Barmate is a curious artifact from Southern Comfort that was distributed with the December 1964 issue of Playboy Magazine. Featuring stunning photography, illustration and mid-60s design, Barmate is really all about the drinks. Join us for a look at some swinging cocktails (not a single appetizer recipe here) and some history of the original Playboy Clubs and the lives of the real Playboy Bunnies who worked at them. (All images and links are rated PG-13 at the most extreme.) Check out Barmate below!
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Editors’s Note: This post and all links within are “TV-14″ at the most extreme.
Introducing – Woman as object, and oh yeah, some cocktail recipes. All kidding aside, don’t let the artwork fool you, this booklet is all about the drinks.
Barmate was distributed by Southern Comfort as a supplement to the December 1964 issue of Playboy magazine. I’m not going anywhere near exploring the double entendres hiding in the dark subconscious of the title of this pamphlet.
That said, the front cover certainly catches the eye. I’ll start by bringing your attention to the stunning young bunny (more on bunnies later). Start with the ears, magnificently arrayed above a flawless blonde bouffant. Now cast your eyes lower to a perfect, impeccably neat and cleanly scrubbed appearance that simultaneously inspires imperfect, wild and dirty thoughts. Now look lower…to the tight bow tie…and further down to the most amazing aspects of the scene.
No you pig, I’m talking about the incandescent array of cocktails on the serving platter. In a master stroke of the art of photo lighting, the drinks seem as if they are illuminated from within with a magic glow that makes them the real objects of desire here. And note the cocktail napkins on the platter. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the 21st century is the loss of the appreciation for the cocktail napkin. Every cocktail should be served on a napkin (clever artwork optional). Without a napkin it’s simply a mix of booze and soda: with a napkin it’s an event.
So slip into something more comfortable and get ready to enjoy a stroll through the naughty past of the Playboy Club in this vintage guide to creating the Playboy mystique at home. No key required.
Barmate opens with the key to mixing drinks like an expert, with a Playboy Club key proudly displayed for all to see. Equally prominent, the couple at the top seem to be about to throw caution and inhibition to the wind and dive into a platter-full of deviled eggs and a bushel basket of potato chips. Is this how people got “in the mood,” back in 1964?
According to the copy, you don’t have to be an expert to know when a drink tastes good. Reminds me of what Ohio judge Potter Stewart said in a landmark 1964 obscenity case, “”I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be obscene, but I know it when I see it.”
The copy continues with a cogent case on cocktail mixing theory. In a nutshell, 1) “one basic liquor” controls the flavor of the drink; and 2) other ingredients should not overpower the base. It then makes a sales pitch for substituting Southern Comfort in a variety of favorite cocktails, and uses a “social proof” argument that professional barmen are doing just this to create special “House Cocktails.”
Not ready to buy the argument? They slyly suggest a classic side-by-side taste test. Brilliant marketing if you ask me. To do the test, you have to buy a bottle of Southern Comfort and if they win you make the switch. If they lose, they still will since they sold one more bottle of hooch.
You’ll also see tried-and-true tips to making better cocktails. My favorite is to never “eyeball” your measurements – remember mixology is a science.
But perhaps the most compelling thing on the page is the first of several beautifully-rendered illustrations of bunnies in action. This one marches forth with an inviting smile and a full tray of mixed drinks.
The marketing genius of Barmate continues as the reader is lulled into submission by a slick, sexy and sophisticated pitch to “improve” classic drinks by switching out dull and listless liquors with the sweet and sensual taste of Southern Comfort.
The copy reads with the swinging swagger of the real Mad Men as it holds forth on the natural superiority of Southern Comfort.
But the pièce de résistance is the first of several cocktail throw downs that pit the ordinary drink against the “Comfort” version. The two Manhattans look virtually identical (just like two gray-flannel account exces may have looked in any Madison Avenue ad agency in 1964). But it’s the little details and what’s on the inside that makes all the difference. Outwardly, the “Comfort Manhattan” is indistinguishable from the original. But the “Comfort” version proudly boasts the unmistakable Playboy Club key and lighter, on the inside you know that invisible jigger of Southern Comfort makes it the drink of choice. Regarding Playboy Club keys, which were the mystic talisman needed to enter a Playboy Club, only 21% of all keys sold were ever used to enter a club. Clearly, the possession of a key alone was enough for many men to score a piece of the Playboy lifestyle.
