Ferris was right, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.” This year is flying by and I am pretty sure that I have missed a ton of things already. I took couple of days off from writing at the end of last year and then a few more after we flipped the calendar. I had planned to make this drink on New Year’s Day, but instead I went hiking with the family, without giving the first thought to what you, gentle reader, would do without my musings on the day. I don’t feel a bit bad about that. In fact, I am pretty sure it is going to happen way more in the coming months. Rest assured that when you don’t hear me shouting into the dark it is because I am out living life, rather than reflecting about it. It’s a balance, as they say. I did not want to lose this drink though, so we are going to pick it up and insert it into the rotation this week as if we never missed it. So, won’t you please join me now as we stand and make, Set the New Year On Fire.
First things first, this drink title is not an instruction or a directive. Do not set anything else on fire, except the garnish for the drink. We have had way too many fires and incendiary comments this year, already. Just take a step back from whatever is bugging your head, turn things down to a simmer, have a drink and relax. Maybe read a book, put on some music, take a cue from Frankie and relax. This riff on the Queen’s Park Swizzle was created by Yael Vengroff of The Spare Room in LA’s famed Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and it seemed like a natural followup to our year ending Dumpster Fire.
We are going to build this one in the vessel, so grab a collins glass and pop in 3/4 of an ounce of fresh squeezed lime juice, 1/2 an ounce of simple syrup and 5 or 6 mint leaves. My mint is all tiny after the snow, so I went a little heavier. Gently muddle that together to the gentle strains of The Staves singing Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire“. If you aren’t already a fan, you should be listening to them. Soothing, heavenly voices is a thing we could do with more of in these “unprecedented” times. When you are well muddled, add 2 ounces of Islay Scotch, it actually calls for Bowmore 12, but I had Laphroaig Quarter Cask, and fill the glass with crushed ice, maybe throw some mint leaves in there for the look of the thing. Float 1/2 an ounce of that devil Campari on top, top off with ice. Grab half of that lime you squeezed, place a crouton in there and douse it with 151 proof rum, set it gently in the top of the drink with some mint as a garnish and set it on fire. This wee bit of pyromania is sanctioned, enjoy it responsibly. If you want to, go crazy and sprinkle a little cinnamon over the fire, it will enhance the drink and looks hella cool.
It’s got a peaty scotch and it is on fire, how would I not like this one? Well, that Campari is an easy way to make me hate most anything, but I am trying to educate my palate. That’s an important skill in life. Learning to deal with things you aren’t crazy about. It can be especially tough when lots of other people love it and you just can’t wrap your head around how they could embrace something you find so repugnant. I was that way with Fernet-Branca until I learned to tolerate it and eventually to appreciate and even crave it’s unique bitter flavor, from time to time. Perhaps, someday I will finally make friends with Campari, but for now, it just hits me wrong, kinda like cilantro. Maybe we will discover that there is a genetic predisposition against Campari, maybe not, I am sure time will tell. I do know that I love this drink, even with its Campari head. To be fair, you have to mix this one up too get the full effect, so it is one of those that looks cool, but you have to ruin that to enjoy it, but life is full of little accommodations to comfort and aesthetics.
I haven’t watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with the kid yet, though I have been instilling that spirit of rebellious truancy since day one. I will have to add it to the curriculum of our Film History 101 class that we often use to fill the spaces between his blocks in virtual school. I want him to remember that lesson, to look around and appreciate life as it goes racing by. I am also a big fan of the ideas that run through the movie. Making the best of things, living large and doing it with friends. Looking out for one another, enabling adventures even if you have to drag folks into it some times. It is supposed to be fun, someone has to stand in the center and lead the band so why not step up and go for it and if that’s not your bag, at last enjoy singing along from the sidelines. Yeah, I am ok with the kid learning those lessons, but he better not steal any cars or set any non-sanctioned fires. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.