Annotation — December 23, 2016, 12:43 pm

The Trumptini

Drinking in Trump’s America

Photograph by Olivia Nuzzi

Photograph by Olivia Nuzzi

1. A martini, like a country, is difficult to get right. Either can, in a matter of hours, elicit exquisite calm, wild anger, violence, agony, poorly constructed monologues, exhaustion. Some people are Democrats, others Republicans; some prefer gin and some vodka. In America’s 3.8 million square miles, martini-drinking citizens come to expect variety. Bernard De Voto, writing his Easy Chair column for this magazine in December 1951, reported, “I am afraid that the fine art of blending gin and vermouth gets small encouragement in my native West, and indeed the West (always excepting Denver, a center of aesthetics) is pragmatic rather than studious in its alcoholic culture.” The martini aficionado Roger Angell, a New Yorker, has advised, “Now, for vermouth, take a little less than you think you need, and then pour in a little less than that.” But the buzz was killed last week, when Olivia Nuzzi, a political reporter for the Daily Beast, tweeted a photo of a martini served at the Trump Grill, the steakhouse in the lobby of Trump Tower, in midtown Manhattan. The image was favorited twenty-eight thousand times, which is to say that it was greatly disliked. There, in Trump’s house, America had ordered itself a very bad martini.

2. The eye goes first to the glass. Only a day before this photo was taken, in a Vanity Fair article called “Trump Grill Could Be the Worst Restaurant in America,” a reviewer found the setting to be “a cheap version of rich.” Pouring a martini into a wine glass may seem fancy, but it makes less sense than pouring apple juice in there. According to Wine Spectator, “The sizes and shapes of the bowls”—meaning the cups, for us simpletons—“influence the intensity and complexity of the aromas, while the shapes of the rims determine where the wine initially lands on the tongue, affecting the perception of its taste.” Sniffing a martini is like sniffing a meatloaf, only less rewarding. As for taste, perception itself increasingly becomes a factor, as one floats blissfully into the evening, but any old table glass does the job. A martini glass serves “up,” to prevent your hands from warming the drink, but it doesn’t really matter much if you let it rest on the bar, sipping as one should: intermittently. The main thing to avoid would be Marilyn Monroe’s martini order from The Seven Year Itch: “I’ll have a glass of that. A big, tall one.”

3. The greatest offense is the ice. First, it is evidence of a production failure. How did this martini come into existence? Did an undercompensated, weary laborer pour gin, dry vermouth, a fistful of ice, and an olive into a glass and mix with a coffee stirrer? Did some combination of these ingredients get sloshed around in a shaker, as the ice broke down into chips and watery slush? Did a bartender cry, and this is what gushed out? The resulting martini reminds of the troubled American education system, which has failed on so many levels to teach students about the virtues of methodology, research, the principles of science. When Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for education secretary, takes the helm, we must all remember that our future mixologists and tavern-keepers and home cocktail mixers hang in the balance; as a proponent of “school choice” and diverting public funds to religious-education vouchers and tax credits, her policies are not likely to properly prepare them. Beyond the greater misfortunes of the years ahead, we may also find a million James Bonds, drinking weak martinis beside girlfriends with unfortunate names.

4. The second problem with ice in a martini is the ice in the martini. Cocktail snobs know that in any drink that takes ice, a single big block is best, so as not to dilute the contents. For a martini, this never comes up, because ice never belongs, so the fact that what Nuzzi documented at the Trump Grill contained little ice cubes is really beside the point. The ideal way to get a martini cold is by thinking ahead—as Trump hates to do—and sticking a glass or two in the freezer before the ingredients are combined. When it’s time to mix—to stir, or gently swirl—ice should be the last kid in the pool and not stay in long. But it should be ample, like in the Arctic a hundred years ago, not a hundred years from now.

5. One last thing—the olive. De Voto again, in his most important martini column for Harper’s, in 1949: “I suppose, nothing can be done with people who put olives in martinis, presumably because in some desolate childhood hour someone refused them a dill pickle and so they go through life lusting for the taste of brine.” What is not pictured here, and what Nuzzi never mentions in her tweet, is the identity of the man next to her, the one who ordered this martini at the Trump Grill. This man crossed police barricades on 5th Avenue—some draped with an ad for Tiffany’s, Trump’s next-door neighbor, which decided to dress up the blockades with cloth cut in its signature blue—past security guards manning one tent outside the front door. This man brushed by executives and sycophants and tourists, and took a refuge at a bar, seeking something strong. The serious offense of this martini is how profoundly it failed to serve this man—this olive eater—who had come, in good faith, to Trump’s America.

Share
Single Page

More from Betsy Morais:

Annotation, Art August 29, 2017, 1:24 pm

Trumpeter Storm

Donald and Melania Trump go to Texas. 

