OK, campers! Rise and shine and don’t forget your booties cause it’s cold out there today. It’s Groundhog Day, again. It seems like I should do something special in honor of this auspicious occasion. Obviously, by special, I mean a hip and timely reference to a film released 38 years ago. The whole movie is based on a situation that would drive a fella to drink, but there is only one interesting beverage in the whole thing and I feel like I would be ripping you off if I had you carefully craft a cocktail by pouring 2 ounces of sweet vermouth over ice and expressing a lemon peel. To be fair, that is an excellent thing to sip, there just isn’t a lot of craft in it. So, in honor of doing things till you get them right or till you learn a lesson or at least until you can move on, won’t you please join me as we stand and make, the Groundhog Intervention.
Let’s be honest, there aren’t a lot of groundhog drinks out there, in fact this is the only one I found. This one comes to us from Ethan Rodgers of Spoke and Steele in Indianapolis. I can’t give you a long and storied history of the drink because the single place I have found it referenced is the Edible Indy website which provides no provenance, whatsoever. One can only assume that it was created late one evening for Bill Murray when he wandered in with his hirsute co-star Phil. As they sat in a quiet corner of the bar discussing the issues of the day, Mr. Rodgers noticed the groundhog kept giving him that “please save me” look. It was not surprising, the relationship was famously strained. In fact, Phil had bitten Bill twice while filming, requiring rabies shots and medical assistance. Ethan’s first attempts to enter the conversation were politely rebuffed, so he headed back to the bar and created a beverage, combining favorite groundhog treats like fresh blueberries, lemon, mint and artichoke, with human favorites, bourbon and chocolate. When he returned with the unsolicited drinks he made a flowery explanation of each of the ingredients significance, not only to Mr. Murray and his marmot companion, but to the local culture of Indianapolis and greater Indiana. A famed gentleman, Mr. Murray listened with polite respect and attention, which afforded Phil the Groundhog the opportunity to slip away quietly. On discovering that his companion had left, it is reported that Mr. Murray enjoyed both drinks and tipped Mr. Rodgers handsomely before departing alone with a jovial spring in his step. This seems a perfectly reasonable history of this drink, if it is not inline with the facts of the matter, I am open to any corrections.
Grab your tins and pop 4-5 blueberries and 3-4 mint leaves, muddle those together and add 1 1/2 ounces of bourbon, I chose Four Roses; 1/2 an ounce of that bitter artichoke based Cynar, 1/2 an ounce of creme de cacao and 1/2 an ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Add ice and shake to the inevitable, “I Got You, Babe” until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over ice and garnish with some blueberries and mint.
I really wanted to shake to different music from the movie, but while Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme from Paganini” is my favorite music in the world, it just did not feel right for the shake. However, it is excellent music for sipping, so turn it up and enjoy this surprisingly light and refreshing drink. This is nicely balanced and everything plays it’s part. I love lemon and blueberry, I love chocolate mint and I love bourbon, but I wasn’t sure how well they would all play together. No worries at all, they go down like a crowd of groundhog groupies on Gobbler’s Knob. It’s an unusual mix but it works, whether you are a person with a thirst or a groundhog looking to make a quick getaway, this is the drink for you.
We are quickly coming up on a year apart from the world. This time in 2020 we were beginning to hear some rumors of an outbreak in China. Your average fella on the street wasn’t worried about it, but some of my friends in epidemiology were “concerned”. Little did we know that we were about to kick off our own year of Groundhog Days. It has felt like that, hasn’t it? No parties to go to, no evenings out with friends, no vacations or concerts or burlesque or anything much beyond yet another day, working, baking bread, sometimes wearing pants, often from home. If we are lucky, we see friends on Zoom calls. Mostly, we just see what they are doing online. We click “like” or “care” or “sadness” to show our support, instead of giving hugs or sharing laughs. It is a strange existence that I am not really built for. I never was good at staying in one place for too long, I like to keep moving. I also like to be there for my friends. I never have been good at checking in on folks, so it is easy for me to lose touch. It is not that I don’t care, I just don’t want to bother anyone and I figure if you need me, you will let me know. It has always been like that. My friends know that they might not hear from me for months at a time, but if they need something at 3 AM, I’ll be there, with coffee in hand. So, not seeing my tight group, the second family, has been tough.
What about those other folks, though? That group of people that you see on a regular or semi-regular basis that you don’t have standard bonds with, I think my sociology professor called them “weak ties”. Those people you run into at your favorite bar, the waitress who knows your name and order when you walk in, the guys you sit near at football games, the people you see while volunteering. It is strange because even though you may not even always know each other’s names, you make each others lives better in many small ways. I don’t know who those people are in your lives, hell, I could be one of them. It is hard to even think of them, because they aren’t necessarily in your Rolodex, but when they aren’t there you miss them. For me, it’s the guy at the lumber company who always calls me “Chief” and smiles when I am picking stuff up. The geocachers from around the country that I only see at the big events. My glittery burlesque friends, I love some of these folks and have shared some wonderful adventures, but we don’t hang much outside of the shows. The barista who has my drink ready when I walk in, because she saw my car in the parking lot, the one who always wants to see pictures of how big my son is getting. The folks from the farmer’s market who want to know if I need anything for my cocktail posts or who always want to chat even though they know I don’t need any more handmade brooms, not for a few years anyway. Those little interactions mean more than we realize and when they are gone, we miss them. That’s a big theme of the movie, how much of life happens during the in-between moments. It is also worth noting that he only breaks the cycle when he quits doing things for himself and spends his days in service to others, with kindnesses large and small. He finally accepts that helping to make things better for people is probably the best use of his eternity. He’s right, you know.
Things are going to get better and when they do, I want to see everyone and there are going to be a lot of hugs, it may get weird. That’s ok, things were weird before and we didn’t know each other quite so well then. It will be funny when we get back to “meatspace” as Robert calls it and hanging out with 3D friends. I’ve spent the last year, talking pretty openly, and sometimes honestly, about childhood traumas, my sometimes questionable mental state, my deep love of country and even deeper love of fellow humans and offering drink recipes, of course. Day in and day out, with only minor changes in form and schedule, trapped in what passes for this all too distanced life. It has felt repetitious, with only bread baking or pasta making or hiking days to break up the monotony. If we have learned nothing else, hopefully, we have learned just how much other people matter. Even the folks you barely know, but whose days you make better with a kind word or a smile or a quick message to tell them you appreciate them. I am looking forward to that day when we can all get out and see each other without worrying about this shadow that has been hanging over us and those hugs, really looking forward to those hugs. So raise your glass to better days coming, to helping make things brighter one small act at a time…and oh yes, world peace. Whether you saw your shadow today or not, there is a great day a-coming, till then, stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.