Inside the Mind of the Monkey

There are more than just bananas in there...

Pink Squirrel

Ferris said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” So, that’s what have been doing. It’s been a busy couple of weeks and I have had a lot on my mind. Not the good productive sort of “lot on my mind” that gives me fodder for writing to share all those crazy thoughts. No, the other kind. The deep fears, the worries, that stuff you don’t share with your closest friends, much less tell the whole world. The upshot is I have not written anything or had a drink for the longest stretch since we began this journey over a year and a half ago. What can I say, i have been distracted. So, in the spirit of those little things that keep you from focusing won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Pink Squirrel.

I’d say that this is a classic, but it is not really. I mean it has certainly been around long enough. If the legends are to be believed, it was created in Milwaukee at Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge in the 40’s. It is a contemporary of those supper club staple dessert drinks like the Brandy Alexander and the Grasshopper, but it never achieved the same notoriety. The reason why this simple three ingredient cocktail has faded into relative obscurity is the scarcity of one of the ingredients, Creme de Noyaux. Chances are you have not sampled this obscure 19th century liqueur. On the surface it is similar to amaretto, but with a wonderful bitter herbal finish. It pretty much disapeared from the US alcohol scene for decades, but in the last few years it has become available again, in limited release. You all know that I hate making drinks that call for hard to find ingredients, but when I stumbled across a whole shelf of bottles, I just had to have it.

This one is super simple to make, just three ingredients and the truth, from a particular point of view. Grab your tins and pop in 3/4 of an ounce of Creme de Noyaux, I chose Tempus Fugit; 3/4 of an ounce of white or clear creme de cacao and 1 1/2 ounces of fresh heavy cream. Add some ice and give it a good shake to the beat of “Girl on Fire“, by Alicia Keys only sing it as “this squirrel is on fi-yah” like I always do. I know it is silly, but it makes me laugh. Many thanks to the anonymous artist at Beth’s Cafe in Seattle many years ago, who drew this in crayon on the tabletop and inspired so many happy memories and looks of befuddlement from those around me. In fact, it can be fun to swap the word squirrel for girl in any song, try it at home and I am sure you will find that she is indeed a very sexy squirrel. Did I digress? I do believe that may be the case. Anyway, this is a perfect time to strain your drink into a chilled coupe and garnish with some freshly grated nutmeg, as one does.

That is so good. Of course, you knew it would be, it’s a dessert drink. Obviously, I would not want more than one, but that one is enough and nearly perfect. Much like its more popular siblings, it is rich and creamy, but this one has a depth that they lack, probably from staying at home reading French love poems while the other drinks were out at the club. That bitter herbal almond thing comes right through and gives this one some nuance as it evolves in your mouth, going through those flavors to a bittersweet finish from the creme de cacao. Just look at that pale pink hue, straight from the cochineal beetles that gave their lives to color the Creme de Noyaux. A perfectly lovely drink, the kind you can order and get a raised eyebrow from the barkeep, should you find that elusive ingredient on the shelf somewhere.

Ferris was right, of course. So, while looking around I have also been looking inside. Nothing wrong with that and the autumn is the proper time for introspection. It’s hard not to think of mortality and the such as we enter the season of the witch. The changing leaves remind us of the changing seasons of our lives and the older you get the more precious those changes become. None of us knows how many more opportunities we will get to watch those leaves fall, so why not take a little time to appreciate things and if the drinks don’t get made, well, there will be time for that later. That’s what I have been doing. Just taking some time for myself, hiking with the kid, spending time with the wife and family. The ubiquitous “they” say to not apologize for things, of course they are wrong, but they do say that. In the spirit of what they are trying to do, let me say, thank you for your patience, as I take time off from drinking and writing. My grandpa always reminded me to be careful what you trade your time for and I am doing my best to earn that gold star for “uses time wisely”, something I rarely achieved during school. While one could argue that these words “writ in water” may well outlast my ability or will to create them, there is still a lot of life out there and I don’t want to miss it. So stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.

Fernet Ramos

I went to a funeral today. My great uncle passed quietly in his sleep at the age of 97 while I was out of town. I accompanied my grandma as she said farewell to her brother and could not help thinking how most of that generation is gone now. The people I grew up looking up to, the leaders of the family. All those great aunts and uncles, stepping up to take their turn as elders before moving on to whatever comes next. It gives one pause. Lin Manuel sang, “I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory” in Hamilton, and I get it. Though it never used to cross my worried mind, the older I get the mori memento-ing I find myself doing. So, with thoughts of that undiscovered country, I am not ready to explore yet, won’t you join me now as we stand and make, the Fernet Ramos.

