Saturday, March 12, 2011

From Lenten Ashes So Does the Phoenix Rise

As readers of this blog may recall, or at least may have noticed when perusing his blogger profile, Reggie is a self-confessed, "somewhat observant" Episcopalian.  During his lifelong membership in that particular denomination he has noticed that there is is one character trait that virtually all Episcopalians share in common, aside from their religious affiliation.  And that is a pronounced fondness for drink.

A well-appointed drinks tray is one
of the great pleasures of being a grownup

Episcopalians' willingness to indulge in imbibulous activities is so well known that members of certain abstemious denominations derisively refer to Episcopalians as "Whisky-palians." I've even heard some sneer, "Oh, right, you're the guys where 'when two are gathered together' a fifth will soon appear!" and then burst into peals of self-satisfied laughter.

So what is wrong with a drink among friends, I ask?  Or alone at home, for that matter?  And who made up the rule that one should wait until five o'clock before starting to drink?  As MD used to say when reaching for the decanter when I was growing up, "It's five o'clock somewhere!"

Reggie's pre-dinner cocktail of choice is a very dry and very cold Beefeater gin martini, served up, with an olive or two.  He has written about his fondness for martinis often enough that a number of his readers, most notably the Ancient, have commented on it, and not always in an entirely complimentary manner, he might add.

A perfectly made martini is a
vision of loveliness, indeed!

When pondering what to give up for Lent this year, I recalled the admonishments of Rectors past that one should select something to give up that is truly a meaningful sacrifice.  It is easy to give up something that one engages in only rarely, if at all.  To that end it would hardly be a sacrifice for Reggie to give up playing football during Lent, a sport he hasn't played since he was a boy, and even then engaged in only with great reluctance, if not misery.

So this year, while sitting in a pew on Ash Wednesday at Saint Bartholomew's Church on Park Avenue, I decided to make the supreme sacrifice and give up the one habit I truly adore and which the absence of in my daily life would leave me feeling deprived, if not in physical pain.

Yes, Dear Reader, Reggie has given up drinking martinis for Lent.

As with so many resolutions—such as when one goes on a diet or vows to increase the frequency of one's exercise regimen—Reggie's resolve to abstain from imbibing martinis was steadfast on the first day of his commitment, and nary a drop of gin passed his lips—nor did he long for it.  It helped that he dined at home that evening, where no gin bottle lurked to tempt him (we long ago decided to confine our martini drinking during the week to when dining in restaurants—which might explain why we eat out so often).  But the next night was not so easy.  For that evening we met our dear friend Jasper Lambert at a restaurant for dinner.  And it was there that Habit reared her seductive head and pleaded with Reggie to dispense with such foolishness and order the delicious, ice-cold martini he so craved.  "What harm could it do?" she soothingly whispered in my ear.  And as Christ was tempted, so was I.  But just when I was on the verge of giving into Habit's siren call, a brilliant solution presented itself to me.  It was a miracle.

"Eureka!" I cried, "I've got it!  I don't need to drink a martini, I can drink something else!"  And so I jubilantly ordered a rye Manhattan, another great favorite cocktail of mine and a most delicious and satisfying alternative to a gin martini.

Gentlemen may prefer blondes,
but they marry brunettes!

And so, like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, I have renewed confidence that I shall indeed remain steadfast in my Lenten resolution to dispense with martinis.  And to assist me in my resolve I have stocked our cabinets with a sufficient quantity of rye, vermouth, bitters, and maraschino cherries to ensure that I shall be able to stand up on Easter morning and look myself in the eye in the mirror and proclaim with heartfelt, joyous honesty, "Yes, I did it!"

And for that Reggie is most grateful.

Tell me, what did you give up for Lent this year? 


  1. Oh Reggie, darling! I was on the point of sending a sympathy note when I read of your decision to take a Manhattan instead and felt an inordinate amount of relief.

    Pagan that I am, I add during Lent - and I'm not just referring to my waistline - this occasion I visited our local wine merchant and have stocked up on Malbec, Rose and white Burgundies.

    The Manhattan I shall drink tonight is one made with Bulleit Rye, Carbano Antica Formula vermouth and a real maraschino cherry. I, as you know, am a Manhattan man and proud of it.

  2. I do adore you Reggie Darling. And I have given up nothing. I'll just have to continue the little sacrifices one makes for friends and family, bit by bit:).

