New Orleanians, it seems, will find just about any reason to enjoy a cocktail. It’s one of the things I appreciate most about the Crescent City.
So I was strolling down Royal Street recently – or it might have been Chartres Street – sipping a Bloody Mary in a plastic cup and heading to the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival to take my place on a panel discussion about humor writing when I spotted an advertisement for an Easter brunch. Cocktails, cocktails, cocktails! No big deal, I thought. Then I noticed the featured cocktails were “Peeptinis.”
The pink drink on the advertisement looked ghastly – whipped cream vodka, Grenadine, and Godiva white chocolate liquor rimmed in pink sugar and adorned with a pink chick Peep. A little glass of glucose. I was slightly nauseated, mildly appalled; yet highly intrigued by this unholy union of alcohol and spongy marshmallow. But it got me wondering: What kind of peep cocktail could I create?
It shouldn’t be too difficult to conceptualize, I thought. Peeps, after all, are comprised of nothing more than granulated sugar, liquid sugar, gelatin, vanilla, and color. Except for the eyes, which are made of carnauba wax imported from Brazil. Carnauba is non-toxic and edible. It’s found in many candies, but also in dental floss, shoe polishes, and car waxes.
Peeps have been around for more than sixty years. Back in the early 1950s the chicks and bunnies were squeezed out by hand one by one from a pastry tube. It took approximately twenty-seven hours from start to finish to create each one, mainly because it took the marshmallow a long time to cool before it could be packaged.
Today, Peeps are produced in rows by a machine called “The Depositor” and the whole process takes just about six minutes. The family-owned Just Born Company in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, produces more than 4 million Peeps each day! Classic yellow is the most popular color for chicks and bunnies, followed by pink, lavender, blue, and white. And they don’t stop at chicks and bunnies. Just Born also produces Easter eggs, Christmas trees, jack-o-lanterns, and Valentines hearts.
As I pondered which cocktail I would make with the Peep, I couldn’t help but feel a classic Easter tradition deserved a classic cocktail. I opted to mix a simple “Peep Julep” and I selected an orange bunny Peep with a hint of crème de la orange flavor as the basis for the libation. I felt it would pair well with bourbon in terms of color and taste.
To create a classic Julep one should dissolve half an ounce of superfine sugar in an ounce of hot water. I used the Peep because, after all, it is made of superfine sugar. Next add eight mint leaves plus one mint sprig and press lightly with a spoon in order to release the oil from the mint leaves and the sugar from the Peep. Press too hard and the Peep will disintegrate and, trust me, that isn’t a good look. Add three ounces of good Kentucky bourbon, fill the glass (or preferably a silver cup) with cracked ice, and plant the mint spring in the ice. I fished out the orange bunny Peep, cut a slit in it, and used it to garnish my glass.
Bury your nose in the mint. Sip slowly. Not too bad, if I say so myself.
In retrospect, though, I recommend tossing the wet Peep and using a fresh one, unless, that is, you like the feel of something sticky pressing against your face while you imbibe.
The great Louisiana writer Walker Percy once said bourbon did for him what cake did for Proust. Wonder what he’d say about bourbon and Peeps? I bet I know.
Tell people you’re shopping for eyeglasses and you get a lot of interesting reactions. Some swear by today’s new online optical retailers. Others tell you about the hip but cheap store you’ve just gotta try. Then there are those who wish you good luck with a pat on the shoulder.
I’ve been wearing glasses for more than forty years so I understand the importance of proper eyewear. After all, they sit right on your face, the first thing people see when they look at you. They have to be right.
I’m in the market for a new pair of specs due to an unfortunate situation in a fashionable Manhattan cocktail lounge. There I was feeling snazzy in a navy suit, Hermes tie, and horn-rimmed glasses. The crowd was attractive. The drinks were flowing. And after a full day of intense business meetings, I was beginning to relax into the moment. Then I bellied up to the bar and asked to see a drinks menu.
Damned if I couldn’t read it — not until I held it at arms length and truly focused. The cute but impatient bartender pretended not to notice my optical struggle, but I swear I heard snickering from the two young faux lumberjacks between whom I’d wedged.
Presbyopia — Greek for “old man’s eye” — hits most people between the ages 40 and 50. I’d been fortunate enough to avoid it and smart enough to deny it. But there in that New York bar, it became clear to me that I could no longer ignore my need for bifocals.
Rather than getting depressed, I convinced myself this might be a good time for an eyeglass makeover. After all, I’ve been wearing the same basic style of preppy round oval glasses (known as the P3 style in the trade) since 1988.
My first pair was a tortoise-colored model known as the O’Malley by that smart Los Angeles firm Oliver People’s. It was supposedly inspired by the glasses worn by former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley. At the time, I was working a low-paying publishing job and using all sorts of cost-savings tactics such as bourbon for cologne. The glasses cost more than my rent, but boy did they make me feel smart and fashionable. I still have them as sunglasses now.
The big question in my mind was whether I ought to step out of my P3 comfort zone with a pair of new frames?
My first excursion was to a fancy boutique whose proprietor has a reputation for unique and expensive frames. Well- dressed clients milled about sipping Starbucks and gossiping about mutual acquaintances and Downton Abbey all the while oohing and aahing over the latest stock from France and Germany. I inquired about a pair of little hexagonal frames that were sort of Ben Franklinesque. Absolutely not, the proprietor said, with a bit of a reprimand. She even went so far as refusing to open the display cabinet. Instead, she gently slipped a pair of big blue glasses on my face.
“They’re Mikli frames,” she whispered in my ear. “Note the beautiful herringbone pattern. ”
“That’s nice, but I’m not buying china,” I replied, perhaps a tad tartly. Things went downhill from there. After a few more unsuccessful blue frame recommendations she lost interest and so did I.
At my next stop, a trendy, but cheap, establishment, I encountered a big girl with burgundy hair who told me I had the perfect face for glasses. “You’re an oval and just about any style will look good on you,” she said as she plopped a pair of round orange colored eyeglasses on my puss.
Really? I looked like I was wearing two gigantic butter rum lifesavers. Things didn’t get much better with her other selections, and when she came at me brandishing a pair of beige plastic aviator-style frames I slowly backed away. “C’mon, just try ‘em on,” she coaxed, as I darted out the door.
At the gay eyeglass store everything looked remarkably cloned and everything looked remarkable on me, so said the soft-spoken pocket boy on the floor that day. Seriously? I could swear I looked like Martina Navratilova in a couple of those expensive titanium frames.
There were more visits to more stores and more encounters with sales people. Finally realizing the glasses weren’t any greener on the other side, I returned to my tried and true optician, the place where I purchased those O’Malleys so many decades ago and many of my P3s since. I’d heard a rumor the O’Malley had been revived.
As I stood in the store modeling the “Sir O’Malley,” as the frame was now called, I wondered why I’d ever ditched them in the first place. Just as I was about to whip out my credit card, I caught a glimpse of some hip wooden Italian frames.
Well hello handsome…
I picked up a pair of black rectangular frames. They felt good. They fit good. And, most importantly, they looked good on me, in a trendy kind of way.
Eyeglasses are generally thought to have been invented in Italy in the 13th century for monks and scholars. That’s not surprising, considering Italy – and especially Venice – was a center of glass making during medieval times. Early eyeglass frames were made from wood, horn, leather, and bone. These wooden ones represented a marriage of ancient and modern style. They were unique and I was smitten.
When it was all said and done, the bespoke wooden frames with progressive lenses cost me just about the same as my monthly mortgage. I think maybe I’ll splash on a little bourbon and celebrate, just for old time sake.