…you like a drink now and then…if you are like me more now than then. On my epitaph I think it could read, “He Made a Damn Good Bloody Mary. It sounds shallow, but in some way, I want to leave my mark on the world. Maybe because 50 is looming, or maybe the creative juices that I stifled for so long, out of insecurity, cannot be bottled up any longer. Does is matter? My Bloody Mary while excellent is not really mine. It is my father’s. I have made a change or two, but it is his. We don’t really call it a Bloody Mary. When drinking time comes along, say 10:30 am on a gray day, we look at each other and at the kitchen clock and a little knowing smile comes across his face.
“It’s mixture time, isn’t it?” I ask.
“It is somewhere,” he responds.
I am well trained. We are drinkers in my family. Some have drunk in excess, and to their death, others percolated merrily along with a scotch at 6 PM. As a child, I was tucked into bed with the goodnight kisses of inebriated adults, the sweet smell of alcohol on their breath. At four, I remember going into the living room after the adults moved into the dining room for dinner and finishing the remnants of all the drinks. That was the first time I was ill from drinking, and boy was I ever. They laughed at my foolishness; I don’t think I was punished. They entertained a fair amount, and my father was/is a good barman. I wanted to spend time with him and learn anything. It was a way to bond; we didn’t have too many bonding times; at least that is how I remember it. At six, I could make a good martini, anything and tonic or soda, a Manhattan, I knew the difference between a Gimlet, a Gibson, Bourbon and Bitters, and when someone asked for a martini without specifying the spirit, it meant gin and olives dry. Often, new guests (strangers to me) would arrive for dinner, and my parents would still be upstairs dressing. It was my job to greet the them, take their coats, and offer a drink, explaining that my parents would be right down. I was always just out of a bath, squeaky clean, hair parted to one side, with killer pajamas – tiger stripes, leopard spots – a neat little bathrobe knotted tightly, and slippers from the Indian Walk courtesy of my grandmother. I would ask again if they wanted a cocktail, and the man, semi-sarcastically would say: “sure kid, make me a martini.” I would ask the lady what she wanted, and they thought it was a cute little game so she ordered a vodka tonic. I would lead them into the living room and a roaring fire if the weather warranted it, where there were snacks: peanuts, Greber Olives, carrot sticks and aged Parmesan cheese, maybe smoked oysters, and always crackers with cheese. I then excused myself to go to the bar between the living room and the den. The bar was a great wooden chest covered in leather decorated with coats of arms of families long dead or forgotten, perhaps even invented. It had latches and the front opened down creating a table. It smelled of old wood, oil, and spirits. I had a little foot stool so I could reach everything easily. The mise-en-place was there; my father and I always saw to it together, and I would make the cocktails. I was intent on doing a good job, because even then I craved approval. It always raised an eyebrow, but the implications of a six year old making drinks then is not the same as it would be now. We had a great silver ice bucket that sweated condensation; it contained big square ice cubes. I delivered the vodka tonic in a highball, the lime squeezed into the drink and a run around the lip of the glass for some added tang; then back to the bar returning with the martini. I would always get a look: I’ll have to humor the child and drink this. After the first sip, an appreciative smile would follow. “This is a good martini kid.” I say this not to toot my horn, but to underscore, what may be a blinding glimpse of the obvious, I needed to make a perfect cocktail or perfect anything to have my father’s approval and love. The point of this post isn’t to talk about myself or my father, but a cocktail I want to create. Oh well…Santa didn’t send me an editor again this year..
In some ways the rise of the mixologist, like the star/celebrity chef is annoying. Forget in some ways: it is just plain annoying! In the 1950’s and before, a bartender, Rene at the Ritz in Paris for example, did not refer himself as a mixologist. He was a barman; it was his profession. He could make any drink, maybe had a following, or at least people who trusted him to make it right. He was an artisan. At least that is how my grandmother referred to him. Now you have these consultant specialists who create themed cocktail menus…plumbing the depths of frufru and exotica. Lichee, cinnamon apple-tinis with an Acai berry garnish? Oh, wait, I need to add the yuzu rind, and two drops of the Malaga blood orange. Really? Give me a break. Some friends opened a bar in New York City, a great place, and I will say it is novel to go in and tell the bartender…sorry…mixologist what you feel like, and have them invent something on the spot. A cocktail inspiration. If you like it, or if they do, you have a little index card with your name on it in a drawer for “next” time. But every time? Make me a proper martini…don’t f*#k around. It needs to be big, cold, and the varying degree of dryness I request. A little dividend is nice too; you know the extra splash they make that gives you a cocktail and just a bit more.
I want nothing to do with the furfru. I want an honest drink with a few ingredients that pack a punch, satisfy a craving, and make you wary of a second, knowing that if you go down that rabbit hole, you are committed, and hold on tight. But, as a bit of a showoff, I want it to be different, and not easy to duplicate because of one ingredient. Not that the ingredient should be rare, but just that it be something I make and if you want to make it, you need to put in the time. I have worked on this concoction for a couple of years.
My brother, a doctor in Oriental medicine, talks a lot about the San Jiao or Triple Burner. This from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Jiao):
San Jiao has been translated as “triple heater,” triple warmer (or three warmers),” and “triple burner,” the latter of which is probably favored because of the involvement of the San Jiao in metabolism. The current WHO standard term is “Triple Energizer” (TE), but many authors still prefer to use San Jiao.
I liked the idea of a drink that hits the head, the heart, and the pelvic bowl, so my cocktail is either to be called San Jiao or The Triple Heater. Please feel free to weigh in.
-1 measure (or jigger*) Over Proof Rum** (Ideally Sunset Very Strong Rum from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but Jamaican Over Proof Rum will do as well 150 proof and above)
– 1 measure (or jigger) of dark rum like Mt. Gay (NOT Captain Morgan or spiced rum)
– A tsp. of home made ginger syrup (use the syrup from making the candied ginger)
– A dash of bitters
– A few drops of lemon juice
– A candied cube of dark crystallized ginger on a toothpick as a garnish (I make this myself; it takes about 12 hours and 3 days to dry. It is a special texture, almost like a confit recipe coming soon – maybe)
– A splash of club soda or seltzer floating on top to cut the sweetness
Pour the first five ingredients into a shaker. Do not add the ice yet. Stir until the alcohols have dissolved or liquefied the ginger syrup. Add ice, shake well, and strain into a cold frosted martini glass. Add the garnish and float the club soda on top. Serve immediately with a smile.
* a jigger measures 1.5 US fluid ounces (44 ml)
** Here is the thing: a few of these and unfortunate misunderstandings can occur between the sexes. For whatever reason the effect of strong cane rum on women is to increase the libido…really increase the libido. For men however it is the opposite. Too much strong rum and the little soldier is not eager to stand at attention. So be aware and drink responsibly…or not. Happy New Year all!