A musing about joy

Short prologue: I bought a set of cards with inspirational questions on them to use as writer’s prompts down at Backstreet Arts, and in a fit of masochism decided that if I weren’t actively working on anything while I was down there, then I was required to draw one randomly and answer it.

Full prologue: https://www.lichtenbergianism.com/blog/2019/6/10/perverse-task-avoidance

So today’s question was:

Ugh. This is the kind of gross self-affirmation any of which I do not need. But an oath is an oath, and I think I’d like to share my response.

Ha. I am perpetually self-indulgent. Every day I enjoy what I do—and I do what I enjoy. This idea of not enjoying life is completely alien to me.

This includes the things I have to do, duties and burdens—far be it from this atheist to claim biblical inspiration, but the verse, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” [Ecclesiastes 9:10] seems to have stuck with me from Sunday School. Why not commit to your tasks with joy and appreciation?

It’s certainly not the case that I am a Pollyanna about life—there is plenty in my life that frustrates me or makes me unhappy. But it has never made sense to me to regard all of life as roadblocks. For one thing, taking things “personally” is the quickest way to misery: if the universe is out to get you, how are you supposed to enjoy your existence in the face of that?

To revisit the Ecclesiastes, here’s 9:9–10 in the International Children’s Bible:

9 … Enjoy all the days of this short life God has given you here on earth. It is all you have. So enjoy the work you have to do here on earth.

10 Whatever work you do, do your best. This is because you are going to the grave. There is no working, no planning, no knowledge and no wisdom there.

Here is existentialism in a nutshell: this life is all you have, and it is not long. Choose to do well at it. Choose to live it with joy.

So yes, I make cocktails and sit in my labyrinth. I read. I make dinner and run errands. I write letters. I go to burns. I serve on the burn board of directors.

I try to do it with “all my might”—why do it grudgingly? Do it with joy, and then you don’t have to find a way to give yourself “permission” to enjoy life.

New Cocktail: the MDL GinTonic No. 7

I seem to have skipped MDL GinTonic Nos. 3–6. I’ll have to go back and try them again to make sure they’re worth posting.

However, MDL GinTonic No. 7 is a good one:

Half-consumed, but isn’t it a lovely color?

MDL GinTonic No. 7

  • 1.5 oz gin
  • .5 oz hibiscus-infused gin
  • .25 Violette syrup

It is distinctly floral without being sweet. I’m still thinking about bitters; I thought I had some 18•21 Bitters hibiscus bitters, but apparently I’m out.

Hibiscus-infused gin

This is stupid-easy: put some gin in a glass container, throw in some hibiscus buds, let it sit for an hour or two. Strain. Done.

Violette syrup

So you can see that this is kind of an Ultimate Gin gintonic, with three different approaches to gin all piling together.

Highly recommended.

New Cocktail: MDL GinTonic No. 2

MDL GinTonic No. 2

  • 1.5 oz London dry gin
  • .5 oz Galliano
  • .25 oz hibiscus-infused gin*
  • tonic water, lime wheel

Sweetness, then the floral bitterness of the hibiscus. This is a nice one.

* Dump a tablespoon or two of dried hibiscus into a cup or so of gin. Let steep for a couple of hours. It will turn dark red. (You could also do a light steep for pinker look, and that concoction is more drinkable on its own. The full steep is a bit much.)

New Cocktail: the MDL GinTonic No. 1

During our travels through Italy last fall, I was delighted to discover the European GinTonic: a gin and tonic with some differences, some tasty, tasty differences. First, it’s not served in a highball glass — it’s served in a big red wine glass. It’s got tons of ice, and rather more tonic than we use here in the States.

The big difference though is the palette that is offered by such a setup. Just as here, you have the full range of gins to start with — London dry, Old Tom, Plymouth, modern botanicals —and if you’re picky, the type of tonic water. Then you can add stuff: garnishes, other spirits, etc., and the sky is the limit. The result is a universe of flavors and sensations, and that is the universe I have begun exploring in a new series of cocktails. I’m calling them MDL GinTonics because my initials are MDL; it’s all about the branding, you see. I vacillate between ‘#’ and “No.” in the naming system, so historians, here’s your fair warning: there may be contradictory evidence in your research.

At the moment, I’m going with 1.5 oz of gin, .5 oz of some other spirit, and .25 oz of something else to add another layer. Stay tuned.

MDL GinTonic No. 1

  • 1.5 oz barrel-aged gin
  • .5 oz Amaro di Angostura
  • .25 oz Isle of Skye blended Scotch (slightly peaty)
  • tonic water
  • lime wheel

Stir the first three ingredients with ice, then strain into a balloon-shaped wine glass filled with ice. Add tonic water and lime wheel.

This GinTonic is very tasty, with the oak/woodiness of the gin forward, followed by the spiciness of the Amaro, and finally a return to the earthy/woodsy tones of the Scotch. It is now one of my favorite drinks.

Variation notes: I tried using Laphroaig instead of Isle of Skye, but the strength of that single malt was too much. I also tried bumping the Scotch up to .5 oz, but the drink is better, more subtle, at .25 oz.

Shopping notes: the Amaro Angostura is becoming more common in liquor stores catering to the cocktail crowd, but barrel-aged gin can be hard to find, and Isle of Skye is uncommon. Buy them when you see them!

UPDATE: Famous Grouse Smoky Black works as a substitute for Isle of Skye and is much more readily available.

New Cocktail: The Apple Pie, Jack

It’s the holiday time, and we have found ourselves with more than the usual amount of Laird’s Applejack Brandy lying about (long story), so here’s my first and obvious cocktail thereby: the Apple Pie, Jack. It truly tastes like an apple pie.

