Cocktail Musings: Whisper and Thunder

Cocktail Musings: Whisper and Thunder

I recently finished watching both seasons of the HBO documentary called 100 Foot Wave, a series that covers the massive swells (and the surfers brave enough to navigate them) that converge onto an area of the Portuguese coast known as Nazaré. For as far back as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by the ocean and the idea of huge waves in particular, an interest that I know many people all over the world share. Whenever the weather off the mid-Atlantic coast brought big swells to New Jersey, I would always try to find my way to the beach just to watch. The waves in Nazaré are in their own category, having been confirmed to be the largest in the world due to an 16,000 foot underwater canyon just off the coast that pulls the energy of the ocean down before exploding it back up to the surface. Prior to 2011, there was not much known about this small seaside town, until Garrrett MacNamara caught a 78 foot wave there that changed everything. Waves have always made me feel the same way I would at the top of a rollercoaster, and the cinematography of the series captures this anticipation perfectly. Simply put, there is something about the way a big wave builds with such crazy force and giant size that gives it the ability to simultaneously terrify and amaze us. Anything with that kind of physical and emotional force seems to also have the potential to spiritually change us, which explains why big wave surfers are such a mystical bunch, believing that the ocean holds all the secrets of the universe.

Even if we don’t spend the majority of our lives on a surfboard, I think that most of us would agree that we can easily see the ocean as the perfect metaphor for life. There are parts of it that are impossible to explore, a fact which allows it to remain one of the world’s most mysterious places, with its biggest rival being deep space. The ocean’s power, vastness, and unpredictability certainly parallel life in so many ways: its big moments that can knock us for a loop, its endless possibilities that seem to open in front of us, or its unexpected twists and turns that lead us down roads we never anticipated we’d travel. There are days where we really do feel like we’re being tossed all over the place, looking for the life vest, and hoping to see some dry land. And yet, there are also times when the sea is like glass, or the waves are gentle, and we feel buoyant and totally in control. In dreamwork, the ocean and its waves are often symbols for whatever is happening to us in our emotional lives. This equivalence is easy to see: huge, angry waves equal tumultuous emotions, and calm, happy seas indicate that we’re feeling at peace. If we turn the idea of dream interpretation just a bit on its head, as I did in my Dreamscape post from last August, we can look at the world of dreaming as a realm within our subconscious minds that we visit each night where repeated symbols and patterns reveal themselves. The difference is that we go to the dream, rather than the dream coming to us, so that we may confront our fears and worries, reimagine our hopes and visions, experience our joys again, and spiritually learn from all three.

Examining the possibility that life’s easier moments may also offer us opportunities to continue this kind of learning can feel like a novel one. Even the most optimistic among us probably believes that the toughest experiences of our lives have presented the most important spiritual lessons. It’s much the same as the way we feel about the subjects we learned in school. We are inclined to believe that the harder classes taught us more than the ones with which we had an easier time. The question remains as to whether or not this is actually true, or if it has more to do with our not wanting to dare to trivialize the major experiences by putting them on the same level as the mundane. If we continue our earlier comparison, do we draw this same conclusion when it comes to our emotions? Does a day that feels heavy and dark, and as if we were drowning, carry more emotional weight than one that gently floods us with happiness? The literary word that applies to the sound that waves make on the beach is sussuration, derived from the Latin word that means to whisper. Obviously, it is only meant to be used to describe gentle waves, whereas larger, crashing waves are said to thunder. In either case, the ocean remains the same with all its power, vastness, and mystery; it is merely speaking to us differently. The important thing is to learn to listen in both cases. The ordinary, easy day may have just as much to say to us as the one that presents the greatest challenge. As of today, the sun moves into Pisces, the most watery and emotion-packed sign of all the zodiac. The energy of this change extends an invitation to spend the next four weeks or so turning inward and finding a quiet place where we can hear all that is being said, in our own hearts and in those of others, paying attention to both the whisper and the thunder.

For today’s cocktail, I found myself immediately gravitating towards Talisker Storm, a whisky whose flavor profile captures the very essence of the sea off the Scottish coast. I added Barrow’s Intense ginger liqueur next both because I love the way it blends with the salty/smoky flavor of the Scotch, and because ginger symbolizes the idea of spiritual healing and grounding. This combination immediately reminded me of a Penicillin cocktail, so I chose lemon as my citrus component. For the sweetness in the drink, I decided to pull in another flavor of the ocean by making a simple syrup infused with Nori seaweed. I kept the amounts in equal parts to represent the balance between the crashing elements of our lives and the ones that present themselves with far more subtlety. The flavors in the cocktail act as an echo with the Scotch and ginger being big and bold and the lemon and Nori coming through more as undertone notes. I continued this echo by garnishing the drink with a bit of sea salt and some crushed Nori flakes. I closed my eyes while sipping and allowed myself to listen. Cheers everyone. Happy Sunday! I wish you four weeks filled with great emotional insight.

Whisper and Thunder

1 oz Talisker Storm
1 oz Barrow’s Intense ginger liqueur
1 oz Nori simple syrup*
1 oz lemon juice

Long shake over ice.
Double strain into a cocktail coupe.
Garnish with sea salt and Nori flakes.


*To make about 6 ounces of this syrup, dissolve 1/2 cup of sugar into 1/2 cup of boiling water, then add an individual package of Nori seaweed snack strips. Allow to infuse overnight or to taste.

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