A teenage boy sees a thirteen year old girl at a party and develops a crush. I apologize, I meant to say, falls instantly and deeply in love. His crush, I mean love, is requited and three days later six people are dead, including our titular underage lovers. Ah, but then, the course of true love, never did run smooth, did it? So, with a nod toward bad romance, deeply passionate speeches and epic miscommunication, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the modern classic, Juliet & Romeo.
This one comes to us all the way from Chicago and the mind of Toby Maloney. It was created in 2007 for his legendary bar, The Violet Hour. I love, love, love that name, evoking dusk and that violet sky as we transition from afternoon to evening. For the opening menu, he was inspired to make “a gin cocktail that would appeal to folks who don’t like gin,” and all the cool kids say he nailed it. There is some really interesting floral stuff going on and I can’t wait to try a taste he described as “like walking through an English garden.” This is one of those drinks I have wanted to make for along time, but I really felt like I should wait for a special occasion. Is Valentine’s Day a special enough occasion? I suppose we will find out. Like Iago said, in another decidedly not romantic tragedy, “There are many events in the womb of time which will be delivered,” and this drink, well, it is one of them.
Grab your tins and pop in 3 slices of cucumber, I went about 1/4 inch thick and a pinch of salt, I use kosher. Muddle that together to break those cucumber slices up and add 2 ounces of London Dry Gin, he calls for Beefeater, so that’s what we did; 3/4 of an ounce of simple syrup, 3/4 of an ounce of fresh squeezed lime juice, 5-6 mint leaves and 3 drops of rose water. Yes, rose water. Would a water by another name smell as sweet? I know not. Add some of those artisanal ice cubes and give this a good shake to the beat of Rozalla’s “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)“. Double strain into a chilled coupe and before adding the signature, Juliet’s “O, Happy Dagger” garnish. Float a single mint leaf on the drink, add one drop of rose water to the leaf for the floral nose and then add 3 drops of aromatic bitters, I went with 18-21 Prohibition Bitters, around the leaf. If you want to drag a toothpick through one of them to make a heart, well, that’s on you.
Some drinks are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. I cannot say for certain, but I am guessing the cocktail was born this way. Like many of the celebrated romances, it is cunningly deceptive. As you raise the glass, you smell the rose water, but then your mouth is filled with a light, refreshing flavor. Lots of lime and cucumber coming through with high notes from the mint. The juniper of the gin creating this really lovely underflavor with just a hint of saline. It is the absolute foundation of the drink, but it is concealed under layers of tart and sweet in the most delightful way. A rock solid sipper, maybe better geared toward summer than Valentine’s but I am not going to complain.
Everyone seems to know the tragic tale of these star-crossed lovers. Whether you have read it, watched it on stage or screen or just absorbed it subliminally from the collective cultural conscious. Which is why it is so weird that we don’t really look much deeper than the pretty turns of phrase and tragic ending. Sure, it hits those classic hot buttons, calling back to our misspent youths. A forbidden love that calls us to defy our parents and society to achieve that dream of teenaged exploration moving north, “By her fine foot, straight leg, and quivering thigh, And the demesnes that there adjacent lie.” Those sweet summer nights when the promise and mystery called us even more strongly than the dubious reward of those first fumbling steps. With all that trepidation, fear and excitement competing, I honestly wonder just how many of our teen relationships would have survived their infancy if not for that great catalyst of passion known as parental disapproval. I definitely bought into that, always feeling like a roguish Romeo, even when my lady love’s parents thought I was a fine young gentleman. The roles were cast long before any of us entered the stage and nothing seems to inspire quite so much as perceived persecution and a love that pits us against them.
That’s the thing here, if not for the Montague and Capulets famed enmity, this whole story becomes a casual hook up at a party. Mercutio, Tybalt and Paris get to go on with their lives finding their own Juliet’s and/or Romeo’s and Lady Montague, she retires to Tuscany painting watercolors of the sunset to pass the time. Instead, these two households, both alike in dignity, sacrifice their children to the memory of their unspecified ancient grudge for naught. If there is an upside to this tragedy, it is that the houses put aside their hatred in mourning, but that doesn’t seem like much of a win. Perhaps, there is more to the story than we first see and if, as the prologue promises, “you with patient ears attend, what here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.” After all, everyone loves a sequel and Hollywood ran out of ideas years ago, so let’s hit these characters with the defibrillators and pick things up in “Romeo + Juliet 2: Electric Rendezvous” coming soon to theaters everywhere. Until then, stay safe, stay hydrated and don’t sheath any daggers in your bosom over boys you met three days ago, my friends.