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Thanksgiving Booze for the 99 Percent
by Ken Walczak
Welcome to Buy You a Drink, in which GOOD's resident mixologist offers libations to thirsty newsmakers each week. This week: drinks for the 99 percent looking to celebrate Thanksgiving boozily but affordably.
This year, I got into the Thanksgiving spirit a bit prematurely. I saw the headline “A Week of Wall Street Layoffs” and jumped to all kinds of gratifying conclusions: The Occupy movement won! The American public finally pushed aside that curtain made of spurious FOX News slogans and Rush Limbaugh’s jowl fat, and embraced the calls for fundamental changes to the way our country does business! No more government by the highest bidder! No more extolling “financial services” providers as political leaders! No more CEO salaries 343 times that of the average employee! The banks have smelled the change in the air, and realized they can no longer blame it on lingering aromas from Zuccotti Park!
Of course, that’s not really what happened. I called someone well-placed at one of the five largest American banks (the proverbial “senior official”), and learned that the layoffs in question will not affect anyone who spends his day dreaming up new and even more sinister mortgage-backed securities. The casualties will be analysts, researchers, operations staff, mortgage loan officers, back-office types, and lots and lots of administrators. Your cousin Jenny who moved down to Charlotte for that entry-level job at Bank of America Investments? You might want to give her a call. And the 99 percenters still employed by the banking industry get to sing a familiar refrain: Twice the work for the same amount of money.
As for you—whether you spent the past couple months in a tent outside a major financial institution or you just wish the Land of Opportunity distributed its opportunities a bit more evenly—you still have to sit through Thanksgiving dinner with the uncle who gets all of his news via e-mail forward. Prepare to assume the annual Scylla/Charybdis position: Choose to listen with gritted teeth to an uninformed rant, or sacrifice your precious gluttony time to explaining why gold bar investment is not the way out of the financial crisis.
Whichever path you choose, you’re going to need a drink—preferably something strong, fast, and cheap. Here are my rules for Thanksgiving drinking in the wake of Occupy Wall Street: nothing so expensive that you wouldn’t carry it in a backpack next to a rumpled Che Guevara t-shirt, nothing you couldn’t mix and throw back on the run while being evacuated from your makeshift home of two months, and nothing peppery, out of respect.
The Call: Two-Ingredient Holiday Wonders
Maybe you’re a vodka drinker. Ordinarily I'd be tempted to lecture you a little about that, but it's Thanksgiving, a non-judgmental holiday—and one on which the football and family time start early, so you'll need a suitable morning beverage. You can ease your way into the feast the Polish way, with fruit juice and the subtle vanilla and honey flavors of bison grass vodka: Żubrówka.
Szarlotka (aka “Frisky Bison”)
2 oz. Żubrówka (list price: $26.85 per fifth)
Apple cider (hopefully), or "pressed apple juice" (if you live in some coastal metropolis where the citizenry is woefully unfamiliar with the affordable luxury of orchard-fresh cider).
Pour Żubrówka over ice in a short glass. Add apple cider or juice to taste.
A szarlotka is a unique, creamy little conversation starter that refreshes while fortifying. On the other hand, you may want to avoid conversation starters during those over-garrulous early hours, before people start mashing turkey into their talking holes. For your follow-up drink, your America First relatives probably wouldn’t scoff at Jack Daniels, so that saves you a conversation. But Jack lists for about $25 a fifth out here in California. We can go cheaper than that, and more festive, while still buying American and keeping a name that will defray suspicion.
"Jack & Ginger"
2 oz. (or more, depending on your family situation) Laird’s blended applejack (list price: $18.99 for a fifth; you can probably find it for $15)
Spicy ginger beer (I had Regatta brand in my fridge, but I’m sure Reed’s would be terrific. If you’re from the Midwest, so would Vernor’s. What the hell.)
Pour applejack over ice in a tall glass—go ahead, use that promotional Empire Strikes Back tumbler you convinced your folks to bring back from Burger King when you were six. It’s sweet of them to keep it around. Fill with ginger beer, to taste.
It doesn’t get more American than applejack. The Laird family claims it’s been distilling since 1780, from a recipe that dates to 1698—about as close to liquor from the First Thanksgiving as you’re going to get. For a few dollars more, the Laird’s Bottled in Bond is substantially better booze—it’s 100 percent apple brandy, and 100 proof, while the blended stuff is 35 percent apples, 65 percent clear grain alcohol—but I chose the blend based on price and ubiquity.
Sweet, spicy, and plenty strong, a tall “Jack & Ginger” will help you wash down turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and even dessert. To swallow ongoing economic injustice, you might need to go a little harder.
1 ½ - 2 oz. Becherovka (list price: $29.25 for a fifth; routinely available for around $23)
Plan ahead: keep Becherovka in the freezer. Remove Becherovka from the freezer, pour into shot glass. Clang! Another?
This is my own little holiday tradition: the Czech Republic’s pumpkin pie of liqueurs. Anise and cinnamon are supposedly the main flavorings among 35 or so total, but the cinnamon is most prominent, and the other flavors always seem to coalesce into a nutmeg/allspice place on my tongue. Supposedly, the Czechs drink Becher with tonic water. I have no experience mixing it with anything other than a beer chaser.
If you have one of those close-knit, universally boozy families at your Thanksgiving table—first of all, congratulations. Second, it bears noting that the freezer treatment makes a bottle of Becher ideal for swigging and passing around the table at the end of the evening. Be sure to let Cousin Jenny hit it twice. She’s had a rough year.
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