Inside the Mind of the Monkey

There are more than just bananas in there...

Cocktails from Quarantine

Let’s get this out of the way right up front, I am not sure this is really a cocktail blog. The drinks info is solid, but I do wander in the narrative, making you read a bunch of extra stuff to get to the recipe. You end up with my thoughts on the events of the day or reminisces looking back on a half century of misspent youth, loosely draped around a drink made on our kitchen counter. Maybe that is your thing, I hope so. It’s got links to bars, ingredients, music and anything else I find interesting. Nobody is making any money off of them, so click if you are into it or don’t. These shouts into the dark helped provide some routine and ritual when the world turned upside down. It is my sincere hope that reading them will help keep you distracted, informed or mildly entertained, depending on your needs.

Spirited Oaxacan Hot Chocolate

It’s a snow day in middle Tennessee. One of those rare, single digits, howling wind, bundle up because the snow is deeper than your boots days. We don’t get a lot of those, so I try to appreciate them when they come. When I wore a younger mans clothes, this usually meant putting the plastic bags from loaves of bread over my socks before putting my boots on to go sledding, usually being pulled behind the tractor by my grandfather. What can I say, the hills on our farm are more of the gentle, rolling variety than the exciting toboggan run style. We would usually follow that up with “skating” on one of the ponds before breaking the ice so the cattle could get a drink and making sure all the stock had plenty of hay. Somehow, he would hide the work in the fun in the same way that he would hide life lessons in that work. As cold as it would be out there, we knew that when we got back to the house grandma would have hot chocolate waiting for us on the stove and that still tastes like home to me. So, peel off those wet shoes, being careful to not tear your bread bag liners, as we stand in mostly dry socks and make a mug of Spirited Oaxacan Hot Chocolate.

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Chef’s Kiss

After a rainy night with winds rushing through the leafless trees, we have settled into one of those trademark muddy, grey January days. Secretly, I always sort of enjoy this kind of weather, perfect for cuddling up in your cardigan with a good book, while something savory simmers on the stove. Getting lost in a story while the flavors slowly melt together and the scent of comfort floats on the air, full of the promise of a taste of home coming when the grey finally shifts to black. That’s a good way to spend any day, taking the time to do things right. So, if you enjoy that sort of thing, won’t you join me in the kitchen as we stand and make the Chef’s Kiss.

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Rheinberg Sour

The turning of the calendar always seems to be about new beginnings, a fresh start and a chance to start over and get it right this time. That never quite sits right with me. In spite of the ingrained self-loathing that is the birthright of my generation, I am actually reasonably happy with myself. Sure, there is room for improvement on almost all levels, but that basic structure is pretty good, so I don’t really want a new start. Who am I kidding? At my age I am happy to be able to keep on keeping on without too many accommodations to the “changing” eyesight, that lifestyle induced arthritis and the increased distinguishedness of my locks. So rather than a restart, I like to focus on making small adjustments, looking for improvement over perfection. So, if you are into a little experimentation, to trying something new in hopes of a better tomorrow, won’t you join me now as we stand and make, the Rheinberg Sour.

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Ward 8

I’ve seen a thing or two over the last half century, done a fair bit of living in my short time here. Am I a bit jaded? Probably. I guess it is true that the more you do, the less there is left to do, if you follow my meaning. That said, you’ve got to stay open to new experiences. That is what life is all about, learning, growing and being ready to take the next plot twist in stride and just go with it. Sometimes, life gives you lemons, how you respond to that is up to you. Which is how I found myself, with lemon in hand ready to explore an old drink for the first time. So, with a nod to serendipity and a flair for ubiquitous idioms, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Ward 8.

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Negroni De Nubes

I am always looking for new twists on old ideas. Whether it is in technology, music, the kitchen, you name it, I love the way things evolve as people experiment and bring their own inspirations to the conversation. If I am being generous, I could say that I adore innovation, but it might be more accurate to admit that I am a sucker for a gimmick. I just love that little twist that changes our approach or perspective. A little novelty is all it takes for me to go off running toward some new experience. So, with a nod toward our ever continuing education, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Negroni de Nubes.

