Sunday, August 31, 2008

Amazing Battlefield Interpretation

The anniversary of the Battle of Antietam is a few weeks away, and I just found the most incredible interpretation of a key part of the battle (thanks to Eric Wittenburg for the tip). This fantastic construct was put together by Ranger Mannie Gentile at his blog "My Year of Living Rangerously."
This needs no editorial comment from me, just check it out and let the learning begin. Welcome to the fight for the Sunken Road!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Refreshments And Roddick At The US Open

Last night was Andy Roddick's first big test of this US Open as he took on Ernests Gulbis in the second round. It was muggy as anything in NYC and Roddick was dripping sweat off his hat brim straight away, so to help him cool off, The Jess and I decided some cool refreshments were needed. I decided to try a new spin on old standbys, here's what I ended up with:
G & T For The Jess
1.5 oz Tanqueray Ten gin
Schweppes tonic water (the small bottle)
2/3 of a fresh lime, cut into thick wedges
Add gin to highball glass, add 4 large cubes of ice. Squeeze each lime wedge (should have 4 total) over ice and then drop each on top of ice. Pour over tonic until 1/4 left in bottle. Use bar spoon to gently stir.
This was crisp, cold, limey goodness. Plenty of aromatic spice from the gin, and the lime was just going everywhichaway!
Twisted 7 & 7
1.5 oz Seagram's 7
1/2 can 7up
1 thick lime wedge
Pour Seagram's into highball glass. Add 4 large ice cubes. Squeeze in lime juice, then drop in wedge. Add 7up until can nearly empty. Gently stir.
Oh yes, lime and whisky play well together! The juice amps the 7up just the right amount, so the whisky and fruit are just dancing.
I can say that these two drinks were a smashing success, and so was Roddick. After dropping the first set and nearly letting the second get away, he settled down and rolled to a 4 set victory. He'll be back on court tomorrow on CBS.
Also on the men's side, kudos to Mardy Fish, who just finished stomping James Blake in three sets, and Sam Querrey, who steamrolled the 14th seeded Ivo Karlovic to move into the Round of 16 for the first time at a Grand Slam event. In the process, he hit an absolutely ridiculous topspin lob winner against the 6 foot, 10 inch Ivanovic. Querrey will have his work cut out for him next round, as he'll face Rafa Nadal, who is playing tremendous tennis (and his blog is as funny as ever).
The Jilted Kilt advanced with a 5 set victory over journeyman Jurgen Melzer, coming from 2 sets down to win. Nice comeback, but he has no business getting pushed so hard by a player nowhere near his class. Worse yet, he closed out the match with another of his disgraceful bicep flex routines. Just a pathetic display of unsportsmanlike conduct, so no rooting for him!
The women's draw is as turbulent as expected, with the 1 and 3 seeds out after two rounds. We do have a marquee match coming up on the women's drawn, as 9th seed Agnieszka Radwanska faces off against Venus Williams, seeded 7th, on Monday. In such a jumbled draw, this could just have easily been a finals clash, so we're in for a treat.
To wrap us, here's a nice augmentation to USA and CBS' coverage on Youtube.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Provocative New Book On Dissent Within The Confederacy

My Dad and I were chatting the other night, and he brought up the movie "Cold Mountain", which he had just watched for the first time during an international flight. He asked me about the Civil War Home Guard depicted in the movie and the veracity of the violent and cruel tendencies shown. I said that there was certainly some truth, but how much is difficult to define.
Needless to say, I was unsatisfied with my answer, and despite having a solid background in Civil War historiography, realized that I had yet to come across a comprehensive treatment of the Southern home front that addressed gritty and controversial issues such as the home guard, Unionist support, guerilla warfare, the collapse of slavery, and desertion from the Confederate army. Basically, there was no good extant study of dissent within the Confederacy. I've found several essays and a few book chapters covering these issues (see Boritt's "Why The Confederacy Lost") but full-volume treatments have usually focused on larger scope topics like political unity, military strategy, economic impact, etc. Well, this void may have been filled by the latest offering by Professor David Williams of Valdosta State University, entitled "Bitterly Divided: The South’s Inner Civil War." Here is a review from Publisher's Weekly published on
"This fast-paced book will be a revelation even to professional historians. Pulling together the latest scholarship with his own research, Williams (A People's History of the Civil War), a professor of history at Valdosta State University, puts an end to any lingering claim that the Confederacy was united in favor of secession during the Civil War. His astonishing story details the deep, often murderous divisions in Southern society. Southerners took up arms against each other, engaged in massacres, guerrilla warfare, vigilante justice and lynchings, and deserted in droves from the Confederate army (300,000 men joined the Union forces). Unionist politicians never stopped battling secessionism. Some counties and regions even seceded from the secessionists. Poor whites resented the large slave owners, who had engineered the war but were exempt from the draft. Not surprisingly, slaves fought slaveholders for their freedom and aided the Union cause. So did women and Indians. Williams's long overdue work makes indelibly clear that Southerners themselves played a major role in doing in the secessionist South. With this book, the history of the Civil War will never be the same again."
I emailed Dr. Williams to ask him about his book and previous studies of dissent and suppression within the Confederacy. He told me that aside from a "slim volume" published in 1934, no other works have been published. Dr. Williams also gave an interview to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which is a fascinating read.
There is sure to be some hue and cry over a review of this subject matter, and calls of "revisionist" are sure to ring out. Don't even get me started on how this term has a perjorative connotation! As scholars, academics, historians, we have a responsibility to reexamine old notions, unearth new data, and see if fresh conclusions can be drawn, even if they challenge widespread opinion fomented by the Lost Cause mythology. Of course this text will fly in the face of the concept of a docile, united, and motivated Confederace population rallying behind a cause that was established many years ago, but that's the point! We can only learn and discover if we challenge ourselves and our preconceptions.
Just like any other historical text; however, it must be analyzed using the first principles of good historical research, with as little emotionality as possible. If Dr. Williams has focused on primary sources and used well-sourced data in what sounds like an original study, then he may well be onto something. If his text utilizes secondary data and editorial comment, then it will end up on the scrap heap alongside books like "The South Was Right!" though somehow I don't expect this to be the case.
My reading list, which is always in flux, will need to be amended yet again to account for what may be an important book, and much love to my Dad for his incredibly prescient question! Way to go, padre!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

US Open 2008: Andy Roddick and Ana Ivanovic In Different Directions!

