The Long Drink

by Warren Bobrow

The long drink is an easy way to keep the dog days of August at bay.  During the mid-season, between summer and fall, we seek refreshment in the glass and behind the stick.  Long drinks are meant to relax and cool your body from the lack of the cooling breezes that take the sweat which forms on your skin and then turns it into a form of air-conditioning. 

A long drink is air-conditioning in the glass. 

At Bar Tonique located on Rampart Street in New Orleans, cooling relief comes in many forms.  One of the most popular forms involves fresh juices of lemon and lime along with milk with freshly drawn seltzer water and an egg white.  This drink is known as the Gin Fizz.   At Bar Tonique they make this drink a bit differently than in most establishments.  Instead of finishing the drink with seltzer, the fizzy water goes into the glass first.  This forces the creamy elements to float on top of the clear fizzy liquids capturing the summery essence of the freshly squeezed citrus fruits directly into your nose.  The other way that this drink is different at Bar Tonique is the price.  Drinks are not overly priced like they are in the French Quarter bars.  A simple drink at Bar Tonique is anywhere from six to at the most ten dollars.  This is a far cry from the twelve to almost sixteen dollars in some of the more tourist centered mixology bars down in the Quarter.  

Another long drink for the summer that is quite popular in cities like San Francisco and in New Orleans is the classic drink named Fernet and Cola.  Fernet Branca is the herbal base of this lovely and aromatic health tonic.  Served over perfectly square cubes of Kold-Draft ice, the Fernet and Cola was one of the most refreshingly delicious drinks of my short stay.  I didn’t overindulge in alcohol this trip, nor on any trip to New Orleans do I cross that line.   However, should you ever go past the point of no return (and we all know what that is by now) it’s nice to know that Fernet is that safe healing place where all is possible.  The curative benefits are more than just a way to feel better; they are a proven way to stay hydrated and cool in the blistering heat of the late summer. 

Down in New Orleans, Bar Tonique has no fewer than ten specialty gins on their menu board.  During the summer, I find there are few types of liquor that I enjoy more than gin.  As an impressionable youngster, my parents took me to the Ivory Coast in Africa.  This country is located almost directly on the Equator so the climate is pretty even tempered all year round.  This means daytime temperatures hardly get below ninety-five and nighttime temperatures very rarely get below ninety.  It’s a stinking soup of humidity, very much like the weather in New Orleans.  Every day there would be a thunderstorm that washed the streets clean, if only for a moment and then the steam would rise directly into the sky.  The liquor of choice in the more impoverished areas of Abidjan was a type of liquor distilled from cassava.  It was horribly potent stuff, nearing 200 Proof that was mixed with certain indigenous fruits that were more rotten than ripe.  The visual imagery in my young brain of the locals hopelessly wrecked on this “not more than lighter fluid” spirit taught me the simple lesson of: to drink better you must drink less. 

The idea of drinking sweet liquor or anything in the Ivory Coast was a horrible thought to say the very least.  Couple with the heat there was the humidity, so a simple walk out to the car from your home required great effort.  For this strenuous activity of a five-foot walk in the sizzling, dripping heat, a gin and tonic would most certainly be in the offing.  The gin and tonic is one of those long drinks that offer great health benefits in hot weather.  First of all, the tonic when mixed with clean ice is a refreshing and cooling “mock” tail.  Add to the glass a chunk of lime to make any chance of contracting scurvy or other jungle diseases a thing of the distant past.  New Orleans is very similar in this regard.  Long drinks that are centered with tonic and lime are effective in hot climates.  When gin is added to act as a powerful relaxant, the drink is complete.  You cannot enjoy yourself in hot climes without the proper lubrication.  The healing in a glass approach to a well-crafted gin and tonic can be a thing of rare beauty.  On a blisteringly hot and humid day there is nothing that I find more beguiling.

These three long drinks mentioned here are easy to produce for your guests and provide more than just amusement on a hot and sticky day.  They become a metaphor for drinking well no matter what the climate!


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