There is not a lot of process here. Sure there is a format, but mostly it is off the cuff and I don’t really have any idea where we are going with these drinks and commentary. Hell, I am often as surprised as you are when we take one of these hard turns halfway through. That is a big part of the fun for me, to do some research, make a cocktail and then just riff for awhile. My intent is to do a bit of a “behind the scenes” thing today, but I often start with good intentions, we will just have to see where we end up. So, join me now as we stand and make, the To Hell With Spain.
To be clear, I love Spain, can’t wait to go back, but it is the name of the drink. It will all make sense later. These posts all start with the honored list of drinks I keep in the notes on my phone. When this all began I sat down and made a list of things I would like to make or try, several of those drinks are still waiting for their day in the sun. I add to the list anytime something strikes my fancy, whether I see it in a video, read about it in one of my cocktail books, hear about it from a friend or just get a hankering for a particular ingredient and look online to see what is out there. Like I said, not a lot of structure here. Choosing the drink of the day follows much the same pattern, what do I feel like trying, what ingredients do I have, do I want to feature a new piece of glassware or garnish, how was the weather today, do I have the energy to make something fancy or am I dreading having to make something at all. It all factors in. Mental health has a lot to do with it too. There are days when I am frustrated and want to vent, there are days when I want to share something positive, there are days when I can hardly face the prospect of trying to fire up the old word forge, much less actually creating a drink and writing the words. But it gives me something to do and keeps me out of trouble. It is kind of like my daily walks, some days I can’t wait to get out there and other times it is only the unbroken streak of days doing it that makes me put one foot in front of the other. I am sure you feel the same way.
I have found that during these “way fucked up, totally not normal, how are we even supposed to pretend that things are ok as we face sending our kids back into schools when we are in exponentially worse shape than we were when they closed and we still don’t have a decent treatment, as the government continues to gaslight us, and honestly we don’t even have a cohesive, damned plan for how to go forward into a “new normal” school year, much less a way to do it safely, as school boards hold virtual meetings to decide to send students and teachers back into a face to face scenario, in schools where they don’t even have enough textbooks for everyone to get their own copy, much less funding for shields and distancing, where they plan to put all new filters into HVAC systems that haven’t been updated in decades and rarely work consistently anyway, as we see new cases of the virus at the highest rates yet seen in our country and people are still arguing about how masks are anathema to their fundamental freedoms, while bitching about why Applebee’s is talking about closing early since half their staff had to go home sick and how no one can trust the government or the media or anything, except memes and youtube videos “they don’t want you to see”, and none of it matters anyway since it is all just lies as part of a global conspiracy to influence the outcome of an election where 90% of the population made up their minds on which way they were going to vote before COVID-19 was even a thing and nearly half the population won’t even bother to go to the polls in the first damned place, kind of times”. I am sorry, obviously I meant to say, that during these “uncertain times” I have found that having some constancy and consistent rituals helps me to deal with any personal fears or uncertainties I may feel. Making myself lay out the tools and make the drinks, helps me to feel some comfort and I hope that these nightly shouts into the darkness bring you some comfort too.
That’s why I try to stay mostly positive about things here. Seriously, I am trying. Some days that is harder than others, but there is always something good to say, well unless we are talking about Midori, about the only thing I have found positive with it is the lovely green color, but I am still trying, until that bottle runs out anyway. I have enjoyed spending more time with the family and they get into this part of the day too. Sometimes, they choose the drink, either directly or by suggesting glassware or a garnish. Laura makes most of the garnish, by the way, and Liam sometimes shakes the drinks. That’s a fathers job, to pass valuable life skills on to their children, so don’t judge me. They both help me out by listening to me read these scribbles aloud before I post. Often they ask if I really want to say that, I can’t wait for them to hear me today, and Liam is always ready with a suggestion of something to change. It really is a family affair. Granted, we are an unusual family.
So let’s make this one. It is a scotchy scotch scotch drink and I knew when I stumbled across this recipe that it was my kind of thing. It suggests a lightly peated scotch and a heavily peated scotch, kind of like requiring a young priest and an old priest. Of course, heavy and light peat are just relative terms, depending on where you start on the scale. I started way over on the smoky Islay end, so this one is going to get exciting. Grab your crystal mixing pitcher and pop in 2 ounces of lightly peated scotch, I chose Laphroaig Quarter Cask, because to me lightly peated means a particularly peaty version of one of the peatiest scotches on the market; 1/4 of an ounce of heavily peated scotch, I went with Corsair Triple Smoke, which is not a scotch, being made here in Tennessee, but I used their single barrel triple heavy peat edition, which is one of the finest bottles of whiskey known to man and superior to many smoky actually Scottish scotches; 1/4 ounce of Luxardo Maraschino cherry liqueur, 1/2 an ounce of sweet vermouth, I used whatever Gallo thing I had and 3 dashes of absinthe, I used Corsair’s because that is all I have. Add some artisanal ice cubes and stir to chill. Marvel at how your stirring game has really improved over the last three months, get lost in the tinkling sounds of ice on crystal, come back to your senses before you over dilute the drink and strain into a chilled coupe, use a julep strainer for this, because they are fancy. Garnish with one of those amazing Luxardo Maraschino Cherries on a bamboo pick.
I probably ruined this drink for most folks with my less than reserved scotch choices, but I love, love love, a smoky peaty Islay Scotch. You can make more responsible choices and be rewarded for them. In fact, if you have learned nothing else in these posts, that is the takeaway. You can, and should, make better choices than I do. That said, I kind of love this drink. It is smoky and peaty with a sweet undertone, but that awesome antiseptic finish. I like it. You may not, in fact you probably won’t, it is definitely for the hard core Islay folks, if you choose as I did.
Gotta throw a little history in there leading up to the big finish, people love history. This drink is a riff on the Prohibition classic cocktail, “Remember the Maine” which references the explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898. The phrase was coined by William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate that Citizen Cane was loosely based on. He used it to help push public sentiment and to drum up support for military action, which happened a couple of months later when the Spanish American War broke out, an act that led to Cuban independence. That drink was a modified Manhattan, which oddly enough came to prominence in Cuba in the 30’s. Our drink today is a riff on that riff and the name is the rest of the war-mongering phrase “Remember the Maine, To Hell With Spain!” This version was created in Seattle in 2011, by Connor O’Brien at Vito’s, if one can believe the internet. Sounds plausible to me, lots of great drinks come out of the Seattle cocktail scene.
So, that went off track a bit. I was going to explain some behind the screen stuff, like how you can see that all of the drinks are slightly off kilter, since I build them on the slanted draining board built in to our antique enamel countertop, how you can tell when we need to order coffee pods by watching the background, how I sometimes cheat an apple into the background instead of a peach, since I know it will be blurry and I have ugly peaches, you know the good stuff. I guess that will have to wait for the book. Until then, stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.