Sunday, November 15, 2009

Martinis & Pete Seeger

Am I the only one who gets irritated that the word "martini" is used for every cocktail in those restaurants that don't use the word "margarita" for every cocktail?

This is a martini: gin, a drop of vermouth, and an olive. If you use an onion instead of an olive it's a gibson. If you use scotch instead of gin it's a rob roy.

I suppose, to be open-minded and flexible, I can allow a vodka martini or a sake martini. But the other day I have a drink that was sweet and chocolate-coconut flavored, called a, I don't know what, an "arctic frost martini."

Cocktails are a cultural thing. They are evocative. A party where martinis are served conjures up an image, quite different from a party with margaritas, different from a party with mint juleps or old fashioneds. Even as recently as The Simpsons Bart was commended for his perfect Manhattan. Connecting with history, and doing something very well, have been tossed away for shallow "creativity."

Which brings me to Pete Seeger. He was a folk singer, like thousands of others today. But unlike his descendants crooning in coffeehouses across the country, Seeger didn't write many songs. Mostly he sang old songs. Nowadays, you'd be hard pressed to find one in a thousand folksingers who would admit to singing "Froggy Went A-Courting" at their last concert. Instead, they write their own songs. Twenty years later, a lot of those songs sound pretty dated. But the old ones are still great.

You know what else? Pete Seeger could sing. Bruce Springsteen--while his album was really cool, and a true folk album--sounds like a croaking frog next to the man he honored.