National Orange Blossom Day!

So simple to create, even easier to drink, but don’t let the Orange Blossom fool you. Delicious but deadly….

1921

During Prohibition era, Virginia Rappe, famed for being on the cover of the sheet music for You Can Call Me Sweetheart, met her demise on the night she downed way too many Orange Blossom Gin Cocktails. Bootleg gin was used in making the cocktail at Hotel St. Francis in San Francisco at that time. But that’s not what killed the poor girl. The wild and infamous Labour Day party of 1921 ended on a sour note. Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, perhaps having had too many drinks himself, allegedly crushed Virginia beneath him.

What was she doing underneath him, you ask? Must I explain?

According to another party-goer, Maude Delmont, “They were in the room a quarter of an hour when we heard a terrific scream.” Miss Delmont found her on the bed. She claims Virginia cried out, “I’m dying. He did it, Maude.”

Five days later, she passed away due to an infection in her ruptured bladder.

However, the story doesn’t end there. After Fatty Arbuckle’s trial, a letter, written by Miss Delmont, came into being. It read, “We have Roscoe Arbuckle in a hole here. Chance to make some money out of him.”

In the end, he was acquitted but ruined as an actor.

1922

Wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald and fellow drinker, Helen Buck, wandered, lost and singing, through a golf course in New York. They had polished off a full pitcher of Orange Blossom at lunchtime then proceeded to the golf course with a full thermos of more before being found by Ring Lardner who drove them home.

1922

Right around the time of Fatty Arbuckle’s trials, Silent Film Director, William Desmond Taylor and his friend, Mabel Normand, enjoyed an evening of Orange Blossoms together. Hours later, he was found dead. His murder remains unsolved.

The Leftovers of Some Orange Blossoms
The Leftovers of Some Orange Blossoms

One loose theory puts Mabel, herself, in the spotlight. Miss Normand, allegedly went to his home to retrieve love letters that she had written to him. Ones, she thought, might be misinterpreted. A little on the wild side, Mabel would spend about $2,000 per month (in the 1920’s!) on drugs. Mr. Taylor had arranged for her to stay at a rehab facility. Would she have arranged to eliminate him so she wouldn’t have to go? Her chauffeur is witness to her getting into her car after the party, leaving Taylor behind. But hitmen existed then too.

Another possibility could be from a drug ring directly. Mr. Taylor fought against drug use at the studios and was Chairman of the Board of an organization to eliminate them. Could the drug dealers off the man that threatened their lucrative business?

The crime scene at Mr. Taylor’s home itself was heavily compromised. The studio executives had stepped in before the police and cleaned up the scene. With botched evidence, the only answer might be in those letters from Mabel Normand.

Mary Miles Minter, another writer of love letters to Mr. Taylor, was in the spotlight for a short time. Mary’s letters were the only ones made public since they were the only ones found. Passed off as schoolgirl crush jargon, they were proven invalid. She was, after all, only 20 years old, 29 years his junior.

Fresh OJ, vermouth and gin
Freshly squeezed OJ makes a wonderful difference!

Read the full, fascinating story here.

1925

Charlie Chaplin and Louise Brooks, plastered on Orange Blossoms, spent a wild night in their hotel suite, chasing each other, and no doubt disturbing the peace and damaging property. Thankfully, though, on this occasion, no one died.

1934

Esquire magazine names the Orange Blossom one of the worst drinks of the decade. Personally, I enjoyed it. The juice does a good job of masking the harsh taste of gin which is what it was intended to do.

1955

“The reason there were so many hasty marriages during Prohibition.”                                                                             – Authentic and Hilarious Bar Guide by Ted Shane

The Original:

1 oz gin

4 oz of freshly squeezed orange juice

1/4 oz grenadine. But any flavour of simple syrup will do.

“This was invented at the old Waldorf to honor a visiting Irish poet. He never got to his dinner.”                                      – An excerpt from Irvin S. Cobb’s Own Recipe Book.

See The Bartender Guides on the side menu for his full vintage book for page turning fun.

An Orange Blossom with Vermouth
Delightfully refreshing! The Gin and Vermouth cut down the sweetness.

The Waldorf-Astoria’s version:

3/4 oz gin

3/4 oz vermouth

3/4 oz fresh orange juice

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

I much prefer this version. The vermouth cuts the bitterness of the gin and the sweetness of the orange juice.

If you’re planning a visit to New York in the near future, scratch The Waldorf off your list. It is currently closed due to major renovations. They are restoring historical parts and creating condos and luxurious guest rooms. It is set to re-open in a couple of years.

Walk three blocks down 50th Ave., you will pass the St Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Centre and the infamous Radio City Music Hall.

I remember going to Radio City Music Hall as a child with my parents. Back in those days, there were more live shows and they presented movies on a huge screen. The biggest I’d ever seen! It was Cybil Shepherd and Burt Reynolds. Now I have to google the darn thing. Ah, that’s it, At Long Last Love.  Burt Reynolds fans, if you like the idea of him singing, check out the musical number, Well, Did You Evah.

