Drink of the Week: The Reign of Terror (TCM Fest Salute #4)

The Reign of Terror.If there’s something that unites film geeks and cocktail enthusiasts, it’s an interest in the aged and the obscure. Yes, a lot of lost old movies and cocktails were lost for a good reason — not everything can last beyond its time. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of buried gems and few things in life are more fun for any kind of enthusiast than unearthing one of them.

So it is with the final film in my set of cocktails inspired directly by movies I saw at this year’s Turner Classic Movies festival. Newly restored and salvaged from footnote status, 1949’s “The Reign of Terror” is also known as “The Black Book.” The latter title describes the film’s McGuffin, a book of men marked for death which will bring about the destruction of a powerful criminal mastermind, if only it can be found. The fact that the perp in question is named Maximilien Robespierre and the setting is not postwar L.A. or NYC but 18th century Paris might give you a clue about how unusual this directorial effort from cinephile favorite Anthony Mann (“T-Men,” “Winchester ‘73”) really is.

At this point, Mann was chiefly making low budget film noirs. However, the Walter Wanger production company had a bunch of period sets left over from the big budget “Joan of Arc” starring Ingrid Bergman. In the interest of thrift, they decided that it made sense to capitalize on the vogue for darkly themed and lit expressionistic crime films by making a  cloak and dagger noir drama that just happens to be set during the most murderous portions of the French Revolution.

“Reign of  Terror” stars the usually affable Robert Cummings as a hardened operative of anti-terror forces and Arlene Dahl as the woman he doesn’t really trust to help him in his efforts to prevent Robespierre from appointing himself dictator of France. Very wisely, no French accents are attempted and noir super-cinematographer John Alton transforms 15th century sets into 18th century ones by using black and white cinema’s most powerful weapon: darkness. It’s a dandy drama that anyone who digs expressionistic cinema must check out when they can.

Oh, you wanted a cocktail, not a film review? I get it. So, here we go with a drink that was kindly whipped up for me by Ian, ace bartender at Tonga Hut, my neighborhood hang and one of L.A.’s oldest surviving tiki bars. Ian elaborated on my idea that the Reign of Terror cocktail should contain some Fernet Branca, arguably the most terrifyingly bitter and astringent of cocktail makings, and made me a dandy drink. I spent the rest of the week getting the proportions down and making one doubtful improvement. Here is the result.

The Reign of Terror

3/4 ounce brandy
3/4 ounce gin
1/2 ounce Fernet Branca
1/2 ounce Benedictine
1/2 egg white
1/2 teaspoon absinthe (very optional rinse)
1-2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
1 lemon twist (important garnish)

Combine all the liquid ingredients, except the absinthe, in a cocktail shaker. Since this drink has some egg white, you’ll want to dry shake (shake without ice cubes) first…though that may not be 100 percent necessary if, like me, you’re using prepackaged pasteurized egg white. Next, add plenty of ice cubes, shake again, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass which, if you want, may have been rinsed with absinthe as you would with a Sazarac. (Extra fancy coupes like the one pictured may be especially appropriate for this beverage.) Add the lemon twist. Sip and toast anyone who can figure out why it’s not nice to decapitate people just because they disagree with you.

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The goal with the ingredients was to be a little bit terrifying and a little bit French. I’m not quite sure I quite made it on the latter point. For starters, it’s just occurring to me right now that Fernet Branca is actually Italian in origin. As for the brandies we used, Ian chose a cognac, which is always from the Cognac region of France, but then I went with the Hartley brandy I had on hand at home, which turns out to be from Italy also. I later opted for Reynal, my value-priced default brandy, which is bills itself as “rare old French brandy.” Gin is usually from England, of course; I used Tanqueray, Gordon’s, and Nolet’s, which sounds French but is actually Dutch. Peychaud’s bitters is more Creole than French. In other words, my cocktail is not so French as I might like, but then the movie “Reign of Terror” is about as français as a French dip sandwich.

I will say, however, that the drink has perhaps a slight hint of terror but also enough sweet smoothness to be very drinkable thanks to the Benedictine (which is French) and the egg white. On the down side, I’ve grown increasingly negative on the one big change I made to Ian’s recipe, which was the absinthe rinse. More and more, I think it just gets in the way of the almost chocolatey flavor of the Reign of Terror. Maybe give it a try both ways — assuming you’ve got the absinthe on hand in the first place — and see what you think.

Getting back to that half an egg white, I can see where that would be pretty terrifying for would-be bartenders since no one sells half-eggs. The solution is to either make two cocktails at once and double up on all your ingredients, or to use 1 1/2 tablespoons of packaged egg white. Not so terrifying, really.

