Jameson and Mount Gay Make Surprise Liquor Cameos on ‘Mad Men’

I have a theory about Mad Men. Actually, I have lots of theories, but my most recent theory is that the horrible mistake from two episodes ago–in which Joan says she has a reservation at Le Cirque, at a time (1968) when Le Cirque wouldn’t have been open yet (it debuted in 1974)–wasn’t a mistake at all. It was a gift to viewers who giddily analyze every frame, and every utterance, for historical accuracy. Something to make them feel good about themselves, a reward for their vigilance. Sure, Matthew Weiner himself said it was an oopsie, but that’s hard to believe. I used to be a fact checker, and there’s no question research went over the script. It’s unlikely they’d miss it, especially in this era of finding answers within 1.3 seconds of entering a query into Google. So, as far as I’m concerned, Mad Men is rock solid in its historical accuracy, which is why it’s so fun for me, a spirits writer, to see what liquor bottles show up on the show. This season (Season 6) has had some great cameos. Let’s review a few.

It’s been long established that Don Draper is a whiskey guy, while Roger Sterling prefers vodka. Different spirit, different glass.

We’ve seen plenty of Draper’s whisky of choice, Canadian Club, which is a light, easy-to-drink, satisfying whiskey from our friends up north who kept us sozzled during Prohibition. When I was a little kid in the ’70s, my parents had an ancient, untouched bottle of Canadian Club in the pantry, so it tugs at my nostalgic side a bit. It’s a fine whiskey, if a bit milder than many of the more aggressive bourbons and Scotches today–perfect to mix with ginger ale in a tall glass with ice.

Sterling’s vodka has oscillated between Smirnoff and Stolichnaya. Similarly, my folks had bottles of both, which they only opened if guests came by. Smirnoff has been around for eons, and despite its very affordable price, it tastes great. I love pointing out to people how it won the New York Times blind taste test back in 2005, and I’ll never forgive Smirnoff for not capitalizing on it until years later. I mean, how can you not take advantage of a gift like that? Insanity. 

The Stolichnaya, or "Stoli," as the cool people call it, is a special case. It wasn’t widely available in the U.S. until 1972, when an agreement was brokered between the U.S. and Soviet Union to trade U.S. distribution rights for Stoli for Soviet distribution rights for Pepsi. But Roger Sterling is a man of influence and connections, and he’s found a way, in 1968, to keep the Stoli flowing in the office. (Initially he had it sent from a friend in Greece.) For those who were alive during this period (I was born in 1970) there was an intriguing "otherness" to Stoli. It came from our Cold War enemies, so it was forbidden fruit, much like Cuban cigars after the fall of Batista. The bottle looked like no other. Still does. 

There are other spirit brands on the show, including Lancers wine from Portugal that Joan was serving her mom and sister at dinner, but it was two other bottles that caught my eye in a recent episode. Joan is pictured at her desk, and over her left shoulder, one can see a collection of bottles that include Jameson Irish Whiskey and Mount Gay Barbados Rum.

I found this fascinating, because I just learned about the import history of Irish whiskey at a Powers whiskey event at the Dead Rabbit. The reluctance on behalf of the Irish to enter into export contracts with the U.S. until Prohibition was officially repealed gave Scotch producers a big jump on them. It wasn’t until the 1960s that Ireland began a big push into the American market for its whiskey, and it began with Jameson because it had the most name recognition. So that bottle of Jameson on Joan’s cabinet would have been one of the first bottles in the U.S., and her position as a partner in a Madison Avenue advertising agency no doubt put it on her radar.

As for the Mount Gay, I don’t know quite as much about its history as a U.S. consumer product in the late 1960s, but I do know this: Mount Gay is the oldest "official" rum, with a surviving distillery deed from Barbados dating to 1703. So it was certainly around back in the 1960s, and any firm with a connection to Great Britain (RIP Layne Pryce), and thus, Barbados, would know about it. It’s also long been the rum of sailors, so men with sailing as a hobby might have a penchant for the stuff. In any case, I love Mount Gay and was thrilled to see it on one of my favorite shows.

Now I’ve got to know when Mount Gay first started appearing on U.S. liquor store shelves. If it wasn’t the most popular rum in New York in 1968, what was? Give me your informed opinions and reckless speculation in the comments. 

