Cocktail Musings: The Slippage

Cocktail Musings: The Slippage

During the summer of 2016, I remember picking up a book called The Slippage by Ben Greenman, mainly because the title intrigued me, and I was curious to know what it meant and how it was connected to the story itself. I immediately thought that it might be related to a scientific term known as the slipping point, a vague memory from high school physics class about the force required for an object to move. Or was it closer to the slip point, otherwise known as the temperature at which a solid starts to melt? That one would have been a vague memory from senior year chemistry. Hmmm. I also considered the possibility that it was a reference to the clutch slipping in a manual transmission when idling at the top of a hill, a very familiar occurrence for me since my first car was a yellow Toyota Celica 5-speed. As it turned out, the author was referring to none of the above, and it was very important to him that we understand the exact meaning of the term before reading the book. He defined the idea of slippage as “the exact moment when we begin to lose our footing,” a feeling that is relatable for most of us at one point or another in our lives. Maybe it was a bad personal situation we were in where we trusted someone that we shouldn’t have, or a job that made us question our values, or something as simple as an unfortunate decision, a bad night, a dark weekend. The thing that all of these examples have in common is that when we reflect back, there is almost always a moment when we felt the ground give way, we heard the rocks falling, and we reached out to grab onto whatever was close by, only to feel the beginning of the tumble backwards into something completely unknowable.

Because all of this sounds so sinister and foreboding, we might deduce, rather correctly in many situations, that slippage moments have only bad outcomes. We will hurt someone we love. We will make others question their original impression of us. We will put ourselves or those we’re with in some type of imminent danger. These are the kinds of things that happen in Ben Greenman’s book. In instances like these, we descend into a black abyss, and after some time we claw our way back out again, resurfacing as something that has been greatly changed. We look back at our slippage moment, and we recognize that although we had agency over the misstep that we took, we never considered the consequences. It stands to wonder, however, whether there is a second scenario where we do give thought to the outcome of our choice, and where we ultimately end up on a new and better path, despite certain challenges that still need to be overcome. Søren Kirkegaard, the Danish philosopher and theologian who believes very much in leaps of faith, once said, “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.” If we follow Kirkegaard’s line of thinking, we just may find ourselves contemplating a “road less taken” kind of dilemma. It is certainly true that there are times in life where we have a decision to make because there is an opportunity in front of us that will allow us to grow and expand in new and different ways. And yet, at the same time, we often hesitate to take the necessary step forward because we’re unable to discern whether we’ll find ourselves tumbling into an abyss or catapulted into a new reality that has the potential to change everything for us. What exactly is the deciding factor?

To begin, we could definitely suggest that it all hinges on awareness. If we are about to make a misstep, or take a bold step, we need to first relinquish the idea that something is happening to us in a passive way, and see it instead as something we are choosing with full cognizance of our actions. What must follow close behind is the additional recognition that these actions will have consequences. Are we willing to accept them? Are we willing to take responsibility for them? When we look back on our slippage moment, do we see it in terms of exerting the power of choice, or do we turn our heads from it and cringe in shame? While we might all embrace the directness of Kirkegaarde’s quote, we must also recognize that either form of slippage has the potential to move us forward. On the one hand, this progress results from the intentional action of daring to reach for something that we thought was just beyond our reality. On the other hand, it comes from the backward glance offered by hindsight, so long as we are willing to open our eyes and stare it down without shame. If we know that our actions were hurtful, then we carry the responsibility to work tirelessly to remediate the pain we’ve caused other people. If we took a bold step forward that has us feeling out of sorts because of its newness, then we have an equally important obligation to ourselves to work through the discomfort that all sweeping change inevitably creates. Today brings a beautiful new moon in Pisces, offering us a chance to set soulful and emotional intentions for the upcoming month. This opportunity is important because it represents a certain sense of calm that we can rest in before the storm of eclipse season hits us in April. Eclipses, more than most astrological events, can help us to understand the true meaning of slippage moments. The world turns temporarily on its head, and while the ground may feel as though it gives way just a bit, we regain our footing filled with new insight and knowledge, standing in awe of our brush with something truly beyond our control, able to see its parallel in our own lives, and ready to step willingly forward with intention.

For today’s cocktail, I decided that I wanted a riff on an old-fashioned, a slow sipping cocktail that gives us time to sit and contemplate what our next move is going to be. I knew that I wanted to use Suntory Japanese whisky as my base, and I also knew that I wanted to include a sweet vermouth because of how well it works with malt whisky in the classic Rob Roy. Instead of Dolin Rouge, however, I switched to Dolin Blanc to lighten the cocktail significantly and to create an element of surprise. In place of a traditional old fashioned’s sugar cube, I used a small amount of a syrup that I’d recently made for a cocktail at Recklesstown from blackberry sage tea and five spice powder. Finally, I added Wild Hunt bitters from Bennett to give the cocktail just the right amount of lift and garnished it with an expressed orange peel. The end result was a truly remarkable combination. I almost never say that about the cocktails I create, but I’m comfortable here because I think it has more to do with the ingredients in the drink rather than with the person doing the actual creating. We have the cool, almost aloof, smoothness of the whisky that pairs up with the similar personality we find in the Dolin Blanc, along with just a touch of bitterness. What changes everything is the syrup. The tea brings tannin and power, along with a hint of fruit from the blackberry flavor, and the beautifully complex warmth found in five spice powder. It is the ingredient that most definitely causes us to lose our footing. Cheers everyone. Happy Sunday! As always, thank you so much for reading.

The Slippage

2 oz Suntory Toki Japanese Whisky
1/2 oz Dolin Blanc vermouth
1/4 oz blackberry sage tea syrup with five spice*
1 dash Bennett Wild Hunt bitters
1 orange peel twist for garnishing

Long stir in a mixing glass with ice.
Single strain over one large cube into a rocks glass.
Express an orange peel, then twist and garnish.


*Steep two teabags per 12 oz water. Remove the bags then reheat to boiling. Add an equal amount of sugar and 1/8 tsp five spice powder. Stir until dissolved.

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