Writing the last article of the year is something a bit special for me because, in a way, it means closing one cycle to begin another. That is why I am particularly keen today to develop a theme that is not trivial, with the aim of reflecting together on what is to come. Of course I could also write a more traditional "10 wine-themed books to read" o "5 sparkling wines with which to toast 2020"But if you follow me and know me, you know that I like to step out of the chorus... and the other wine bloggers and food and wine journalists have already done so well, why do I need to add something? So here I am, talking about a gift I received this Christmas that I adored right from the start, and not just because it came from a special guy... but because looking at it has triggered a whirlwind of hypotheses in me, also because it is not easy to find information on the web: the Shaker Town Crier Bell also called 'shout". A sommelier also studies spirits and liqueurs and it seems only natural to cover them in this wine blog... in fact, have you already read my articles on distillation and its delicious products?
History and philosophy have taught us that everything changes e we are just passing through. From childhood we can choose whether we belong to those who live in history or to those who seek to change history. In both cases we are history and we are essential for it to be fulfilled. On Battiato's first CD that I bought when I was 15 years old and which marked the birth of a love that changed my life, there is a song called 'Di passaggio' and it tells how everything changes, from hair to presidents, from radio plays to malcontents, and meanwhile passes unsuspectingly the true meaning of life to us who are just passing through. Here, as it is now New Year 2020, I would like you to take a few minutes to reflect with me precisely on the meaning of life. What is the true meaning of life for you?
Now I know you're wondering what this question has to do with this shaker, but actually this thought came to me just thinking that in mixology, mixing techniques have evolved to the point that a barman is no longer a 'performing magician', but a 'knowing chemist'. Today you know the reactions and manage them, yet if you think about it in the vast majority of cases you replicate the same cocktails of the last century. The shaker originated in America around 1850but there is no certain source on his invention, around which numerous legends revolve. For certain, we know that the first shaker was patented in 1871 by William Harnett, but it was not until 1884 that Hauck patented the shaker with the traditional shape we all know. Yet the shaker became a symbol of Prohibition, when the rebellious culture of alcohol began to be instilled in Americans. And, indeed, the first thing I thought upon seeing the Shaker Town Crier Bell or shouting, is just that, with its bell shape, it is perfect for hiding its real function in an era where alcohol consumption is prohibited.
Prohibition is the period from 1919 to 1933 during which it was forbidden to produce, import, transport or market alcohol in America.. The noble experiment, as it came to be called, arose due to pressure from moralistic and fundamentalist religious and political groups that also raged against eroticism to the point that they tried to ban nude paintings and statues from museums. Can you imagine if Michelangelo's famous David had been in New York? The apotheosis came when they succeeded in banning publications on birth control and books on anatomy/biology... effectively bringing medicine and scientific research to a standstill and making them absurdly illegal! Along with these, lovers also did not have it easy: even the exchange of letters with delicate erotic overtones was banned and correspondence was carefully controlled! Who knows what they would have done with it today in the days of What'sApp where, at best, lovers exchange a few passionate messages and, at worst, virtual pseudo-lovers (of infinite sadness and paucity) exchange photos of trinkets!
Prohibition led to the birth of the speakeasy (which literally means to speak softly), i.e. commercial establishments where alcoholic beverages were illegally sold. These premises were partly run by organised crime, but more commonly it was the same 'old' premises that refused to submit to the new rules and give up their business. Police and control bodies regularly raided, arresting owners and customers without in the slightest affecting an incredibly profitable phenomenon. Be careful not to confuse the speakeasy, a classy bar often reserved for an audience of a certain level, with a blind pigswhich was a shabby speakeasy where the customer paid for an attraction, such as seeing a Greenlandic pig (hence the name), and received an even shabbier alcoholic drink for free (no law actually forbade giving alcohol as a gift!). Today, speakeasies are all the rage among mixology enthusiasts and are classy establishments where true masterpieces can be tasted! Today, as then, speakeasies are not for everyone: if you don't have the right knowledge, you won't get in even if you pay! This, of course, makes them even more fascinating for some... even if there are no laws to circumvent or threatening policemen to hide from! I have been to 1930 in Milan, a charming speakeasy hidden in the back of a Chinese rotisserie. Entering it is almost impossible, but it was truly a unique experience and my 'Lighthouse of Scotland' cocktail really stole my heart.
