About half the music that I listen to comes from artists that I’ve known since forever and have loved for years. The other half is much newer and comes from songs that my kids recommended that I’ve grown to enjoy and love just as much. They will tell you that I influenced their interests when they were young and helped them gain a solid sense of appreciation for what music could bring to their lives, and now they continue to do the same for me. It’s a true statement on both counts. A few years back, my daughter Wendy introduced me to Metric, a Canadian Indie band formed in the late 90s with Emily Haines as its lead singer, and to a song called “Gimme Sympathy” in particular. I went on to listen to more of Metric, all on my own, but have always loved the song that initially introduced me to them, and have thought long and hard about its meaning. If you don’t know the song, here’s a link so that you can listen to it.
“Gimme Sympathy” is an upbeat, easy song, but as soon as Emily Haines’ amazing voice asks the question, “Who would you rather be / The Beatles or The Rolling Stones,” we’re hooked and we have to know more. In terms of music, and Metric’s own sense of who they are as a band, the answer is probably neither. The Beatles couldn’t sustain their fame, and imploded as a group as a result of it. They were with us musically for far too short of a time. The Rolling Stones, however, have been able to keep it together, but have been accused of shapeshifting and compromising their integrity just to remain a musical presence long past its prime. The question can also apply to our own personal lives as well, right? Sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances where we push as hard as we can to be something that we can’t sustain, and eventually we have to let go or risk our own personal implosion. Other times we forge our identity and are solid and sure about it, but give in to the temptation of some external pressure that makes us conform, and sacrifice who we really are. Do we want to be like The Beatles and have that briefer moment of fame where everyone remembers us for what we were, but also knows that we couldn’t make it last? Or do we want to be like The Rolling Stones and hold on for too long, doing things that compromise our authenticity so much that people no longer recognize us anyway? Again, I think the answer is neither. As the song lyrics say, “We’re so close to something / Better left unknown.” There’s a balance to be found that lies somewhere in between the two. We want to strive to be everything that we can, and push ourselves accordingly, but we have to have enough self awareness to realize when we’re reaching that point of becoming overextended and exhausted. At the same time, we want to seek the integrity that comes from being true to ourselves as much as we possibly can, sacrificing or limiting that authenticity only when absolutely necessary.
For today’s cocktail, I went with a base of Standard Wormwood Rye and DRAM’s Palo Santo bitters as my starting point because both are derived in some way from woods them help us in our quest for clarity. From there I added Fernet Branca, the absolute king of bitter spirits, and Cherry Heering, which veers wildly in the opposite direction. They’re meant to symbolize how this journey to figuring it all out is comprised of moments that are both painfully bitter and amazingly sweet. Cherries also represent a loss of innocence, which was also appropriate for what’s going on in this particular song. I also used a mint simple syrup to echo the flavors of the Fernet, but also to reflect the ideas of wisdom, virtue, and persistence. If you make this drink, watch this video of the acoustic version of the song. It’s amazing and you’ll fall in love with Metric and Emily Haines just as I did. Cheers everyone. Happy Wednesday!
Who Would You Rather Be?
Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir until very cold. Strain into an old-fashioned glass over one large cube. Enjoy!