  

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Movie Review: “The Age of Adaline”

Starring
Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn, Amanda Crew
Director
Lee Toland Krieger

There is no pleasure in putting down a movie that is in love with science, to the point where the screenplay invents a new law of molecular biology – one that won’t be discovered for another 20 years, no less – in order to justify the fantastical plot. Indeed, we’ll give “The Age of Adaline” credit for taking a left-field approach to the love story of the girl who won’t/can’t stop running, but in this case, the opposites don’t attract; the science talk is almost exclusively done via narration (THE MOVIE IS EXPLAINING ITSELF TO YOU BECAUSE YOU WON’T UNDERSTAND IT OTHERWISE), and it’s actually even more jarring when it’s inserted into the dialogue. However it’s delivered, it never gels with the love story. In fact, the love story never gels with the love story.

Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) was born in 1908. She met a man, fell in love, got married, had a daughter, and lost her husband in an accident. One night, while driving to visit her parents, she had an accident that sent her car plunging into a lake. The cold temperatures of the water stopped her heart, but she was revived when her vehicle was struck by lightning (again, the science behind this is decades away, they assure us), and as a result, she stops aging. This obviously makes it difficult for Adaline to forge long-lasting relationships (both friend and other), and avoid the suspicions of law enforcement. She eventually learns to guard her privacy to the present day (her daughter is now played by Ellen Burstyn), but handsome philanthropist Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman) refuses to leave her alone. Adaline, who now calls herself Jenny, wants to let him into her life, but decades of running is a hard habit to break. She agrees to spend the weekend with him as his parents celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, and it is there that Jenny, for the first time in ages, comes face-to-face with her past.

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How to Start Your Own Microbrewery

One afternoon, you’re sipping an ice-cold craft beer, and it hits you — the only thing better than drinking good beer is making good beer (and then drinking it, of course). Perhaps you’ve experimented with some home-brewing equipment and have perfected an original recipe or two, but what you really want is to turn your hobby into a lucrative business. Starting a successful microbrewery takes passion and talent, but it also requires a great deal of business savvy. If you’re serious about starting a craft beer company, here is what you’ll need to know.

Understanding the Science

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Image via Flickr by Matt From London

Aspiring microbrewers often leap into the business without understanding the science that goes into making beer. Fermentation is a complex chemical process involving the microorganism that we know as yeast. Understanding how each ingredient affects the process and taste of the final product is essential. That means that you should have at least some home-brewing experience under your belt.

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Interview with Duracell’s Kevin Jorgeson, first to free climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park

kevin-jorgeson-duracell-el-capitan

It may not rain, it may not be cold or windy…but it always gets dark. In the outdoors, light is essential. Experts trust Duracell Quantum to provide dependable power in the dark because it lasts longer in 99% of devices.

During Kevin Jorgeson’s free climb of El Capitan, he trusted Duracell Quantum to power him through the night so he could climb in the dark and be one step closer to reaching the top.

We spoke to Kevin about his epic 19-day climb, the wear and tear on his body and his partnership with Duracell.

How are your hands? I’m worried about your hands.

I wish I could say you could still see the battle scars, but unfortunatel,y they are all healed. I was actually quite sad when they healed because it was the last physical remnant and evidence of the climb, you know? Now it is literally all memory.

How did you partner with Duracell? 

I’m pretty selective on all my partnerships and I try to work with companies that I am already using their products. So that includes my climbing shoes, my harnesses, the equipment we use to stay on the wall, and that goes for batteries too. So when we started this conversation, it was a natural fit. I had been using Duracell for years, we even had them up on the wall (of El Capitan). It was something that already existed, and it just meant that now we’d be able to tell that story.

What does “free climbing” mean? Does that mean you walk up to a mountain and climb it, with nothing?

No, the word “free” kind of messes with people’s perception. Really, it’s climbing as you would imagine climbing — it’s just climbing. 99% of climbers are free climbing. Meaning we climb, but we use equipment to catch us if we fall. And we fall a lot. It took us six years to put this thing together. Six years of a lot more failure than success. It wasn’t like we just walked up and climbed this thing. We started working together on this in 2009.

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Are E-Cigarettes a Smoking Cessation Tool or Just a Fad?

ID-100265733 by Goldy
Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/by Goldy

E-cigarettes are all the rage these days, but are they really a tool to help you quit smoking or are they a fad? With over 20 percent of all deaths in the U.S. attributable to smoking or tobacco use, it’s no wonder that many are looking for a way to kick the habit. Here’s how e-cigs work. You decide if it’s effective.

E-Cigarettes Have Few Restrictions On Advertising

One of the biggest hindrances in the tobacco industry is the virtual ban on advertising. It’s difficult to grow a market when you can’t advertise effectively to consumers. However, the e-cig market isn’t hampered by this type of regulation.

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