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Month: January 2019

Prose in a Glass: Against a Wall

Prose in a Glass: Against a Wall

As many of you know, the Japanese author Haruki Murakami is one of my absolute favorites. In 2009, he traveled to Israel to accept the Jerusalem prize for literature, an award given to writers whose work deals with themes of human freedom, society, politics, and government. He was advised not to go because of the violent fighting that was occurring in Gaza at the time. He ignored that advice and gave an acceptance speech in which he said that the following quote would forever be engraved in his mind: “Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg.” Although Murakami claimed not to be making a direct political speech that day, he did go on to draw metaphorical comparisons between human beings as eggs, and the systems of government that we create as walls. He believes that his one and only reason for writing is to “keep a light trained on The System in order to prevent it from tangling our souls in its web and demeaning them.” In short, the driving force behind his work is to champion human individuality and personal dignity. There is much talk of walls these days and I certainly have no desire to enter into that fray. I will say that I agree with Murakami in that the political structures we put in place to protect human rights sometimes end up being their greatest threat. The constant vigilance and demand for accountability that can come from the artistic world often seems to be one of the few things that has the power to neutralize that threat, even if only because it raises awareness.

I’m more interested in applying Murakami’s idea to something we all seem to personally struggle with as human beings. Isn’t it true that we reach a point in our childhood when we begin to realize that it’s no longer possible to remain an open book as it pertains to our deepest thoughts and feelings? It becomes necessary to construct certain walls within ourselves that help delineate what’s appropriate to share and not share. Sometimes outside occurrences cause us to reinforce these walls and we build them higher and higher. But isn’t it equally true that there also exists an egg somewhere inside us that represents the sense of self that existed before the need for structure, and that desires very much to rail against those walls, even if it means breaking wide open in the process? Much like political systems, we build our internal walls with the best intentions in mind. They are meant to keep us safe, and to provide us with the comfort that is safety’s counterpart. The problem is that comfort is what often keeps us from realizing our true potential as human beings. If we are too comfortable, we will never find the courage to break against that wall, again and again if necessary, until we are ready to remove it altogether and allow true growth and change to begin. With each brick that comes down, we free ourselves from an oppression that comes from within, and we move past self-limiting thoughts and behavior. Although the path to that freedom may be difficult, or even painful at times, the possibilities it offers are endless, and the the rewards can exceed even our wildest expectations.

For today’s cocktail, I began with a base of Hanson Organic Habañero vodka and paired it with Giffard Pamplemousse Rose and Brancott Sauvignon Blanc to create a grapefruit martini. I went in this direction because grapefruit is a symbol of new beginnings, particularly those that come from within. The Hanson vodka gave the drink a nice level of heat that served as a reminder of what a dynamic and exciting process it can be to move away from patterns of thinking that limit us. I also used 2 dashes of Bittercube’s Jamaican #2 bitters to intensify the grapefruit in a slightly different way, and to add a hint of vanilla and spice. Three drops of a high quality vanilla extract brought the drink right to the point where I wanted it to be. Although grapefruits are often thought of as being very sour, they pair beautifully with vanilla to create an entirely different taste sensation. As human beings we require certain boundaries and borders within ourselves; without them, life would be a free for all. I’m not suggesting that we remove them all, but rather that we examine those that are holding us back from a higher level of compassion and a deeper sense of understanding, especially for ourselves and for the journey our lives may have taken. Cheers everyone. Happy Wednesday!

Against a Wall

1½ oz Hanson Organic Habañero vodka
¾ oz Brancott Sauvignon Blanc
¾ oz Giffard Pamplemousse Rose
2 dashes Bittercube Jamaica #2 bitters
3 drops vanilla extract

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir until very, very cold. Strain into a chilled martini glass and serve. No garnish. Enjoy!

