Sartre said, “She believed in nothing. Only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist.” when talking about his grandma. Journey said, “Don’t stop believing.” talking about an unidentified small-town girl living in a lonely world. I figure the truth of the matter lies somewhere in between, after all you’ve got to believe in something even if that is nothing. But what do we do when our beliefs turn out to be wrong? It’s not our fault, we have all been lied to about lots of things for most of our lives, maybe we just picked a bad belief system or more likely had one assigned to us by our circumstances and surroundings. Could happen to anyone. Seriously, though, what do you do when you find out that the things you believe are simply not true? We have all been there. We have all had that moment of disappointment when we find that those truths we cling to are based on a flawed premise at best and an outright lie at worst. It is hard to not get discouraged when you find out you have been lied to. It’s also hard to not get angry, especially as you navigate a world that isn’t what you thought it was. Some would argue that it is easier to not believe in anything. They are wrong , of course, but they will argue it with you, endlessly. So, in honor of those who believe in nothing, allegedly, please join me as we stand and make the Nihilist Sour.
This lovely modern classic was created by Greg Best from the Ticonderoga Club in Atlanta’s Krog street market, right around the corner from the best Philly Cheese Steak in the world. As he says, “Even those who believe in nothing, enjoy a good sour.” I want to believe he’s telling the truth, but my experience tells me I should do my own research, so here we are. I actually discovered this one in the Southern Foodways Alliance Guide to Cocktails, which I recommend, highly. Not only do they have some great recipes for drinks, but their exploration of the history behind those drinks, the places they were served, the folks who did the serving, is just top notch. Grab the book, become a member, support their good works, as one does. You will not be disappointed, especially if you make their drinks, as we will now.
Grab your tins and pop in 2 ounces of 100 proof Rye, I opted for James E. Pepper 1776; 3/4 of an ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 an ounce of peach liqueur, 1/8 of an ounce of simple syrup 3-4 stabs of cardamom bitters and 1 egg white. Postpone the pleasure of adding ice and give this one a hearty dry shake to the beat of Regina Spektor’s “Aprés Moi“, that’s a good nihilistic refrain, with lots of fears of the other and she even sings part of it in Russian, perfect for our modern world. When she tells you to be afraid, carefully separate your tins, as some pressure will have built up, and add 5-6 artisanal ice cubes before going for a vigorous second shake. When the drink is well-chilled strain into a chilled coupe, express an orange peel over it before floating the expressed peel on the foam and serve. I’d love to garnish this with a fresh peach slice and a bit of mint, but I am all out of peaches. Not to worry, the orange peel will suffice.
The is as lovely as I expected. I am always a fan of a good Whiskey Sour and this riff hits on all cylinders. That high proof rye sings through those sweet undertones and the peach is lovely and a bit surprising. I guess I don’t drink enough peach cocktails or, to be fair, eat enough peach cobbler. Nothing wrong with this one at all. In fact, for a drink that claims to believe in nothing, I believe this is a fine drink and I feel pretty good about that, because I did the research and came to the decision on my own.
I’m not gonna try to delve into the depths of nihilism here. There is just too much to cover for what seems to be a simple subject. It is crazy, but to begin to understand a philosophy that purportedly believes in nothing you have to do an awful lot of reading, page after page of Jacobi, Turgenev, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Sartre and Derrida, among many others. Suffice it to say that it was an oversimplification when The Dude said the nihilists believe in nothing. There are lots of particular kinds of nothing to believe in, many of them every bit as dangerous as believing in something. Did you know that nihilism shares the same latin root as the word annihilate? Well, you do now. “Nihil” means “nothing” in Latin, which is also what you have got to lose by taking a little internal inventory. It is a good idea to re-examine your beliefs from time to time, to make sure that the world hasn’t changed, to double check your facts and not take it all on faith. The thing is, we all need something to believe in, something to ground us, a place to start from. That need is why it is so easy for us to get off track, for people to take advantage of our faith, to take the blessing of truly believing in something and make it a curse. So maybe I lied when I said you have nothing to lose by examining your own beliefs, since you could literally change your entire worldview. To be fair, being honest with yourself can be tough, but they all say it is worth it. Well, not all of them. Some folks are counting on being able to lie without having to worry about you looking too closely at what they are saying, watch out for those folks. If they don’t want you to ask questions or discuss it in public, be wary. Always.
Of course, there is no good reason to believe me when I say all of this, after all, I am just a dude making things up as he goes along, guided by some old books and his own questionable experiences. Neil Gaiman says that he believes, “anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too.” I believe he is probably right, but you will have to decide for yourself. That is sort of the point, isn’t it? To decide for yourself? To make sure you really believe the things you are giving your voice and energy to. A lot of folks go their whole lives believing things they have never stopped to question. You don’t want that. Another guy who was really good at making things up based on his research and experience said, “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.” That was C. S. Lewis, for those keeping score at home. You know, the guy that taught us to believe in Aslan and the old magic, also a noted theologian who did a lot more thinking about faith and belief than any of us ever have. Once you get out of the Narnia books he wrote for fun, you can discover a whole universe of thought on why we believe the things we do and even why believing in nothing can have such appeal. No matter where you look the song remains the same, you gotta believe in something, but you better do it on purpose, cause you are gonna be graded accordingly. So keep the faith, in your fashion. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.