The Apple Pie, Jack

  • 2 oz Applejack brandy
  • 1 oz vanilla vodka, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz cinnamon syrup

Shake with ice, pour, garnish

Vanilla vodka

  • 2–3 vanilla beans, split
  • 750 ml vodka
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup

Add the vanilla beans to the vodka. Let soak in a cool, dark place for 2–3 days or until desired vanilla taste is reached. Add the 1/4 cup simple syrup.

Cinnamon syrup

  • 2–3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 cup demerara sugar or Sugar in the Raw™
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vodka

Combine all ingredients in a pan. Bring to a boil and boil until all sugar is dissolved. Cool, cover, and allow to come to room temperature. Add vodka (for preservative), store.

I have not tried this with store-bought vanilla vodka; I expect it might have a harsher taste.

 

 

New Cocktail: The Golden Quartz

I’m not sure about the name,[1] but it’s better than the scurrilous suggestions I got on Facebook…

The other night I craved a sweet, dessert kind of cocktail, and for some reason this cocktail invented itself.

The Golden Quartz

  • 1.5 oz vanilla vodka, preferably homemade
  • .75 oz pecan liqueur
  • .75 crème de cacao

Stir with ice, strain into a coupe. No garnish, no bitters.

It’s sweet but not cloying, with a nice layering of the vanilla, chocolate, and nuttiness.

Vanilla Vodka

Take one or two vanilla beans and split them down the middle. Plunk them into a bottle of vodka and let sit for 7–10 days, testing after one week. Remove the beans.  You can strain the seeds out through a coffee filter, but you can leave them in as well.

—  —  —  —  —

[1] edited to change the name, in fact, from Amber Quartz to Golden Quartz

New Cocktail: the Hot & Sour

This is a beauty: the Hot & Sour

The Hot & Sour

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur
  • 1.75 oz Oleo Saccharum sour mix
  • 2 dashes Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Dandelion & Burdock Bitters

Shake with ice, pour into cocktail glass, garnish with lemon peel.

Very very nice.


Oleo Saccharum Sour Mix

There are multiple versions of this recipe online. This is the one I’ve settled on, but you can do all lemons, or any variety of orange instead of grapefruit.

  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 large lemon
  • .4–.5 cup sugar
  • .5 cup lemon juice

Peel the grapefruit and the lemon. Place the peels in a medium bowl; add the sugar.  Muddle the peels with the sugar about a minute.

Leave for 4–6 hours.  The oils from the peels will puddle at the bottom of the bowl.

Add the lemon juice and stir to dissolve all the sugar.

Strain into a container. Refrigerate and enjoy!

New Cocktail: The Camino Flores

This one sprang from a desire to use my new bitters from Amor Y Amargo bar in NYC, specifically the Colorado Lavender bitters from Cocktailpunk.

Also, I had bought a while back a bottle of St. George Pear Brandy.  I should have known better, but hope springs eternal and St. George is usually not wrong.  The problem with pear brandy is that the flavor overwhelms anything you put it in; nearly ten years ago we were in Key West and during a rainstorm took shelter in an outdoor bar, where a young man who had fled investment banking for the island life struggled with us to make a cromulent cocktail using the stuff.  He failed, and I haven’t succeeded myself.

Until now.

The Camino Flores

  • 1.5 oz gin (Sipsmith preferred)
  • .75 oz lemon juice
  • .5 oz simple syrup
  • .25 oz pear brandy
  • 2 good squirts of lavender bitters

Shake the first four ingredients with ice; strain into a coupe. Dribble the bitters on top. Garnish with a lemon twist.

I go back and forth as to whether it’s cromulent or not, but others have told me it’s interesting enough.  I may try again tonight with maybe 1/3 or 1/4 oz simple syrup.

Anyway, enjoy!

(h/t to Marc for an idea for naming)

Gin Number Two

You will recall that I made gin a couple of weeks ago.  It wasn’t horrible, as the label proudly proclaims, but I wanted to see if I could make a more nuanced version.

To that end, I took one of my new, handy-dandy Field Notes Brand “Dime Novel” editions and began taking meticulous notes—as opposed to just dumping stuff into vodka like I did last time.

With that strategy, I think I was more successful.  I now have a recipe that I can reuse if I decide this is a good one.

Mostly, it is a good one.  Whereas the first one was almost overpowered by the lovage and had a huge bitter finish, this one is more herbal and has an interesting wood note as a finish.

That would be because as I finished up steeping the botanicals (gentian, angelica, lemon zest, lovage, coriander, burdock, and star anise), I rediscovered a jar of what I think is tincture of cedar chips.  I boldly added 30 ml of that to the mix, and lo! it makes a lovely difference.

So here’s Dale’s Gin No. 2.  Not objectionable at all.

A new cocktail, maybe

I made vanilla vodka a while back and promptly stuck it in the hall closet and forgot about it.  I rediscovered it over the weekend and it’s been sitting out on the counter bugging me.

Consider this an abortive attempt.

Vanilla-Suze Something

  • 1.5 oz vanilla vodka
  • .5 oz Suze (gentian liqueur)
  • .5 oz lemon juice
  • .25 oz simple syrup
  • barspoon grenadine

Shake everything except the grenadine with ice.  Pour, then pour the grenadine in; let it sink.

It’s not bad, but it’s not very distinctive.  Or it may be that I’m not into citrus juice cocktails these days.  More work is required.

Also, I’ve made a second gin.  I need to blog about it.

UPDATE: The cocktail is growing on me.