The house I grew up in was a Cape Cod with 2 bedrooms downstairs and an upstairs that had been converted into a kind of apartment. We never really had a tenant that lived there. It was mostly for family members that would come and stay if they needed to. What’s funny is that I always thought that upstairs had a ghost when I was young, and my children ended up getting the same vibe whenever they were at my parents’ house. But I digress; I’ll get back to today’s story. Since my bedroom was on the first floor, it was right down the hall from the kitchen. Whenever I would wake up in the morning I could hear my parents talking as they went through their morning routine. My parents had many spectacular fights in their day and they could get incredibly loud, but in the morning their voices were generally quiet and it was comforting to lay there and listen to them talk, catching bits and pieces of the conversation and drifting in and out of sleep. During the summer, and especially if it was a Friday, I’d listen for one particular word: crabs. And suddenly I was wide awake. Having steamed blue claw crabs on Friday nights in the summer is one of the absolute highlights of my childhood. Hands down. And if I heard them saying they might get a bushel of crabs, that was even better. That meant that we’d have lots of family coming over, and there was nothing that I loved more than that. My father would stop to buy the crabs on his way home from work, and then cook them in huge pots on the stove. Occasionally one would get loose and run across the kitchen floor, causing my mother to shriek and run out of the house. It was my job to cover the big picnic table in the back yard with newspaper and take out the rolls of paper towels. Once that was done I’d sit and wait and suddenly everyone was there, talking and laughing and sharing in this tradition that had been a part of our family for many years. Since I was the youngest by far, both my parents and all my aunts and uncles are gone now, but we still carry that tradition on today, with my son having taken over the cooking. I still look forward to having them with the same sense of anticipation I always had, and it brings me great joy to sit down together like that with a huge pile of crabs on the table. I know that my parents are smiling down on us from somewhere. They are happy. And so are we.
For the cocktail that goes along with this story, I immediately went to a riff on a Salty Dog, with gin, a Grapefruit Vanilla shrub from Element [Shrub], grapefruit juice, and an Old Bay simple syrup. And of course I rimmed the glass with some Old Bay and salt. My father always thought I had a tendency to make things unnecessarily complicated. His impression of this cocktail would be no different. He’d say that it was nice but why don’t you just crack open a nice cold beer… Cheers everyone. I hope you all now have a hankering for blue claw crabs for this upcoming Labor Day weekend.
The Salty Crab
2 oz of your favorite gin or vodka
1 oz Element [Shrub] Grapefruit Vanilla
1/2 oz grapefruit juice
1/2 oz Old Bay simple syrup
Element Grapefruit Vanilla Shrub & Club to top
Rim a Collins glass with Old Bay and coarse salt. Shake everything together in a shaker with ice until very cold. Strain into the prepared glass over ice. Top with the Shrub & Club. Garnish with a grapefruit slice. Enjoy!