Asimov said, “Education isn’t something you can finish.” In fact, he wrote a great deal on the subject and the ridiculous idea that formal education was a rite of passage and that once you have passed beyond it you should leave reading books, having ideas and asking questions behind with other childish things. When I found myself with a surplus of experimental smoky scotch and banana based tiki drinks, rather than laying them aside, I opted to delve a little deeper into this bit of nearly forgotten lore. So, in that spirit of continuing education, won’t you join me now as we stand and make, The Banana Stand.
I assembled a small collection of drinks to try while chasing my smoky scotch banana tiki holy grail, the Bananakin Skywalker from Boston’s backbar. This one made the list early on, but was sidetracked because I did not have a decent source for fresh banana leaves. So, it waited patiently as I made the Tiki Peat and the Traveling Banana, among others. Luckily, the wife stopped in to a local bodega to grab lunch for us and they were unpacking an order of fresh banana leaves, so being the best of wives, she hooked us up and made tonight’s drink, plus a couple of others, possible. This first of our banana leaf dependent drinks comes to us from Zac Overman at Seattle’s Rob Roy, a most excellent craft cocktail bar that leans into the tiki side of the menu during their Tangaroa Roy nights. He claimed that this one was inspired by the idea of bananas flambé, with smoke and cinnamon notes. I get it and it totally works.
Grab your tins and pop in 1 1/2 ounces of a smoky Islay scotch, I chose Laphroaig Quarter Cask; 3/4 of an ounce of Giffard’s Banane du Bresil, 1/4 ounce of Yellow Chartreuse, 1/8 of an ounce of St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram, 1 ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 an ounce of cinnamon syrup and 2 drops of Bittermen’s Elemakule Tiki Bitters. Add ice and give it a good shake to the beat of Bachmann Turner Overdrive’s “Taking Care of Business” like a boss. When your tins are well chilled strain over some of that sweet pebble ice in a banana leaf lined collins glass. Garnish with some pineapple fronds, a lemon wheel, maybe grate some fresh cinnamon on top and toss in the stick. Pop in one of those reusable glass bamboo straws from Surfside Sips and toss a couple of gold covered chocolate coins on top, because there is always money in the Banana Stand.
There is nothing in the world wrong with that. I totally get the bananas flambé thing, with that smoke, cinnamon and allspice. Surprisingly, the yellow chartreuse partners up with the lemon to really push to the forefront here, in a good way. It bring s a light topnote to this one that keeps the tune from getting lost in those muddy, deep flavors. That banana leaf makes for a nice presentation and adds a nice green bouquet, it was worth waiting for. A damned fine drink, all the way around.
One of the problems with getting what you want, is you quit looking for it. Once we unlocked the code to that Bananakin Skywalker I figured my smoky scotch banana tiki drink needs were met and I honestly nearly skipped this one. If not for the cool leaf in the glass thing I probably would have and that would have been a mistake. A lot of life is the same way, you find something that works for you and that is just what you do from then on. If you are cool with this go to paragraph A, if this seems wrong to you, go to paragraph B.
A. …life is the same way, you find something that works for you and that is just what you do from then on. There is a certain comfort in this. It is nice to have things settled. I don’t have to worry about how I am going to measure my ingredients for these drinks. I tried many styles and finally settled on the Leopold Bell Jigger. Sure they may invent something new that might tempt me, but if I only use that bell jigger from now on, that’s fine. To be fair, with only occasional seasonal departures, I have been wearing the same cologne since high school. Obsession for Men, for those playing the home version of the game. Is that a rut, or just something that works for me? I like to look at it as things I have settled on, so I don’t have to expend any time or effort reworking those particular problems. Some might say, that this is a particularly efficient way to live. Others might offer that I am only using examples of things that don’t matter anyway, but I would counter that those little decisions make a huge difference in our day to day lives. Once you find the jeans that fit you just right or socks where the toe seam doesn’t rub you the wrong way, or the perfect blend of coffee, you have removed barriers to having a good day and that is huge when it comes to quality of life. It’s hard to be in a good mood if any of these things have gone badly wrong, so finding what works, matters.
B. …life is the same way, you find something that works for you and that is just what you do from then on. I have always been afraid of this kind of stagnation, mostly in thought. I do my best to always be open to different schools of thought and not be too attached to my beliefs. My understanding of different viewpoints when it comes to human interaction and politics have swayed widely as I have experienced more life. Travel does a pretty good job of making you re-examine your prejudices, biases and understanding of what privilege is. Once you get your mind wrapped around what it means to be the other, it becomes harder to ignore the need for basic human decency and dignity in your calculations. My thoughts on religion and spirituality are thicker, but still fluid. Unlike my foundational beliefs in the fairly clearly defined parameters of Yacht Rock. That does not mean I am not open to new information that might lead me to change my mind. I understand the need for more than one day of programming that leads a lot of Nyacht Rock to be included in the lineup, but my acceptance of this sad fact of life, does not mean that the genre has actually expanded to include ELO or Cyndi Lauper’s early work. That is the thing though, you always have to be on the lookout for new things otherwise you end up wearing the same jeans all the time, because you know those fit right and they are easy. It’s like wearing the same cologne for 35 years just because it works for you. How many interesting scents could a person miss out on in a lifetime? Is that the kind of life you want to lead? Always smelling the same, in the same kind of jeans, drinking the same coffee. Sounds incredibly safe and boring. Life is meant to be lived and you need to get out there and explore. When you find something that works for you, switch things up quick before you get too comfortable, for that way complacency lies. Life is a journey of discovery and how are you going to find anything new, if your mind is already made up?
There are no easy conclusions. Most questions have at least a couple of right answers to go along with several bad ones. It is all in how you look at things and remember there are no extra points for a foolish consistency. So if you want to use the same toothpaste for 20 years, fine. If you want to switch out dancing partners fifty times, sometimes mid-dance, you do you. I have my go to smoky scotch banana tiki drink covered, but I am going to keep on looking, just so I don’t miss out on something new. Asimov was right, we are going to keep learning our whole lives. Sometimes, whether we want to or not, there are lessons life is going to teach. So, why not embrace the questions? Keep reading, always be learning the things you want to know more about. Let your curiosity kill, or not kill, as many of Schrodinger’s cats as you can find boxes for. It’s like Ecclesiastes says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” That’s a pretty good argument for learning all you can while you can. On the other hand, legend has it that my great grandma, Mamie Taylor, when asked about her math work, at 5 or 6 years old replied, “I don’t like figures. We die soon enough and forget it all, anyway.” So, you see, life is all about choices. Make good ones and stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane my friends.