Nothing washes down a cocktail like a revolutionary slogan. Named for a folk hero on the Mexican American border, Saloon’s Tracy prepared her own creation, the Viva Cortez in front of me, otherwise I would have assumed that this was an established drink ordered from cocktail menus all over the land.
This warm, spicy drink is an homage to cinnamon’s place in Mexican culture, honoring its close relationship with its comrade, Mezcal. The Cortez of the name was a wanted man, Gregorio Cortez, a cause célèbre in the fight for Mexican-American rights, with as much staunch support for his cause as the Mezcal gives to its warm companion spice. Gregorio was on the run for alleged horse stealing and wound up in eleven Texan jails, before finally being released due to pressure from a massive Defense network. Once a tenant farmer, now a local hero, there was no going back for Cortez, who gave up the tenant farmer’s life to fight in the Mexican American War and died soon after.
A ½ an ounce of Punt es Mes, the Italian sweet vermouth, is added to the brew. There is also cinnamon syrup and thai chilli peppers. Tracy explains that thai chilli peppers are chosen for their warmth over jalapenos, which have a more herbal flavor. Lime Juice adds a “bright vividness” to the Viva Cortez that is as essential as the legend. The limes must be fresh: Tracy’s emphatic instruction, underlined in my notes, reads: “can’t emphasize enough!”
The drink was born during a phase when Tracy was really into Tiki drinks. With all the fascination surrounding these drinks, she recalls how surprised everyone was to discover that one of the so-called ‘secret’ ingredients was nothing more than cinnamon.
And yet “nothing more than cinnamon” is the main ingredient in a tasty cocktail with a gazpacho tint and a heady warmth. Cortez lived on in the Corridos sung about his deeds; the Viva Cortez has its own longlasting kick. This is definitely one that you’ll remember the next morning.
A Tale of Two Cities
Ah, the holidays. The time to loosen our belts, tighten our tongues around the obligatory visit with Aunt Betsy and max out a card or two. But at least we can drink: after all nothing says the birth of Christ like a case display of Jack Daniels or Jameson at your favorite package store. But the story of inebriated holiday cheer is much older than 15% off 6 bottles of assorted spirits, and whether it’s my Grandfather’s brandied eggnog, the ever famous Wassail or the resurrected cult favorite Tom and Jerry, the story is in the teller… or two.
Cat and Mouse Part 1
The latter holiday classic recalls two stories. The first is of author Pierce Egar and his work “The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn esp. and his Elegant friend Corinthian Tom“. The novel showcases the day and nighttime adventures or misadventures of Jerry and Tom as they cruise down London’s streets with a couple of friends looking for a good time. Think of it as like the early 19th century version of Super Bad, or License to Drive or any other story of two or three friends trying to meet women, scrape a little and have a drink or four. . .
The book later became a famous London play called “Life in London“. In the play, Egar incorporated a host of characters based on many of the downtrodden well known street beggars and pan handlers such as Ex-American slave Billy Waters who took part in a scene or two. Billy, to escape slavery like many of African descent had joined the royal British navy where he had lost his left leg. He was an impoverished but common fixture outside of many a London theater playing his violin for people waiting to see the show. For the shows’ 300 night billing he was a celebrity – the catch was that he was poorly paid, because nobody wanted to give him money to play his violin outside of the theater when they were paying money to see him play his violin inside. Kind world huh? He died 2 years later penniless. His last words were reportedly “Cuss him dam Tommy Jerry.”
To promote his book and play, Egar was said to have came up with a wintry holiday classic simply called “Tom and Jerry”. This jazzed up eggnog was and still is a must have at any holiday party.