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Harvey Wallbanger

I used to do a bit of acting. To be fair, I usually feel like I am still acting everyday, but no one gives me a script or pays me for that. Every once in a while I get the opportunity to get out there and trod the boards again and when I do, I relish it. It is a true privilege to be able to go out there and entertain folks, to help them forget the real world, if just for a little while. There is nothing in the world like being on stage in front of a live audience and feeling that circle of energy flowing. It is an addiction that can be hard to feed, so when I get the chance, I work hard and I savor every moment. I was fortunate enough to be cast in a “one night only” production last weekend at a festival and during the afterglow of the show, discussion turned to sweet Italian liqueur and the pure joy that sometimes happens when things go off the rails. So, with a nod to making it up as you go along, won’t you join me now as we stand and make, the Harvey Wallbanger.

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Paper Plane

It turns out that a whole lot of life is about managing expectations. I get that. I know it, yet I fail time and again. I can’t help it. I get excited about things and truly believe they are going to be the greatest thing ever or, when I am riding the opposite side of my bipolar coin, I get down about things and truly believe they are going to be terrible, no matter what. This is not only wrong, but wrongheaded, which is worse. I have studied all the science, I understand the how’s and why’s and, intellectually, I know better. Still, when it comes to managing life, it feels like I’m riding a rollercoaster, even when the actual journey is way more merry go round. So, in the spirit of exceeding or failing to live up to expectations with little middle ground, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Paper Plane.

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Truth is, I don’t know much about this drink. Yeah, I know. On top of that I just referenced the actual drink in the first line, I never do that. I know. I get it, we have a system here and I am breaking it. Usually, I make some comments on the world and our place in it, before trying to tie that, sometimes tenuously, to the name of the drink that I reveal in the last line of the first paragraph. Today things are different. It may work, it may suck, I guess we will just have to see what develops as we stand and make the Landmaster.

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Imperial Bulldog

It’s funny how regrets stick with you. I have messed up so many times in so many places that I am surprised I can even remember half of them. I am pretty good at owning my mistakes and have no trouble admitting that I have come up short as a friend and as a decent human far too many times. I’m still working on me, being better a little at a time, stepping forward when I can, learning from my mistakes. I don’t figure this makes me special, most folks are trying to be better and the rest, well, they are at least trying to get better at not getting caught, so I guess that’s something. Groups, institutions and even countries are made up of people, so logic would say that those things are trying to get better too, but I am not sure of that. Sadly, as awesome as most individuals are groups of people tend to suck. I am not sure what that says about our collective journey into the future. So, with a nod toward those better angels we keep waiting on, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Imperial Bulldog.

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Flannel Shirt

Wisdom comes from odd places. I’ve learned a lot in my nearly half century of making questionable choices. Although, I am big on preaching about saying yes to life, getting out there taking chances and experiencing new things, if I am honest, there’s a lot to be said for the comforts of home. I get that. I am all about being comfortable, especially in your own skin. That’s how I am made. Howling Wolf got it right, “I’m built for comfort, I ain’t built for speed; but I got everything all the good girls need.” What is it they need, exactly? Well, the ladies like things comfortable too, so with that in mind won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Flannel Shirt.

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Breakfast Martini

A perfectly blue, clear sky. That’s what I remember and what I found today when I woke. Funny how so many things have changed over the last two decades, but that perfectly blue sky is the same. Today, I walked outside to look up at those clear skies, blissfully unaware, in those early morning moments, of the date. Twenty years ago, it was a phone call letting me know about a terrible accident that started my day. Seventeen minutes later it was clear that the truth was much more terrifying as our world was changed forever. A sea change that would alter the course of lives around the world, with repercussions we still feel ringing down through the years. I was about to walk back inside, when a plane flew over far above. That’s not unusual, but seeing those contrails in stark contrast, I remembered that day, when there were no airplanes in the sky and I remembered how we felt; then I went inside to make breakfast. So, with a look back, before going on with your day, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Breakfast Martini.

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“If the real thing don’t do the trick, you better make up something quick.” Ann sang the words angrily, as she should have. Her righteous indignation was totally justified. When their reality did not seem racy enough, the promoter started a rumor about an incestuous affair between her and her sister, presumably because that would help sell records? Sure, it would get people talking, but still, it seems an odd tack to take. Whatever the motivation, you have to hand it to the Wilson sisters. When someone pisses me off, I get angry, I kick rocks, but I don’t go off and write a classic rock song that is still relevant 44 years later. That’s why I am here writing about drinks and not off somewhere cataloguing my vintage rug collection while my assistant polishes my gold records. I guess we all have our ways of dealing with things. So, in the spirit of doing something productive with your anger and avoiding sore toes, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Barracuda.

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Smoky Worm

After a cloudy and cool end to August, we are back to Summer for the first day of September. Yesterday, the rains rolled through from Hurricane Ida and as the skies clouded over and the temperature dropped you could feel that hint of Autumn just around the corner. That makes me happy. Sweaters, falling leaves, pumpkin spice all the things and the promise of the holidays to come. So, I really wanted to lean into that and do a fall cocktail to kick off the month. However, the sun came back from its vacation and staked its claim on these last couple of weeks of Summer. The good news is I picked up a beautiful round, ripe watermelon at the farmer’s market that is staring at me from the kitchen, so I am full prepared to transition and celebrate this Summer of our mild content as we stand and make the Smoky Worm.

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