We are often told that the secret to living a happy life is all about finding balance. I am in complete agreement with this statement, and it resonates with me on a daily basis because balance is also one of the key components in creating a perfect cocktail. I have talked about this idea many, many times. The sweetness of a drink should temper the acidity. The base spirit should never overwhelm the intended flavor profile. When a cocktail seems like it’s missing something, bitters will often be the thing that brings harmony. I have made all of 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, or a checklist 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 be precisely measuring? There are so many answers to that question, some of which are good and solid, and others that run the risk of being cliché. It may take some careful consideration to distinguish between the two.
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 articulated that very same sentiment because I truly believe that we are united as human beings more by the idea of loss than we are by the idea of joy. If we consider the books that we’ve read in the past year that have profoundly moved us, I would confidently wager that the majority of them were not lighthearted and fun. Loss 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, and as such, it speaks to our universality and reminds us of our interconnectedness. We have all suffered losses, big and small, and some have been so perfectly placed in front of us that they’ve derailed 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 led me to consider a quote by Maya Angelou that was most definitely about the idea of hope, but in a way that seemed especially applicable. “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, as awfully cliché as that may sound. However, we can’t wait forever, and this is where the cliché ends. There are times when we have to take action and allow ourselves to be passionate about attaining the things for which our hearts truly yearn. Yes, we have to temper that passion or we’ll descend into chaos and wreak havoc, but there is a way to keep those destructive forces at bay. If we can harmonize our patient beliefs that we will one day see our deepest yearnings fulfilled with the passionate actions needed to make those dreams a reality, we will succeed in living a life that is hopeful, even in its darkest moments. For some of us, this may be the most important balance point of all.
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 passionately patient weekend.
2 oz your favorite gin
.5 oz St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
.5 oz chamomile ginger honey syrup*
.75 lemon juice
2 dashes Hella smoked chili bitters
.25 Ancho Reyes Chili liqueur
Short shake all the ingredients except the Ancho Reyes and the bitters with ice.
Single strain over one large cube in a rocks glass.
Add the bitters to the .25 Ancho Reyes and carefully float both over top.
Garnish with a candied ginger slice.
*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.