  3. Reggie, you remind me of my beloved Little--who just turned 12, I must add (ahem). When we suggested that perhaps she could give up watching television for Lent or ice cream, she considered for a moment, and then proclaimed that she could give up reading--or oatmeal! After some gentle persuasion, she has committed to ice cream. As for me, I'm giving up shopping (other than grocery, of course). I thought about giving up wine, but . . . . Cheers!

  4. Gee. I wish I had read this before giving up sweets. All sweets. With no creative back door to dart out of like the one you found. Drat.

  5. Reggie --

    1) A long-dead relative who was, perversely enough, an Episcopal Bishop, was also a prominent exponent of what one still sometimes hears referred to as "the traveling exemption."

    This means, more or less, that if you find yourself on the road (as Bishops sometimes do), or -- in a pinch -- merely away from home (trapped at the Union Club, say, in inclement weather), then some of your Lenten vows may be dispensed with -- at least if you are a Bishop. (This probably explains why he spent so many Lenten seasons on his way to and from Jekyll Island.)

    2) BTW, I gave up alcohol for Lent. This is a "sacrifice" of long-standing practice, and fortunately I am now long past the point where I found myself in the middle of the street, drink in hand, waiting for the sun to make its necessary progress over the horizon.

    3) As to whether a weekend at Darlington House entitles you to "a traveling exemption," well, I couldn't possible comment, could I?

  6. I have noticed that several Bloggers have posted that they are giving up blogging for Lent.

  7. This is a great post! I knew there was a reason I consider myself vaguely Church of England (when in the UK)/ Anglican (when in Canada)... Now it is obvious! I have never given anything up for Lent -- having the distinct feeling that "truly a meaningful sacrifice" might well mean the evening ritual of alcoholic imbibing.

  8. I am going to give up brownies and have chocolate chip cookies instead.
    xox Camilla

  9. Oh Reggie!
    You are so clever...I thought that you were going to break down and have a martini...but at the eleventh hour you had a stroke of genius.

    I do love the look of a drinks tray too...we have such little space that we hide ours in a cupboard in the dining room...
    I like Tanqueray 10 a bit of Noilly Pratt and 3 olives...Cheers!

  10. I think you should be the poster boy for AA.

  11. Reggie,

    I am not giving up anything this year. Instead taking more time to make others feel good, compliments, and take better care of myself as well!

    Art by Karena

  12. Brilliant! I applaud your resolve to keep your commitment to your sacrifice and your solution.

  13. Good job Reggie!
    My mother-in-law "gives up liquor" for Lent. She drinks wine instead!

  14. Maybe I missed this somewhere in your annals, but exactly what constitutes a perfectly made martini in your opinion? My personal favourite recipe is Churchill's, who liked it very dry indeed: the vermouth was allowed to be in the same room as the gin, but that's as close as it got to the glass. Any thoughts on freezing, bruising and, dare I ask, dirty vodka?

  15. Having had a drink, or two, with both you and Blue I shudder to think at the ordering process involved when the two of you next get together and order a Manhattan. It took Blue a good 10 minutes to recite all the specifications and the poor waiter 2 trips to the bar to ensure that all ingredients were on hand!

    I stopped giving up stuff for Lent when I came to the conclusion that God had too many things to worry about to start keeping tabs (no pun intended) on who had given up what and who was cheating. A cop out? Definitely, but then again life is too short and too hard to give up the little things that make it more enjoyable. So here's looking at you, kid!

    BTW who drank that perfectly mixed Martini on the photo above, Pompey? Reggie....

  16. What is this trait with Episcopalians? I surveyed folks at church today, and about 85% said they were giving up drink. The others were giving up cake. Hedonistic bunch, eh?

  17. The expression in my family was, "the sun is over the yard-arm somewhere in the British Empire." Love a Manhattan.

    Having never been an observant anything, I'll willingly give up gin for Lent. (Haven't been able to touch the stuff since an ill-advised third Bombay martini one night in my early twenties.)

  18. Good for you Reggie! When your heart is in the right place, whatever you give up will be considered a beautiful gift of recognition to Christ's sacrifice. I'm giving up staying up past my bedtime, which I truly enjoy...with the hope of going to bed at a decent hour becoming a normal and regular occurance.
    Keep your eye on Him...
    xo J~

  19. Michele from BostonMarch 13, 2011 at 6:22 PM

    Thanks for making me smile on such an overcast and damp day! Myself, I think a Campari and soda is in order. It might cheer me up.

