Got it wrong!

Tonight at the pub quiz, the question was about the Shangri-Las what was their hit in the UK… OK,so it’s easy now to remember,now I’m home, but in the pressure of the quiz where it is one of twenty-five questions which came thick and fast, I just couldn’t remember. I knew they were a 60’s band, i could even hear them singing in my head, but could I remember what their hit song was… so easy now I’m home, ‘Leader of the Pack’.

It was written by George Morton, Jeff Barry, and Ellie Greenwich and it became the number one  hit in 1964. The Shangri-Las were two sisters Mary Weiss and Elizabeth  Weiss,  and identical twins Marguerite and Mary Ann Ganser.


Two shorts in the Dolphin

For various reasons we went to the Dolphin tonight; we don’t usually go on a Thursday – Tuesday for quiz, the occasional Friday or Saturday, then Sunday to meet up with ‘the girls’ and the 2 T’s, Tim and Trev.

So we drifted down this evening at about quarter past ten, just for the last three-quarters of an hour, and we sat in what we call the cross-benches, the bar between what I guess used to be ‘the lounge’ and the other bar which would have been ‘the public’. Such distinctions are long gone, the pub is the pub, but there is definitely the quiet end, and the TV/darts board end. (The cross-benches, by the way is actually a parliamentary term for where those minority parties sit, between the government and the opposition)

We sat next to a table of four jolly, youngish people who we didn’t know, two couples who were having a social time with each other. We were just sitting, drinking our drinks, when the two ladies of the couple stood up and back to back compared heights. It was plain that the blond lady was a few inches shorter than the dark lady…

A friendly row broke out between them because the blond lady thought she was the same height as the dark lady… I chimed in because I am 5′ 4″, the same as the blonde lady. Soon I  had my shoes off and we were back to back comparing heights. Then the husbands joined in, and I have to say my husband, 6′ 6½” was way taller than anyone else… there was much laughter and banter, and then a lady from the other end came over, she wasn’t even 5 foot!

Anyone coming into the pub and seeing all these laughing, arguing people with no shoes on, standing back to each other would have thought us most strange! However, that is just a typical night in the Dolphin! The two couples departed with shaking of our hands and farewells to us, and us promising to bring a tape-measure next time, and then we sat back to finish our drinks…

Yes, a typical Dolphin night!

A medical-historical romance

I’m not about to tell the story of some love-lorn doctor from the past, but the story of the famous Angostura aromatic bitters. I have a tiny book which was my father-in-law’s, the ‘Professional Mixing Guide’ which is an instruction booklet for barman from the Siegert family, whose illustrious ancestor created the bitters in the 1820’s. Bitters is an alcoholic herbal ‘preparation’, used for flavouring and for mixing and making cocktails.

No other similar preparation has received as great official and public recognition by royal families and in expositions as has been accorded to Angostura aromatic bitters.

The medical-historical romance description comes in the back of the book when the history of the bitters is recounted:

It is the story of Dr J.G.B. Siegert, a young army surgeon who had achieved marked distinction in the Napoleonic Wars. His longing for adventure led him to Venezuela where, in 1820 he enlisted in the cause of South American independence under the great Liberator, General Simon Bolivar.
Dr Siegert’s talents and experience won immediate recognition and appointment as Surgeon General of the military hospital in Guyana. There he learned that the loss of appetite was the great enemy of soldier and civilian alike. He therefore undertook to evolve a specific  which would tend to relieve this condition. After four years of research and experiment with the tropical herbs of his new country, he perfected the formula for ANGOSTURA aromatic bitters.
Known then as Dr Siegert’s Aromatic Bitters, the new product was used with great effect in the hospitals, in his private practice in the town of Angostura, and among his colleagues who soon recognised its merits.
Skippers from northern countries who visited Venezuela found the bitters invaluable, and carried the fame of Dr Siegert’s prescription across the seas to all parts of the world.
As its popularity increased, the doctor changed the name to Angostura bitters after the town in which he lived – not from the bark of the tree as some suppose. There is no angostura bark in Angostura aromatic bitters. The town’s name was changed from Angostura to Ciudad Bolivar in 1846.
To this day the secret of his prescription has never been penetrated, and only the direct descendent of the old army surgeon know the exact ingredients and their proportions.
Long before Dr Siegert’s death in 1870, Angostura aromatic bitters were famous throughout the world as a stomachic, a pick-me-up, and as the important ingredient in innumerable mixed drinks.
Meanwhile, Venezuela had become a difficult country for any industrial enterprise. Incessant revolutions were as unsettling to business as to politics, and in 1875, Dr Siegert’s sons moved to the orderly British West Indies Isle of Trinidad, where the traditions of the founder are still followed by his descendants.

