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Month: October 2021

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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