“Sometimes, you can almost smell her perfume on the wind. Almost.” he said, to no one in particular. That faraway look told me he wasn’t really with us in that moment and I did not want to intrude, wherever he had wandered. I got it, though. It’s usually the other way around for me. A passing scent suddenly evoking a memory of a time, place or face long gone. They say that smell is more connected to memory than the other senses combined and I believe it. Still, I knew what he was feeling. It wasn’t quite pain and not quite joy, just a recognition of loss. So, in the spirit of people, places and things long gone, but still alive in our memories, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Scotch Violets.
This is an unusual cocktail and I have avoid making it for awhile because I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I first discovered it on the Haus Alpenz website as a suggestion for using their amazing Creme de Violette liqueur. It was actually created by Carey Jones and John McCarthy for Food & Wine as part of their series showcasing this wonderfully troublesome ingredient. I absolutely adore the stuff. There is nothing else like it in the world and when used well, like in the classic Aviation or the Moonlight Cocktail, it just sings. However, it is super fragrant and very easy to overuse. A little goes a long way, as they say. I can attest that while working with it you can go from an exquisite floral top note to drinking grandma’s”just for company” good soap in a heartbeat. Still when it is right, it is oh so right.
Grab your tins and pop in 2 ounces of blended scotch, I chose Dewar’s 12 year with that wonderful smoky finish; 1 ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice, 3/4 of an ounce of Rothman & Winter Creme de Violette and 1/4 ounce of honey syrup. Add ice and shake to the beat of Gloria Estefan’s amazing “Desde la Oscuridad” most of you would recognize it more easily as “Coming Out of the Dark” but I first heard it in Spanish and I have always loved that version even more. When well chilled strain into a rocks glass over one of those big ice spheres and garnish with a dehydrated lemon.
Oh my word, that is wonderful. I was worried about this one, there are a lot of strong flavors in there and I wasn’t sure how well they would play together, but this one works. On some level this is a lot like the modern classic Penicillin or a Vesta, but with this really lovely floral topnote. The creme de violette isn’t too insistent, it just sort of hangs there, like the memory of perfume on a pillow. Yeah it is that nice. I feel like this one could become one of my special treats to myself. So damned good.
I caught the hint of a memory earlier, it hung there just out of reach. Something at the back of my mind, gently prodding me. Then, just for an instant, I smelled violets. My great grandma loved growing violets and always had tons of them growing along with ferns and succulents in her “extra kitchen”. Thinking about her is always a wonderful memory, so I spent so me time there wandering in the past. I could see the little hammered copper kettle, with room temperature water in it, since cold water would bruise the leaves. I could see the light through the window. I could almost feel her soft hands brushing my hair back. Best I can recall, while they were beautiful and soft, with their small almost velveteen leaves, they never smelled strongly. It was always more of a hint of fragrance than an actual smell. That’s what this drink made me think of and I guess it is what I was hoping for when I made it. Some times things work out.
It’s hard letting go, especially when there are so many things out there to remind you of those who have gone on before. It is said, that you live as long as one person still remembers you. I kind of like that. Putting a cap on things, giving us an end, beyond the standard measurement of a lifetime. It makes you think. It can be hard, with all the pressures of the world to remember to be nice, to be kind. I know that I fail at this all the time, but I am still trying and still growing. Looking back on the people I have loved that have gone on before, I am reminded again and again that when I think of them, I don’t remember their great achievements, I remember their kindness. Great Grandma’s gentle smile as she took the time to explain to a little boy how to care for the fragile little violets. How to not be so rough and take my time. Her soft old hands helping my clumsy young ones, passing along a lesson in fragility and impermanence. Never realizing that she would leave this memory, floating like the faint scent violets on the wind to catch up with me nearly half a century later. She’s been gone a long time, but she is still with me. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.
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