Claus Reviver

Yesterday was the big broadcast, the annual Fool's Paradise holiday office party on the mighty WFMU. A good time was had by all, as you can hear here. Thank you to our genial host Rex for inviting the Radio Bartender back again. And without further ado here is this year's model, in the tradition of the Corpse Reviver, here is our 

Claus Reviver #1

1 ½ ounces Cognac

½ ounce rye

¼ ounce crème de menthe (+ some for rim)

¼ ounce Rhum Barbancourt 4 year

¼ ounce cooled espresso
Dip the rim of a cocktail glass in a little crème de menthe and then in sugar; store in freezer until needed.
Shake liquids and strain into the prepared glass.
To garnish, flame a slice of orange peel over glass then skewer it together with a cocktail cherry.

On Xmas morning after his long night’s work, Santa puts his feet up, says “whew” and swallows one of these. It’s a guaranteed pick-me-up. Happy holidays and here's looking up your chimney!


Holiday Shenanigans

Prepare your ears for the wildest holiday-themed novelty records and the sounds of on air gift giving with a cast of celebrity merry-makers. This Saturday — Xmas Eve! — everyone's fave holiday tradition, the Radio Bartender, returns to the "Fool's Paradise" featuring Rex on the mighty WFMU! As always, Grade "A" Fancy's head mixist Karen will unveil a new cocktail for the occasion, live in the studio, amid much radio hi-jinx.

Tune in this Saturday, December 20, from 1 to 3pm on the Fun 91! In the New York City area it's WFMU 91.1 fm Jersey City, and 90.1 in the Hudson Valley. Children of any land can listen in real time via the miracle of the internet.

And if you haven't already got a copy you can order our newly updated holiday cocktail guide, Hark! the Radio Bartender Brings which includes a postcard with this year's recipe.


Ho, Ho, Hold the phone! A Holiday Cocktail Update!

It’s that most wonderful time of the year — the hustle-bustle and anticipation as everyone prepares for a very special visitor. Yes, of course we mean The Bartender of the Airwaves, bringing a gleaming new holiday cocktail for all the parched listeners of Fool’s Paradise on radio station WFMU.

On Saturday, December 24th we'll mix up a round or two live on air for deejay Rex and his in-studio merrymakers. But YOU CAN GET THE SUPER SECRET RECIPE RIGHT AWAY with your copy of Hark! The Radio Bartender Brings, a lavishly illustrated 44-page booklet collecting all our holiday drinks. Order today and you'll receive a postcard insert preview of 2016's holiday recipe, the Claus Reviver #1.

This real old-fashioned inky-papery book tells the tale of the Radio Bartender, provides guidance and counsel to make your holiday cocktail hour merry and bright, and for a bonus, you can get a jump on this year’s Fool’s Paradise cocktail with the postcard insert.


Stumped for that nonpareil gift this year?

You’ll want a copy for yourself, naturally, but not so fast! This handsome volume may be the answer to your holiday shopping woes. Get it for the bon vivant on your list who’s seen it all, the liquor lover with no stomach for cocktail twee-ness, the art maven, or the connoisseur of small-press books. Buy one to go along with that fake i.d. for your kid brother, one for Dad’s cookbook collection, and one for Mom’s bar.

To purchase Hark! The Radio Bartender Brings please email us.

The price is $10.00 per copy, which includes USPS domestic postage.

Order now and let the Radio Bartender brighten your holiday season.


A Quick One On The Road

They called it the Spindle City, Cohoes, just north of Albany. In the 1830s textile mills sprouted up here at the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson. By the middle of the century business was roaring; mills cranking out cottons, percales, wigans, jute, bags and yard goods by the ton. Like so much of upstate economy dependent on the Erie Canal, Cohoes’ industrial heyday is long gone. Now the old mills and worker tenements are apartments and condos. But what are your Grade “A” Fancy correspondents doing so far from our usual NYC beat? Here in sleepy olde time Cohoes there is an unexpected link to the big city, and you will be not at all surprised to learn it resides in a saloon.

