Robert Ruark

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"Robert Ruark was an American journalist famous for his contrarian opinions, which he expressed in his syndicated column, It's a Wonderful Life, which ran from the late '40s to the early '60s."

[--Transcribed by David Wondrich, 2006]

Bob Ruark’s It’s A Wonderful Life

NEW YORK, July 23 [1949]. —The American saloon, already unsettled by television, women and the dry martini, a concoction I believe to be unfit for consumption by man or microbe, is currently suffering from a visitation of effeteness that is frightening to behold.

I believe a congressional investigation may be in order, to determine what dastardly foreign forces may be striking at the very roots of our culture, undermining the honest bourbon business and stealing the thunder from nutritious rye.

Vodka, I find, is becoming increasingly popular among the tipplers, and you know what country makes vodka. Enjoying considerable vogue right now is a nauseous blend of vodka and tomato juice, which is called a bloody Mary and purports to cure early morning anguish without crippling or blinding the patient.

As a hearty disdainer of health foods, I have nothing but contempt for tomato juice, anyhow, even when tricked up with additional vitamins, and this red goo plus vodka is unthinkable. It is not, however, quite so unthinkable as the Moscow mule, another beverage which finds favor among the crew.-cut youth of our land.

I may have described a Moscow mule before, but we must define it once again for the edification of the late-comers. A Moscow mule is served in a copper mug, or vase, and is made of vodka and ginger-beer. I met it first in Hollywood, a town which permits the existence of turkeyfurter, the banana malted milkshake and Mickey Rooney. The Moscow mule is supposed to be a mild tipple, but it has a habit of suddenly whacking you between the eyes and causing you to walk swiftly away on your kneecaps.

It is not enough that we are again faced with the refinancing of England, but suddenly its insidious export, the Pimm’s, cup, has settled solidly in our midst. There are Pimm’s cup No. 1, No. 2, and Lord forgive us our trespasses, No. 3. Pimm’s No. 1 seems to be confected principally of gin, a plebeian beverage at best, with some addition of ginger beer and a general landscaping of assorted vegetables. It affronts mah south’n soul to see a bartender, who should be laying out the now forbidden free lunch, whittling sticks of cucumber to place in pewter cups of Pimm’s; between the whittling and the polishing of the pewter there is scarcely time for him to dilute the honest whiskey.

I resent vegetables in booze, anyhow. Made under some circumstances, the mint julep is a delightful, inspiring thirst-slaker, but most juleps are so beetle-browed with mint sprigs and studded with fruit that all a man needs is a dollop of whipped cream or mayonnaise to convince himself that he has mistakenly ordered a salad. I do not think a cucumber should be included in alcoholic beverage, any more than you order gravy with ice cream. The next thing you know some sneak will be inserting spinach in the scotch, to give it moral tone, and then’s when I fire from the hip.

On the subject of foreign irritations in drinks, they have a habit today of slipping a squirt of lemon into practically everything. It is well-known to scientists that lemon-juice, left to rearrange its molecules in a beaker, undergoes chemical changes that make it practically a deadly weapon. A fellow I know, man name of Will Morrow, is convinced it causes ulcers, breeds divorce and once robbed a filling station in its spare time.

If I am near dead of thirst on a desert, I might condescend to a shot of rum, but there is something about rum which causes people to sissy it up with transfusions of pomegranate juice, passion fruit, pineapple juice and soggy fruit slices.

Corruption in the corner house of solace has gone so far, now, that as a final insult they mix gin with ice cream and serve it with a straight face, and they put honey in whiskey sours, and I have seen a lady drinking black label Johnnie Walker and chasing it with coca-cola.

Some evil corrosive influence has undoubtedly crawled into our culture, and I want it stopped. In the meantime, bartender, a bourbon and branch water, please, and if you make a single pass at the bitters bottle I'll break your arm."

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