Listen, Sister..

FAIRLEY BLAKE is a pseudonym. Readers who disagree with his Martini theories ore referred to M. F. K. Fisher’s treatise,To the Gibson and Beyond,”which appeared in the January, 1949, Atlantic.


THE conspiracy against the public welfare that American publishers have formed may not be actionable as the law now stands but there is no doubt that it exists. Every one of them has in his backlog from three to ten cookbooks and the total sale must be, at a guess, upward of a million copies a year. And most of these contain a dangerous menace to our civilization. I’m talking about the section fraudulently labeled “Beverages.”

Presumably, before ihe editors bring out a new edition of ihe cookbook they chock and revise t he recipes in the other sections, but they do not bother even to correct the typographical errors in this one, which has stood unmodified since it was first perpetrated. It is the same in all cookbooks, having gone out of copyright in 1895, and nobody docs anything except to scale it to space for t he new format. No skin off a publisher’s nose that it was written in the holyhorror era of our drinking mores, when the idea was to see how many ingredients you could put into a drink, especially a cocktail, and still survive.

Yet publishers go on recommending the same messes to at least a million women a year.

No doubt the publishers would plead that anyone who has to go to a cookbook to learn how to make a cocktail deserves anything he may get there. Demurrer disallowed; the rest of us are entitled to protection.

Passing over twenty pages of emetics and Mickey Finns compounded on other bases which the cookbook assures a hostess are just dandy, take a look ai the abominations that can be commit led with gin. It is absurdly easy to make the only gin cocktail, the Martini, that anyone who doesn’t walk on all fours would drink. Not more than 20 per cent dry vermouth, 80 per cent good — I’m aiming thal adjective straight at the hostess — good gin, and a lot of ice used fast. Nobody could ask for anything simpler and there isn’t anything better. But in the first two of five pages devoted to, it says here, “gin cocktails” I find formulas, each under a cute name, that direct a hostess to add to honest gin; grenadine; various liqueurs; creme do menthe; grenadine, lemon juice, and egg while; cherry brandy, kirsch, sweet cider, and raspberry syrup; lemon juice; creme de menthe, egg white, lemon juice, and orange juice; lime juice and apricot brandy; claret, orange juice, and Jamaica ginger; grenadine, egg white, lemon juice, orange bitters, and sugar — and a seizure that says to mix gin two to one with port and add a dash of orange bitters. Simply to read the formula temporarily paralyzes the human stomach. But there you are. Such books are sold freely over the counter, even in these days of dire peril to the United States.

The trouble comes when a woman decides to have twenty people in for cocktails. Her boss couldn’t keep his job a month without her, she can show the Bureau of Internal Revenue exactly where it misread its own regulations, she can beat the racket at a fur sale — but she has lost all her selfconfidence before she finishes making out the lisi of guests. Panic overwhelms her and she makes straight for a cookbook.

Nothing is going to change that; the only thing to do is to change the cookbook. So on behalf of a million girls who want a home of their own and twenty million stomachs that deserve a break, let’s go.

1. Leave today’s special at the liquor store strictly alone; it’s for cause. The reason ihe man cut the price on that stuff is that he couldn’t move it — it got recognized for what it is. Go without lunch for a couple of weeks if you have to, or cut the guests from twenty to ten. Cheap liquor is grudge liquor.

2. Get two whiskeys, one of ihem Scotch. Some charged water, for somebody may want a highball instead and he may be the one you’ve had in mind all along. No ginger ale; you can’t afford to know anybody who would want it and you might never be able to explain away its presence in your apartment. A bottle of the driest sherry—ask a trustworthy friend what kind he drinks, (Cool it a little if you like but don’t chill it.) American gin in the highest price range, or imported gin if you can afford it, for twenty people.

3. I’ve never known what sweet vermouth is for. Certainly not cocktails.

4. It’s ail right to use orange bitters as an astringent for the cheeks but never put it into anything that is to be drunk. Angostura or Peychaud’s bitters in case somebody whom you have no other reason to dislike wants an old-fashioned. All other hitlers, extracts, and flavorings are condiments; save them for Saturday’s pickup supper.

5. Nothing sweet, nothing at all. If I keep repeating that, it’s because I know you. Lock up your maple syrup, Karo, and marshmallow paste. Throw away that bottle of grenadine: the Man might wander into the kitchen and see it,

6. Lock up all the fruit juices too, and the fruit. For cocktails, arsenic is much better than fruit.

7. Your neighborhood store sells ice. Buy two dollars” worth and put it in the sink. Use all of it.

8. I have explained how to make a Martini. How could you possibly go wrong? But no surplus, no dividend, nothing for the pot. Mix every round from scratch.

9. If you have to make an oldfashioned, dissolve the sugar in a little water before you put the whiskey in — it won’t dissolve in alcohol. This one has to be even colder.

That’s all, my dear. (See how a good drink softens a man.) Mix the drinks unobtrusively, without fuss, as if you did it every evening at six o’clock, and this is a fine time not to be arch or coy. Don’t flirt with the drink you are making — just make it.

The simpler the better — the less effort for you, the more reassurance for him. We drink cocktails because they turn people into human beings and give life something that resembles a smile, but also we drink them for their own sake. A good cocktail has dignity, even inspiration, and I won’t say it hasn’t got nobility. Just bear that in mind and act accordingly. There’s no such thing as liquor too good for cocktails — get the right stuff and you’re off to a head start. He can’t help believing that sound liquor equates with sound gal. Then if you make the cocktails properly, you’re in. He never noticed those glints in your hair before. That’s an attractive dress you’ve got on too and in fact, darling, you look wonderful.

No mixture of chartreuse, Cointreau, and egg white in the world could do that.

(To all publishers: Out of decent regard for the well-being of my fellow Americans, I will authorize you to substitute the above for the cocktail pages in any cookbook, without fee or royalty, on receipt of your signed agreement to melt up the corresponding plates.)