Saturday, October 20, 2007

Thank The Heavens For Russians... Dmitri Mendeleev. He was a pretty intelligent man and a really cool dude from what I can gather, and he made a great contribution to the enhancement of lemonade (which was almost an impossibility since lemonade was so good without additional help from anyone).

According to Wikipedia: "He is credited as being the primary creator of the first version of the periodic table of elements. Unlike other contributors to the table, Mendeleev predicted the properties of elements yet to be discovered." Now many of you may not find that to be all that cool, albeit it intelligent. You may even think of his creation, the Periodic table, to have been one of the biggest pains in your keester while you were in high school. I know for a fact it gave me indigestion trying to remember all the elements and their symbols; and once I got them halfway down, what did they do but add more elements. Well good old Dmitri was long since dead before they added new ones, but he was still responsible in a way because he predicted properties of elements yet to be discovered. What a pain in the arse he turned out to be for high school kids all over the world. Yet there was joy to be had from his studies too.

So what is it about the man that I could consider cool. Well it has a lot to do with ice cube and lemonade; but when I say that I mean it in an indirect way. I have always loved lemonade. I lie it sweetened, I like it without sweeteners, I liked it when I was young right from the lemon as in pure lemon juice, and In even liked lemon juice concentrate. I guess I was destined to be a sourpuss! Then as I got older, some where in my teen years, I discovered (in my own way and time) that there were some really good tasting substitutes for natural lemonade. I remember that Wyler's made a great tasting lemonade powder. It was sweetened with real sugar, and in that way was very unlike my standard of today which is artificially flavored and comes under the name of Crystal Lite. (Note I did not say my favorite because real natural lemonade is my favorite.)

I am beginning to digress from Dmitri, so please allow me to get back to him, but I will get to him as I diverged from him, in a round about way with Wyler's lemonade mix. That Wyler's was good stuff. As a matter of fact it went great with Gin and Vodka. Back in my youth, or at least in my teen years and my twenties, I loved anything with Gin and I also liked Vodka. One day I had the notion of mixing Gin with Wyler's lemonade mix. It was great. I liked it, my friends liked it, even people I did not know whom I met at concerts, and to whom I gave it, liked it. My buddy Charlie Vaughn called that drink a 'Legalade' after me. He had nicknamed me Legal Aid because I was going to college an majoring in Police Science. No I was not going to be a lawyer, I was planning on giving legal aid to society and the law, not to dirt bag criminals. That was ironic because Charlie was in jail more times that I got luck back then. Oh well he was a good man, and I loved him as a dear friend. After I created my drink, Charlie created his own using Vodka and Lemonade mix. I'll be damned but I cannot recall, at the moment, what we called them. They were darned good, almost as good as were the Legalades. Then when I went into the Border patrol at the start of my career about 28 years ago, I naturally turned to To-Kill-Ya Tequila, but only the white or clears ones, none of that golden colored swill for me. I wanted it to resemble Gin, or at least that is the way I preferred it, and its taste. Man those 4 years on the southern border were great, but I have to admit those Tequilas, and the Gin I still imbibed, brought me close to trouble a few times. Then again, when I think of it, they probably kept me from getting in trouble a few times too (just too drunk to get in trouble), and maybe even or at least kept me from catching anything nasty (yes alcohol is a great germ killer, especially when you drink straight shots of Tequila).

As luck, or fate, or the Gods would have it, I lived into adulthood. I graduated college, got a job, that turned into a career, got married, and had children with the woman I love. Somewhere along the line I sort of gave up gin, and Tequila, and Vodka, and jack Daniels, and Old Grand-dad, and Mellow Corn (don't ask), and even Yagermeister. Therefore, I also gave up on Legalades. Gin is tough on the body, the mind, and the soul. It is tough to live a normal life and be a die hard gin drinker. As Charlie used to say, and as I whole heatedly agree, Gin is not an alcoholic beverage, it is a state of mind! It is not the state of mind in which you wish to remain if you want to have a lasting marriage and bring up kids, at least not at gung-ho gin drinking levels. If you want to remain in that state of mind and hard core while at it for the long term, your long term winds up being shortened considerably. Heck I gave up all the hard spirits, except for every now and then. As for the Gin, maybe I miss it most, but I fear it most too. I mean after all, if it was the favorite of Charlie Allnut, it was one hell of a drink; and more than good enough for me. Gin was definitely a state of mind as portrayed in that movie, and as I can attest. (By the way, if you do not know to whom I refer when I mention Charlie Allnut, you missed one of the best movies of all time. I liked Mr. Allnut's brand, Gordon's Gin, but I preferred Tanqueray above them all.) Yet this post has little to do with Gin, and Dmitri had nothing to do with it as far as I am aware.

