It would be remiss of me to just begin again without some sort of an explanation as to where I’ve been. The truth is that there’s not a satisfying answer. I paused my writing for a while, always with the intention to return. I became busy with work that included making many cocktails, and with life, and I felt time passing, and I wondered if I’d ever be able to find my way back. I always expected that the urge to write again would come as a whisper in my ear, or a gentle nudge, but when it arrived a short while ago, it came as a full-on, handprints-on-my-back shove. In other words, it was not to be ignored. And so here I am telling you that I’d love to spend Friday mornings with you once again, if you’ll have me back. I truly hope you will…
This past August, my daughter Wendy and her husband Andrew celebrated their marriage. The ceremony had taken place the previous May, but like so many other weddings planned during Covid, the actual reception had to be postponed. To my great honor, Wendy asked me if I would make a speech that day that told the story of her and Andrew, and how their love came to be. I had, after all, witnessed it right from the very start at Cooper River Distillers in Camden. I happily obliged, but of course I couldn’t resist including a few of my own thoughts on life and love in that speech. I doubt that surprises anyone. One of the things I mentioned was the way in which life can change so suddenly, catching us unaware, and leaving us awed by the recognition that we are powerless against the forces of God or the universe. I have written about that very subject many times on this blog. In my speech, I said, “The first words of any love story are written in a moment that can be so easy to miss.” It’s a good line, right? I thought so too, and I still do, but it’s oversimplified, and in the months that have passed since the wedding, I’ve realized that there’s so much more I want to say.
The fact is that we are all reminded fairly often, especially during these times, that so much of life is easily missed. We keep such busy schedules that we end up spending most of our days with our eyes down, running from one thing to the next and finding ourselves exhausted when our heads hit the pillow every night. This is all familiar, right? Many of us found moments of calmness during our Covid quarantines when we thought we’d finally discovered the art of being present resting somewhere in the stillness. Others of us continue to think we find those moments everyday in yoga class, or in prayer, or running, or meditation. I’m not denying that we do find them, temporarily, but they tend to slip out of our grasp and return to being that which we seek, rather than that which we’ve found. I think that as human beings we spend a great deal of time examining the ideas of movement and stillness, as exemplified in the following maxims: Through movement in our bodies, we can find stillness in our hearts. Or, if we are still in our bodies, we will quiet our minds. Or, best of all, move it or lose it. It can be confusing. These principles are, after all, universal. An object is either in motion, or it is at rest. There really isn’t another option, and we find ourselves vacillating between the two concepts, seeking balance.
What if we looked at movement and stillness a bit differently? What if they are actually ideas that are interdependent, and as such, they already contain a very powerful balance point within them? Consider a golf swing: the club is drawn back with power and force, but there is a critical pause at the top, from which all the energy of the swing is released. It is the same with a pitcher’s windup and throw, or a quarterback’s release of the ball, or a basketball player’s “hang” at the height of a jump shot. Such moments are readily found in nature too. There is always a lull before the storm, a suspension at the top of a wave, or an instance of impossible surrender right before a great tree falls. Within each of these examples, there exists a kind of fulcrum, or a point of pivot where the energy shifts. In many ways, this transition space that exists between the stillness and the movement becomes the most significant point because it contains the potential of all that is about to happen. If we extend this idea metaphorically, we can find instances of it in our daily lives. It might be the few extra seconds we take to find the perfect words before we speak. Or it may be the eye contact we make with someone we love right before we leave for the day. Or it may be our hand on the car door, our face to the sky to look at the moon before we head home. The point is that we don’t have to search for the feeling of being present, or feel as though we can only find it if we set aside time to do so. We already seek it intuitively, and it is there, right in front of us, every day, in the tiniest increments. The first words of any love story can be so easy to miss because they are written in the moment that sits at the balance point. The potential those words hold is limitless, but only if we pause long enough to read them.
For today’s cocktail, I began by considering what ingredient could represent a fulcrum. As I’ve always said, shrubs lie somewhere between being sweet and being sour, and if we’re going to make a successful cocktail with one, then we’d better create balance on either side. I’d recently made a blood orange and vanilla shrub with apple cider vinegar, and it fit perfectly into this cocktail. I used lemon juice on one side and a coconut simple on the other. The idea for the coconut came both from my recent obsession with combining its flavor with whiskies, and from the fact that the act of cracking one open actually symbolizes humbling yourself before the universe in the Hindu faith. I added Barrow’s Intense ginger liqueur because I love it, and always have, and because ginger brings thoughts of peace and healing. Both the Sichuan peppercorns and the cloves are fire symbols that represent the potential spark of energy held within every moment. Finally, for the main spirit, I chose to go with our first bourbon release at Recklesstown Farm Distillery where I work. It is made from 90% corn and 10% caramel malt, which gives it a raisiny, chocolate-like flavor profile that was both enhanced and changed during the nine months it spent in a new 15 gallon charred oak barrel. I thank Ben Donia, our truly talented head distiller, for sharing these facts with me. Bourbon was the perfect choice for this post. It enters the barrel in movement, rests in stillness, and then emerges completely transformed. Cheers everyone! Happy Friday!
1.5 ounces RFD Binbuster Moonshine Bourbon Whiskey
.75 ounces Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur
.5 blood orange vanilla shrub
1 ounce lemon juice
1 ounce coconut simple
6 Sichuan peppercorns
5 whole cloves
2 dashes handcrafted vanilla cherry bark bitters
Long shake over ice.
Double strain into a cocktail coupe or a Nick & Nora
Garnish with ground peppercorns.