Words in a Glass: Saudade

Words in a Glass: Saudade

It’s going to be impossible for you to read this post without a correct pronunciation of the name of the drink and the word that I’m writing about. So here we go: saudade is pronounced sow-dah-day. It’s a Portuguese word with no English equivalent that captures the often indescribable feeling of yearning for someone or something so intensely that the absence we feel actually becomes a presence. This may be a person or circumstances that we’ll never experience again, or it may be someone or something that is very much a part of our lives. Saudade differs from the deep sadness we feel when we experience profound loss, or nostalgia for a time or place to which we can never really return. There are many words in the English language that capture sadness, and even nostalgia, that enable us to articulate those emotions rather eloquently, but there are none that are quite the same as saudade.

The origin of saudade goes as far back as 15th century Portugal where it was used to describe the emptiness and constant yearning felt by family members whose loved ones had sailed to far off places. It’s derived from the Latin root solitates, which means solitudes, but it carries such nuance that it has become known as one of the most difficult words to translate into English. There is a French phrase that I find to be similar in sentiment. If we want to say “I miss you” in French we would have to say “Tu me manques” (too-meh-mahnk) which literally translates into “you are missing from me,” a much more romantic expression than its English equivalent, and one that captures the same feeling of absence and longing as saudade. The Italians take things one step further (does that surprise you?) and use the term struggimento (struh-jee-men-toe) which signifies a longing so intense that it causes actual suffering and lifelong misery.

I am most intrigued by the idea of yearning for someone or something that is not truly absent from our lives, at least not permanently. I know that my son is currently experiencing saudade for his children, even though he sees them every night when he comes home from work. It’s understandable. I’m certain that there are many of us that can remember feeling that same way, especially when our children were very young. There are a fair number of relationship experts who believe that saying “I miss you” to someone can be even more intimate than saying “I love you.” Their theories are rooted in the concept of experiencing such a sense of connection with another person that we feel like they are literally a part of us. The boundaries and edges between us become blurred, but in a way that is completely healthy and without co-dependency. When this person is not with us, we feel their absence deeply, and we have the sense that they truly are missing from us. Personally I believe that when we make a statement that expresses to another person just how much we yearn for them when they’re not with us, we’re baring our souls. We can say it in any language we choose. We can say “Tu me manques” or “Estou com saudade de você” or “I long for you,” but underneath those words are these: I trust you. Implicitly and completely.

For today’s cocktail, I’m choosing to continue my experimentation with simple martinis that use a lesser amount of the base spirit. I’m finding that changing the ratios really allows the flavors of the secondary spirits to shine. In this case, I’ve chosen to combine vodka with Dolin Dry vermouth, and three equal parts of a high quality mint schnapps, an intense rosemary simple syrup, and DRAM lavender lemon balm bitters. Mint symbolizes fidelity and the warmest of feelings, rosemary represents remembrance, especially of love, lavender is devotion, and lemon balm has been used throughout history to send messages between lovers. The end result was a delicately flavored herbal martini that captured the nuances of both the flavor and the meaning of this cocktail. It stayed with me long after I tasted it and it made me think of my favorite definition of the word saudade that is the most simple, and the most beautiful. It is “the love that remains.” Cheers everyone. Happy Wednesday!


1½ oz Stateside vodka
¾ oz Dolin Dry vermouth
¼ oz Wondermint Schnapps liqueur
¼ oz rosemary simple syrup (as intense as you can make it)
¼ oz DRAM lavender lemon balm bitters

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir until very, very cold. Pour into a chilled Martini glass and serve. No garnish. Enjoy!

