“Be always sure you are right, then go ahead.” That’s a damned fine quote that has been stuck in my head all day. You’ve probably heard it before, Davy Crockett’s words, immortalized on film by Fess Parker. He was on to something though, some times it is hard to know what right is, other times, well, the correct path is pretty clear. To be fair, it can be tricky to find the right path, but you can see the wrong road from a mile away. So, let’s do our best to get it right as we stand and make The Unvanquished.
Unvanquished, one who has not lost or been conquered. We could go a lot of places with that, but the drink is actually named for the Faulkner novel. If I am honest, I have not always appreciated Faulkner. I get it and it is brilliant, but I don’t always enjoy it. I cut my teeth on “The Sound and The Fury”, probably before I was ready to fall into the stream of consciousness and float away. I am a better swimmer now, I guess. Hard to say. This drink reminds me of walking through Yoknapatawpha county, sweat rolling down my neck, those days at Rowan Oak, counting the flowers on the wall through the scribbles. The drink is actually sort of reminiscent of long afternoons fighting writer’s block in Oxford, Mississippi, with only it’s sweet resiny aroma to remind us of cooler, perhaps better days. I discovered this drink in the amazing Southern Foodways Alliance Guide to Cocktails, a wonderful resource for drinks, places and people with a story behind them.
This one has a couple unusual ingredients so you may have to go shopping, but it will be worth it. Grab your tins and pop in 1 1/2 ounces of bourbon, I chose Four Roses; 1/2 an ounce of Zirbenz, an amazing liqueur made from the alpine berries of the Stone Pine, yeah, it’s pine cone licker. To that add 1/2 an ounce of maple syrup, 1/2 an ounce of fresh squeezed lime juice, a stab of Regan’s orange bitters and 1/8 of a teaspoon of cardamom. Yeah, cardamom and pine cones and bourbon, told you it was resiny. Toss in some ice and shake to the gentle strains of Metallica’s “…And Justice for All“. Fess Parker, William Faulkner, Colonel Sartoris, the lingering specter of civil unrest and Metallica, this drink really has it all. When your tins are good and cold, strain into a rocks glass over one big king cube. Garnish with an expressed orange peel and a dehydrated lime wheel.
This drink is stupid good. Seriously. I’ll admit, I bought that bottle of Zirbenz to make this one because I could not wrap my head around pine liqueur, totally overlooking the cardamom element. I figured I would make it and talk about how weird this one is, expand my palate a little, but write it off as a failed experiment. It is so much more, though. I am big fan of cardamom, add it to my oatmeal most mornings, I love cardamom bitters in my coffee and last night my pal Sally gave us some of her famous San Francisco Fudge Foggies with cardamom added that were amazing. I thought I had seen it all, but partnering this spice with that weird pine liqueur is a new wonder. Yeah, you have to go buy things, but do it, this drink is amazing.
What’s all this got to do with Davy Crockett, not a damned thing. I just go off on tangents sometimes, wander into Faulkner’s stream for a bit. Taking a shower this morning I could not help thinking about that quote, you know, making sure you are right, then going ahead. Been on my mind all day, kinda coloring my response to everything I have seen. So, that’s what you get. I did decide to look up the quote, you know to make sure I got it right and I found it right there in the 1834 “Narrative of the Life of Davy Crockett”. What a lot of folks forget though is that Davy was a real man, who lived a real life more interesting than many of the tall tales told about him. He really was “born on a mountain top in Tennessee” and in between killing bears and fighting river pirates and whatnot he actually served in the Tennessee General Assembly and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1827. That’s right, Davy Crocket was a congressman and he had a lot to say about his time serving the people of Tennessee, but one quote really jumped out at me today.
I am sorry to say I do doubt the honesty of many men that are called good at home, that have given themselves up to serve a party. I am no man’s man. I bark at no man’s bid. I will never come and go, and fetch and carry, at the whistle of the great man in the white house, no matter who he is. And if this petty, un-patriotic scuffling for men, and forgetting principles, goes on, it will be the overthrow of this one happy nation, and the blood and toil of our ancestors will have been expended in vain.Davy Crockett, An Account of Col. Crockett’s Tour to the North and Down East : In the Year of Our Lord 1834
Kinda funny, isn’t it. Imagine Davy Crockett, making impassioned speeches from the floor of the House of Representatives about how love of party over country would be the downfall of our nation, if left unchecked. There really is nothing new under the sun. Even the King of the Wild Frontier had some setbacks, when beaten in his first bid for Congress he wrote to his family, “I would rather be beaten and be a man than to be elected and be a little puppy dog.” It’s not surprising that a hero would get it, win or lose, you’ve got to do it with honor and be your own man. As entertaining as those old Disney movies are with Fess Parker showing us the quiet dignity of this character, his real life story is even more impressive, but I suppose that’s a tale that can wait for another day. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.