Before we begin our post, here's another breaking news bulletin from the Tipsy Historian: Women's number one seed Ana Ivanovic has just been upset by Julie Coin, currently the 188th player in the world, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. This literally just happened, so you know where to turn for your breaking news! Now back to your regularly scheduled US Open post.
It all comes down to the US Open for Andy Roddick this year, that's for certain. He crashed and burned in Flushing last year and this year has been one struggle after another: changing coaches, the sore shoulder, the Wimbledon loss to Tipsarevic, the decision to skip the Olympics. About the only thing going right in his tennis life right now is Davis Cup. His seed for this year's tourney has dropped to 8, and he's just about off the radar as a title contender.
Which also makes it the perfect time to make a move, and he sure looks ready to do it. Last night, with Davis Cup coach and erstwhile mentor Patrick McEnroe in his box, he came out blazing against Fabrice Santoro and rolled to a quick three set victory. Santoro is the sort of player who could have driven Roddick nuts with his mixture of spin, consistency and fitness. Roddick was unfazed as his serve was enormous (up to 147 mph) his forehand was dialed in, and his backhand was solid. This last issue is certainly huge for Andy, because opponents know to pick on that wing whenever possible. If it's going to be up to the challenge, then Roddick may be poised to make a run.
This would be the perfect time for it, with American tennis in the doldrums and interest waning, not to mention the fact that this ex-champ has become something of an afterthought in the world of Nadals, Federers, and Djokovics. He certainly has his work cut out for him in the second round, with everyone's favorite up and coming player Ernests Gulbis waiting for him tomorrow night.
Today is a big day for another Andy, last name Murray, who not only moved into the third round with a tough 4-set win, but finally got his nickname! I dub him "The Jilted Kilt", and he will henceforth be referred to as such in this space. Congrats to Mr. Triathlon, who will get a stash of home-roasted coffee as his prize.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Imbibe Magazine Loves San Diego And Santa Rosa!

After a few hard days at work and much blogging, yours truly had worked up a powerful thirst. So you can imagine my happiness when I found the newest issue of Imbibe Magazine in my mailbox two days ago! I was anticipating a host of new recipes to try when I saw the cover touting "100 Best Places To Drink Beer In America."
Thirst, get thee gone!
The Jess and I have had a blast recently in our exploration of various Belgian ales, and I believe I have finally found my long sought-after niche in the world of hops and malt. This issue was destined to be a guide book for us to keep handy should we make sojourns out of our hometown.
But wait! I start the list, broken into 10 different categories, and immediately find a San Diego offering, then another, and OMYGOODNESS there's one from my hometown of Santa Rosa! On and on I went, and began laughing out loud at how cool this was turning out to be.
At final count, 5 of the listed venues are in San Diego and 2 are in Santa Rosa. Awesome! To help illustrate, Santa Rosa has a population just over 120,000, so it's not a major metropolis by any stretch, yet here it is hanging with the big boys. Civic pride indeed!
Here are the local listings:
Best Locally Brewed Offerings: Hamilton's Tavern (SD), Liars' Club Alpine Tavern (just outside SD)

Best Beer Shops: Bottle Barn (SR)

Best Bottle Lists: O'Brien's American Tavern (SD)

Best Irish-Style Pub: The Field (SD and the site of my 29th B-day party), The Black Rose Irish Pub (SR)

Best Gastropubs: The Linkery (SD and my favorite restaurant)
The Jess and I beat feet to Hamilton's last night where we were joined by Mr. Triathlon for a round at one of America's greatest. The Jess found her beloved Piraat on tap, Mr. Triathlon went with a Belgian called Gulden Draak, and I found a Belgian reminiscent of my alma mater; Petrus oud Bruin. The atmosphere was perfect, the beer delicious, and the table occupants behind us were discussing where the best hops are grown.
Consider our thirst quenched, and cheers to Imbibe for another wonderful issue! Also, if you finally cave in and subscribe, you can spend a few bucks extra and buy up all the back issues you want, including this newest one.

A Bit Of Civil War Housekeeping

It's been a fun time recently, lots of posts, lots of comments. I so enjoy hearing from people who read my missives, I'm flattered that you take the time!
A few housekeeping issues:
-the website for the San Diego Civil War Roundtable does appear to be down. I've emailed our chapter president and will certainly mention when it's back up and running.

-it's been brought to my attention from several readers that Warren Wilkinson, the author of the regimental history of the 57th Massachusetts, passed away in 1995. I wasn't aware of that and couldn't find much about him when I wrote the post; certainly no offense was intended. The book he was working on that was subsequently completed by Steven Woodworth, entitled "A Scythe of Fire: A Civil War Story of the 8th Georgia Infantry Regiment", is used by Dr. Joan Waugh, who was my professor at UCLA, in one of her courses; a ringing endorsement to be sure! After I finish the research for my lecture in October, Mr. Wilkinson's books will be on top of the reading list.

-many thanks to Brett Schulte at TOCWOC for the mention, and much thanks to Francis Rose of the Civil War Network and Bjorn Skaptason of for their kind emails .

-the first program of the Civil War Network is now available! It's an interview with Pulitzer-prize winning author James McPherson about battlefield touring, promises to be fantastic! I'll be enjoying it tonight and will blog about it soon.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Debut Of The Civil War Network

There is a wonderful new resource that, having recently broken virtual ground, is ready for its official debut. I speak of The Civil War Network, which describes itself as "the home of Civil War podcasts."
Oh yes, please!
I've had on my blogroll since its first post on July 24th of this year, and have been following the site's development and preparation with growing anticipation. This site was started by Francis Rose, who brings a wealth of broadcast experience to this endeavor, and will most certainly fill a large void in online Civil War discussion and learning.
I want to share Francis' mission statement, which I have taken verbatim from the website (italics added because it deserves to be italicized):
"The mission of The Civil War Network is to inform, educate, and entertain people interested in the Civil War. The Civil War Network will fulfill its mission through audio, video, the written word, and other forms of media presentations. The Civil War Network will fulfill its mission while adhering to the highest journalistic, entertainment, and ethical standards."
The last few weeks have been studded with previews of the programs to come: an interview with Dr. James McPherson, author of "Battle Cry of Freedom" talking about touring battlefields, Harry Smelzer of "Bull Runnings" discussing the digitization of a Civil War battle, and Paul Taylor of the blog "With Sword and Pen" chatting about, wait for it, collecting Civil War books!
Yes, I am that excited!
There is also an open request for input on future programs, and given what I've been writing about lately (read: the Battle of the Wilderness and Wal-Mart's encroachment), I'm going to ask for one about efforts at battlefield preservation, hopefully with a member of the Civil War Preservation Society. Better yet, an interview with Warren Wilkinson, the author of the regimental history of the 57th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.
The first program will be available for free no later than August 27th, and can be downloaded for free on iTunes as well. It's just so exciting to have creative thinkers putting their work out there for all of us who have the same interest to share in, and The Civil War Network certainly promises to be at the forefront.

