Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about creativity in which I referenced a quote by NIck Cave, one of the most amazing lyricists currently writing music. Knowing how much I admire his work, my youngest son gave me his book, Stranger Than Kindness, for Mother’s Day. In a series of one page chapters, Cave begins the book by saying that we are born into existence and settle into the life we are living, believing it to be complete, until a cataclysmic event comes along that changes both the course of our lives, as well as who we are as individuals. Succinctly stated, we are one person before this occurrence and another person after it. Although this concept is not new, the simple way in which Cave presents it has remained with me since I read it on Sunday night. Before we even relate this idea to our own personal lives, we understand its meaning. We are aware of the potential moments in life that fall into this category. Some of them cause us great fear, like the thought of the sudden tragic loss that might break our hearts, or the awful news that could derail our future, or the terrible accident that we never saw coming. Other moments fall on the opposite side of the spectrum, like the career opportunity that is a dream come true, or the first time we hold our newborn child, or the unmistakeable, heart dropping instant when another person takes our breath away.
What is it then about Cave’s writing that resonated with me so deeply? The ideas of loss and grief, or love and joy are certainly notions that I think about quite often, and I’ve asked you to do the same many times right here on this blog. Cave’s perspective is that we construct ourselves, one piece at a time, from the things we love and from the things that have hurt us deeply. We create a narrative of sorts, and little by little we grow into the person we believe ourselves to be. At the same time, he maintains that there is also an outside influence at work that is drawing us towards a single seismic event that will shatter this illusion we’ve created of our identity. “The pieces of [us] spin apart, a million little histories, propelling themselves away at a tremendous rate.” When this cataclysm has passed, we have no choice but to gather these pieces together again and attempt to reassemble ourselves into “something that seems absolutely foreign to [us], yet fully and instantly recognizable.” Once we arrive at this new, remade version of ourselves, we realize that we are not alone in our suffering or our joy, and in this acknowledgement of our solidarity, we find our place in the divine scheme of the universe. Wow, wow right??
I have always seen the monumental moments in life either as intersection points, where a pivotal event occurs and we are faced with the proverbial two paths in the yellow wood, or as exit points, where life detours us off the highway on which we’ve been comfortably driving and forces us into completely uncharted territory. Either way, I believed that there were many of them, but I would venture a guess that Nick Cave would say that they are simply part of the narrative we construct before the seismic event occurs. Transformational moments cannot be held at bay like threats or warded off like blows. Our withstanding tragedy or merely wearing joy as an accessory is not what makes us who we are. Cave is suggesting that we allow ourselves to break open in the face of great loss or love, so that we can release everything we thought was certain about ourselves and, in so doing, see the person who we really are with brilliant clarity. Seismic events are meant to shift our universe and reorder it, before setting it back in place in a new configuration. Is this idea terrifying? Absolutely, and yet I also think there is comfort and a certain measure of anticipation to be found in the idea of knowing that we are not yet complete, that there is still so much more to learn, and that we can carry on and be greater, even in the face of the sorrow that threatens to destroy us or the love that promises to unmoor us.
For today’s cocktail, I decided that I would dismantle one of my favorite modern classics, The Penicillin, and create a totally new version. I began with tequila as my base spirit, instead of the traditional blended Scotch, which led to mezcal as the natural choice for the smoky float. If you look closely at the first photo, you can see that the float is reversed from the original Penicillin’s, with the mezcal being the lighter line on top of the darker cocktail. Because lime works so well with agave based spirits, I opted to use it for the citrus component instead of lemon, and I chose a mesquite honey for the ginger syrup to amplify the smokiness. In terms of cocktails, I always see spicy ingredients as being representative of shocking changes or events. Just a half ounce of Ancho Reyes Verde liqueur was all that was needed in this drink to bring the heat (and the shock value) up to the perfect level. I have been using a bar spoon of agave in my Penicillins for quite a while now, so I decided to keep it for this cocktail. It adds a sweetness to the drink that is both delicate and deep. When I tasted this new version, I immediately thought of how it was familiar and foreign all at once, just like the reassembled version of our post-seismic selves. Cheers everyone. Happy Friday! Thank you so much for reading.
Strain over one large cube and float the mezcal on top of the drink.
Garnish with a ginger slice and a jalapeño lightening bolt.
*Equal parts ginger juice and mesquite honey, combined.