Fun With Ginger Ale And A Slide Rule

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We recently bought some ginger ale.  I am not sure why, it was actually my Mrs.’ doing.  But there it sat and so we had to find something to do with it.  The problem was solved with a slide rule.

One of our local stores was running a buy-one-get-one special on a particular brand of pop (which those of you not from the upper midwest insist on calling “soda”).  I guess I will compromise by calling it soda pop.  This stuff was made with all cane-sugar and no corn sweeteners.

We rarely buy soda pop.  The last time we did was for a family get-together.  With few little kids in our extended family and with the young adults being more health-conscious than when I was part of that age group, the beer and soda pop we bought was consumed quite sparingly, leaving us with copius leftovers.  Everyone headed for the bottled water or the carbonated soda water (LaCroix is popular hereabouts), and truth be told that is what we usually drink as well.

But back to the ginger ale.  I don’t really get excited over ginger ale, but my life companion remembered drinking it at her grandparents’ house when she was a kid.  Which fired up similar memories for me.

My father came from the Philadelphia area and his parents were typical for their age and social status in the mid 1960’s.  At around five o’clock the ice would start clinking into the glasses and libations would be poured.  Granddad was a scotch guy, Grandmother liked her bourbon and my Dad would mix a Manhattan.

We kids were usually offered a choice of Coke, 7-Up or ginger ale.  Because cocktail mixers were the only kinds of kid-friendly beverages they kept on hand.  Unlike my other Grandma who would keep a stock of Sun Crest strawberry, orange and grape sodas for we grandkids.

Back east I always chose the ginger ale.  Not because I liked it, really, but because it was exotic.  It felt like a cocktail all by itself.  I think I even remember my grandmother putting a maraschino cherry in it.  All that was missing was the candy cigarettes.

Anyhow, our six-pack of ginger ale sat untouched for several weeks.  I didn’t really want to drink it straight, but I knew it was a mixer.  Which set me to wondering what kinds of cocktails it might be used in.

I am not a big drinker, but do enjoy a cocktail from time to time.  I have a little thing up in my liquor cabinet that is kind of a vintage treasure.  It is a drink mixing slide rule.  Really.

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I got it from my mother when she was moving years ago.  It was made by the Perrygraf Corporation of Maywood, Illinois, which I learned once made a wide range of custom slide rule-type calculators.  For those too young to have ever touched one of these, there is an inner piece of cardboard that slides back and forth in an outer sleeve.  If you slide the insert until a known variable comes into one window, related information will appear in another window.

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This one was made for the Stratoflex Corporation of  Fort Worth, Texas.  This company (which has been part of Parker Hannefin since the 1980’s) was known for high pressure flexible hoses.  This ad featuring Teflon (and noting a branch plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana where we lived) hoses makes it clear that my father’s employer of that general time period must have been one of them.

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Of all of the kinds of slide rules which could have come into my possession, this may be the only one that could be really useful in my own day-to-day life in 2019.  I wouldn’t know what to do with a genuine engineer’s slide rule if someone thwacked me on the head with it.

I consider the 1950’s to have been the glory days of the mixed drink and this little slide rule with its copyright date of 1953 would be right smack in the fat part of that glory.  There will be no drinks favored by baby boomers or by the “mixologists” so popular with the younger folks.  Nope, these were drinks for real men (and women) who were ready to party with cigarettes in hand and Frank Sinatra on the Hi-Fi.  That the device provides recipes for cocktails made with absinthe (a spirit illegal in the U.S. until the 1990’s) shows that those old-timers weren’t just playing around.

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Fifty drinks on the front . . .

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and another fifty on the back.

The thing is quite ingenious, really.  I am a fan of boiling things down to their absolute simplest, and it is difficult to imagine a more economical way to keep recipes for one hundred different cocktails.  The cryptic directions include one list of ingredients on the left in red and another is on the right in black.  You can look up drinks by name and number or you can scan for ingredients – which is what I did.

And of drinks using ginger ale there was precisely – one, something that surprised me.  The Gin Buck.  I had never heard of a Gin Buck before.  But then I have never heard of the majority of drinks on this little piece of mid-century madness.  I had once known a fellow named Jim Buck, but that was not the same thing at all.  Though it helped me to remember the drink’s name.

It seems to have been a popular summer drink in the 1920’s, an era when most anything made with ginger ale was called a buck. What would you do without the useless trivia you learn by coming here?

It didn’t really sound all that appealing at first.  Gin, lemon juice and ginger ale over ice.  Some additional research referred to a “collins glass” which told me that the ginger ale would be the major player here.  My first thought was that these three ingredients with fairly strong flavors would be something like a fight in a glass.

Well I am nothing if not adventurous (insert pause for giggles from those who know me) and so I mixed myself a Gin Buck.  I skipped the cigarette, having quit smoking them decades ago, as well as the Sinatra.  I did nosh on some snacks along with it.  Though my choice of tortilla chips and queso proved to be sub-optimal for trying a new drink.

