Monday, March 19, 2012

Thank Goodness I Gave Up Such Foolishness . . .

. . . as giving up martinis for Lent this year.

As some of my Dear Readers may remember, last year I struggled with forgoing the pleasure of a daily gin martini in observation of Lent.  Not so this year, I'm relieved to relate.  At my (advancing) age there aren't all that many vices that I have left in my much-deplenished arsenal, so the prospect of giving up one of the few remaining ones that I have was sinply too much for me to bear.

My "new" vintage Reed & Barton cocktail shaker,
taken in front of a portrait in our city livingroom

Not only am I no longer all that interested in most other vices (that was then, this is now), but the physical toll (not to mention the impact on one's dignity) of engaging in such activities (particularly in public) these days simply doesn't have the appeal for me that it once did.  Ah, well.

But I still drink alcohol (and coffee for that matter), and I plan on continuing to do so until it isn't pleasurable for me anymore.  And I can't imagine that happening any time soon, either—absent an unwelcomed intervention of some sort (perish the thought!).

This past Saturday, while attending a large antiques show at Pier 94 in New York City with Boy and his divine assistant, Nancie Peterson, I found this charming silver-plated Reed & Barton cocktail shaker.  Priced very attractively, it was probably made in the 1950s and is whimsically constructed in the shape of an old-fashioned milk can.  Which is entirely fitting, I might add, as an ice-cold gin martini (very light on the vermouth, please) is—as they say—mothers milk to this particular writer.

All the usual suspects that one expects to see out at such shows were there, including well-known decorators, magazine editors, fellow collectors, and smart antiques dealers shopping for inventory.  It was fun stopping and speaking with a number of them, albeit briefly and in passing, as none of us had much time to gab, since we were all there determined to hunt for treasures among the rather mostly dross-like offerings.  One must move fast at these shows, right out of the opening gate, as the offerings tend to get picked over very quickly by eagle-eyed, early-bird arrivals.

The underside of the shaker still retains
its original label

Fortunately I found this cocktail shaker on one of my early rounds of the pier, and I scooped it up with nary a second thought nor a dither.  As I said, one must move fast under such circumstances.  What a delightful and welcome addition this shaker is to my small and frequently used collection.  With but a little bit of silver polish and a modest amount of elbow grease it will soon gleam anew.

Tell me, Dear Reader, do you have a favorite cocktail shaker?

Next: the perfect cocktail jigger

Photographs by Boy Fenwick

27 comments:

  1. the prospect of giving up one of the few remaining [vices] that I have was sinply too much for me to bear.

    Typo of the year.

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    1. Thank you, Ancient, I shall be sure NOT to correct it!

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  2. Hello Reggie:
    Alas, we have no cocktail shaker, although we have toyed with buying several over the years. We got very close to purchasing one, a relic of a long defunct shipping line, but we were beaten to it. As you say, one tends to have to act quickly when one spies a treasure as, all too often, there are others waiting in the wings to pounce!!

    Your Reed and Barton shaker is most attractive and will surely cut a dash on your city drinks table.It is, we find, always more satisfactory to buy good quality plated items from reputable makers [we look for Walker Hall in England]as there tends to be a good weight to the piece which makes it so much nicer to use.

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    1. We have four shakers (gasp!), all except one of which are silver plated. The one that is not, a lovely sterling example we impulsively bought at Asprey six years ago, is a bit too soft for the task, as one wants a particularly tight closure for when shaking the contents, and I find the silver plated ones are better suited for the task due to their greater rigidity.

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  3. Dear Reggie,

    I love going to antique show and am so glad you picked up this unusual cocktail shaker! Truly beautiful.

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena

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  4. Reggie --

    We imbide during Lent as well changing the name of our drinks to "Lentinis"! Every Friday we have a roomful of guests who enjoy our concoction as well before we head en masse to the Catholic Church where we sit at what we jokingly call "The Protestant Table" and eat the best fish and coleslaw!

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    1. This sounds like a lovely tradition. I shall now refer to my favorite cocktail during the Lenten season as a "Lentini"! Quite brilliant.

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  5. You snagged a good one there. Cocktail shakers are redolent of the 'good life' in the earlier part of the 20th century; in fact they are an iconic symbol. As a collector of dairy memorabilia, I admire the good humor of the well-realized milk can shape. Also, it doesn't look too large, so if you put it to use, you don't have to feel that your 'vice' is getting out of control.
    --Road to Parnassus

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    1. Thank you -- the vessel is deceptively large, as it actually holds 32 ounces!