  20. I visit your site often, but have never commented. Your posts are witty, entertaining and often very thought provoking. Thank you for this and all of your posts!

    This post does bring something to mind. I believe in quality, not quantity, and while I would never dream of speaking for you, I have a feeling you share that belief!

    What is your favorite brand(s) of gin, vodka, whiskey, if I may be permitted to ask? Your post last summer from Nantucket prompted me to buy Stoli Ohranj, and your recipe for a vodka tonic is now one of my favorites. I also enjoy a whiskey sour made with Jameson, not to mention Pimm's and ginger ale.

    Please keep up the good work! You always leave me wanting more and I anticipate your every post!

  21. Well, Reggie, I am giving it up for you! Applause, applause! I was a somewhat moderate drinker until I signed up for EFM and let me say, I would never have survived studying the horrors of the Old Testament if it had not been for a glass of claret every night after that weekly class! As a long time "Whiskey-palian' luke-warm catholic, I know one thing I am not giving up: Hearty, healthy laughter! This was great!

  22. I would have loved to have seen the expression on your face when you had your epiphany - priceless I'm sure!

  23. No power, temporal or supernatural, could persuade this Episcopalian to forego the fruit of the vine for Lent. Instead, I made a nobler and more challenging sacrifice: I gave up the New York Times puzzle page. No crosswords, cryptoquotes, or acrostics shall tempt this pilgrim for 40 days and 40 nights. . . although. . . did you know we are exempt from "fasting" on feast days? I spent two precious Sunday hours solving the most difficult crossword of the week; deferred gratification is glorious! Best wishes.

  24. At the risk of being the little pious Henry Clump (of Edward Gorey fame), I do feel the need to point out that the purpose behind giving something up in Lent is to make room for those things you have neglected. I doubt that includes rye Manhattans, but surely if you give it some thought, you might hit upon something else that you have omitted from your life that it might be good to reach out to.

  25. Very amusing!

    I have nothing left to give up for Lent.


  26. Have a wonderful week.

  27. As a non-observant New England Congregationalist, I'm probably not qualified to enter this discussion, but a great sacrifice indeed to give up a dry martini. I tried giving up Snickers bars for lent. Or at least cut down to one a day.

    What I am qualified to say is that I recently was given a bottle of very expensive Maine Potato Gin. And, before you sneer---as I was prepared to do before I tasted it---'oh, how novel'---lemme tell you Mishter Darlin', it is deelsisheeous, and, holds up well to either of my old favoritesh, Beefeater an' Bombay Shaffire...yessiree. Deelishous.

  28. Blue: I am not familiar with the brands of rye or vermouth you cite—not only do I look forward to trying them, but I hope to at some point in your company.

    LPC: The feel is mutual!

    T&CM: What a clever daughter Little is!

    PT&E: Next year give up chocolate, and eat caramels instead!

    Ancient: Thank you for your comment. Here are my responses to each of the points you raise: (!) I very much like the "traveling exemption" concept, and have already taken it to heart; (2) Which do you mean, sunrise or sunset? (3) In the true spirit of Lent, I am firmly committed to refraining from the consumption of gin until Easter, even at Darlington House.

    The Devoted Classicist: Oh, aren't some bloggers a tiresome lot?

    Idlehistorian: Perhaps you could choose one type of liquor to abstain from, as Reggie did, rather than liquor altogether?

    Sister: I am pleased to learn that Reggie's approach is one shared by those nearest and dearest to him, too!

  29. Hostess: I go back and forth. Sometimes I store all temptation—and I'm writing of drink here—in a cabinet, other times I have it out on a tray for all to see and at my ready access. I think it is probably best to have such temptations behind a least for me.

    Columnist: Why, thank you, I take that as a compliment!

    Karena: All good resolutions, indeed!

    Sue: Thank you, I am gladdened that you appreciate Reggie's resolution!

    DaniBP: Perhaps your MIL and I are cut from the same cloth?

    VB: I likes a whisper of vermouth in my martini, but no more than a quarter of a cap full when I'm mixing two of them (one for me, one for Boy). I freeze the glasses, not the gin, and I shake it, not stir it, in the silver shaker shown in the first photo. Sometimes I'll dirtify my martini with a teaspoonful from the olive jar, but only rarely and only when bored, which I rarely am.