Day One US Open 2008: San Diego In Primetime!

Ah heaven, the sun is out on this warm early evening, and the first night session of the 2008 US Open is in full swing! There was a big celebration tonight of the US Open's 40th anniversary in the open era, with all the bigwigs and previous winners in attendance, and seeing those famous faces all in one place was quite a sight.
Following that spectacle, our hometown tennis hero, San Diego's own Coco Vandeweghe walked onto center court for her US Open debut. Only 17, she had to do battle with second seeded Jelena Jankovic, and though she lost, this was a blast to watch. Coco played rock-solid tennis and demonstrated a wealth of potential while keeping a positive attitude and huge smile on her face. Anytime she did anything good, the cameras cut to her mom in the stands, who was absolutely beaming with joy. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing this San Diegan again in the future.
Now, as we gear up for James Blake and Donald Young, some thoughts on the first day's play...
For every John Isner disappearing act, there is a Wayne Odesnik (remember him?) 5 set slugfest. Isner, America's tallest player and biggest server, came into the Open with the usual fanfare and modest expectations, but today was a disaster for him from a tennis perspective. He went down in three sets to the 122nd ranked player in the world, Andreas Beck of Germany. We all have reasonable expectations around Isner, but this is inexcusable. If he's going to have any sort of serviceable career, losses like this in Grand Slams just have to go away.
On the other side is my favorite tennis journeyman Wayne Odesnik, who went the distance against Fabio Fognini, winning 6-4 in the 5th set. This is the kind of win that makes people your fan, and I am definitely an Odesnik fan. He's not going to win a Grand Slam, but heart and courage like his are a real treat in the tennis world.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

US Open 2008 Preview

Whew, three posts in two days and 5 in the past three, guess I had a lot to say!
Tomorrow begins my single favorite sporting event of the year; the 2008 US Open tennis tournament! Two weeks packed to the rafters with drama, noise, brilliant shotmaking, and unreal tension. All the big names are playing, all the celebs are traveling; the final Grand Slam of the year is ready to go!
This is our national tennis tournament, and it is bigger, louder, more intense, and more dramatic than anything else in the tennis world. The players' personalities always come out as they have a chance to wear their emotions on their sleeves, so each match becomes incredibly engaging. The grounds are absolutely swarmed with fans and the matches go all hours, so the setting is loud and beer-soaked. For the American tennis fan, the hard court playing surface is the same that we play on, so this is a fantastic study of tennis tactics and shotmaking on a platform that we're very familiar with.
Even with all this, here is the best part (after trying to watch the Olympics on the other side of the world) No tape delays in the hours and hours of daily coverage!
Quickly before we start the preview, I'm going to extend the deadline for the Andy Murray Nickname Contest until Wednesday 8/27, so get your votes in if you haven't already.
There is tremendous uncertainty on both the women's and men's draws on the eve of the tourney, with no clear favorite going into the Open, so that said, let the preview begin.
You may have thought after reading the above comment about uncertainty in the men's draw that I'm flat out nuts; that Rafael Nadal is the favorite, he's number one in the world, Federer is slipping, and no one else is close. These are valid points, but not so fast. The bane of Rafa's tennis existence remains hard courts, especially at Flushing Meadow where his best result is the quarterfinals. Not only that, but the courts take a tremendous toll over two weeks, and for a player with Nadal's physicality, that is nothing to sneeze at. he's also number one in the world now, and for some people wearing a target that size is quite an albatross. Finally, there is the Olympic question. No one can predict what effect the Olympics will have had on these players, but I would bet that for Rafa, his gold medal run in Beijing will detract from his preparation for the Open. Consider the travel, the emotional high, the daily matches, and the travel again.
Roger Federer is clearly not the Federer of old, and I agree with most pundits out there that he looks burned out, needs a break and a fresh perspective. He's also an unbelievable competitor, with a versatile game perfectly suited for the Open, as his previous results attest. Hard to believe I'm saying this, but he's the very definition of a wild card in this event. Will he have the form and confidence to push deep into the tournament, or will he wash out early.
Aside from these two there are some familiar names in the mix. Of course Andy Roddick is supercharged for this one, and Andy Murray played brilliantly over the summer, Olympics notwithstanding. Novak Djokovic is a sexy pick for the title and always plays well on hard surfaces. There is also a fascinating groundswell of young talent in the men's game, and you can be sure they understand that New York is a great place to make your name.
Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro ripped apart the summer season in the US with the top players in Beijing, winning 4 consecutive tournaments and 19 straight matches. France's Gilles Simon and Switzerland's Stanislaus Wawrinka are also on the rise, but keep this name foremost in your mind: Ernests Gulbis of Latvia. He is young, confident, and has an unbelievable game. He is poised for a breakthrough, and this may well be the year.
Here are my predictions:
Semifinals: Federer vs Djokovic, Nadal vs Murray
Finals: Djokovic vs Nadal
Winner: Rafael Nadal
After looking at the women's side, I honestly want to throw up my hands, as this draw is in a state of anarchy. What a bizarre year this has been, with retirements, nerves, questionable commitment, and injuries shattering the upper echelons of the game. Now we are left with a host of women playing well, but not a single person showing they are ready to rise to the top. I'm not saying there isn't quality there, because that's not the case. Ladies like Dinara Safina, Ana Ivanovic, Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic are playing outstanding tennis, and just like the men, there is a whole new crop of players banging on the door of the top ten. It's just that no one stands above the rest in any meaningful way.
Which is just awesome! I mean, how much fun is this going to be? Look for upsets galore, new names and personalities plowing into the second week, and a first time Grand Slam winner.
Semifinals: Dinara Safina vs Agnieszka Radwanska, Anna Chakvetadze vs Jelena Jankovic
Finals: Safina vs Chakvetadze
Winner: Safina
There is a massive quantity of daily coverage and here is a link to the schedule. Keep your eyes peeled for the final US Open appearance of tennis' last magician, Fabrice Santoro. He will battle Andy Roddick in a first round match on Tuesday, sure to be at night. There are also two wonderful blogs to keep you updated, aside from The Tipsy Historian, of course. Rafa Nadal will be blogging again and the NY Times maintains an excellent tournament blog, so definitely keep up with both.
This is going to be a ton of fun, so stay tuned and up to date!

