Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mad Men and Drinking, Season Three, Part III

Liquor has played less of a central role in season three of "Mad Men" so far, though it's always there on the margins, lubricating the action. Lord knows, Brit accounts man Guy MacKendrick would have never got his foot run over by a John Deere lawnmower in episode 6 if there hadn't been plenty of Veuve Clicquot on hand at the Sterling Cooper office party. And protagonist Don Draper probably wouldn't have accepted those phenobarbital pills from a couple of young hitchhikers he picked up in his caddy if he hadn't already been enjoying a whiskey at the wheel. (The man has not learned from his car accident in season two.)

Don, it is clear, needs a bracer the moment he walks in the door after returning from work. His motions have become predictable. He enters through the back kitchen door, puts down his briefcase, gives Betty a kiss, then heads for the kitchen cabinet that contains the cheap brand of whiskey he keeps at home, and pours himself a glass. Funny how Don stocks Canadian Club at work, but a lesser brand at home. Is that because Sterling Cooper is paying for the more expensive Canadian Club? Or because he wants to impress co-workers and clients, and isn't worried about impressing Betty?

In episode 6, there are also a couple juicy location mentions. Joan's no-good doctor husband doesn't get his hoped-for promotion and spends the whole day sulking in The Dublin House, an Irish pub that still exists on W. 79th Street. And when the Brits from Putnam, Powell and Lowe, which bought Sterling Cooper last year, pay a visit, they dine at Le Grenouille, and old school French restaurant that is still going strong on E. 52nd Street.

When Don hangs out with the hitchhikers, who turn out to be con artists, in episode 7, plenty of Rheingold beer is consumed. Episode 8 takes Don and Betty on a brief business trip to Rome, to service the needs of new client, hotelier Conrad Hilton. This offers a tantalizing glimpse into how folks are quenching their thirst during La Dolce Vita. There's a lovely bottle of Panna water on the Draper's nightstand. Outside at a cafe, the worldly Betty, who surprisingly speaks fluent Italian (guess that education at Bryn Mawr paid off) orders an Asti Spumante. A good Italian wine for a hot August night. Don, a bit of an American stick in the mud, takes his usual "whiskey neat," which arrives in a tiny glass.

The weasel Pete Campbell, meanwhile, tried to connive his way into the bed of a young German au pair, for whom he's done a friendly favor, but offering "beer, or a riesling. Schnapps?" That pretty much covers the German drinking bases, eh, Pete?

Previous "Mad Men and Drinking" installments

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