked ice. Shake well. Strain into a chilled hurricane glass.  Twist the lemon peel over the drink and drop it into the glass.
Unlike the typical variations of the Martini the Zanzibar uses more dry vermouth than gin. The cocktail is enhanced with a nice blend sweet and sour tastes from the lemon and sugar syrup. Either blended or shaken, a Zanzibar is perfect for summer days.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Flight of the Wild Geese of Ireland

In 1691, at the end of the Williamite War in Ireland, the Irish Jacobites soldiers who had fought hard for a free Catholic Ireland (against the British Protestants) and lost, were allowed to leave Ireland with their weapons and sail to France under the terms of the Treaty of Limerick.

14,000 brave soldiers, who would rather fight a war for another country than remain under British rule, would make that journey - joined by 10,000 women and children. This event is known in Ireland as the Flight of the Wild Geese, for at the time those soldiers believed they would one day make the trip back to their homeland and fight in a battle to free it once more.

While waiting for their day of return those soldiers changed the course of history in many countries, here is a small clip of their impact, felt even today.

Recently a new Irish Whiskey was released named in honor of The Wild Geese.

The Wild Geese Irish Soldiers & Heroes whiskey

You can read a bit more about it here: