Saturday, March 25, 2017

Michael Bower: The Drink

As a boy in the 1950's, part of growing up was learning about drinks and drinking.  No drink fascinated me more than the Boilermaker, a shot of whiskey placed at the bottom of a stein of beer.  It was two drinks, not just one, and the name gave it stature.  A boilermaker, I figured was a a massive figure in a wife-beater t-shirt, with belly overflowing belt, but with massive arms that could lift anything and whip anyone.

The mystique was increased by the fact that Indiana's Purdue University used "Boilermakers"  as a mascot.  For a middle-class boy growing up in Palo Alto, the Boilermaker loomed large. 

One of the great honors is to have an internationally-known dish (Peach Melba or Beef Wellington) or drink (Shirley Temple or Mary Pickford) named after oneself.

Recently, pal Michael Bower retired from CBS Radio.  We've been friends for quite a while. As he is a bon vivant, compared to me, anyway, I decided an eponymous drink in his honor was in order.

Of course, my childhood Boilermaker interest reminded me that, if a drink named after one is good, then two (or more!) drinks in one's honor would be even better.

Casting about for the recipe of Michael Bower: The Drink, I decided first that a multi-part drink would certainly be best. Recently, Michael was introduced to the Pisco Sour by mutual friend and former colleague Terry Conway.  He took to it at once.

Pisco is a brandy, a distilled beverage made from fermented grapes.  While brandies are found nearly world-wide, Pisco is unique to Peru and Chile.  Of course, both counties assert that their version is the only authentic one, and that Pisco from the other is "Fake news."

Not one to shy away from difficult research, I resolved to try a Pisco Sour for myself, purely as investigation, of course.  It turns out, though, that Pisco and its Sour are largely unknown in Southern Oregon.  Who would have suspected that?

I felt sure that the best-known (well, only) Peruvian Restaurant in Grants Pass, Gtano would be sure to have them available. After all, it was Peruvian and it had a full bar. A slam-dunk, right?

Wrong.  The friendly bar-lady there said she wasn't sure if they had Pisco, but that she'd make me a Sour if they did. Triumphantly, she pulled a bottle from the back-bar.  Alas, the bottle was empty.   Other bars in the Grants Pass metropolitan area claimed never to have heard of Pisco at all.

Undeterred, I decided to Sour-seek further afield.  Some quick research on Yelp steered me to Jefferson Spirits, an upscale whiskey bar and brewpub in Medford.  I asked Master barkeeper Schuyler if he could make me one.  "Certainly," he replied, "But I must warn you: I'm going to put an egg white in it."  "Is that official," I asked?  "Yes." 

We discussed the possibility of contracting Salmonella or other infection from uncooked egg white.  He assured me that doing so was less likely than being eaten by a bear.  Of course, he added, most people live in cities, where there are few bears anyway.  Here in the Rogue Valley we do see the occasional bear.  Nevertheless, research must be served, so I bade him go ahead and make me one complete with egg white.

And he did:

Pisco Capel is made in the Elqui Valley of Northern Chile. (Not like the fake stuff from Peru).

The Sour, with an artistic garnish of Angostura Bitterswas delicious.  So, the first part of the Michael Bower was set!

Next came the beer.  Michael is a connoisseur of beers, far more than I.  He's tried most of them, some of them quite exotic.  But I limited myself to what was easily available in rural Oregon, and that meant the Belgian brew Stella Artois. It's actually a brand owned by Anheuser-Busch, but it's fancier, because it's European, I guess.  It reminded me of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. In a story where someone calls him a "French Bastard," and he gently corrects them: "Belgian bastard, if you please."

So, we were there! Michael Bower: The Drink, in all its glory:

The bottled Stella was a compromise, of course.  Stella Artois on tap is largely unknown north of Marin County, California.

And yet, something was still lacking.  Yes, it was a double drink, like a Boilermaker, and was made with two beverages Michael likes.  But it still lacked....what?  I thought back to Michael's homeland, England, and realized what the missing ingredient was.

"No," I told myself, "No!  No one would drink it with that added!"  "Perhaps not," I answered, "But remember what Barry Goldwater said: 'Moderation in alcohol is no virtue, and Extremism in Bowerness is no vice.'"  Or something like that.

Even I could not face it.  Still, I had to admit, Michael Bower, The Drink" would really be complete only with a third ingredient:

Yep, it's Marmite, the leftover yeast from beer brewing turned into a sandwich spread and eaten, inexplicably, by many Brits.

As for me, I can face the truth.  I just can't taste it.

March, 2017

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