… and that is the romance of Angostura aromatic bitters!


Tom and Jerry

Most people know that Tom and Jerry are two characters from a children’s cartoon – Tom the cat and Jerry the mouse have been trying to outwit each other since 1940, when they were created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. There were 114 short films produced by MGM between 1940 and 1958, and many more episodes created over the next  ten or so years, before there were a number of spin-offs. It’s slap-stick humour and although I enjoyed watching the adventures of the two characters trying to gain the upper hand when I was young, I grew out of finding it funny or amusing…

The names of the characters were originally Jasper and Jinx; it seems that coincidentally, the names ‘Tom and Jerry’ come from the name given to misbehaving youths in  London in the 1800’s – much as we might call someone a ‘Herbert’ (or I might, maybe that’s gone out of popular use too!) This in turn comes from something written by Pierce Egan, 1772–1849 – Days and Nights of Jerry Hawthorne and his elegant friend Corinthian Tom.

Why am I thinking about a child’s cartoon from nearly eighty years ago? Only because in looking through my tiny cocktail book, ‘Professional Mixing Guide’, I’ve come across a cocktail called Tom and Jerry!

Tom and Jerry

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp fine granulated sugar
  • ¾ oz Siegert’s Bouquet Rum (Gold Label)
  • ¾ oz rye whisky (or brandy as desired)
  • hot milk or water sufficient
  1. beast yolk and white separately
  2. after each has been well beaten, mix them together in an 8 oz goblet or china mug
  3. then add the liquor and fill the glass with piping hot milk or water
  4. grate nutmeg on top and serve

So if you want a nice warm toddy, you know how to make a Tom and Jerry!

Ir’s Sunday night…

It’s Sunday night, and unlike the previous three nights when we have thought about drifting down to the Dolphin for a jar or two and been trapped by rain, rain, rain, tonight it was not raining – in fact there was even a sliver of moon in the sky. So hopeful of meeting the two T’s, or ‘the girls’ we set off down to our local.

The pub was fairly empty tonight, but the two T’s, Trev and Tim, were ensconced in their usual corner, so with a couple of pints of fine Otter beer, we joined them. When we arrived they were talking about painting and decorating; we exchanged news – we had been to a family wedding last week and the beer festival today, we had bowls club news from Trev, and painting and decorating news from Tim.

We were drinking mighty fine pints of Otter, as was Trev, Tim was on our local cider, Thatcher’s Gold. I really wish I liked cider; local product, organically grown, giving employment to local people, a traditional product… what’s not to like… well… it’s just not to my taste. I don’t like any cider… there is something about the smell, as well as the taste, as well as the after effects… We had a bit of a discussion about it, and we reported back to the 2 T’s about the cider on offer at the beer festival (this is Somerset, traditional home of cider, as well as the home of some brilliant beers!)

As usual we had a really interesting evening… we talked about Legionnaire’s Disease (a friend is in intensive care with it) – Tim in his professional life had to deal with its prevention so is very knowledgeable; we talked about coach holidays and going to see the WW1 battlefields; we talked about civic works in our town, the power of the local college, the town, our village… and our last discussion was on the corrupt practices in British industry in the 1970’s…

Time was called, we hugged, said goodnight, and tottered off to our homes… what a pleasure it is to be able to walk home down the middle of the road!

This is our way home… no cars, no traffic!


