Without Ice, Part 1

By Ed Sikov

Cocktail Chatter

"What did you drink during the Great Blackout, Daddy?" It's just too bad I don't have kids! If I did, they'd ask this crucial question around the age of 6, when their dawning awareness of history's imperative met their equally fresh-awakened interest in their father's love of a dwinkie. Maybe it's just as well I'm childless. In any event, Hurricane Sandy is beginning to fade into the mists of the past, but your intrepid columnist is still musing on Sandy's effect on his cocktail hour. Hours. Days. Whatever.

As you may recall, Dan and I spent the night the hurricane slammed ashore without electricity drinking Kirs Royale while fondly remembering the superb casting of the old sitcom "The Mothers-in-Law," with two inimitable gay demi-icons - Kaye Ballard and Eve Arden - playing the title roles. We could enjoy the Kirs Royale only because the lights went out after we'd opened the champagne; our first round was thus properly chilled. By the time we'd polished off the bubbly, we no longer cared that it was nearing room temperature.

The ensuing four nights and days without power would have been hell on earth were it not for the fact that certain types of liquor can, and sometimes should, be consumed at 70 to 75 degrees. While others were scurrying around Manhattan buying superfluous items like batteries and bottled water, I concentrated my emergency preparations on procuring enough booze to see us through the storm and its aftermath. That's just a joke. Although Dan makes fun of the Spam I keep on hand, the truth is that I've kept our apartment stocked with batteries, water, canned goods, and candles and the equally mandatory liquor ever since 9/11. Only on Day 2 of Sandy did I realize that our ice supply had melted. Quelle horreur! Also: Duh!

What doesn't require ice? Well, Scotch and whiskey for starters. We had more than enough on hand to keep us toasted and toasty after the sun went down. The apartment was a little chilly without our usual central heating, but after we each had a hefty dram of The Glenlivet, we warmed up just fine.

Some Scotch connoisseurs insist that the best way to enjoy the classic whiskey is not, in fact, neat - at room temperature without the addition of a mixer - but with a single ice cube. This delivery method is said to open the Scotch's bouquet. I think they may be right, but there's something to be said for the pleasant kick to the nose and tongue offered by plain, unadulterated Scotch. It grabs your full attention in a way that a one-ice-cubed drink does not. It's like smelling salts, only pleasant. For this reason, I like to serve Scotch neat in a big-bowled wine glass or brandy snifter.

Try it. Pour a healthy jigger of your favorite Scotch into such a glass. Hold it between your third and fourth fingers with your palm cupping the bowl so the heat of your hand warms the contents slightly. Then shove your nose into the glass and inhale. Ahhhhh! That'll wake you up!

Snob that I am, I prefer single malt Scotch to blends; I like the raw, individualistic character single malts present to the mouth. The Glenlivet, Aberlour, Talisker, Oban, Longmore, Strathisla, Redbreast.... They're all quite delicious and run the range from peaty to smoky.

These single malts tend to be pricier than blends. The exception is Chivas Regal, the best blend insofar as easy drinkability is concerned. (Then again there's the rare Royal Salute, a scrumptious blend that's been aged for 25 years; I've seen it offered on the Internet for as much as $179.99. It's not surprising to learn that Royal Salute is made by the bonnie folks who produce Chivas.) So next time you find yourself in the path of a hurricane, make sure you've stocked some Scotch. Ye can tell your wee bairn that - och! - ye was prepared for the blackout, an' it dinna faze ye at all.

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