“You’ve got to enjoy things while you have them, son,” he said with a world-weary sigh, “nothing stays here forever, appreciating that change is coming makes us realize just how valuable our time is.” That’s the kind of thing I found myself saying as we sat in the sun this afternoon, examining the meaning of grief while both experiencing it for very different reasons. It’s not what I had planned, but life has a funny way of blindsiding you and no matter what else is on the schedule, sometimes you have to set those things aside and be a dad, a friend and an absorbent shoulder. So, even though it has nothing to do with any of that and I am gonna have to work to tie this all together, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the “classic” Seelbach.
The boy is having a hard afternoon. He is grieving and being a little conflicted and embarrassed about that. I get it. He is sad because a dog passed on to the next stage. Not our dog, not a dog he has ever met, but a dog named Basil, from the internet. There are whole swathes of his life that I know nothing about, so I was unaware that he had been following the adventures of this Beagle on YouTube or how hard his passing at the ripe old age of 17 would affect the boy. To be fair, he did not understand it himself, how he could be so upset about a dog he never met. So we sat and talked about grief and happiness and how they are the same thing in a way. How the sadness we feel now is tied directly to the joy we have felt in the past and that in every bit of that joy, there is a piece of the grief that will come and how wonderful it is that we get to experience all of these things. Love is never wasted, even when it is for a pup you never met in a place you’ve never visited. To feel love is what makes this life worth living and the grief is part of the bargain. You should never be embarrassed to show love or to grieve for loss, whether it meets other folks definition of acceptable emotion or not. There is no such thing as a proper way to feel things.
That is where I find myself. Instead of writing about the compelling history of this drink or why I chose it for today, I am thinking about friends I have lost along the way, mostly four legged ones. Which, in a way, makes way more sense than where I was going originally. It is my oldest bestie’s birthday. She’s not the oldest, by any stretch, in fact she is only now catching unto my age, 16 days late, as usual. However, she’s been putting up with my crap longer than anyone I am not related to, making me want to be a better person and often showing me how for most of those years. It’s hard to say when we went from me annoying her everyday in Mrs. Winrow’s English class to the best of friends, but I am thankful we got there. She would totally get sitting on the steps crying over a pupper. If there is anyone who loves dogs more than she does, I’d have to see some evidence and bona-fides before I’d believe it. I remember her beloved Lizzie, a dog that despised me, walking over and laying her head in my lap, as I sat and cried when I found out my dog, Rachy, was gone. Dogs know. As much as that Shar-Pei hated me, and she did, she saw I was hurting and offered comfort. It is funny the things that stick out in your memories. Of course, we’ve had more good days than bad ones, but when it rains, it is good to know that comfort and understanding is only a phone call away.
I chose this drink because I had some champagne and a birthday is always a good excuse to pop a cork, plus this cocktail was “discovered” in my bestie’s hometown at Lousiville’s, Seelbach Hotel. The Seelbach is old school luxury, constructed in 1905, and has hosted many historic events over the years and even inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to recreate it fictionally for Tom and Daisy’s wedding in The Great Gatsby, though he called his version the Mulbach, if one believes the marketing. This cocktail was created there, without a doubt, that much is certain. As legend has it, the recipe was discovered on a long lost early menu, presumably found in a dusty vault beneath the Rathskeller and recreated by Adam Seger in the 90’s, where it quickly rose in popularity and joined the ranks of classic pre-prohibiton cocktails. It’s an interesting blend that they say originated when a clumsy bartender spilled champagne into a Manhattan. There is no evidence of this, but it makes sense and we try to not let the truth get in the way of a good story, so I am going to go with it, for now.
Grab your tins and pop in 1 ounce of Kentucky Bourbon, I chose Four Roses; 1/2 an ounce of Cointreau or Triple Sec, 7 stabs, yes 7, of Angostura Bitters and then 7 more of Peychaud’s Bitters. Yes, that is quite a lot of bitters, David. Add ice and give it a good shake to “Lean on Me“, but not Bill Withers, break out your Keds or Reeboks and dance along to Club Nouveau like it is the 80’s, because it was and we had the hair to prove it. When well chilled, double strain into a flute and top with 4-5 ounces of a nice dry brut, I chose Aldi’s second finest from Burlwood Cellars. Hey, don’t knock cheap champagne, I mean sparkling wine, it has a place and this is one of them. Would this be better with a bottle of Moët or Perrier Jouët? Almost certainly, but not enough to justify the spend.
This one is wonderful. Totally worth the time and effort to make. Honestly, I love drinking sparkling cocktails. I adore the French 75, the Old Cuban and the Lone Ranger, among others. They feel light and effervescent, they give you an excuse to drink out of the good crystal and they just feel fancy. That said, I hate making sparkling cocktails. That is not quite true, I don’t mind making them, I just hate trying to photograph them. There is a golden moment when they are the most beautiful drinks you have ever seen. Did I say moment, I meant millisecond. After that passes, they are either overflowing, or the bubbles are acting weird, or they have gone down leaving residue on the glass that just looks yucky or the bubbles rising from the bottom are throwing off the focus or any number of other reasons they use to ruin my pictures. Of course, they always look fine on my phone and it is not till I see them on the big screen that I realize just how bad they all are. So yeah I hate them, and this one is no exception. Yeah that picture is terrible, in fact, it may be my worst yet, but it is what it is. Mea culpa, I’ve done way worse, trust me.
Speaking of doing worse things, remember way back in the last paragraph when I lied to you? Well, that wasn’t the first lie in this post. You see, the pre-prohibition classic Seelbach cocktail, the drink discovered on menus from the early 1900’s in the 1990’s and brought back to its former glory and place of prominence, that was all a lie. Yep, in 2016 Mr. Seger came clean and admitted that he had made the whole thing up. Not just the drink, but the story of the careless bartender and the spilled champagne, the “discovered” menu, and all manner of supporting evidence; all of it was a fiction. A fiction perpetuated for 20+ years. On some level this makes me love this drink even more. As my brother is so fond of saying:
When both parties are lying and they both know the other party is lying, it comes powerfully close to being the same thing as telling the truth.My brother, probably
Our lives are full of fictions that we accept as truths. A lot of those are things that we hold on to way stronger than we would ever cling to a truth. That’s ok. We need some of those to help us make it through the day. There is a proper place and time for a well intentioned lie and a time for the unvarnished truth. That is why it is so important to have people in your life who can call you on your bullshit, make you face the facts when you need to and let you continue in your delusions, when they aren’t hurting anyone. I am blessed to have a few people in my life who know me that well, folks I will listen to, especially when I don’t want to, but the first was my best friend, Terri. We learned some hard lessons growing up together and I owe a lot of who I am today to her support as we navigated the mostly uncharted path from preteen days to middle age. Is this still “middle age” or are we old now? Are we really gonna live to 98? I mean, I am game if you are, as long as we can do it togheter. Since I was a kid, knowing you were there in my corner, looking out for me, no matter what, has given me the confidence and strength to be able live life the way I do. Love you, roomie! I can’t wait till we can next share a glass of situationally appropriate wine and a whole bunch of laughs. Besides, I have got to meet that beautiful granddaughter! I hope your birthday is the best yet and that you never forget you’ve got a friend.