Friday Musings: High Fidelity

Friday Musings: High Fidelity

When I was a teenager I had lots of albums that I listened to endlessly on the stereo that I had in my room. I considered myself to be quite the audiophile back then and was always looking for ways to improve how my records sounded. Since I am a self-professed gadget girl, I’d buy a new stylus for the turntable or better speakers and I’d swear that the difference was amazing. My friends would go along and tell me “yes, yes it sounds so good,” but I know deep down they thought I was wacky. It never mattered to me though. I was on a quest for perfect sound and I was determined to find it. As technology evolved, I was always the first to give something new a try. I quickly learned that the perfection I sought was not to be found in cassette tapes that seemed to always end up unravelling and disappearing into the player. Remember that weird noise they would make when that happened? And 8-tracks were definitely not the answer. Whose idea were they anyway?? I was in my twenties when the Holy Grail of music finally came along for me in the form of CDs. My turntable collected dust and my albums migrated first to the basement and then to the Good Will store. Who wanted to hear that crackling sound that albums made when you could have the blissful nothingness in between songs on a CD?

You can imagine my surprise when my kids all bought turntables a few years back and began asking for vinyl for birthday and Christmas presents. Were they serious? Yes, indeed they were. I had since moved on from CDs to streaming services and I was spending more and more time making playlists and less and less time listening to complete albums. To quote my youngest son, I was becoming a bit of a Philistine. Being the true music lover that I am, I did not take that accusation lightly. I recently considered buying my own turntable, but I dismissed the idea as being unnecessary, and before long I had returned to the convenience of iTunes and Spotify. I would have remained there had it not been for my middle son suggesting to his younger brother that they buy me a turntable as a Christmas gift. Last Friday was the perfect day for a number of reasons, but listening to my albums (all four of them) like I was 15 again was close to the top of the list. I realized that a whole new world was about to open up for me.

I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you that I soon began drawing a parallel between life and listening to my new turntable. It’s really not very hard to see the connection, right? In many ways, our lives have become so much like the ultimate streaming service. Technology allows everything to be accessible through just a few clicks on our phone or keyboard. We can shop, communicate, read the news, plan our day, watch a movie, take a virtual tour, or find the love of our lives. It comes at us, it happens to us, it often requires almost nothing from us, and it grants us the ability to switch back and forth between activities with relative ease. I see the benefits, don’t get me wrong. After all, I did almost every bit of my holiday shopping online and felt positively joyful this season. There is, however, an element to our modern lives that takes us in the direction of mindlessness, despite the fact that we are admonished daily by multiple sources to live mindfully. It can be so difficult to focus when we’re surrounded by so many distractions, but if pressed, we’d probably admit that we won’t be giving them up anytime soon.

Rather than move in the direction of what we’re willing to eliminate, it might make more sense if we think in terms of what we can add. We can cook, slowly and with intention and love. We can make cocktails that are perfectly measured and made with ingredients that demand our attention because they are so good. We can make coffee using the pour over method that requires us to patiently wait for the coffee grounds to “bloom.” My middle son made me a cup just last night with his new Christmas present and it was indeed amazing. And we can listen to vinyl records on a turntable that provides the fullest expression of what the artist intended us to hear, that resonates with a sound that is warm and full, and that doesn’t allow us to switch tracks with a keyboard click or phone tap. Suddenly we’re listening to albums again rather than songs. Finally, the act of placing that record on the turntable requires a certain amount of patience, thought, and care, three things that we all need to weave back into the fabric of our everyday lives. Vinyl provides us the opportunity to experience high fidelity, or the most accurate and honest representation of what’s true in music except for live performance. It just may give us a glimpse of living life that way too, and wouldn’t that be oh so wonderful?

For today’s cocktail, I decided on a riff on a simple lemon drop that substituted tequila for the traditional vodka, pink lemons instead of regular, and added a dash of Suze and DRAM Palo Santo bitters for their ability to be eye-opening. The end result was a cocktail with lots of nuance despite its simplicity. I’m going to drink it while I listen to Billie Holiday… Cheers everyone. Happy Friday!

High Fidelity

2 oz Casamigos Blanco tequila
2 dashes Suze
3/4 oz pink lemon juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
2 dashes DRAM Palo Santo bitters

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until very cold. Double strain into a cocktail glass of your choice and garnish with hibiscus salt. Watch it turn from black to pink as you sip your drink. Enjoy!