Last week, the long discussion spurred by this post led one of our most trusted readers to offer this startling factoid:
Bizarre note: there was a cocktail in the 40s and 50s called the Mickey Slim that was made with gin and a pinch of DDT.
Sure enough, The Tubes abound with mentions of this lethal-sounding tipple. The ostensible recipe is here, along with a caveat to try replacing the DDT component with absinthe in case you value your life.
The Mickey Slim sounds like such a mixological abomination that we had to stop and ask ourselves: Could it all be a hoax? Our brief investigation follows.
We started in the laziest way possible, by checking out the sources cited in the drink’s Wikipedia entry. There’s really just one, 2001’s The Dedalus Book of Absinthe (released stateside as The Book of Absinthe: A Cultural History). The tome’s brief discussion of the Mickey Slim can be read here; however, there is no footnote or endnote, so it’s not clear where the author found this piece of trivia.
Try as we might, we found virtually no mention of the Mickey Slim prior to the publication of The Book of Absinthe. We searched a galaxy of databases, from ProQuest to JSTOR to PubMed, but came up more or less snake eyes. The only thing we could dig up was a lone mention in the TV listings section of the June 28, 1992, edition of The Observer. It comes in a summary of a BBC2 documentary called “Goodbey Mrs. Ant,” which can be viewed in its entirety here. The reviewer’s lead sentence goes:
There used to be a cocktail called a Mickey Slim which was gin with a pinch of DDT, guaranteed to make you feel on top of the world.
We watched all of “Goodbye Mrs. Ant,” but didn’t hear a single word about the Mickey Slim. That means the entire story of the Mickey Slim traces back to an anonymous TV summarizer for The Observer. Is it possible that this person simply riffed off the Mickey Finn, thinking no one would ever bother to check his or her facts?
This isn’t to imply that DDT wasn’t alarmingly common back in the day. But as far as we can tell, oral consumption was inveighed against as soon as the insecticide hit the civilian market. It’s hard to imagine the bartenders of the day ignoring those warnings.
As always, of course, we’re open to proof to the contrary. Anyone have a vintage Mickey Slim recipe lying around? If so, please let us know. In the meantime, though, we’ll file the cocktail in our “Debunked” file, alongside the fur-bearing trout,