The bunny art shows a bunny reaching out in service, but I she appears to be violating bunny protocol. Real world bunnies, were schooled in the “Bunny Dip,” which required them to bend backward to deliver drinks, in order to keep certain body parts from falling out of their costumes.
Cocktails include On-The-Rocks, Mists, Highballs, Comfort Highballs, Manhattan and Comfort Manhattan (made the way they mix it at the Playboy Club, Chicago).
More cocktail favorites follow, as well as two “Comfort” takes on classics, including Don Draper’s favorite, the Old Fashioned (as served at the Playboy Club, St Louis).
Our friendly cartoon ladyhosts take orders and present (drinks that is). In the 60s, bunnies had to follow a regimented set of protocols worthy of the Grenadier Guards at Buckingham Palace. Just as the Queen’s guards had to be at least 6’ tall, bunnies also had to meet certain physical requirements. There were just two sizes of costume, 34D and 36D. And just as the guards follow a strict sequence of maneuvers when it’s time for a change, bunnies were required to greet guests with a specific welcome. Here’s a fascinating peek behind the veil of the Playboy Clubs of the 60s.
Drinks include Rob Roy, Dry Martini, Bloody Mary, Gimlet, Cold Toddy, Rum Swizzle, Daiquiri, Margarita, Comfort ‘N Bourbon (a champion at Jack Dempsey’s, New York), Comfort Daiquiri (the sun lovers’ choice at the Luau Restaurant, Miami Beach), Comfort Old Fashioned and Comfort Sour (as served at the Playboy Club, Phoenix).
Now we’ll learn the “short steps” to mixing “long drinks.” I’ll let you amateur Freudians do your own analysis of that copy.
Again we have beautifully photographed cocktails with astonishing lighting that creates a mood of slick sophistication not seen in this century. More great bunny art too.
It’s odd how time has turned the bunny from something considered raw and sexual into a quaint expression of a more innocent past. In fact, the “bunny” archetype even appears in children’s cartoons (actually creepy Japanese Anime). But the reality wasn’t so neat and tidy as the bunnies eventually rose up against their oppressors and the wretched working conditions in the clubs were laid bare.
But at a recent reunion of Playboy Bunnies in New Orleans, the former bunnies report that the job was empowering, increased their self-confidence and led to career opportunities beyond what they could have dreamed of. I suspect you might get a different perspective from former bunnies who didn’t make the trip to ‘Nawlins for the reunion.
Drinks include Tom Collins, Honolulu Cooler, Comfort Cola, Gin Rickey, Mint Julep, Screwdriver, Gin ‘n Tonic, The Alamo, Comfort ‘n Tonic (as mixed at Wilbur Clark’s Desert Inn & Stardust Hotels, Vegas baby), Lemon Cooler (which scores with sportsmen at the El Mirador Hotel, Palm Springs), Comfort Collins (the toast of the French Quarter at the Playboy Club, Miami) and Scarlett O’Hara (as served at the Playboy Club, New Orleans).
Flaming after dinner drinks burn brighter and party-time punches shine when mixed with Southern Comfort.
Some classic cocktails as found here as well as some more exotic selections. Worth noting are the realistic faux flames seen over the Blue Blazer and Comfort Royale. I like the airbrushed flame effects (decades before Photoshop) and the bunny laden with a heavy punch bowl on the right.
But best of all, I love the selection of Southern Comfort Steamboat Glasses. You can fit out your entire bar with matching long drink glasses, double old-fashioned tumblers and even matching napkins. Want them? They still turn up on ebay, and are usually cheaper than in 1964 when adjusted for inflation.
Drinks include Alexander, Grasshopper, Stinger, Blue Blazer, Comfort Royale, St. Louis Cocktail, Comfort Eggnog, Party Punch and Anniversary Punch.
They say sex sells, so Barmate skips the ladies and ends with a final sales pitch: a close up still-life of the marvelous Steamboat glass collection. I actually have a set. If you want to see them, stop by for a Comfort Manhattan. Just make sure to slip into something comfortable first.