Growing use of liqueurs & cordials (1888)

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Fiery beverages

Increasing use of liqueurs and cordials

The strong tipple of our fathers and the many foreign substitutes

As a reporter of the Herald was lighting his cheroot in a gilt-edged drinking resort lately, a well-dressed and evidently well-bred young fellow entered and breasted the bar with a sigh of relief. The gentleman of the oriflamme nodded familiarly to him and placed before him a glass and some brandy. The young man was enjoying the aftermath, so to speak, of a night’s dissipation, and his very eyeballs must have jingled as the neck of the upturned decanter in his hand telegraphed upon the edge of the glass the clinking signals of the tremulous condition of his nerves. “Tut,” he said, setting down the decanter, “this stuff will give me the DTs [Delirium tremens, aka the shakes] — make me a ringer.”

After the departure of the young man, the suave dispenser of stimulants vouchsafed the information that a “ringer” was a pony of absinthe, toned with sugar and flushed with seltzer water.

“Have the liqueurs and cordials of Europe come into use to any extent over here?” was further asked. “Yes,” was the answer, “It is the fad nowadays among the young men, and to some extent old drinkers take to the newfangled beverages.”

“You see,” continued the glib-tongued dispenser of bottled lightning, “the rising generation drink more for the excitement or sociability of the thing than from habit, and the stiff and occasional whisky ‘brace up’ of their fathers is too potent a tipple when an evening out requires that the elbow shall be crooked frequently, or perhaps many times.” Hence the adoption of various liqueurs taken in small but exhilarating sups, which in their cumulative potency lead to a weaving way, but less quickly and with less overpowering and stupefying effects than old-time John Barleycorn.

The reporter, in search of more information, strolled into a wholesale house, and the senior member of the firm, in answer to some inquiries, said, as he waved his hand in the direction of a great array of fancifully-shaped and labeled bottles, decanters and jugs: “Yes, it is now considered the correct thing to top off a dinner with cordials, or liqueurs, in the place of Cognac, and our sales indicate an increased use of them and a corresponding decrease of the use of brandy in private families as well as in hotels and restaurants. Benedictine and Chartreuse are the after-dinner favorites at present, and it is not unpleasant, over the tiny glasses in which they are served, to discuss the meaning of the cabalistic letters D O M on the label of the former, or whether the yellow or green variety of the latter is preferable.”

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The following triftle must have been a post-prandial effort and written by a jolly good fellow who knew what he was talking about:

Who could refuse
Green-eyed Chartreuse?
Liqueur for heretics,
Turks, Christians or Jews;
For beggar or queen,
For monk or for dean:
Ripened and mellow
(The green, not the yellow.)
Give it its dues,
Gay little fellow,
Dressed up iv green!
I love thee too well, O
Laughing Chartreuse.

“Benedictine, named after the order of friars of that name, is a liqueur or cordial distilled at Fecamp in Normandy. Its manufacture is a secret as well as that of Chartreuse, which it somewhat resembles. Chartreuse is manufactured by the Carthusian monks of the Grande Chartreuse, a monastery situated near Grenoble among lofty mountains. Every bottle of the genuine bears the signature of Father Gamier. Either of these liqueurs is as strong as brandy, and even more lasting in its effects when unduly indulged in.

“Yes, these are other liqueurs and cordials that are fashionable; for instance Maraschino and Curacao, which are served to afternoon and evening callers. Maraschino is a liqueur prepared from a variety of cherry called Marasquin. The fruit and seed are crushed, honey added and the whole fermented, distilled and rectified. Age adds to the purity of its flavor. Curacao is a sweet and agreeable liqueur made by the Dutch from the peel of the orange peculiar to the island after which it is named. The Curacao of commerce, however, is made from any orange peel digested in sweetened spirits.

“Anisette, which looks like water, is distinctively a feminine beverage, and is made by distilling aniseed, fennel and coriander seed with brandy and sweeting. This genuine A de Bordeaux brand is a delicious and very stomachic drink. The ladies, therefore, in their choice of a cordial, have one rich in spirits, rare in flavor, subtle of perfume and withal good for the stomach’s sake. It leaves no taint upon the breath, and the flush it produces is easily mistaken for rouge. They are wise in their generation.

“Nowadays, first-class resorts must perforce have Arrack for hot punches, the craze-giving Absinthe, the burning Mescal, the almond-flavored Kirschen wasser, the fragrant Vermouth, and the noxious Boonekamp. The two latter are properly bitters, and are highly medicinal and great appetizers. They are, therefore, generally sandwiched in between the matutinal brandy and soda, or cocktail and breakfast. Vermouth is a sort of a tonic wine of an agreeable kind, and the best comes from Turin.

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“A not inferior quality is largely manufactured in New York. Boonekamp, or Maag Bitter, is a product of Holland, and is said to be distilled from twenty-five different roots and herbs. Its effect when taken to excess is like that of Absinthe with a doubled-geared action. Absinthe is a liqueur consisting of alcohol, holding in solution the active principles of wormwood and other aromatic plants. It is an appetizer and intoxicant, and those who use it freely get wild-eyed and tremulous. The genuine liqueur turns to a rich pale sea-green when mixed with water, and the imitation to a muddy grass green.

“Kirschenwasser is a German liquor or brandy, and is made by pounding the pulp of cherries, fermenting, adding the broken stones or kernels, and distilling. The best kind is made in the Black Forest. It is a powerful intoxicant. Our German citizens take it straight in pony glasses, or take a dash of it in their glass of Weiss beer. Many Americans prefer it to Cognac when burnt for a pousse cafe.

“Mescal is a Mexican spirit, strong and pungent, and is made from the milk of the Maguey plant or cactus. He who has not indulged in a tipple of Mescal with a garniture of salt has missed something, the native Californian will tell you, and he is right. Mescal, however, has the same effect upon the average American as ordinary firewater upon an Apache Indian. With a load of it, he is liable to run amuck at any moment and vermilionize a whole city. Arrack is the common East Indian name for spirituous liquors of all kinds. The usual Arrack of commerce, commonly called Kneip, is made from a mixture of molasses, rice and palm wine. One can paint the town red with it without striving.

“The liqueurs and cordials I have named are universally in use in the East, and as the star of the Empire still westward takes its way, the customs, and largely the tastes of tbe Orient, will become those of the Occident. Already the innovation is great, and whisky neat is bound to be relegated as the common tipple in favor of the more aesthetic liqueurs and the mild and innocuous beer.”

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