171 Remsen Street has been a tavern since the early years of the 20th century. The building dates from 1873 and according to town lore, early tenants included a “silent movie theatre” (more probably a nickelodeon) and a pool hall. In 1937 the tavern was bought by local political boss Michael T. (Big Mike) Smith. His new venture would become the unofficial headquarters for the Democratic Tammany machine in Cohoes, presided over by Big Mike from a corner booth in the front window.

Smith made improvements to the old tavern, including installing the impressive 50-foot-long bar he purchased from the O’Connors, who operated a speakeasy in Albany. The legend was that the O’Connors acquired the bar when the old Tammany Hall in Manhattan closed.

But which Tammany Hall? On 17th Street just off Union Square the last Tammany Hall still stands. You can read the inscription "The Society Of Tammany Or Columbian Order" above the door of what is now the Union Square Theatre. However, this was built in 1927, so too late to have housed the Cohoes bar. The first building to be called Tammany Hall was at Nassau and Frankfort, built in 1812 and used until 1867,  probably too early for our bar. In 1868 a grand new headquarters was built on 14th Street. The Hall’s political offices were restricted to a single room and the rest was given over to various showmen and entrepreneurs who jammed it full of cafés, oyster bars, minstrel shows, band concerts, opera companies and a bazaar. No doubt that a great bar could have come out of here.

Did the O’Connors of Albany salvage the long bar out of the 14th Street Hall when it closed in 1927, and later sell it to Big Mike of Cohoes? We have yet to find hard evidence, but that’s the story, and it’s a good one. The bar certainly is a splendid slab of mahogany, regardless of pedigree, and its vintage guarantees it has seen many wonders in its long life.

Smith’s today is a lovely tavern with tile floors, red Naugahyde brass-studded barstools, some outstanding circular wood booths, and that long beautiful bar. The backbar has cabinets ornamented with stained glass roses. The food is good, too. Although Big Mike exited for good in 1949, it’s said his joint on Remsen Street still looks pretty much the same. If you are on your way to the Adirondacks, or possibly the races at Saratoga, stop in at Smith's of Cohoes and raise a glass to a far-flung bit of New York City history.


Hold That Ghost

A quick one a little late at a midtown holdout that surprises.

You do run into old acquaintances in the strangest places.

There is a certain sainted saloon we’ve read about for years, a celebrated writers’ hangout of the last century, a place called Costello’s. Gone since 1992, so it was a shock to say the least when we encountered a bit of this storied joint’s remains in an aggressively average midtown sports bar.

But first, let’s raise a glass to holdouts, those little buildings that have resisted progress, and to their plucky owners who gave the middle finger to the fat cat high-rise developers. Such a painful amount of fine stock has disappeared from midtown, so we hold in esteem those tough nuts, the heroes who spare us from a homogenous glass and steel cityscape. There are a number of famous holdouts: there is Hurley’s bar*, the four story building on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 49th Street that refused to sell out to Rockefeller Center; there remains the weenie 19th century building at 34th and Broadway that Macy’s was forced to build around; the townhouse on 60th Street across from Le Veau d’Or, now dwarfed by skyscrapers; and of course P.J. Clarke’s saloon. None of these were architectural show-stoppers in their day, but today they shine as reminders of when cities were built at a more human scale.

At the moment, cranes are everywhere you turn. The current monsoon of money (which somehow avoids our grasp) fuels rampant construction which means a heaping helping of rabid destruction of New York City. The blocks of 43rd and 44th Streets between Second and Third Avenues are, as we speak, being ripped apart by a full block-through pull down, and old office buildings, printing plants and garages are pfft. While the neighborhood suffers the unendurable noise and unimaginable loss of business, a wee 1926 townhouse at 225 East 44th Street stands up defiantly to the scaffolding and open pits that soon will sprout even more soulless towers. This holdout is the now aptly named Overlook bar. It is the kind of place we would have passed without a glance just a few years ago: the ubiquitous sports-woo! atmosphere, the corporate post-collegiate clientele, it’s an utterly bland and uninviting run-down joint illuminated by a couple dozen TVs. It has the look of a rock club in the daylight: no character to speak of, not even the gloss of one of those cookie cutter prefab Irish bars. But if there’s one thing we know about New York City, it’s that there is always something you never saw before. And indeed the Overlook has a startling and unique bonus. Venture past the branded beer sign décor and hypnotic sports screens to the back room and you’ll find the walls are covered with cartoons – so many familiar faces, and some obscure characters nearly lost to time. They commemorate not only the work of dozens of comic artists, but also the last remnant of Costello’s, the famed newspapermen’s saloon. This was the last outpost of the bar, established as a speakeasy, surviving into the 1990s, and immortalized by Tim and Joe Costello’s regular customers, many of whom were top-drawer writers.