However the best cocktail of my life I drank it in another club in Milannot speakeasy, just one evening a couple of months ago. This club is the Notthingam Forest Cocktail Bar and I highly recommend you go there for the experience. I warn you, even in the rain it is impossible to get in and there is an endless queue... or at least that's what happened to us! But the place really deserves it, even the decor is intriguing and perfect for hosting a magical evening in delightful company! During the evening I also discovered that there is oyster grass, which I hope to get hold of soon... a delicious aromatic plant which, thanks to its high zinc content, tastes just like an oyster! Fabulous! My cocktail then was a shake made from an extract of plankton and Champagne served in a beautiful real shell! In these photos you can also see Perlage Suite's logo change over the last 2 years!
After Prohibition ended, the shaker became famous for its appearances in films, for example James Bond drank shaker drinks and fans wanted to be as glamorous as him by making their own cocktails at home. The shaker Town Crier Bell appeared during Prohibition, but was obviously only patented at its end, the 14 December 1937 by Bruce De Montmorency. This shaker was a huge success and was advertised as a 'shaker' because even when empty it sounded like a bell. The version with the wooden handle is English, commonly the handle is brown wood and in mine there is the trademark JBC & S. Ld E.P.N.S. Made In England. The latter wording stands for Electro Plated Nickel Silver, or electrolytic silver, marked in a similar way to sterling silver so as to gratify the purchaser who could display an apparently valuable item and, at the same time, deceive him because in fact this value did not exist. EPNS silver differs from R925 sterling silver because it is obtained by electrolytic refining of an alloy as poor as copper and contains no silver (sometimes only a very thin surface plating), while the latter, precious, contains 92.5% of silver and 7.5% of copper. The shaker is made up of four parts: the bell where you put the ingredients, the wooden and metal handle with filter, the knocker/mixer and the cap that you unscrew to pour the resulting cocktail... it is simply a beautiful Art Deco instrument! Mine is missing the knocker and therefore cannot play... but I trust I will find/make one to complete it and bring it back to ringing like a cowbell! By the way, I find the fact that this shaken shaker was making a lot of noise a real mockery of authority: completely camouflaged as a bell, it was actually churning out cocktails full of the forbidden alcohol in full view of everyone!
After all this talk, we still haven't addressed a crucial point: do you know why you shake? Beyond the ceremonial 'shakerata' which can be somewhat compared to the shaking of a bottle of sparkling wine, I want to talk to you about the chemical reaction resulting from this operation. Alcohol has molecules that occupy a lot of space between them, around which there are empty spaces visible under a microscope when the temperature is above zero. If you mix two alcoholic substances at a temperature above zero, the molecules of one and the other do not occupy the empty spaces and will therefore not be well anchored to each other, moving easily. If you subject these molecules to a rapid temperature change by shaking them vigorously, the molecules of one substance will fill the empty spaces of the other and cement themselves together. Care must be taken: as the resulting mixture heats up, this bond will tend to break due to the effect of the thermosensitivity of alcohol molecules.
What cocktail to shake tonight? Come on, it's still the last day of the year... let's make something special together! What? But a Gold Martiniof course! I know, I know... some purists, or rather some professionals, will tell me that it's a cocktail that should be mixed and not shaken... but I'm romantic and passionate and I want to make Sauternes and Tanqueray Gin make love and cement their union, is that a problem? 😍
- 3/4 Tanqueray Gin
- 1/4 Sauternes
Put the ice, gin and wine in the shaker and shake without using too much force for about ten seconds. Pour into a Martini glass and spray with atomised gold spray. Atomised gold is such an "impalpable" powder that is evenly distributed on the surface of the liquid that it creates a "plated" effect that can be enjoyed right up to the end of the drink, enhancing the beautiful golden reflections of the Sauternes. Try exposing it to sunlight for a few seconds, take a photo, put it on your IG stories and tag me @perlagesuite... the result will be unique magic, I promise!
Ah, 24 k gold for our organism is a real panacea, so don't be afraid to overdo it with a vigorous sprinkling! After all, Gualtiero Marchesi himself went down in history with his risotto with gold leaf...
Be careful not to confuse this exquisite cocktail with the Dolce&Gabbana designer 'Martini Gold', which contains Vermuth and shares only the colour of the bottle with this cocktail!
Cheers and Happy New Year 2020!