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.
It was a bit of a gut punch, all those memories flooding back, out of a clear blue sky, as they say. What are you going to do, though? Whether we are ready for it or not, life goes on. Maybe that is why these anniversaries are so important, to remind us, that as bad as things get, there will be a tomorrow. Refeeling that sense of loss and anger, I found myself toasting Grandma’s homemade sourdough bread, spreading butter and orange marmalade. Lost in my task, contemplating marmalade consistency and idly wishing it had come from a bear’s hat, I remembered this drink and decided that if there was ever a day that called for an early morning constitutional, this was it.
Like most “martinis” this is not actually a martini, though it is closer to the recipe than many drinks that like to dress up in that traditional V-shaped glass. This one is a riff on the Harry Craddock original Marmalade Cocktail from the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, created by famed London barkeeper, Salvatore Calabrese in 1996. He had the idea while eating breakfast with his wife and says that it was actually another drink, the White Lady, that inspired his version. Oddly enough, the White Lady also appears in The Savoy Cocktail Book, though it was created by Harry McElhone and featured at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris some years earlier. As, I have said many times before, there really is nothing new under the sun, but you’ve got to love these variations and the folks who creatively borrow from each other to carry the story further.
Grab your tins and pop in 1 3/4 of an ounce of gin, I chose Hayman’s Old Tom Gin and mix with 1 bar spoon of Orange Marmalade, I went with Wilkin & Sons Ltd. Tiptree Medium Cut. When well incorporated and the marmalade has melted away, add 1/2 an ounce of orange curaÃ§ao, I used Pierre Ferrand Dry CuraÃ§ao and 1/2 an ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Add some artisanal ice cubes and give it a good shake to Simple Minds “Don’t You (Forget About Me)“. When well chilled, double strain into a modified cocktail glass, to pay homage to the martini part while acknowledging that this isn’t really a martini. Garnish with some thinly sliced orange peel which will sink to give it that marmalade look.
I love this drink. It is light, it is tart, it has great depth of flavor. It really captures the bitter part of the orange that I love. There’s a lot going on here. That Old Tom style gin brings a nice, lightly sweet top note and the Ferrand dry curaÃ§ao really helps bring out the bitterness in the pith that gives marmalade its distinctive flavor and charm. Not to say the drink is bitter, it is not. It’s very well balanced, mainly because it has those deeper notes to counter the sweeter gin and sugar from the marmalade. Excellent drink all the way around and a nice one to sip on the porch looking out into that cloudless sky.
There are a million things I could say about the world since 9-11, but I am not sure I am up to it. Twenty years ago, I was not yet married and had a whole different set of priorities. I have watched my nieces and nephews growing up in a world that has always had this looming over them in a country constantly at war. I brought my own child into this life and have tried to explain to him how things changed on that day. How our generation felt the same sort of betrayal and insult and loss that the generation before us felt at Pearl Harbor. How our world changed in little ways, from “see something, say something” to not being able to meet people at their airline gate to the very concept of Homeland Security and the overreaches of the Patriot Act which were met with applause by many. Things changed that day and my son will never live in the world that I grew up in. A world where an attack on American soil was unimaginable, well an attack by a foreign power anyway. To be fair, our homegrown crazies have been killing their fellow citizens in horrific ways for a couple of hundred years now. He won’t ever know that sense of security, even if it was false. Perhaps, he will be better off, benefiting from the hubris of those who went before or maybe he will see more actual liberties disintegrate under the guise of patriotism. I do not know what is to come, none of us do.
That is why I take some comfort in sipping my not martini while I look into that endless, impossibly blue sky, crossed with contrails. For those who are left, life does go on. In the twenty years that have passed we have not forgotten, but we have found a certain comfort in distance. That is how grief works for some. Time takes the sting from a pain that never really leaves. I have avoided rehashing things this week, mostly because of the tears that come when I think about all of the lives lost that day and since in our never ending war on terror. A war mostly waged against folks who themselves are grieving for the ones they have lost. Vastly different sides of the same coin, most of whom never asked to be involved in this, but desperate enemies locked together in an endless cycle of pain and hatred and righteous retribution. Before you get all wrapped up and want to tell me what’s what, don’t forget that whether it is justified in your eyes or not, there is a pain on both sides. When a mother loses a child or a son loses their father, the pain is real. No matter why the bullet was fired, the pain is all-consuming. Perhaps that should be the lesson. To remember that only a handful of people, those of privilege and rank in their respective societies on both sides made all the decisions, came up with all of the plans and ultimately gave the orders that lead to so much needless suffering. Still, life goes on. Hopefully, the world we are building will lead to a place where our children can live in the peace denied to us. Hopefully, the sacrifices will have been worth it. Hopefully our children will never experience anything like what we all felt that day. Hopefully. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane my friends.
People comparing our (Gen-X’s) childhood to the childhoods of this new generation are being grossly unfair. No, our kids cannot run free in neighborhoods all day long, drinking from random hoses and coming home when the streetlights come on. And it is a tragic loss for them, I think. This underlying fear that so many of us have, some days it shows more than others, but it is there. I was only a few weeks pregnant with Milo on 9/11, we had just found out two days prior. I have been scared for his safety, at least a little bit, ever since that day. But on days when hope overpowers the fear… those are good days. Cheers to better days, my friend.