Bummed About The San Diego District Tennis Championships

Boy, was I ready to go yesterday morning. Bags packed, all stretched out and limber, strong after a great hitting session with Simon The Great the day before, I was all fired up for my first match at the SDDTC. The Jess was totally behind me, getting stuff together and psyching me up. Just before I went on court, she helped me think through my reminders for the match and sent me out there.
I got on the court yesterday morning at Balboa Park and felt pretty nervous, but I expected that. My opponent and I started warming up and I felt really good about my chances. I'm a slow starter and definitely a rhythm player, so it took me awhile to get on track. I was pretty tight and was rushing a bit, and before I knew it, I was down two breaks at 0-4. I knew the first set was getting away from me, but I knew that I would get settled into my first tourney match in 5 years.
I held serve and had a break point at 1-5 when I started feeling a twinge in my right gluteus muscle (basically my right butt, see the double entendre in the title?) I've pulled many a muscle, and was really starting to feel good about the match. I was putting pressure on my opponent and could tell he was starting to press, so even though the first set was over, I knew I was in prime position to really get rolling. I was getting the range on his serve and felt comfortable with mine after a few wobbly games, and best of all, he couldn't sniff my forehand.
I held serve easily to start the second set, but my right leg was really getting sore and I was having trouble pushing off it. I had two break points in the next game, but couldn't get on top of his serve. From there, the match really got away from me as my leg got more and more tender. My gluteus muscle had pretty well seized up, and my hip flexor was hurting as I tried to compensate. I had no explosiveness and couldn't push off my right leg, so my rhythm totally fell apart, and so did the match. By the last two games, I really couldn't run, but I stayed on court until the bitter end of a 6-1, 6-1 loss.
I knew when I got home and could barely put weight down that I had no business playing today, so after a hot shower, some ibuprofen, and a session with the heating pad brought no improvement, I called the tournament desk and withdrew from my second match.
I'm pretty disappointed about the outcome here because my preparation was solid and I was playing well. I've never had to withdraw from a match before and I hate backing down from a challenge, so things felt a bit strange. Overall though, I'm really happy about this whole process and am really excited about where my game is heading. There's good lessons to take away from the SDDTC, and in a few days, I'll be back out there building my game and confidence for the next time.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Photo Of The 57th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry

A few days ago I wrote a post about the efforts of the Civil War Preservation Trust to thwart Wal-Mart's efforts to build a superstore on the battlefield of the Wilderness and Chancellorsville. In that post, I used a few lines to discuss why this battlefield is so important to me, but even when I posted the entry, something felt incomplete; I had left something out of the discussion.
Last night it came to me. I remembered a picture that is the single most moving image I have come across in my years of study, and my collection of Civil War books and photographic compendia numbers in the hundreds.
I do not suppose to know what war is like, but this picture captures the humanity, the loss, and the destructiveness of not only the Civil War, but war in general, in a way that no other picture has ever been able to replicate for me. One the one hand, there are the sterile, bloodless works of artists like Don Troiani, on the other hand is this:
Before we go on, a huge note of thanks and recognition to I found this picture through their search criteria in about 5 seconds, and was able to download this image for free. Please avail yourselves of this incredible resource! Now, if you'll indulge me, please place your mouse over the picture and click it to bring up a larger image, then study the faces and clothing of the men, as well as the surroundings upon which they stand.
Having done so, let's begin our discussion, and by the end, your investment in this photograph is sure to increase. This image is of the men of Company I of the 57th Massachusetts Infantry, taken in late June or early July of 1864 (no confirmatory date has been found). There are nine men in this image, and they are all that is left of the 86 soldiers of the company who went into battle for the first time several weeks before on May 6th, 1864, the second day of the Battle of the Wilderness.
Over the course of the next weeks, Co. I and the entire 57th Mass took part in nearly every major action of the famed Overland Campaign: the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, the North Anna River, Cold Harbor, and into the siege of Petersburg. This campaign ushered a new level of fighting into the Civil War (and warfare in general) with constant marching and virtually continuous contact with the enemy; these men were pushing forward every step of the way. 77 men of Company I had been killed, wounded, or taken prisoner during the campaigning and unrelenting combat of the early summer, 1864 in Virginia, and from the beginning of its service in May, 1864 until it was mustered out, only 10 men of the original 900+ of the regiment survived the war unscathed. A regimental history was written several years ago by Warren Wilkinson, with the fitting title of "Mother, May You Never See the Sights I Have Seen". This image graces the cover.
These nine men, commanded by Sgt R.K. Williams (the far right figure) were all that were standing when they found time for a brief respite and this photograph. They look worn-out, dirty, exhausted. They stand resolute, brave, and unflinching. They are on a wasted, muddy land where the only visible life, save for these nine souls, is the distant trees in the top-right corner. These troops have seen and done things that no one should be asked to do or have to live with having done, and they still had the courage to go forward and continue the fight.
There is all that, and there is the fact that they look just like us! There are no long-whiskered gentlemen or gray-haired officers; they look like men I went to high school, college, grad school with, played sports with, hung out with and befriended. These men capture the essence of American troops at war for me, because this picture could have been taken on the fields of Saratoga or the dusty streets of Fallujah, and I'd still feel like I know them, and I would still ache for what they had to go through. There had been 86, now there were nine. I've never had to go through losing one friend, let alone 77.
This picture came back to my mind because the first field where these men went to war and began to lose comrades was the Wilderness, and this ground may be lost if Wal-Mart has its way. These men took a stand behind a cause 144 years ago, now we can take a stand for them and their memory through the Civil War Preservation Trust.
Oh yeah, Wal-Mart and its ghoulish disrespect are disgraceful and despicable!
(Note: the above link to the book is to Amazon, but all available copies are from independent booksellers. Remember to support your local used and independent bookstores!)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tourney Time Just A Few Days Away!

