New Cocktail: The Afterlife

The other night I was privileged to drop in to Barnes & Noble to a book signing by a former student, Blue Cole.

Blue, who is actually the son of a high school classmate, was one of those charming, good-looking teenagers who you feared might amount to nothing.  Dimples and blue eyes will only get you so far, after all.

However, Blue has grown up to be a fine upstanding citizen who is only a little worrisome when his wife takes him to big box stores and leaves him unattended.  This novel, Evil Upriver, is Blue’s third, unless I’ve lost count.

But Dale, I hear you musing, supernatural horror is not your thing.  You even write about it in the chapter on AUDIENCE in your own upcoming book, Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy.  Indeed it is not, but 1) I go to book signings for all former students; and 2) Blue personally invited me to come and asked me to wear my pearl earring, since that’s what the bartender named Lyles in the book wears.

How could I not invent a cocktail and take him a small box with said cocktail and other mini-bar accoutrements?

Actually, I was going to bring him the Smoky Topaz, which should be good enough for any normal purpose, but then my Lovely First Wife suggested that I invent a cocktail called The Afterlife because reasons.

It was a rush job, but I did it:

The Afterlife

  • 1.5 oz bourbon
  • .75 oz Amaro Angostura
  • .25 oz Ancho Reyes Liqueur
  • dash 18•21 Havana & Hide Bitters

The idea was that it would be at first taste an interesting take on the Manhattan with a somewhat toasty finish (GET IT, KENNETH?), but however, and also too, I felt it was lacking.

So tonight, I futzed with it and now it’s pretty solid:

The Afterlife, redux

  • 1.5 oz bourbon
  • .75 oz Amaro Angostura
  • .25 oz Ancho Reyes Liqueur
  • .25 oz simple syrup
  • .25 oz 18•21 Blackberry Peppercorn Shrub
  • dash 18•21 Havana & Hide Bitters

Stir with ice, strain, serve on the rocks with an orange peel.

Rather more ingredients than I normally prefer, but it’s tasty. Quite tasty.

(Sorry, Blue, about the recipe I gave you last night.  Feel free to use it, but this is the recipe that will appear in my second book.)

There’s a rule for that

I’m at the beach, not doing any editing or design on my soon-to-be-published Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy, nor even on the placement map for Alchemy, just reading, doing crossword puzzles, and generally basking. The book I just finished is Jingo, one of Terry Pratchett‘s brilliant Discworld novels, and though it was written in 1997 its take on jingoism, war, and especially immigrant Others is disturbingly on point.

But that’s not why we’re here today.  This passage:

[The incompetent Lord Rust is speaking, about to lead his non-army into an epic Light Brigade blunder] “Glory awaits, gentlemen.  In the words of General Tacticus, let us take history by the scrotum.  Of course, he was not a very honorable fighter.”

…reminded me of a Bible verse.

Wait, where are you going?  I can explain myself.

The Talibaptists think gay people are squicky, and they will refer to Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 as their prooftexts.  In return, otherwise sane people will refer to equally outdated prohibitions about shrimp and tattoos. Very occasionally, the wryer among us will throw in Deuteronomy 25:11–12.  You’re not familiar with that particular rule?

Here:

 If two men are fighting with each other—a man and his fellow Israelite—and the wife of one of them gets into the fight, trying to save her husband from his attacker and does so by reaching out and grabbing his genitals, you must cut off her hand. Show no mercy.

I mean to say, wot?  It’s as if Rule 34 applied to the Holy Book.

Before we get to my main point, let me say that I did a little reading of some explanations of this bizarre dictum and it actually does make a kind of sense in context. Elsewhere in Deuteronomy there are rules about a man whose testicles have been damaged no longer being able to enter the Temple, i.e., he’s no longer One of Us.  His entire family would suffer.  So a woman who did that to a man would have committed a truly serious crime.[1]

Often, when confronted with examples like this of outrageous Old Testament “laws,” the Talibaptists will wiggle and wriggle and contort themselves into pretzels to “explain” them away.  If you’ve ever had to listen to them, it provides good exercise for your eyebrows and pursed lips. Surprisingly, though, I found an exegesis that was sensible; it would be a miracle indeed if the Talibaptists threw their main weight behind its argument, which is that the point of the rule was to prevent and/or punish anyone who made it impossible for a man to support his family.  That includes corporations not paying an appropriate wage.

I mean to say, wot?

Anyway, my main point is this: just how often did this happen that there had to be a rule for it?  It’s like the warning labels that infest our lives: Don’t use this hair dryer in the shower. This chef’s knife is not meant to be used as a screwdriver. That kind of thing. It’s a given Stand-Up Comic’s Take that these warnings exist because SOME IDIOT DID THE THING, KENNETH, so what was the deal in ancient Israel?  First of all, were the men always wrestling, and if so, why were their testicles even in evidence?[2]

And had it become a problem that wives would throw themselves into the arena to give their husbands an assist?  What was this, the Judean Federation of Wrestling?[3]  I mean to say…

This realization puts the prohibitions of Deuteronomy and Leviticus in a whole new light.  They’re just warning labels.  For stupid people.