    Roxie: The three of us are certainly no stranger to the pleasures of life—that's why I cottoned on to the two of you from the start, I believe. And, since you asked, I made that martini for the shoot and then I poured it down the drain at Darlington House, tears streaming down my cheeks...and then immediately drank the Manhattan!

    Brutti: I rest my case, sir!

    Deja Psu: I had a similar experience with Jack Daniels at the Yale-Harvard football game my freshman year. The idea of ever tasting it again makes me shudder all these years later.

    24Corners: Stay up past my bed-time? An admirable goal, but one that I am afraid is lost to Reggie these days. He gave up trying to get to bed at a reasonable hour once he started this blog in earnest. That's because I'm now holding down two jobs at once—my regular day one, and this, my night one...

    Michele: I adore Campari with soda, it's one of my favorite summer cocktails!

    Brenton: Thank you for your comment, I am most pleased to hear from you and that you appreciate my scribbles. To answer your questions, my favorite gin is Beefeater, but I also buy Gordons when I'm feeling tight; I'm not all that discriminating when it comes to vodka—Stoli when flush, Sky when on a budget; whisky is Johnnie Walker Red label (I prefer it to the more expensive Black, Blue, and Green); and Bourbon? Well, that was Reggie's favored beverage for many years, starting with Jim Beam (which I still like), then Maker's Mark, and more recently Knob Creek. Glad you liked the Stoli Oranji. I must try a Whisky Sour again soon, which I've enjoyed and was a great favorite of MD's. Thanks for the inspiration!

  30. FireLight: Thank you for stopping by. In reading the coursework and time requirements for EFM I am all astonishment that you only required a single glass of claret to calm yourself after the weekly class. I'm afraid that Reggie would have required sterner stuff, and at least several helpings of it!

    ddu: Most amusing! Thank you for commenting. I am still chuckling...

    Anon 11:31: Actually, Reggie had been rather neglecting his Manhattans, and he certainly feels very good about having reached out for one (or two) of them before dinner last night. He suggests that you might consider doing the same...

  31. Hermione: Virtue, thy name is Hermione!

    E&J: Thank you, I am trying to, and wish you the same.

    DED: Reggie izh famil'r with the artizhinal spiritsh movem'nt sweep'n thish nashun. There are shever'l dishtilleries near Darlington Housh whoozh output izh int'reshting and delishish. He likes 'em. In fact, he likes 'm so muj that he now needs to, uh, bo back tuh' its 8 in tha mornin!!

  32. Dear Reggie -
    Virtue is highly over-rated!


  33. Don't forget the other symbolic actions that can be done during Lent. You can put a purple ribbon over crosses and religious images. I think one of the most meaningful traditions is giving alms to the poor. Giving some canned/ dried food supplies to shelters and hospices is a comparable action. Really, doing this is a gift to one's self. As St. Francis said, "It is in giving that we receive." Very humourous post that was enjoyable because you've drawn attention to some very commendable self regulation in a modern and charming way.

  34. Very brave giving up martinis. I'm sure your sacrifice will be rewarded. By the way, I love the way you write.

  35. Oh Lord ( woops- no pun intended) - I love a frosty cold vodka martini straight up with onions & olives on the side (so as not to take up valuable real estate in the glass)
    I would find it so hard to give up cocktails for Lent. Besides, I don't imagine any of my sacrifices are going to have a biblical effect on the world...I mean if they did, I certainly WOULD, but...

  36. Whilst I have not given up anything for Lent, I was rather tiring of my usual tipple - vodka and soda. And somewhere in my mind I must have recalled your post about a Manhattan. Last night I was scouring my cocktail book and realised that I had just about everything for a dry Manhattan, (excluding bitters, sadly). So we had two each and then went out to a very relaxing diner a deux. Strangely my book suggests Canadian whisky, but I only had Bourbon, and I thought it was probably more suited to a cocktail bearing an American name.

  37. A very bold sacrifice! I gave chocolate up one year and the joy in my life was diminished greatly. This year I'm pregnant and therefore not giving up any food related items, which tends to be my norm. Instead I'm using 30 minutes of my sons nap time (my only quiet time of the day) to read the Gospel. So far I'm only about 50/50 with my commitment so I commend you! Hope all is well! -Amber

  38. A lifelong Episcopalian, some 25 years ago, Cretin that I am,I decided to give up the New York Times for Lent. What a serendipity!

    Since, I have given up the editorial and oped pages for good and read the rest out of necessity.

    Vern Trotter


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