Now it is many years later since I gave up my youthful and almost incessant devotion to the hard spirits. Yet, I have decided to return to imbibing again, but on a much more refined and restricted level than I did in my wanton youth. Therefore, not too long ago, maybe a year and a half ago or maybe even two years ago, I started to drink distilled spirits again on an irregular basis, but not overboard. I started with Scotch, something I never liked as a youngster. It was not bad, but still took some getting used to. It was akin to Bourbon like Old Grand-dad or Wild Turkey, or to sour mash like Jack Daniels (also one of my favorites of my younger days), as far as I am concerned but maybe a bit mellower. I guess the fact that I paid about $80 to $100 dollars for .750ML may explain why it was mellower. Then I tried some Tequila, Sauza Conmemorativo, not bad but not great with my tendency for heartburn. Most recently I decided to try something else. Then I went to Irish Whiskey. Very good, better than Scotch, much more mellow; but still not my thing.

So I wound up debating whether or not I should buy a bottle of Gin, but thankfully I remembered it being a state of mind and not really an alcoholic beverage, and not wanting to be in that state of mind i decided on a bottle of Absolut. It was good. Yet there was something missing. Absolut is, if I am correct, made in Sweden. I wanted something more traditional. So the next time In went out, I picked up a bottle of Stolichnaya. It was great if only because it was Russian, and because I was brought up during the height of the cold war. Russia = Good Vodka. Yeah I know there are others from other places, but you had to live through the air raids, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Kruschev, and all those spy movies and shows to better appreciate the Russian stuff. I am now on my second bottle of the stuff (by the way, only my 5th bottle of hard spirits in almost 2 years). I mix it with crystal Lite and it is wonderful, with OJ it is okay, and neat it is rocket fuel. I like the Vodka thing. Finally, I am getting back to Dmitri and why I like him so much, and why I think he was cool, and what all this has to do with lemonade.
When I bought my first bottle of vodka a month or two ago, I tried it neat, and with with a lot of mixables. I used OJ, Cranberry Juice Cocktail, cherry flavored seltzer (mmmmmmmm good), and lemonade. I guess my favorite is with cherry flavored seltzer, but I only get one I like at Walmart, and I hardly ever shop there, so vodka with lemonade it was and is. Now I guess I am still not being very clear on what the guy who created the Periodic Table has to do with any of this. Well good old Dmitri Mendeleev, who was born in 1834, was a Russian. He was also a scientist specifically a chemist, he created the Periodic table, he did work on and wrote a book about the spectroscope, he survived what was diagnosed as tuberculosis, he taught chemistry at university, and in 1865 after having been married for a few years and at age 31 he earned the title Doctor of Science. His doctorate was based upon his dissertation: "On the Combinations of Water with Alcohol". Now we are getting someplace, and Dmitri was about to, unbeknown to him, earn a place in my heart many years later.

Shortly after all of the above, Dmitri went and fell for a second woman. He wound up getting married a second time, and finalized his divorce from his first wife only after he was married to the second wife in 1882. Way to go Dmitri. Of course this was all forbidden by the Orthodox Church of which he was a member. This had poor consequences for him, and he was not admitted into the Russian Academy of Sciences. Yet his second marriage must have been happy, or at least hot, because he and his new wife had a few children. Again I may seem to digress, but not really. In 1890 he resigned a university position, probably due to the controversy. This probably ultimately led to a position he picked up in 1893, that of Director of the Bureau of Weights and Measures, and this of course put him into government service. While in this position, good old Dmitri had a chance to explore molecular weights, something that had always apparently fascinated him. Guess with what substance he did that. My guess is that it was Vodka because he wound up concluding that the perfect Vodka should be balanced as: "...the ratio of one molecule of ethyl alcohol diluted with two molecules of water, giving a dilution by volume of approximately 38% alcohol to 62% water" His work, or should I hypothesize that it was his lack of work as a government slug and his enjoyment of vodka, led to a new standard for Vodka in Russia. It was thereafter produced at 40% alcohol level (made it easier to tax when the percentage of alcohol was rounded off to 40% instead of 38%). See what a divorce and a second marriage will do, drive you out of your church, mess up your career, push you into government sluggery service, and ultimately to dabble with drink. Yet, both before and after that, he did some other fine work, lots of it. He lived to a ripe old age of about 73, passing away in 1907. That seems to be a good old age for back then, probably because he was well pickled.

Now back to the lemonade; oh heck you must have put 1 & 1 together to come out with 3 like I just did, haven't you! Dmitri, because of his wonderful work on molecular weights, figured out what would become one of the best things that mankind could add to lemonade, other than Gin, to make it taste better. He did it whether he realized it or not, though I must admit I like to think he may have mixed it with the juice of that sunshiny citrus fruit at least now and again. For his efforts with Vodka, I tip my glass to him - NOSTROVIA Dmitri!

My thanks to to Wikipedia wherein I looked up the word Vodka earlier today, just out of idle curiosity to see where it was created. While there, I was sidetracked to the short but very interesting biography man who perfected a blend of alcohol and water to arrive at 80 proof Vodka. Heck had I known about all of this while in high school I may have looked at the Periodic Table and the elements in a whole other light. By the way, I checked several sources and not one other source dedicated to Dmitri mentioned one thing about Vodka and his contribution to the drinkers of the world; nor did any of those other sources connect him with lemonade. Go figure!

All the best,
Glenn B