You’re welcome.

—————

[1] That’s just context.  The entire mindset is stupid.

[2] …nudity also being a huge shanda for the Chosen People.

[3] Not to be confused with the Judean Wrestling Federation[4]

[4] You’re welcome.

Gin, Part II

You will recall that on Monday I began making gin.

Yesterday I finished making gin.  This is a true thing.

On Monday, I put some juniper berries in some vodka to soak for 24 hours.  On Tuesday, I added what we in the gin industry refer to as “botanicals”:

There’s angelica root, gentian root, star anise, lemongrass, lemon peel, black pepper, and lovage (which had survived in the garden enough to give me what I needed).  Based on cursory reading on the intertubes, I measured out two grams of everything and dumped it all in.  It steeped overnight.

Yesterday I began taste-testing it, and by lunchtime it was clear that the botanicals—the lovage in particular—were threatening to overwhelm the gin qua gin.  I strained everything out, doubled the amount of vodka to dilute it, put more juniper in, added some coriander, and let it ride until cocktail hour.  Then I strained it all out, bottled it, and began testing it.

Okay, so… it’s not a sippable gin.  This will never compete with Ayrer’s Single Malt Gin from Nuremberg, for example.  More work is required before I get to that point.

However:

Gin & tonic: quite delectable.

Negroni on the left; Bijou on the right.  Both were good; although I was apparently not in the mood for a Negroni, I finished the Bijou with relish.

And then…

The Smoky Topaz. Oh my.  My recipe calls for barrel-aged gin, but this gin added several other dimensions to this most fabulous of cocktails.  That which is a too-strong presence of lovage when you sip the gin straight becomes a fantastic lingering undertone in the Smoky Topaz.

And so…

The trick will be seeing if I can repeat it.

New friends

I went out to see if there any lovage in the herb garden and found that I had acquired some new friends:

Aren’t they beautiful?  They arrive every year to feast on the dill, which I do not begrudge them in the least.  There’s plenty to go around, after all.

We will not dwell on the fact that I never see any cocoons, which means that either they go somewhere else to do that or most of them are eaten by friendly birds.

Gin.

Oh, just making gin, as one does.

That’s the concoction on the right.  The stuff on the left is just your average lemongrass-infused vodka for a new cocktail I’ll work on for the beach this weekend.

The gin is in its first stage: juniper berries soaking in vodka.  What, you thought gin was something other than vodka with plants in it?  Pfft.

Of course there’s no one recipe for gin.  You can find tons on the intertubes—everyone has a different combination of botanicals they like to use—but they all start with soaking the juniper berries for 24 hours, then adding your other stuff for 36 hours.  That’s right, boys and girls, you can craft your own gin in two and a half days.  What’s not to like?

My original plan was to use lovage from the garden, but the lovage has been stupidly whiny this summer.  Maybe there’s enough to use anyway.  I’ll keep you posted.

Otherwise, here are the most likely additions:

Mine’s going to be more spicy/peppery than citrus.

I wonder if it’s going to be drinkable?

New mystery plant

I have not blogged regularly, mainly because the situation in our country is so grotesque that I can’t keep up and I don’t want to spend all my time with my readers picking at the scab that is our Current Embarrassment.

So here’s a post about out of control plants.

You may recall the Dill Plant That Ate Newnan and/or the Cardoon that Couldn’t Be Stopped.  Both are now gone, because I ripped them out of the ground and ruthlessly discarded them.

But oh so quietly last year, a delicate little vine sprang up in the side patch where the cardoon was.  I gave it a little frame to grow onto (to keep it from latching onto the shrubbery).

This year, of course, it has come back more determined, and so I’ve built it a large frame just to see how far it’s willing to go:

It has responded with enthusiasm:

…although it still seems to be looking for ways to devour the shrubbery.

Why am I allowing an obviously invasive plant to thrive in my garden?

It has these beautiful little flowers.  I want to see if I can create a tower of the feathery leaves and brilliant red blooms.

Stay tuned.

Still weird to me

The other day, my Lovely First Wife went to the Kroger together, which is not always as rollicking an adventure as you might think.  I, as a male-type man, have a list of three items, and so naturally one goes in and gets three items and is on one’s way.  She, on the other hand, will need one item—a bag of lettuce, let us say—and yet will push a cart up and down every aisle.  One must look and see “what they have.”

On this occasion I was willing to play along, and so we began to mosey through the produce section.  It is important for you to realize that we were at the “old” Kroger; in Newnan we have three, the original “old” Kroger in town, the “new” Kroger out a little ways past the interstate, and then the “other” Kroger way out in the middle of the exurban enclaves towards Peachtree City.

