Tagged: whiskey

Ron Burgundy Everywhere

Trying to escape from rampant marketing is especially tough right now because of the all-consuming Christmas season and the impending release of Anchorman 2 on Christmas Day. It’s everywhere.

We discussed movie marketing and trailer in my American Film Industry class this last week. One example of clever marketing was the Ron Burgundy phenomenon. If you’re not keeping track, he’s been on…

And if scotch-flavored ice cream wasn’t enough, you can add to the list, actual scotch whiskey.

This much marketing makes me suspicious of the film product.

Days of Wine and Roses

Having just screened some early television programs in my Electronic Media class, I never seem to get across the extraordinary nature of live anthology dramas, specifically the gravity of Days of Wine and Roses (1958).

Every television historian has a soft spot in his/her heart for live anthology dramas. What’s not to like? These “teleplays” were well-written, well-acted, and focused on deep character psychology. They were also performed live and almost never repeated. The only reason we have these programs is because someone made a recording of the kinescope. A kinescope recording works like taking a film camera and recording a television screen, but because video runs at a rate of 30 frames-per-second and a film camera runs at 24 frames-per-second, the camera had to drop six television frames for each second. It was not easy, nor was it always pretty.

In this installment of Playhouse 90 from 1958, Days of Wine and Roses concerns a married couple who are alcoholics. The portrayal of this disease is extraordinary. This clip starts after Joe, a public relations man, has reached his moment of clarity and begins attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. AA was a fairly new organization in the late 1950s, founded in 1935, and was gaining prominence by this point. During his testimonial, there’s a flashback to a particularly dark part of his and his wife’s lives.

Joe’s and Kristen’s addiction is absolutely breathtaking. When I first saw this about five years ago, the representation of rye whiskey, a socially acceptable and even upscale spirit today, compares to how we think of crack cocaine or meth today. Beyond the addiction, the performance is relatively naturalistic: the stage-trained actors seem like real people, not delivering a stylized performance. It’s gritty but not exaggerated. Also, consider the medium of television. There are a lot of closeups and very few cuts (or “switches” in the parlance of live television). Televisions were much smaller than the sixty-inch sets of today, and the tight framing would foster some intimacy between the viewer and the character.

If the title sounds familiar to you, it’s because it was remade as a film in 1962, starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick, and the Henri Mancini and Johnny Mercer co-wrote the title song.

Days of Wine and Roses is available on The Golden Age of Television from the Criterion Collection.

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Cocktail: Unoaked Rye Julep


It’s been a few months since I picked up a bottle of unoaked rye whiskey in Portland, and yet the bottle is almost full. Unoaked whiskey is just a fancy name for bottled moonshine and as such, it is much harsher on our palettes, which are accustomed to the mellow finish of aged whiskey. We tried substituting the unoaked rye for other ryes in our favorite beverages, but the taste of rye overpowers just about any mixer we tried. For example, ginger beer usually can tame any spirit, and usually goes well with any whiskey, but this rye was way too much for the ginger beer to handle. We tried making citrus cocktails, but it tasted like putting lemon or lime on a piece of rye bread, and it was not a good flavor.

Today, after some experimenting, I think I found a way to sip this “rye lightning.” Basically, you have to make it into a julep, but instead of adding mint, use basil! Thanks to Saveur’s Basil Julep recipe for the idea.

  • 6 sprigs of basil
  • 1 ounce of simple syrup
  • 3 ounces of unbaked rye whiskey

In a cocktail shaker, muddle together the basil and the simple syrup. Add whiskey and shake gently. Pour through your cocktail shaker’s strainer into an old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Enjoy.

The first thing that is readily apparent is the color. It almost looks like chartreuse. As you’ll find out, the rye is almost completely neutralized, although the combination of basil and rye yields a very curious mixed flavor. Mint might work a little better, but I only had the basil on hand so that’s what I used.

Basil Julep
The strength of the basil and the un-aged rye whiskey was a little too harsh. This drink is better made with aged Irish Whiskey.

“Unoaked” Whiskey…. It’s Really Moonshine, Right?


During this most recent trip to Portland/Vacation Run, we went to the kickoff party for the Portland Distillery Row Tour & Passport. The tour took us to several distilleries in the Southeast section of the city, where there exists a cluster of distilleries. Having been to seven or eight distillery tours in Kentucky’s bourbon country, we were familiar with the distillation process. One of the processes necessary to make bourbon is the aging process. Bourbon needs to sit in a barrel for at least two years, by law, and realistically should age closer to seven years. The upstarts in Portland don’t have that luxury yet so they have to either make spirits that don’t require aging, such as vodka, gin, or rum, or they have to sell it unaged. With whiskey, we’re talking what distillers call “white dog” or less affectionately as “moonshine.”

In a few years or so, maybe the distillers will save some of that “white dog,” put it in a barrel, and let it age for a few years. It might be the beginning of a new industry. Also, this budding tour will be a lot more interesting and, thanks to those the “angel’s share” escaping from those damp oak barrels, a lot more fragrant.