We are in my wheelhouse today, so to speak. Paying as much attention to what is not happening as to what is actually going on. Focusing on the silence, the space between the notes, the whitespace that defines the picture or gives the words their form. At its most basic, this is what I do most days, manipulating the relationship between background and focus, laying out graphics and words, seeing those words as shapes and always vigorously defending the field on which that particular game is played. So, in honor of the emptiness that defines the thing and the lies between, won’t you please join me now as we stand and make the Negative Space.
I am still stubbornly sticking with this sparkling wine theme, switching to Prosecco for this drink created by Maks Pazuniak of Brooklyn’s delightfully retro sci-fi Jupiter Disco. This is one of those cocktails that pushed me over the edge to add yet another bottle to the already way too large backbar at Stately Monkey Manor. This time it was Suze, a gentian based French aperitif that we last used in the White Negroni Piña Colada. Suze is definitely a unique flavor. I have seen it described as “very vegetal, like eating dandelion greens, but also citrusy”. The first thing I notice is the bitter finish. Many bitters manufacturers use Gentian as a primary flavor and there is a reason why. I kinda love the whole citrusy, spicy thing that floats into a delicate bitter finish. It ends with remorse, but in a one last hug and a smiling through tears before walking away thinking “I’m glad I knew her” kind of way, as opposed to Campari which prefers throwing your record collection out a third story window while screaming at you as you run down the street, hoping to not get kicked in the uvula one last time. I am curious to see how this one turns out, cause it has got some weirdness going on. Let’s make it and see if we will remember it with bittersweet remorse or relief, as one does.
Grab your tins and pop in 1/2 an ounce of Suze, 1/4 ounce of absinthe, I chose Corsair Red; 1/2 an ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice, a drop of orange flower water and 1/2 an ounce of creme de cacao, I used the clear stuff. Add some artisanal ice cubes and give it a good shake to “The Space Between” by Dave Mathews. When your tins are good and cold, about the time he hopes to keep safe from the pain, strain into some elegant stemware lined with a lemon wheel and top with prosecco, I chose a piccolo of Cupcake. That sounds like the outcome of an unfortunate collision at a Music Man cast birthday party, doesn’t it? Sure creates an image in the mind, though, whether you know the territory or not, Mr. Hill. Trouble, indeed, with a capital T.
I saw this drink described once as “a cocktail that makes an impression.” It certainly does that. I would also characterize this one as polarizing. I don’t think that folks are going to waffle here, this is a love it or hate it drink. Ok, you are right we shouldn’t get so worked up over a cocktail, so a like it or dislike it drink. It’s a weird cocktail, to be sure, but you should have guessed that much from the ingredients. My first sip I was kind of “meh”. Laura’s first sip was met with a much stronger response. She thought it was beautiful, really wanted to love it and when she took that first sip, her face went from trepidation to disgust. It was as if the drink had betrayed her. She did not like it, vehemently. So, maybe hate was the right word. She did not hazard a second sip. My second was better than the first as the drink continued to open up and the subtleties of the discordant flavors came into full bloom. The absinthe kicked in the door and wiped its licorice feet all over my palate in a way that did not please me, but then its friends swept in and made things better. The citrus playing with the cocoa notes was really lovely and that bitter finish brought it all together. Plus, there was this disconcerting lightness to the whole thing. An airiness from the prosecco with crisp sugary topnotes around the edges, that was totally out of touch with the base flavor, but in a good way. Kind of like imaginary Turkish Delight, which is nothing like the actual stuff, the more I had, the more I wanted. It had a “Moorish” or was it “more-ish” flavor, as my grandpa would say.
This one is aptly named. It really is about what is going on in the spaces between those big, bold flavors. The way they interplay when you get a bit of this and a bit of that, you know the stuff around the edges. It is the same as negative space in art or layout where you use the whitespace to bring your message into clearer focus, directing the viewer by giving the eyes a place to rest. I fight this all the time, trying to get information in front of people while not getting things so crowded that no one bothers to look in the first place. It’s a tough concept to have to explain sometimes. Charles Eames famously said, “The details are not the details. They make the design.” Sure, its easy to play lip service to “less is more” and “creativity is subtraction”, but you often have to build two versions to show folks why having all that empty space is a good thing. Not to say there isn’t a place and a time for a cool, jumbled layout with nooks and crannies for the eyes to explore, but if you want to communicate quickly, “leave some space in your togetherness”, as Gibran would say. Those empty spaces matter. The message is also in the pauses. If you take the time to listen to what’s not being said, as carefully as you listen to the words and you will come awfully close to real communication and lord knows we need more of that. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.