Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Afternoon Delight

By Devin D. O'Leary

FEBRUARY 7, 2000: 

Cocktails are most often quaffed during that magical after-work oasis, that "velvet hour" stretching from 5 to 6 p.m. commonly known as "The Cocktail Hour" or, in certain regional dialects, "Happy Hour." Properly mixed, however, a good cocktail can be enjoyed morning, noon and night. Case in point: the brunchtime cocktail.

While martinis and pre-prandial conversation may be the height of civilized socializing, scrambled eggs and a nice Mimosa run a close second in separating us sybarites from the apes. A lazy Sunday afternoon, a gaggle of slightly hung-over friends, a sumptuous repast and a pitcher or two of light libations, and you've got the makings for a superb brunch.

According to Playboy's Host and Bar Book by Thomas Mario (1955, Playboy Press), "Of all formulas concocted to cast off the post-Saturday-night pall, none is more likely to recapture the previous night's camaraderie and smooth the rumpled features of the late-rising night owl quicker than a festive early-afternoon array of good food and drink."

Now, certain teetotalling types may frown upon the consumption of intoxicants before, say, 12 p.m. EST. But any tippler worth his or her Margarita salt knows the medicinal value of a good eye-opener. While the harsh light of day makes an unpleasant backdrop for such stiff-boned evening imbibements as the Manhattan, it provides a fine accompaniment to certain lighter, more refreshing cocktails.

Turning again to that imbibers' Bible, The Playboy Host and Bar Book, we find that, "Sunday brunches start with pick-me-ups that have the effect of alternately stimulating and soothing; the usual screwdrivers with vodka may be varied with rum, sherry or Pernod. And be sure to lay in a stock of after-brunch liqueurs -- especially a fine coffee liqueur with a float of heavy cream, served ice cold. We know of no potion that so gently makes the clock stand still."

Another famed '50s men's magazine weighing in on the beauty of brunch was Esquire, whose 1956 tome The Art of Mixing Drinks (Bantam Books) went so far as to segregate drinks and food according to the guest list. "Glad-handers, close friends and neighbors" got Sherry Flips or Milk Punch to drink, while the "accent on food" included orange pancakes, eggs on the side or French-fried sandwiches. "Family, elders, in-laws and country cousins" wound up with Sherry Eggnog and French Toast with honey. "Business, visiting firemen, prospects and tycoons" were best served Black Velvets (to impress) and White Ladies (to soothe). A "fine omelet" with a side order of fried ham topped with pineapples covered the food end of things. "Royalty, potentates and high society" ended up with Champagne -- no less -- and caviar omelets "fit for a king." "All stag" brunches were filled with eye-openers like Prairie Oysters or tomato juice spiked with Worcestershire. Poached eggs were deemed "safe" stomach fillers. And finally, for the "romantic" brunch, the lady killers at Esquire suggested that a "Pink Lady will put the lady in the pink. ... Put on some light, gay music, fill the bowl with flowers and the lady with an omelet soufflé."

The rule of thumb for early afternoon cocktails is simple: Go light on the liquor and choose a mixer that either soothes the stomach (like milk or creme de menthe) or wakes it up (like grapefruit juice or tomato squeezin's). Here, then, a few classic afternoon delights.


Black Velvet

  • Guinness
  • Champagne
Fill a Champagne flute halfway with Guinness, slowly top with Champagne.


Creole

  • 1 1/2 ounces white rum
  • 3 1/2 ounces cold beef bouillon
  • dash lemon juice
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • salt
  • ground pepper
Stir over ice cubes in a Collins glass, season to taste.


Eye-Opener

  • 1 ounce white rum
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine
  • 2 dashes curaçao
  • 2 dashes apricot brandy
  • 1 egg yolk
Shake all ingredients well in a shaker filled with ice cubes. Strain into a cocktail glass.


Pick-Me-Up

  • 3/4 ounce Dubonnet (a wine-based aperitif similar to vermouth)
  • 3/4 ounce cognac
  • 1/2 ounce anisette
  • 1 egg white
Shake well over cracked ice. Strain into cocktail glass filled with cracked ice.


Sherry Flip

  • 1 1/2 ounces sherry
  • 3 dashes creme de cacao
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup shaved ice
Place all ingredients into a blender, mix well. Pour into well-chilled Champagne glass. Top with dash or two of nutmeg.


Stinger

  • 1 1/2 ounce brandy
  • 3/4 ounce creme de menthe (white)
Stir well over crushed ice in a small highball glass.


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