Arguably one of the best books ever written, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald certainly contains one of the greatest closing lines in all of literature: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” These final words have always resonated with me ever since the first time I read them when I was a junior in high school. I’ve thought of them often over the years, and have interpreted them differently depending on what was happening in my life. We all have a past or a foundation that pulls us back into a pattern of behavior that seduces us with its comfort and familiarity. Sometimes we’re not even mindful that it’s occurring until we find ourselves in the very place that we’d hoped to never be in again. Other times we’re acutely aware of just how powerful that pull is and despite our best fight against it, we are still inevitably propelled backwards with incredible force. Depressing, right? After this post, you’ll need a drink. I’ve recently come to believe, however, that there may be another way of looking at that final line. For Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan would always be a part of his past, no matter how many times he reached towards that light at the end of her dock, dreaming of a future with her. The current drew him back because he gave it the power to do so, and he remained tethered to the past, destined to repeat his mistakes. This is equally true for all of us. We have to believe in our ability to evolve as human beings by remembering how evolution takes place: we adapt to and then overcome the things that challenge us the most. If we allow the joy we seek for our future to remain exclusively tied to the things that keep us bound in the past, then we’ll never find happiness. We’ll become exhausted from the constant struggle. The minute we realize and accept that each experience we have leads us right in the direction we’re supposed to be going, the past will lose its hold on us and we’ll move forward. We’ll evolve. We’ll be free. We’ll find joy.
If this is one of the first times you’re reading a Friday Musings post then you are inevitably asking, “What does this have to do with a cocktail?” It’s a fair question, but if you’ve been reading me for a while then you know I’m going to tell you. The Negroni is my favorite drink. When I wrote about it in an early blog post, I called it “elegance in a glass,” and that is exactly how I feel. When Campari is accompanied by a great gin like Bluecoat, and a gorgeous Vermouth like Carpano Antica or Dolin Rouge, there’s simply nothing that compares for me. So it was with some reservation that I attempted to make a Negroni with Bluecoat Barrel Finished gin. In order to get there I had to let go of my idealized version of a Negroni, and accept that I was going to make something new with a gin that had been changed by the process of barrel aging, giving it a flavor profile that still echoed the beauty of the original, but that was deeper and softer. To go along with it, I chose Punt e Mes, a richer, more bitter Vermouth, and Cynar, a darker apertivo. I also added just a dash of DRAM’s Citrus Medica bitters to bring in the orange and grapefruit brightness that a Negroni has to have. When it came time to take that first sip, I had to do so without any judgment or comparison, and so I tasted a cocktail that was warm and smooth, but still elegant, still bright, and still bracing, in its own new way. I had allowed my idea of a Negroni to evolve, and so I actually found joy in this new rendition.
Evolution (a barrel finished Negroni)
1½ oz Bluecoat Barrel Finished gin
¾ oz Punt e Mes sweet vermouth
¾ oz Cynar
1 dash DRAM Apothecary Citrus Medica bitters
Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass. Fill ⅔ full with ice and stir 30 seconds or until well chilled. Strain into an old-fashioned glass over 1 large cube. Garnish with a orange twist. Let go, evolve, enjoy!
One final note: Negronis usually have equal amounts of each ingredient, but I changed the proportions of this cocktail slightly after tasting it to make the gin more present. Its flavor is too beautiful to allow it to be overwhelmed by the Punt e Mes and Cynar.