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Monster in a Glass
Not Only History of Cocktails, but History Through Cocktails
Category: History
Location: http://blackliverproject.com/
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March 24, 2015 10:00 PM PDT

Something about a cocktail named The Filmograph sort of screams early 20th century technology. “Folks! Gather around and see the future of moving pictures. Just a dime will introduce you to the wonders of the Filmograph!” We aren’t exactly sure what a Filmograph was, but it must have been something because we now have a drink named after it.

With a lack of references to the drink and some vague information about film publications and projection machines, this one left us with a whole bunch of speculation on how it got the name.

In this episode we focus on the unusual ingredient of kola tonic, explore its evolution toward being arguably the most famous non-alcoholic beverage, and the history and use of the kola nut. So step right up ladies and gents and marvel at The Filmograph!

The ingredients are as follows:

2 oz. of brandy
3/4 oz. of lemon syrup
1/2 oz. of kola tonic

March 24, 2015 10:48 AM PDT

If you do a quick search on the internet you will find any number of websites and blogs mentioning the Fairbank Cocktail, or more accurately, the Fairbanks Cocktail. You will also find that most confidently claim that the drink was named after actor Douglass Fairbanks. Occasionally, the voice of reason comes through and points to U.S. Vice President Charles Fairbanks as the origin for this drink. We here at the Black Liver Project try hard to do our research and present information as accurately as possible. Here is a hint: it doesn’t have anything to do with Douglass Fairbanks.

Join us as we explore this drink and get mad at the internet. The focus of the episode is the rise of Charles “Cocktail Charlie” Fairbanks and his political fall, because booze. Teddy Roosevelt has popped up pretty often throughout this podcast, but is featured heavily in this episode. That’s right folks, he killed big game, led the Rough Riders, and was still had time to throw his VP under the temperance bus.


The cocktail ingredients are as follows:

  • 1½ oz Gin
  • ¾ oz Vermouth
  • 2 dashes Crème de Noyaux
  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters

This cocktail was so, so pretty.  It was pink and delicate, we all wanted to gently kiss and snuggle it. And then we tasted it. If you like a wet martini, this drink would suit you well, but it is just so shocking because it totally destroys expectations the color suggests. On further consideration, we even wondered if this dissonance was intended as a part of a joke ie that this cocktail is essentially a joke cocktail poking fun at Charles Fairbanks aka Cocktail Charlie.

March 17, 2015 09:52 AM PDT

The East India Cocktail was first noted by Harry Johnson who claimed in his book in 1882 that this was a popular drink in among the British in India. It was hard to find any truth behind this, but it certainly sounds imperialistic. As we dive into East India Cocktail we discuss the long European colonial presence in the East, corporate interests evolving into national interests, as well as mutinies and rebellions.

Come join us as we explore why this brandy-based cocktail might have been popular in India, some weird Canadian temperance poetry and the disgusting possibility of maraschino olives. Ewww. (Trademark maraschino olives.)

The cocktail ingredients are as follows:

  • 3 oz – brandy
  • 1/2 oz – raspberry syrup
  • 1 dash – Angostura Bitters
  • 1 teaspoon – orange curacao
  • 1 teaspoon – maraschino liqueur
March 11, 2015 11:09 AM PDT

Cameron had a cold and Rachel has a serious love for hot liquids so we invited Michael at the Brixton to introduce us to the hot toddies he serves at his bar. Along the way we learn what the hell "toddy" is.

March 04, 2015 12:05 PM PST

Many cocktails got their start in the medicinal realm, and you can often see the transformations over time from cure-all to tasty beverage. So when a drink with a name like the Doctor Cocktail comes along, it is fair to assume that your aches and pains might be relieved from the ingredients. It does have citrus in it, so the Vitamin C might be warding off that pesky scurvy. Other than that, we don’t have much of an idea of how it got the name.

It seems to have originated sometime in the 1920s  and was originally made with gin, Swedish Punsch, and lime or lemon juice. Depending on the recipe you might also have gotten some brandy or even Crème de Menthe in it. Mmm, medicine. This drink really doesn’t show up in many places, but it did make enough of a blip on the radar to be picked up by Trader Vic, who traded the gin for rum and helped it stay alive enough to be talked about by us today.

The cocktail ingredients were as follows:

  • 2 oz – Jamaica rum
  • 1 oz – Swedish Punsch
  • 1 oz – fresh lime juice

This drink was a huge hit with everyone but me.  It was a mouthful of lime juice with each taste.  I can’t deal with that much lime juice, which is exactly what everyone else said was great about the cocktail.  So if you love lime juice, you will love this cocktail…just be sure to bring your own Swedish Punsch.

February 23, 2015 02:36 PM PST

The Diki-Diki cocktail sounds just dirty enough to make the 12 year-old boy in you giggle. Grow up! This is a sophisticated podcast. Hee-hee, it sounds like dick.

The ingredients are definitely not the usual suspects, featuring the infrequently used grapefruit juice, the Normandy-based apple brandy, Calvados, and finally Swedish Punsch, an arrack-based liqueur. Wait a minute. No gin? No whiskey? No bitters? What kind of a cocktail is this?

