I took a few days off to celebrate the New Year. Did some hiking and exploring with the family, drank a beer and ate a burger in a gloriously empty outdoor biergarten, practiced a little chainsawing and tractoring around the farm, even played some video games and read some books. I did not go to the office, or pay attention to political shenanigans going on or make any cocktails that I felt compelled to write about, though I did make some at the request of my bride. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and the bad ones as well. So I was back in the office today, doing some work, catching up on the news and now I am back behind the bottles making a little something to share with you, gentle readers. The sun comes up and the world still spins, as they say. Or at least that is what I said fourish years ago at the beginning of this chapter and it is still true here at the end. Watching folks make some odd decisions I was reminded of an old fable and a drink. So, won’t you please join me now as we stand and make the classic Scorpion.
This drink is not all that old, at least not by my standards, since it was published in 1972, the same year I was launched. Sure, that’s nearly a half century ago, which is a pretty good run for a drink, but not nearly long enough for a fairly average ape with delusions of grandeur. I figured starting the year with something tiki-esque would feel right, so this Trader Vic’s original seemed a likely candidate. This one was on the menu for years, allegedly, before Victor Bergeron shared the recipe in his Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide. As tiki drinks go it does not appear to be terribly complex, but should be reasonably well-balanced and yummy. Let’s go ahead and make it to find out.
It is a blender drink, so grab that big mixer pitcher and toss in 1 1/2 ounces of Gold rum, I went with Appleton Estate; 3/4 of an ounce of Cognac, I chose Hennessy; 2 fluid ounces of orange juice, I went ahead and squeezed some Cara Cara’s for this one, 1 ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 an ounce of Orgeat, 2-3 drops of Bittermen’s Elmekalule Tiki Bitters and six ounces of crushed ice. Crank up Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Cry for the Bad Man“ and blend till smooth. Pour into a collins glass and garnish with a twisted orange slice and some freshly slapped mint. Pop in a reusable straw and serve.
Well, that is nice. Not a sting in there anywhere. It is not as sweet as I expected, in a good way. I was afraid that those Cara Cara oranges and the orgeat would kick this one into sugar overload, but it all balances very nicely. You can taste the rum and the cognac clearly, but none of the other flavors get stepped on. Very nice, particularly for a blender drink, which isn’t usually my thing. It’s ok, I have been wrong before.
There are so many things we think we know that are just wrong. The story of the Frog and the Scorpion has been on my mind quite a bit lately. That whole idea of making deals with the devil, trading away your future in order to meet a short term goal. Well, that and the idea that someone will change fundamentally in order to do the right thing, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. That story had always stuck with me. I’d have sworn that it was in Aesop’s Big Book of Fables or maybe it was an anecdote from Marcus Aurelius, one of Pope’s Epigrams you know, the usual suspects for quick pithy lessons wrapped in clever language. Turns out that it doesn’t actually show up until the 30’s or 40’s, depending on which Soviet source you believe, but, in the west, we mostly know it from a 1955 Orson Welles film, Mr. Arkadin. It has been reused in film and television lots and lots of times since then, which I guess explains why it is so familiar. Here is the text:
And now I’m going to tell you about a scorpion. This scorpion wanted to cross a river, so he asked the frog to carry him. No, said the frog, no thank you. If I let you on my back you may sting me and the sting of the scorpion is death. Now, where, asked the scorpion, is the logic in that? For scorpions always try to be logical. If I sting you, you will die. I will drown. So, the frog was convinced and allowed the scorpion on his back. But, just in the middle of the river, he felt a terrible pain and realized that, after all, the scorpion had stung him. Logic! Cried the dying frog as he started under, bearing the scorpion down with him. There is no logic in this! I know, said the scorpion, but I can’t help it – it’s my character.Orson Welles as Mr. Arkadin
Or you can watch the man himself deliver the lines. It doesn’t have any peas in it, but it is still worth the minute it will take to watch.
Let’s drink to character, indeed and to listening when people tell you who they are. The moral of the Scorpion and the Frog is pretty clear. Mine is only a little more ambiguous. This story is not some fable handed down from history, some deep truth passed to us from the age of antiquity, it’s just a tale some Russian guy made up to make his story more interesting. Crazy, huh? That does not mean it is not true or lacks value. Russian guys make up stuff all the time and share it, some of it is true and some of it is not. Russians don’t lie any more or less than Americans, on average. The only real issue is that it was something that I believed without ever bothering to dig any deeper or do any research. I just took it on faith, because I liked what it said. I agreed with the sentiment of this story and the way it justified my inclinations to not trust some folks. That should not be my character, or yours either. Take a minute, do some research before you put your faith in the story someone is trying to sell you. And when it comes to bargains, if you make a deal with the devil, be sure to get a receipt. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.