The movie You’ve Got Mail is one of my all time favorites. I’m fairly certain that I’m not the only one who feels that way. It is, after all, the quintessential rom-com starring the unbeatable combination of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, and it’s literally overflowing with quotable lines. The one I find myself saying the most is “Patricia makes COFFEE nervous,” in reference to people who are just a little bit on the jumpy side. When my son Connor reads this, he will laugh, because it’s his favorite too. I also love the famous moment when we hear the voiceover of Joe Fox reading his autumn in New York email to Kathleen Kelly: “Don’t you just love New York in the Fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” It never, ever gets old, and I know, without a doubt, that this particular line is the reason why I get the urge to settle in on my couch every September for a re-watch. It is true, isn’t it, that this time of year really does make us want to go out and buy school supplies. We suddenly need an empty notebook to fill with journal entries or a brand new set of Le Pen markers to color code our grocery lists. We find ourselves shopping for school clothes even though there’s no classroom assignment coming our way. We imagine that we’re writing on a blank slate from a new box of chalk with the smell of pencil shavings and fresh looseleaf pages in the air.
Back in June, I wrote a post called School’s Out in which I talked about the idea that unless we work in the field of education, many of the emotions that surface because of dates on the academic calendar are rooted in years of familiar behavior. Every summer meant the opportunity to reevaluate ourselves and make some adjustments. Likewise, we returned to school every September feeling as though we were starting over with our new changes in place, ready to take on the world. In the aforementioned post, I invited everyone to consider a new approach this summer that involved silencing the endless chatter in our heads and allowing transformation to come to us in the quietest and deepest of ways. I suggested that sometimes the more we chase change, the more it ends up eluding us. Even so, some of us may have experienced a level of outward growth that makes the metaphor of a new start in September feel perfectly applicable. Maybe we are beginning a new job, or have moved into a new house, or found a new relationship. We feel one hundred percent ready to take on the world. For others of us, the change may have been so internal that it may appear on the surface as though everything has remained the same, yet we know in our hearts that just the opposite is true. We are conquering our own world one infinitesimal step at a time. Either way, the idea that this time of year seems to always bring us the opportunity to start fresh on some aspect of our lives, whether big or small, is an exciting and powerful thought.
In addition to September being the start of the school year, it also brings about a seasonal shift that may or may not register on our collective radar unless, of course, we’re one of those individuals who’ve been waiting for the appearance of the first pumpkin latté. I have always thought that fall sends out a save-the-date one morning in August when we wake up to cooler temperatures and that certain feeling in the air. This summer has been one for the record books, and that preview never really occurred. From where I’m writing in New Jersey, it still has not happened. Nevertheless, it only takes a visit to the garden or a walk in the woods to know that it’s coming. If we consider how much the seasonal change from summer to fall reflects our own internal shift, it may give us additional insight into why we feel the urge to start over every September. If we are gardeners, we are assessing our harvest and attempting to understand the things that worked for us this year and how we may need to change them for the next. If we are hikers or outside exercisers, we are adding up the trails and the miles we covered and how much stronger we’ve become as a result. If we spent more time this summer with our families or with friends, we’re figuring out ways to keep that momentum of closeness going even as fall brings about its mood of heightened responsibility and the urge to get serious again. When we allow ourselves to notice and truly experience seasonal change as parallel to personal change, we relinquish our natural tendency to prioritize control. This surrender leads, in turn, to the realization that we are part of a larger cycle, the one that turns the pages of the academic calendar, or shifts us from planting tomatoes to brussels sprouts, or suggests that we launder our polar fleece. Once this awareness occurs, the energy of September moves within our our reach, calling for us to grasp it and to celebrate, once again, the opportunity to harvest all that summer has taught us and to move into fall with a perspective that is fresh and new.
For today’s cocktail, I was inspired by the thought that the world of drinks always gives us the opportunity to start over. It’s a constant process of reinvention. For this reason, I decided to begin with the idea of making an equal parts cocktail that was along the lines of The Last Word. I wanted my base spirit to be mezcal because its level of smokiness always makes me feel as though it has tremendous depth. I decided to pair it with lime and velvet falernum, both because they are always such natural partners for anything that’s remotely like tequila, and because the primary spice in falernum is cloves, whose symbolic meaning is related to releasing what is old to make room for what is new. For the final ingredient that would bring the herbal component to the drink, I decided on something that I hadn’t used in many cocktails before. I chose Strega, an Italian liqueur whose yellow color comes from saffron and whose flavor is bold and woodsy, and an interesting counterpart to the smokiness of the mezcal. These four ingredients created an unexpected and autumnal combination that worked surprisingly well together to bring a fresh spin to this classic drink, that was exactly what this post called for. Cheers everyone. Happy Friday! I hope this September brings you a wonderful new start.
Back in Session
Long, long shake over ice.
Double strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a very thin lemon strip. Think pencil shavings.