Comic Shots: ONE DEAD SPY and a Stone Fence

Each week the iFanStaff passes along a tasty drink recipe and an even tastier comic book recommendation. The cocktail (or beer, or wine, or booze) and the comic can both be enjoyed independently, but they have a common theme and when served together they can make for the perfect reading experience.


Though cocktails and cocktail bars are pretty much everywhere now, fancy mixed drinks are a relatively modern phenomenon. The first “cocktail party” wasn’t until the 20th century, and the first bartender’s guide wasn’t even released until the mid-1800s. However, the act of mixing alcohol into punches, hot drinks and other blends – either to make them stronger or simply more palatable – was around for long before “cocktails” became popular. Some of these early mixes can be a bit rough on the modern tastebuds (egg in any cocktail makes many people wince), but there’s a handful that are delightful.

I wanted to find an authentic, easy-to-make, easy-to-drink colonial cocktail to pair with my Revolutionary Era comic, and the Stone Fence  is a perfect fit.

The Stone Fence

This Stone Fence, from the blog Oh So Beautiful Paper, includes a splash of bitters for color.

(adapted from 12 bottle bar)

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz rye whiskey (Irish whiskey, dark rum, and applejack are acceptable substitutes)
  • hard apple cider
  • ice, crushed
  • apple slice or crushed mint for garnish

Procedure:

  • In a pint glass, pour whiskey over ice
  • Add hard cider to fill – at least 6oz
  • Stir gently, and garnish

You can’t get a much simpler cocktail than this – you’ve only got two ingredients to play with, and the portions needn’t be exact.

A survey of a dozen different Stone Fence recipes will give you twelve different liquor suggestions, from moonshine to apple brandy. I opted for Bullit rye whiskey, which is one of my favorite liquors and a subtle, smooth whiskey. If you’re going for a wholly authentic Stone Fence. the ever-present dark rum of Colonial New England is your spirit of choice. I’d say 6 oz of hard cider is the sweet spot for the cider portion; it’s enough to give some apple flavor and temper the whiskey, but it won’t drown it completely. I used Strongbow, an English cider some of my Anglophile friends swear by, in my drink.

The Stone Fence is most closely associated with Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys, a New England militia that seemed to take great pride in tormenting British “Yorkers.” It’s well-established in the history books that the Green Mountain Boys captured Fort Ticonderoga from the British in May 1775, without much of a plan beyond charging the fort and hoping for the best. As there was only one sentry at Ticonderoga (and his gun misfired), luck was on the side of Allen and his 83 militia members. Here’s the apocryphal part of the story: to get their courage and spirits up before the attack, the militia spent the night drinking at Remington’s tavern. Their drink of choice? Stone Fences.

The idea of pairing a Stone Fence with Nathan Hale’s One Dead Spy was in my head from page one, but reading an account of the capture of Fort Ticonderoga in the book sealed the deal.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy

by Nathan Hale
Published by Harry N. Abrams

Even if you aren’t familiar with Nathan Hale the man, you’ve probably heard his most famous line – “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” Hale uttered the line at the age of 21, captured by the British and hanged after his failed first mission as a spy for Washington’s army. Despite his short career, Hale played an important part in the early days of the American Revolution.

One Dead Spy, by Nathan Hale (the author, not the patriot), is the first in a series of American history comics aimed at middle-grade readers. The setup, reminiscent of Arabian Nights, is brilliant in its simplicity. Hale is about to be hanged, but delays his execution by telling his captors stories from American history. Hale is aided by a magical “Big Huge Book of American History,” which means he can tell tales from before or after the real Hale’s lifetime. The first story is of Hale’s brief life, with some diversions into stories of Ethan Allen, Henry Knox, Thomas Knowlton, and other early patriots.

Hale’s style of storytelling reminds me of shows like The Magic School Bus and Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego, in that he uses humor to teach. Character traits like Hale’s unluckiness, Allen’s bravado and Knox’s obsession with guns are played up to great effect. The book reads like a cartoon, which is a great fit for Hale’s drawing style. The most similar books I can think of are Chris Schweizer’s Crogan tales, another series that manages to be educational and appeal to all ages.

One particularly striking aspect of One Dead Spy is the color palette – black and white, but with red used as an occasional wash, highlight, or color in panels. Parker it ain’t, but it makes for a more visually interesting book and adds some valuable depth. The second book in the series, Big Bad Ironclad, uses blue in place of red for a similar effect.

Though the graphic novel is aimed at juveniles, there wasn’t a page where I felt talked down to or like I was reading “kid’s stuff.” One Dead Spy is an easy, breezy beautiful cover girl refresher on the start of the American Revolution, and includes factoids about early battles that I’d either forgotten or never learned. I also appreciate the inclusion of a bibliography in the back of the book, which points readers toward books (both academic and popular nonfic) with further information on Hale and his ilk.

Who says history has to be boring? This weekend, grab this cocktail and this comic to get some good old fashioned book learnin’!

The second book in the series, Big Bad Ironclad, covers the construction of ironclad ships in the American Civil War. It’s also out now.


Josh Christie would like you to know that Ben Franklin never said “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” but he appreciates the sentiment. Follow him on Twitter for plenty of talk about beer, books, bookselling, and even comics.

Please obey the law and only drink if you are of age. Drink responsibly and never drink and drive. Buy the comics that make you happy. Smile more.

Comments

  1. I said once I always feel left out cause Im not 21 could you guys maybe do one for your under 21 crowd on the site maybe a I dont know the correct term for smaller soda companies but Im gonna call it Craft Soda like Black Bear Root Beer or somehing like that please.