[For New York’s best bars, visit the BlackBook City Guide. Related stories: Canadian Club’s Boardwalk Empire Package Celebrates Prohibition Era; A Humble Old Label Ices its Rivals; Jameson Tries to Reinvent the Beer and a Shot; 310-Year-Old Mount Gay Comes Out With a Spiffy New Rum; Sipping Powers John’s Lane Whiskey at the Dead Rabbit; A Few Observations on the Launch of Bunnahabhain 40-Year-Old Scotch; More by Victor Ozols; Follow me on Twitter]

New York’s Wackiest St. Patrick’s Day Dishes & Drinks

Like all holidays, St. Patrick’s Day is a day when we get away with doing things that are deemed unacceptable on ordinary days. Running around in green onesies, handing out Lucky Charms cereal to strangers, and drunkenly yelling the phrase “Luck of the Irish!” to couples mid-makeout is strongly encouraged and instantly Instagrammed. And when it comes to fuel for the ride, the wackiness continues, as food and alcohol finds any excuse to intermingle. Tuna with Jameson soy sauce? Yeah, why not. Bread pudding stuffed with banana Jameson shots? Can’t say no. Here are NYC’s most unusual:

GO Burger: 

  • St. Patty Melt Burger: a 4 oz. burger topped with corned beef, Irish cheddar, mustard, and sauerkraut, available now.
  • Kiss Me I’m Irish Spiked Shake: a creamy shake full of Bailey’s, Jameson, & Murphy’s Stout, blended with a shamrock cookie and whipped cream, available now.

Bounce Sporting Club:

  • Tuna with Jameson Soy Sauce: savory, alcoholic, Sunday only.
  • Banana Bread Pudding with Jameson shots: paired with butternut squash ice cream and eggnog & banana shots, Sunday only.

BLT Steak: 

  • The Jameson Goodbye Cocktail: drink infused with Jameson, green tea, lime juice, & mint tea, $18, available this weekend.

The Windsor:

  • Pastrami Spring Rolls: meat, fried, wrapped, perfect, this weekend.
  • Guinness Chocolate Cupcake with Bailey’s Buttercream: as described, served in a jar, available this weekend. 

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Photo: damnthatlooksgood.com

Jameson Black Barrel Tries to Reinvent the Beer-and-a-Shot

Having a beer with a shot on the side is a great way to get started on an evening of drinking. It’s the total package of alcohol in just two glasses, the heat and power of the whiskey acting as the yang to the beer’s cool, refreshing yin. While there’s no question that the combination is potent, I’ve always seen it done in a mellow context. The lone publishing assistant popping into the local on the way home, reading a manuscript at the bar as the sun’s last rays filter through the windows. The long-suffering cubicle mates who desperately need a bonding session, but don’t have time for a proper bender. Looking to get trashed? That’s what Jägerbombs are for. This is about easing into the evening. As for the beer and shot, the whiskey tends to vary, but the beer is almost always PBR. Well, the refined palates of Ireland’s Jameson distillery think the combination is in need of an upgrade, and I agree. They came up with a few alternatives, which pair Jameson Black Barrel Select Reserve ($35) against a selection of today’s most interesting beers. I tried them all, and added my own as well. Here’s how it worked out.

Pairing 1: Jameson Black Barrel with Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Cask Oak Aged Beer

I just wrote about this beer, which brings together Scotland and Ireland in one bottle. The beer’s a Scottish stout, but it’s matured in oak barrels that previously held Irish whiskey, so the flavors are already married. The pairing is a smooth ride, with the woody spice of the whiskey mixing with the vanilla maltiness of the beer. It feels very appropriate, like cousins meeting at a family reunion.

Pairing 2: Jameson Black Barrel with Brooklyn Dry Irish Stout

I’m a fan of everything that comes from the Brooklyn Brewery, and their Dry Irish Stout is one of my favorites. It’s also extremely well-named: If you like the chewy darkness of a stout like Guinness or Murphy’s but wish they’d tone down the sweet edge, it’s for you. When you pair it with the Jameson Black Barrel, you get a meeting of extremes. Usually the shot comes before the beer, but in this case I like sipping the beer first, then the whiskey. It’s a dry, chalky start with a sweet caramel finish. I love the contrast. Of all the pairings on this page, these are the two farthest apart, like going from a cold pool to a steam room. The flavors start muted and then build to an explosion. Tick tick tick tick boom. 