I'm brimming with anticipation as I write this, having just gotten off the tennis court and realizing that I'm less than two days away from the San Diego District Tennis Championships. I looked up the draw yesterday and was surprised to learn that there are only three competitors in the 5.0 draw. The cool part here is that we're going to be playing a round robin format, not single elimination, so I'll be playing two matches this weekend, one on Saturday, one on Sunday.
I've been working as hard as my work schedule would allow to prepare myself, and am optimistic about the progress I've made. My fitness has improved quite dramatically and I've even dropped a bit of weight (dropping sweets has certainly played a role here), so my footwork and mobility have taken a jump up. My serve is really clicking and I'm feeling confident about being able to pressure opponents with it. I'm trying to stay positive on the court, and am taking time to ensure I enter each point with the right mindset.
The biggest stride made in the past few weeks has been rediscovering the fundamentals of the game, namely WATCHING THE BALL! I was playing with a friend the other day and was just spraying shots all over the court. As he could see my growing frustration, he mentioned in passing some video of Roger Federer he'd watched recently. My addled brain instantly snapped to the memory of seeing it for the first time. I provide it here via YouTube and ask that you study his eyes and the movement of his head at the point of contact.
Amazing how his eyes don't deviate from the ball and racket, and how his head doesn't move, even after the ball is gone. The point here is that he knows where the ball is going, having gotten his body into correct position, and thus has no call to alter his stroke as he studies the connection of racket and ball.
Of course that level of cranial discipline is something I'll likely not achieve, but the point is to always strive to get there. As I've placed that focus on the top of the list, my consistency has improved in kind. Pairing that with a liveliness of footwork and alertness of mind, I'm keen to see what will transpire on court this weekend. One final warmup tomorrow with Simon The Great, and a good night's sleep, then it's game time.

The Round Table And Battlefield Preservation

Wow, sorry for the delay between posts! Busy, busy, busy!
Last night I attended the monthly meeting of the San Diego Civil War Roundtable, and what a treat it was; not least because The Jess was at my side. The lecture had a nautical theme, so my wife was totally into it. We heard a fantastic lecture by one of the members on the battle between the USS Kearsarge and the CSS Alabama off the coast of Cherbourg, France on July 19, 1864.
Our lecturer didn't just dryly recite the facts of the battle and persons involved; he had a fascinating take on this sea battle as a classic duel. There was the challenge issued by Alabama to the Kearsarge as the Kearsarge lurked offshore. There were the seconds (French ships) standing by to ensure the fight took place in international waters, and there was the British ship standing by to aid the injured and rescue survivors. An excellent and unique spin on this well-studied battle.
Before we got to the discussion, there was a discussion about issues pertinent to the group: lectures, upcoming talks (including mine in October, which will be blogged about in detail in the near future), and battlefield preservation. This is a large component of what the SDCWRT is about, as all funds raised through raffles, membership, and book sales go to the Civil War Preservation Trust. Last year alone, we donated over $2000 to help with this worthy endeavor.
I learned earlier today about a threat that will certainly be discussed at the next Round Table, and that is the news of a proposed Wal-Mart Superstore on the Wilderness and Chancellorsville battlefields in Virginia. Thanks to Eric Wittenberg at for the info!
I will hold my tongue on my opinions of Wal-Mart here, but I am most resolutely in favor of protecting these battlefields! For one, I have not yet been able to visit them (they share large portions of the same ground, Chancellorsville taking place in May 1863, the Wilderness occurring one year later, almost to the day) and they are a priority for when The Jess and I sojourn east. Second, Gordon Rhea's incredible series of books on The Battle of the Wilderness and the Overland Campaign helped re-launch my interest in the Civil War several years ago. Lastly and most importantly, this is land made sacred by the tens of thousands of men who died on that ground, many of whom are still buried there.
In California, we don't have any Civil War battlefields, so it's easy to feel a bit detached; however, it is vital to remember that once these lands are paved over and defiled by golden arches or megamalls, they're gone. Please take some time and decide if this is an issue that might strike your interest, and keep in mind that these parks are always free to anyone who wishes to visit. I'll close by providing a National Park Service link to the Wilderness.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Virtual Book Signings!

I can't believe that I completely forgot to blog about this most wonderful find,! This is an absolute treat of a website that I discovered a few months ago, to my great and everlasting joy! Sponsored by the Abraham Lincoln Bookshop in Chicago, this website hosts online author interviews and book signings of recently published volumes on Civil War topics.
"Why so great?" you may ask. Well, living on the Left Coast, there is a notable discrepancy in all things Civil War-related as compared to the East Coast and Midwest. While we do have at least one pre-eminent ACW scholar in our midst (Dr. Joan Waugh at UCLA, my college professor, thank you very much) the bulk of ACW scholarship and discussion does not spring from the west. Thus, virtualbooksigning puts us Cali-based scholars in touch with the newest and brightest in ACW publishing and learning.
The website allows you to log on and stream live interviews in real-time, all you have to do is join when the interview is taking place. You can buy the book if you like and get it signed by the author, even watch the author do it. You can submit questions and have them answered a few minutes later. Seriously, it's really fantastic.
I first ran across it a few months ago and, as luck would have it, Gary Gallagher was just sitting down to discuss his new book "For Cause and Comrades". I got to watch the interview and submit a few questions, which was a total hoot, and a few weeks later, my signed copy arrived in the mail.
If you miss the live webcast, there is a fantastic archive available stretching back a few years, so all you need to do is click on who you'd like to hear and BANG! you're watching Gordon Rhea or Brad Gottfried. Don't forget to check out who's coming up: Peter Cozzens, one of the nation's leading authors on the war in the Western theater, and Pulitzer Prize winner James McPherson.
Yes, I'll be watching both of those with rapt attention.
After you've had your fill listening to some of the foremost authors out there, you can browse the bookshelves of the store, though I warn you, unless you've got some serious wallet, you'll be hanging with me at the window looking in.
I have no association with either the Abraham Lincoln Boostore or beyond thinking they're both absolute treasures and deserve whatever publicity they receive. Even if you just have a passing interest in Civil War writing and study, you should tune in once or twice; nothing will get you more fired up about a topic than watching a leading expert break down their research and publications and interacting with them, even if you live thousands of miles away.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Federal Apology For Slavery Update

If you recall, we discussed the subject of H.Res 194, a resolution from the House of Representatives which would be the first federal apology for slavery, in a previous post.
Turns out, the day after my post, the bill passed the House by voice vote. Here is a link to the Washington Post story dated July 30th, 2008

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Tradition Of Cupping Is Born!