Dr Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert

I do not really like mixed drinks or cocktails, I prefer beer, or wine, or whisky/whiskey. However, it used to be that at Christmas, occasionally, not always, my dad and I would have a pink gin, and for that reason we always had a bottle of Angostura Bitters. Later I had a Christmas cake recipe which called for the addition of these bitters, and it really enhanced the flavour of the cake… in fact, I must look it up and maybe make it again for this Christmas.

But what is Angostura Bitters… I actually didn’t know until just now when I was looking through my old recipe book collection -or should I say my collection of old recipe books, and came across a very small book 3″ x 5″ so literally a small book, Professional Mixing Guide. I have no idea where I got it from, it may have belonged to my father-in-law, but I have never really looked at it before because I don’t like mixed drinks! However, I was just randomly looking through my books and began to read what was in this tiny volume.

The front page:

The Accredited List of Recognised and Accepted Standard Formulas for Mixed Drinks
Angostura Bitters
(Dr. J.G.B. Siegert & Sons) Ltd.
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, B.W.I.

I don’t know when it was originally published, my little book was in 1951, but the earliest I have come across was 1942, but of course it may have been older than that. On the inside page there is a very sensible motto, not just for bar workers, but people in general: trifles make for perfection – and perfection is no trifle… Nothing to do with the cream, sponge, jelly and custard dessert of course!

In the days when this was written, the person behind the bar was always a man, and there is an address: To the Man Behind the Bar… This compact little book does not presume to tell you how to mix a drink. You, professional barman, know the art of mixing, know its every angle. But it is intended to remind you that the part you play is the most important, the most influential of all in the industry.”

It then gives the barman a little pep talk, boosting his confidence no doubt! The next section on hints and helps – proficiency, courtesy, appearance – (another good motto I would have thought) and include paragraphs on:

  • use good ingredients only
  • the length of time to stir a drink
  • using the correct glassware
  • glassware should be more than clean
  • cocktail glasses
  • Collins glasses
  • beer pipes
  • carbonated water
  • set-ups (pre-made drinks)
  • frosting
  • and Angostura Bitters as ‘one of the most effective helps for the morning-after jitters‘ and ‘as a reconditioner for an abused stomach’

I am onto page seven, and I still haven’t answered my original question, what is Angostura bitters? Well, the answer is, it is a secret! It is  a botanically infused alcoholic mixture, made of water, ethanol, gentian, herbs and spices, originally created as a tonic by Dr Siergert in the 1820’s, and named after the town in Venezuela – it does not contain angostura bark which is used as a medicinal preparation in other things including other bitters. Angostura bitters soon became a favourite added to alcoholic drinks… and so it still does today!

The Dolphin tonight

We drifted down to the Dolphin tonight, as usual on a Sunday to meet the 2 T’s, our dear friends Tim and Trev, and also ‘the girls’, three lovely friends of ours who are always interesting to chat to, and of course, anyone else who happens to be there!

The girls were in their corner chatting, and the 2 T’s were there too, and at the bar was a great friend who we don’t see to chat to as often as we would like, with a friend of his. We greeted ‘the girls’ and while himself went to the bar I went to greet and to get a great hug from our friend who had some exciting news about a brilliant project which he was undertaking.

We sat with the 2 T’s and caught up to date with our various items of news, and then talked about heating systems, New Zealand, work in our former lives, and mutual friends. My beloved was drinking Otter – the best beer in the world from Otter Brewery in Devon, I for a change was on wine, Shiraz, then Côtes de Rhone, then back to Shiraz, and we had a good chat about wine and beer. Then we went on to talk about Legionnaire’s Disease, and what a vile thing it is; one of the T’s had a great deal of practical knowledge about it, although thankfully he had never suffered from it thank goodness. We talked about many things, and I also had a good chat with our friend who is an amazing cook – professionally, and has an exciting new project! I am so thrilled for him, he is amazing in many ways and I know his new undertaking which sounds so exciting will be a great success!

As we wandered home, along the middle of the road because our little village is so quiet, we couldn’t help but think what great friends we have, and what a brilliant pub the Dolphin is!