Friday Musings: Juste Nous Deux
As a person who creates and prepares cocktails both for a living and for fun, I am extremely interested in the idea of compatibility. I often consult a rather large book I have called The Flavor Bible for insight and inspiration when it comes to combining ingredients. It’s actually meant to be used in cooking, but I find that it helps me a great deal in my efforts to learn what goes with what. In last week’s Rogue Cosmo, for example, I leaned towards using a vodka infused with lemongrass because it’s a capitalized entry in the list under the Hibiscus heading in my book, which means that these two ingredients are thought to be perfect dance partners. They have the ability to move with one another gracefully and with the utmost of ease, but they also challenge one another to rise up and be more. Many other ingredients are listed, but not capitalized, and so we expect that while they might still work, they won’t necessarily be quite as compatible. We’ve all danced with someone exactly like that! This concept of finding a perfect match in the cocktail world reminds me of a Netflix show I watched last year called The One that was all about finding the person in the real world who would become exactly what the show’s title implies. In the series, there was a scientific process behind compatibility, rather than chance, fate, or dating apps, that had to do with a genetic component shared with just one other person in the entire universe, rendering them completely irresistible. All that was needed was a single strand of hair for analysis. If you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely worth a binge watch. But, I digress.
One definition of the word compatibility is that it is “a state in which two things are able to exist or occur together without problems or conflict.” Although this meaning can certainly be used to describe the interaction between two people, it is thought to be more applicable when saying something like “science and religion are not always compatible topics of discussion.” I’m certain that we’ve all had first hand experiences that have demonstrated that exact statement! There is a second definition that works a bit better in terms of interpersonal relationships that sees compatibility as “the natural ability to live or work together because of well-matched characteristics or extensive history.” I would venture to guess that this is the meaning that resonates the most with us and is certainly the driving philosophy behind dating sites like eHarmony and Match. There is yet a third definition that involves biological concepts like tissue compatibility between organ donors and recipients, or technological interfaces that link operating systems and software applications. These two meanings tend to reside in the fringe area of our minds, the first one being something we hope to never have to think about, and the second rearing its head with unfortunate regularity during the worst of our Mercury retrograde days. Although these are all official definitions of the word compatibility, I couldn’t shake the feeling while writing this post that they somehow felt incomplete for me.
After thinking long and hard about why I feel this way, I know that it is because I was lucky enough to have spent a good bit of my life bearing witness to what was one of the greatest love stories of all time. I wonder how many of you have a similar memory of a relationship that was more like that of the perfect dance partners described above, the one in which ease, comfort, and grace were epitomized in such a way that each individual was lifted into that higher space of being so much more than who they were on their own. Whenever one half was without the other, the absence was visible, palpable, and deeply sad. No one ever likes dancing alone. Some of us find this relationship in the one our parents or grandparents had. Others of us were or still are fortunate enough to have found this level of compatibility with a spouse or partner. For me, the relationship that defined the word compatible was not a romantic one at all, but rather the one that existed between my mother and her sister. To have had the opportunity to watch them in action was truly one of the greatest gifts of my life.
In terms of the official meanings of compatibility listed above, they did not always relate without conflict; in fact, they often disagreed in ways that were spectacular and rather amusing to observe. Yet, their altercations never lasted very long because they had the similar traits and tendencies that often, but not always, come from a shared childhood experience. To add to that, they’d married best friends whose stories had been intertwined since birth. They were sisters, so they were certainly biologically compatible, and although neither of them would have known what an operating system or a software application was, they most definitely took on the roles of one or the other in their personal interactions. More than anything else, the thing that speaks the most to the bond they shared could be found in the ways in which they made one another more. They were each like a luminary whose light intensified whenever the other drew near, refuges of warmth and sources of wisdom for all of us. When my aunt died, my mom was never the same again, not only because she’d lost her sister and best friend in life, but because she’d also lost a part of herself that only existed while the two of them were together. It was through the experience of watching my mom change that I came to understand this compound absence we feel whenever we lose someone that we loved so deeply. It is, in fact, the very thing that makes such a loss so incredibly monumental and renders us both desperately inconsolable and profoundly changed in its wake.
For today’s cocktail, I chose to reprise one made back in December of 2016 that I have always thought to be one of my best efforts in terms of compatibility. It’s original name was A Winter Sunset, and the post I wrote to go along with the cocktail was about my childhood home and the particular way the light would stream in through the front windows, especially in the winter time. The base spirit was Bluecoat gin in its signature blue bottle, along with Giffard Pamplemousse Rosé, a pink grapefruit liqueur that is very difficult to find these days. Dolin Blanc and Aperol rounded out the spirits, and the final touch was a rosemary vanilla syrup that complemented and pulled together all the flavors in the drink. The rosemary would also have signified remembrance, of course. The photo below captured something that was unintended, but perfect for the subject of the original post. The color of the two bottles reflected together in the glass in such a way as to resemble exactly what the sky does at sunset in winter. Cheers everyone. Happy Friday. Thank you so much for allowing me to share such personal thoughts today. There is one final part of this story at the bottom of this entry, below the recipe.
Juste Nous Deux
1.5 oz Bluecoat gin
.75 oz Giffard Pamplemousse Rosé
.75 oz Dolin Blanc vemouth
.25 oz Aperol
.25 oz rosemary vanilla simple syrup*
Hibiscus salt for garnishing
Long stir in a mixing glass filled 2/3 with ice. Garnish with the hibiscus salt and enjoy!
A few years years after losing my mom, I attended a gathering at a friend’s house. There was a medium there that night offering everyone the opportunity to connect with those who had “moved beyond this world.” I was a reluctant and skeptical participant, but in the last go-round the room, my mom arrived on the scene with two things to tell me. The first was message of forgiveness for something that had happened in the last few moments before she had died. That caught my attention because only she could have known about it. The second thing was that she was no longer with my dad. They still met up a lot, especially for coffee, but my mom spent all her time with my aunt, doing the things they’d always done together. My father was with my uncle, playing golf I would imagine. Somehow they’d all returned to that deep bond they had before marriages and other responsibilities, and I knew in that moment that they were all at peace. I’ve carried that feeling in my heart ever since.