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SPIRITS: Mr. Drinkies recalls '70s, Seven and Seven

by Philip Martin | November 2, 2007 at 3:02 a.m.

— Is it a substitute for love - an armor or a chink - all this drugs and drink?

- Jason Morphew, "Drugs and Drink"

Singer-songwriter Jason Morphew's experience notwithstanding, drugs and drink really don't go together.

At least they didn't, boys and girls, in the long-ago 1970s when Mr. Drinkies came of age, when we wore funny clothes and (some of us) man perms, did the Hustle and "invented" punk rock as a response to the corporatization of pop music. We can talk about it freely now since the statutes of limitations have long since run out. Back then it was incumbent upon you to make a choice: On a given night it was either drugs or drink.

Because if you're doing drugs (I'm told), you don't want a depressive like alcohol governing the buzz. (On the other hand, if you're trying to beat heroin cold turkey you probably want some wine around to take the edge off. We learned that from a movie.) A friend who worked in and frequented bars in the '70s says you could always tell the psychoactive drug-bit among the clientele - the LSD trippers, the amphetamine rockers and the Quaalude disco freaks - because they were the ones who spent all night sipping 6-ounce bottles of Coca-Cola.

Granted, all this is anecdotal evidence, but I remember it pretty much the same way. The more serious the druggie, the less likely they were to drink.Casual cocaine users and pot smokers were more inclined to drink than junkies, possibly because all the junkies cared about was scraping together the funding for their next fix. Dilettante drug users drank more, and heavy boozers not only tended to not do drugs but to look down on drug users as degenerate criminals.

While I've seen some studies that contradict this observation, for our purposes most of them draw their sample from a dubious pool - people who've been stopped by the police on suspicion of drunken driving. When they've tested these people, slightly more than half of those who weren't over the legal blood-alcohol limit tested positive for cocaine or marijuana use.

But if you stopped a random sample of people driving aroundon a Saturday night, you might have similar numbers testing positive for cocaine and marijuana use. What I suspect is that our heads want what they want, and if you're really into self-medicating you're likely to experiment until you find your favorite toy. And once you do, you're going to run with it.

So while we certainly don't endorse illegal drug use - we don't endorse alcohol use either - we might suggest that the bigger the problem you have, the more likely you are to go exclusively one way or the other.

Drugs or drink. So just maybe the guy who could smoke a little pot, drink a glass of wine and be happy is better off than the quart-of-Scotch-a-night guy. You think?

It's just an observation, not a policy argument. The real reason not to do "soft drugs" is because you can be arrested for using them. And because the devil profits when you do.

Whereas the Seagram's company profits when you consume their fine products.

Well, not exactly.

Seagram'sdoesn't exist anymore. The company has been smashed apart and sold off, though Pernod Ricard has retained the Seagram brand name.

But thinking about a cocktail that specifically called for Seagram's 7 set us off on this nostalgia tour: The once-ubiquitous Seven and Seven. Do people still order those? Not as much as they used to. But you still see it, usually in old-school taverns like The Afterthought in Hillcrest.

It's a pretty mild drink, as you can see from the recipe below. My ex-bartender friend says it was a big disco drink, that the sugar in the 7UP was the real attraction, that the Canadian whiskey provided just the merest amount of social lubricant. When you're dancing all night, you want something effervescent and refreshing - you burn up calories on the dance floor.

It also, weirdly, has an odd place in popular culture as one of the featured cocktails in Italian-American cinema of the time. In Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets (1973), Harvey Keitel'scharacter Charlie drinks Seven and Sevens. In Saturday Night Fever (1977), John Travolta's Tony Manero orders a Seven and Seven on two occasions.

In Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990), Robert De Niro's Jimmy Conway orders the drink.

And in The Sopranos, ill-fated Jackie Aprile Jr. (Jason Cerbone) - an Ecstasy user and dealer, by the way - orders a Seven and Seven at the Bada Bing before Vito takes him out and shoots him in the back of the head in front of the Boonton Projects.

It's curious, but aside from these dramatic appearances there seems to be nothing especially Italian-American about the Seven and Seven (if anyone knows differently, please let me know). Maybe Jackie Aprile Jr.'s call is an homage to Scorsese.

The other thing that's interesting about the drink is that it's named for two brand names - 7UP and Seagram's 7 - and was invented by the Seagram's company in 1964 and promoted in an advertising campaign. While it's probably safe to substituteany lemon-lime soda and any Canadian whiskey, we'll stick to the original here.

SEVEN AND SEVEN Drop several ice cubes into a highball glass. Pour in one part Seagram's 7 Crown Blended Whiskey and swirl in glass to chill. Pour in six parts 7UP, stir to mix, and garnish with a lemon wedge.

Spirits is a monthly imbibing guide.


Dining Out, Pages 71 on 11/02/2007


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