Saturday was a landmark day in the world of coffee tasting in San Diego, at least for myself, The Jess, and a cache of friends, as we came together for my first hosted coffee cupping.
I got started with the preparation several days prior and roasted my little heart out. There were 5 varietals to choose from, delivered by the good people at Sweet Maria's, and I wanted each one to have at least a day or two to mature prior to tasting. For fun, I made the choice to roast each bean approximately the same amount and didn't pay attention to the notes from Sweet Maria's. I went with a Full City roast on each one, with very interesting results.
The varietals were as follows:
Guatemala Organic Finca Ceylan Maragogype
El Salvador Matapala Estate Peaberry
Brazil Cachoeira "Canario Bourbon"
Rwanda Gkongoro Nyarusiza
A Kenyan bean who's name is unfortunately lost to history (I already tossed the bag into the recycling bin)
Given the number of coffee enthusiasts who were joining us, I wanted to ensure that there were plenty of cups to sample from, so I roasted enough for three cups of each bean. Having read a few websites about how to host a cupping, I had to make a few executive decisions about getting the house ready. My concept of getting ready was making sure there were enough cups, and snacks, as well as cleaning up a bit. I did not; however, subscribe to some of the more bizarre rules that are out there (imagine me ever being able to follow a No Talking rule)!
As a reminder, there are four steps to a cupping:
1. the dry smell: dry grounds (a coarse grind is employed) in the cup are inhaled using both mouth and nose
2. the wet smell: coffee is poured over the grounds, and the steam is inhaled
3. breaking the crust: the layer of grounds on top of the mug is broken with a spoon after 4 minutes of brewing, with inhalation taking place at the moment the spoon breaks the surface
4. tasting: after lifting off the grounds on the surface, a spoon is dipped into the coffee, and slurped up. The slurp is key, because it aerates the coffee and sprays it all over the mouth, palate, and posterior pharynx. The grounds are then spat into a cup (none of us had a spittoon)
Here are some photos from the event, taken by, of course, The Jess!

This was a really fun morning and a truly novel experience. I know you're wondering, and the consensus favorites were Rwanda and El Salvador. The next time we do this, I think I'm going to pick two or three varietals and roast them to different ends of the flavor spectrum. That'll be in the near-future, but for now, stay tuned for more pics and hopefully some fun comments from the esteemed participants:
The Tipsy Historian
The Jess
Captain Sizzle
The Amusing San Diegan
Mr. Triathlon
Femme Futbol
Mr. Handsome
Mr. Handsome's Master
Leblon Fan
Prince Donut
Princess Donut
(there is an appeals process if you want to change your nickname)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Sad Passing At Gettysburg

At the Gettysburg battlefield, there are a handful of what are known as "witness trees", arborial eyes that saw the fighting that occurred 145 years ago. Unfortunately, one of those trees has been lost in a recent storm. Please click here to read more.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Newsweek And The Civil War

As we've continued our study of the Lost Cause and Civil War memory, I've tried to intermittently tie in current events and thinking to illustrate the importance of a sound understanding of Civil War history both as it happened and how it is remembered, with the point being the two are not always the same. From the Confederate flag (made in China, by the way) raising in Tampa to Sen. Jim Webb's statements about Robert E. Lee, there are still tangible ties between events today and how we think about and remember the past.
Today I got another stark reminder of this when I picked up the new issue of Newsweek magazine. On the cover is an antebellum plantation home with the title "The End of the South: How Obama vs. McCain is Unsettling the Old Confederacy". The piece is written by Christopher Dickey, who apparently grew up in Atlanta, and is a narrative of his canvassing across the South.
Of course everything is anecdotal only, but it is a tremendous eye-opener for this Norcal native and Socal dweller (though I did spend 4 years in Houston for graduate school). The rippling after-effects of the Civil War course through nearly every paragraph, be it in terms of race relations, battle reenactments, or thoughts about a liberal from Illinois running for President.
If you recall, I recently reviewed "Ghosts of the Confederacy" by Gaines Foster, which was his exploration of the rise of the New South in lockstep with the Lost Cause mythology. This article today is an, albeit short, discussion of how the two have moved apart over the past few decades.
We are all inundated with election year analysis and punditry, but I found this piece to be both cogent and unique; certainly a fascinating discussion both for the political scientist and the Civil War enthusiast.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Beer Shandy

It's hot in San Diego right now, so the quest for refreshing and inexpensive beverages is at its apex. I had been one of the rare people who does not find beer to be a suitable drink for a hot day until I perfected The Beer Shandy
This is a drink that my parents used to enjoy both at home and on visits to their home country of South Africa, and is a simple blend of beer and ginger ale. Well, simple on the surface at least. I've been fumbling through various beers, various ginger ales, and a mixture of glasses to find the right mix.
The basic ingredient is of course, the beer. Because we're looking for a light, crisp base for maximal refreshment, the lager beer in all of its varieties is a good choice. The Jess and I experimented with several choices, but couldn't find the right choice. The answer ended up coming from a most unexpected place; the back of the fridge. There rested two cans of Heineken, a beer that The Jess doesn't really care for at all.
Given that we were hot and thirsty, I figured I'd give it a try. We had long ago selected the ginger ale of choice; Schweppes. This one has just the right mix of spicy and sweet, as well as not too much carbonation. Now we needed the glass.
One of the best and most elegant glasses I have in the bar is a set of pilsner glasses. Long and inviting, they show off the beverage so well, and the tapered base is just perfect to hold. So now these three disparate items came together, and the beer shandy was perfected.

The Beer Shandy
1 12 oz can Heineken beer
1 10oz bottle Schweppes ginger ale
pilsner glasses

First, it goes without saying that the beer and ginger ale must be cold from the fridge. Pour 6 oz of beer into a tilted glass to minimize head formation. Add 5 oz ginger ale, again tilting the glass to allow the ginger ale and beer to intercalate.
Drink and be refreshed

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Second Phase Of The Lost Cause Study

