Tuesday, February 1, 2011

[FIND] Vice - Jake Gittes

"What I do for a living may not be very reputable. But I am. In this town I'm the leper with the most fingers." Jake Gittes, "The Two Jakes"

Loach: What happened to your nose, Gittes? Somebody slammed a bedroom window on it?

Jake Gittes: Nope. Your wife got excited. She crossed her legs a little too quick. You understand what I mean, pal?

Equal parts mystery and psycho-thriller, the 1974 movie Chinatown revived the film noir genre and gave the world one of [FIND]'s favorite fictional private eyes, Los Angeles gumshoe J.J. "Jake" Gittes, played by Jack Nicholson.

Screenwriting professors everywhere get all misty about Robert Towne's  superbly-crafted screenplay, a dark tale of murder, corruption, and water rights set in 1930s Southern California. Towne's stark, whittled-down dialogue breathes life into Gittes, a cynical, every-man-for-himself divorce-shamus resplendent in a back-belted white linen suit and straw hat.

Gittes isn't afraid to compromise to the very edge of legality and sleaze, but the evil he encounters surrounding his mysterious client, Mrs. Mulray (Faye Dunaway), pushes the limits of even Gittes's flexible morality. Embittered by some murky past as a cop in L.A.'s Chinatown, in which his job was to "do as little as possible," he's learned that nothing is ever as it seems.

Gittes's momentary resurgence as a man who protects the weak and fights for what's right comes to naught, in a dark, climactic scene re-tooled by director Roman Polanski from the original screenplay. Gittes, again, steeps in disgust at the futility of salvation in a venal world. As the two watch the tragedy unfold, Gittes's partner, Lawrence Walsh, tells him, "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."

The Cocktail
James Hensley manages The Patterson House, a favorite watering hole of ours, and just the kind of dramatically-lit speakeasy Gittes would have loved, if only he could pay the bar tab. Hensley cooked up the ideal mouth-shattering cocktail in honor of that rough-cut L.A. gumshoe:

The Chinatown

1.5 oz.             Lunazul Reposado Tequila
1/2 oz.             Chichicappa Mezcal
3/4 oz.             Fresh lime juice
3/4 oz.             Ginger syrup
1/2 oz.             Aperol

Place all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake. Strain over ice in a rocks glass and garnish with ginger candy.

The Cigar
PI Gittes seems to need to unwind, relax, let his thinning hair down, whatever one may call it, with a cigar after an investigation that left him with a mutilated nostril. He doesn't need anything too strong, but something smooth and capable of creating a contemplative distance from the day's events. 

The Zino Classic No. 1 would do just fine. It is mild to medium, depending on one's palate. The Ecuadorian wrapper complements the cigar's Dominican and Honduran tobacco to reveal a very slightly bitter, buttery, woodsy flavor. 

Wrapper: Ecuador 
Binder: Honduras 
Filler: Dominican Republic, Honduras

(Wordsmithing and cigar suggestion courtesy of Joe Zike at UPtown's Smoke Shop)

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