Sluggers, sippers, and pitchers

food, sluggers, sippers, and pitchers


As I write, the Phillies and the Astros are putting on their cleats and readying themselves for another World Series game, which would seem to be a good time to consider pitchers. Not, of course, the type that throw curve balls, but rather the tall glass sort in which one stirs cocktails. And those, I fear, have become as rare at the home bar as submarine pitchers are on the mound.

In the mid-’60s, the Beefeater gin people fought a rearguard action against the dreaded vodka martini and did so with full-page magazine adverts detailing at length the making and drinking of a great martini. The details include not just the composition and construction of the drink, but the atmosphere in which the martini is to be consumed.

How, for example, does one carve out time to serve a great martini “in a house with small children?” One must assert one’s role as the head of the home. That includes saying “hello to the children.” With that out of the way, one must “assume the responsibility for the martini.” That means making the martini yourself.

But don’t make it yet, Beefeater instructs. “Summon the children just before you mix the martini. Announce to them that it is now the grownups’ hour.” The children are to be told that “they are to pursue their play elsewhere.” The martini hour, you see, “is for those who are going to drink martinis.”

Was there ever a more perfectly awful expression of midcentury modern parenting? It’s worthy of an Updike novel: “Shoo, children. Mummy and Daddy have some drinking to do.” Or better yet, something from Edward Albee starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Let’s put that harrowing thought aside. Now that you have taken the steps necessary “to assure to you the hour that is needed to engage in the quiet talk that ends a busy day and begins an enjoyable evening,” it’s finally time to make with the mixing. And here, I’m happy to report, the advice is rather less unpleasant. Indeed, the advice is perfectly sound: “The martini you drink at home should begin in a pitcher of ample size, with lots of ice cubes.” Pitcher and glasses go in the refrigerator. This is because the martini “must begin life very cold,” and that means pitcher and glasses chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. Pull the pitcher out and add vermouth, “as your taste commands.” Add more ice cubes and then pour the gin, which should make the ice cubes smoke. “Stir the gin round and round, to bring it to the polished chill it needs to do its work properly.” Retrieve the frosty glasses from the fridge and bring them to the pitcher immediately before serving. Olive or lemon peel, your choice. And thus one achieves a “straight martini, undiluted by swashing around in a warm glass.”

Tall, narrow pitchers used to be the centerpiece of cocktail sets, recognized as essential to the making of a good martini. But they can be hard to find. Few are made today, and vintage pitchers are scarce if you don’t know where to look. It’s amazing that many cocktail pitcher sets survive: Stirring icy drinks with a slender glass rod in a narrow, sweating glass container, with only a slim, slippery handle for trying to maintain a purchase on the pitcher — it’s a recipe for disaster.

And yet wonderful examples do persist — you can see an abundance of them on the website for a boutique vintage glassware store in Alexandria, Virginia, the Hour. Less pricey are the survivors to be rescued from Etsy.

And when you have made a civilized drink in a civilized container to be poured into a civilized glass, by all means, do include the children in the quiet, civilized conversation.

Eric Felten is the James Beard Award-winning author of How’s Your Drink?


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Tags: Entertainment, cocktails, Alcohol, Food and Drink

Original Author: Eric Felten

Original Location: Sluggers, sippers, and pitchers

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