My bar gear has been terribly neglected of late. It was not intentional, but life conspired against me, or, perhaps, life colluded with fate to force my hand. Either way we went from our mostly distanced, socially and otherwise, lifestyle back into the world with a bang. Suddenly, we were traveling to see family, eating in restaurants, attending events and seeing long lost friends again. Honestly, it was a little overwhelming, at times, considering our last year and a half, but it was good. The downside, I have not been home, or at least home and inclined to make a drink in a bit. Seems like a small trade off for a bit of normalcy, but most everything has a price and my hands were ready for work. So, in the spirit of remembering the things that matter in life, won’t you join me on this first day of June as we stand and make the Rainbow Paradise.

I have had this drink in my eye for some time, but I wanted to wait for warmer days to try to make it. Obviously, this is exactly the kind of boat drink I normally don’t care for. I can tell you upfront before we make it that it is going to be too sweet, it is going to lack balance and in order to enjoy it at all you will have to stir it, ruining the beautiful layered effect. That said, isn’t it pretty? There is no denying that when I first saw this one, in all of it’s rainbow inspired beauty, I thought of Pride Month and how awesome it would be to make it in support of my friends and family in the LGBTQ community. I was also a little hesitant, because beyond trying to be a good human and a friend to all, I am never really sure how to show support. My status as an ally is kind of like my status as a friend. Let me know when you need something and I will do my best to help, otherwise I am going to be over here trying my best to be a decent human and cheering you on, no matter what your status. Honestly, people’s sexuality doesn’t really move the needle for me. If your sexual preference is the most interesting thing about you, we probably aren’t tight anyway. You love who you love and I’ll love who I love and if those Venn diagrams happen to overlap, well, that would be inspiration for an interesting conversation. That said, it sometimes feels tricky for me to show my support for freedom of choice and of love and for pretty much anything anyone wants to do that doesn’t hurt someone else, since I don’t generally show a lot of interest in those choices otherwise. During the pandemic, I have tended to speak through cocktails. Whether it is the choice of the drink on a particular day, something I communicated through the subtext or my straight forward diatribes, I have been speaking the language of drinks for a while now. So, misguided as it may be, this is me saying, “I see you and love you for who you are,” through drink.

This is a built cocktail, so grab something tall and pretty, turn up Lady Gaga singing “Born This Way” I know it’s the kind of “on the nose” song, I normally avoid, but this is the kind of drink I normally skip, so let’s break some molds here. Now that you’ve got something to groove to, pop in 1 ounce of grenadine before filling the glass with crushed ice. Toss 4 ounces of pineapple juice in your tins with 2 ounces of coconut rum, I chose Rumhaven add a little ice and stir it up before pouring slowly over the ice in your cup. Combine 1 ounce of ice water with 1/2 an ounce of blue curaçao in a cup and slowly pour this over the pineapple rum layer. Just for kicks, give it a float of angostura bitters to bring some violet into the mix. If this all worked, you should have a nice layered rainbow effect, garnish with an lemon wheel, pop in a parasol with a paper straw and serve.

Yeah, nothing but sweetness, that’s essentially extremely low proof Kool-Aid. Yeah, you have to ruin the look to enjoy the drink. Yeah, you could drink down through the layers, but who the hell wants to end with a mouth full of grenadine. “Not I”, said the cat. It ain’t that kind of party. I feel like we could get this same effect and make something more interesting, if we put our minds to it. Let’s hide some Cynar or Cappelletti in the bottom and get some complexity going on. Give that sucker a Fernet Branca float or something. On some level this is one of those boat drinks and it works in that context. Laying out, smelling the vaguely chemical coconut scent of the Hawaiian Tropic and Coppertone covered bodies basting in the sun, taking a sip of this would be lovely and refreshing, especially if you had a bit of salt from the seawater on your lips. Boat drinks work in boat places. This same drink in a fancy cocktail bar would make you question the $23 price tag and your own sanity for falling for the hype, but that is another matter entirely. Make this trifle of a drink and enjoy it in the sun with friends. That is its place and where it wants to be. It feels at home there.

I have faced that a lot over the last couple of weeks. Struggling with how nice it feels for things to, at least, sort of feel normal again. I know that life is not back to usual just yet and there are still lots of bridges to cross on this journey, but we are taking some steps in the right direction. There were times when I was a little anxious, worried that this was all going to get ripped out from under us again. I think that is normal too. I did not realize how much I missed people and after getting to see folks again, I am a little more appreciative of how much it means to me to be among those I love. Hugs and handshakes lasted a little too long and that was ok. Some folks weren’t ready for physical contact yet, and that was ok. I saw a dear friend this weekend and after our normal hug to greet she realized I was the first person she had hugged besides her husband in a year. That was ok too, though I kind of worry that she may have set the bar a little high for the hugs to come; I am a world class hugger, after all. I had to remind myself, time and time again, that the cautions of the last year and a half, the sacrifices to protect others and the choice to be fully vaccinated were all made so that when this day came, we could be together, safely. 

A disease and, to be fair, our collective inability to respond in a cohesive way, stole that year from us; and that pisses me off. There are some good things that have come out of this, but at what cost? The last couple of weeks have made me realize more fully just how important it is to live a “normal” life. Yeah, I know that there is no such thing as a “normal” life and that if there were, mine would definitely not qualify, but you know what I am saying. I am talking about being able to live freely, without fear of being viewed a something lesser because I chose to wear a mask and avoided things that would have put those most important to me at risk. I get it. A lot of this last year has sucked as people chose sides over something as silly as how to best survive a global pandemic. So, that got me to thinking. I got a tiny, tiny taste of being the “other” just because I wore my mask indoors at shops where that wasn’t the norm. I did not have time to explain that we help look out for my 94 year old grandma, or that my parents are in their 70’s or that I have a list of comorbidities half a furlong long and that I’d rather wear the stupid mask and skip a couple of dinners out than miss my kid’s graduation or grandma’s 95th birthday. There just is not time and they don’t make a t-shirt for that. At least I got to make that choice, though. Now, imagine being set aside, labeled as something different and marginalized just because of who you love. Yeah, that’s not right.

None of us should have to fight for the right to live a “normal” life; no matter how bizarre or unexpected our version of “normal” is. As long as you aren’t hurting anyone else, do your thing. In case anyone missed that subtext, that also means don’t do things that hurt other people. You don’t have to like what your neighbor is doing to respect their right to do it. The world is a wonderfully diverse place and we need to embrace that. How boring would life be if we only hung out with people who looked like us, thought like us, talked like us and loved like us? Sure it is scary sometimes to see “other” people and not understand how they came to be that way, it can even make you question some of your own choices, but that’s ok. As it turns out you can 100% live your life your way while they live their lives their way and all it takes is mutual respect and perhaps a modicum of consideration. It literally costs you nothing to be a decent human. Once upon a time, a guy said you ought to treat people the way you want to be treated and he was right. Respect and understanding lead to respect and understanding as surely as hate leads to pain and more hate. We’ve all got a lot of choices to make in this crazy world, but this is an easy one. You can live and let live or you can try to control the things you don’t like or understand. Just remember, though, you can only harvest the things you plant. So, when the time comes, plant love. Plant love and water with love and nurture love and give love and respect, especially when you don’t quite understand why. We all deserve “normal” life and to live that life with pride in the sun, perhaps with a boat drink in hand. A better world full of respect and love for all is just around the corner if we take the time to see each other’s humanity first. Do your part and I promise I am gonna do mine. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay fabulous, my friends.