Monthly Archives: May 2017

From the bartender’s corner – Gin #11: Fifty Pounds

This gin caught my attention a few months back at a bar. The bottle looked like that of Uncle Val’s and I ordered it. The bartender let me know that they did not have Uncle Val. I pointed a bottle to her and she got it to me. That is when I realized that it was a Fifty Pounds gin.

What caught my attention immediately was why it was named Fifty Pounds. And for that I need to get into a history lesson here. If we go back about four hundred years around this time, England was going thru what was referred to as “Gin Craze”. There was a unprecedented level of gin consumption in the country and it was being squarely blamed for – some justified, some unjustified – for everything from burglary, untimely deaths, prostitution, mental illness to moral decrepitude. In response to that Spirit Duties act of 1735 was passed by the government (which became effective next year and was commonly called the Gin Act of 1736). Other than 20 shillings tax on a bottle, it also put in a steep Fifty Pounds licensing tax on the distillers.

You want to know how effective that was? Pretty much like Prohibition in the USA much later, actual consumption actually went up. Instead of the normal distilleries, bootleggers sprouted up everywhere – resulting in complete lack of quality control. People would sometimes die of ingredients like turpentine and sulfuric acid that would be mixed in these illicit liquor. Only two distilleries actually paid up the Fifty Pounds license fees. The Act was rescinded in a few years’ time as one of the most ineffective acts in the history of England.

This particular distillery – Thames Distillery in London started making this bottle of gin in 2010 and named it after that infamous and controversial licensing fees.

The gin of itself is pretty much middle of the road. The nose is rather citrusy, the palette reasonably pronounced with junipers kicking in early on and I would give more than average marks on the finish. The master distiller Charles Maxwell, keeps a few of the ingredients as trade secrets. The ones that he does publish include the standard juniper, coriander, angelica root, lemon, orange rind and the non standard licorice root, grains of paradise and savory. The base is – like many other London Dry gin – neutral grain spirit.

Samir-da and Sima-di!!

During my business trips this week, I was fortunate enough to spend a few hours with Samir-da and Sima-di! It was way back in 1994 that Sharmila and I had just moved to Dallas from Florida. We did not know anybody there. And some how Ashok-da found us out and invited us to the local Durga puja (the big festival for us Bengalis). And then he and Sumita-di had us over at his place. It was there that we got introduced to Samir-da and Sima-di.

For the longest time the Ghoshals and the Chakrabartis were the local “dada-s and didi-s” (elder brothers and sisters) that Sharmila and I used to love associating with. Then, life took over. We got kids and became busy. We used to meet them only during the Pujas. Eventually, Samir-da and Sima-di left town. And then, we ourselves, left town.

For a long time, I had been wanting to spend some time with the Ghoshals and the Chakrabartis. Well, I got one part done.

And Samir-da was as hilarious as I remember him from the Texas days. Between his description of calamaris – “rubber band-e beson maakhiye bhejey dai” – meaning “battered and fried rubber bands” to the stories of how he consistently failed in math every single year from first grade to sixth grade by either scoring 0 or 10 (out of 100) unfailingly (or should it be failingly? 🙂 ) had me in splits the whole evening. By the way, for the curious, the school, in certain years had a policy of awarding 10 grace marks to failing students. And that is how, apparently, Samir-da would score 10 undisputed marks in those years!!

Like I said, it was too funny an evening and greatly satisfying to see Samir-da and Sima-di in high spirits!!

If he was here with me, this is what he would have said…

Waiting for my coffee to be prepared while I was talking to my dad on the phone, I looked around to see all the people sitting around inside the Starbucks. Immediately, my mind played out a hypothetical scenario – instead of he being on the phone, what if he was there with me waiting to have a coffee with me, what would he be doing?

Looking around me, I was convinced that he would ask me to come back to India. Not that he would have anything against Starbucks coffee. But he would have surely surveyed the crowd inside and concluded that American economy has taken a very large hit.

“America-r moto deshe-tey-o lokjonder chhera pant portey hochhe. Ki je din kaal elo”, he would have said.

[“Even in a rich country like America, people are having to wear torn up jeans. Times are really bad now here.”]

Seriously, what is up with these jeans with holes in them? No. I mean, really. How do these things become fashionable at all?

I am sure those designer guys got together one day, got drunk out of their wits and somebody yelled “Wait, wait. I have an idea. Let’s rip up our line of clothes and put them up on the shelf. I bet you people will fall over each other to buy them”.

And y’all make fun of me for wearing shorts all the time 🙂

Bad karma with the Tree Gods? :-)

First there was the humongous tree fallen in the trail that blocked by running path last evening. Then at night, this one fell on our own driveway boxing us in! Our neighbor – the ever resourceful Bill came in this morning with a chainsaw and a mug of coffee and quickly made short shrift of it!!

Second attempt at the run was a little more successful

Samaresh, Arup and I ditched the idea of running in the trail and instead ran on concrete sidewalks. The road was very hilly and there were some great spots for taking “action” pictures. Unfortunately my phone was almost drained of battery and therefore, I had left it in the car. When we came back, I took a chance and put it on the car hood to take a picture of us. It did. About three seconds before completely dying!!

Lucked out with this picture…