I tried again the next night, skipping the Mexican-ish culinary blunt instrument and sipping the drink all on its own.  The verdict?  Not bad.  The thing was growing on me and I convinced my Mrs. to try one a few nights later.  She pronounced it a success.

I can report that my ginger ale disposal system has been working quite well, as we are down to the last couple of cans.  Proving to me that there is still some value in owning a good slide rule.

 

Photo Sources:

1941 Perrygraf (or Perry Graf) slide chart made for Ohmite Mfg. Co. is from the Smithsonian Museum of National History.

1960 Stratoflex ad from an Ebay sale listing via Worthpoint.com

Engineer’s slide rule from an interesting piece on early calculators at Chalkdustmagazine.com.

1953 Perrygraf cocktail mixer slide chart made for Stratoflex – photos by the author.

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19 thoughts on “Fun With Ginger Ale And A Slide Rule

  1. That slide-rule is probably, literally, the coolest thing I’ll see all day today.

    The kids in our family didn’t drink pop, either, but my dad had his 7-Up that my brothers and I would *sneak* occasionally. Vernor’s ginger ale was what we were given when we were sick, to settle our stomachs. I still have a soft spot for that stuff.

    Great piece.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know, isn’t it the coolest thing? I have never seen anything like it, but was surprised to see a picture of an identical one that someone was selling on eBay. It is one of those things that is almost never used but is way too cool to get rid of.

      Like

    • I had a friend when we were kids who got me to try Vernor’s ginger ale. I didn’t like it much then, and I only bought it occasionally. I’m a Canada Dry G Ale man, myself.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Inquiring minds want to know, Vernor’s or something tamer?

    Like Joseph, I mostly think of ginger ale as a drink for upset stomachs, although we do have a tradition of mixing it with Hawaiian Punch at Christmas time.

    As cool as the slide rule is, mostly I’m enjoying just saying the word “Stratoflex” in that ’50s narrator voice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The stuff we bought was Hanson’s. We had never tried it but it was a BOGO deal. I didn’t need a slide rule to make the cherry-vanilla go away.

      7Up was the upset stomach drink at my house growing up. I have long wondered if this is why I don’t really like 7Up or if I didn’t really like it to start with.

      And I will agree that Stratoflex is a great name.

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  3. We never had soda in our house as a child. Well, almost never. A bottle of ginger ale or SevenUp might appear in the fridge when one of us was sick. For medicinal purposes only. Dark sodas … Coke, Pepsi, Dr Pepper … were considered evil, though red wine and sherry, at least for my parents, was apparently an essential part of their diets. As for slide rules, I used one in high school and for my first calculator, a TI SR50 in my first year of college. It lasted through those years and my first engineering job. Around 1982, I bought an HP calculator that I still have, and works fine. The batteries last about 10-15 years. I think my slide rule, a plastic cheapie, is long gone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, the number of kids who got the ginger ale cure is startling to me.

      And I have been wondering just when engineers stopped getting trained in how to solve problems with slide rules. I remember seeing my first electronic calculator around 1970-71, though my father was long out of engineering when he got it. As I think about it I have a slide rule-style flight calculator that I learned to use for navigation and fuel consumption calculations when I was learning to fly in the late 80s. It was certainly not what the pro were using, but it was cheap and effective.

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  4. Fun, JP. These nostalgia pieces are most enjoyable—though this one was also a time-traveler.
    But I well remember the days of maraschino cherries and candy cigarettes. They were part of my healthful living when my grandpa, who was also my dentist, gave us lucky kids little balls of mercury to play with.
    Who knew?

    Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ohhhh, those balls of mercury sound like fun! It’s probably good that I never got the chance to play with those since I spent time with my best friend melting lead and pouring it into moulds to make toy soldiers. Adding mercury to that would have probably sent me around the bend.

      Liked by 1 person

    • So . . . I use the manual like a shield? Seriously, I love the idea of the slide rule and understand its importance in making almost everything we used through most of the 1960s.

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  5. I vaguely remember having a slide rule in high school math, but don’t remember what you did with it….maybe it was part of a geometry set? Now I am dating myself. Flat ginger ale was what your mother gave you when you were sick as a kid….you also got the prime viewing spot on the couch, and toast cigars when you were starting to feel better. Vernor’s was only for Christmas, as I believe it was stronger? We didn’t get much pop when we were kids, only when my US cousins were visiting, which they called soda.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, it would seem that I’m the only kid in the English speaking world that didn’t not get ginger ale as a sickness treat/remedy. And the soda word was regional. My east coast cousins called it soda and laughed at my Midwestern sister and me who called it pop. I am glad that the international community (whom you so ably represent) agrees with me. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a marvelous post, J.P. — I love everything about it, from your puzzling about why the missus would buy ginger ale to your introduction of the drink-mixer’s slide rule. Wish I’d had one of those in college. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • And, like magic, the ginger ale has disappeared.

      The thought occurred to me that this slide rule would make for a solid two years of weekly obsolete cocktail posts. But then I thought about the absinthe and the raw egg whites I reconsidered.

      Liked by 1 person

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