Chasing the White Dog at the Sorrento With Hebb & Jefferson, Part One"/>
Not many people have enjoyed a good swig of moonshine. My own experience with America's mythical spirit is limited to college: a friend of mine from Tennessee would bring it back with him from trips home, smuggled onto campus in Nalgene water bottles. This stuff, quaffed in dorm rooms in lieu of studying, was terrible. It was crystal clear, and harsh as sex with your mom. And, like sex with our mom, we couldn't get enough. Later, at the same friend's wedding, we got the good stuff: fine brown whiskey, made by his dad. The unmistakable sweet summer scent of corn wafted in on the nose, and it was smooth like a Brazilian wax.
T.J., the most pro-booze President of all time.
Needless to say, I was excited about Drinking Lessons at the Sorrento Hotel last Sunday. Drinking Lessons is a lecture series about alcohol. Hosted by culinary ringmaster Michael Hebb, last week's episode featured author Max Watman and distiller Christian Krogstad. Watman was reading from his new book Chasing the White Dog; Krogstad was working the bar.Watman began reading from the third chapter of his book as Krogstad poured shots of Rye White Dog. This first taste of hooch didn't agree with me: spicy and tangy, the Rye White Dog was almost a little too much like tequila for my taste, which is odd because I really like rye whiskey. Yet it went down as easily as your mom (which is to say, not very). Watman was talking about early German settlers who used whiskey as currency, a practice I wish we'd return to here in the USA. At least then the value of your 401(K) would be secure. And even if it wasn't, you could still get hammered in your golden years, a win-win for everyone in the land!
When the food arrived, Hebb explained that dinner would reflect the low-concept nature of moonshine: huge spears of fried potato, a couple chunks of fried chicken, a tiny Sloppy Joe. The fries were crisp outside and cottony within. The fried chicken was pretty juicy, with a hint of rosemary or something, but the breading was that granular sandpapery junk that covers cafeteria chicken nuggets. The sloppy joe was a perfect nostalgic classic from days bygone: a miniscule pile of ground beef and sautéed onion and bell pepper in a tangy sweet tomato sauce, on a precious sesame-seed bun the size of a golf ball.
Krogstad distributed the first cocktail: the John Collins. A mix of Rye White Dog, lemon juice, and simple syrup, the John Collins was refreshing and surprisingly not very alcoholic. Watman was discussing Thomas Jefferson's landslide victory in the campaign of 1800, which he won on a platform of repealing the whiskey tax. I've always loved TJ; now I want to have his ass babies.
And on that romantic note, I'm out. This is only part one of my review of Drinking Lessons; on Friday I'll bring you Part Two.