I realized after I posted last night, that the centennial post did have an unintentional sort of farewell sound to it. That got me to thinking, I could just call it a good run and hang up the tins and my daily essays. For a moment I had a sense of relief. I wouldn’t have to think about this stuff anymore, I wouldn’t have to budget time for the writing, I could just make a drink because I wanted to, not because I felt I had to. So, rather than clarifying, I decided to sleep on it. This morning, while driving in to the office, I was super frustrated trying to process some of the policies our county has announced for the coming school year. I wanted to scream at the futility of it all, at the difference between a plan that truly tries to solve a problem and a plan that effectively covers the greatest number of school board butts and protects votes from the most vocal people who piled into the room to demand minimal action. I know a lot of folks aren’t affected by this, but to me it is very personal. To escape, I cranked up the radio, opened the sunroof and tried to let the frustrations slide away. As I intentionally distracted myself, my mind drifted into flavor profiles, shaking techniques, what drinks I wanted to explore in the next few weeks, what kind of ingredients and tools I should invest in next. I realized that making drinks for others and sharing them is something I have become passionate about. Without even realizing that I had made a decision, I began planning tonight’s drink, Otis Redding popped up on satellite radio roulette to remind me that “A Change is Gonna Come”, but not just yet. For now, we are gonna keep on, keeping on.
What a big word that is though, Change. Things change. We all know that. Last year this time I was packing my bags getting ready to go do my annual “celebrity” bar tending gig in beautiful Wauseon, Ohio. This year, well, I am home, making another cocktail trying not to think that for the first time in my life I have literally no plans to travel anywhere in the foreseeable future and that I haven’t for months. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. We get to live at the same time as Tom Hanks and Lyle Lovett, a time when part of the human population lives on a space station flying above us, but we get that joy with a side of pandemic. I guess things could be worse, maybe they will be, I’m trying to stay positive though. I have faith in the power of change, I know it happens, I know it is inevitable and I believe that it is mostly for the good, that we do, indeed, follow a long arc that bends toward justice. So join me now as we stand and make, the classic Penicillin.
I know what you are thinking, how could I be so obvious. You know that this post is gonna ramble from memory to homily and end pointing out how important medicines are and making the obvious steps from a drink named for an antibiotic to the importance of vaccines in a pandemic and proven science when it comes to wearing masks and social distancing. How people doubted the solid science behind penicillin and lives were lost as people were hesitant to adopt injecting a version of this bacterial mold into their bodies. How it wasn’t until many years later that this medicine was used to make many previously untreatable or life threatening diseases a thing of the past. Providing freedom from the fear of these diseases, creating new wealth as economies were freed. Yeah, I could do that, it certainly fits but as we enter the next 100 days of drinks, I can’t help thinking about how things change.
A lot of people are saying that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Well, that is true to a certain extent, especially if we are talking about the scripts coming out of Hollywood these days, but I am seeing things change on a larger scale than I have yet in my life. It is sometimes painful, often ugly, but that’s how rebirth works. Change is what drives us forward. To be fair, this has been an unusual year, but think of all the things that are different now from last summer. Not just the way many of us have had our worlds turned upside down by COVID-19, but what else has changed for you? I know this time last summer, I was sitting in my grandparents kitchen eating juicy tomato sandwiches with them. Pa laughing as he talked about having to “lift and eat fast, lest it fall through the crust.” It was one of his good days, we didn’t know then how few of those were left. Our huge maple tree still stood in the backyard, like it had since long before my hundred year old house was there. Liam was just learning to drive the Kubota around the farm and now he is begging me to learn to drive the truck. A year ago, I was getting ready to help coach the boy’s football team, for the first time, and was worried to death that I would be terrible at it. We had a rough season, but we got through and I did my best for the boys. I was also worried about my upcoming role as Captain Crook and having to sing “Tennessee Whiskey” in front of hundreds of friends. We got through that too, together. Launching the Bledsoe GeoTour was still just a dream we were working toward. Building adventure labs, taking the boy for archery lessons, traveling so many places. Friends moving away, friends and family members passing on to whatever happens next, having our neighbors friendly cow, Moo Moo finally go to that great burger factory in the sky. Friends getting married, friends getting divorced, having whole parts of friends lives go unnoticed because we don’t see each other and I am literally the worst at reaching out to folks, especially the ones I love. Teaching the boy to shoot safely and well cause that’s a skill that I hope he never needs, working around the farm, learning to turn to each other as the outside becomes harder. Learning just how much you can disagree with a person while still loving them, watching other relationships get torn apart by political opinions and folks sharing “other peoples thoughts” that don’t do anything to further the conversation. Facing hypocrisy, loving through pain, trying to practice tolerance while still being ready to defend the things you believe in, discovering that you can be strongly anti-fascist without supporting things done in the name of antifa. Learning that one of the hardest things in the world is to find empathy with and sympathy for those we disagree with, and that is so important, perhaps the most important lesson of all is to feel empathy, especially when we don’t want to. Like it or not, we really are all in this together and none of us are getting out of her alive anyway, so at the very least, let’s be decent to one another. Except for nazis, always punch nazis and embrace the paradox of tolerance. It has been a hard journey folks and we aren’t out of the woods yet. But, I have faith. Faith in the power of change, I know it can happen and we can be better for it. Let’s make the drink and I’ll tell you why.
Grab your tins and pop in 2 ounces of blended Scotch, I went with that dusty bottle of Dewar’s I stole off Dad’s shelf; 3/4 of an ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice, 3/4 of an ounce of honey ginger syrup, that is just simple syrup made with honey and with several slices of ginger cooked in it, strained, of course; 1/4 ounce of an Islay Single Malt Scotch, I went with Laphroaig Quarter Cask, cause it’s my favorite and 3 stabs of 18-21 Havana and Hide bitters. Add ice and shake, preferably to the beat of “A Change is Gonna Come” I am partial to the Otis Redding version, but you do you. You may have to shake on the backbeat as well to get things chilled properly, feel free to experiment and find what works for you. Double strain over a large ice cub into a rocks glass. Garnish with a piece of candied ginger on a fancy silver cocktail pick and throw a piece of flaming cedar paper in there for good measure, that’s always fun.
I love this drink. Smoky, with a ginger bite, just enough sweetness, a piece of candied ginger to make you need another drink, it is nearly perfect. This drink gives me faith in the power of change, and here is why. My wife used to hate whiskey, violently. She did not enjoy it neat, wouldn’t order cocktails with it, she did not like it, Sam I am. Till one night she tried my whiskey cocktail at a burlesque show. I was having the Vesta, a riff on this drink made with Corsair’s Triple Smoke that is truly wonderful. She took one sip and was hooked. From that moment on she opened her mind and palate to whiskey and I know that it took, because the Vesta is probably her favorite drink and she has developed a taste for the whiskey cocktails I love to experiment with. I was truly convinced when she loved this Penicillin, with its smokier scotches and less accessible flavor profile. She tried a new thing and learned to appreciate a more complete view of the world. She embraced change and I hope you can too. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.