Hiking a Great Trail

Like most people we love the outdoors and a great hiking trail. So we’d love to hang out with Paul Stiffler, better known as Ponytail Paul, on a hike through the Appalachian Trail. Paul has taken on a role as “Trail Angel” to help thru-hikers on their 2,186-mile journey and help himself find a new sense of purpose in the process.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Presto Cocktail

The Presto Cocktail. I have to admit that, for a cocktail blog, we haven’t been super-festive here at DOTW Central lately. Last week, I failed to make any mention of the then-upcoming Superbowl Sunday. This week, I’m ignoring both Valentine’s Day and President’s Day. It’s not because I have anything against drinks that celebrate either romantic love or our nation’s commanders in chief, it’s just that I’ve feeling a bit more workaday in my beverage choices of late.

This week we’re doing a drink that’s a more or less complete obscurity from Harry Craddock’s oh-so-canonical “The Savoy Cocktail Book.” It’s not a bad booze twist on a sweeter Manhattan variation, especially for those who like their drinks heavy on the citrus and who don’t mind a little bit of an anis-spiked absinthe kicker. Indeed, just a few people seem to have tried this drink online, most-notably blogger at his now-suspended Savoy Stomp blog back in 2009. So, anyone who tries this is among a proud and lonely few.

Beyond that, I don’t have any stories to go with this week’s drink and no heavy duty cultural references to make, so let’s get right into the recipe.

The Presto Cocktail

2 ounces brandy
1/2 ounce fresh orange juice
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/8-1/4 teaspoon (1 dash) absinthe

We’ve got a simple one here. Just combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice, shake, and strain into yet another one of those chilled cocktail glasses you always need to have laying around.

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I tried this with two brandies and two vermouths, and I’m tempted to say your choice of a vermouth may be at least as important as your brandy selection this time out. Indeed, I was downright disappointed with my first attempt, which used Maison Rouge Cognac — the best brandy you’re likely to find at my place — and Martini sweet vermouth, which should be good enough for most drinks but really wasn’t here. Substituting Cocchi Vermout di Torino worked wonders, however, even when I was using Pierre Duchene Napoleon Brandy which, the outdated yet highfalutin name notwitstanding, is kind of a cheap ass product. I think the Presto Cocktail requires a more complex, bottom-heavy vermouth to keep it balanced.

Other than that, clearly the biggest difference came down to how I defined the term “dash” when it came to the absinthe. Admittedly, I used the appropriately named Absinthe Ordinaire — the only stuff I could find for under $50.00, but it’s actually been doing the trick for me since I bought my bottle some years ago now. Nevertheless, reducing my “dash” down to 1/8 of a tablespoon still provided enough anise flavor to give the drink an edge, but without getting in the way of the ingredients that I actually like enough to consume on their own.

  

Movie Review: “Zoolander 2″

Starring
Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig
Director
Ben Stiller

Comedy sequels are tough. One of the few good recent examples, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” managed to keep the characters fresh, which is the key to a successful comedy sequel. But 15 years after the first “Zoolander,” is there still an appetite for these lovably dumb male models? And are they still even lovably dumb? In this sequel, once again directed by Ben Stiller, they are not.

The original film was a silly comedy that played on the conventions of conspiracy thrillers like “The Manchurian Candidate,” and it earned its status as a cult classic. “Zoolander” has aged well and isn’t going away anytime soon, but it’s unlikely that “Zoolander 2” will grow on audiences in the same way.

The sequel continues to play with the trappings of a conspiracy thriller. In the opening minutes, Justin Bieber is assassinated, setting up a “Da Vinci Code”-esque adventure that forces Derek (Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) to come out of retirement. The two went through a traumatic experience together shortly after the events of the first film. They haven’t spoken since the accident, but that all changes when they’re invited by incomprehensible fashion god Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) to participate in one of her shows. Once they get to the show, however, they’re treated like jokes. They are no longer the men they used to be, and all Derek wants is to prove to Child Services that he’s fit to raise his son.

The opening setpiece involving Bieber on the run is well done, and further proof of Stiller’s skills as a director. Few comedic directors make movies as cinematic as Stiller. The laughs aren’t always there, as is the case with “Zoolander 2,” but looking at earlier films like “The Cable Guy” and “Tropic Thunder,” he’s capable of matching the styles of the movies he’s emulating and poking fun at. At times, “Zoolander 2” is as flashy as the glossy mysteries it’s riffing on.

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Movie Review: “How to Be Single”

Starring
Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, Leslie Mann, Anders Holm, Nicholas Braun, Jake Lacy, Damon Wayans Jr., Jason Mantzoukas
Director
Christian Ditter

Don’t let the dirty talk and rampant sex fool you: “How to Be Single” is as safe as kittens. It might be the most harmless raunch-com ever made, a mash-up of several other mediocre relationship films (and one baby film) rolled into one profane package. The four leads sell it as well as they can, but this film was going to be a nonstarter regardless of whom they cast.

Alice (Dakota Johnson) meets cute with Josh (Nicholas Braun) during their freshman year at college. Fast-forward four years, and Alice is moving out of the New York apartment she and Josh share in order to have some ‘me’ time, thinking she will get a feel for being alone, and that will give her a whole new appreciation for being part of a couple. It’s meant to be temporary. It turns into something else.

Alice moves into her sister Meg’s apartment. Meg (Leslie Mann) is a careerist obstetrician who’s never thought of having a baby of her own, until she spends a few minutes alone with one (this after delivering over 3,000 of them); after which, getting pregnant is the only thing that matters to her.

Alice works at a law firm with Robin (Rebel Wilson). Robin is a party girl who has lots of indiscriminate sex. We are supposed to like Robin, even though she will either be dead or in rehab in three years.

Lucy (Alison Brie) doesn’t know Alice, Meg or Robin, but she lives above the bar that Alice and Robin frequent, and spends time in the bar mooching off of their Wi-Fi while she perfects her dating site algorithm to find her man. Bartender Tom (Anders Holm) is a player’s player, but he serves as Lucy’s wingman from time to time as she brings her algorithm contestants to the bar. Lucy, unknowingly, has Tom rethinking his life choices, though not before Tom has had sex with two of the other three leads.

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Buy Another Day: Product Placements in the James Bond Franchise

There are a few things we can always expect from a Bond film; dramatic plot twists, exotic lands, tense shoot-outs and at least a couple of beautiful love interests. It’s no secret that product placement has come to be interwoven in these themes thanks to brands that are desperate to be associated with the world’s most famous spy. Bond is suave, intelligent and a symbol of masculinity – a perfect character with which to model products that rely on a status of ‘cool’, from cigars or sunglasses to cars and beers. Exactly how well brands benefit from paying millions to promote their products in Bond movies is far from clear-cut, but what is clear is that studios have come to rely on such partnerships to fund the production of Bond movies. Hate it or tolerate it, product placement in the Bond franchise is here to stay.

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