“Sort of like a Waring Blendor”
My electric blender just broke. “So what?” you say. But for me it is a pretty big deal. Bartenders have a love/hate relationship with electric blenders, not so much because of the blenders themselves, but rather, because of the drinks that are made in them: strawberry daiquiris/margaritas, pina coladas, grasshoppers, etc.
And truth be told, if those drinks are made right, they are pretty darn good – well maybe not the grasshopper – but I digress.
The keys are the right ingredients and the right equipment. And that is where my broken blender comes in. The blender I have is not just any blender, it is an industrial strength Vitamix, and it is the Cadillac (or perhaps the Porsche) of blenders. I bought it 20 years ago, use it all the time, and it only recently stopped working.
When I started bartending 30 years ago, the electric blender was at a crossroads. Hamilton Beach produced two very different, very popular versions. One was a 14 speed 7 pushbutton version that nearly every home had, and the other was a two speed industrial version found in just about every restaurant around. People often used the pushbutton home version like a Jerry Lee Lewis keyboard, sliding their finger from one side to the other, and the restaurant version was known to bartenders everywhere for its smoking rubber clutch drive. Once I got a job at a southern California restaurant solely on my ability to replace that clutch (they were reverse threaded) and I still have dreams where I smell that burning rubber.
Hamilton Beach did not invent the electric blender, but the two men (Louis Hamilton and Chester Beach) certainly improved it under the auspices of company owner, Fred Osius, who then teamed up with musician Fred Waring (of the Pennsylvanians) to design the “Miracle Mixer,” before Waring set off on his own creating the iconic Waring Blendor (a copyrighted spelling that was in force until 2004). That “blendor,” or more correctly, the drinks made with it, were the ones favored by no less than Ernest Hemingway.
Yep, man’s man Ernest drank blended drinks. Blended daiquiris in fact. And he drank them in abundance, reportedly as many as 16 in a sitting.
“He ordered a double frozen daiquiri with no sugar from Pedrico, who smiled his smile which was almost like the rictus on a dead man who has died from a suddenly broken back, and yet was a true and legitimate smile, and started to read Crisol,” Hemmingway wrote.
Written in 1950 but released posthumously in 1970, “Islands in the Stream” came out long after Hemingway’s reputation had been established. Had it been released earlier the frozen daiquiri might have had an entirely different reputation. Ironically, the Floridita (“My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquirí in El Floridita.”) maintains the blended daiquiri to this day, although in another irony they misspelled Hemingway’s name in their iconic 1937 Floridita cocktail guide as “E. Hemminway.” Not all that strange really, since the name “El Floridita” is somewhat improper Spanish.
Eventually the Hamilton Beach two speed blender (model 909) replaced the Waring Blendor in the professional arena. Just in time to see the release of “Islands in the Stream” and the iconic reference to the “Waring Blendor” in Warren Zevon’s “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me,” a hit for him in 1976, and an even huger hit for Linda Ronstadt in 1977.
For the next 20 years or so that Hamilton Beach blender was the automatic go-to for professional bartenders everywhere. Until a product designed primarily for the home use, decided to market a “professional version.” Vitamix as a company began in 1921, but really began hitting its stride in 1970 with the introduction of its “professional” blender. 20 years later it became an overnight success, and sometime later I was prompted to plop down $400 for my very own iron clad professional version after seeing a demonstration at the county fair. That model has since become the go-to version for almost every restaurant that features blended drinks.
And I have not been disappointed, using it thousands of times, until recently, when it stopped working. The company wanted $100 just to look at it and I would have to pay shipping and handling both ways. After wrestling with the idea of fixing it or buying a new one, I took a chance and looked online. Bob in Albuquerque had posted a video on how to fix it for less than $10.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
-I love the internet
-Blended cocktails are delicious and easy too, if you use the right tools.
-Products come and products go. Remember the Walkman? Neither do I.
-The County Fair is usually this weekend. I, for one, am going to miss it.
-Did Hemingway like the little umbrellas too? Just asking.