Some days things just come together and it all works out, through no fault of your own. The right ingredients, meet the right glass and with a little inspiration, magic happens. A lot of folks would say that the time you spent learning made it possible, but I know the truth, magic happens. Things work out in spite of anything you may have done. My dad would say “it’s better to be lucky than smart, cause you aren’t always gonna be smart enough, but you can be lucky enough.” He’s right, you just have to learn to not count on the luck, you can hope for it, but when it becomes a central part of your plans, you get to meet Lord Hubris and his partner Lady Karma. So, with a modicum of preparation and a great deal of luck, I ask you to join me now as we stand and make, the Cable Car.
This drink is circles within circles. First off, it is a riff on the classic Sidecar which began life as a riff on the Brandy Crusta. This variation actually takes elements of both of those drinks to create what is essentially an interesting riff on a rum sour. While that may seem complicated, if we are honest, most drinks, outside of the foundational classics, share this same mixed lineage. A little from column A, plus some Column B, a dash from C and shake for a new drink or you can build it in the glass and stir, swap the bitters and you have created yet another variation. There are only so many ways to recombine the elements to create new drinks, so everything builds on something else, which is as it should be. It is like story telling. There are only seven stories in the world and everything you have ever heard is just a variation or combination of those archetypes. I know I can’t just throw that out there and not back it up, so the types are: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. I can see a pretty convincing argument that there are really only three types, Comedy, Tragedy and Commentary, but I did not bother writing a book to expand and defend that premise, unlike Christopher Booker, who did write “Seven Basic Plots”, so he wins.
This particular variation on the sidecar comes from Tony Abou-Ganim of San Francisco’s Starlight Room, where he created it for their menu in 1996. It is kind of unusual as it calls for spiced rum and is probably fancier than most drinks that feature this spirit. I am also on record as being generally opposed to flavored versions of spirits, which I extend to spiced rum. If this is something you need in your life, pick a good rum and infuse it yourself. However, there is one that I stand behind and recommend, Corsair Spiced Rum. They make it they same way I would, by making a great rum base and infusing it with real, natural ingredients. Well, I don’t know how to make a good rum base, I only know how to buy them. The point is, make it yourself or buy it from them, you will be happy either way.
Grab your tins and pop in 1 1/2 ounces of spiced rum, Corsair, naturally; 3/4 of an ounce of orange liqueur, I went with Cointreau; 1/4 ounce of simple syrup, 1 ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice and 1/2 an ounce of egg white or aquafaba. Add 2-3 drops of 18-21 Prohibition Bitters some ice and shake to the beat of Train’s “Save Me, San Francisco.” Don’t give me that look and don’t speak ill of Train. This song is great for shaking, so get into it. When you get to the first chorus, strain from one tin to the other and discard the ice before going again for a dry shake to get that egg foamed up and emulsified. This should only take until about the time he sings the name of the drink, before the second chorus, but your mileage my vary. Pour into something fancy that your spouse bought today to surprise you and then have some fun with the garnish. This drink usually calls for a cinnamon sugar mix on the rim, but I feel like it is sweet enough already and doesn’t need this throwback garnish from the Crusta. Instead, take some Zinnia flower petals, fresh from the farmers market, play “They love me, they love me not” to harvest some petals and then float them individually on the foam, add drops of bitters to make the center of the flower and serve.
Take a moment, ye mighty, and gaze upon your works. Marvel at how, through pure luck, your foam perfectly matched the glasses silver wash line. Be pleased with yourself, but don’t get complacent, luck will only take you so far. Take a sip and make a note that as beautiful as it is, this garnish does make drinking a little problematic, but beyond that, oh my goodness, this drink is amazing. I haven’t had this spiced rum in a while and I forget just how much I love it. The whole thing strikes a nice balance and I think it is an improvement on the drinks that went before. Make it, drink it, serve it to friends. Go extra on the garnish. Have fun.
That’s what it is supposed to be about, isn’t it? Making things better, leaving them better than you found them. Blind Dog Willie Brown would say “you can’t leave it where you found it, you got to take the music further” or something like that. I like the thought of it, that we strive for a better world. It is not always true, some folks cling to the past and even want to go backwards to a time they thought was great for them, but was clearly worse for everybody else. We can do better than that Doctor King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Justice may not be comfortable, but it is better. So, when you get the chance, try to improve things, for everyone. Can’t hurt to try, right? Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.