The recently deceased Alan Nolan wrote in his essay "The Anatomy of the Myth", that "the victim of the Lost Cause legend has been history, for which the legend has been substituted in the national memory." Therefore, let us rise in the defense of history and continue our analysis of the Lost Cause mythology. The next phase of our study is going to be an examination of the pillars of the Lost Cause. Before we go on and because of the long hiatus in this discussion, I give a series of links to the posts that have preceded this one, but for the full list of associated posts, click on the Lost Cause link in the righthand sidebar.
Lost Cause #1
Lost Cause #2
Lost Cause #3
In these preceding pieces I've attempted to establish the "why" behind the Lost Cause. Now here are a few of the primary tenets that make up this long-standing and widespread mythology.
1. Slavery was not the cause for the lawful secession of 11 states
2. The Confederacy was not defeated, it succumbed solely to the overwhelming quantities of men and materiel generated by the Union
3. Robert E. Lee was an unparalleled leader of men and, as the best general in the war, should be revered with an almost god-like status. Conversely, US Grant, who accepted Lee's surrender at Appomattox, was a drunken butcher who blundered his way to victory.
4. The Eastern Theater of the war, which pitted Lee and Stonewall Jackson's Army of Northern Virginia against the Army of the Potomac, was far and away the most important theater of combat in the war.
I fully recognize that there are many other points that could be addressed here, but I'll focus on these, as they are arguably the four cornerstones of the Lost Cause.
Let's start with the slavery question first. The sheer genius of this construct was making slavery a question in the first place, and this was accomplished based almost entirely on the retrospective histories that I detest so much. The essays, statements, and discussions that laid the foundation for this claim from men ranging from Jefferson Davis to Jubal Early were compiled after the war. Conveniently, statements from the highest levels of Confederate leadership on the sectional crisis and slavery issue before and during the war, of which there were many (please feel free to request references, I will be more than happy to provide), did not make it into the purview of the Southern Historical Society and the like.
Also, it is important to remember that this whole discussion was something of an apologia ex vacuo, an apology in a vacuum. It's not like there were scheduled hearings at any level to review and investigate these issues. This was simply an effort from these men to write the history that they knew would validate their cause, accuracy be damned. The alternative, being labeled as men who started a war and led hundreds of thousands to their deaths in order to protect their right to enslave and profit off of other men, was something they clearly wished to avoid.
Instead, words like, as Robert Durden wrote "liberty, independence, and especially states rights were advanced by countless Southern spokesmen as the hallowed principles of the Lost Cause" What these ubiquitous terms, and I use the term ubiquitous because they turn up in virtually every high school text and many college curricula, fail to define is the right and independence to do what exactly?
To answer this, one must one study the sectional crisis from the early 1800s onwards. In doing so, it is clear that the southern leadership wished to have the right to not only keep slaves (as the Confederate constitution explicitly guaranteed), but expand into new territories (Kansas-Nebraska Act, Ostend Manifesto, Central and South American filibustering, among other seminal issues) and use the federal government to return escaped slaves in the North back to the South without trial or hearing (the Fugitive Slave Act). If you wish to review these items in detail, I recommend "The Impending Crisis" by Potter. I will be writing my review of it shortly, but the weight of evidence clearly supports the hypothesis that the primary southern motivation for secession and war was the issue of slavery.
Along with this apologia ex vacuo, the other technique to minimize the import of slavery in the national memory was to portray it as a somehow benign institution with peaceful and contented laborers. This myth took off like wildfire in both the history books and popular culture; one needs only watch or read "Gone With The Wind" to see it. This still lives on today with Confederate apologists crafting elaborate discussions of slaves participation in the Confederate war effort, I refer you again to Kevin Levin's Civil War Memory for an excellent discussion on this topic.
We must; however, again look back at primary sources to find out what slavery was really like. If you read Kenneth Stampp's "The Peculiar Institution" which I previously reviewed, you would be hard-pressed to maintain that school of thought. Moreover, the reaction in the South to servile insurrection speaks volumes about the volatility of the master-slave relationship and the white fear of massacre and destruction at the hands of liberated slaves. Few men before General Sherman did more to strike fear into the hearts of Southerners, slaveholder or not, than Nat Turner in 1831 and John Brown in 1859.
It is an injustice to history and to the people who suffered under the yoke of slavery to continue to turn a blind eye to the role of this institution as the pivot point on which the ACW turned. When we can finally accurately and comprehensively acknowledge the staggering motivating power and devastating effect that slavery had, we can begin to teach and learn our nation's history and understand its effects on today's culture.

Andy Murray Nickname Contest: Cast Your Votes!

The man is on our shores and winning titles (he took down Novak Djokovic in Cincy this past Sunday). We're also a few weeks away from the US Open, so it's time for the friends of The Tipsy Historian to cast their votes for the best nickname for Andy Murray.
If you look at the right sidebar, you'll find the polling place at the bottom. Each entry will remain anonymous until the final ballot is cast, and the winner gets a stash of fresh-roasted coffee from me. The poll will close and the winner announced Sunday August 25th. I won't vote except in the case of a tie, then I'll cast the tiebreaker.
Let your voices be heard!

From The Mixing Lab: Summer '08

The concoction I'm about to break down for you needs no fancy name, it is so good and such a delicious way of capturing the flavor of one of our great summer finds, the name "Summer '08" is just about perfect.
It started with a trip to the farmer's market a few days ago when I discovered a stone fruit called black apricots. A relative of the apricot, it's not some funky hybrid (read: pluot), but a long lost cousin of the orange fruit we know so well.
It's skin is darker like a plum, and the flavor is much richer and sweeter than a regular apricot. Needless to say, it's delish! After munching a few, I decided to take the remainder and turn them into a drink. I'm proud to say that, after a bit of experimentation came, in the words of The Jess "the best drink you've ever made!"

Summer '08

one black apricot, chilled in the fridge
1 oz Hangar One vodka
0.5 oz Cointreau
1 teaspoon simple syrup
juice of 1/2 lemon
crushed ice
lime wedge

cube up the black apricot with peel on, add to muddling glass with syrup and lemon juice. Muddle vigorously. Add to strainer over shaker and press the solids with the muddler to push through as much juice and pulp as possible. Pour vodka over remains in strainer and press solids again. Tilt strainer and scrape a small quantity of pulp into the shaker (no skin, though).
Add Cointreau and crushed ice to shaker and shake it up!
Pour into lowball glass that is filled with crushed ice.
Garnish with lime wedge and drink the defining beverage of Summer 2008!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Lots Of Promise, Plenty To Work On

Sunday afternoon tennis in San Diego, let me explain how wonderful this is. Blue skies with a few clouds, warm but not roasting. A sea breeze rolling back and forth in time with our shots, and even a few gulls flying overhead as I toss the ball to serve.
This is why playing tennis is heaven.
I just got off the court after playing a match in my quest to get ready for the San Diego District Championships. I lost 6-2, 6-2 to a really good player, but as I dissect how I'm playing in my head, there's plenty of positivity as well as weaknesses identified.
On the positive side:
-I'm serving really well; a heavy, flat first serve I can put into both corners, or a solid kicker out wide. My second serve has good movement and is coming in quite deep. Best part was only two double faults.
-The fitness is definitely better and the knee feels good
-When I'm focused on my movement and taking the ball early, my forehand is pretty damn strong