Costello’s was a favorite stop for a hard-drinking literary set which included Ernest Hemingway, John O’Hara and the New Yorker bunch. Its earliest edition was upstairs at the corner of Lexington Avenue and 44th Street, but its most celebrated locations were at the corner, and near corner, of Third Avenue and 44th from the ’30s-‘70s, where it became known as a shining example of an old-fashioned Irish bar of the under-the-Third Avenue Elevated variety. John McNulty set countless Talk of the Town pieces there, and made the recurring character of Tim Costello famous in its pages. Another star at the magazine, James Thurber, made his mark on Costello’s in a different way. In 1934 he covered a wall with his cartoons to settle his bar bill. When in 1973 the building was to be razed, the bar moved again and landed finally at 225 East 44th. Thurber’s art survived the journey but was sometime thereafter “lost.”

By this time the crowd at Costello’s included newspapermen from the Daily News, nearby wire services, and artists from the big cartoon syndicates. The walls seemed a little bare, and one May afternoon in 1976, after some nudging by Tim Costello, Jr., Daily News cartoonist Bill Gallo organized a party of fellow National Society of Cartoonists members to decorate the place.

Costello’s passed into saloon history for good in 1992.

225 East 44th served the thirsty as the Turtle Bay Café through the early 2000s when it lost its lease and there was talk – crazy talk that is – of gutting the premises, but that is when the Overlook stepped in.

And today – in the same year that The Palm cruelly whitewashed comic art history – almost miraculously, the murals remain. They may be a little beat up, but the cream of cartoonery is there, dominated by Stan Lee’s Spiderman and Milton Canniff’s Steve Canyon, alongside Bullwinkle the Moose, courtesy Al Kilgore: Mad Magazine is represented by a gang of Sergio Aragones’ Mexican revolutionaries and a self-portrait by the great Al Jaffee; there is a fabulous array of funny pages superstars from the 1970s: Hagar the Horrible (Dik Browne), the Lockhornes (Bill Hoest), Boner’s Ark and Beetle Bailey (two smash hits from Mort Walker); for fans of the obscure, McGown Miller gives us a classic gag from his King Features one-panel character Noah Numskull and Bill Yates offers up professor Phumble; sharp-eyed New Yorker fans may spy a disgruntled dog from the pen of Charles Barsotti; the op-ed crew is here too, with Dick Hodgins giving us a pan-handling Mayor Abe Beame, and all this is just for starters. Appropriately for the time and place, there is a booze-happy theme to many of the yuks.

But wait, there’s more. In 2005 the owners of the Overlook took a stab at honoring their historical windfall by inviting Bill Gallo back to decorate the opposite walls. The new gang of cartoonists reprised several characters from the old mural, including Beetle Bailey, Dondi, and the Lockhornes. A highlight of the new wall is an Alfred E. Neuman by Mad art director Sam Viviano.

This is no shrine or museum. There is no velvet rope or protective Plexiglas bolted to the wall. In the freewheeling spirit of Costello’s the art is presented in the raw, subject to the wear and tear of seepage and careless patrons. Visit on a weekend afternoon when it is quieter and you can commune with the cartoons without bugging anybody. Settle in with a beer or a Bloody Mary, and a copy of McNulty’s “This Place on Third Avenue,” and tune out the comical present.
*Hurley's saloon is no more; the building was ultimately sold and today houses a branch of a particularly loathsome cupcake chain.