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PhoBlograpHusband Sean teaches music by day and plies drinks by night. The moonlighting gig takes place at a private dining club, which I liken to a country club without the golf course or the attitude. The latter I attribute to the fact that it is the only nonprofit venture of its kind in the country, literally started by some conscientious folks with money who wanted to have a nice place to eat and fund worthy charities by doing so. (Having said that, Governor Krispy Kreme has made appearances there for special functions, and I mean, how do you serve that man without throwing a drink in his face?)
There are a few members Sean’s gotten to know through their mutual love of cocktails, and occasionally he comes home next to beaming because he spent his night crafting painstaking, wonderful potations for them. He’s even borrowed from this blog when choosing what the cocktail du nuit will be on a particular shift.
Some time back, the club held a cocktail creation competition amongst its members; the six finalists’ recipes were printed up in a little pamphlet, which Sean brought home to me. I was pretty way-impressed with what these nonprofessionals had come up with, and also jealous, because as much as I wanted to replicate their inventions at home, I don’t know what Saigon cinnamon is (one of many foreign ingredients required to make an India spiced vodka, which was then mixed with Domaine de Canton, coconut water and lime to make a Mumbai Magic); I can’t find unsweetened pineapple juice anywhere (though recently Stephanie clued me in to a juice joint in the East Village); and something tells me Castries Peanut Rum Creme, one half of a Peanut Butter Cup Martini recipe, isn’t stocked at my local bodega.
I feel like this was some kind of early April Fool’s joke.
On Wednesday, I received an e-mail from a name I didn’t recognize with this blog’s title as its subject line. Oooh, actual fan correspondence??! Long-awaited invitation to make cocktails with Rachel Maddow on her show?? Sychophantic booze publicist?
The very fact that any mixologist — a term I use here in its broadest scope, as one who has mixed at least two things together on at least one occasion in his/her life — can name a cocktail creation absolutely anything he or she wants is really quite mind-blowing to me. I mean, when you have a baby, you can name that baby any name you want, but it still has to be a name… unless, I suppose, you are an Oscar-winning actress or a world-famous lip-syncher/plastic surgery recipient or that man in Egypt who, post-uprising, bestowed upon his daughter the moniker of Facebook.
The point is, given how wide-open the field is, I think I overthink my cocktail naming. What to call a cocktail needn’t necessarily follow a traceable logic or make sense to anyone other than you, and really, it doesn’t need to make sense to you, either. It doesn’t need to mean something or say anything more than these words are what you say when you want this drink. It just needs a name.
We close Death & Company week with a cocktail that, on paper, scares the hypothetical caca out of me. A drink made up of three hard liquors, and when I read the names of three hard liquors and one of them is bourbon (facilitator of happy Rose) and one of the others of them is scotch (moody-bordering-on-surly Rose) and then there’s simple syrup — well, it makes me not trust the simple syrup, makes me paranoid that the simple syrup’s lurking in there as some sort of sleight-of-hand trick with the scotch dodging behind it and getting away with murder, and I think this is not going to be a very productive Friday night.
So as you’ve likely noticed by now, I’m pretty gay for Death & Co. It is by far my favorite bar in New York and quite possibly (although it’d have some stiff competition) the Americas (and also, I would withhold final judgment until I get a chance to visit the “capital-N nicest” bar ever patronized by another cocktail deity o’mine, Eric Felten).
It’s quite embarrassing to admit, ergo, that I’ve darkened Death & Co.’s doorway a scant three times in my entire life. I rationalize this by likening Death & Co. to Christmas: Just because it’s my favorite holiday doesn’t mean I wish it to come ’round more than once a year, in large part because it can be quite expensive indulging joy.
I’ve yet to mention scotch on this blog. There are a couple of reasons why. One: Bourbon exists, so what’s the point? Two: Scotch precipitates a taste-memory flashback to my first year of living in New York, specifically the hours between midnight and 5 a.m. of that year, a year I’m happy to leave fuzzy, hazy and behind.
Back then I was interning at a magazine during the day, waiting tables at the now-defunct Bottom Line at night, then spending several hours and most of the tips I’d just earned at some of Greenwich Village’s finest last-ditch saloons along with my Bottom Line co-workers, most of whom I haven’t been able to recall by name for over a decade. My go-to drink during those lost mornings was scotch and soda — a highball I settled on solely because it was the most grown-up-seeming thing I could think of to order. I was 22, recently graduated from a fancy-name college and hanging with middle-aged, stage-crew guys sporting frazzled, gray hair and incomplete sets of teeth. I wanted to fit in.
There’s a whole flow chart of professional angst leading to today’s drink, starting with this week’s edition of “The Tipsy Diaries,” a cocktail-centric column penned for the New York Times by its restaurant critic emeritus, Frank Bruni. Bruni’s restaurant-writing tenure — or I should say tenor; Bruni never refused the gooey puns that roiled forth from his brain, just as he couldn’t seem to wrestle the keyboard away from his occasional alter ego, Frannie Von Furstinshow — had its critics, some insidiously scathing in their put-downs.
Much of the disdain stemmed from the fact that Bruni had no professional food-writing background. But neither did I when I started writing restaurant reviews in St. Louis, so the worst I can say about him is 1) he went to UNC; 2) I am not him. And in order to become him, of course, I must destroy him.
Our season’s-greetings cards just went out on Monday. There’s a gift I ordered online three weeks ago that’s apparently stuck in a storing-stuck-things facility somewhere. The tree’s still up in our living room (although I did manage to de-ornament it over the weekend).
However, I refuse to be late making my favorite Christmastime tipple, The Twelfth Day of Christmas, a whiskey infusion that takes (whaddaya know?) 12 days to make — but unlike the rest of all the holiday meshugas, it’s time that does most of the work.
When this blog was still but an emptyish Google docs folder, my webmaster/husband, at one point needing to throw some dummy text into WordPress, cut and pasted a few grafs from a paper he’d presented at McGill University in March. He studies musicology, so next to a photo of the Autumn in New York, it read:
“The modern conception of the blues has come to be associated with two essential elements; a strict formal construction of twelve bars in common time divided into three four-bar phrases, and a cyclical repetition of that construct featuring melodic, textural and timbral variation. Blah, blah, blah.” [Ed. note: “Blah, blah, blah” mine.]
We joked about how awesomely trippy it’d be to just make the blog nothing but photos of cocktails juxtaposed with chunks of musicological academia, and leave it up to the reader (of which there’d surely be even fewer than there are now; bless you (plural?) all!) to divine what the hell it all meant. There is one drink, however, which would’ve let the two appropriately coalesce: the Robert Johnson Swizzle, a cocktail invented at my own, personal Valhalla, Death & Co., and named after the father* of the Delta blues.