From the first page of the recent and much-lauded Jonny Miles debut novel “Dear American Airlines” (Houghton Mifflin) any weary traveler worth his industrial-strength earplugs will surely nod in baleful agreement with Miles’ assessment of the scabrous conditions considered normal in American commercial aviation. Apparently, some recent AA passengers didn’t get the memo (read: everybody loses) and decided to fight back. Which, in keeping with the way things go these days, backfired. But at least they tried. I was Miles’ researcher/fact-checker at Men’s Journal for a couple of years, which was a pleasure, especially working on one non-fiction ode to New Orleans bars in all their decadent glory. Catch him reading from his new book this Monday night the 14th at the Half King. I’ll be there. RELATED: Vicarious air rage was never so therapeutic nor generously rewarding. Buy the book.
Early Monday evening the 23rd of April the wood-paneled lobby bar of the Four Seasons on East 52nd and Park was humming, the spicy, sweet scent of bourbon born aloft. The proprietors of the Hudson Valley’s Tuthilltown Spirits, which fired up a German still in a refurbished eighteenth century granary a few years ago—were on hand, armed with plenty.The occasion—alcohol for alcohol’s sake—nevertheless called for some decorum: ‘The most perfect Manhattan….JACKETS REQUIRED FOR GENTLEMEN’, the invitation read. Still, at least one schlub showed up wearing a dingy grey T-shirt. Tuthilltown, a tiny concern, had thrown the party to mark the release of the first—or first legal, at least—rye whiskey made in New York State since Prohibition. Crisply dressed bartenders mixed it from stubby, apothecary-like bottles into Perfect Manhattans—2 ounces Rye, one half ounce dry vermouth, half ounce sweet vermouth, two to three dashes orange or Angostura bitters, and lemon twist, over ice, garnished with maraschino cherries—and passed them out as the partygoers snacked on sushi and warm cheese puffs. Hey, sushi and bourbon, why not? Continue reading “I, Distiller”