Pairing 3: Jameson Black Barrel and Sixpoint 3Beans

This pairing feels tropical, and seems to hold the promise of the wildest party. The slight banana note of the whiskey mixes with the coffee flavor of the beer, making you want to get up and move. It’s a dance floor filler.

Pairing 4: Jameson Black Barrel and Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro

As opposed to the Brooklyn Dry Irish Stout, this pairing is as close together as beer and whisky get. It’s perfect harmony, tasting almost the same no matter the order in which you consume it. Each makes the other go down easier. The aroma’s amazing too, like two different types of fine leather. Classy.

Pairing 5: Jameson Black Barrel and Captain Lawrence St. Vincent’s Dubbel Belgian-Style Abbey Ale

This is my contribution to the pairing game, and I’m happy with how it turned out. Abbey ales tend to have an elevated alcohol content and sharp flavor profile, and in this case they work well with the whiskey. The herbaciousness of the beer melds to the bite of the whiskey, making it extra thinky. The combination of the cloviness and fruit notes of the beer with the smokey caramel experience of the whiskey gives it an almost Asian feeling. There’s an exoticism to this pairing. It might not work for the after-work sports bar crowd, but foodies and drinkies into experimenting will find a lot going on. This ought to be on the drinks menu at Spice Market

[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; More by Victor Ozols]

A Collection of Sublime Irish Whiskeys for Your St. Patrick’s Weekend Enjoyment

I love a smoky Scotch on a cold winter’s night and dream of summer afternoons with an icy tumbler of sweet American bourbon. When springtime rolls around, however, my brown liquor of choice is Irish. Triple distilled using unpeated malt, Irish whiskey occupies a seductive middle ground between hearty austerity and frivolous fire, making it a spirit of rebirth perfectly suited to the most hopeful season. Here are a few upscale options that will keep you happy while you watch the great, green world awaken in front of you.

With roots that go back to the establishment of the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin in 1780, Jameson Gold Reserve ($61) is a delicious, medium-bodied whiskey with an intoxicating aroma, a crisp spearmint note at the front, and flavors of caramel and honey. The recently-released Jameson Black Barrel Select Reserve ($35), meanwhile, uses deep-charred bourbon barrels to impart smooth vanilla and butterscotch flavors that melt into your tongue. Redbreast 12 Year Old Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey ($45) is reminiscent of a very strong cider, with subtle orange and tangerine flavors and just a hint of Atomic FireBall candy.

In the north lies Bushmills, the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world—its first license to distill was issued in 1608—which has given it plenty of time to refine its craft. Bushmills 16 Year Old Malt ($60) has a well balanced mix of port wine, almond, and sandalwood flavors. It’s a glassful of harmony. The rare Bushmills 21 Year Old Malt ($90) is special indeed, aged for a minimum of 19 years in Oloroso sherry and bourbon casks before being finished in Madeira casks. Its dark chocolate, toffee, and spice notes and exceptional finish make it a worthy splurge.

Powers Gold Label 12-Year-Old Irish Whiskey ($36) is a good bet if you don’t have a pot of gold to spend. It has a sharp aroma and a wonderfully smooth touch from the start that reveals a few spice notes as it settles in. It’s also the most popular Irish whiskey sold in Ireland, which is a pretty solid endorsement of its value. 

There’s something about Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old Special Reserve ($40) that brings out the best of the casks it matures in, making it smooth and mellow with caramel notes and the smallest hint of spice. And the delightful Tullamore Dew 10 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey ($45) is aged to perfection in four different casks, with a gorgeous amber color, an intense fruity aroma, and flavors of toasted wood, vanilla, and sherry that leave a sourness in the cheeks before imparting a faint chocolate note.

Finally, Midleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey ($135), which is produced in the East Cork town of the same name, seems to encompass everything good about Ireland. It’s smooth, bittersweet, and a little spicy, with flavors of dark chocolate, almonds, oak, and vanilla: an ideal dram to toast the vernal equinox.

[Related Story: Jon Glaser Raises a Few Glasses to Toast St. Patrick’s Day]