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100 Year Old Cigar

Growing up in Miami I had a real love for Cuban food and culture that made me look longingly toward our nearest neighbor to the south. I always wanted to go to Havana and see those beautiful old hotels and bars with my own eyes. Of course, I am a child of the 70’s and the embargo guaranteed that all I could do was look. So, when we finally got the opportunity to visit legally, we jumped at it. I loved our time there, exploring the city, enjoying the food, culture and the cocktails. One of the things I looked most forward to was visiting the Hotel Nacional to sip on their signature cocktail while enjoying a hand-rolled Cuban cigar. That worked out, mostly, until about 30 seconds in when I remembered that even when it is one of the finest cigars on earth, I really just don’t enjoy actually smoking one. My day was much improved, when I gave up the fine stogie and focused on the cocktails and company. It turns out that some things are better in imagination than reality and that is why we experiment, to find what works for us. So with a nod toward that perpetual voyage of self-discovery, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the 100 Year Old Cigar.

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Brown Butter & Banana Old-Fashioned

They say change is inevitable. You never know when someone is going to toss a pebble into your pond and set off a series of ripples that affect every decision that comes after. I often look back at the small choices that changed my trajectory and opened new worlds. Seeking out that first geocache, backing a kickstarter project for a burlesque school even though I had never seen a show, buying a set of cocktail tins to learn about making my own drinks and then, gentle reader, deciding that you needed to hear all about it. It really is amazing how those little things can set you on an entirely new path, like auditioning for a musical on a whim that set off a series of events that would lead to meeting and marrying the love of my life a decade or so later in that same theater. Call it luck, call it fate, call it kismet, but these are the little things that make up a life. So, with a nod to good fortune and being in the right place at the right time won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Brown Butter & Banana Old-Fashioned.

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Don Lockwood

There is something about a bold booze forward cocktail slowly diluting over one big cube in a rocks glass. It has a gravitas that anything served with a straw in a highball or up in a coupe just can’t match. Of course, that’s all image, there are a ton of drinks served on a rock that go down smooth and even more frilly and silly tropical drinks that will knock you on your butt, but somehow that perception persists. They are the serious drinks, for serious drinkers. Taking that glass in hand, swirling it slowly by the fire while contemplating the unasked question, practically begs for a leather armchair and an impeccably tailored suit. “Dignity, always dignity” he’d answer, looking off into the distance before taking a slow measured sip and returning to his thoughts. That’s my kind of moment, but not always my kind of drink. So, with a nod toward the little tales we tell ourselves, won’t you join me now as we stand and make, the Don Lockwood.

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Brace Position

Looking back on a half-century of life well wasted, I am truly shocked at how many of the things that kept me up at night did not amount to a hill of beans. Not that they didn’t matter or weren’t consequential in some way, but in how the things I worried myself sick about seemed to just disappear in recollection. Looking back, there are only a handful of times that stick out as those critical moments when I chose to go left when I could have gone right and ended up on a new path. It’s funny how it all seemed so important at the time only to have those crises fade into obscurity, evaporating like fog in the morning sun of hindsight. I fear I have spent too much time sitting on the end of the runway worrying whether my decisions would help me slip the surly bonds of earth and soar or crash and burn on the symbolic ash heap of my personal history. So with a nod toward that aeronautical metaphor, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Brace Position.

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Espresso Martini

It is all so simple on paper. Take it easy, be kind, be decent, listen freely, speak lovingly, live with intent; all those things that we do unconsciously when we are well and comfortable. But what happens, when you get pushed out of your comfort zone? When you don’t feel well, when you don’t feel loved or heard; when fear steps in? That is when the defenses go up. When the insecurities make you question whether you were ever the person you strive so hard to be. What does that have to do with cocktails? Well, won’t you join me and explore the darker side of life as we stand and make the ubiquitous Espresso Martini.

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