In town, we have the old Kroger.  We are allowed to call it the ghetto Kroger; those who live out with the “other” Kroger are not.

So there we are in the produce section of the old Kroger, and we are both struck suddenly that we are looking at jackfruit.  We don’t know we are looking at jackfruit—we have to look at the tag.

We were astonished.  These things are about the size of a football, and the label reminds you to wear gloves when you cut them open, since the alligator-like skin apparently will lacerate you.

Perhaps you have already heard of jackfruit.  We had not, and in fact it was only when I went to find a picture—because I assumed that no one would know what it was—that I discovered that it’s a thing now?  Serves us right for not being vegans.

Here, have a sampling of headlines:

So that was weird enough, but this post is not about jackfruit.  It was just a symptom.  Because the jackfruit had stopped us in our tracks, we paused to see what else was there.  We found three different brands of kiwi, and two versions of coconut.  Coconuts.  In Newnan.

We’ve had this weird feeling before, and I blogged about it before: the options available to us in our grocery stores in no way resembles what was available to our parents.  Perhaps your parents—and here, by “parents” I mean “mother”—cooked everything from fresh with amazing ingredients from all over the world, but my mother, faced with feeding five kids, used every shortcut, every canned item, every pre-processed food she could.

I, on the other hand, can wander down the condiment aisle and be amazed by:

Peruvian Aji Amarillo?  And what on earth is Shichimi Togarashi?  Where’s the Tabasco™ Sauce?

Okay then.  We have our choice of aiolis.

Vinaigrettes.

We have choices for finishing sauces. FINISHING SAUCES, KENNETH.

Astute readers will notice that not only are there amazing, fabulous choices for condiments in the ghetto Kroger in Newnan, GA, but these are all store brands.  (Full disclosure: we have found that Kroger’s Private Selection items are pretty awesome.)

But even so…

…I have a choice between two roasted raspberry chipotle sauces.

Here’s the deal.  I know there are segments of the population who might grumble that if canned potatoes were good enough for Mom (and Tabasco™ sauce for Dad), then they’re good enough for me.  But I say huzzah—how wonderful that I have these choices, even in the ghetto Kroger of Newnan, GA.  It’s almost as if our nation looked around and decided that there was value in diversity.

::mic drop::

The labyrinth in summer

Have you ever wished for a plain old dirt path labyrinth?

Me neither.

But that’s what I’ve got:

It’s never been this bad.  And I have a group coming to visit on Saturday, a Mindful Walk.  I’ve warned their leader that it’s not all green and pretty, and there’s not enough time to plant seed and have it come up—even if it did come up, I wouldn’t want mindful pilgrims trampling it.  So maybe next week, after I get back from my jaunt up to the new burn site.

Ugh.

A useless post

This post contains useless information unless you need it and then omg it will change your life.

First, as all right-thinking people know, the Blackwing 602 pencil is the nonpareil of writing instruments.  All the best people use them.  When they went out of production in 1998, a nation grieved, but a couple of years ago Palomino revived them and we can all once again write with the same pencil as Stephen Sondheim.

One of the nifty design elements of the pencil is its eraser.

It is held in the ferrule by a little aluminum clip, and the idea is that as you wear the eraser down you can pull it out, move the eraser up, and pop it back in. The clip will hold the extended eraser in its new position.

You can see the theory here:

However, the two little indentations in the clip do not actually hold the eraser in place.  Any attempt to erase your mistakes pushes the eraser back down into the ferrule.

So here’s your life-changing tip of the day: take a small nail and dunch those indentations in a wee bit.

Now your clip has actual teeth and will hold the eraser in place as you write the lyrics for the next Follies.

You’re welcome.

ERIE, Day 8

Last leg![1]

Cincinnati back to Newnan was completely uneventful if you don’t count the deluge we drove through nearly the whole way.

We stopped at the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea, which is very nice.

Kentucky is celebrating its 225th birthday, and right in front of us when we parked was a pretty impressive sand sculpture.

Side A:

Side B:

 

I bought a neat deerstalker cap:

Also pictured, my remaining earring from the Art Gallery of Ontario: small round of black concrete with a smidgen of gold leaf.

The annual crafts festival was going on in Berea itself, but we resisted the urge to get home after midnight and hit the road, after stopping for lunch at Brooklyn Brothers Pizzeria in Corbin, KY.  Highly recommended!  (We stopped in Corbin to buy some bourbon to go with the bourbon pecan pie kit we got as a thank you gift for the nice neighbor who kept Kitten C for us while we were gone.)

And then we drove home the end.

Cute ending: when Kitten C was delivered back to us, we squee’d to find that in the week we’d been gone, he had turned into a honest-to-goodness kitten: weaned and ready to rumble.

His favorite toy at the moment is my bare foot.  This may be a long summer.

—————

[1] Or last nerve.  Your mileage may vary.  MILEAGE, GET IT??  DO YOU GET IT?