To work on:
-I'm a slow starter. In both sets I was down 0-4 before getting on the board. That's tough, because I started to get a bit frustrated
-Too many gifts. The guy I played was good, but not that much better than me. The biggest issue was, as Brad Gilbert puts it, too many gift points. Too many backhands dumped in the net or second serve returns sailing long. When we got into rallies, I was right there with him. As Simon the Great always tells me and I have to remember, nothing in the net.
-Not serving first. I need to give myself a game to get settled, so if I win the toss, I'm gonna elect to return from now on
-No pagers on the court. This is an easy fix, but damn, that thing was distracting
-Taking my time after a tough game. I broke him to get to 2-4 in the first set and he was frustrated. I was a bit winded after two tough points, but instead of taking a beat, catching my breath and getting focused, I just cruised to the service line. 3 unforced errors later, and I'm down 0-40. There was an opening there, I just need to find a way to keep the pressure on.
Lots to build on and lots to take away. Best part was still Sunday afternoon tennis in San Diego.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Importance Of Primary References

I've mentioned it before, but one of the premier Civil War blogs, captained by a high school history teacher named Kevin Levin, is Civil War Memory. I especially enjoy this blog because a primary focus of it's content is how we think and learn about the Civil War (as the blog title makes quite evident).
There has recently been a fascinating storyline unfolding about slaves in the Confederate army that I encourage you to read up on.
In the fourth paragraph of the post, Mr. Levin makes a most salient and important point about how we must utilize primary resources and avoid postwar resources as much as possible in doing good historical research. This is an issue I've been obliquely touching on in my Lost Cause posts, which I promise I will get back to this week, and is a cornerstone of accurate historiography.
Anyway, I posted a comment to his post, and thought I'd share it here...

Hi Kevin,
Great post! You make a point that I want to expand on just a bit, because it is a tremendously important part of good and accurate historical research. You mentioned staying away from post-war sources as much as possible and this is a most salient point. One can never underestimate the effect that retrospection will have on the thoughts, speeches and writings of those involved in a historical moment, thus, as responsible historians we must strive to find the primary sources and the data as close to the moments in question as possible to formulate our conclusions.
Unfortunately, this was not the approach followed by ex-officers, politicians, and historians on both sides in the decades following the war. Just look at Gen Pope's essay on 2nd Manassas in "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War", Jefferson Davis' comments on slavery's role in secession before and after the war, or the multi-volume "Southern Historical Society Papers" These texts are rife with statements collected and recorded after the war and are clearly built around an agenda that was most distinct from that which was present before and during the war. These documents propagated into influential texts by Foote, Freeman, and others, and these inaccurate statements and revised agendas took root. Now, we are left nearly 150 years later not only trying to piece together what really happened, but fixing the extensive damage that these misperceptions wrought.
Now we have a responsibility as historians to be faithful to primary data as we do our research. What we find may be disappointing, painful, surprising, but our own opinions of the findings are not as important as providing a clear and correct interpretation of the data.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Changing Of The Tennis Guards

As I write this post, Rafael Nadal is serving for the match at the Cincinnati Masters against Nicolas Lapennti. Why does this Friday evening clash deserve special mention? If Nadal closes things out, he will be the new number one player in the world, ending Roger Federer's 4.5 year reign.
We could see this coming after Wimbledon, but the last few weeks have shown serious chinks in Federer's armor, losing his first round match in Toronto and his second match in Cincy. Rafa meanwhile carried his Wimbledon...

I pause because Rafa is now the number one ranked tennis player in the world. Good for him!

...momentum and won the Toronto tourney and is now rolling towards the finals of Cincy.
There can be no debate on whether Rafa deserves to be number one in the world; last year he began closing the gap, this year he has flown into the limelight with his incredible wins at the French Open and Wimbledon. He is clearly playing incredible tennis and it will be great fun to see how long his time on top will last.
For Federer, there is obviously much mental turmoil going on. No doubt the Wimbledon defeat is still on his mind and now after losing matches to Gilles Simon and Ivo Karlovic, it will be a massive challenge for him to regain his top form. He absolutely has the game to do it, but as I've preached here from the beginning, tennis is mostly played above the shoulders. Right now, Roger's head is clearly fogged up with negativity and self-doubt.

On the women's side, there is just ridiculous turbulence as no one seems to want to take the number one mantle. Yesterday it was Jelena Jankovic losing a match that would have given her the top spot. Today, Ana Ivanovic gakked away her shot.
Worse yet, Maria Sharapova announced that her ever-balky right shoulder will keep her out of both the Olympics and the US Open. There is no bigger draw or brighter star on the women's side, especially in New York, and this is a huge loss.
This year continues to gather momentum as one of the most fascinating in tennis memory; we've got an ascendant number one, a legend on the ropes, and a women's game where no one seems to want to take charge. If there has ever been a tennis summer with more riding on it, I'm not aware.
Oh yeah, my tourney is 3 weeks away and I'm trying to get ready. Played really well on Monday evening, have been working really hard the last few days and the rackets have stayed in the closet. Next week should feature much training, and I'm looking forward to it.

The Green Dream

I was lying in bed last Sunday night getting my mind right for the work week when I thought "what would happen if I mixed some gin, lime, basil and sugar together? Would it be good? Would I rejoice or would it be heaved against the wall?" I had just bought fresh lime from the farmer's market and The Jess is growing basil outside, so why not.
After work I repaired to the mixing lab and got to work. I had made a batch of simple syrup some time ago which has been resting quietly in the fridge, so that came out. I got some robust, fragrant basil leaves, and quartered the lime.
I muddled, shook, mixed and tasted, as did The Jess. We looked at each other and knew it was back to the drawing board.
It took a bit of finagling, but what came out of the lab was one seriously delicious beverage I call The Green Dream. Here's the official breakdown

The Green Dream
1.5 oz Tanqueray Ten gin
3 fresh basil leaves, finely minced
one small fresh lime, quartered
1.5 teaspoons simple syrup (note: my simple syrup is not particularly sweet, so you may need to vary this ingredient depending on your syrup and personal tastes)

In glass, muddle lime, basil and syrup. When I say muddle, I really mean MUDDLE! Like put your back into it! You want to extract as much of the oils from the basil as possible.
Strain into shaker already filled with crushed ice
Add gin
Shake and strain into chilled martini glass. Serve up with small basil leave floated on top for garnish.

Great spice from the gin, basil up front, then a nice limey-sweet finish. We actually paired this beauty with some amazing moussaka The Jess whipped up and it was perfect! I really will try to start adding pics, I get so excited when the drinks are ready, I forget.