Francis Albert Sinatra Born December 12, 1015
To be honest, when I heard of all the hype of Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday being an event in early 2015, I thought it was just a ploy to sell more of his music, movies, whiskey, and sell even more tickets to impersonators, concerts, and supper club events. Yes, of course the man should be celebrated as one of the world’s most famous, successful colorful entertainers. But his life is really worth celebrating not only because he had the trifecta of winning all the Academy Awards such as the Grammy for Music, The Tony for Broadway and The Oscar for Cinema, as if that should be enough, but also because he was a real man.
When I say real man, I just don’t mean a womanizing, hard drinking guy who sang about all his romantic conquests, but more because he hit the highest of highs and the lowest of lows and always bounced back, defying all odds. You can read dozens of books on this so I will spare you my depiction of the man, the myth, the legend.
What I personally liked about Sinatra is he was flawed, he knew he was flawed, but like a true Sicilian, it was 100% love or 100% hate, often all directed at the same person, but it was one or the other.
If Frank Sinatra loved something, he would endorse it mercilessly and without regret. Jack Daniel’s was a small local distillery until he had his first sip (introduced to him by “The Great One” Jackie Gleason), after that, he insisted he had to have it and any restaurant, bar or establishment he visited, would have it on hand. And they did. If a restaurant knew he was visiting, they were sure to have his favorites on hand, not just Jack Daniels’ but also Molinari Sambuca. There is even another spirit (which I can’t recall) that he loved that one restaurant tracked down through several distributors to be sure to have it on hand when Sinatra was in town. They managed to get the last 2 cases and still have a few bottles on hand. I want to say it was Patsy’s, but I have to check my facts on that.
And in defense in a hardcore trend of bourbon and whiskey these days, Jack Daniels that Sinatra enjoyed back then is not the 80proof spirit today you can get in any bar from Applebees or local dive today. First off, it was much higher in proof, it was considered small batch, probably single barrel, and far more bolder and flavorful. The people at Jack Daniels’ did a fine job of re-creating a whiskey Sinatra himself would drink or was drinking, its just hard to justify the retail price of $200.
Here is an account of the re-creation of what he was drinking form Sara Feldberg on Tales of The Cocktail
In the 1950s, Arnett explains, whiskeys were generally darker and oakier with more intense, woody finishes. When Sinatra started drinking Jack Daniel’s in 1947 — legend has it thanks to a tip from comedian Jackie Gleason — he was probably sipping a bigger and beefier iteration of the company’s classic.
Arnett made three batches at varying levels of bold and flew to LA to meet with the Sinatras. Sitting around the kitchen table, they tasted the various whiskeys together. The one the family selected? “It was the one we thought was the most interesting,” Arnett recalls, “the highest level of the Sinatra barrel in it, biggest and the boldest.”
If you are searching for a Jack Daniel’s alternative closer to what Sinatra was drinking, try the Master Distiller Limited Edition which is in the $30 price range. Its 86 proof and that is probably closer to what he was drinking than Old No. 7 or anything else in the JD product line.
Frank Sinatra drank what was available in saloons, it was never fancy, never pretentious, and never hard to find like the numerous luxury brands today. As a snack, he would eat Campbell’s beans from the can, and his idea of comfort food was the same Italian food he would get at home. It would never be considered fine dining, it was just great, simple food prepared with love and old world style like Patsy’s Restaurant in Manhattan.
While I don’t expect this to be considered a legal holiday anywhere, except perhaps Sinatra’s hometown of Hoboken in New Jersey, it should be celebrated because it is everything that life is about. 100 years ago a man was born that gave generations great music, movie, entertainment (not to mention civil rights activism) and so many other contributions to our culture and society.
Here is an example of how a Sinatra evening would have gone if you care to relive it, and why wouldn’t you on this day of one of the world’s greatest gifts to music, movies, drinks and food?
After a hard day of work you relax with a couple of ounces of Jack Daniels over 2-3 ice cubes and dig into his favorite, fried veal scallopini, some simple pasta with breadcrumbs, whole garlic removed, and of course some great music from the same genre. For you, it would be Sinatra, but if you were Sinatra it would be Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, Dean Martin, and in this day and age I will go out on a limb and say that Michael Buble he could easily tolerate.
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