Aug 232013

Welcome to a new feature! I hinted about this obliquely before the haitus, but basically, Radiant Vanguard Events are going to be totally irregular features in which we, the members of Radiant Vanguard, try something new or interesting and then blog about it. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Mostly I wanted to give Kae something to write about between convention trips; we do interesting things all the time, but rarely write about them afterward. So! Without further ado, I introduce the first Event: Elegant Evening Elixers!

As you can probably tell, this has something to do with alcohol! In fact, the event involves authentic cocktails from the 1860s: specifically, producing and imbibing them, with commentary. It should be a lot of fun! Of course, myself being who I am, I’m going to write about the preparations one can consider when attempting to put on such an event.

The drinks

Obviously, the star of the show is going to be the drinks. We found a digital copy of
How to Mix Drinks: Or, The Bon-vivant’s Companion, Containing Clear and Reliable Directions for Mixing All the Beverages Used in the United States, Together with the Most Popular British, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish Recipes, Embracing Punches, Juleps, Cobblers, Etc., Etc., Etc., in Endless Variety by Jerry Thomas, publish date 1862, free and in the public domain online. There are apparently several editions of the book; it was originally titled The Bar-Tender’s Guide, as it was the first book of its kind, collecting and cataloging what had previously been an oral history of drink making. You can read more about Jerry Thomas on wikipedia.

With a source in hand, the next question is how to narrow the options down. It can be cost-effective to pick a single “base liquor” and pick cocktails based around that theme; we have chosen Brandy, as it is the alcohol most paired with Rum in the book, and we like rum. Rum, of course, was expensive at the time, since it had to be imported, so it was used for additional flavor rather than as the base to a given drink. Wine or cider were also used commonly as bases to drinks, since they were cheaply available as common drinks.

Do be careful, however, as the book itself is a product of its time period. I found the seeming unit of measurement “do.” repeated throughout the book and, after asking on Cooking Stack Exchange and discussing the book in chat, determined that it meant “ditto”, or in other words, repeat the measurement from the line above. Typographical errors are also common in the book, such as “Bogart’s bitters” for “Bokers bitters”, which are hard to spot when neither word is commonplace in today’s bar. Also be wary of ingredient changes; for example, “cider” before Prohibition always was a fermented product, as it is in the present-day UK, and not a juice like it often is in the US.

The music

While I quite like the cantina song from Star Wars, it’s a bit anachronistic. After a heated debate on whether “What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor” counted as a drinking song, Chaos and I sat down and researched some proper Irish drinking songs to belt out at the table. Then promptly forgot how they went. But we did research!

Whiskey in the Jar is a classic drinking song from time immemorial, meaning probably the 17th century. It details a highwayman being double-crossed by his lover, and includes the singable refrain “Wack for my daddy-o, there’s whiskey in the jar”. It was recorded probably most famously by the Greatful Dead, who gave a happy ending to the highwayman:

But also by The Dubliners, who leave his fate more up in the air:

And by Metallica, who give him a poor ending:

None of the endings are any more canonical than others, as far as I can tell, so it’s up to you which lyrics you want to belt out drunkenly 🙂

The Juice of the Barley is another great song with one major drawback for American would-be revellers: the first line of the chorus is in Irish, which is practically unpronounceable unless you are a speaker of the tongue >.> Still, I quite like the twist ending. Here’s Sean Dunphy:

The Irish line translates to, roughly, “Cow’s milk for the calves”.

I must admit, however, that my favorite is The Wild Rover. Interestingly enough, it began life as a Temperance song, urging people to give up wild drinking and turn to the straight life, but today it’s apparently often considered the stereotypical irish drinking song. Go figure, eh? It’s as sing-alongable as The Juice of the Barley, but without the Irish, so easier for me to slur out:


There’s a lot more I could talk about here; for example, I’ve not touched on pub games any, but I think “Victorian Gaming Night” will be another event down the line, so I’m saving it for then. I’ve also not talked about food any; Kae has some ideas in that regard, but if it falls through, I don’t want to have promised anything.

Kae will be putting up photos and a podcast once he’s done editing them; we’ll be doing the actual event tomorrow, so certainly no earlier than Sunday and probably a few days later since podcast editing is hard work. Chaos says he might whip up some kind of post, so stay tuned for that. But basically, Events come with no promises of regularity, promptness, quality, or content 🙂 No refunds or exchanges allowed.