Welcome to Bar\Heart's weekly Cocktail Hour! I’m so glad you’re here. Grab a drink and settle in. Each Friday afternoon we talk books, cocktails, binge-worthy shows, advice and whatever else strikes my fancy. It's always a good time, so be sure to subscribe so you never miss an issue. Cheers! 🍸
Deep in the Yukon, the Sourdough Salon serves up your drink of choice … with a twist. An actual human toe dropped in it. You can drink it fast, or you can drink it slow, the bar’s mantra goes, but your lips gotta touch the toe.
According to the authors — and confirmed on Instagram — people actually drink the Sourtoe Cocktail. The toe in question is the brainchild of one Captain Dick Stevenson, a “self-proclaimed bastard, asshole, and professional wolf-poisoner.” He came across the original toe — there have been several — while cleaning out a cabin owned by a pair of rum runners who lost a toe to frostbite. Being a clever chap, the Good Captain decided to make a drinking game of it. Because, obvs.
Time and booze have pickled the toe, but it is also stored in a jar of salt to keep it sterile. So the next time you find yourself in the Sourdough Saloon in Dawson City, you, too, can join the Sourtoe Cocktail Club.
What I’m drinking for reals: I’m actually testing a bourbon-and-blood-orange drink that Contributor Shana is developing for our signature Thanksgiving cocktail. I will report back soon with the recipe.
I love it when big creatures are terrified of small creatures. (See also: Hank and The Overlord below.)
I promise, Sourtoe Cocktail isn’t the only thing you’ll find in this 438-page collection of oddities. You’ll even get Ben Franklin’s recipe for clarified milk punch. (It involves 6 quarts of brandy and the rinds of 44 lemons; maybe we’ll break that out in a future Cocktail Hour.)
From my home state of Colorado, Gastro Obscura features the Great Fruitcake Toss, wherein revelers in Manitou Springs launch their holiday fruitcakes as far as humanly — or mechanically — possible. I participated in January 1998, when I was the editor of the nearby Colorado Springs Business Journal, and made a very poor showing. I didn’t realize you could bring more than your pitching arm!
The book also has an entry about how Hollywood uses various groceries to create sound effects for movies. For example, frozen lettuce stands in for the sound of Rose’s frozen hair breaking in Titanic. And in Fight Club, a raw chicken stuffed with walnuts gives you the sound of an actual fight.
Gastro Obscura is a delight that may just save you during awkward holiday dinners. Pull out the tome and see what delights the world has in store.
In the mid-week edition of Bar\Heart, I spoke with Mamba Hamissi about his journey to becoming an American after fleeing his home country of Burundi. I started thinking about Mamba and his wife, Nadia, earlier this year as I watched the chaos unfolding in Afghanistan.
Even though the circumstances and countries were different, I wondered what it had been like for them to come here. What did it take for them to build a life here? Did they think of America as home? And what advice would they share for the more than 100,000 Afghan refugees trying to rebuild their lives as new Americans?
Here's what he had to say:
Or listen to the full interview here. This is my first-ever audio episode; I hope you enjoy hearing Mamba’s words in his own rich, warm voice.
It’s Bat Week. What? You didn’t know? Me, either. Until I got a press release in my inbox telling me:
TOA Waters, a small start up bubble bath company, has just released our newest bubble bath in celebration of Bat Week.
Of course, I had to share this breaking news with Contributor Shana, her partner, who we'll call Consort, and Lovey in our long-scrolling group text. We had so many questions:
And so, dear reader, I went to find answers. This is true full-service journalism happening here!
A.) No, the bubbles aren’t shaped like bats. But that would have been rad.
Instead TOA Waters says they are promoting the “important role bats play in our ecosystem.” Apparently, bats pollinate guava and agave plants, and those scents inspired the new bubble bath fragrance. Personally, I’d say that was a bit of a stretch, but 100 points to the PR person who thought it up. I’m telling you about it, so their evil plan worked, I guess. 🤷♀️
B.) No, bats are not dirty. According to the Smithsonian, “Bats are extremely clean, sometimes licking and scratching themselves for hours. The vampire bat, in particular, grooms both itself and its neighbors intensively.”
D.) Like this, apparently.
4. Bonus: Facebook (full disclosure: the corporate overlords of this newsletter) changed its name this week to ... Meta (at least, the parent company will be known as Meta) because Zuck wants to double down on building the metasphere. What is the metasphere, you ask? Here’s an explainer.
