Cocktail Musings: A Certain House Revisited

Cocktail Musings: A Certain House Revisited

In my last post, I mentioned that it was the start of Pisces season, a sign that happens to occupy the place in my personal birth chart that helps me to understand the feeling of being home, and so I have found myself preoccupied with these ideas throughout this past week. Many of us move multiple times over the course of our lives and, as a result, we often understand the idea of home as being related to a particular house at a certain stage of our lives. Each time we move, it’s not exactly as though we’re starting over, although we sometimes say that, but more that we are adding on another layer to a base that is already rich with experience. When I think of my childhood houses, I recognize how foundational they were for my understanding of home, especially in terms of teaching me certain things that I wanted to carry forward, as well as others that I knew I had to leave behind. When I consider the two homes that I attempted to bring into being for my own family, first when they were young and then again later after my parents had died, I know that I did both well in many ways, but missed the mark in others. I am certain that these opposites are playing out in the homes my children are currently creating. I radically changed my own concept of home just over six years ago when I ventured out alone for the first time ever, not to start over but to make a necessary change that filled me with a combination of terror, sadness, and hope, often in unequal parts. Over time, I learned that it was possible to keep many of the things that mattered so much to me and still take my life in a direction that was different, so long as I remained fundamentally who I had always been. What couldn’t quite remain intact, however, was the idea of home that I had created for my children. I had toppled that, and because I was well aware of the pain that I had caused, I have tried to rebuild on our original foundation, albeit in ways that were small and very different. In my case, home could not yet be found in a house, but I have longed for the day when I could provide that sense again.

As I was turning these thoughts over in my head, I remembered two posts that I had written back in 2018 about a poem called Vacancy in the Park by Wallace Stevens:

March… someone has walked across the snow,
Someone looking for he knows not what.

It is like a boat that has pulled away
From a shore at night and disappeared.

It is like a guitar left on a table
By a woman, who has forgotten it.

It is like the feeling of a man
Come back to see a certain house.

The four winds blow through the rustic arbor,
Under its mattresses of vines.

We get the sense that he is returning to a place that was once very important to him, but instead of finding what he was seeking, there is only a feeling of emptiness. For those of us who have ever stood in front of a house in which we once lived, and laughed, and cried, and created a life, this feeling of vacancy is profound. Statistics show, however, that we continue to try to capture these feelings. Every year, an astounding number of us return to our childhood homes, not to see our parents, but to visit the house we grew up in that is now occupied by someone else. Some of us seem to do this to satisfy a sense of nostalgia, just wanting to walk around and reminisce and remember what it was like to live there. Others of us are going through a troubling period in our lives and are hoping to gain some insight as to what the next step on our path should be. And there is a third group who are returning to settle a score, to lay a matter to rest, or to find or offer forgiveness. Many psychologists feel that we can go back home again, so to speak, but how many of us would agree that this is really true?

I think that what most of us would take issue with is the terminology, or the distinction between the childhood home and the childhood house. We can most likely find the physical structure in which we lived, but if we are seeking home, then we are likely to find only vacancy, just like the man in the poem. The sense of our childhood home can be quite elusive, existing only in our memories and conjured up by smells, or sounds, or the way the light enters a window in a certain way. It’s as if it has become part of the spirit world, without substance, but made up instead of the feeling we had sleeping under the same roof as our parents, whispering secrets to our siblings, sharing too many dinners together to count, or later knowing our children were all safe in their beds. It’s the happy birthday song that still echos in our minds, the TV shows or movies watched together, or the way the snow tended to pile up against the back door. It’s the sound of voices early in the morning, the smell of coffee, the summers off from school, and the place we’d bury our heads at the end of our longest day, or provide that same comfort when it was our turn to do so. It was where we felt safe, it was where we found peace, it was where we learned love. We can recognize a certain house as instrumental in building our foundation, and we can remember it with great fondness, but if someone else lives there now, then it is their home, and they are building memories that belong to their present, not ours. We are charged with creating a new sense of home for ourselves, one that welcomes our children and grandchildren, one that is fundamentally the same, but necessarily different. It’s an endless process, this yielding to the present, and we fear that sense of vacancy so much, but if we surrender to believing in possibility, we will find that emptiness can fill again in the most amazing ways.

For today’s cocktail, I decided to begin with an ingredient that immediately triggers a sense of home for me. There is something about coffee, especially the act of sharing it with someone, that will always speak to me of home and love. Because of the then-and-now nature of this post, I kept the original pictures I took back in 2018, but I have recreated the cocktail with new ingredients. Using RFD vodka as my base spirit, I added a coffee liqueur from New Liberty Distillery developed by my son-in-law, Andrew Countryman. My next ingredient was an espresso syrup, to which I added some five spice powder to create just a bit of warmth. I finished with dashes of chicory pecan bitters from El Guapo and Citrus Medica bitters from DRAM. While the distinct coffee flavor of this cocktail felt traditional, it also had modern touches, and those were representative of the unavoidable truth that life is constantly evolving, just like our idea of home. Both have a past, a present, and a future, held together by bonds of deep affection. I have found this to be true in the love of my amazingly resilient children, in the unconditional acceptance of my friends and family, and in the ever present support of a man with whom I once shared a home for 34 years. Within the year, I hope to be in a house once again with the woman I now love so much, building a home that has as its foundation all those that we have previously known, created, and shared with the people we hold closest to our hearts. Cheers everyone. Happy Sunday! This post is deeply personal, and I thank you for reading it.

A Certain House Revisited

2 oz RFD Dust Settler vodka
1 oz New Liberty Distiller Coffee liqueur
.5 oz spiced espresso syrup
1 dash El Guapo Chicory Pecan bitters
1 dash DRAM Citrus Medica bitters

Long shake over ice.
Double strain into a cocktail or martini glass.
Garnish with three coffee beans.


I’ll be taking a break from posting next weekend, but I will return the following week.

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