Context May 2, 2017, 4:31 pm

The Moderator in Manila

What the Trumps are building in the Philippines

Annotation April 6, 2017, 6:10 pm

Dressed to Kill

Jared Kushner goes to Iraq

Get access to 168 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

November 2018

Rebirth of a Nation

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Tragedy of Ted Cruz

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Combustion Engines·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On any given day last summer, the smoke-choked skies over Missoula, Montana, swarmed with an average of twenty-eight helicopters and eighteen fixed-wing craft, a blitz waged against Lolo Peak, Rice Ridge, and ninety-six other wildfires in the Lolo National Forest. On the ground, forty or fifty twenty-person handcrews were deployed, alongside hundreds of fire engines and bulldozers. In the battle against Rice Ridge alone, the Air Force, handcrews, loggers, dozers, parachutists, flacks, forecasters, and cooks amounted to some nine hundred people.

Rice Ridge was what is known as a mega-fire, a recently coined term for blazes that cover more than 100,000 acres. The West has always known forest fires, of course, but for much of the past century, they rarely got any bigger than 10,000 acres. No more. In 1988, a 250,000-acre anomaly, Canyon Creek, burned for months, roaring across a forty-mile stretch of Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness in a single night. A few decades on, that anomaly is becoming the norm. Rice Ridge, for its part, swept through 160,000 acres.

At this scale, the firefighting operation is run by an incident management team, a group of about thirty specialists drawn from a mix of state and federal agencies and trained in fields ranging from aviation to weather forecasting and accounting to public information. The management teams are ranked according to experience and ability, from type 3 (the least skilled) to type 1 (the most). The fiercest fires are assigned to type 1s. Teams take the name of their incident commander, the field general, and some of those names become recognizable, even illustrious, in the wildfire-fighting community. One such name is that of Greg Poncin, who is to fire commanders what Wyatt Earp was to federal marshals.

Smoke from the Lolo Peak fire (detail) © Laura Verhaeghe
Article
Rebirth of a Nation·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Donald Trump’s presidency signals a profound but inchoate realignment of American politics. On the one hand, his administration may represent the consolidation of minority control by a Republican-dominated Senate under the leadership of a president who came to office after losing the popular vote by almost 3 million ballots. Such an imbalance of power could lead to a second civil war—indeed, the nation’s first and only great fraternal conflagration was sparked off in part for precisely this reason. On the other hand, Trump’s reign may be merely an interregnum, in which the old white power structure of the Republican Party is dying and a new oppositional coalition struggles to be born.

Illustration by Taylor Callery (detail)
Article
Blood Money·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Over the past three years, the city of South Tucson, Arizona, a largely Latino enclave nestled inside metropolitan Tucson, came close to abolishing its fire and police departments. It did sell off the library and cut back fire-truck crews from four to three people—whereupon two thirds of the fire department quit—and slashed the police force to just sixteen employees. “We’re a small city, just one square mile, surrounded by a larger city,” the finance director, Lourdes Aguirre, explained to me. “We have small-town dollars and big-city problems.”

Illustration by John Ritter (detail)
Article
The Tragedy of Ted Cruz·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

When I saw Ted Cruz speak, in early August, it was at Underwood’s Cafeteria in Brownwood. He was on a weeklong swing through rural central Texas, hitting small towns and military bases that ensured him friendly, if not always entirely enthusiastic, crowds. In Brownwood, some in the audience of two hundred were still nibbling on peach cobbler as Cruz began with an anecdote about his win in a charity basketball game against ABC’s late-night host Jimmy Kimmel. They rewarded him with smug chuckles when he pointed out that “Hollywood celebrities” would be hurting over the defeat “for the next fifty years.” His pitch for votes was still an off-the-rack Tea Party platform, complete with warnings about the menace of creeping progressivism, delivered at a slightly mechanical pace but with lots of punch. The woman next to me remarked, “This is the fire in the gut! Like he had the first time!” referring to Cruz’s successful long-shot run in the 2011 Texas Republican Senate primary. And it’s true—the speech was exactly like one Cruz would have delivered in 2011, right down to one specific detail: he never mentioned Donald Trump by name.

Cruz recited almost verbatim the same things Trump lists as the administration’s accomplishments: the new tax legislation, reduced African-American unemployment, repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, and Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court. But, in a mirror image of those in the #Resistance who refuse to ennoble Trump with the title “president,” Cruz only called him that.

Photograph of Ted Cruz © Ben Helton (detail)
Article
Wrong Object·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

H

e is a nondescript man.

I’d never used that adjective about a client. Not until this one. My seventeenth. He’d requested an evening time and came Tuesdays at six-thirty. For months he didn’t tell me what he did.

The first session I said what I often said to begin: How can I help you?

I still think of what I do as a helping profession. And I liked the way the phrase echoed down my years; in my first job I’d been a salesgirl at a department store counter.

I want to work on my marriage, he said. I’m the problem.

His complaint was familiar. But I preferred a self-critical patient to a blamer.

It’s me, he said. My wife is a thoroughly good person.

Yawn, I thought, but said, Tell me more.

I don’t feel what I should for her.

What do you feel?

Photograph © Joseph S. Giacalone (detail)

Percentage of California wildfires that are started by people:

95

Czech and German deer still do not cross the Iron Curtain.

Pittsburgh protesters forced Trump’s motorcade to take a detour; “Whitey” Bulger murdered in prison; Kentucky Fried Chicken paid the family of a child named after Colonel Sanders

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Happiness Is a Worn Gun

By

Illustration by Stan Fellows

Illustration by Stan Fellows

“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

Subscribe Today