Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Don't Drink and Surf

By Devin D. O'Leary

AUGUST 18, 1997:  What is this thing called the Internet? Is it a tool? Is it a method of communication? Is it a massive waste of hard drive space? Well, for the purposes of this column, it is a tool--a method for gathering arcane, obscure and occasionally useful information. Like all tools, it is sometimes helpful. Other times, it just can't do the job.

Just the other day I came across a prime thrift store find--a vintage 1950s "volcano" glass. You mix a potent cocktail in the fishbowl-sized glass and share it with a friend (preferably ensconced in the naugahide confines of your favorite Polynesian restaurant). The glass derives its name from a small ceramic volcano which rises up from the center of the vessel. You're supposed to fill the volcano with 151-proof liquor and light it up. My only problem is that I don't know how to mix the actual drink. I checked all my favorite bar books, and none had a recipe for the exotic cocktail. Where can I turn now? Why, to my old friend the World Wide Web, of course.

The Office of the Minister of Rum (www.ministerofrum.com): I always believe in starting at the top. And this guy certainly sounds like the top to me. I know a volcano has rum in it (as all good tropical drinks should), so this guy should be the answer to all my problems. This page is maintained by one Edward Hamilton, who spends his days sailing the Caribbean searching for new rums to sample. Although he has a decidedly enviable job, he's got a pretty weak site. There is a simple list of distilleries in the Caribbean, an accompanying rundown of all the Caribbean rums currently being distilled and a detailed description of Hamilton's book Rums of the Eastern Caribbean. There are, sad to say, no drink recipes in sight.

ACATS Internet Bar Pages (www.epact.se/acats/): I do so admire professionals. This jam-packed sight is maintained by what appears to be a consortium of Swedish bartenders. Among the many pages contained herein is a massive Drink Search Database, a collection of Mixed Drink Pages (separated by liquor type) with more than 1000 recipes and a review (with photos) of a traveling exhibition featuring antique cocktail shakers (a must see). For pure entertainment value, there's Jim's Saloon which features bartenders telling their favorite obnoxious drunk stories. I eagerly type "volcano" into the Drink Search, but it turns up empty. Still, it's a pretty groovy site.

iDrink the Drink Mixing Web Site (www.idrink.com): Surely this site has what I'm looking for. It is "the Drink Mixing Web Site" after all. Whoever runs this place is a man after my own heart. According to the gregarious credo printed at the top of the page, iDrink "allows party goers to have more variety in their mixed drinks." Truly a sainted mission if there ever was one. The main function of iDrink is to allow users to input the exact alcoholic ingredients they have in their home. iDrink then scans its database and prints you out a list of all the drinks you could possibly make. Talk about handy. The entire site is done in the nicest frame system I've ever seen. No boxy windows here, just a slick integrated packet that keeps all the info on screen at once. Thumbs up for the swanky design. Naturally, I bypass the whole ingredient search and go right to the master list. There are more than 3000 cocktails in iDrink's database. Unfortunately for me, none of them is a volcano.

Cocktail Magazine (www.cocktail.com): An entire on-line magazine dedicated to cocktail culture. Surely, surely, these people have what I'm looking for. A simple, graphic table of contents page trumpets the articles in this month's issue. There's a chatty guide to cocktail bars in the Florida Keys. There's a nice retrospective of "all-American drinks" (anything with bourbon, Southern Comfort, etc.). I get some good reading out of the five or so articles listed, but there are no recipes in the magazine. Doesn't that seem wrong for a so-called "cocktail" magazine? Another dead end.

Sigh. Once again the Internet has failed me. I guess, for now, my volcano glass will just have to remain an objet d'art.

--Devin D. O'Leary


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