Unlike most of the cocktails we have covered, we know the exact origins of the cocktail AND its name! In his 1922 book, Cocktails: How to Mix Them, bartender Robert Vermeire, claims that he created it at the Embassy Club in February of 1922, and named it after the king of a Philippine island. I love it when the information is right there. During the 1920s, King Panglima Diki-Diki, was going public in his search for a bride. What made this newsworthy was that he apparently was under 40 inches tall and weighed around 25 lbs, and he found a bride of similar stature on a neighboring island.

Join us as we explore this cocktail, King Diki-Diki, and a little bit of Robert Vermeire’s life.

The ingredients are as follows:

  • 1.5 oz Calvados
  • 1/2 oz Swedish Punsch
  • 3/4 oz Grapefruit Juice

We were excited to try this cocktail. The ingredients seemed so exotic and special. We really wanted to like it. But it just was not to be. As Kevin said, “It was not greater than the sum of its parts.” Nevertheless, I’m glad to have become acquainted with the Diki Diki and the story of its origins.

February 11, 2015 01:56 PM PST

So having done the Mint Julep, what more is there to say about derbies?

We take a look at the Derby Cocktail which poses a few problems when trying to talk history about it. First, there are numerous recipes for Derby Cocktails, and none seem to be related to the others. Second, derby could be referring to any number of things like the Kentucky Derby, derby races, derby hats, Derby, England, or the Derby restaurant. So which is it? All and none!

The many derbies generally have a common source though in Mr. Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby. He arranged with his chums an annual horse race, and a flip of a coin determined the name. But further investigation into the father of the modern derby revealed steamy courtly intrigues in the lives of 18th century English nobility involving illicit affairs and false gardeners.

Due to the popularity of derbies at the time, it is possible that different versions were created independently in honor of horse racing. Maybe the recipes in print became more well-known, beating out the others. There has to be a winner though, so this is the version we tried:

  • 1 oz bourbon
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 oz orange curaçao
  • 3/4 oz fresh lime juice

This cocktail was definitely one of the more challenging ones for me to enjoy.  Kevin and Rachel, both fans of bourbon and lime, thought this cocktail was wonderful. The lime juice was simply too overpowering; all I tasted was lime and for me that is not a good thing.  But I have to admit, trying it gave me a sense of how much citrus juice was appropriate for drinks of that time.

January 27, 2015 12:10 PM PST

The Delicious Sour. I like a cocktail that tells you all you need to know right in the name. Sours are a family of cocktail going back a long way, with notable features of putting a lime or lemon peel in the glass and an egg white.

We also dive into the life of William “The Only William” Schmidt, a bartender who some call the “godfather of mixology.” Acrobatic bartending feats, cranking out on-the-fly cocktails on a near daily basis, and creating cocktails with ten or more ingredients may have earned William this posthumous title. His recipe books are filled with hundreds of recipes and apparently there are tons more that never even made it to print.

Join us this episode where we discuss this prolific proto-mixologist and one of his creations. We also talk Applejack, a colonial American apple brandy with an interesting method of creation and some history of its own.

The ingredients in the drink are as follows:


  • 2 oz Applejack
  • 2 oz Peach Brandy
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 barspoon sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • Splash of soda
January 22, 2015 12:59 PM PST

I chatted with one of the BLP's regular contributors, Mr. Charles Brinkman. We talk about beer and then we talk about talking about beer. And then we talk about some other things.

January 20, 2015 09:20 AM PST

The Curacao Punch is generally attributed to Harry Johnson, and if you spell it the correct way of “Curacao” it is the earliest it shows up in a recipe book. However, if you spell it “Curacoa” then Jerry Thomas printed it first in his recipe book. I thought he might have just spelled it wrong, but mentions of “Curacoa Punch” show up in newspapers and books as early as the 1830s, and a recipe shows up in a periodical from the 1840s. In our experience, it probably was around even before this.

With nearly 100 years of existence and continuous appearances in cocktail recipe books through the 1910s, this seems like a drink that would withstand prohibition. It just sort of disappears though, and not for a lack of curacao or an interest in using it in cocktails. We try to take some guesses as to why Curacao Punch became a forgotten cocktail, but it might just remain a mystery.

During the period of history when the Spanish led the world in ranging the high seas, and staking claims all over the Caribbean, they discovered a tiny island they named Curacao. In 1499 they brought Valencia oranges with them to plant on this idyllic spot. Unfortunately the climate and volcanic soil on the island grew fruit that was utterly horrible and inedible. The Spanish left it to the Dutch to discover that the peels of these oranges, called laraha by the locals, were loaded with aromatic oils and they did what anybody does with fruits that are inedible…they made booze. Clever Dutch.

Curacao Punch contains:

  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 or 3 dashes fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ounce soda water
  • 1 ounce brandy
  • 2 ounce orange curacao
  • 1 ounce Jamaican rum

This drink was strange. To me it kind of tasted like plastic, though not terribly so. I’m sure it seems odd to say that something that tasted like plastic was delicious, but it was, and the flavors were complex enough that it created an entirely new sensation as a mixture.  All of us tasters thought it was fine, not amazing.

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