I’ve made a lot of questionable decisions in my life. I’m not proud of a lot of them, but I’ve survived them so far. I am ashamed about a few, most of them I just view with a sort of bemused indifference and some; some I look at with a twinge of regret, tempered by nostalgia and even a bit of longing, if I am honest. We do lots of dumb stuff when we don’t know any better. Some would argue that the only way we ever learn better is by making dumb mistakes. I do believe that would should work hard to never make the same mistake twice, that we should learn from them, but I also understand that they are inevitable. As the sign by my office door says, “Let’s make better mistakes tomorrow.” So, with a backward glance at the mistakes of yesteryear, won’t you please join me as we stand and make, Coffee & Cigarettes.
There were times, way back in the dark past when those two were my most reliable companions. I am still in touch with coffee, we get together a couple of times most every day. I haven’t seen smokes in a while, we split up back in my early 30’s. Though we have been known to get together on rare occasions, usually when one of us has been drinking too heavily. Those meetings are always followed by deep regret. As much as we love our time together, it is a seriously toxic relationship. We simply aren’t good for each other, but there is a passion there that I don’t think ever really goes out. We can spend a decade apart and still long for our lips to touch one more time, just for a moment. Honestly, I wish we had never met. Ah, the mistakes of youth, at least I can admit it was a mistake from the start. Sure, they made me think I looked cool for a while and made it easy to find a place where I fit in, but they never were really looking out for me. That is one of the funny things about life, some times you make mistakes and get so caught up in them, that you just keep making bigger and bigger ones in an attempt to convince yourself that you were right. I did that with smokes for years. I have watched friends do that with relationships. It’s tough to admit that you are in deeper than you meant to be. That the life you are living is not the one you signed up for, that maybe things have gone too far. That realization will make you need a drink; unless drink is your bad decision, in which case, you should not be reading my crap, find a better influence, seriously. I am the worst, a classic enabler. Enabling other folks helps me feel better about my shortcomings and that, my friends, is messed up. But what are you gonna do, coping mechanisms are hard to come by here in the first quarter of the 21st century. So, let’s get to enabling.
Grab your mixing pitcher and pop in 1 1/2 ounces of bourbon, I went with Hudson Baby Bourbon; 1/2 on ounce of coffee liqueur, I used St. George NOLA; 1/4 of an ounce of sweet vermouth, Gallo this time; 1/2 an ounce of orgeat and 2-3 drops of El Guapo Chicory Pecan Bitters. Add ice and stir to the beat of “Coffee and Cigarettes“. Which version? Hmm, hard to say, I have an entire playlist of songs with this name, so maybe try Never Shout Never or Augustana or Jimmy Eat World or even Michelle Featherstone. If those don’t work for you, switch things up entirely and go with Otis Redding’s “Cigarettes and Coffee“. The thing is, make sure you get the drink well mixed and chilled. Use your julep strainer to pour into a rocks glass over a single large rock and garnish with a super rare striped cara cara orange wedge. If you haven’t seen this unusual variation it is ok. The striping only occurs when you use a channel knife to remove a long orange peel for another drink and then let it stay around a couple of more days before slicing. Looks cool though, huh?
This drink is very good and I think it will be even better the next time I make it. The strong corn flavor from the Hudson Baby Bourbon is trying too hard here, swap it out for Michter’s or something more balanced and this drink will be even better. All of these flavors play very well together and it may even get better as it sits a bit and gets some more dilution going on. It is definitely a nice sipper.
Coffee and cigarettes, just a metaphor for coping mechanisms, really. Same as the lies we tell ourselves everyday. Things aren’t that bad, it’s just the news trying to sell papers or advertising or whatever it is they sell these days. In fact, this is all totally normal. As the little dog in the dashing hat would say as he sips his coffee, “This is fine.“ It’s not though, you know that right? It is not fine that people who have known each other all their lives are fighting over political bullshit. It’s not fine that as of today over 200,000 people have died due to COVID-19. That’s the entire population of the city of Huntsville, Alabama. Just gone. Every one of them leaving a hole in the lives of their families, their friends, their communities. Gone because they caught a virus. Imagine that; imagine the outcry if it were more visible, more concentrated. How upset would the country be if Huntsville were suddenly gone? Wouldn’t they want to know why? Wouldn’t they want to know what could have been done? Wouldn’t they take to the streets to demand answers? Wouldn’t they fight with all their might to stop this virus? A virus that has been politicized to the point where not trying to fight it, where not following scientific recommendations is worn like a badge of honor by many folks who choose to wear red jerseys, much to the chagrin of the folks in blue jerseys. Not that either team is winning any leadership competitions lately. That’s the real problem, isn’t it. The game. An entire society reduced to us and them, red vs. blue in the battle of the young century. Two teams, made up of people with a hell of a lot more in common with each other than they have with the leadership of either side, pushed toward division by those who find themselves in a position to do something for the greater good, but are entirely unable to do so, blinded by their own prejudices and unwillingness to compromise. A mistaken belief that the path to freedom lies along the road of subjugation of those you don’t agree with. That for your team to move forward the other side must lose and be punished for daring to believe differently.
The sad thing is this has happened over and over in history and Santayana wasn’t kidding. A system which doesn’t have room for all is a system that eventually won’t have room for you. It may take a while but someday you will find yourself on the other side of the conversation, and when that happens, who will stand up for you? Who will be left? Extremism breeds more extremism. That’s why you don’t clean your house with fire. Sure, it may get rid of those papers in the den, but it grows and eats the things you love. It will even eat you, if you wait too long to stand up and fight it. There are a lot of things we all cherish that are worth fighting for, but isn’t anything worth fighting and dying for worth living for? Doesn’t it make sense to try to find solutions that make a better world, for ourselves, for all of our children? I’ve seen a lot of crap floating around lately about folks who are willing to fight for principles that I am not sure they understand completely. For freedoms they would deny others, for positions they would force on the unwilling. That’s not how things should be. We should be better than this. But what do I know? I am just a monkey with delusions of grandeur, making drinks and screaming into the void while the Nero’s tune up and the sycophants cheer. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.