These sorts of capers happen in cities like Baltimore. Charm City, home of The Ravens, The Orioles, John Waters, and the late Edgar Allan Poe. It’s where the “beehive” and “Natty Boh” beer linger on in perpetuity. It is a quirky city full of quirky people. My kind of people.
Of the friends we made while living there, Steve and Mary were the most prone to frequent quirkiness. Steve St. Angelo, AKA Shop Boy, and wife, Mary Mashburn AKA Belle Pica, live in Bolton Hill, a grand neighborhood of townhomes dating from as early as 1830. As a matter of fact, their home is just blocks from where Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald rented a home at 1307 Park Avenue in the 1930s.
It was The Baltimore Sun that brought us together there in 1996. Steve was a copy editor and Vic was the design director for features. Mary and I were free to create our professional lives as we saw fit. Mary was a graphic designer and I cooked.
Flash forward to 2002. Vic is managing editor for the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon and I’m a Realtor. Steve plies his trade at U.S. News & World Report in Washington, DC, and Mary, the artist, keeps the presses inked and rolling at Typecast Press in Baltimore. Steve rides the rails from Baltimore to DC on workdays and emerges from Penn Station at home as Shop Boy, ready and willing to do Belle Pica’s bidding in the pressroom.
It seems that sometime after we left Charm City on the east coast for Cherry City on the west coast, our charming friends went to the shady side – “tipping” if you will. I’m not talking loose pocket change here but their attempt to force something new on an unsuspecting world of imbibing.
Seems Mary’s Wednesday Night Book Club had been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point.” Suddenly Mary’s impish light bulb begins to glow and with horns too. The mission – invent a new cocktail and begin ordering it from unsuspecting bartenders around town as if they had been sipping them all summer at Harry’s Bar in Venice. Clearly a sly, cunning and willful perpetration.
First order of mischief: Create a cocktail. Our clever operators decided to alter an innocent cocktail called The White Lady, AKA Delilah, Chelsea Sidecar and Lillian Forever. Innocent in this context, but if you ask me, all including the perps suggest mischievous, naughty behavior or malizioso, as the Mob would say.
Now they needed a believable name and a story about its history. “The Green Lady” just didn’t work and frankly, it sounded a bit scary so they christened it “The Green Light.” Voilá! “Legend” has it that a frustrated screenwriter in Hollywood finally gets a project “green-lighted” and asks his favorite barkeep to invent a drink in celebration. Before long his film is screened in Cannes and the drink spreads up and down the Mediterranean, hopping from yacht to yacht.
Now, a tipping we will go. Our fashionably dressed couple strolls into the Owl Bar at the Belvedere Hotel acting as if they’re Nick and Nora Charles and slide into a cozy booth.
“Two Green Lights, please,” Nick (Shop Boy) says as he lights Nora’s (Belle’s) cigarette.
The waiter looks somewhat puzzled but leaves to place the order. He returns saying, “You’ve stumped the bartender. Can you tell us how it’s made?”
“Oh, perhaps it hasn’t reached Baltimore yet,” Shop Boy, er, Nick innocently tells the waiter. “Tell him it’s equal parts Bombay Sapphire Gin, Cointreau and fresh lime juice.”
Our two perps continue to visit local bars periodically – Zodiac, John Steven Ltd, Ixia, The Brewers Art, The Club Charles, and the Waterfront Hotel. There was no end to their relentless “tipping.” They even had accomplices follow up at each bar on multiple occasions until the baffled barkeeps added The Green Light to their repertoire. It wasn’t long before Shop Boy and Belle targeted their crown jewel, the bar at The Brass Elephant, an elegant, uptown restaurant in a grand home on Charles St. To their amazement, there were strangers lined up at the bar already sipping Green Lights. Mission accomplished! The Green Light had finally taken off and soon after it was featured in an airline magazine on flights in and out of Baltimore.
No names in this story were changed to protect the guilty.
1½ ounces (45 ml.) Bombay Sapphire Gin
1½ ounces (45 ml.) Cointreau
1½ ounces (45 ml.) freshly squeezed lime juice
Shake or stir with ice until cold and serve in a chilled martini glass.
Shop Boy and Belle Pica have been spotted around town sipping drinks made with, ahem, Beefeater so I hardly doubt they would object to substituting one of Oregon’s fine new gins. A word of caution, it will be a smooth ride through the light made with Bendistillery’s Cascade Mountain Gin but the color may be suggest “Chartreuse Light.” Aviation Gin from Portland would be a good, clear choice. If you want to spruce up your Green Light, make it with Rogue Spruce Gin, a bright and complex gin from Rogue. Its ingredients include spruce, cucumber, angelica root, orange peel, coriander, lemon peel, ginger, orris root, grains of paradise, tangerine, juniper berries, along with Champagne Yeast, Grain Neutral Spirit & Free Range Coastal Water.
Shop Boy, an expert mixologist, may have something to say about my suggestions here and if so, I’m sure we’ll hear from him.
Cheers and here’s hoping that Shop Boy is flattered that I lifted, er, a few, ahem, of his clever literary mannerisms.
— Joe Friday, AKA Charles Price
About the Author (Author Profile)
Music, food and photography are at the center of Charles’ life. He performed with the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera and was assistant principal bassoonist with the Fort Worth Symphony for more than 20 years. When Charles and Victor moved to Baltimore, Charles created Lone Star Personal Chef and Catering Service and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. Now in Salem, Charles is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate, taught cooking classes for children at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, and owns and operates Charles Price Photography. Charles and Vic enjoy entertaining and frequently host dinners as fundraisers for local non-profits and charities