Can't someone just build us a Holodeck already and be done with it?
Contributor Shana is checking in with this week’s binge. Based on her recommendation at a boozy dinner last night, I’m starting WWDITS today. Here she is:
It's Halloween, let's watch something thematic! But I hate horror. Spooky, scary, gore … I'll pass. How about a dark comedy where the pools of blood left behind by vampires are played as slapstick instead? Check.
What We Do in the Shadows is ridiculous. It's set up as a documentary (1) that follows four vampires and their human familiar (2) as they go about their daily lives in Staten Island, NY. Let's be clear: They are very much bloodthirsty murderers. But above all else, they are dipshits. Desperately lazy, entitled and not particularly bright. (They mistake their neighbor's Super Bowl party for a party celebrating a Superb Owl!)
They get into petty gang wars with the local werewolves, are haunted by their own ghosts and repeatedly piss off the high vampiric council. They cannot survive without their human familiar, Guillermo. He's got the worst unpaid internship on earth, but he's so desperate to be a vampire himself and be accepted into their weird little gang it's worth the 10 years he's spent dealing with their messes. Three seasons in and he's finally starting to gain some confidence; I find myself cheering for him on a regular basis.
My other fave is Nadja. She's just as much of a dipshit as the rest, but her frequent eyeroll and oh, for fuck's sake sighs are golden.
The show is on FX and all seasons are available on HULU. This is not a family show. They swear more than I do, which is really saying something.
I feel bougie AF saying this, but Stasher bags have changed my kitchen life.
I frequently make my own chicken stock.(3) In the past, I would strain and cool the stock and then store measured amounts in plastic bags in the freezer. The problem was, when it came time to defrost the stock, the bag would pretty much disintegrate. That felt incredibly wasteful. Once I tried freezing stock in half-pint mason jars, which turned out about as well as you could imagine. (I never did do well in science.)
But with these Stasher bags, I can pull out a cup (the “snack” size) or 2-cups (the “sandwich” size) and just toss it in the microwave or even put it in a pan of boiling water. Then wash the bag and reuse it. Science really is magic.
So far I’ve found the snack, sandwich and half-gallon sizes to be the most useful. (I just get the clear for ease; but you do you.) I keep a half-gallon size filled with cheesy poufs in the freezer, which allows me to pull out a few and bake them off anytime company comes by. (Or I just want to eat cheesy bread that is gluten free. (4) That size is also good for holding our phones, keys — anything we want to stay dry — when we go kayaking. And the sandwich size is perfect for collecting cheese rinds for my next batch of parmesan stock. (5)
I will say, Stashers aren’t cheap and I was very skeptical of their value — until I tried a cheaper option. I was disappointed by how those held up. So I'm fully Team Stasher. Get yours now and you'll feel like a pro when you tell your friends (or your mom) NBD, I'll just turn that carcass into stock and stash it in my freezer. 😜😘
Friends, helps! My humans and my bed are just beyond The Overlord. But I cannot walk past The Mean Floof to get there; he might look at me. It may be a long standoff. Send snacks, otherwise I might waste away into nothingness. If I die waiting here, tell my mom I loved her.
This scene plays out every morning, friends. Every. Morning.
That’s all for this week, friends. See you next Friday for Cocktail Hour.
Similar to The Office, we have no idea what the documentarians' intentions are, so best to just accept it and move on.
Familiars are humans who wish to become a vampire. They earn the right to be turned by serving.
Before you decide I’m all fancy or Melissa Clark, I promise you that this is pretty much my only homemaker skill. And making stock is so easy, it feels like cheating when I get credit. I just keep a bag in the freezer with chicken carcasses, vegetable ends, etc. When it gets full, I dump the contents in a pot along with any limp veggies in the crisper, cover it with water and simmer for 8-10 hours. Then I strain, cool and store in the freezer.
Cheese pouf recipie. They are gluten free. You can thank The Bestie™ for this bit of deliciousness in your life.
Cheese stock is equally easy. I use this basic recipe from Bon Appetit. Pro tip: Substitute this for the water in rice or risotto.
Thanks for reading this week's Cocktail Hour. Do you want to contribute? I'd love to hear from you about a great drink with an even better back story; a book you can’t wait to recommend; a piece of advice we all need now; even just something to delight us. E-mail me at email@example.com!
Let's do stay in touch.
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