New Year’s Eve 2020
I’d like to say we made it, but there are still a few hours of 2020 left and if I have learned nothing else this year, it is to take nothing for granted. So, I am not gonna make any assumptions, but do hope that we will all make it till midnight and to see the sun rise on a new day. I have had a lot of thoughts about how to end this year and begin the next. It makes sense to look back on what was and celebrate the wins, mourn the losses, but I am not sure I can even remember who we were when this interminable year began, so I am just gonna make a drink and see where that takes us. So, please won’t you join me now as we stand and make an old Uncle Monkey original, the Dumpster Fire.
You won’t find this one in any of the cocktail books, yet. I cannot point you to it’s deep historical significance because I made it up. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good, I quite like it, it just doesn’t have a history yet. Or maybe it does, reaching back over 250+ “Cocktails From Quarantine“, learning a bit more of the craft, everyday. There is no way that a year ago I could have had an idea for a drink while driving, combined ingredients and techniques in my mind and brought it to life a few hours later. I just did not have those skills or knowledge. So, I guess that is a trade off for this year. I did not get to go hang out with my friends at the bar and learn vicariously from watching them ply their craft, but I did get to practice the skills they have been teaching me for years.
This drink really starts back in October with the quest for the right container. Clearly, I am not an original thinker when it comes to describing this year as a dumpster fire, as evidenced by my inability to order a small dumpster from anywhere. Undaunted, I decided to dig through my scrap metal and weld one up. While talking to my buddy Seth about my plans he proposed a different solution and a couple of hours later I was watching a video feed of his 3D printer in action, making tonight’s receptacle of honor. A couple of weeks later, we met in a park for him to hand this off. We had planned to spend a little socially distanced time talking, since we had not seen each other in over 6 months, but he was not feeling great, so we just handed stuff off and left it at that. The next day, he was diagnosed with Covid-19. So, yeah, this little dumpster has seen some things.
Luckily, Seth and his family recovered and are doing well, but it was a scary time for them and all who love them. I’ll say that it was worry for them that made me procrastinate on coming up with an actual drink to put in the dumpster, but we all know that I just naturally use all the time allotted for a project. I had a lot of thoughts and had, honestly, planned on doing someone else’s cocktail. I finally settled into yet another riff on The Last Word, which seems apropos for our final drink of the year. As I looked at options, I had an idea for a tiki variation, swapping out the gin for a dark rum and the luxardo for triple sec, then throwing in a couple of splashes of this and that to make it my own. After a little experimentation and some tweaks, the Dumpster Fire was born.
We are serving this one tiki style, so that means a bunch of crushed ice. Normally, I would say just swing by Sonic and get some other amazing pebble ice, but for 2020’s send off drink, I suggest getting some of those big cubes out of the freezer, toss them into an ice bag and go to town pulverizing them with a wooden mallet. There is no way you can get all the frustrations of this year out, but beating the hell out of something with a hammer has got to help. Once you have your dumpster filled with ice, set aside and mix the drink.
Grab your tins and pop in 1 ounce each of dark rum, I chose Smith + Cross; that wonderfully herbal Green Chartreuse, some Triple Sec and Fresh Squeezed lime juice. Add 1/2 an ounce of Orgeat, 1/4 ounce of Banane du Bresil and 3-4 drops of Bittermen’s Elmekalule Bitters. Drop in some artisanal ice cubes and give it a good shake to the beat of the obvious choice, “Auld Lang Syne“, but use Die Toten Hosen’s version, because fuck this year and we are not going to go gentle into that good night. Strain into your dumpster and grate a little fresh nutmeg on top of the ice. Garnish with whatever you want to throw in there: lemon peels, canceled plans, loved ones lost, some mint leaves, the fear of not knowing if you were going to have a job the next week or be able to pay your employees, depending which side of that coin you are on. Toss in all of the division and political rhetoric we have had to put up with as well, maybe a hunk of nutmeg, pile it up with the frustration of dealing with the whines of people who value their personal convenience more than the safety of their fellow humans. Take all of the clusterfuckety bullshit that this year has piled at our feet and just toss it in the bin with a reusable straw. Light a sage smudge and lay it behind the dumpster to help cleanse the air. To cap things off throw one of those juiced lime halves in there with a crouton, soaked in lemon extract and Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum then set it on fire. Hell, as the flames rise high into the night, grab the atomizer of angostura bitters and give it a couple of flaming shots across the bow. Just burn that fucker down…as one does.
Obviously, take some precautions and don’t set yourself or your home on fire with this drink, that would be a little too 2020 way to end the year. It is lovely though, a really surprisingly nice flavor. All these ingredients play really well with each other. I can hear some of your unspoken concerns right now, “what about all that bad stuff you threw in there for garnish? Do you really want that stuff in your body?” Yes. Yes, I do and you do too. Here’s why. We are going to drink this one down, enjoying its wonderfully balanced and nuanced flavor. Take a little time to reflect, to internalize all of those bad feelings, to think about every time some petty person or thing got in the way of having a good time or a good society. Those things are a part of you now. It is a lot to deal with, I know. So stand up, take that short walk, have a private moment and just piss them all away. That’s it, send them right down the drain, flush it and walk off like MacGyver leaving an explosion, after washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, of course. Cathartic, isn’t it?
I have no doubt that on down the road I may discover that some drink very like this existed on some menu at some bar somewhere. There is very little new under the sun, but as far as I know, I made this one up. Even if I later discover that someone else created something very like it first, well, mine has the benefit of the garnishes of catharsis. Also, it is served on fire…in a 3D printed dumpster…that was exposed to Covid. So, yeah, it is special.
That’s all I’ve got kids. I had grand plans of talking about the losses we still haven’t processed and the silver linings we have yet to discover, how even the bad times help make us who we are, but I figure you know all that. Like I said, there is nothing new under the sun. Hell, I did not even say that, I stole it from Ecclesiastes. If I am honest, I am not feeling too positive about the end of this year and the beginning of the next. I have been out in the world the last few days and from what I have seen, we aren’t turning over any new leaves. I am afraid that 2021 will just be more of the same. More people not wanting to see each other as humans, more folks focused on the things which divide us rather than the things which bring us together.
I hope I am wrong. I hope that respect for others and a sense of empathy will rise above selfishness. I hope that we can find a way to turn this tide and get back to a place where we can see each other for who we are, unmasked, ready to embrace one another. We all know that turning the page on a calendar doesn’t really mean a damned thing, but this is what we have been hoping for, to make it through 2020 and hopefully we have. So focus on this chance for another beginning, a chance to start fresh and be the person you wanted to. A chance to love your fellow human, a chance to show that love by taking care of them, by thinking of their needs as much as you think of your own. An opportunity to be inconvenienced a bit, for the good of the tribe, and don’t forget, we are all in the tribe. There is no them, only us and we have got to look out for each other. A new time, a new place and a new attitude for a new year. So stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.