Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Cocktail Corner: Drinks for the sophisticated Mod

To all my fellow Mods and Modettes, Rude Boys and Rude Girls and all lovers of finer things in life, I introduce to you The Cocktail Corner.

If the history of Mods teaches us one thing is that we love to live La Dolce Vita. Everything we do, we do with style. It transcends in the way we dress, the music we listen to and our mode of transportation. Let’s face it, we have class! Our sophistication relates to the times when women were treated like ladies, men wore hats and a deal was made on a handshake.

This is why I chose to write about a social aspect that we sometimes take for granted: the drinking. When I have a drink, it’s a ritual I don’t take lightly. You can ask my friends, they’ll concur. I usually put a lot of thought in my choice of libation.

Our first lesson will be in the fine art of mixing the perfect Martini. I chose this classic cocktail because of the image it conjures in my mind. A dark club, dressed in my finest 3 button suit, handkerchief in my pocket, one inch tie well straightened, shinny tasseled loafers, neatly cut  hair, pork pie hat slightly tilted, one eyebrow raised, one elbow resting on the bar, my lips delicately sipping an ice-cold Martini while casually listening to the likes of Mose Allison.

I also think of my favorite invincible spy, James Bond. It’s no wonder a lot of Mods and Rude Boys are intrigued with ultra suave secret agents. They have charm, sophistication, this magnetic je ne sais quoi and… they know how to order a drink.

This extract from Ian Fleming’s Casino Royal will convince anybody.
'A dry martini,' he said. 'One. In a deep champagne goblet.'

'Oui, monsieur.'

'Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?'

'Certainly monsieur.' The barman seemed pleased with the idea.

'Gosh, that's certainly a drink,' said Leiter.

Bond laughed. 'When I',' he explained, 'I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold, and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I think of a good name.'

Well all you hepcats out there, doesn’t that put your taste buds in overdrive? Get your shaker out, drop the needle on your favorite soul tune and prepare yourself to mix the ultimate cocktail. Here’s a selection of my favorite Martini recipes.
 Everything you need for the perfect evening

"When pouring Martinis, make sure they are filled dangerously close to the brim."
Joe McQuirk, bartender

The classic Martini:

Pour 2 ounces of London dry gin, 1 ounce of French vermouth and a dash of orange bitters into an ice-filled shaker. Shake then pour in a well-chilled glass and garnish with lemon peel or olive. This is the way the Martini was done before the Prohibition.

Orange bitters is not easy to find so I usually replace it with your widely available Angostura bitters.


The modern dry Martini:

Pour 4 ounces of gin and ½ ounce of dry vermouth into an ice-filled shaker. Shake then strain into a glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or olive. A pearl onion makes the drink a Gibson.

 The James Bond Martini:

Bond named the drink The Vesper (do not mistake with the Vespa!) for a beautiful double agent he loved. The recipe is 3 ounces of gin, 1 ounce of vodka, ½ of blond Lillet and a large thin slice of lemon peel. Pour the liquid ingredients into an ice-filled shaker, shake and strain into a Martini glass. Add the lemon peel and keep your eyes open for enemy agents.

 The Cajun Martini:

Pour a fifth of you favorite gin or vodka into a large jug, jar or bottle. Add 2 or 3 fresh jalapeno peppers (sliced, seeded and deveined) and a single chili pepper (don’t over do it!). Let sit in refrigerator for 2 days. Shake with ice and vermouth in a 5 to 1 ratio. Serve straight up or on the rocks. For the wimps out there, if it’s too hot, dilute with more gin or vodka. I sometimes use the spicy vodka in a Bloody Caesar and my girlfriend loves it!

Now that you possess the knowledge, impress your friends but please, do not allow children to mix drinks. It’s unseemly and they usually use too much vermouth.

 If this is not meant for Mods, I don't know what is.

"If you drink, don’t drive. Don’t even putt."

Dean Martin

Sunday, July 18, 2010

An unforgettable night with a soul legend...

