We are often told that the secret to living a happy life is all about finding balance. It’s also a key component in creating a perfect cocktail. You’ve heard me talk about it many times. The sweetness of a drink should temper the acidity. The base spirit should never overwhelm the other ingredients. When a cocktail seems like it’s missing something, bitters will often be the thing that brings balance. I have made all these statements with great conviction because I can see them clearly. I know that they are factual and true, and I test their validity every time I make a new drink. They’ve become a set of guidelines for me, a checklist if you will, that I can follow and expect that the outcome will be a reasonably good cocktail. If we seek this same idea of balance in life, what are the components we should should be measuring in equal parts? There are so many answers to that question that it can be impossible for us to land on just one, and some are so cliché that our minds resist considering them at all.
Let’s narrow our focus for a moment. I had a conversation the other night with someone who seems very wise and she said that loss is the human condition. Ah, such sad music to my ears. I have often said that we are united as human beings more by the idea of loss than we are by the idea of joy. It strikes a deeper chord within us. It evokes our sympathy and fuels our empathy. It’s something that we not only understand, but we actually feel. It’s universal, and it reminds us of our interconnectedness. We have all suffered losses, big and small, and some have been so perfectly placed that they’ve had the ability to derail us, for just a moment, or two, or for quite a bit longer than that. We’ve all been in that place where we are waiting for that first tiny tendril of hope to latch onto our hearts and give the tug that’ll get us back on track and moving forward again. Without hope, we fall into terrible despair, so we are charged with protecting it and nurturing it as best we can, for ourselves and for one another.
Perhaps the question we should be asking then, is what is the secret to living a hopeful life? What are the things that we need to keep in balance in order to do exactly that? This past Wednesday Maya Angelou would have been celebrated her 90th birthday. I’ve always found her words to be such a source of inspiration, and so I looked to her writing to help me pull my thoughts together for this post. There were many quotes from her about hope, but I found a different one that I thought applied even more. “Seek patience and passion in equal amounts. Patience alone will not build the temple. Passion alone will destroy its walls.” In order to live a truly hopeful life, we do need to be extremely patient, and to accept the fact that good things really do come to those who wait. However, we can’t wait forever. There are times when we have to take action and allow ourselves to be passionate about attaining the things for which our hearts truly hope. Yes, we have to temper that passion or we’ll descend into chaos and drama, but only enough to keep those destructive forces at bay. If we can find the balance between patiently knowing that we will one day see all our dreams come true, and passionately acting in a way that will make those dreams a reality, we will succeed in living a life that is hopeful, even in its darkest moments.
For today’s drink I chose to go with a riff on a Penicillin that used Bluecoat gin as its base, along with St. Germain and lemon juice. For the sweet component, I infused a 1:1 ratio honey syrup with dried chamomile flowers and small amount of ginger. I topped the drink with a float of Ancho Reyes Chili liqueur and two dashes of Hella smoked chili bitters. Chamomile symbolizes patience and gentleness, and the chili and ginger represent fire and passion. Bringing this drink into balance was tricky, and I was very careful about not overpowering its delicate flavors. It was truly an exercise in practicing the exact intention behind this post. Cheers everyone. Happy Friday! Have a wonderful weekend.
Place all the ingredients except the Ancho Reyes and the bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously until very cold. Strain into an old-fashioned glass over one large cube. Float the Ancho Reyes on top of the drink and add the bitters. Enjoy!
*Make a 1:1 honey syrup by dissolving one cup of honey in one cup of hot water. Add chamomile loose tea and a few slices of fresh ginger. Steep until the taste is where you want it to be. Be careful not to overpower the chamomile You might have to remove the ginger first.