Oglethorpe University in Atlanta is home to the Crypt of Civilization, the oldest and largest multimillennial time capsule in the world. Sealed on May 28, 1940, the capsule is not to be opened until May 28, 8113. “Until that time,” reads an elaborate plaque welded to the stainless steel door, “we beg of all persons that this door and the contents of the crypt within may remain inviolate.”
The mastermind of the project was Dr. Thornwell Jacobs, then president of Oglethorpe. His intent was to preserve every salient feature of modern civilization or, in his words, “the state and nature of the civilization which existed from 1900 to 1950,” for the people of the future.
So what’s in the crypt? Eight hundred books, more than 640,000 pages, all on microfilm. A lot of recordings, everything from Franklin Roosevelt’s speeches to the stentorian yodel of champion hog callers. A set of Lincoln logs and a Donald Duck doll. Tin foil. Ladies stockings. Soap. Floss. Seed samples. A cigarette holder, lighter and ashtray. A potato masher. A golf ball. A plastic beetle. Male and female mannequins. Remember, this capsule won’t be cracked open for another 6,000 years—and by “unimaginable peoples.” Imagine how dramatically humans may evolve (or devolve) over that period of time.
That’s why the crypt also contains a language integrator, a hand-powered contraption that will help the men (or Martians) who unseal the crypt in 8113 interpret the time capsule’s holdings.
One of the early suggestions for items to include in the capsule was a dry martini complete with olive. And to that I say, “Hear, hear.” Dr. Jacobs and his team instead included a specially sealed bottle of (pause for effect) Budweiser. Quel dommage! In a time capsule dubbed the Crypt of Civilization, we failed to include the most civilized of adult beverages—the martini.
But let us not spend too much time fretting over what future generations may think of Dr. Jacobs’s drink choices. Let us instead turn our attention to our drink choices, particularly the libations we shall serve to our guests over the holiday season.
In the spirit of Miss Lonelyhearts’ advice column, I have dug into the “Local Flavor” mailbag to answer a few of your pressing questions about holiday tippling.
My caterer asked me if I’ll be serving mixed drinks or cocktails at my holiday party. Isn’t that the same thing?
This is an easy one. All cocktails are mixed drinks, but not all mixed drinks are cocktails. Follow me? A mixed drink is booze plus a mixer. Soda, tonic, juice, Red Bull, whatever. A Cape Cod (vodka plus cranberry juice) is a mixed drink. Jack and Coke? Mixed drink. My first adult beverage of choice—amaretto and orange juice—that too was a mixed drink. A really, really bad one in retrospect but a mixed drink nonetheless.
A cocktail, on the other hand, requires more effort in the areas of preparation and presentation. In addition to pouring, you also engage is some infusing, some muddling, some shaking and swizzling. Usually not all of those verbs for one cocktail, but you get the picture. The perfect cocktail recipe is two parts alcohol, one part performance.
It’s my year to host the office gift exchange and my home bar currently consists of a bottle of candy cane flavored Burnett’s vodka, peach schnapps and some Fireball whisky. How can I step up my game?
Similar to a well-stocked kitchen pantry, a home bar requires a few essentials. I’m giving you points for having three different varieties of alcohol, but those flavors really have you boxed in, my friend. For baby’s first bar, I recommend the big five: vodka, gin, white rum, tequila and bourbon. You’ll also need a few liqueurs. Triple sec is a versatile choice, as is something dark and fruity like Chambord, a raspberry liqueur. Add some vermouth and bitters and you’re off to a good start. With this basic bar, you can mix a classic martini and a French martini, Hemingway’s daiquiri (not that awful frozen concoction you remember from 1980s fern bars), a cosmopolitan, a margarita and a paloma (a lesser known albeit tastier tequila cocktail), a minty mojito, a whisky sour and a Manhattan. Pick a few classics and get good at mixing them. My standards are my old chum Tom Collins, the New York sour, the Aviation, classic gin martinis (from dry to dirty) and a house favorite I call Doctor’s Orders as a nod to my friend Doreen, an emergency room physician, who requests that (and only that) when she bellies up to my bar. One last thing: Dump the peach schnapps. It is too closely associated with Sex on the Beach and we never, ever, ever serve our guests cocktails named after sexual acts. Seriously. Do not.
Last time I threw a Christmas party, half the people got toasted. I don’t want to stop serving alcohol, but how do I prevent that from happening again? I only have room for one on my couch.