"I like cocky people. Cocky people always have something to live up too."
Allen Toussaint, Montreal, July 4th 2010

When do you get to see a true legend of soul in an intimate setting with only 424 other lucky, dedicated fans? Well, for me, it happens only once in a blue moon. Allen Toussaint is one such legend. He's "the" reference in New Orleans soul and R&B. Before my trip to the Big Easy a few months ago, I didn't know much about this prolific singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, producer, record label owner, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and all around musical genius. Many of you will know his songs without realizing he's the talent behind it. Working in the Coal Mine made famous by Lee Dorsey is the perfect example. Maybe you are familiar with a few of the obscure artists that he collaborated with or covered his songs: The Who, Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney, The Hollies, Paul Weller, Otis Redding and the list goes on...

 A few Allen Toussaint produced 45s on different labels 
brought back from my trip to the Crescent City

It's been a while since I've been to a concert and felt privileged and grateful to be there. Without overstating things, it was a once in a lifetime chance. Mister Toussaint, a stage and a piano in a small venue is all I needed to be in a blissful state.

 In a span of two hours, he made me go through a myriad of emotions. He was charming, funny, touching and endearing. One moment, I was laughing uncontrollably and the next I had tears in my eyes. And the hits succeeded one another, A Certain Girl, Mother-In-Law, Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky, and Yes We Can. I was lucky enough to have heard one of my all time favourites, Fortune Teller recorded by Benny Spellman. Another little known band called The Rolling Stones later covered it. "I liked the Rolling Stones. They made me roll all the way to the bank", he said, "I just wished they would have kept on rolling..."

This is just one of the little gems he came up with when he introduced a song. The high point of the evening had to be his 15 minute long rendition of Southern Nights. The piece itself is enough to bring you to tears but to have Allen Toussaint add anecdotes from his childhood all throughout the song is enough to bring you over the edge. His visits to his family in the country is said to be the inspiration for the song. "I loved visiting my aunts and uncles. They lived in an old grey house. Really old. So old, I think they built them that way." he would reminisce. "You heard sounds and saw animals you didn't see in the city: cows, horses, chickens... You know...The type of chicken that doesn't come in a bucket."

I liked Allen Toussaint before I ever saw him live. But now that I did, I can honestly say that I appreciate him even more. I left with a smile on my face, knowing that I was just in the presence of greatness. Come back soon Mr. Toussaint...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A good dose of dirty reggae with The Aggrolites

I’m not exactly sure what “dirty reggae” is but I can definitely say that it’s damn good! The Aggrolites have successfully fused a perfect mixture of ska, soul, rocksteady and roots reggae. The result is what they call “dirty reggae”. All I know is that it works.

Currently promoting their fourth album appropriately titled IV, we were fortunate to have them make a stop in Montreal during the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Even if they are performing almost every night, this doesn’t stop them from being very energetic and in great spirits on stage. They sure know how to get a crowd going! That’s all thanks to singer-guitarist Jesse Wagner. It was quite a different vibe then The Animals show a few days earlier.

When I see an act like The Aggrolites, it gives me hope that there’s a new generation of musicians ready to take the reigns and keep the scene alive. This bunch of young fellows not only have respect for the traditional sound but can also be contemporary and have their feet firmly planted in the 21st century. Plus, I would be foolish not to underline Roger Rivas’s emphatic and dynamic organ playing. He bangs on those ivories like he was trying to put out a fire. He’s an organ-playing maniac!

Want some proof? Check out a video I took of their performance.

The Aggrolites live in Montreal

They were not only a great act on stage but they are a class act offstage also. They took time to take pictures with us and chat a bit.

I also picked up a 45rpm from the vendors table. I didn’t know anything about The Impalers but for 3$, how could I go wrong? I was pleasantly surprised to hear a very infectious traditional sounding ska / rocksteady. My favorite track was the B-side with a tribute to the king of pop himself entitled Return to Jackson. You should check out their MySpace page at: