Ad of the Week: Labatt’s Beautiful Truck

Dig this Art Deco beer-wagon, from a June 1937 issue of Life.


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Year Five

Pepe et femmeWith another February sneaking slowly out the door, we’ve reached another milestone at A Dash of Bitters–our fourth anniversary–and with it comes another look back and forward.

Looking Back

When we last celebrated an anniversary, I was feeling a little glum. Unemployment had cruelly struck and I was lamenting my limited prospects for the future. Well, year four turned out rather better than I was expecting it to. No, I didn’t make it to Tales of the Cocktail, but that wound up really the only bleak part of my cocktail calendar. I made three trips to NYC for cocktail events and racked up a lot of Amtrak miles in the process. In April, I participated in the Beefeater 24 Thursday Drink Night at Quarter Bar in Brooklyn (special guests Dan Warner and David Wondrich); in November, I made it down for the Live portion of the Bar Smarts Advanced certification; and in December, I participated in Junior Merino’s Liquid Lab.

I was a judge for Rhode Island’s statewide IronTender competition, which introduced me to some … well, interesting drinks but more importantly to some great new friends. Ted Haigh included me along with some great vintage friends in the latest edition of his Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. Then came the Foodbuzz nomination, which still surprises me.

I became a published cocktail/spirits writer during this last year, with a regular column in Edible Rhody magazine. (Locals should look for the Spring issue to–yes, I’m going there–bloom around March 20.) Speaking of print media, this past year also saw Jen’s mug gracing the New York Times (which has fuck-all to do with me, but hey, I’m still proud of and stunned by that.)

Jen’s burst of fame came as a direct result of her participation in the Food52 website and cookbook project. And just this week, I was startled to see a familiar face in Food52’s Cook Spotlight feature. (Which reminds me, I should post more cocktail recipes to that site.)

Sooooo, yeah, it wound up being a very good year.

Looking Forward

But it’s Year Five that excites me even more: I’ll be moderating a panel at Tales of the Cocktail and editing the official Tales blog this year. (Which reminds me, I should arrange my flight and hotel soon.) And of course, there’s this baby:

cook and brown logo

And some of you may be wanting another update. We’ve been very busy, I can tell you that much.

We’re planning to open in mid-March; the date right now depends a lot on the contractor because we’re mostly set. Our DIY demolition work is finished and we’re ready for the contractor’s team to come in and rebuild the bar and dining room. Nemo and Jenny have hired pretty much the entire staff–cooks, servers, and dishwasher–and our first staff meeting is tomorrow afternoon. We have a preliminary menu and a full cocktail menu for both brunch and dinner. (The food is preliminary because Nemo’s cooking is ultra-seasonal. If he’s planning a braised lamb shank and it’s suddenly 60º out, there’s no sense in having announced braised lamb three weeks in advance.)

On the beverage front, I’m putting together a list of spirits and barware that we’ll need to order. Adam Mir, our sous chef is in charge of the beer list. We’re talking with beer distributors and hope to have a fun announcement to make, soon, regarding our beer program. Nemo’s fronting the wine program; we’ve been tasting wines all week and have another tasting tomorrow, so we should have our list of Old World wines ready next week. We’ve tasted coffees from New Harvest Coffee Roasters in Pawtucket. And finally, I’ve been in touch with a local soda bottler, Yacht Club Beverage, and we hope to speak to them soon about supplying our soft drinks.

DISCLAIMER: I am no longer a part of Cook and Brown.

Ad of the Week: Johnnie’s Sixth

Oops, managed to miss a week. Been so busy helping prep Cook and Brown for opening that I forgot to upload a new ad post last week. Onward. This next ad comes courtesy the May 24, 1937, issue of Life magazine, and it’s a nod toward the history of the Johnnie Walker brand.


As the ad states, old John is celebrating his sixth coronation of a British monarch, in this case George VI. George never expected to take the throne; he only assumed power after his older brother Edward VIII abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson. George was succeeded in turn by his daughter, Lizzy Deuce. John Walker started blending scotches in 1820, so the list of regents that his avatar would have seen crowned are George IV (crowned in 1821), William IV (1831), Victoria (1938), Edward VII (1902), George V (1911), Edward VIII (who doesn’t actually count in this list, since he abdicated before his coronation), George VI (1937), and Elizabeth II (1953).

I know what you’re going to ask at this point. Did JW run a similar ad in 1953? I dunno. I looked through all the magazines on Google Books and couldn’t find one, to my disappointment. Hey Johnnie! You can have this one for free. Lizzy ain’t gonna hold out forever, just sayin’. We know you love your history!

With C&B ramping up to opening in early March, I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to do a write-up on these ads every week. So temporarily, I’m reverting back to the previous model, where I run an ad or two a week sans commentary. This allows me to schedule several weeks worth of ads out in advance and not worry about them. Sorry, chums.

Cook & Brown Update

People’ve been askin’ me, “Yo Dietsch! What’s up with Cook & Brown?” Well, I’ll tell ya, these are the unglamorous days of sweating, scrubbing, lifting, ripping, and swearing. The Bolins are taking these weeks to do some very important things, but none of them is what anyone would call “sexy.”

First, the place needs a thorough cleaning. Nemo, Jenny, and sous chef Adam Mir started in the basement, clearing out decades of detritus left by former owners. With that done, they power-washed the floor and when it was dry, they painted. A guy came in to rip out the soda system, gun and all (I wish I’d have seen it go), leaving Nemo the task of cleaning the syrupy muck left behind in the basement.

(Aside: Flat panel TV that hung in the bar? Gone. Soda gun? Gone. Limoncherry Pucker? Gone.)

With the basement emptied and cleaned, they could move stuff down from the kitchen and dining room. So, we sorted through the barware and dinnerware left behind so we could move downstairs the stuff we’re keeping and offload the stuff we don’t want. Fans of 16-ounce cocktails? You’re SOL; those glasses are on the Gone list. (On the To Do list: order coupe glasses and Irish-coffee mugs.)

We’re still in the process of cleaning the basement and moving things downstairs. Right now, the cleaning focus is on the walk-in fridge and the standalone freezers and fridges. I spent a good part of today removing metal shelving from the walk-in and scrubbing its walls and floor.

The Bolins are calling in reinforcements this week and weekend. The goal is to finish moving everything out of the dining room (and anything portable from the kitchen) so we can thoroughly clean the upstairs, and …

… so we can start ripping shit apart upstairs. That’s the next stage of this. The Bolins are renovating the restaurant. Major changes include rebuilding the bar and back bar, ripping out the wainscoting, repainting, chipping up the tile floor in the bar area (except for behind the bar), and redoing the drop-ceiling treatment. Minor work includes reupholstering chair cushions and refinishing table tops.

They’ve put out a call for volunteers to come in and help remake the restaurant. We’re doing the demo and painting work ourselves to save money, and then a team from Site Specific is coming in to rebuild the bar and back bar and do some other projects in the house.

While I was scrubbing out the walk-in, Chris Amirault (from eGullet) was upstairs, ripping out the butt-ugly back bar. Unfortunately, I have no “before” photos of the back bar, but here’s an “after”:


(I am very much looking forward to yanking up that shitty, shitty bar top. More on those plans as things progress.)

Meanwhile, we’ve been interviewing cooks, servers, and bartenders. In a classic case of burying the lede, I’m happy to announce that Chris will be joining us one night every week or two to sling drinks.

We’ve been working on our respective menus–Nemo and Adam on the food; Dietsch on cocktails. One fun thing about Cook & Brown is that we’ll have small plates, share plates, apps, and entrées, so we’ll have a range of choices. As we get closer, I’ll start talking in detail about the food, wine, and beer. As for the cocktail menu, we’re starting with a list of drinks based around warming, brown spirits–rum, whiskey, cognac–to befit our late-winter opening.

So, you want to know what’s going on? That’s what’s going on. It’s not pretty, and nor is it glamorous. But it’s crazy fun.

DISCLAIMER: I am no longer a part of Cook and Brown.

Ads of the week: Barefoot girl dancing in the moonlight

I don’t know much about Green River whiskey. There’s not a lot of information to be had out on the Internet. An odd site, here, is devoted to Green River memorabilia. For some inexplicable reason, the site is named Brian.

The brand’s defunct, from what I can tell. The wonks at StraightBourbon say that it was once a straight whiskey but became a blended after Prohibition. This wasn’t uncommon, from what I’ve learned. American tastes veered toward the lighter blends post-Repeal, primarily because that’s what was primarily available during the Noble Experiment–blended Canadian whisky.

The distillery that made Green River is again operational. Angostura purchased it for bourbon production, but I’m not exactly sure what Angostura’s making there. On a personal note, Green River’s home, Owensboro, Kentucky, is just an hour’s drive from my hometown, Evansville, Indiana.

The Green River, in this case, is an Ohio River tributary that arises in central Kentucky, runs through the Mammoth Cave system, and feeds into the Ohio near Owensboro. It’s not actually the river of the CCR song, but what the hell.

Here are seven Green River ads. I think they’re kinda charming, even if the blend they sold probably wasn’t so much.