During Prohibition, the Orange Blossom became popular due to the lower quality of bootleg gin being produced. Orange juice was a good choice to mix with gin to cover up the poor taste.

For now, let’s stick with New York as the locale for this cocktail since Prohibition was such a big deal here.

Who invented the drink remains to be determined. If you have any knowledge of where or who originally made this cocktail, please leave me a comment.

But make sure to have an Orange Blossom or share a pitcher of it today in honour of those who suffered at the hands of this cocktail.

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on June 27, 2017.

 

National Moonshine Day

 

Where Did It All Start?

In the 1700’s, the United States struggled from financing the American Revolution so the government placed a federal tax on liquor and spirits.

Not taking too kindly to this tax, Americans continued to make their own whiskey without paying the tax. The war that just ended was supposed to free them of the British taxes. Why would they be happy about a new one?

For those making their own whiskey, it was their livelihood, not a hobby or a way to cushion meager incomes. This was their income. If farmers had a bad year for crops, they used the corn to make whiskey. The sales from their moonshine made it possible to survive and feed their family. If they paid the required tax, they couldn’t eat.

They even fought off the federal agents who came knocking, going so far as to tar and feather some of them.

The American People established a Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 and stormed Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. George Washington’s army dispersed the mob and captured the leaders, putting an end to the rebellion.

They were not deterred. The production of moonshine continued across the United States, especially in Kentucky, Virginia and the Carolinas.

Nor was the government deterred from upholding the taxes on alcohol which led to legendary gun fights.

The government needed more money to fund the Civil War when it broke out. Their battles with the delinquent taxpayers increased. Moonshiners and Ku Klux Klansmen joined forces and stepped up their methods of intimidation. They attacked IRS officials and their families and anyone who might reveal the location of the hidden whiskey stills.

The early 1900’s saw the beginning of the laws that banned alcohol sales and consumption. Once 1920 hit, Prohibition swept the nation. You couldn’t get your hands on any legal alcohol.

The demand for moonshine went through the roof. Production went into high gear. To keep up with demand, distillers did whatever they could to increase profits. They added sugar and watered down their moonshine.

Speakeasies and organized crime touched every city, every state in back rooms and basements. Some were built on a pier for easy access of shipments through the floor. They crafted secret rooms, rotating shelves, trap doors, fake walls, secret passages, camouflaged doors, and emergency disposal shafts.

Club 21 in New York, fashioned collapsing walls and revolving bars so the doorman could alert them of an oncoming raid. All of the liquor would be hidden from sight. Their secret passages led to the basement of No. 19. Authorities never found alcohol on their premises! Club 21 is still in operation at 21 West 52nd Street, New York.

Why was it called a Speakeasy? From the phrase, Speak Easy, Man which means lower your voice. Or it could have been from the ‘speakeasy’ in the door, to announce yourself.

In 1933, Prohibition was repealed and the demand for moonshine dwindled. The production of moonshine continued but on a much smaller scale even into the 60’s and 70’s. Today, you don’t hear too many stories of it.

If you ever come across a lil brown jug with 3 X’s on it, it was likely used for moonshine. One X for each time the liquid was distilled.

American Prohibition Not The First?

Long before the American Prohibition, England had its own run-in with government bans on alcohol in the 16th Century. The term Moonshine is said to have come about from the late night excursions to avoid the law. The product: Moonshine. The Movers (bootleggers): Moonrakers.

Speaking of terms, it’s also called hooch, mountain dew, white lightning. Other unusual names are corn in a jar, blue john, bush whiskey, donkey punch and popskull.

Where Did The Term Bootlegger Start?

During prohibition, people could walk across the border from Maine into Canada with a couple of bottles hidden inside their boot.

Where Is Prohibition Still In Effect?

According to wikipedia, there are a number of countries enforcing prohibition. Afghanistan, Bangledesh, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, some states in India, Libya, Kuwait, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Somolia, to name a few.

United States 1920-1933

Canada 1918-1920. But not Quebec. Apparently, Canadians liked their liquor too much, it only lasted 2 years!

Faroe Islands 1907-1992

Russian Empire and the Soviet Union 1914-1923

Iceland 1915-1935

Norway 1916-1927

Finland 1919-1932

And the award for the shortest prohibition period goes to……..

Hungarian Soviet Republic March 21 to August 1, 1919

Visit any local spirit distillery and chances are they will have an unoaked whiskey/whisky aka moonshine sitting on their shelf.

Where To Get It, Legally!

North of 7, in Ottawa, produces White Dog and packs a good punch. You want to be careful with that stuff! Yet, strangely, kind of tasty. At least now it’s off my bucket list.

North of 7 In-Store Products

Dillon’s, in the Niagara region, produces a white rye among other flavoured liquors.

Distilleries are not hard to find near your city or town, they are everywhere nowadays.

Just make sure you get your Hooch from a reputable source. Impurities, such as methanol alcohol, gather at the top of the batch so the first cup should be tossed by the distillers. You may want to stay away from the backwoods distilleries just in case they don’t perform this task.

Happy Moonshine Day!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on June 1, 2017