Without Ice, Part 2

By Ed Sikov

Cocktail Chatter

When last we left our fearful columnist, he was attempting to transliterate his wretched Harry Beaton imitation into print. Harry, of course, is the character from the musical "Brigadoon" who threatens to leave the quaint, out-of-time village in Scotland and therefore bring ruin to all who inhabit it. The subject, perhaps needless to say, was Scotch - the whiskey, not the people of Scotland - and its ability to be enjoyed without that critical electricity-dependent product known as ice. The scars left by Hurricane Sandy include billions of dollars in reconstruction costs and this writer's inability to get beyond cocktails best served neat. I was traumatized, dammit! Cut me some slack!

Scotch served my husband, Dan, and me well for the second and third nights of Sandy-induced powerlessness. But by Evening Four, we'd both grown a little tired of even my favorite single malt, Talisker. I'd been careful to stock the bar in the days before Sandy swept in, and in retrospect, I think I'd been steered to the Scotch department unconsciously by the name "Sandy": "Now all of ye come to Sandy here/ Come over to Sandy's booth!/ I'm sellin' the sweetest candy here/ That ever shook loose a tooth!" (Guess that musical! I'm sorry. I can't help it.) So we turned westward to the Emerald Isle.

No, I don't mean the National Rental Car desk at our nearest airport. I mean Ireland, people! Leprechauns! The Stone of Scone! Joyce, Yeats, and Peter O'Toole! (As the great John Waters once observed: Peter O'Toole? That's as bad as Muffy O'Clit.)

Moving right along ... Dan grunted unpleasantly when I suggested another Talisker at cocktail hour on the fourth evening of our forced confinement. We were down to eating unheated canned soup and tuna salad without the celery or mayonnaise. (OK, call it what it was: tuna straight from the can.) Our meal was grim, but cocktail hour was saved by the bottle of Jameson just waiting for an occasion to be opened. How I love the Irish!

Scotch, Canadian and Irish whiskey are all distilled from fermented grain mash; grains include barley, rye, wheat and corn, some of which are malted. (Malting involves halting the germination process by drying the grain with hot air.) Each nation's whiskey has its own particular taste, though, not only because the grain tastes different depending on the soil and climate of the country, but also because of differences in each liquor's aging as well as the type of grain itself. Typically (though not necessarily), Scottish whiskey crafters use peat smoke to dry the malt; characteristically - though again not necessarily - Canadian whiskey is brewed from corn. Irish whiskey, of which Jameson is the exemplar, is generally distilled from unpeated malt and has a faintly sweet aroma and taste. It's not as sweet as bourbon, but it's distinctly sweeter than Scotch.

Jameson, like any good whiskey, can be enjoyed on the rocks or neat. Dan and I had ours neat by necessity, there being no ice. There being no running water either, I might add, the two of us had begun to - how shall I put it? - stink. Given alcohol's marvelous ability to kill germs, perhaps we should have swabbed ourselves with Jameson, but that would have been reckless. So we each gave ourselves a "French whore's bath," meaning a quick wipe-down with a washcloth dipped in the bathtub we'd filled with water as a precaution before the storm hit. Later, we got into a little - um, well - rank piggy action under the influence of the whiskey. My, my, my! Who said smelly old dogs couldn't learn new tricks?

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