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  6. Franklin John KakiesMarch 19, 2012 at 7:38 PM

    Well, Mr. Darling, my absolute favorite cocktail shaker is part of a service, and is housed in a table in the shape of a huge gimble ring, with shaker and glasses set within individual gimble rings inside the frame. Chromium plate, mid-thirties ("MY period") and über-swanky. I suspect it was an ill-chosen wedding present to people who never used it, because it has no signs of wear.

    Of course, for every day I use my dear Father's late-40s chrome shaker with the cherry red phenolic handle. This is the shaker I depicted in a drawing I did in kindergarden which I titled "Me and my Father making cocktails" . Mother worried that Mrs. Hoffman would think my Parents the most depraved sort, allowing their six-year old son alcohol, but of course nothing was further from the truth!

    Anyway, I like your "milk-can" shaker, and wasn't it Liza Dolittle's aunt to whom gin was like mother's milk?

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    1. I love it! Of course Miss Doolittle's Aunt was the gin drinker you describe. Most amusing!

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  7. Dear Reggie:

    I remember your wonderful post last year on your Lenten sacrifice, and recall what a chuckle I go out of your brilliant solution. I wondered if you would try the same this year.

    Cheers!
    Bitsy

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  8. My favorite cocktail shaker is whichever one is about to dispense a martini (although I do lust for a friend's heavy sterling penguin, inherited from her father).

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    Replies
    1. I'm not that picky, either, when it comes to gin...

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  9. Reggie --

    A more serious comment.

    You and I grew up under the shadow of The Depression and James Bond. Few then remembered how to make a decent martini, and many of those who thought they did have since been proved wrong -- if we are to believe the obsessives who write about such.

    Nowadays we are told that Bond wanted his martinis "shaken and not stirred" because -- once upon a time, in the late Forties -- Fleming was reduced to drinking potato vodka from Poland, which has a rough edge which disappears with water. (Why Fleming would object to a rough edge is probably something left for a separate post.)

    A gentleman, however, then and now, always held out for gin. And everyone knows that the subtle flavors of gin are destroyed in a martini shaker. Which is why, from the Thirties into the Sixties, real martini drinkers had glass pitchers with glass rods for stirring to make the drink, typically in lethal portions.

    Which is a roundabout way of saying why, while I have two very large sterling shakers -- adapted by Tiffany in the Twenties from squash and tennis cups awarded by a couple of clubs, I keep them in the country for the exclusive use of the maid -- to clean out the baths.

    Cheers, etc.

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    1. I was not aware of the rationale for glass cocktail conainers, nor why one stirred vs shook. Thank you for the enlightenment. And the visual of said maid washing out the baths with a repurposed trophy from the Bath and Tennis. RD

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  10. I have found, dear Reggie, that I tend to GET INTO TROUBLE, when martinis are in the house:).

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    1. Mostly these days I tend to fall asleep on the sofa...

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  11. Interesting you refer to gin as Mother's Milk. In the mid-eighteenth century it was referred to as Mother's Ruin:

    http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Mothers-Ruin/

    which isn't why I drink my martinis made with vodka; I just don't like the taste of gin; the result of a misspent last day at school. Long story.

    I too make my martinis in a glass vessel, and stir.

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    1. And the there is, of course, Gin Lane -- that well-known locale of ruination! I suppose that my taste in liquor is a dangerous one...but I like it!

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  12. Your post makes me want to post my cocktail shaker along with toasting to you at your wonderful Reed & Barton find. How fun to find something so practical and with polish.
    pve

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  13. My family made Martini's out of a very modest stainless steel shaker- I think there was a sterling tray involved... (My Father's seizures
    were tripped by Martini's so I avoided them ever afterwards.)

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  14. My father always stirs his gin martinis, so as not to "bruise" the gin. I don't know if this is simply an Old Dad's Tale.......

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  15. I love that your new shaker alludes to the possiblity that martinis are your milk!

    It reminds me of a great story of W. C. Fields, and how he drank gin while working on sets. He would put it in big tumbler and refer to it as "my water."

    One day, somebody replaced Fields' gin with a glass of water, and Fields was heard to bellow, "Who put water in my water!"

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  16. Oh dear, How I miss an icy martini poured from a pretty shaker- Had to quit a while back (an unfortunate but not terribly serious head injury)- It is the only drink I miss-The sight of a vodka Gibson in a very thin cold martini glass still makes me weak in the knees-Still have about 4 good shakers out of a dozen or so I collected over the years- the best is a 1950's silver one with a screw top- I always say the most violent thhing I care to see is Cary Grant bruising some gin in an attractive setting.

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  17. Hmmm, as I have a collection of them, choosing is difficult. However, the small hotel-silver one is the perfect size (these days) and shakes a very cold drink. I tend to have mine stirred, with a glass stirrer, in a plate martini pitcher.

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