Cocktail Musings: The Coming of Age

Cocktail Musings: The Coming of Age

I spend a fair amount of time thinking about getting older. How could I not? The days go by like they are passengers on a speeding freight train, and suddenly I have children in their thirties and almost thirties, and an oldest granddaughter who just turned six. Some days I really do wonder when all that happened, even though I know I’ve been present for it the whole time. I’m not someone who minds being the age I am; I don’t want to give the wrong impression. There is, in fact, something that’s quite nice about recognizing myself as the same person, with the almost identical thoughts and reactions that I’ve always had, but now with the additional layer of solid experience that lends a bit of wisdom to share. As long as I’m healthy, I’d really like to be one of those white-haired pasta granny ladies, still cooking in the kitchen at 102. And yet, there are days when I don’t love what I see in the mirror, and I worry and wonder about growing old gracefully and remaining vital and relevant to everyone who knows me. I certainly believe in the reinvention of the self, at any age, and I’ve done it in big ways and small ones, but lately I’ve felt that I want a mantra that I can put up on my wall that will reassure me that everything and anything still remain possible.

As one might expect, searching for inspirational quotes about aging yielded an extraordinary number of results. Some were great, and others were not so great, but one passage in particular, from Simone de Beauvoir, was exactly what I was looking for:

There is only one solution if old age is not to be an absurd parody of our former life, and that is to go on pursuing ends that give our existence a meaning – devotion to individuals, to groups or to causes, social, political, intellectual, or creative work. In old age we should still wish to have passions strong enough to prevent us from turning in on ourselves. One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation, or compassion.

De Beauvoir wrote from the perspective that aging was predestined and inevitable, and that fact meant that there was very little that could be done to hold off its physical progression. Yet for so many of us, our issues with growing older often begin with the visible changes we see when we first glance in that mirror every morning. Suddenly we become like Jamie Lee Curtis in the movie Freaky Friday, and we hear ourselves saying “Oh I’m like the Cryptkeeper!” If you’re nodding your heads at this one, I am right there with you. If we are to be honest, however, there is more that troubles us beyond our physical appearance. What we fear, above all else, is that there is a point in the future when our contribution won’t be important anymore, not because we are no longer articulate or intelligent or even valuable, but simply because we are the oldest person in the room. In this respect, it is the idea of aging that terrifies us most of all.

The problem with succumbing to this fear is that it can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we see ourselves as old either because of our appearance, or because of the actual number of years that we know ourselves to be, we inevitably begin to withdraw from certain situations, and this retreat becomes both habitual and cyclical in nature. Eventually it will lead us to a kind of self-imposed isolation. We tell ourselves limiting things like “I can’t participate in that conversation. Those people are in their twenties.” Or “Before I take that exercise class, I need to make sure there are women my age in it” How can we expect other people to see us as relevant if we’ve already decided otherwise? This is directly related to de Beauvoir’s admonition that we pursue interests, causes, and devotions that make us feel as though our existence truly matters, even if they involve our own home and family, and that we do so in a way that cultivates a sense of joy and excitement that means we are here to stay. We are never too old to make a new friend, of any age, and what we have to say to them will always be impactful. We are never too old to learn something new or to create a masterpiece, and the world will be better for our contribution, however small. We are never too old to fall in love. I often think of my mom in the last years of her life, and how very important she was to me. Her hair had turned completely white by then, and she’d lost a lot of her famous spunk, but her smile was still the same, along with certain looks she would give me, and the sound of her voice offering words of advice or the validation that I always needed from her. I never thought of her as old; she remained my mom and the most vital and relevant force in my life, right up until the end. Maybe that’s the only mantra that I’ll ever really need.

For today’s cocktail, I began by thinking about a gin and tonic, a drink that can be found in every bar everywhere, with very little variation. For this reason, it is easily recognizable to us, and it has stood the test of time. I wanted to reinvent the gin and tonic as something bigger, so that I could allow it to stand as a symbol for the process of growing older in a way that is confident, bold, and relevant. I infused Recklesstown’s Truck Farmer gin with some hibiscus tea and used it as the base of the cocktail. I added small equal parts of vanilla simple and lime juice, and topped it all off with the appropriate amount of tonic water. The drink tasted like a gin and tonic, which was comforting and familiar, but the hibiscus elevated it to a new level, as did the addition of the vanilla and lime. It made me think about all the possibilities that lie before us, and all the different gin and tonic combinations that are out there for us to consider. I poured the drink into a rocks glass over one large cube. In a Collins, I think the gin and tonic becomes an easy sipper, whereas the short glass and the big cube invite us to give it the respect and appreciation it deserves. Cheers everyone. Happy Sunday!

The Coming of Age

1.5 oz of gin that has been infused for 3-5 days with hibiscus tea*
.5 oz vanilla simple syrup
.5 oz lime juice
3 oz Fever Tree tonic water

Add everything but the tonic to a shaker with ice.
Short shake and then pour into a rocks glass over a large cube.
Top with the tonic and garnish with a thyme sprig (pun absolutely intended).

Enjoy!

* Use 4 oz of tea per bottle of gin

** Use a half tsp vanilla bean paste per 12 oz simple syrup

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