Three words: Staff Your Bar. (Shout out to my favorite bartender for hire, Mr. Joe Willis!) If you set up a table topped with bottles of alcohol and mixers and let it run itself, you better ask Santa for a bigger couch. A shot is 1.5 ounces. That doesn’t look like much in a glass so folks tend to over serve themselves pretty quickly. And as much as we love those big red Solo cups in this neck of the woods, use something far smaller and be liberal with the ice. Ask your barkeep to keep an eye on intake and lighten up the drinks as the evening progresses.
I have a well-stocked bar and like to share it with friends. But I spend my whole night mixing cocktails instead of enjoying my guests. What should I do?
You’ve got a couple options here. The path of least resistance is to concoct a large batch punch that guests can ladle out themselves. But that doesn’t give you the opportunity to showcase your mad mixing skills. (I get you. I’m a Leo.) If you have more than a few guests over for a soiree, settle on three featured cocktails (something gin based, something vodka based and something utilizing a dark liquor). Do all your prep work before the event. Assemble your tools and glasses. Pre-cut your garnishes. Squeeze fresh juices (because you’re only as good as your ingredients). Pre-mix everything that is pre-mixable. For example, you can concoct a holiday version of the popular Cosmopolitan by pre-mixing vodka or gin with peach nectar, orange liqueur, white cranberry juice and lemon juice. When your guests arrive, simply pour over ice, top with prosecco and garnish with bright red cranberries. One final note: Print your menu so that you can spend more time chatting with your guests about what is going on in their lives instead of reciting your featured cocktails.
Whether you concoct elaborate craft cocktails or simply mix up a batch of Purple Jesus in the bathtub, I sign off, dear readers, with this nugget of wisdom: “Nothing takes the shine off a lady quicker than liquor.” That applies to the gents as well.
Eat, drink and be merry. If you get a little too merry, please keep that Uber app handy or call dibs on the couch. Remember, there’s only room for one.
A Trio of Libations
You’ve probably heard the old expression “If you can read, you can cook.” I believe that if you can read, you can mix! Read these instructions for three holiday libations and prepare to dazzle your thirsty guests.
You can’t get much simpler or more elegant than this festive drink. The traditional version involves pouring a bit of crème de cassis (a dark, sweet liqueur made from black currants) into a flute (the glass, not the instrument) and topping with champagne. You’re only limited by your imagination. Any fruity liqueur will do and experiment with the sparklers. The version pictured on opposite page is Heery’s Cherry Liqueur (produced in Denmark since 1818) topped with La Marca prosecco. Toss in a berry of your choosing as a garnish and you’ve got a party in a glass.
The colors of this cocktail (white, red and green) make it the perfect drink for the holidays. The sugared rim looks like freshly fallen snow.
2 ½ ounces white rum
¾ ounce triple sec
¾ ounce sweet and sour mix
¼ ounce Chambord black raspberry liqueur
Pour rum, triple sec and sour mix into a shaker with ice. Shake at least 20 times and strain into a chilled martini glass rimmed with sugar. Slowly add the Chambord so that it sinks to the bottom of the glass. Serve with a jazzy little silver spoon so that your guest can swirl, if desired. Also this drink begs for a garnish—so don’t deny it. Hang a twist of lime off the edge of a glass. The green pairs well with the color of the Chambord, making this a visually satisfying (as well as tasty) beverage.
Orange + Cranberry Gin & Tonic
Who says gin and tonic is a warm weather drink? A few quick additions can turn this refreshing summertime standard into your most requested drink of the holidays.
1 two-inch strip of orange rind (about the length of your thumb)
8 to 10 fresh cranberries
1 teaspoon sugar
2 ounces gin
1 ounce fresh orange juice
Muddle the orange rind strip, cranberries and sugar in a cocktail shaker. You can use white table sugar, but I prefer a raw sugar such as Demerara or Turbindo. The flavor has more depth and the rough grain is better at breaking down the cranberries and orange peel. Add ice to the shaker—and also gin and fresh orange juice. Cover and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled. Pour into a rocks glass filled with ice allowing some of the cranberries and peel to slip into the glass; top with tonic water and stir. Garnish with three cranberries on a pick. Looks pretty; goes down easy.
This article appears in the November/December 2015 issue of Augusta Magazine.